A four power tool weekend

It wasn’t that restful but it was a good weekend. An early start for an ambulance shift in Taumarunui saw an extension into the afternoon after two jobs in the morning…no more eventuated but the afternoon was a good opportunity to get some hands-on with the on-board monitors. I got home with the best intentions of starting on the lawns but my pre-mow poo patrol took us into twilight.

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“Never repeat”? I wish but unlikely…

That, with a 4AM alarm, saw an easy dinner of sous vide corn beef with another crack at Jen Rice’s broccoli and cranberry salad.

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Sous vide brings out the colour in red meat…

The original recipe on the Anova website recommended cooking for 48-72 hours (gives a whole new meaning to slow cooking!) but the follow-on comments suggested that this was over-cook and likely to result in a mushy mess. As the uncooked beef felt a little mushy, I let it run in the sous vide for ‘only’ about ten hours. I’ve mastered by sous vide technique and use clothes pegs to secure a shopping bag around the top of the cooking pot to prevent the water evaporating and then stack a few tea towels on top to keep in the heat. Comfortable that running low on water during an untended sous vide won’t be an issue, I could have left this on much longer – just would have needed to have a Plan B for dinner on Saturday night…

While nice, the corned beef was still a little gristley…I expect that a 3-4 times increase in the cook time would address this…Unlike the normal cooking method for corned beef i.e. in a pot of water, sous vide traps all the fluids and flavours in the bag. With corn beef this means that the salt taste is much more defined…not so much stronger as sharper…definitely onto something with this dish! The salty beef works so well with the sweetness of the cranberries and the bitter effect of the balsamic broccoli.

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Dessert was a nibble on these coconut almond cookies – sweeter than the ones I made last year – than leaven the coconut almond meal (which is quite heavy) with homeground flour and coconut flour. It also has more sugar so are a tad sweeter. These are really filling and it only takes a couple to fill any post-main gaps…They’re based on this recipe from Celebrating Sweets but modified to lighten the heavier meal left-over from my nut milk production…

I’m not sure what scales exist for measuring the satisfaction of an outdoor working day but the number of power tools used must surely be one of them. Sunday was a glorious bluebird day that boded well for getting on top of lawns and clearing the scrubby self-seeds from the lounge windows outlook. Four power tools this day…I fired up the cheap Chinese chainsaw and diced up the logs that had been sitting opposite the garage for months, then laid into the scrub in front of the lounge.

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The plan is to eventually open access into all the punga groves in front of the lounge…

Powertool #2 was the dropsaw mounted on an old school desk that we use for dicing up wood for the chippy, anything less than about five inches in thickness. It makes reducing logs to chippy-sized chunks a breeze and the saw dust goes into the compost bin as a dry mix to offset the wet mass waste from the kitchen.

The old reliable mulcher was #3 into the mix, converting leaves and smaller branches into four bags of mulch to fill out hollows in the ground for later landscaping. The mulcher has had a long hard life but keeps on keeping on. It’s more than paid for itself in unpaid dumping fees at the transfer station and the associated fuel costs for the round trip with the each trailer load of green waste…

It’s been a very wet not-summer – the recent break of ten days or so of sunny weather were the longest such break we have had for the better part of a year – and I have resorted to using the big ride-on to just keep on top of the lawns and prevent them totally running away. Even they were quite long and it felt good to finally be able to power up the mower and knock them down to a respectable level. Even more satisfying to be able to mow around the area when the now diced logs had been residing for so long. The many loads of grass went with the mulch to smooth out hollows in the ground for later compacting and shaping….

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So nice to finally clear this area…the baths will go up on blocks next…

It’s been a long time since I had such a satisfying day in the garden: I crashed with a V (a now rare sweet treat!) to start on the next series of JAG (so shoot me!) as my reward…

Painless

The fireplace has been running a tad inefficiently, oh, ok, then it has started to smoke a bit recently. Getting a sweep in is always a bit problematic due to the shape of the roof and the fact that some of the locals are fraidy-cats when it comes to heights…

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Due to the H-cap on top, they really need to get up top and take this off. casting around for alternative ideas, I stumbled across this: the Gardus Inc RCH205 Sooteater Rotary Chimney Cleaning System.  Normally the cost of shipping large items from the is a major reason for not ordering something like this but I couldn’t find anything even close anywhere closer and the shipped price wasn’t much more that the price of conventional hand brushes bought locally. Because the flue is so long, I thought it was also a good idea to invest in a set of extension poles.

Delivery down under only took five days, something of a record I think, especially since that involved rural delivery as well. Even though they arrived two weeks ago, I’ve had to wait for a nice day off to try them out.

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Less the drill this is what you get: six poles = two more in the extension set, the rorating head, comprehensive instructions in English and French; and a sheet of clear plastic to cover the mouth of the fireplace to keep the dislodged soot in.

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There’s also an adaptor that connects the poles to any common hand drill; and a hand tool for depressing the detent on each pole to release it from its mate and allow the assembled poles to be broken down. There are no Allen key-ed parts so the Allen key on the not-pointy end is a bonus.
Assembly and preparation was easy, taking only a few minutes: the lines on the rotating head had to be trimmed to fit the diameter of the flue – a handy cutting guide is provided…

.DSCF9270…and the poles had to be assembled. This is a simple clip system but I had to make two sets as I didn’t have room in front of the fire place to lay the whole length out.

DSCF9269I didn’t use the plastic sheet but placed drop cloths over the couches just in case things got messy. As it happened I needed have bothered. The whole process was pretty painless. I had the garage vac running in the fire box – while it didn’t pick up a lot of the debris as it fell, it was great and sucking up the dust and keeping that bfrom floeing into the lounge.
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Use was easy – don’t know why I was worried about this.

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Hooked the drill up to the first length, guided the cleaning head into the chimney and away we went. After working the heading up and down a couple of times, I added in the next length of four poles and up we went, all the way to the top. As expected the greater amount oif debris came from above the roof line we I suspect the colder air and metal has been encouraging the smoke to scale against the insides of the flue – certainly the second half resulted a lot more debris coming down.

The shaft spun easily in my hands and runs up and down the flue with no problems or stoppages. Once the the flow of sooty debris ceased, I reversed the process and brought the shaft out by sections. It had cleaned out a lot of soot and scale, enough to fill a vacuum bag, maybe 2-3 kilograms. The only question is whether there are any obstructions in the H itself – hope not as otherwise we will be needing to get someone in as this is not a roof to be casually scaled – the test of that will be tonight. If the H is part of the problem, it’ll be replaced with a conventional straight through cap so the shaft can push all the way out the top.DSCF9271 The set all broken down –  took less than five minutes – and ready to go away. Clean up inside only took another five minutes or so.

I don’t know why a tool like this is not readily available here as it is a quick and simple way of performing a dirty task that also keeps homes safe by reducing the risk of chimney fire; and contributes to home health by enabling fires to burn warmer and more efficiently.

The Story of O



OK, OK, minds out of the gutter…the WordPress Daily Prompt a couple of days ago was “You just inherited $1,000,000 from an aunt you didn’t even know existed. What’s the first thing you buy (or otherwise use the money for)?

Well, even though that sounds like a whole lot of money, these days it’s probably not as life-changing as it may sound…It would really help at the moment but for the most part, I’m thinking small for my top three…

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This is my PC keyboard – the camera is a harsh mistress and (in theory) does not lie but it isn’t really as dusty as it would appear here – it has given long and trusty service and I have finally started to wear through the markings of some of the keys…N was the first to go, followed by O and then I; T and A will most likely be next…A clever cryptologist who cares about such things might be able to develop some stunning insights into my writing patterns from this wear pattern…or maybe these keys just weren’t as well-manufactured as the rest…who knows?

What this means though is that the number of unmarked keys is directly proportional to the number of typos in my work – if I am not careful. And as careful as I am – I still have that difficult transposition habit between ‘now’ and ‘not’ (just play around with that for s second and you’ll see the potential) – the occasional error still slips through and the one that has been slipping through the most is substituting O for I…so a million dollars would mean a new keyboard and the end of the subliminal recounting of the Story of ‘O’…

Second

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I would give these guys a full makeover and invest in a pallet of Purina One food for them. I won a year’s supply of this at the end of last year in the annual Purina contest; even though even Purina admit that it’s a year’s supply for a much smaller dog, this has been much appreciated while times have been a little tight, and has been, literally, a lifesaver for Kirk. At the end of last year, he was getting very sore and stiff around his hips, getting up off his mat was a real strain for him, and I was having to seriously consider that one-way trip to the vet’s.

In less than four week’s after going onto the Purina One food, all stiffness and pain had disappeared and now, almost six months later, he has only indicated pain in his hips once and that was after his older sister shoved him into a post when they were playing (older siblings…it’s so good to be one!!!). It don’t really get into 100% product endorsements but this has made a massive difference to Kirk’s quality of life and thus my own. It is not that much more expensive but in this rural area, the larger more economic bags are hard to find.

Third

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There wasn’t a door here on Friday morning…

I would get someone in to finish the bathroom. It probably would have been done already if this year had not presented its unique blend of cash flow challenges. The electrician came in on Friday to reposition the light switch that had been hanging down from the centre of the ceiling since we pulled out the partition that enclosed the second shower. That turned into removing the wall between the shower and the bathroom…progress of a sort. The ultimate plan is to replace the current windows with glass (double-glazed) down to the floor so that one can sit in the bath and gaze out at the scenic splendour outdoors…once there’s some minor relocation of the clothesline and some ugly scrubby stuff…

PS Just saw the trailer…I’d go and see this in 3D as well…

Gone with the Windfall | The Daily Post.

View from a roof

…we have guests in the Chalet at the moment, indirectly the cause of my drenching on Thursday morning; being the top host that I am, I had gone to set the fire prior to their arrival so it would be cosy inside. I couldn’t get the damn thing to burn not even after half a pack of Lucifers and bringing some guaranteed dry wood over from the Lodge – the air would have turned blue if the room hadn’t been full of smoke  already. We’d only had the chimney swept a couple of months ago so I was not impressed and with the crap weather there was no way I was going up to check out the flue in any detail.

With the return of decent weather (finally) over the weekend, I made myself the ACC poster boy yesterday  and hopped up to see what the story was and discovered some enterprising sparrow had managed to cram 8 inches thick of pine needles down the flue – and it was crammed: I had to chip it all out with a screwdriver…

View from a roof 009This is not a journey I intend making too frequently so I made the most of taking a few pics from this vantage point…it’s always difficult to get good shots of the Lodge due to the bush and this isn’t one of the better ones…not until Lotto Day when we can go fully down the Alternate energy path and tell the Lines Company to get their crappy lines and poles off our property!!

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Once that happens it will be a major improvement all the way round. The TV aerial on the far side needs to go as well – it has been years since it has done anything but rattle in the wind – the only reason that it is still there is that it is a long way up (and down) on that side of the Lodge…the spa area on the far right is about to get a major ‘tough love’ pruning effort as it is just a little too encroached by scenic beauty at the moment. The two windows are the spare room on the right and the bunkroom on the left. In the next round of renovations, the bunkroom will become the study/library, and the current study/library will become another bedroom on the sunny side. The mega-renovations planned for some time will lift the roof from a point around the top right corner of the spare room window to enable the installation of en suites and walk-in areas – the extra head room will also allow a proper rear staircase with a mid-level landing…

Fish for Dinner again…

Dinner last night was a bit of a mixed bag….fish again because Carmen had the same ‘let’s have fish‘ flash as I on Friday and had picked up some snapper on her way back from Te Kuiti…I found a recipe in the Healthy Food Guide book and semi-modified that to suit. I say ‘semi’ because I didn’t actually adjust it as much as I should have; in fact, apart from halving the quantity of fish and pan-baking instead of oven baking it, I kept all the quantities of spices etc the same. As the twins would say ‘uh-oh’…I served it up with a good serving of tabouli but, man oh man, it was hot!! Too hot for the taste of the fish to really come through. I have some issues with the recipe and wonder if the HFG team actually made it before they published it as the picture in the book just looked like normal baked fish (clean and white) when the marinade is actually very dark. I wondering perhaps if they have skipped out a key ingredient like some form of cream to take the marinade from a paste to something that will actually be enough to cover the fillets AND be poured over the fillets – even using twice the quantities there was barely enough to paste over each fillet…

In Other News

I was checking the blogstats with morning and noticed an incoming link from an unfamiliar site – thinking perhaps I had made a break-through in the blogspace I clicked on it. While it was beyond me to find any connection between it and The World…, M|O|N|G|K|O|L was a fascinating  and diverse read; Memoirs of Saigon brought back many memories of my brief time in Vietnam a decade ago, in particular the bubbling friendliness and hospitality of the people of south Vietnam – I don’t think the writers  of the Lonely Planet on Vietnam had ever visited the place, or certainly gone any further than the bars of downtown Saigon. My deepest regret is that I did not purchase the painting I saw in a  gallery in Saigon: using just four colours, the brown of the rivers, the orange of the dust, the bright green of the foliage and the blue of the sky, it encapsulated my first image of Vietnam as we made our approach into Tan Son Nhut. I was saddened by Cambodia: A Country For Sale – at the time I was in Vietnam, it was still relatively untouched by the depredations of the big corporates and multinationals. One of the reasons that I am not sure I want to return is that in ten years all this may have changed and I don’t want my memories tainted by sights of such a beautiful nation going the same way as so many others…Coming Anarchy this morning has a graphic image of that way….

The Strategist has also picked up on the ‘Always Blow on the Pie‘ story – if you haven’t had a look already, please do…Peter’s latest post regards ‘modern slavery‘: I am less than sympathetic…these people choose to have these lifestyles and it reads to me that greed (in the form of £200k bonuses) is the primary motivator. If you can’t stand the heat…but before jumping out of the pan and emigrating to New Zealand…(to be continued)…

Cheeseburger Gothic has the next of JB’s insights into the perils and pitfalls of being a writer: anyone with aspirations of writing even casually should track both these posts and the ones on a similar theme by Steven Pressfield. Having collected a lot of DIY writing material of varying standards and usefulness over the years, I can recommend both as key resources for budding or even experienced writers…

B-4

I have been fairly consistent in my stated aim of doing some minor work on the B-4 each night. It has turning out to be a rewarding and fun build: although relatively simple in construction, each sub-assembly looks delightfully complex. I’m working on the assumption that it should be able to be assembled almost fully before painting so except for some minor fiddly bits I will put on last – to save me refixing them last after snapping them off with careless handling – I am building it pretty much out of the box…progress so far:

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