Yesterday we canned salsa. It has been three years since the the last time I canned salsa. This year, I had the help of Nick and Karen, which was much appreciated. Clare helped out by taking Spencer and Meg to the zoo with Alisa and Tao, so they were out of our hair. I want to mention that Clare is a supermom, for carrying Meg in the Baby Bjorn and Spencer on her shoulders around the zoo for two hours. I don’t think it would have gotten done without both of those key points.
I harvested about 40 tomatoes and about 10 hot peppers. Nick bought an additional 5 or 10 large tomatoes (5 pounds) from the Boulder farmer’s market. We put in 5 anaheim peppers and a couple banana peppers, with the seeds removed. We also put in two large green bell peppers, and three medium onions. We put in one bulb of minced garlic. Then we added some salt, cumin, and coriander. It now occurs to me that we forgot the vinegar! Whoops. We also added one large can of tomato paste to thicken it up a little bit. Even though we let the chopped tomatoes drain in a colander before putting them in, it was still a little bit runny.
We started preparing the salsa around 10:30, just after Clare left with the kids, and got the first batch into the canner around 1 p.m., just around the time that Clare got back from the zoo Then we took a lunch break, and got the second batch in around 3 I think. We processed the jars for 45 minutes (the closest recipe in the blue book said 35 minutes, plus 10 minutes more for our altitude).
Today I inspected the jars after waiting the necessary 12-24 hours for the jars to properly seal and cool. There is one thing I would do differently. We did two batches – 7 pints and then 6 pints. With the first batch, the salsa separated a little bit, with some kind of very runny, watery juice at the bottom of the jars. I think this is because we didn’t cook the salsa long enough. The second batch, which had a longer cooking time did not have this problem. I also filled a few of the jars a bit too full. One of the jars had a bit of salsa on the outside of the jar, but all of the jars seemed to seal. I pressed on all of the lids, and none of them indented. I then took the rings off and checked that each lid was on firmly.
Yesterday we did some canning. Last weekend I picked a little over 1 bushel of apples from the apple tree in our backyard. This was very impressive, since last year we had none. There actually were apples on the tree last year, but we think the squirrels ate them all. It is possible that the chickens scared away the squirrels this year, which makes up for the fact that the chickens have eaten about one quarter of our tomatoes. more details follow
The final step in finishing the kitchen project was to put a new counter top on the cabinets. We ended up buying Roman Stone Noce porcelain tile. It is manufactured, but is designed to have a natural look, so there is some variation in it, which gives it a nice texture. Once I had the plywood and cement board attached to the cabinets, I had a solid foundation for the tile, and was ready to start tiling.
The trickiest cut was the mitre cut in the v-cap on the inside corner.
On Monday I started off by cutting a few tiles before I actually started laying tile. I knew that there would be a couple tricky cuts, particularly the inside corner of the v-cap by the stove. As it turns out, it took me more than an hour to get the miter cut to my satisfaction. I used the tile saw I had just bought to do the cutting. I went with the second cheapest option on the tile saw, which turned out to be pretty good. The saw had the option of tilting the table, so I could do miter cuts. Unfortunately, after tilting the table, the saw was no longer tall enough to cut totally through the v-cap. So I fiddled around until I got it right. I also tried to cut a few tiles with the new tile snapper I had bought. I found out it doesn’t seem to work for porcelain tile, which is quite a bit harder than ceramic tile. So I ended up having to use the tile saw for all my cuts, even the straight ones. Continue reading New kitchen cabinets, part three
Taking out the old old counter top and cabinets by the sink
Once I had the cabinets assembled and installed on the side of the kitchen opposite the sink, I was ready to tackle the sink side. This meant we would be without a sink for awhile, which meant we couldn’t cook very much. Per Clare’s suggestion, I tried to cook up a bunch of leftovers beforehand, but since the project took almost twice as long as I had planned, we ended up eating out quite a bit anyways.
Lots of mice poop under the old cabinets
The first step was to remove the old kitchen cabinets. I started by disconnecting all the plumbing and shutting off the water to the sink. Then I removed the sink. This involved cutting the silicone with a utility knife, and gradually prying the sink out with a pry bar and a chisel. Then I moved out the dishwasher. Then I began removing the counter top. The counter top was attached with screws from underneath, so I took out all those screws with my handy cordless drill. Once all the screws were out, I used the reciprocating saw to cut the counter top into several pieces. I had to yank the counter top off a bit, since it was also stuck to the wall a bit with some caulk. Continue reading New kitchen cabinets, part two
One of the major projects on our new house was to put in new kitchen cabinets. We knew before buying the house that many of the lower kitchen cabinets (base cabinets) were damaged. Initially we thought we would try to buy some replacement parts, but as we realized that every base cabinet was damaged in some way, we simply decided to replace them. Ellen did some internet research and discovered that the maker of our cabinets, Mills Pride, was no longer in business. She found some cabinets from Sunco which she thought would match very well. We ended up buying them from Good Value Center. We were quite happy with the service in general. It only took a couple weeks to get them, and they were packed quite well.
This cabinet was completely missing the drawer
The cabinets arrived on Friday the 9th of January. On the 11th, Clare and I spent several hours at Lowe’s putting together a delivery order for all the tile materials we would need like plywood and cementboard. We also got new energy-efficient windows, which will we install once it gets a bit warmer. The materials were delivered on the 12th, and I got to work.
I decided to work on assembling the cabinets while I was waiting for the delivery from Lowe’s. It took me about 2 hours to assemble the first one, but after that it got much easier. The Sunco cabinets have 1/2″ plywood sides and backs, and 3/4″ solid oak faces. They are put together with a cam locking system. I was quite impressed how accurate most of the cuts were. The sides fit into the front and back with a groove, and then get locked into a place with a cam system, which only requires turning one screw about one rotation. The drawers had to be assembled with regular screws, but the holes were all pre-drilled, and were quite accurate. For the first cabinet I screwed the screws in by hand, but for the other ones I used my beloved Black and Decker 18 volt cordless drill, which sped things up quite a bit. I was intrigued by the subtle variations between cabinets. While they were mostly the same, some of the details were slightly different, like the color of the screws, or the type of cushion on the drawers and doors. Some had a soft plastic cushion (the little piece that keeps the drawers and doors from banging shut), while others had more of a squishy foam-like cushion. There is also a fair amount of color variation. Some of the cabinets match the wall cabinets very well, while others don’t match as well. Read the rest
The bathroom is still a work in progress, getting closer to completion all the time. A week or so ago I set out to put up the last piece of drywall. This was possible once the washer faucets had been turned into the utility room, but there was one last project I wanted to complete. Our house did not have a spigot outside. I don’t find the need for water outside that often, but occasionally I do. Last summer I simply ran a hose through the window. But this required opening the window, and potentially letting in insects. I asked Dave and Ellen at some point why they didn’t have a spigot, and as always, they had a very sensible answer: they had a spigot on the cabin, and had problems with the pipe freezing. I had a solution to this though. I would have a shutoff inside the house, so I could shut off the water in the winter.
Hose in the wall
In fact, I decided to use the same shutoff I had been using last year. I had been hooking up the hose to the cold water faucet to the washer, which required disconnecting the washer hose. I had gotten tired of this, so I bought a Y-joint. I decided to simply run a hose from this Y through the wall and to the outside. Like most of my projects, it started with a trip to Pell’s hardware store. I got a 5′ washer hose (a steel reinforced one so it should last quite a long time). I also bought a 1 1/2″ wood drill bit to drill holes in the studs so I could run the hose through the wall. I decided to put the spigot right above the dryer vent, since there was already an additional board there. So I simply drilled a hole through the wood there, and then started feeding the hose through the wall. I then drilled holes in the studs to pass the hose through there as well.
Spigot is installed
Once I had the hose all hooked up (it was just long enough), I turned the water on and gave it a try. It seemed to work fine, so I finished by driving a couple screws into the wood in the notches in the faucet. Unfortunately, it was leaking, but I didn’t realize this until two days later. As it turns out, you can already see in the photo of the spigot that the wood looks wet. When I went to use the hose several days later, it was quite wet. Of course I discovered this right before going to bed, so I had all night to worry about it. The next morning I checked it and it was getting worse. I feared that I might have punctured the hose somehow. So I unscrewed the spigot from the wood, and checked the connections. It turns out that I had simply not tightened the connections enough. I had used 1 wrench, but not 2. I got them nice and tight, and let it sit for several hours. After waiting awhile it seemed that the wood block was drying out, so I drilled in some new screws in new holes. I can’t believe that I went so long without a spigot!