Thursday, May 27, 2010

More walking around pictures

A warm day on May 23 when I headed out about 9:30am for my morning critter walk.

A dead snake on the road.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cold Steel Bushman Sheath Modifications

A while back Cold Steel was selling factory second Bushman knives with sheath at 3/$39 delivered. I could not resist, even though I had no real use for them.

A post on one of the Cold Steel forums showed me how to wrap the handle with paracord, which makes a huge difference in how the knife feels in the hand.

However, I never really liked the sheath. No strap to hold the knife in place, and the sheath was a lot longer than the knife.

So I used my Harbor Freight sewing awl to add a strip of Velcro as a security strap, and chopped a couple of inches off the sheath, and then sewed it up. It's kind of rough, but I think it is "better" then when I started, at least from a utility stand point.

The sheath shown above the knife is one of the sheathes that came with it unaltered for comparison.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Harbor Freight Food Dehydrator

I purchased a food dehydrator at my local Harbor Fright store in early May on sale for $20. I figured it would be good enough to experiment with making some beef jerky. I love beef jerky, but its hard to find some that is not made with a lot of sugar (I am doing a low carb diet) or made hot enough for my tastes.

I have now made a number of batches of beef jerky and am pretty pleased with the results. The manual that comes with it is not real helpful, and contains all kinds of dire warnings about cooking your meat before putting it in the dryer. I tried that, and it made the beef jerky a little crispy, not bad, but not quite normal beef jerky.

It came with five trays and a lid, all clear plastic. The lid has some larger round holes and some holes with a grid over it for allowing the hot air out, and a cover that rotates to select the set of holes you want. I have been using the gridded holes. No particular reason.

Its a very simple device. The heating element is in the bottom, and heated air rises through the trays and comes out the top. No circulating fan so as you might suspect the temperature at the bottom of the unit is warmer than at the top.

I got my meat thermometer out and did some temperature measurements by sticking it through the grid onto the trays below. With all five trays in use, the top tray stabilized at about 120 degrees F, and the tray below it at about 130 degrees F. With three trays, the bottom tray was about 160 degrees F, the center tray about 150 degrees F, and the top tray about 140 degrees F. With just two trays, the bottom tray was about 160 degrees F and the top tray about 150 degrees F. I did not do any kind of extensive temperature measurements, but did note that there was a fairly wide range of temperatures at each level, perhaps +/- 5 degrees F.

I have been compensating for the temperature variations by rotating the trays periodically. Every now and then (maybe 2-4 hours), I move the tray on the bottom to the top. As the meat dries, it shrinks a lot, and I also move the meat from tray to tray so that there are fewer trays needed as the drying progresses. If I start with five full trays, I end up with about 2 and a half trays when it is done. Depending on how thick the meat is, it takes 12-30 hours to dry.

I have been experimenting with the marinade as well. My basic marinade recipe is:

1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tsp salt
1 tsp each
- ground white pepper
- ground black pepper
- red pepper flakes
- chili powder
- cayenne pepper
- meat tenderizer
- garlic powder or flakes
- onion powder or flakes
- smoke flavor
dash of habenero Tabasco sauce

I am not a real fanatic about actually measuring the ingredients, and tend to use what's in the cupboard. If an ingredient is not there, I don't get real excited about it. I mix the marinade up in a vacuum sealable container, put the meat slices in, and vacuum seal it. The meat and marinade mixture goes in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight).

I get meat already thin sliced, rather than having to slice it up myself. Thinner meat seems to make better jerky, and it works better if it does not have a lot of fat or grizzle, so I now get more expensive cuts of meat. I prefer bigger chunks of jerky so I cut them just small enough that I can get them to lay on the trays. Some are cut smaller to fill in the gaps.

Several posts I have read on the Internet suggest rubbing the spices on after the marinade is complete, rather than putting them in the marinade, so I may give that a try in the next batch. I may also make it a bit hotter.

In summary:

Pros - Cheap, simple. Easy to use.
Cons - No circulating fan, no thermostat. Have to rotate trays to get even drying.

I bought it to make beef jerky with and it does that pretty well to date, so its minor shortcomings don't really bother me all that much. I don't know how well it will hold up, since I have only had at for a short time though. Time will tell.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Chinese Jungle Boot Update

This is an update to my original post about some Chinese made jungle boots I bought almost 2 months ago.

I originally bought these boots intending to wear them for walking the dog and doing some light hiking, and maybe mowing the yard. But, as soon as I got them, they turned out to be so comfy that I started wearing them everyday. They quickly became my everything except mowing the yard footwear (don't want to get them all green since I have been wearing them to work). I was looking for another pair of shoes to wear to work but stopped looking once I started wearing these all the time.

Issues. Not really. There is some noticable wear on the soles. I am a heavy guy and beat the heck out of footwear so I am not real surprised by that.

One thing that did happen was I came home from helping to teach an NRA pistol class at the range and found a 22 shell stuck in the sole. I pulled it out and a plug of the sole came with it. I was not real sure just what to do to fix this. I thought about filling the hole with some kind of sealant, but eventually settled on pulling the plug out of the shell casing and just putting it back in the hole. That seems to have worked well so far (after the better part of a month). The photo shows the plug right next to the heel after being re-inserted.

These are definitely not cold weather boots. A few times since I got them it has been down in the low 30s during my daily dog walking, and that's about as cold as I would want to wear them in.

It's not been real hot yet, but the few times it has been up near 80 or so I have not had any feet sweat issues.

I am tempted to get another pair.

[9-18-10] update

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Some pictures from my dog walk this morning

A goose standing on a car in the parking lot of the supermarket.

A ten month long garage sale (check the dates).

A couple of ducks who have been visiting us lately.