Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Old School Joe: Percolator Coffee

I love coffee. It's really my only vice. (Unless you count poultry and goat ownership as a vice, which I sometimes do.)

I also really love old things. Which explains why my house and belongings look the way they do. Mr. Chanclas also loves old things. This is his favorite old thing (not counting his wife):

Mr. Chanclas and his 1968 Volkswagen Squareback
I just love to imagine the back story of all of my old things. Old stuff has a story to tell and it's often well-made. (If it weren't it wouldn't still be around, would it?) I just inherited this wonderful Corning Ware electric coffee percolator. Isn't it pretty? I'm drinking my first cup of coffee from it and I have to admit that it's a little bit burnt but it would be perfect for camping. It does require electricity but most camping spaces have an electrical outlet and I'm not against using it.

Coffee percolators were invented in the early 1800's and were very popular until the early 1970's when automatic drip coffee makers came out. The nice thing about a percolator is that it doesn't require a paper filter. Some, like this electric one, have their own heat source, but others are for stovetop use.

Does anybody else have a sweet spot for percolated coffee? I'm going to keep using mine and see if I can perfect my method.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Update at Making Shift

We've had a full summer thus far. Much of my homesteading activities have been conducted on autopilot lately since I've had all three kids at home for summer break. The bees, chickens, ducks, geese, and goats are all thriving, but I have not expanded any operations or started any major new projects. (I have some major fencing and garden projects in mind for the coming year, but it's too hot to start on anything yet.)

I'm behind on updates so I'm going to tell the story of this summer in photos. Here are some of the things we've been up to.

1. Reading
We always read a lot but I've really allowed myself to read lots of fun fiction this summer. Unlike most women (or so the librarians tell me), I read mostly nonfiction. At any given moment I might have on my bedside table: one book about drywall application, two about electrical wiring, forty-two about permaculture, and a few cookbooks.

The library book shelving overfloweth.

 2. Cooking and Food Preparation
My sister lives on a tiny lot in the suburbs of a large city but she sent me home from her house with grocery sacks full of mint and sage from her yard. Brother took it upon himself to pick all the mint leaves off the stems, where we let them dry and then stored them away for making tea. Big Sister learned how to make chocolate chip cookies all by herself and they were the best cookies I had eaten in years. She is ten years old so it's really past time for me to get her cooking more.

3. The Animals
The geese and ducks are nearly full grown and doing great. They free range in the yard all day and I close them up in one of the poultry tractors at night. I can't wait to get some eggs from them. So far the geese haven't attacked anyone and are really quite calm.

A goose walking down the front steps
 I made a new dog bed for Zeus because his old one was too thin and flimsy. I had a piece of thick, quality foam left from our old dog's bed and I covered it with an old bedsheet. My neighbor had given us a hand-me-down set of fancy-brand queen sheets. They were very nice and all except they felt like tarpaulins. Industrial grade. Perfect for a dog bed!

Newly covered dog bed
 4. The World Cup
We were totally immersed in the World Cup. We don't have a TV but we were able to see all of the games live by streaming them online! We moved our couch in front of the computer for the whole month of June and even did brackets with our extended family. As you can see, we were a house divided for the final game:

4. Family
We've had a lot of good family time. Big Sister taught Brother how to play chess. We went to Mexico and spent a wonderful week with our family. My two older kids are still there, having adventures with their grandparents.

I hope your summer has been as full and fun as ours! I'll be back soon with new projects and updates.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Homegrown Honeycomb

It's time for a bee update! Those bees have been extremely busy. While it is still too early for us to actually harvest honey from them, we have gotten to eat several pieces of comb that were being built along the sides of the hive (instead of hanging from the top bars as they should). I had never eaten honeycomb before, which is the actual comb (made of wax) filled with honey. You chew it up, slurping down the honey, and then spit out a tiny ball of wax. It is delicious. And it is ours!

I have some interesting photos of the hive that I took about two weeks ago when Mr. Chanclas was checking on their progress. I should  note that these photos were taken just one month after our bees arrived. They have done so much work!

Bees arriving at the entrance to the hive
Mr. Chanclas removing the roof to the hive
Replacing the jar of sugar water that helps feed the colony
Removing one of the top bars to look at the comb
A small piece of comb being built on the side of the hive. Chanclas removed it with a knife and we ate it.
One of the larger combs. Notice the golden brown in the center. That's the honey!
A closeup of the comb. Honey glistens in the center. The upper cells are capped with white.
The largest comb we have at the moment
The smallest, outermost comb. The bees started building comb at one end of the hive and are working their way down, building comb on the successive bars. Eventually they may fill or almost fill the box.
Lantana blooming near the beehive. This is one of many plants blooming at this time of year and providing the bees with nectar and pollen.

I find the beehive to be such a wonder. We do almost nothing for them. Mr. Chanclas makes sure they have some water nearby and he still gives them some sugar water to supplement their food. The combs themselves are gorgeous, made of perfectly formed, precisely sized cells. The beauty of a top bar hive, as opposed to the traditional bee box hives, is that the bees decide what size cells to build. There is no template that they are forced to build on. They build what is best for their colony.

I've also been surprised at how docile the bees are. Mr. Chanclas bought a smoker but has yet to use it. We move slowly and carefully around the hive and the bees tolerate our presence. I have found bees to be very different from all of the other animals we keep. Namely because we don't "keep" the bees at all. They could leave any time they wanted. We just provided a nice home and they decided to stay. We don't manage them or interfere with them much at all. They just go about their business and we will be lucky to reap some honey rewards at some point.