First scything

Well, I just got tired of it. We haven’t had a chance to do a restoration job on the scythe blade, but I really wanted to use it. While I was working on something else, my husband got a start on sharpening the blade for me.

The cutting edge has dings in it and likely needs to be peened, but I haven’t see any of the peening supplies I thought we must have somewhere. Not even the right type of hammer, which I was sure we had somewhere. So I made do with pausing to sharpen the blade frequently.

I started in the grass with a path on either side, forming a V. What you see in the middle of the photo is my first pass.

I then made a second pass on the other side of the path to the burn barrel. Since I was going in the opposite direction as before, the grass from both passes ended up on the path, forming a windrow.

I scythed part of the path to the garage, too, before stopping. This was something I could do while tending the last of a burn. We’ve got stuff too big to fit in the burn barrel, so I set up a fire ring next to it. When the burn was done, I waded through the tall grass to get to the barn, where I found a sheet of metal that felt heaving enough, it would take some pretty severe winds to blow off, to use as a cover. When the burn was done, so was the scything for the evening.

It is far from a neat and tidy job. With many pauses to sharpen the blade, most of the the time was spent trying to get that correct angle to cut the most efficiently. A scythe should have two handles on it. Ours just has one makeshift handle, but I was able to control it pretty well. As for how good of a job it did, it’s a toss up over whether the messy cuts are because I’m not quite using it right, or if it’s because it has a bag edge on the blade. It could well be both!

Still, it does the job. As we are able, I hope to get the outer yard between house and barn, and along the driveway (where there isn’t any standing water), slowly done with the scythe. Once that’s done, using the mower will finally be an option!

We’ll see if the weather will be co-operative!

The Re-Farmer

Spoon carving progress

Today, I got some really good progress on my practice carving, using the spoon blank that came with my carving kit.

Also, the basement is nice and cool. 🙂

I was down to cutting the last few divots out of the morel mushroom on the end of the spoon, so that didn’t take long. I also tried to deepen the bowl of the spoon itself.

Working on the inside of the spoon is a challenge. The tip of the sloyd knife kept gouging areas I wasn’t working on. The direction the wood grain is also means that, in two spots opposite each other, the wood did not cut as well or as smoothly, leaving more gouges, no matter how carefully I tried to follow the instructions from the various videos I’d looked up for beginner carvers.

The rough shaping of the outside of the bowl and handle are… well… rough. LOL

Here is how it looked, after I finished with the carving tools. The next step, was to “cheat” and use my Dremel.

I have a Dremel engraver, which I tested out on the divots of the morel. That did not work at all, which is really what I expected. I figured it was worth a try, though.

Also, that thing is incredibly loud, and scare the crap out of the kittens and Beep Beep!!

The other Dremel I have is a basic low end rotating tool. (The engraver doesn’t rotate, so there is nothing interchangeable about them.) I used a drum sander to smooth out and shape the bowl and handle.

This also took off more of the excess wood to add more shaping.

For the details in the morel, I’m going to have to pick up a fine, abrasive tip. None of the tips that came with my kit are remotely close to being usable for this.

I decided on a swoopy handle, just for effect, but it has turned out to be a great thumb rest. It fits remarkably comfortably in the hand.

This is after sanding the spoon with three grades of sandpaper. Unfortunately, even the edges of the sandpaper tends to leave little gouges inside the spoon’s bowl.

I also had an unexpected issue to deal with, though not a surprising one. The humidity is so high in the basement, both the sandpaper and the wood itself was affected. The wood dust had a tendency to clump up. It wasn’t too much of a problem, but I think it affected how well the sandpaper was able to do the job. Some things actually work better with wet sandpaper. This is not one of them! 😀

This is now it looks after I stopped for the day. After I get a new Dremel tip to finish detailing the morel, I’ll continue to sand with finer grades of sandpaper, singe the morel to add colour, then finish with mineral oil. I did some searches on food grade oils for wood, and it basically came down to mineral oil. Other oils recommended are derived from nuts or seeds, and they go rancid over time. Beeswax is something else that can be used, but it can start cracking and flaking and, of course, you couldn’t use it with anything hot (among the things I hope to carve are cups and small bowls).

Once finished, I plan to offer it to my mother, since she requested I carve her a mushroom. Talking to her since then, it turns out she wants a Portebello (she didn’t know the English name for it), but I hope she’ll be happy with a morel for now. I know she likes morels, too. Most likely, she’ll reject it, but you never know. I might get her on one of her good days.

The Re-Farmer

ps: after finishing this, I checked the weather before heading outside. Turns out the temperatures are still going up, and we’re even hotter now, in the early evening, than before!

Recommended: Cordwood Construction

Welcome to my “Recommended” series of posts. These will be weekly – for now – posts about resources I have found over the past while that I found so excellent, I want to share them with you, my dear readers. 🙂 Whether or not I continue to post these, and how often they are posted, will depend on feedback. Please feel free to comment below, and if you have a favorite resource of your own, do share, and I will review them for possible future posts.

I hope you find these recommendations as useful and enjoyable as I have!

Since we decided to try our hand with some cordwood practice buildings, starting this summer with what will be an outdoor bathroom, I’ve been doing a fair bit of research. I’m learning that this building technique has had some modern changes to it that have greatly improved the final result.

One thing I found, as I did online searches, what that time and again, I kept finding myself back at one site. Cordwood Construction: The Essence of Cordwood Construction. There are many, many sites, blog posts, videos and books about the technique out there, but I’m not finding anything else more informative and practical. There is so much information at the site – even house plans! – one could easily spend many hours there. (I’m loving their post about cordwood flooring, too!) Their blog seems to be kept up quite often, too. They also have a Facebook group, bookstore and newsletter.

They do have a YouTube channel as well. There are not many of their own videos there, but if you check their playlist tab, you’ll find lots more videos.

The information they have is very hands on. I find myself wishing I could attend one of their workshops but, alas, they are too far away.

They also get right into the basic, essential details in a way that is so very helpful.

My previous experiences with cordwood (aka stackwood) construction are historical buildings, and this resource is where I first heard of using an inner layer of insulating material between outer layers of mortar. It’s also where I first encountered the notion of bottle bricks, outside of Pinterest images that led to nowhere useful.

They provide so much basic information that I really feel that someone like me, who has never built anything major before, can do it. I’ve already downloaded their shed plans ebook, and it is so very thorough! I plan to rely on it heavily, and I’m downright excited about building some practice buildings over the next couple of years. Who knows. A few years from now, we might be using the technique when it’s time to build a barrier free house for myself and my husband!

Obviously, this is a resource useful for someone who is – or hopes to be – in a position to construct their own cordwood building, but I think the technique itself is a sort of “lost art”. Given some of its many advantages, which include lower costs, being fire retardant, and more “eco-friendly”, I think this is a building method that deserves a resurgence. Resources like Cordwood Construction are a fantastic place to learn more about it, and be inspired. Of all the other sites I’ve looked at, this one is, hands down, the best of the lot!

I’m really looking forward to putting what I learn from this resource into practice, and definitely recommend this resource for anyone to check out, even if it’s just to learn more about this fascinating building method.

The Re-Farmer

Mead Baby 2.0: boosting fermentation

For those who have recently started to follow this blog (welcome!), here are the previous posts about our second attempt to make mead. All links should open in new tabs, so you won’t lose track of this page. 🙂

Mead Baby, redux (includes links to our first attempt)
Mead Baby 2.0:
active fermentation
it’s a temperature thing
temperature success
overnight temperature status
second fermentation

Since then, we have been monitoring the Baby closely. While there has been virtually no visible activity in the air lock, when we looked at the liquid itself, we could see that it was clearing up, and there was a steady stream of tiny bubbles of carbonation moving upward. If the temperature dropped to 16C, we would turn on the warming pad, which would typically bring it up to about 18-19C.

Recently, its temperature would drop to 16C a lot faster, and we could no longer see the carbonation. It was looking a lot clearer, and we could see a fair bit of sedimentation at the bottom.

However, it was less than 2 weeks since we started the second fermentation. While I’ve read a mead can be ready in that time, most videos and websites I’ve been looking at showed active fermentation for about a month, and gave advice on how to reactivate fermentation if it stopped to early.

Since that was the problem we had with our first attempt, we debated. Is it done and time to bottle it? Should we rack it into another bottle to get it away from the sediment and leave it longer? Do we add something to boost the fermentation?

I’ve read various ways to boost fermentation in mead, including those that recommend adding a chemical that is used in wine making.

Or we could just add some raisins.

So that’s what we decided to do.

With a 1 gallon carboy – and it’s not full – not a lot of raisins would be needed.

We added three.

Here are photos, taken a day apart, showing before and after we added the raisins.

As you can see in the photo on the left, the mead had gotten quite clear, and there’s a pretty thick layer of sediment on the bottom. It’s hard to tell with the reflections, but in the second photo, you can actually see a couple of the raisins floating at the top. The mead is cloudier, but when we shine a light into it, we can once again see that steady stream of bubbles going up to the top.

We’ve been checking its temperature regularly and, aside from an initial warm up after adding the raisins, it’s been keeping its own temperature at 19C.

Right now, the plan is to leave it until we can no longer see those bubbles, rack it into another carboy to get it way from the sediment, then leave it for a while longer before bottling it.

A lot of the information about mead making I’m finding is conflicting, but one thing that all our sources agree on is, the longer the mead sits after bottling, the better it tastes. Most recommend at least a year.

I doubt we’ll wait that long, but with bottles at 750ml, even with having less than a gallon in the carboy (and I expect we’ll lose more after racking it again), we should still be able to get 3 – 4 full bottles out of it, so we can have one right away, then try the others at different ages.

So if we want to start a malomel (mead made with fruit) as we planned, we should pick up another air lock and two, so we can have multiple batches going at once.

You know, for someone who doesn’t actually like alcohol all that much, I find the process of making it quite enjoyable!

😀

The Re-Farmer