Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Today's Blooms, August 15, 2018


August has been hot, miserable and the flower garden has been ignored. The vegetable garden is "in" and it takes priority.  The vegetables must be preserved for winter so a casual stroll through the flowers, is rare. The person who coined the phrase, "Take time to stop and smell the roses," did not have a garden full of beans waiting to be picked.  I prefer the phrase, "Produce waits for no man."  When I walked to the flower garden, I wasn't sure I would find anything flourishing.  I can see the orange cosmos from the house so I knew there was at least something blooming.


The Black-eyed Susans were still flowering from last month's post although they looked a bit ragged up close.  


The feverfew was blooming which didn't make me happy.  They looked good for the picture but it means I didn't get out soon enough to harvest the leaves for medicine before they bloomed.  When they blossom they put their energy into producing seeds and then go dormant.  


The phlox was a bit haggard but the butterfly didn't seem to mind.  The pollinators were eager to find every single bloom.





The red Amaranth didn't seem to know which way was up.  I have had that problem before.


Standing in the blistering hot sun taking pictures isn't fun so I decided to move to the shade garden.  There weren't any blooms but it was cooler.




The camera was level, the tree leans toward the sunshine in the open field.





I did it!  I found some blooms on my hydrangea. Mission accomplished. Time to do something else. Should I go back to work in the kitchen....?



Or do nothing? 


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Friday, August 10, 2018

Building a Dehydrator the Haphazard Way, by Reese



As I’m sure some of you might already know (because my Mom told the world) I have already left home to start a new job. At that time, I did not pack a dehydrator as it was quite bulky and I did not know if I would be sticking around this place for very long. I figured once I got settled down at my new location I could head to the nearest Goodwill every so often 'till a dehydrator showed up. After several months and still no dehydrator, I was getting tired of the lack of results. The cheapest one I could find on Amazon, with a quick glance, was in the $40 range. I deemed that far too expensive, especially when it only had a couple of trays, no fan, and a limited amount of shelf space. My next thought was, "Could I build one myself?" I ended up finding a nice video “Dehydro-Tron 5000_ Make Beef Jerky at Home!” on Youtube. Of course, it was on Youtube, isn’t everything there? Anyway, it gave me a good idea as to where to start; but I was not about to go as fancy as they did with a soldered on a dimmer switch, painted but still made from used junk parts lying about. I had a limited amount of money and tools. The criteria I needed, involved a few things. First, it had to be easy to build. Second, cheap. Lastly, when I inevitably move again, I want the ability to save the core components and toss the rest. This will enable me to slap together a new one later.

To build the dehydrator, I needed a box to act as the base. I originally thought about using a thin plastic container. As I was pondering the steps, I realized I did not have an effective method to cut through plastic. While wandering about my apartment, my eyes fell upon an old cardboard box that had been with me for some time. As you can see, it has been around the block a time or two. It has traveled through two moves and has been used as a nightstand in both of my apartments. (Time to find something else as my nightstand, I guess.) In this step, I followed the Youtube video and used aluminum foil from my kitchen cabinet to line the box.


I purchased some reflective HVAC foil tape for about $5.00 to hold it in place. I thought that the tape would be quite delicate, but was surprised to learn it was not. You can tear it easily, but when trying to pull my stuck fingers off, it held to quite a bit of abuse. Its stickiness is somewhere between packaging tape and duct tape, leaning more towards the latter of the two.


I used the HVAC foil to hold the aluminum foil in place as I covered the inside of the box.  (Shiny.)


Next, I installed the heating element, or in my case, a heat lamp.  I could not solder any joints due to my nonexistent soldering iron.  I bought a lamp kit with all of the necessary parts, cord, switch, and socket.  At this point, I also remembered I did not have a drill to create the hole to run the power cord through the box. What to use? What to use? Aha! Take a box cutter and rotate it slowly while jamming it through the cardboard.


Hey, It's not stupid if it works!


Then I wired the lamp.



The hook up was pretty simple.  All that was required was a Phillips head screwdriver and some head scratching due to the limited instructions provided.  Also bear in mind, anyone who makes their own dehydrator, don't shove the wire into the wrong hole.  I was left confused for some time before I figured out where I went wrong.  Then I fired it up and see if it works.  BOOM!  We have light!


Now to secure the lamp to the box so it doesn't roll around.  Drill another hole with the blade, shove the tube through and attach it to the lamp.  The lamp kit also came with a random selection of white rubber spacer things.  I ended up grabbing the largest one with the most surface area and shoved it on the screw then called it good enough.



I did not have a metal coat hanger to fashion a nice stand as the video showed.  The next best thing? I grabbed one of Mom's metal canning screw lids and placed underneath. (She will never miss it.) You can also see the few tools I had available in the last picture on the right.



What cheap possible method could I create for air circulation?  I experienced many sleepless nights agonizing over this critical step in my grand plans.  Few will realize the genius levels of contemplations I put forth here...I went and bought a $5 mini fan...Hey! It worked!  Don't judge me! Besides, I was not about to search for a computer fan and then try to do wizardry on it to get it to work.  I'll leave that for my older brother.  I would have undoubtedly burned my apartment down if I tried.

Next I cut a hole in the box for the fan, making sure to leave enough cardboard on both sides for support.  I didn't want to cut it too close to the corner.  It probably would not have made a difference, but it was also easy enough to scoot the fan a couple of inches over. Grabbing a pen, I marked out where the hole was to be cut.


It's not pretty, but it will get the job done.  To prevent the aluminum foil from rattling due to air movement, I took some more foil tape and lined the perimeter of the hole with it.


It was time to do a trial run...but... no drying racks...hmm...well, I guess this will do for now.


Well, the "for now" did not last very long.  Apparently electrical tape is not a good option for holding a colander of apple slices over a heat lamp.  I came back a few hours later to find it collapsed.

This next design also worked, I guess.  The trial run ended up being a success.  There are no images because I ate the test results too fast.  


Time to build shelves.  I used some wooden dowels to act as the main shelf holder then used "plastic canvas" to hold the fruit slices.  Don't ask me what plastic canvas is used for, that is a Mom question. (Mom speaking here, it is used for needlepoint.) The canvas is quite cheap, I got mine at a Joanns store for about $.75 for a piece the size of a sheet of paper.  If you are planning to build more than one or two shelves, I would recommend putting the opening of the box on the side, so you can slide the shelves in and out.  I didn't think that far and had a top down approach.  Works good enough for the 1.5 shelves I currently have but any more would be a hassle.


The last part to build was the lid.  This ended up being the simplest part to construct.  I grabbed a piece of cardboard and shinnied up one side with aluminum foil and HVAC tape.


I then made a haphazard handle by folding some paper into a bar, wrapping it with tape, then securing it to the top of the lid.  Some holes were cut in the lit for ventilation and I was done.


Time for the true test and what better than using a fruit that is 92% water?  (Owning a small cutting board is not very helpful at this point.)


It only took about one day for it to dry enough for storage.


Delicious Dehydrated Watermelon
All totaled, I spent less than $20 on this project.  Not bad if I do say so myself.
Reese

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