Monthly Archives: April 2017

Trash to Treasure

It Happened!

I’ve been getting chips from the dump for the last several years, but that requires pitch forking them all from a pile into my truck, and then from my truck into a pile in my yard.

Earth’s gym at it’s finest, but I am so in love with chips, I just wanted more, more, more.

So I called around. I kept track of the chip trucks I saw on the road to give them a call asking for a handout.

I left a note on the windshield of a parked Asplundh truck.

I carved a sign and stuck it at the end of my driveway: “CHIPS”.

Then, one day, I get home from work, and WAZAA! A truck load of chips in my driveway.

I’m not sure who dropped them off, but when I find out I’ll ask to sharpen their knives.

The point, here, is that these chips are a byproduct of the arbor service. They make outstanding mulch and compost supplement. I use them in my garden, around my trees, in my chicken run, all over the place.

Nature has no waste. I’m always looking for ways to turn waste into a resource.

I buy my lumber from a local guy who has put millions of board feet through his Woodmizer. He has a mountain of slabs in his yard (the half-rounds left from squaring up a log), so I asked if I can have some.

First, I used them for camp wood and kindling. This year I’m trying them in my garden in the footpaths and around the perimeter. Hoping to be a trendsetter for a recycled, organic, impermeable weed barrier.

In a casual conversation with a buddy, he mentioned he had to clean up some fallen wood from a rental property. Harmlessly, I ask what he did with it. Sensing my real question, he asked if I wanted it.

Heck ya!

I rolled over to his place after work and got a little truck load of firewood.

It’s all around us, especially if we’re looking. The trick, however, is to not get fooled. Stay realistic. Don’t let crap pile up on your lawn that is just never going to get used.

I remind myself of this all the time; if I’m not going to make the time to maintain it, I shouldn’t have it.

Fermented Foods? Start here.

I’ve done this twice. So, I’m not a pro. But it worked both times so my homework paid off and my approach seems sound.

One of these is probably a reason why you’re interested in lacto-fermentation:

  1. The health benefit.
  2. Longer term storage.
  3. The flavor.

If you’ve never even considered it, maybe you should. If you do, here’s the summary of the homework I did prior to my first ferment.

What to Ferment:

My motivation is to ferment a badass salsa to have with my backyard scrambled egg breakfast. I’m not there yet, but to learn I started with sauerkraut. I think you can pretty much ferment whatever you want but study up on it before try something unconventional.

The Vessel:

While in a state of mind that you probably wouldn’t understand if I tried to explain it, I ordered my wife, well, me, a 10 liter fermentation crock while I was deployed to Djibouti. My wife gave me a raised eyebrow ‘thanks’ when it showed up at the doorstep, but regardless, that’s what I’m fermenting in.

My neighbor just dove into fermenting using ball jars with specialized lids available from Amazon. A tad easier than the investment in a big crock, but at the rate we’re going through the sauerkraut, I’m glad we have the bigger vessel.

For reference, the 10 liter crock was less than half full with 3 cabbages and 3 beats on my last batch. That batch made 2 quarts and 3 pints, or a pint shy of a gallon of ‘kraut.

The Principle:

Naturally occurring bacteria tag a ride on lots of veggies. The good kind thrive in an oxygen depleted environment with just the right concentration of salt.

So, to lacto-ferment you need to submerge vegetables in a salt water solution called brine.

The trick is to nail that salt concentration in the brine. The best way to do that is by measuring the weight of the food and the weight of the salt. In reality, though, few kitchen scales have the precision low in the operating band to weigh the salt, so the process turns into a ratio of weight of veg to volume of salt.

For example, for sauerkraut, I use 1 Tablespoon of salt per 1.75 lb of cabbage. (1.75 lb = 800 grams)

For extra brine I use 1 Tablespoon of salt per 2 cups of water. I warm the water to help dissolve the salt, but I’m careful not to put hot water on the cabbage because I don’t want to kill the little bacteria buddies.

For reference, the weight of the last 3 cabbages I did, that were store bought, were: 710g, 890g, 885g.

That weight is after processing the cabbage, i.e. cleaning, cutting, shaving, etc. So if you want to try it, and just can’t find a scale, you’ll probably be fine with 1 Tb of finely ground salt per cabbage.

The Process:

  1. Gather all your goods.
  • A vessel – super clean.
  • Cabbage
  • Salt
  • Mandolin (cutting board and knife will do)
  • Big mixing bowl
  • Kitchen scale
  1. Clean and cut up your cabbage.
  2. Put the cabbage in a big mixing bowl. (I do batches, 1 cabbage at a time.)
  3. Weigh the cabbage.
  4. Sprinkle the right amount of salt on it.
  5. Massage the salt into the cabbage. It will begin to release entrained water.
  6. Pour all the cabbage and brine into your fermenting vessel.
  7. Repeat for all the cabbage.
  8. Place weights or stones on the cabbage to keep it submerged.
  9. Close up the vessel such that gases can get out but not in.
  10. Check it weekly for texture and flavor keeping sanitation in the forefront.
  11. It should be done in about 3 weeks.


Must read to understand brine and salt – Erica Strauss

Reinforce the basics – Holly Howe

The crock I use – Harvest Essentials

The salt I’m buying for my next batch –

The scale I want – KD8000

It might not be your F150 Fuel Pump

Chances are, if you found this as a reader of my blog, you don’t care about this, at least the details.


Here’s some perspective.

YouTube has revolutionized education. It is now the go-to for all walks of life for anyone that needs to do anything, almost.

I use YouTube all the time. In fact, for this job, I learned most of what I needed to do by watching YouTube.

This video addresses the gaps in that education. It’s my attempt to chip in so that the next guy can potentially cut hours off his troubleshooting and repairing.

I have a personal mission to help make people’s lives better by offering words of encouragement towards self-reliance.

A few projects lately have had me on the verge of calling in the ‘professional’. I recently fixed a fuel leak on a marine diesel, but I was close to losing confidence. With this fuel pump I had actually given up, I was going to drive it until it happened again hoping to have a better clue as to why, and then tow it to the shop. A good friend and neighbor hooked me up with a little advice and words of encouragement that probably saved me HUNDREDS of dollars, maybe a $G.

Money is a good reason to work toward self-reliance. I have legitimately saved hundreds, if not, thousands of dollars working on my own cars.

But what’s better…

The Pride.

Man, it feels good to persevere. To be on the cusp of giving up, and powering through.

That first bolt is the hardest. Just suck it up, do your homework, and dive in after it.