First Aluminum Casting

Forced air makes for all the difference. and a 2-3ft tall flame.

Forced air makes for all the difference. and a 2-3ft tall flame.  Not seen: the hose to put of any stray flames.

Instead of making posts here, I’ve been doing things.  Over a two and a half years ago, I first attempted to melt aluminum in a tin can.  Well, since then, I’ve managed to make a bit of progress on melting aluminum.  The biggest issue I had with my first attempt was a lack of forced air.  I tried using a stand fan then, and there was not enough air, and it wasn’t directed at the charcoal.  My first successful attempt used a leaf blower on the lowest setting to get sufficient air, and charcoal as fuel.  An attempt or two later, I was able to use dry wood as a fuel source.  This is nice, because I have plenty of wood about to use as fuel at no cost.  After building a standard fire to get a decent size bed of coals, I turn on the leaf blower to kick up the heat and then start piling on wood as long as it doesn’t produce a lot of smoke.  Eventually, it builds up to what is show in the image. At this point, wood gets added to the outside edge of the fire and after it gets blackened and the wood under the crucible (in this case, the smallest dutch oven I had) is gone, the charred wood is moved under the crucible.

Carriage assembly

Carriage assembly

Several times, I’ve melted aluminum cans and formed ingots by pouring the molten metal into a steel muffin tin.  Today, however, was the first time that I cast a metal part, the carriage assembly for a Gingery lathe.  The part didn’t turn out perfect: there are several defects on the top face where the steel way for the cross slide attaches.  I will be attempting this casting at least once more and take the best of the castings to actually use.  I have the pattern for the cross slide nearly ready as well, but I will need to obtain a short piece of 1/2″ steel round shaft for the center hole.  Otherwise, that would likely be my next casting.

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Going to Have to Chop Down the Apple Tree

The part hanging down used to be above head level.  Now it is almost touching the ground.

The part hanging down used to be above head level. Now it is almost touching the ground.

I got home today to a nasty surprise: the apple tree had been crippled by a recent storm. So much of the tree is destroyed, in fact, that I will be cutting it down entirely after I harvest the few apples that are not the part that broke off.  The silver lining to this is that there is another apple tree growing right at the base of this one that should take off next year because this one will not be taking up as many nutrients or sunlight.

There is a somewhat pressing problem now.  There are a bunch or small, unripe apples on the tree that are going to die.  I would prefer to do something useful with them rather than just throw them on the ground and hope that some seeds matured enough to sprout.  I know that pectin can be extracted from slightly unripe apples, but I have never done it before and don’t know how much under ripe an apple can be and still work.

Thinned the Radishes

The radishes I "thinned" out.

The radishes I “thinned” out.

Today, I noticed the radishes are crowding each other again, so I took this as an opportunity to thin them out.  However, at this point, it more resembles harvesting than thining: when thinning out the radishes, I picked the larger of the radishes to remove.  This left me with a pile of radishes that are fit for eating and cooking with.  Still working out what to do with them; any suggestions are very welcome. The sprouts for the next round of radishes have sprouted already, so I don’t see the stream of radishes stopping anytime soon.  Hopefully the carrots catch up and I have more carrots than I know what to do with to deal with.

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A Few New Things This Year

This is my third season growing a garden, and my desire to grow more in the garden include growing more varieties of plants.  This year, I’ve expanded the area dedicated to some plant, and have added several new ones.

Seed pods on the turnips

Seed pods on the turnips

I mentioned in my last post that I overwintered turnips, and I am letting them go to seed.  In the past few days, the flowers have started disappearing and the seed pods have arrived.  The plants are producing what looks like a large amount of seed, to the point that I should not need to buy turnip seeds again.  I’ve also noticed that the turnips seem to be a nest of bugs: I’ve counted no less than 11 lady bugs on the plants, for which I am very grateful.  Less desirable are the multitude of what looks like could be Harlequin Bugs.  I still need to check the bugs against the pictures I have found of these bugs before I will trust that I have the correct identification.  I hope it does not turn out to be a big problem.  As long as I get seed from these plants, I will be okay with the rest of the plant dying.  More of a concern is that I have cabbage planted elsewhere in the garden that might be affected by these bugs.  For now, they appear to be content to hang out in the branches of the turnip tops.

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It Has Been A While…

The current state of the garden.

It has been nearly a year since my last post.  A lot has happened, both in the garden and out.  Things got so busy last year that this blog ended up getting neglected.  Things had calmed down a several months ago, but by that time, it was the middle of winter and I haven’t written anything since.  I’ve realized that if I don’t spend the time, nothing gets written here.  Hopefully I can get this going again. Continue reading

Garden Going Strong

The garden has a lot growing in it right now.

The garden has a lot growing in it right now.

The garden has really started to pick up recently.  All the plants are starting to fill out nicely and in some areas are so dense that weeding is no longer needed.  This is especially true under the radishes and the pinto beans.  I’ve made better use of the garden space this year than I did last, but I still think I could easily squeeze in double what I have now if I were to plant more densely and start succession planting.  This is quite evident where the peas were.  I’ve harvested all the peas I will eat and am saving the remainder as seed.  However, if I had planted beans in the rows by the peas about two weeks ago I would have small pinto bean plants already up.  The main reason that didn’t happen is that was about the same time I caught something that the remnants of are still plaguing me.  Also, while the lettuce I planted by the perennial flowers is doing quite nicely, there is still ground that could have been planted.

Peas and buckwheat seeds.

Peas and buckwheat seeds.  Both were very easy to save.  Just let them dry out on the plant and for the peas, to shell the pods.

One of the things I want to do with my garden is to become mostly self-sufficient with seed.  This obviously requires that I become familiar with saving seeds from all my plants.  Last year, I saved seed from the pinto beans, the onion, some mint and a pumpkin.  This year, I have added buckwheat and peas to the list and I am planning on adding radish, sunflower, lettuce and okra to the list.  I’m still waiting on the sunflowers to bloom and the lettuce to bolt.  In the mean time, I’ll be battling the caterpillars that started appearing on the sunflowers a couple of days ago.  My main plan of attack is to knock them off the leaves into a gallon-sized freezer bag and freeze them to death and also preserve them for David to use in his aquaponics system.  Since my tomato plants never made it in the ground and David’s are doing amazing, I might be able to get a tomato or two in exchange.

First Garlic Harvest

Garlic bulbs layed out in the garage to dry.

Garlic bulbs laid out in the garage to dry.

Today, I decided that the garlic was ready to check for harvest.  A few of the lower leaves on the garlic have already turned brown, which is the first sign the bulbs are getting close to being ready to harvest. After using a garden fork to break up the soil around one of the garlic plants, I found the bulb was small but fully formed.  So I went ahead and harvested the rest of the plants.  In total, I got fifteen plants out of the original three bulbs I bought from the farmers market last year.  I plan on using most of the garlic in this harvest to plant out more garlic later this year.  I expect to get about forty to fifty plants from this.  I will only be planting the larger cloves and the smaller cloves will be used for cooking.