The Secret to Making Bread Everyday

Imperfect is OK.
  1. It’s ok for it to not be perfect.
  2. It’s ok to not be exact.
  3. It’s ok to start the dough whenever you have time.

    It’s great to think ahead, to measure things perfectly and to bake at the exact temperatures needed but the fact is that I’ve found bread forgiving. If you’re looking for consistent loafs that look the same every time, that requires attention to detail. If you’re like me and don’t mind things coming out different, you can play with it. I’m making bread to eat daily and I don’t want to stress myself over minute details. If you have at least 4-5 hours of time to let the dough rise, you can find a recipe that can work. An example of imperfection in my kitchen is that I’ve had dough that wasn’t rising after 8 hours. I added some more flour, some water, and some more yeast, boom! The dough started to move and it turned out OK.

    Two things that you’ll always want to have on hand. Flour and yeast. Yeast can be bought in bulk and stored in an air tight container in the fridge. That’s all you need!

    Here’s a quick picture of what’s happening in the kitchen this morning. We don’t buy much bread from the store these days. Each morning consists of taking the dog out, making breakfast, prepping lunch, coffee, and starting the fire in the wood stove. Once Mallory is out the door for work, I prep the dough that’s been rising overnight. Today there are two bread products being made. One is the no knead bread baked in the Dutch oven, the other is a no knead baguette recipe that I’ve turned Into a roll recipe. It Making bread consistently means always having something rising. In our house, bread is made every two to three days. Having fresh bread around makes for easy meals like egg on toast in the morning. The rolls are great for sandwiches or as substitute buns for burgers. It can be a lot of work but if you build it into your routine it can make it much easier. The bread is better than store bought, we use flour from either King Arthur or bobs red mill, it’s much cheaper and the flour is from a B corporation that supports sustainable practices. At roughly a dollar a loaf or 10 cents a roll, you can’t beat it.
Have to start the fire every morning in the winter to keep Betty warm.

End of Summer Garden Update

A journal documenting the weight of all the veggies harvested from the garden, photos, multiple blog posts every week, all dreams that have gone and past with the summer. The journal lasted a whole two weeks. The blog posts lasted only two updates. The photos were taken intermittingly. It’s just how it is.

Documenting each day’s harvest and weight only lasted two weeks.

Life happens and if keeping up with my day job, relationship and the garden wasn’t enough, capturing it the whole process in luring details just isn’t in the cards. What I can tell you was that it was great year in the garden and it’s looking really good going into the fall. I’m writing this after the power has been restored from a massive atmospheric river blasted Sonoma County and the Bay Area with inches and inches of rain. I love knowing that there are plants in the ground to soak up all this water. California was parched this summer and water rations were in affect. Despite this, the garden produced a lot. More than we could keep up with. Do you know what picking cucumber can fill a jar? What am I going to do with all these pickling cucumbers? There’s still some in the fridge and I’ve already made five different recipes.

One of many buckets of tomatoes.

Plant what you eat is something I preach. I think we planted too much of some veggies we like to eat. For example, the tomatoes kept flowing from our eight plants. Freezing them until there were bags and bags of tomatoes to process. Yet, we were able to keep up with our two zucchini plants. All those hot Korean peppers and other varieties like Scotch Bonnets produced well. As much as I like hot sauces, we probably planted too many. More eggplant and more potatoes next year. We love our greens and had a steady supply for most of spring and summer but it requires constant reseeding and I just couldn’t keep up with it through the heat of the summer. I think I will look into purchasing a pound of mixed lettuce seed that I can spread when walking through the garden. Maybe that was I can keep up.

Mango pico de Gallo from the garden.

Fall is setting in. Most of the tomatoes have been pulled from the ground but peppers are still in. They seem to like the cooler weather in the fall here. We’ve planted celery, more onions, greens, kale and collards. Potatoes and garlic will be going in the ground soon.

Little monkey dick peppers.

As for the wildlife in the yard, I’ve been able to witness the migration of native birds throughout the summer. Right now, our residents our Chesnut Chickadees, Lesser Gold Finches, Sparrows, and Dark Eye Juncos. As much as I love all the visitors, I need to buy some bird netting to give the seedlings a fighting chance.

Below are some more photos from the garden…

Delicata squash bumper crop.
Butternut squash.

Make Your Own Easy DIY Scrap Wood Potting Bench

Easy simple pottery bench.

Everyone with a house seems to have a pile of wood that stacks up over time. Odds and ends, maybe some pressure treated 2x4s or one too many fence boards. What better way to use this wood than using your imagination to create something useful.

Anybody can make one of these simple potting benches with a saw, drill and some extra wood lying around. I’m not going to lay out exactly how to make the design I made because you may have different scrap wood lying around than I do. What I will do is show you some pictures of what I came up with, some general tips, and encouragement to get out there and try!

What you might need:
Scrap wood
2 1/2″ self drilling screws.
Impact drill (standard drill works too)
Circular saw (or a hand saw if you’re looking for a workout.)

I added some hooks and nails to hold scissors for harvesting greens and a spot to hold my hori-hori.

I suggest looking at a few designs before starting out. I searched google for simple designs and modified the design to fit my needs and work with the materials I have on hand. I wanted a shelf so I chose to run the 2x4s up the back. I also wanted a place to store soil underneath so I installed a shelf. The bench can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. There’s something magical about creating something of your own design then putting it to use right away. Happy Gardening!

DIY Compost Bin Made from Pallets

Pallets are everywhere for free. Check Craigslist and you’ll probably see something local. Often, they’re thrown behind dumpsters. Here’s a pallet 2 stage compost bin I made from some pallets I picked up. The idea is that one side will be loaded first then by the time the next side is full, the first one should be fully composted. The front is from paint my brother was throwing out.
**I chose to line with hardware cloth because of rats but is definitely not required.

Mock up of compost bin.
A branch from a tree I cut was used as a brace.
Inside of the compost bin that’s been lined with hardware cloth.
Finished compost bin made out of pallets.

pleasures of power washing

The problem with a new tool is it can soon become your favorite tool for every job. While that may not sound terrible, it can be a detriment. For example, when I decided an angle grinder was the best tool to get a stuck drum off my van (it didn’t work.) A pressure washer is one of these tools that has quickly become my recent tool to obsess over. I’m not the only one that recognizes the joys of uncovering a pristine surface under a muddied exterior. See r/powerwashingporn on Reddit or find Youtube videos with millions of views. Imagine being the doer and not the spectator. Imagine holding that magical wand and disappearing years of filth that would have taken many painstaking hours to clean by hand. Glorious! My new purchase this past week was a gas pressure washer. I have used electric but nothing compares to the force of a gas powered unit. With that force comes ear wrecking small engine noise but I think it’s worth it, my neighbors don’t.

All hail the screaming banana, a used Workforce 2500psi 163cc bought for the Facebook marketplace price of $180. I don’t like to own tools just to have them, this tool will get a lot of use and is a great addition for many DIY tasks around the home.

Workforce pressure washer did handy work with these bricks.
Cement cleaned up real nice.
This one was cool power washing discovery. A cobblestone path under 5 inches of soil.

upgrades to the toyota camper van conversion (vol. 2)

It was a busy winter filled with camping and fishing, just the way I like it. While going on these adventures I was able to continually add to a list of modifications I would like to perform on the van. There’s so much joy in using something and making tweaks to better suit your needs. The only constant is change, it’s cliche but it’s true. Let me not get stuck on how the way things are now but what they can become. Below is an incomplete list of modifications I’ve done on the van since the last update.

Went here:

Processed with VSCO with 4 preset
random free camping in the forest.

Got rained on. My ARB awning was stolen so my solution was to grab what wood
I had and attach it the racks. It protects the inside of the van from light showers. If it’s heavy sideways rain, it’s not going to work as well. Total cost $0

img_8622

Since you’ve been following so close attention, you may have noticed the new cargo rack on the top. It’s the one offered at harbor freight. I think it’s around 50 bucks. It’s pretty useful although it does make this van that much of a kite in the wind. I took off sticker and painted the wind deflector all black.

img_8617

Oh, well, will you look at that. I just gave away another modification. LED lights in the front now. No longer does it feel like an oil lantern in front of my van. I can now equally blind the other drivers who happen to enter my path. Jokes aside, the wires needed modification and my mechanic removed some of the working LEDs when the lights are in low. He said you would likely get pulled over if you kept all of the LEDs working on lo beam.

img_8437

Added this sick sticker, added at least 10HP. Contact Aaron Morrell.
img_8393

Got this console from my mechanic for free. Came through in the clutch, thanks Gustavo!

img_8797

Back up light installed. I drilled a hole in the side of the solar panel rail and ran the wires to a switch under the hatch. Below is a video of the light in action.

img_8816
switch for reverse light. will consider moving this switch up to the dash.

img_8804

Side light for the porch. Bought these lights off amazon for less than 20. They’re pretty bright and contain six LEDs.

img_8812
here’s the switch for the porch light.

My Lagun table mount, those things cost a fortune but I’ve seen some blemished ones on eBay at a discount. The table top I made out of sanded 3/4″ plywood. Came out real nice with two coats of stain and two sprays of marine varnish.

img_8814
surface is now covered by plexiglass.

I covered the folding table in the back of the van with plexiglass that was leftover from a project. This table typically gets covered when cooking multiple meals. The plexiglass make it really easy to wipe. Be careful when installing the plexiglass, it cracks easily. I used screws to hold it in. I drilled pilot holes and went until firm but not overly tight.

img_8820
phone holder for my toyota van.

I held off because I didn’t want anything on the vinyl or the window but I finally added a phone holder. Cheap one off eBay for six bucks. It holds well, I just hope it doesn’t ruin the vinyl.

img_8808
usb outlets installed on my 1985 toyota van.

USB ports installed behind the couch. If running usb ports from 12v, you need to have a converter that converts the power to 5v.

img_8811
painted toyota van step.

Painted the step and installed the metal frame.

img_8817
LED light bar in the back of the van under the shelf.

I removed the old bright white light and replaced it with two warm white led bars. Having one below the shelf and above really helps when cooking. A lot of the light was blocked with only one light on the roof.

img_8818
light bar in the back on top.

TO BE CONTINUED…

I want to write a short post about my new layout for sleeping and lounging.

foldout bench seat that transforms into a bed

When designing this van I wanted to the ability to have a bench seat (i.e. couch) and not have the bed take up the whole van like so many designs. Although, it would require work to fold up and down, I like the ability to clear the space and sit up right. I thought this was necessary to work while on the road.

My brother found a design that didn’t involve any sliding or folding out legs. The only thing necessary was to flip what you’re sitting on. Once folded out, it provides a large enough space to sleep two.

Flaws of this design included:
1. The back rest can only be a certain height or else it will clip the ceiling.
2. The bench width needs to be under a certain length so it avoids clipping the sides of the van because the van is curved.
3. It makes storage a little harder to access.

The benefits:
1. Simple!

We built a frame around the wheel well and the back of the van.

Processed with VSCO with av4 preset
The frame around the wheel well.

We added a sheet of plywood to the top as one piece.

Processed with VSCO with fp1 preset
Buster enjoying a place to sit.

Then it was time to attach the folding section. Note, there are spaces for storage in the back and the front of the design. You can see a cut out in the back where we installed a lid to access gear.

img_2543

Here’s a shot from the back. You can see that the side facing out the back can be folded up and turned into a table. This is nice because it has protection from rain with the back hatch.

Processed with VSCO with av4 preset
Fold out table in the back of the van.

Here’s the bed folded out.

Processed with VSCO with av4 preset
The bed folded out. 

In the picture below you can see how the back rest was framed. 3×2″s were used to support the back. img_1873

Below is flip out storage underneath the legs but it also doubles as a coffee table. 56211149368__d47e37b8-e687-41cd-bc33-72d160622064

Next step is to make cushions for the seats out foam and fabric I have bought. The cushions should not cost more than 100 total to make. Although, it will take some time to stitch them together. I will post progress as I follow through with making the cushions.

installing vinyl floor in camper van

It was time to create the base for which would be building our masterpiece. Everything starts with the floor and from there you build up. Since there were slats that ran down the van we needed to install some planks in between.
This way we could lay a piece of plywood on top and lay it in. This also helped us not put screws into metal. Anytime I’m cutting or putting screws into metal it makes me nervous. Not to say that it can’t be done but sometimes I just don’t want to do it if I don’t have to. 

We installed the slats by using construction grade adhesive. Don’t be shy! Smother that stuff on there like you would pour syrup on a waffle. This stuff takes some time to dry and become strong. I think we waited 24 hours before trying to install the piece of plywood. We pre-tapped the holes and my brother had this handy drill that would flip from drill to screwdriver. It had the ability to set a countersink which made the screws fit flush. Real nice!

We had to do the floor in two separate pieces because of the size plywood comes in. My brother is the measure so I followed his lead and we cut each piece one at a time. There are all sorts of weird bends and things to cut around so I was really impressed when our pieces came out and fit so well.

Here’s a pic of both plywood pieces installed.

Next, it was time to lay the vinyl floor that looks like fake wood. Yeah, it’s a little overplayed but so what, I think it will look classy with the white bench. Maybe not but you only live one life. We needed to cut it before applying it to the ply wood so before we installed the plywood pieces, we created an outline on the vinyl.

After it was cut, it was time to apply. The guy at Home Depot, yeah, that’s right, I found someone who would actually help me there. He said that this double sided tape would work just fine when attaching vinyl to wood. So, that’s what we went with. I bet the floor would have had less bubbles if we used a puddy but overall, it was really easy to apply and it sticks very well.

Look at that beautiful floor!

Easy Solar Panel Set-Up for your Van, Truck or Homestead for Less than 400 Dollars!

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

So, you’re looking to go energy independent. You want to power that Macbook and recharge your headlights so you can blog and explore the night. It’s not as hard as you think. Let me say that again, it’s as hard as you think. There is plenty of sun power to charge all your devices. Powering your vitamix and microwave at the same time may not work but for most of your basic needs, setting up one solar panel and deep cycle battery will be enough to run lights and charge cell phones. Disclaimer: I’m not a professional electrician. This how-to is more of a story of how I’ve set up my basic solar panel installs. You do not need to follow my steps 1 by 1 and I suggest maybe you don’t. I want to give you an idea on how easy it is to get running off solar energy. I can’t perform the complex mathematic calculations, all I tried to do was get enough power to charge most of my devices and power my lights. I can tell you right now that I never ran out of power in California but I was always mineful to not leave the big screen tv on all night. 😉

The three things you will need.

  1. Solar Panel
  2. Solar Charger Controller
  3. Deep Cycle Battery

Optional : Extension cables for your solar panel.

Ohhh ahhh! Those solar panels are shiny. They’re getting more efficient each year. You’ll need to determine what size you’ll need.

100 watt solar panels are cheap, you can get them with a controller and extension cables for less than 200 dollars. Here is one on Amazon for sale.
solarpanel

What does the charge controller do? It limits the rate at which electic current is added to or drawn from electric batteries. It prevents overcharging and may protect against overvoltage. Some people will add a fuse box for an extra level of protection but I was fine without a fuse box.

For the deep cycle battery: Get as many amp hours as you can get for the price. You want a deep cycle battery, not a standard car battery. Deep cycle batteries are built to withstand the constant drain and fill associated with a solar panel system. There are plenty of 12v deep cycle batteries on ebay and amazon for a cheap price.

battery

Here is one with 100Ah for 159.99 and free shipping. I have used this brand of battery and have had success.

What to think about when installing?
Don’t put it in a place that will be shaded. Try not to have surfboards covering any part of the solar panel. You don’t have to mount it, you can store it inside and bring it out during the day, just make sure you have long enough cables from the controller to the solar panel. If installing on a van, cabover, or RV, make sure to be careful about having a water tight seal. RV putty will help with that. I’ve installed solar panels on a cabover camper as well as a regular camper shell.
IMG_9994
That’s the basics, each install will be a little different. Please leave any questions or comments below and I will attempt to answer them. Thanks for reading!

IMG_0548

Here are some panels I installed on my roof rack of my van. I ran the wires down the rain gutter through the back door.

solar.png