Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What Do These Have in Common?

20 of the above. UT-15 Urban Tactical AR's with quad rail features (empty)

The carbon body of a American made 2007 Shelby Mustang Funny Car.

A full grown trophy pronghorn antelope.What do they all have in common?

They all weigh about 140 pounds.

The amount of sugar the average American consumes in 1 year.
 
In the interest of health, HOTR is going to post a recipe that has. . . . . more sugar than you can possibly imagine. You don't really need it, but you really want it. 

I'll be honest, outside of my post gun range Mr. Squishee drink I don't do much sugar, I'm hypoglycemic, not uncommon in the Irish, and don't do well with too much carbs (but if add enough bacon to the waffle plate I'm OK).

On the other hand, my team members LOVE these and other such super sweet things I make for them(think of crossing hummingbirds with Special Forces-  that's my guys).

Home on the Range Candy Bar Brownies, a dark chocolate brownie topped with sweetened condensed milk, chopped dark chocolate Mounds and toasted almonds and then baked (recipe in the comments)
click to enlarge photos

Go on, have one. . . then fire up the Shelby, grab one of your AR's and race an antelope on the way to the gun range.

It's only American

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Life in a Vacuum - Range DIY Time

Unless you live in a hut with a dirt floor, or have nothing but hardware or tile floors, you're likely to own a vacuum cleaner.  It's one of those appliances that seem to sit in the corner until they don't work, then get thrown out and another purchased.

Every one has different standards of what they are comfortable with, cleanliness wise.  I am perfectly fine coming home to a Triumph TR6 carburetor disassembled on my dining room table as long as the bathtub sparkles.  Some folks aren't happy unless one can perform brain surgery on their floors while others are perfectly happy not getting out a bottle of Windex and the paper towels until the bacteria in the kitchen is big enough to enter a tractor pull.
But as much as I like to keep a clean house, I also like to do so economically, even making up some of my own cleaning solutions. (Note to readers:  Do NOT clean your toilet bowl with Diet Coke and Mentos.)

So I noticed how expensive vacuum cleaners had gotten.  Then after going through a couple in about as many years at the crash pad, I did two things.

I ignored the urge to buy another cheap one.  This is one appliance where paying a little extra is worth it. Mine gets a pretty good workout between dog hair and that Christmas party where someone made a glitter bomb.

I then learned how to to do basic upkeep and read the owner's manual.
If it  doesn't turn on:

First make sure the outlet it's plugged into isn't controlled by a switch on the wall (now don't you feel stupid?)

Next, check the connection and make sure it hasn't blown a fuse.  When that happens, no one is happy. Fuses are like safety valves, if a circuit overloads then its fuse or circuit breaker triggers and the electricity is automatically cut off.  Resetting a blown circuit breaker is easy (though I learned you need to think about WHY it blew first, especially when at 40,000 feet) while that blown fuse needs to be replaced.  That in itself is an easy fix, and ladies, if you can do this without help, your man WILL be impressed.
(1) To turn off the power to the house at the fuse box, pull out the main fuse block, which looks like a rectangular block with a handle. It is usually located at the top of the panel. Tug hard and straight out on the handle. Use caution; the metal parts may be hot. (Your power company may well have an online tutorial for this, which I'd highly recommend.)
(2) Screw out the blown fuse in a counterclockwise direction (it's it the cartridge type, pull straight out)
(2) Replace the blown fuse with a new one of the same capacity.
(4) Replace the main disconnect panel to return power to the residence.

Isn't he impressed?  Now don't do this while simultaneously entering a wet T shirt contest.  He may be doubly impressed but you may end up with a perm where you really didn't want one.  Electricity and water do NOT mix so be careful of standing water in your basement or laundry room if there's a breaker box there.
The power source is good, but still no power?

Check the electrical cord.  If it's frayed and not connecting properly, re-splice the wires together and patch the splice with lots of electrical tape. (Please unplug it first unless you want your new nickname to be "sparky). This is a temporary repair only, but it will work.

If the motor has simply conked out, there's not much you can do but take it into a repair place or replace.

It just doesn't suck properly.

You've all done it. Vacuumed over that tiny little corner of paper, again and again, and it just stays there on the floor. With a sigh, you bend over and pick it up, only to throw it down and try and vacuum it up again.

Yes you have.
If your vacuum isn't picking up properly, there are a few simple things you can do before pitching it.

If it's old it just might need some minor adjustments.

First check the bag.

Make sure you have the right type for your vacuum.  Not just any bag will do.
Then see how full it is.  You know the "honey not now, I'm in a meat coma" after dinner at Fogo De Chao?  Well, overstuffed bags (or clogged filters) don't operate very energetically either.  Operating with a full bag also reduces the life of the vacuum.  Replace the bag when it's 1/3 to 2/3 full.

 If you have household pets, also buy a small flea collar and cut it into small pieces (wearing gloves) and put one into the bag (sealing the remainder in an air tight baggie) the night before you replace it.  That will kill any fleas before you remove it and put it in your trash (some recommend leaving a bit of one in there all the time but I'd rather not have the insecticide fumes in the house with all the air that moves through it).
The Flea RV, in Park

Check that the hose doesn't have any holes in it. Holes in your target are good, your vacuum, not so much. Aren't you glad you bought that electrical tape.  Tape should be just a temporary fix until you can replace. Don't drape the disconnected hose up over a nail to store it, this is often the cause of the damage.

If it is the type that has a tube, make sure there's nothing clogging it (Barkley!  I found Mr. Squeaky!)
Though little kids love to go for a ride astride a canister type vacuum while you pull it, it's best to say no (look, the bacon truck!).  If someone older than a little kid suggests such an activity, tell her she's read Fifty Shades of Grey too much and change the subject. Such vacuums aren't designed for that kind of weight, and you'll soon find yourself with a very expensive hose replacement.

The round spinning brush under the vacuum cleaner (basically an agitator) should spin freely.  If  it doesn't, there might be hair or small debris wrapped around it, keeping it from rotating and doing its job.  Use a small pair of scissors to cut through the build up, gently pulling it free. If it's finer hair or a piece of string, remove with a seam ripper (available in hobby stores or where sewing supplies are found).  If it's your better half's favorite bore snake, hide the remains quickly and distract them with a pie.
If the rubber belt attached to is is broken, you can replace that by removing the bottom place assembly with a screwdriver. Belts will need to be replaced every 6 months to 1 year, depending on how much it's used. Compare your belt to a new one to check its quality. It should be tight, without worn spots, cracks or unevenness.  (Do NOT go there)

I didn't think they still MADE shag carpeting? 

Some vacuums with agitators and brushes need to be adjusted for the height off of the carpet.  Too close and there won't be adequate suction to really pick up anything. Too high and they merely wave at the dirt.

And finally - 
It's not a vacuum cleaner.  It's a Dalek and when you removed that bottom plate and stuck a pair of  needle nose pliers up its ass, you pretty much sealed your fate. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Pistols and Pancakes - Guess that Firearm

Reader Glenn K. got it right (though many of you were oh, so close).  The Range firearm is a Harrington and Richardson Hammerless .38 S+W. 

It was manufactured sometime prior to 1904 I believe, given the caliber and very low serial number and like all first models of the H & R Hammerless, both large and small frames, it was manufactured for black powder cartridge pressures (a give away for that being it doesn't have the caliber stamped on the side of the barrel and there are no horizontal notches on the side of the cylinder).

It has not been fired, but it's nice to see a little bit of history someplace other than  gathering dust somewhere.
Look!  A Squirrel!

Now for the Sunday pancake (I've been living on gerbil pellets, dehydrated gruel and dried pine cones all week out in the field so I'm going to have pancakes two days in a row.  But for my friend out West (the other) Brighid, this one's for you.
"Sourdough" Silver Dollars

Sourdough taste without the sourdough starter (serves 2-3). They're bite sized, tall and light as a feather (and no blueberries as those got made into individual ramekins of cobbler last night).

Mix well in a medium bowl:
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 Tablespoons plus a pinch granulated sugar.
make a "well" in the center of the dry ingredients.
In a small  bowl thoroughly whisk
3/4 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon plain kefir (fermented milk found in the yogurt section)
1 large egg at room temperature
1/2 teaspoons Mexican vanilla
2 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry all at once, stirring JUST til  flour is combined (batter will be thick with lumps and bumps). Let sit while you heat up the pan. Fill a 1/4 cup measure up a bit more than half full with batter and drop to cook on slightly oiled cast iron griddle (batter will be quick thick but will thin out some as it cooks).

Then get back to organizing the rest of your weekend.
I'll be back tomorrow with some tales from the Range clan and a post on the growing and gathering of a plant that all preppers should have in their flowerbed.
 - Brigid

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday Range Living

Just another boring Saturday at the Range.

The morning started early, up before most of the neighborhood, the sun just starting to hit the windows, coffee brewing in the kitchen.  I like such mornings, no one cares if I have "shop hair" and there is no schedule.
 
The bat phone is turned off, I have no obligations, Dad and Big Bro are snug and safe for a few more weeks til I can get out again, Big Bro's son and daughter in law, both nurses, close by. The day is mine to do as I please, while Barkley waits for breakfast or a lost mailman to wander into the dining room.
I love Saturdays. For it usually means 3 things.

Firearms (part of this complete Saturday).
 
We'll see if anyone can guess this pistol, but a couple of generations ago, you could buy this from a Sears Catalog for about $3. This sat under the counter at a Ma and Pa retail store in the Midwest for generations, in case of a robbery.  It's older than anyone in my family, and deserved a little more than to be "buy back"somewhere or scrap.

Then it's time for a little shop time before brunch.

Don't forget the safety equipment

 
I can't hear you, but you can't see me. ha!

It's all part of the Second part of a Complete Saturday -Fun (aka: Tools)

The back of the Range kitchen has an area that's just cheap metal shelves. It's about the size where a Hoosier Cabinet might work. I'm apparently a lousy Hoosier as I'd never heard of one until Partner in Grime showed me some pictures.  Cool!  Hoosier cabinets are named for a cabinet produced by a New Castle, Ind manufacturer around the turn of the century. Sitting on casters, it can be moved for cleaning or cleaned for moving.
 
I was really wanting this but I think the Hoosier cabinet would be a little more practical
The typical Hoosier cabinet consists of three parts. The base section usually has one large compartment with a slide out shelf and several drawers to one side. The top portion is shallower and has several smaller compartments with doors, with one of the larger lower compartments having a roll-top or tambour or additional drawers.

The top and the bottom are joined by a pair of metal channels which serve as the guide for a sliding counter top which typically has pair of shallow drawers affixed to its underside
In addition to the traditional accessory feature of the Hoosier cabinet, what I really like about it is the combination flour-bin/sifter, a tin hopper that could be used without having to remove it from the cabinet. A similar sugar bin was also common. So, have any of you seen one/used one?
 
With as much baking as I like to do, that might work! My storage AND counter space are currently minimal.  I'd want mine to be in white to match the rest of the cabinets. But yes. There's certainly the supplies and tools around here to give it a try.

Like these. I heard guys seriously like that top one.
Until cabinet time, there's still the free Bassett Craigslist sofa, ready to be refinished and re-upholstered (in some nice black microsuede fabric that's on order). The mattress will come out if possible, slats and/or drawers put in its to support the cushions and provide some storage space.
But right now, I'm starting to get hungry. 

For it's time for the third and last part of this complete Saturday  - Food.

Time for Saturday Morning Pancakes. This morning, a tweak to the World's Fluffiest Pancakes recipe.

Use lemon juice instead of the apple cider vinegar, add an additional dash of vanilla, a good pinch of Nutmeg and a couple handfuls of fresh picked blueberries.
It's probably good that I can make a decent pancake.
Because it's come to my attention that what guys really dig is the Wonder BRA.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

This Might Go Nicely With My Lego Tardis

 You don't need anyone to tell you you're a Dr. Who fan.  (It's those little signs)
 
This isn't Dr. Who, but will definately place you in geek category.

A LEGO set of the Back to the Future DeLorean which was recently on display Comic-Con and will go on sale Aug. 1.
The set comes with LEGO mini-figure versions of Marty McFly and Doc Brown, while the time machine includes details like the Flux Capacitor, a time display tile, and the Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor.
photo from PCmag.com
 
I think this would be pretty neat, for the kids, or the kid in YOU.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Home Security on a Budget

Sure those home security signs are a deterrent, but a home security system is expensive.

Noticing there's a spike in residential burglaries? Planning on being out for the day?  There's the budget minded HOTR Home Security System. 

You just need some very large men's boots, giant dog bowls, some big bones or chews, some gun magazines. .

and maybe a sign.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Meat and Fire Together Like It's Supposed to Be!

Most kitchens have an assortment of gadgets, but how many of you have a smoker?   If you did, you could have had THIS for Sunday dinner.

That's a smoked brisket.  You start with some of your favorite barbecue sauce (about 1 and 1/4 cups or so) to which you've added some Dijon and a splash of hot sauce, thinning it with some whisky so you can inject it into the meat. Use a large bore syringe and inject about 2 ounces to the 3 lb brisket that you've trimmed the fat from (don't cut all the way down to the meat, just get rid of the excess).

Stick the syringe in  and inject until the the marinade comes out of the hole and move to another spot (poke it about 6-8 times top and sides, then keep the remainder).  The aim is go get the flavor inside but also to add moisture so it doesn't dry out during the smoking/cooking process.

This went in a smoker at 200 degrees for four hours, then it was basted with some more of the sauce, wrapped tight in foil and put into the oven at 200 for six more hours.  It makes for an unbelievably tender and juicy piece of meat (with a big thanks to my Canadian friend Marty for the recipe). Served with marinated veggies, corn and homemade bread, you just can't get this at most restaurants.

But the smoker just isn't for the typical "barbecue" cuts of meat  How about taking some of that leftover venison  you've got and make home smoked Bambi sausage before it's time to fill the freezer up with venison again?

Sausage making isn't as hard as it looks, providing you have the right equipment. It's like reloading, if you spend the the money wisely on the right equipment and read up on it, you'll be set up in no time. And like reloading, if you can get a friend to walk you through the process the first time, even better.
For starters you need a grinder.

A grinder is a good investment. Don't be fooled into thinking the smaller kitchen grinder will do the trick. It will, if you're grinding up some walnuts for Christmas cookies but try and process a whole deer with one and it may fail halfway through.
Sure, you can just go with lots of lumps and chunks of meat, stew is always good. But think of all the uses for ground meat, burgers, casseroles, shepherds pie, chili, soups, tacos, meat sauce for pasta, meatballs to launch in your trebuchet at the invading hordes, the list is endless. Instead of . "Oh boy honey, stew again".

Look for one carefully. You do NOT want one of those cheap units that sounds like it's fired by a Rotax on one cylinder or one that groans and labors like a teenager being forced to pick up their room. Venison WILL take more horsepower to grind than most non game meats as it's leaner. This is one of those times, that it pays to get quality, looking not for wattage but for horsepower. A cheap grinder will clog more, be less efficient and likely have to be replaced sooner, costing you more in a long run.

You are looking for something commercial grade, with a solid transmission and a loading hopper that's safe and easy to use. Most of these are also compatible with attachments such as sausage stuffers. Also get to know your local butcher/grocer, for when they are upgrading or replacing used grinders and slicers, they sometimes toss out the old (working) one or will sell it cheaply.

Also, be careful! This is not a piece of equipment you want to use if you are tired, careless or have had a beer or two. It can hurt you!
Yes, this is a homemade helicopter.  It can also hurt you.

The Bambi sausage started with a casing and seasoning duo from Cabelas which was then cooked in a smoker, the summer sausage flavor kit being selected. The pre-measured cure and seasoning provided has no fillers, and the how-to kit, with directions even the inept (ahem) could read included enough seasoning, cure and casings for 25 lbs. of meat.

Yes, you must cure the meat as smoking produces the slow cooked environmental conditions in which botulin can party like there's no tomorrow. (Geek trivia: botulism is Latin for "sausage disease", bringing out the wurst in anyone.)
The usual curing agent is sodium nitrite (NaNO2). Salts like Sodium Nitrate (and Sodium Chloride) can enhance the flavor as well as effectively ward off microbes like Clostridium botulinum. But Sodium Nitrite is implicated in the formation of Carcinogenic nitrosamines and hence should be used only in the recommended quantity. I can't guarantee the rest of my instructions will result in perfect sausage, but trust me on this one, you must cure the sausage meat if using a smoker.

Once prepared, you want to make sure the sausage is always thoroughly dry before being placed in the smoker. As a rule of thumb, you'll want to generate smoke for 3.5 to 4 hours if using fruit wood. In most household smokers, that takes about 3 pans of soaked wood chips.

With the stronger flavored smoke generated by hickory and mesquite, you might be better off stopping the smoke after 3 hours.
Too much smoke flavor is far worse than not enough. Over smoking will cause your sausage to taste acrid and bitter. Under smoking will just result in a less intense smoked flavor, but the sausage will still be very good.

Soak wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes. Any kind of wood chips will impart a smoky flavor to the sausage, but different kinds of wood provide different tastes. Apple, cherry, hickory and pecan wood will give the sausage a nice hint of sweetness. Oak and hard maple, along with mesquite, are excellent. You do want to avoid the soft wood (oh, don't go there) as the flavor of such soft woods such as pine, cedar and poplar tend to burn too fast and much too hot.
The smoker
Fill the firebox with charcoal. If you need to use charcoal lighting fluid, use a high quality one that will ensure no lighter fluid taste taints the flavor of the sausage. Once the coals are nice and grey, place the racks into the smoker, making sure the lowest rack is far enough way that the bottom layer of sausage will not scorch. Lay the sausage carefully on the racks, making sure they neither touch the sides of the smoker nor each other. Place the wet wood chips on top of the coals and close the smoker.

Regulating the Heat
The secret to the smoking phase is temperature control. If you can manage this, the rest is simple. You are aiming for a temperature inside the smoker between 150 and 165 degrees F.

I can't over-emphasize the importance of temperature control in the smoking phase of sausage making. If you get this part right, everything else falls into place easily.

Remember for those of you that cook, you know what happens to some food when you try and turn the heat up too high to make it cook faster? Yes disaster, and "hello, Dominos?" If you try to smoke at a higher temperatures than is recommended, the fat content in your sausage will start to melt and ooze out of the casing, drying out the meat and possible resulting in a visit from Fire Marshall Bill.
Note: I add some pork to the lean venison. For not only does it add flavor, it acts as a binding agent so your final product doesn't turn out dry, bland and crumbly.

Take your sausage out of the smoker when it reaches an internal temperature of 152 degrees F. adding more wet wood chips as needed. This could take several hours depending how full the smoker is. DO NOT GUESS on the temperature. Use a thermometer and monitor it regularly as part of the smoking process. Some people recommend stopping the smoke a few degrees shy of done and continuing to heat to 155 degrees for better color and flavor (such as is stopping the smoke at about 3.5 to 4 hours when using fruit woods and then continuing to heat, or 3 hours for the stronger flavored woods such as mesquite or hickory.)

If you're uncertain as to technique your first try, just smoke til 152 degrees, turn off the smoker, and heat to 155.
When it is done, remove the links and cool them in a cold water bath to lower the internal temperature quickly to 120 degrees. This keeps the links from drying out and shriveling up. When they are cooled, dry on racks for three to four hours and then freeze any you don't plan to eat in the next 4 days. In the freezer they will keep well until the next whitetail season though for optimum flavor use within the next 8-9 months.

One last hint: You may want to have some newspaper down for the puddle of dog drool that will collect on the driveway as the aroma of smoking meat builds.

He's trying to look calm and vigilant but the hypersonic tail gives him away,
 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Shotgun Games

Several people have asked where I got the break action shotgun cribbage board.  It's a story that started in 1945, a few short months after World War II ended and ended with a modern day craftsman in Wisconsin.

My parents, best friends since 6th grade and high school sweethearts, were married as soon as Dad got back from his service in the 8th Air Force in  England.  Both of them were huge cribbage players, even taking a custom made wooden board with them on their honeymoon to British Columbia.  Dad still has that board, and though his eyes mist up sometimes when he holds it, he still enjoys beating his visiting nurse and we kids at a rousing hand. 

 His mind, on some days wanders, he'll call me by my nieces name if he's tired, and he sometimes hesitates in his thoughts, just  normal aging.  But deal six cards into his hand and, at 93,  he can add up numerical combinations of 15, pairs and straights, faster than a calculator.
But outside of the occasional game at Dad's house, I never played.  Until I taught my best friend how to one snowy weekend, and the game was on.

But I wanted a board that was special, not to replace Mom and Dad's, but simply to continue the tradition.  And I found this, hand crafted from the nicest fellow I know up in Wisconsin who sells them on Etsy.

  (click for the link)

The board is made out of Maple and finished with 3 coats of Polyurethane. The pegs are hand made  1/8" brass rod shaped, polished and coated with 3 layers of lacquer. Pegs are stored where the shell would go. A magnet keeps the barrel latched up when closed, so the pieces stay secure.
John has got two of them made up and available right now if you click on his link above, as well as some other unique ones.  I've bought more than one for family or friends (including the violin one which was truly beautiful).  They were  delivered promptly and look even better than the pictures show.  It was well worth the price for something hand crafted that will last more than one generation.  John also followed up to make sure I got the order, and was happy with it, a personal touch often lacking in most commercial transactions.

We've played a hundred games on it already and I am still amazed by how beautiful it is, in form and function, how well the pieces fit and how much fun it is.

Even when I get beavered skunked.