Hands In My Pocket

I feel like I should write a country music song . . too many hands in my pocket! :)  I told Vince this afternoon that I feel like our bucket has too many holes in it!

I was outside when the appliance repair folks called to tell me that the repair bill on the washer is pretty steep and I told them we’d buy a new washer/dryer instead of fixing the old one.  As I was walking into the house to look online at the washer and dryer they recommended, I looked to my left and the gate/fence guy was over installing another gate.

He’s been here at least two weeks and isn’t done yet.  The big gate at front has taken a lot of time.  He would have gotten it all hooked up today but there’s a bad board in the gate opener so that’s on hold til the middle of next week.  We’re adding a gate behind the bantam coop and another gate behind the house.  I’m sure he’ll be here at least through the first half of next week.

Then I looked to the right and the guy was here filling the propane tanks.

Having both tanks full is like money in the bank but it is kinda painful at the time they’re filled.

This afternoon I missed a call from my doctor after my “annual” on Tuesday.  He left a message and said “We need to talk .  . nothing bad . . it’s about your cholesterol, thyroid and Vitamin D levels.”  I’m already taking meds for all three but I guess something isn’t right.  If the thyroid levels are low, that will explain why I’m so tired . . I just thought I’d been working extra hard.  I’ve been in bed by 8 or 8:30 almost every night it seems.  Not sure if I’ll talk to the doctor tomorrow or Monday.  I told Vince and he said “at least only three things are wrong” and I told him I thought they only checked three things!

I’m going to sit and knit and hope that we can at least make it til bed time without spending half our life savings!  :)

Magazine Subscriptions

For those who get tired of the clutter and paper around, my preferred method for getting magazines now is to get the digital versions.  I love being able to pull up a quilt magazine anywhere that I have internet access and look at it on the laptop or ipad, or even on the phone if I’m in a quilt shop and needing to know something about a pattern I might want to make.

This is the link for Quiltmaker’s digital subscription.  You can go there and view a sample and see what it would look like on your computer or tablet or phone.

Other magazines probably have the same option but Quiltmaker is the one I’m most familiar with (and besides, I emailed the editor yesterday and she sent me the link!)

Fuel for Cooking

It will not surprise anyone that we wanted to make sure we have plenty of fuel on hand for cooking.  The  “gas” stove that I love actually runs on liquid propane (LP).  We also have gas heat and a gas water heater.  There was a 250 gallon propane tank here when we bought the place.  That amount of fuel lasts us about a year, even with the amount of cooking/canning I do.  We don’t use much heat though.  We had talked about getting a 500 gallon tank, which would provide about a 2 year supply of fuel.  Then we decided not to do it but apparently “we” decided to go with the 500 gallon tank.  Yesterday the gas company called me to tell me they were ready to deliver our new tank.  I called Vince and he said yes, he thought it was a good idea and the cost of propane was very low so he wanted to get the tanks filled while the cost was down.

Vince was home for lunch when the propane guy got here.  A decision was made to move the old tank to one side of the well house (just around the corner from where it had been).  The old tank will be connected to a propane generator for the well and to a gas grill.  That tank may never need to be filled again!  :)

The new tank was moved from the truck to the new location.

This guy was meticulous.  No setting the legs on rocks and hoping for the best.  He had concrete blocks and he dug and leveled and measured and made sure everything was right where it should be.

All set up and waiting to be filled.

The old tank needs to be painted and Vince said he will do that.  You can see the sun is going down.  It was an all afternoon process.  With both tanks filled, we will feel a lot more comfortable about our fuel supply.  The price of the propane was about 80¢ per gallon less than it was the last time we had the tank filled so by filling 750 gallons at the current cost, we are saving almost $600 over what it would have cost to fill both those tanks a year ago.  When the big tank gets at least half empty, we’ll start watching the cost of LP and fill the tank again when/if the price drops.  With the tank half full, we’ll still have a year to “shop” the cost of the LP before we have to get it filled.

Not everyone is able to have a propane tank in their yard (probably not everyone would even want to) but that’s another reason we wanted to live in the country.  Our fuel is bought and paid for . . almost like money in the bank.  It’s completely under our control as long as there’s propane in the tank.

Speaking of “owning the power”, when I was talking about my frowny face on the electric bill and several mentioned solar panels, the cost/benefit just doesn’t make it worthwhile for us yet.  We pay very low electric rates.  It would take at least seven years, based on the rates we pay, for us to break even.  For those living in places like California, where your rates are much higher, you break even at a much quicker rate.  Solar panels are easily damaged by hail and we live in an area where hail is often a problem.  My Honda is evidence!  Our insurance has a very high deductible for solar panel damage.  For now, solar isn’t a cost effective option for us.  Except during July through September, our electric bills are less than $100.  And, our water and sewer are basically free!  Not a bad place to be, huh?

Today the propane guy will come back to fill both tanks, the guy is here on the bull dozer working on some lanes through the woods and the gate may be installed today.  Another busy day here.  It’s fun watching the changes and planning for the future.

Pressure Canners

There have been several requests lately for more info about canners so I’m going to do a post. This post will be mostly for folks who have never canned. Skip over this one if you have no interest in canning.

The first thing to think about is your stove.  If you have a glass top, many recommend that you do not can on them.  The loaded canner is quite heavy!  See what the manufacturer of your stove recommends and make your decision.  I canned for 9 years on a glass top in Kentucky and for 4-1/2 years on one in Missouri and never did any damage but I honestly hoped I would ruin them so I could replace them.  Use your judgment with your stove.  Some folks set up what we call a crawfish burner — the gas setup that you use outside with a propane burner and put a big pot on, and they have success using a canner with that.  Another advantage is that if you’re doing your canning in the summer, you’re not heating up the house.  I’ve tried that method and find it’s a lot easier to do my canning in the kitchen, near the sink and countertop where I can place the jars.  But, if you have a glass top stove, and it is recommended that you do not can on it, you can come up with a setup for outside with a propane tank and burner of some kind where you can do your canning.

Next you’ll have to make a decision about a canner.  I suggest that for your first canner, you go with a new canner.  Used and older canners can have some issues, which are easily fixed — anything from a gasket that needs replacing to a pressure regulator that isn’t registering properly.  It’s so much easier to start with a new canner and then it’s fairly safe to assume that if you follow the directions, things should work right.  Gaskets and pressure regulators are easy and fairly inexpensive to replace so I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a used canner if a second canner is needed.

For an overall, stands up to lots of uses, not terribly expensive canner, I recommend the 23 quart Presto.  I’ve had mine for about 15 years and I’ve canned thousands of jars in it.  I still use it.  It holds 7 quarts or 20 pints.  I’ve seen this canner at Wal-Mart, Target and similar type stores.  I bought mine at a store similar to Tractor Supply.   The Presto has the pressure gauge and an overpressure plug, which should blow before the lid flies off and decapitates bystanders and sprays tomato sauce all over the ceiling.  :(

With the Presto, I have to do a little more “babysitting” than I do with my All American.  This is the model All American I have.  It will hold 14 quarts or 19 pints.  Don’t ask me why it holds more quarts but less pints than the Presto.  Haven’t figured that out yet.  It’s obviously quite a bit more expensive than the Presto but since I can do twice as many quarts in it, it saves me time and propane. The All American has the pressure gauge as well as the pressure regulator . . two ways to make sure you have the pressure correct.  This one also has an automatic overpressure release to hopefully keep accidents from happening.  I absolutely love this canner and have also purchased a smaller one.  This one holds 7 quarts and 10 pints.  It will pretty much replace the Presto.

The Presto has a rubber gasket, which will eventually need to be changed.  I think I’ve changed the gasket in my Presto twice in 15 years.  The All American has no gaskets that need changing.

From time to time, the pressure gauges need to be checked.  Some home extension or county agents will do that for you.

The Presto is fine for starting out, and like I said, I’ve used it for years and years but, the All American is the dream canner.  When canning with the Presto, I watch it constantly and have to adjust the burner, sometimes even turn the burner off completely because the pressure gets too high.  With the All American, once I find the right stove setting, the pressure never fluctuates.  Still, I wouldn’t recommend spending the $$ for the All American  until you know for sure canning is something you want to do.

If you buy a new canner, there will be an instruction booklet with it.  Read it!  Read it again!  If you follow the directions, there’s nothing to be afraid of.  And I’ll tell you a little secret . . I had the All American for eight months before I was brave enough to try it.  I had the instruction booklet memorized but I was scared of it!  Once I used it, I again said to myself . . what took me so long?  You will do the same if you’ve been wanting to can and putting it off because you were afraid.

So . . don’t feel bad about being intimidated. Truly, if you read the instruction booklet and you follow the instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems!  And, know that feeling intimidated and a bit scared is perfectly normal.  Be careful.  Never walk away from the canner.  You’ll learn that you can hear it and know if something is getting out of control.  Once I’m confident that the canner is holding at the right pressure, I’ll go sit down and knit or read but never far from the canner.

One last tip — there’s a starter kit.  You absolutely need everything in this kit.  It’s impossible to get the jars out of the boiling water without the jar lifter.  It’s impossible to get the lids and rings out of the boiling water without the magnetic lid lifter.  It’s impossible to get all the food in the jars without the funnel.  You’ll need to get the air bubbles out of your jars of food and you shouldn’t use metal (like a knife) because it can crack the glass so you need the little plastic bubble remover.

You may have heard me say that when I was wanting to knit socks and couldn’t remember how to cast on, I hung out in the knitting section of Hobby Lobby.  Every lady that came in looking at yarn, I would ask them if they could show me how to cast on.  With canning, I think your confidence would be boosted tremendously by watching someone do it.  You might hang out in the Mason jar section of Wal-Mart and see if a lady who looks nice is buying a lot of jars.  She might help you.  You might post a note on a bulletin board at a grocery store that you’re looking for someone you can “shadow” while canning.  Or, if you’re active in a church, maybe ask some of the older ladies if they would be willing to do a canning demo.  Most churches have nice, big, clean kitchens.

See?  Simple as can be!  All you need now are jars and food to put in those jars.  Be cautious and be careful but don’t be afraid.