Thursday, 29 July 2010

Good Ginger Snap Cookies

KorganIconThis isn't a food blawg. But you really ought to go and make these ginger snap cookies.

Prep. time: 10 mins
Bake time: 12 mins

  • 286g (2 cups) flour
  • 216g (1 cup) sugar (brown or white, I used white)
  • 136g (3/4 cups) vegetable oil
  • 75g (1/4 cups) molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Mix all ingredients together.
  • Roll dough into small balls (about an inch wide).
  • Put a bunch of white sugar into a large bowl, drop in the cookie balls, shake them around to coat with sugar.
  • Set oven to 149 °C/300 °F.
  • Place cookie balls on a baking tray and chill in fridge for about 10 mins, while oven preheats.
  • Bake for 12 mins.

Makes about 36 cookies.

Monday, 26 July 2010

How the raised bed in Aberdeen is now

KorganIconI left Aberdeen in February and, with it, left my raised bed behind. You can see it in this blog. My mother has been taking care of it since then.

This is it six months later:

Potatoes growing out of the compost pile :)

The health in these plants is unbelievable. This would simply not have been possible before I started building the soil two years ago. The soil was sandy and lifeless. Now this.

Build your soil! First and foremost!

Monday, 19 July 2010


KorganIconToday I did a whole bunch of crap. One of those things was a fast, crude soil test on a box of soil I dug up in a nearby abandoned plot of land. I did two tests with it: I did a quality test and I did a pH test.

The quality test measures the proportion of different materials in the soil sample. If you mix a bunch of soil with water in a glass jar, stir it up and let it settle, it will settle into layers of different materials. You can then measure the height of each layer to figure the proportion of the materials in the soil. Here's a sketch to explain:

So I did this, and left the jar sit all day, and I got this:

As you can see, it's pretty much a jar of clay and water. Not the best for planting in but awesome if I want to make pottery and bake it in the sun.

The second test I did was a pH test. I'm well aware that you can measure pH electronically or with litmus strips, but this is my fast, unrefined method:

  • Take a small soil sample.
  • Split it evenly into two small containers.
  • Add water to one sample, enough to just cover it.
  • In the sample with water, add a small amount of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).
  • If it creates small bubbles, the soil sample is acidic.
  • If not, add vinegar to the other sample.
  • If it creates small bubbles, the soil sample is alkali.

I did this test once before and the baking soda sample fizzed, confirming it was acidic soil. I did the same test with this soil sample and got no fizzing in either case, which indicates that the soil is pretty neutral.

Despite the field being full of neutral clay, there's an asston of wild plants growing there, as should be expected. I took photographs of every plant I could find there, came home and tried to identify them all, and then grouped them into their respective families. It's all very interesting and that will be my next blog.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Too much horror business, drivin' late at night. Bendix '76.

KorganIconFixed up an old Bendix '76 coaster brake hub a while back. Here's my sketch diagram that kept me straight. It might help you out when you do that kind of thing. Click on image for larger image.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Free Bramble Jam

KorganIconAs honorary members of the Slow Cycle Club, Whitney and I often find useful things in our neighbourhood.

We're currently living in Conway, AR and this is a car-dominant city. The advantage to us is that, on foot and on bicycles, we find so much useful, hidden stuff around here that you simply can't see from a car. Our bicycles are the key to a more useful and intimate second city. This is true of all cities, I'm sure, but it's especially welcome to us here.

On one of our meandering bicycle routes, I found bramble bushes. When I was a kid in Scotland, my family would go bramble picking and then my grandmother would make it into pies or cobblers. Discovering bramble bushes here is awesome.

We only managed to grab one jar full of berries, but it was enough to make about 3/4 of a jar of jam.

I always thought jam was complicated but it really isn't. Mash some berries, add some sugar, boil it until it reaches 104 °C/220 °F (about the same time that you think to yourself, "is this going to explode?") and then pour it into a sterile jar. I added some ginger and some lemon juice to it too. That's it: awesome jam in less than 20 minutes.

It's about 3 parts berries, 2 parts sugar.