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Tuesday, May 11, 2021 2 comments

Busy weekend

I had a busy weekend, but a good chunk of it was the busy stuff I wanted to handle (for a change).

One of the things at FAR Manor that had languished for a long time was the deck out back. The Boy had put up the framework for the railings, and was planning to finish it out, but… things happened. “They” say there are three ways to get things done:
  1. Do it yourself.
  2. Pay someone else to do it.
  3. Tell your kids to NOT do it.
Mason, if told to not do something that smacks of work, will have a rare moment of obedience. Daughter Dearest isn’t exactly the construction type, Charlie is willing but not able just yet, so Number Three didn’t apply. I really wasn’t keen on paying someone to do something I could do in an afternoon or two, so cross off Number Two.

I made a shopping list, punched it into the Home Despot app, and told them I’d come pick it up. When the “It’s ready!” text come in, I loaded Mason and Charlie into M.O. the B.B. and we clattered off to the retail district. As I was tying down the load, I realized something important: instead of 10 2x2s and one 1x4, they gave me eleven 1x4s! I went back inside and let them know what happened, and they sent someone out with the right lumber.

One of the things that inspired me to get this done, was the wife finding a palm nailer on the deck. I had no clue what it was, and looked up the brand and model number online. It’s an air-driven nail gun, but it drives regular nails and bangs them down like someone wielding a hammer at 4x speed. I had no clue such a thing existed, before it appeared at FAR Manor. Cut a picket to size, get it into the right place, line the nail up on the top rail, and let fly with the nailer. Then toenail the bottom into place.

I made quick work of the pickets, but there are large gaps—I have a slide and small climbing wall coming off the deck. My clever thought was to put doors, or gates, across those openings, so they can be used or closed off when AJ is out there.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any commercial gates that size, and the one I need at the top of the stairs would cost a lot more than what I would need to build one. So I started envisioning what a gate might look like—it would need crossbars, so I could attach hinges, but be light enough to not sag under its own weight. After a little finagling, this is what I came up with:

This particular gate closes off the slide. A few feet to its left, I need to set up double gates for the climbing wall. Oncoming rain and darkness worked against me, and this was the only gate I was able to finish and mount before I was through. Of course, I’d forgotten to put latches in my order, so that’s something I’ll have to tackle next weekend.

Sunday, after church, we decided to run out to get lunch. Culver’s is intelligent, and hasn’t opened their inside dining area yet, and we’re fine with that. We went through the drive-thru, got what we wanted, then decamped to a nearby bank parking lot where we parked in the shade and rolled down windows. That’s how we’ve rolled during the pandemic, so far, and it’s gonna be soooooo weird to eat inside with other people around.

But I digress. The wife wanted to get some fencing fixed, but I wanted to get some cheese started. Fortunately, after heating the milk and adding rennet, it has to sit for a while. So I put the lid on the pot, and said “Let’s get that fencing dealt with.”

Returning from the fencing work, I had a look at the pot. The recipe said the cheese would set in 90 minutes, but it hadn’t even started. I decided to leave it, to let the rennet work a little longer, and hoped for the best. My rennet has been around for a long time, and maybe it’s starting to wheeze. The original recipe used liquid rennet, and I’m going to get some for my next attempt.

Quejio Fresco
I’ve made soft cheese before, especially using homogenized and pasteurized milk, and it’s far easier to get good results using raw milk. But, you work with what you can get. Anyway, after four or five hours, the milk finally set up. I cut up the curds, spooned them into the mold, and let it start draining. I had to separate it into two batches at first, because (even starting with only two quarts of milk) it wouldn’t all fit into the mold. After about half an hour, enough whey had drained out that I could consolidate the two batches.

I used a recipe for quejio fresco this time. I’ve made Neufchatel before, and I think I like this one better. One idea I hit upon, was to put the cheese mold on a splatter screen (a screen you usually put over a frying pan, to keep bacon from exacting revenge upon its cook) over a large bowl, as a draining system. This worked very well, because you don’t have to constantly pour the whey out (and if you want to use the whey for ricotta or some other recipe, it’s an easy catch). You can see the splatter screen’s pattern on top of the cheese.

After unwrapping the cheesecloth, and shrugging at the lopsided appearance, I took it out to show the wife. AJ was in her lap, and immediately gave me the “eat” sign. AJ sort of grazes her way through the day when she’s at FAR Manor, usually eating something. Anyway, I cut a sliver off one side, and brought it out. AJ scarfed it right down.

Later in the evening, I spread some on a rosemary cracker (it’s soft and spreadable) and gave it to the wife. After requesting seconds, she said, “This is really good. Good thing I’m going to be out and about tomorrow.” So both the youngest and oldest girlies in the manor approved of my efforts! In the Azores, where this cheese originated, they often have it for breakfast on crusty bread. I’m going to put some on toast in the morning.

I’m slowly getting back into the mix. I should tackle taxes next. :P

Monday, May 10, 2021 2 comments

A second (frosty) bullet, dodged

Gardening in Georgia is always a crapshoot. One can usually deploy plants that don’t handle frost well once mid-April rolls around… but not always.

As I mentioned earlier, I bought new tomato plants after a late frost whacked the first set. But winter wasn’t done dicking around with us—another frost was on the way. I’d put the first set of plants in the ground, and they had started to revive. Since the bottom set of shoots (that had been covered in mulch) still looked healthy after the frostbite, I decided to cover the in-ground plants in mulch and put plastic over them.

The containers, I hoisted onto a pickup truck and put them in the garage for the night. Why take chances if some of your garden is semi-mobile?

This worked pretty well, in the end. The mulch-covered plants endured the freeze without (further) damage, and started growing better soon after. The container plants had no problem spending a night in the garage, either.

All the plants, even the in-ground ones, are sporting blooms now. A couple of the container plants have small greenies on them. I’m looking forward to the first harvest!


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