May 27, 2005

Welding Rodeo

Last weekend, Jen and I went to Bellingham Technical College and enjoyed their Welding Rodeo. Teams will sign up to compete, a large pile of metal is available for everyone and each team is allotted eight hours to come up with a piece of art.

There is a judging and then a silent auction at the end.

Here are some photos:

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The pile of raw materials after it had been picked over a good bit.
All sorts of treasures here — steel, aluminum, stainless…
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There were a number of other exhibitors — this guy is a great blacksmith. He was making little charms for keychains here but he also showed people some of the knives he makes as “serious” work. Awesome stuff… They also had some of the major welding supply stores including my favorite Central Welding.
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And of course, what's a Welding Rodeo without a nice cool Ice Sculpture to look at.
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The event was catered by the Bellingham Technical College Culinary Arts Institute. These people know what they are doing… The ribs were awesome, tender with a nice smoke and the sauce had just the right amount of heat. I also had a side of the Sauerkraut they were serving with their homemade wieners. A kiss of heaven. I am going to have to get that recipie…
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Hard at work
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Grinding metal
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Arcs and Sparks
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Here is a wall with finished pieces from previous students work.
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And we discover the secret to all that activity.
KrispyKremes and regular Coke.
Caffeine and Sugar.
Good stuff!

Jen and I went back the next day to look at the finished pieces. I'll write about that soon.

UPDATE: 06-05-2005
Finally got the winners photographs out of the camera (its been busy at the Farm)

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The last was Jen's and my favorite. Fun!

Posted by DaveH at 09:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Weather Station

Our online Weather Station has been offline for two weeks. We had a power failure and crashing the computer caused a database to get corrupted.

It is now back online and the historical data will be back online in the next few weeks. (no data was lost)

The Weather Station is available here
(and ignore the Soil Temperature — Mt. Baker is an active volcano but we are not seeing that much activity. Calibration glitch…)

Posted by DaveH at 09:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 11, 2005

Spring had sprung and we are busy!

The spring season has hit and all the tasks we have been putting off because of winter are now clamoring for Jen's and my attention.

Spent today finishing off a nice fence going around our garden. We had a good crop of veggies and berries last year but the dogs enjoyed them as well — this year its ours and ours alone. This will also keep the ducks corralled so they can keep to their job of garden bug patrol.

Yesterday, we were finally able to pick up our new Goat. She is only three months old and the breeder wanted her to remain with her pack to get properly socialized. She is another Cashmere (for fiber) and is a real sweetheart. Named her Esmeralda after the Sea Lion in the Disney adaptation of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

It turns out that we are not the only ones to consider her a sweetheart. Our little whether Oreo went into full-on rutting mode when we introduced the two. At first he was just playing a bit but he started scenting himself and acting the way that Billy Goats act when they smell a Doe in heat. Oreo was supposed to be fixed by the breeder but he is headed into the vet tomorrow to see if something was missed…

I'll have some more pictures in a day or two.

Posted by DaveH at 07:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 04, 2005

Other revenue streams - soap making

Along with selling our Cider and Mead, we will also be offering items for sale online and in our tasting room. One thing that Jen is getting very much interested in is Soap Making. We are now using several soaps that she has made and they are a lot better than most commercial soaps. I have sensitive skin and need to watch that I don't use anything harsh. Some laundry detergents and strong soaps will make it look like I sandpapered my skin. Jen's soaps clean well, rinse cleanly and quickly and do not irritate my skin at all.
I knew there was a reason I married her…

By making our own, we can be perfectly sure that nothing artificial has entered into the ingredient list (same as with our Cider and Mead products).

Jen made a batch of soap this morning and I took some pictures:

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Here she is set up to make a batch. There is a digital scale inside a baggie for weighing the ingredients. The ratio of oil to lye is critical so an accurate scale is a must. If you have to little oil, the soap will be highly alkaline and harsh. If you have too much, it will be gooey and will not set up properly. Jen aims for a super-fatted soap with a few percent more oil than lye. This gives a nice hard bar but also makes for luxurious lather and a gentle cleaning action.

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Here are the primary ingredients for this batch. She is using Lard (rendered pig fat) but this is not an essential ingredient. A soap made from nothing but Olive Oil and Lye is called a Castille soap. Other oils that she is using are Hazelnut Oil, Coconut Oil and Palm Oil. Each oil has its own characteristic and the ratio determines the basic property of the soap.

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Honey and Powdered Oatmeal are being added to this batch. Honey for smoothness and aroma and the Oatmeal for an exfoliant property. The raw oatmeal is processed in a food mill before adding to the soap.

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Jen is measuring out the Olive Oil for this batch.

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Yum — a whole mess 'o Lard… Traditional soaps were made from rendered animal fats and fireplace ashes cooked together. The wood ash had a high concentration of Potassium Hydroxide. Commercial lye is actually Sodium Hydroxide but both work fine for soap.
For those concerned about the use of pig products, we will not be using Lard in all of our soaps and those few that have it will be clearly identified.

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A nice big pot of various oils ready to be turned into soap. Since the Lard doesn't melt that well, we are going to heat it up a bit.

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Here we are around 140 Degrees Fahrenheit. Everything is nicely melted and ready to go.

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Jen is making a Milk soap today. Usually, the Lye is added to water and that mixture is stirred into the oil mixture. Today, she is using milk instead of water. Because adding lye to liquid is exothermic Jen froze the milk first so as not to cook it. Generally, adding lye to water raises the temperature to over 120F. By freezing the milk first, she kept it under 80F.

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Here, the lye and milk has been added to the oils and Jen is blending them together. Using a stick blender, Jen is able to reach “trace” in fifteen minutes or so. This used to take hours and hours of hand stirring. We may be making our own soaps like the pioneers but we are not shunning labor-saving devices…

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A small measure of the soap has been removed and color added to it. Since Jen is looking for a “swirl” pattern through the bar, she is mixing it up a la Jackson Pollack.

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And here we are, an hour or so later with some finished bars in the mold. Later tomorrow, these will be removed from the mold, cut into individual hand bars and set out to air cure. Although 99.9% of the lye has been bound with oil chemically, there are still traces of it that remain for a week or two so the soap has to sit for a while before it can be used safely. Letting it cure also makes the bar harder so it lasts longer.

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And here are a few of her other batches curing.

As I said, this is wonderful stuff. Washes well (and we do come in with dirty hands — Jen from the garden and me with oil and grime from the shop), great lather and it rinses clean.

Posted by DaveH at 08:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack