Baling wheat chaff

I’ve seen bales in other fields here on the Eastern Shore but this is the first year they’ve collected the chaff on my field. It’s a fascinating process for anyone who likes mechanical machines.

It starts with the combine harvesting the wheat. Rather than uniformly blowing the chaff out across the field, it dumps the majority of it in a trail behind the combine. This concentrates the material.

Next comes a tractor running the baler. Unlike hay, the wheat chaff is a combination of wheat stalks and bits of chaff. The baler sucks and scoops in the trail left by the combine. It compresses it layer by layer. The machine makes a very distinctive mechanical chunking sound. The bale gradually exits the baler. When it is the final size, that bale stops and the next bail starts. The finished bale eventually drops out the back.

After bales have been created and dropped around the field, another tractor runs around with a collector. The collect runs behind and off to the side of the tow tractor. This is important since the driver needs each bale oriented side-to when being collected. The tractor operator creatively catches a lengthwise bale with one of the collector arms to make the bale rotate into the correct position. Bales are collected in twos. Each pair of bales is then flipped up onto a carnage. When the carriage has six pairs, the entire stack is stood up in a row of bales.


Wheat harvest – double time

The weather has been anything but cooperative, especially for the farmers. Many fields have had the winter wheat waiting for harvest. No sooner is it dry enough, then we get a heavy rain. The fear has been mold.

I’m sure it wasn’t ideal but they brought in two combines and four tractor trailers and brought in the crop “in my front yard” today.

It was slow going since heavy wind and rain had knocked some of the wheat over. To harvest this wheat, the combines need to run slower and cut closer to the ground. This not only takes more time but more fuel as well. It all cuts into the profits.

I don’t know how this crop compares to previous seasons but the wheat is out. Bring on the soy beans!

The Spoon-Staw adds style and function to your summer cocktails

Growing up, my grandmother had these special metal straws with a heart shaped scoop on the end and a small ball at the top. I later learned these were silver mint julep straws. It’s a bit ironic since my grandfather never allowed alcohol in their house. We used them for root beer floats.

I miss those straws and a search on eBay tells me I need to resign myself to that fact. HOWEVER …

… where there’s a will, there’s a way!

It turns out there are some affordable stainless steel facsimiles. Most have a boring round spoon end and a straight pipe straw. I did find a relatively attractive version with the same gentle “S” bend of those my grandmother had. These affordable versions also had a nice teardrop spoon. They did not have the ball at the end for your lips and the pipe at the spoon end was just a square cut.

I could do little about the ball but a little carful grinding and polishing and the spoon end of the pipe now has a graceful bevel.

Bring on the mint juleps … or sangria with fruit! … Root beer floats are available too at the Bucking Bar!

Cabinet shelf-drawers

Anything short of a completely custom kitchen will inevitably be a compromise. Most of today’s “custom kitchens” are little more than a selection of options. Truly custom scratch built kitchens are just too expensive for all but the most demanding clients.

I rarely get called for a complete custom kitchen (but if you are in the market, I’m happy to discuss you wants and needs). Still, I do get calls for making customizations and improvements to existing kitchens.

In this example, the client had a small kitchen in which extra deep cabinets had been install around the refrigerator. I like the look of a flush-mount refrigerator and dislike those counter-depth refrigerators. The solution is extra deep cabinets. The problem is getting to the back of those deep cabinets. 

The solution is custom built extra deep pullout shelf-drawers.

The project consisted of 6 shelf-drawers for the tall and narrow side cabinets plus shelf-drawers for above the refrigerator.

Using 27″ under-mount heavy duty soft-close slides gave the client 28″ deep shelf-drawers which resulted in 30% more accessible storage and the shelf-drawers handle up to 150lbs each. To accommodate the potential loads, the shelf-drawers have 1/2″ bottoms.

There were a few wrinkles to the install. Since the cabinets where standard sized with full overlay doors, there was dead space on either side of the drawers where the face frame extended into the storage space. This called for different spacers to be made for the left and right sides of the tall side cabinets. The upper cabinet had different sized openings and a dead space in the middle so three specific spacers were needed there was well.

Installation was accomplished using a custom jig which snapped into the existing front and rear shelf pin holes along with a front spacer to establish the correct set-back for the front of each drawer. By mixing which holes were used in the jig vs the holes in the cabinet, I could adjust in quarter inch increments.

The installation took a good amount of preparation and planning but only a couple hours at the client site.

Guacamole, lazy ass style!

There are few tastes which set the tone for a relaxed summer late day with friends and family like guacamole. It pairs perfectly with a beer or a decadent cocktail. It can also take 10 or more ingredients and a bunch of preparation. But it doesn’t have to.

You can make a very good guacamole in about 3 minutes using 3 ingredients (plus some salt and pepper).

The most difficult step is getting 2 ripe avocados. Cut them in half, remove the seed, and scoop the flesh into a small food processor. Add about 1/3 cup of medium salsa. Add 2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice. Pulse and mostly purée the ingredients but try to leave a small amount of chunkiness. Add a pinch of salt and some fresh ground pepper to taste. Pulse a couple of times to incorporate.

You can serve the guacamole immediately but it is better if you can chill it for 30 minutes. 

A quick side note: I have one cheap (as in price) tool in my kitchen that makes this recipe especially easy – a Ninja Chopper. (They can be had for around $20 from various sources).

Sangria, lazy ass style!

Red wine, citrus soda, frozen fruit. There you go. Done.

You want more details? Oh, OK.

The basic recipe consists of a dry-ish red wine and a diet or non-diet citrus soda such as Siera Mist or one of its many clones.

I drink red wines during the winter and usually have left over bottles of good – albeit budget – red wines from Spain, South Africa, Portugal, or France.

My “soda bar” uses 3L bottles so my recipe is a 750ml bottle of red wine and a 2L bottle of diet Siera Mist or a similar store brand. Recently I found a couple good boxed wines on a close out discount so I’ll use those too. When using boxed wines, I use 1L of wine and 2L of soda.

Since you don’t like have a CO2 system and may not want to deal with 3L bottles, use this method – chill the 2L bottle of soda in the freezer and do the same with the wine. When it’s really cold but not frozen, pour off 750ml of soda from the 2L bottle and replace it with the wine. Transfer is to the refrigerator. The reason for using the freezer is you are preserving as much carbonation as possible.

If the resulting sangria is too sweet for your taste you can use 1L of club soda and 1L of citrus soda.

When you want to serve the Sangria, scoop some frozen fruit into each glass and pour in the Sangria.

I keep a tub in the freezer with a mix of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and mango.

For something different, use a dry-ish white wine (but not too dry). Also add apples to the fruit mix.