Category Archives: kids

DIY Soil Block press (w/ video)

Trying to press forward with our skills challenge has been tough. Illness, heavy snowfall and life want to get in the way. I (J) have been dealing with laryngitis for nearly two weeks. Never fun and unfortunately nothing new for me. While I normally shy away from prescription meds for most things I have learned the best way to heal my vocal chords is a dose of steroids. Or this year it is two doses. Would let nature take its course but can’t afford to miss a month of work.

Enough complaining at least I am breathing and my family is healthy.  This post is about more on our Gardening skill improvement. I decided to try my hand at making a soil block press. Found a few ideas online and went at it.

I had an extra piece of PVC left over from some project I don’t recall. The ID of the tube was ½ inch. Figured it would be perfect for smaller seeds. I went to the local small town True Value and found some washers that fit the ID well. Also grabbed a 12 inch piece of 5/16th all thread. A few nuts and a fender style washer and I was ready to rock and roll. Total out of pocket cost was $3.30 ($3.50 with sales tax). I later went and bought a small bottle of blue locktite, well it was Super Glue thread locker, for $2.59. That makes my total about $6 but the all thread and thread locker will be used for other projects like more soil block presses.

Here is the video of me building the press. The end is me playing in dirt with my kids. Always a fun time when there is still a foot of snow on the ground and more falling from the sky!

I cut the PVC tube to 1 ½ inches. I cut the all thread to 2 ½ inches. I originally hand cut a piece from a butter dish lid. Thought was it would work as a “wiper” in the tube. In practice it was a pain and the press I made without the plastic worked much better.  Skip the plastic. Can prolly just use one washer also…  saving ya 11 cents.  I would also suggest looking at a smaller diameter all thread.  The 5/16th worked ok but I didn’t need that big of a hole to place the small seeds.

As for the Miracle-Gro Seed Starting Mix it will prolly work great in pots or 4 packs. There were a lot of sticks and such in it. No biggie it will compost but not the best for forming soil blocks. I went this route hoping to save time. Also saving my throat from mixing soil/compost/peat or whatever in the cold. I will be checking for better mixes online and try again later. Any tips please let me know.

Overall it was a fun little project. Broke my cabin fever and frustration from not being able to get out ice fishing. Gotta love getting too much snow for the lakes to freeze safely. The kids had a fun time playing with dirt IN THE HOUSE! Wifey wasn’t overly thrilled with my idea but we didn’t make to big a mess! Plus I cleaned up after our play time.

Both our kids love playing outside, getting dirty and helping in the garden. They like playing in the snow but its not the same as dirt. Check out this video of my daughter. I had left the camera recording while I was getting ready to plant the seeds. She had … well just watch and you will see.  “SUPER DIRTY!!” gosh I love that girl!

As I put in the video let your kids play. Let them get dirty. While you’re at it join them. Dirt won’t hurt ya I promise. You may find yourself having more fun than the kids. Getting dirty with dirt is good for your soul. Try it!

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Filed under 13 skills, garden, kids

Yes, You Can Make Butter at Home!

“We can’t make butter in a jar!!” Monkey Boy proclaimed when I told him and his sister sidekick we were going to make butter.

“Trust me buddy we can do it,” I replied.  My assurance fell on deaf ears as he looked at this like one of the many crazy ideas Nimrod comes up with.

The idea of making butter with the kids has been in my mind for awhile. I don’t recall where I first read of this way of making butter but let me state this is NOT my idea. Butter has been made at home, in jars, in churns, etc for a very long time.

I love teaching kids and others how to make things at home as I always find myself learning along the way. The idea of not relying on a store and its supply chain to eat well has intrigued me for quite awhile. Granted to make butter like this you need a supply of heavy whipping cream. If you live in a semi rural area you should be able to find alternative and local sources. Thus keeping your money in your local economy, helping a local farmer and giving you peace of mind knowing what is in the food your feed your family.

Will we come to a time when our local stores have trouble or can not get food in? Hope not. Even if it never happens there are many ways for your family to eat well with local food and as I said your money stays in your local economy… not lost into a chain store. If the time comes where in coming food supplies are short knowing how to feed your family on locally available sources will be very handy. If you just want to have some fun with your family and watch your kids faces when they actually make their own butter… whatever works for you and your family. Don’t over complicate it.

Another benefit is keeping these ways alive. We may never need to make our own butter. Maybe we will. Either way keeping the ways of our ancestors alive hurts no one and can provide low cost and fun entertainment for your family. Then if the time comes where we need to rely on ourselves to provide for our families the learning curve will be way shorter.

These directions are how we made our butter based on my memory. It works and makes some great butter. These are guidelines for you but be sure to research things like shelf life, caloric value, etc if you or a family member is sensitive to those things.

(My apologies for the mediocre pictures. My camera battery was charging. These were taken with the camera in my phone. They get the point across but are not very good.)

We started with 2 things. One half pint of heavy whipping cream and one quart mason jar with lid. That’s it. No other additives or equipment needed. Well I guess you need someone to shake the jar but if you talk up the kids enough they will provide most all the energy needed.

Pour the heavy whipping cream into the jar, put the lid on it and shake. Keep shaking!

About 3 minutes in the liquid will start to thicken as it changes into whipped cream. Keep shaking!

About 3 more minutes before you get a thick whipped cream.

At this point Monkey Boy and Munda had trouble shaking the whipped cream so Yoop took over.

After about 3 minutes the whipped cream goes back to a semi liquid. Keep shaking!

You will start to notice a ball of solid in the middle. That’s the butta baby! Keep shaking!

I timed it at about 6 minutes after the heavy whipped cream stage to where the butter is done. Times will vary but it gives you a rough time frame.

Once you see the butter ball… or is it a ball of butter? Anyway once it looks like butter and you aren’t getting any more liquid out your done. You can stop shaking now!

Congrats!! You have made your own butter. Took about 15 minutes and is a tad bit of work. But its cheaper and more fun than buying real butter in the store.

Find a suitable container and put the butter into it. Now enjoy the fruits of your labor! When I asked Monkey Boy if it was good he said it was “DELICIOUS!” (no emphasis added)

I asked Munda if it was good and with a mouth full she replied “Yummmmm!” That is about the best stamp of approval you will get from my kids.

Munda and I delivered some of the butter to our neighbors. Turns out they were just sitting down for a dinner of pork roasted with taters and veggies and some rolls that were fresh out of the oven. I called later and asked how the butter was. Grandma B replied “Excellent.” She also asked for us to show her how we made it. Another stamp of approval.

Whoa… wait a minute… I got ahead of myself. You didn’t dump out the liquid when you put the butter in the container did you? DON’T! That my friends is called butter milk. Yea the stuff used in cooking. You can use it where you would use store bought buttermilk. We haven’t decided what we are going to use ours for but I will post the update on Facebook and Twitter once we do.

Here is the break down of what we used and what we ended up with. I made a second batch before writing this to get a better idea of the times of each stage.

1 pint of heavy whipping cream for $3.78 (2 half pints @ $1.89 each)

We had the mason jar and lid on hand. If you don’t a similar container would work fine. Just make sure the lid fits tight. Would hate to have the lid come off and the contents to fly across your house!

We ended up filling an 8 ounce butter container, with a tad extra. Lets say about 10 ounces as an estimate.

We put the buttermilk in a pint mason jar. The graduated markings on the side read just under 1 cup of buttermilk.

Not as cheap as margarine in the store. Doesn’t need to be. You can say you know whats in the butter, you and your family had some fun making it, etc. Those two alone make up for the price variance.

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We would love to hear about your adventures making butter at home.  The future is you, pass it on!

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Filed under butter, kids, nimrod, old school, self sufficiency