Thursday, October 25, 2012

Husband Guest Post: Blacksmithing Vacation

 Hi, this is Jeremy, Laura  is letting me share about one of the coolest things I have done in a long time.  Of course, I have to give her some credit since it was her idea!   Laura found that Conner Prairie, our local historical museum, holds an annual "Arms Making Workshop."   So, she enlisted the help of my Dad and Step-Mom to enroll me in a gun barrel making course, as a birthday gift.  Little did I know at the time how when they said "barrel making," they meant from scratch. Old school. Really old pre Civil War old school.

When I arrived for the first day of class I wandered around following the signs to the workshop, seeing a lot of the other neat upcoming courses, and asked where the barrel making would be. I found myself in one of the buildings where they were teaching engraving, and got to see a multimillion dollar gun collection. Very cool, but I digress. While I was wondering around I asked where the barrel making course would be and got a matter of fact answer, "in the blacksmith shop of course (duh)."

So, I headed over in that direction and found my four other classmates and soon our instructor entered. Nathan Allen teaches the course and also manages maintenance for the museum.  Nathan, a great guy has a huge job since Conner Prairie is a living museum, all in period. In fact, while I was there something broke out on the museum grounds and he had to forge something from scratch to replace it.

Nathan explained that over the two and a half days we would be making a pre Civil War pistol barrel from scratch.   We would all start with a plate of wrought iron and use blacksmith techniques to form a barrel, make our own tools, machine out the barrel by hand, rifle it, make a breech plug and have a finished barrel.

In reality we would learn how to do that and eventually focus on one guy's barrel to finish since we didn't have enough time.  (I was the only one with no blacksmith experience, although none of us were experts, except Nathan).

 So, we started with a plate, heat it up to about 1200 degrees in a coal fired furnace and then started hammering at it with a sledge hammer.  The only thing not old school here is that we did not use a billow to blow on the coal. We had an electric fan...and safety glasses.

After forming the plate into a U shape it is time to curve it into a O shape.  At this point your partner uses a rod (made earlier) placed in the U to allow use to form the metal around.  Once it is O shaped it is time to forge weld the seam to complete the raw barrel.  This is the hard part. You heat it up until it sparks (not just any spark, but a long orange spark), then take it out and hammer the seam together.  We did this about a quarter of an inch at a time, since the iron cools down from its welding temperature and our arms got tired.   

After making the raw barrel we made our own files and drill bits that get connected to a long table to "drill out" the barrel until it is smooth.

See all the shavings coming out of the barrel...Almost smooth.

Once smooth you use a similar table to rile it out and then you've got a barrel.   It took four novices two and a half days to make the finished barrel above.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

More Fall Break Fun

Once Tessa was all better from her strep throat, we have enjoyed the rest of her fall break. No vacations or anything fancy. In fact we didn't even make it to all of the places I had planned, but that's okay. Just hanging out was nice enough

Like we went to our regular park....

And to our favorite breakfast diner....
(Notice Tessa's scoop and stab method with her biscuits and gravy? I'm telling you this kid is a genius)

We also visited the Children's museum, which we hadn't been to since like July. For us that might be a record.
I took the kids through the 'friendly hours' of the Children's Museum haunted house, meaning all the lights were on. Even though they really wanted to check it out and said they weren't scared....the nightmares later that night would prove otherwise. I should have trusted my insticts.

And yesterday we visited the 4th graders in Room 42 and had dinner with the cousins at Mamaw's house. Jeremy's been working like crazy, but we've finally got to catch up with him today. Tonight...a spook-free Halloween party with a couple of friends!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cheese Vs. Cheeser

When I ask Tessa to 'say cheese', this is the face I get...
Note the somewhat pained expression and goofy unatural smile.

When I ask Tessa to stop cheesing and tell me a knock knock joke, THIS is the face I get....
Much better. Orange you glad I didn't say banana?

Fall Break Day 2- Strep Throat Snickerdoodles

Today was our second official day of fall break. Our first day was spent visiting the doctor and attaining antibiotics for Tessa who had strep throat.

The good news is she is feeling much better now, so we spent the day getting back to basics. The stuff I miss when she's at kindergarten...cuddling in bed, playing toys, watching Shaun the Sheep (best show EVER, by the way), folding laundry and making cookies. The domestic life.

Our cookie jar has been either pathetically empty or filled with store bought cardboard ginger snaps for some time now, so we made snickerdoodles.

I've never made these before and never realized how super simple they are. I can throw this one in the vault of things that 'we almost always have all these ingredients for.'

It called for shortening and I was a little short...on shortening. Ba dum bump! So I did half shortening, half coconut oil. The bonus was that there was just the slightest coconut flavor to the cookies, which made them taste like a snickerdoodle macaroon. Yum. 

Charley said...'It wooks wike mashy tatoes.'

Then Charley said...'It wooks wike paw-corn!'

Then Charley made this face, rubbed his belly and said....'cookies is my fave-wit'

The kids love anything where they can roll it in sugar or some other substance. Don't worry, Tessa is out of the 24 hr contagious zone and did some extra hand scrubbing. Plus the heat in the oven and all. 

Just a tip here, if the kids want to arrange the cookies on that sheet that's fine. Just make sure to go back after them and rearrange. 

Tessa almost had it right, although a little close.'s the recipe. But for fun do 1/2 shortening and 1/2 coconut oil!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pumpkin Pickin' 2012

Last night we made it to our favorite pumpkin place just in time to catch the last bits of daylight. 

This is the place we go to every year to get pumpkins. It's just some farmers yard in Martinsville and we're always the only ones there and have free reign to have a photo session. It's a beautiful drive and excuse to go out to the country for a bit. 

The kids were excited and cold so our photo shoot was pretty quick, then we threw their coats back on. Couldn't miss those cute Halloween t-shirts!

 (If you're wondering, no I didn't use the super vivid camera setting. This is just good ol' sundown on orange pumpkins)

 How awesome is it that the pumpkin place has a litter of black kittens hanging around?

 Charley got cold and decided  he was driving home by himself. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bennington Suburban Vineyard Part 4- Bottling

This weekend we started bottling one of the batches of wine. 

It's still not quite super tasty and needs to sit in the bottle a while longer. But it was time to move it, partially because we had a newer batch of skins that needed to be pressed and moved into a glass carboy, and we're too cheap to buy another one.

We're also too cheap to buy our own bottles, so there's an open call out to anyone who has ANY wine bottles they want to give us. Everyone who donates gets a free bottle of the finished product to take home.

This looks kinda like a weird Christmas tree doesn't it? It's a bottle drying rack. The white thing on the top will squirt a sulfer sanitizing solution deep into the bottles to clean them out, then you hang them to dry. My question is, why don't they make these for baby bottles?

By the way, this is after these bottles soaked in the tub and had all of their labels peeled off.  Since our friend who works at St. Elmo's had given us some, I think Jeremy was quietly moaning about some of the awesomely expensive bottles and wishing he had emptied them himself.

So from the glass carboy, we have a tube with a squirty thing on the end that cuts off when you have the right amount of liquid per bottle. Think about the fast food soda machines that know just when to stop.

The corks have to be mailable to go in the bottle, so we soaked them in a bath for a while just like the bottles. Basically everyone gets a soak in the tub during this process.

 Fill it up
Then place it under the corker and POP! it goes straight down in. Done. Now wait for it to mature, have your graphically talented friend make you some special wine labels and you're good to go.

This one was one we made from the store bought juice, but while Jeremy was at it we sampled some of the juice from our own garden grapes. I've got to say it was pretty darn GOOD. I think it will be so cool if our grapes actually make a bonafied good-tasting wine, especially since we've been tending to them for 4 years waiting for a bumper crop.

From plant start to delicious wine, the circle of life.