Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hardtack, The Recipe and Practical Uses

As I walk you through making Hardtack, I wanted to show some pictures of the process but I want to tell you a little bit more about this staple.

Hardtack has been made and used for centuries by many types of people including Sailors, Pioneers and Travelers. It is a type of cracker, that when made properly, can be stored and last forever. On its own, it can be eaten once softened. It was often dipped and used in broths, soups, stews, beans and coffee.

HT can be carried as long as it stays dry, it can be useful. It stores really well in air tight containers and in the dark. You can use basic flour, wheat flour and for this small batch, I ground my own Wheat. You only need water and salt from here. As you can see, I made a small batch, but I suggest that you double up the recipe and make double using the same amount of energy.

Mixing 3 cups of flour, you can mix 2 cups of white and one cup of Whole Wheat, all white flour, all wheat flour, whatever suits your needs. Adding 1 cup of water or so to make a tight dough, and 3 teaspoons of salt. Here I kneaded the mix and formed a ball.

I rolled the now formed dough out after kneading it to form together.

I grew and ground my own flour as you see here. I rolled it into 1/2 thick piece.

I trimed the edges, set them aside to for and make more and began to cut them into 3 inch squares

After cutting them, as you can see they don't have to be perfect at all. Using a small skewer, I poked a bunch of small holes in them, but not all the way through.

I separated them and placed them on a cookie sheet to bake at 350 degrees for a half hour, flipped them over and continued to bake them for 30 minutes more. The general rule to tell if they are done is that they should not be soft at all, hard as a rock they should be.

Here is the final product!!!

3 cups of flour
1 cup of water
3 teaspoons of salt

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes one side, flip and continue for 30 minutes until hard. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Beam Making, The Bridge Project

When I started to plan the second bridge project, I took everything I learned from the first build, and applied it to this project planning. The first bridge, still standing and handling people and equipment traffic, had its flaws and bad approaches.

Nothing in Homesteading is perfect and learning as you go is a tough way to get things done. However, it sure makes for a learning curve that is not soon forgotten. Building my first bridge, I used lumber that was left here from the old home built saw mill that once occupied a space above the pond. When I dug the holes to put in the main supports, I used a string to aline the post and holes. Over a 20 foot span, I missed my mark by 3 inches, so cutting the lumber to fit properly took twice as long as it should have and the boards had to be custom cut and fit in.

Have the out building that I use to dry some of my food such as beans, onions and garlic has its advantages. Split in half inside, one side has woodstove and the other has a force fan which pushes heat to that side and has a electric 220 volt heater as well. The woodstove side also has a evaporation hood to vent out the moisture when cooking down sap during sugar season. As a manufacturer of copper range hoods, that skill has helped me along with the vent hood.

Sixteen months ago I fell a couple of Red Oak Tree's on my property. I set them on top of some other logs to season. Partially seasoned now, I have started to cut them and will allow them to un-stress and normalize as the seasoning process continues inside the out building.

Once inside, after I finish cutting the beams to 10 x 10 x 12, I plan to control the moisture level and hang the beams 7 feet off the ground to the ceiling to take advantage of the heat. I fire up the woodstove a few times a week keeping it going during the weekend, I maintain a temp of 65 degrees. The idea is to control the moisture and allow the beams to twist, crack and do what they will do before the final cuts and building with them.

The final cuts will be made using a tried tested method, using an Adze. So lets take a look at the preliminary cutting of the beams. You can see the quality of the wood now that I have cut into it. Although these are not yet seasoned all the way, I am using a approach that I have in the past that I know will work and produce a high quality beams that will be the running beams for the new bridge.

Although this project will be done in stages, I plan to blog and share lots of photo's in the future so that you can better understand what I am doing and my approach.