I Try My Hand at Masonry

In my backyard is a large patio area.  It was built out of concrete triangles seperated by 2x4s.  The triangles seem to be quite old, and some of them have moved quite a bit.  If I had to guess I would say there is well over 1000 square feet of the triangles.

Can see the settling due to tree roots

Can see the settling due to tree roots

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The cost to have the concrete hauled away is prohibitive so I needed to find something to do with them.  My yard has slight slopes to it, so I decided to use the broken concrete as low retaining walls. To hold the pieces together I decided to use mortar as it is inexpensive at Home Depot.

First I measured 3 feet from my fence at three locations to give me the general  path of the wall.  I then ran a string to keep me on course.

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I had previously broken a few of the triangles using a sledge hammer.  I had the two oldest of my boys help me start moving the concrete into place and attempting to piece it together into a line.

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I mixed the mortar in a 5 gallon bucket and used a trowel and my hand to put it onto the blocks.

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One bag of mortar allowed me to make around a ten foot wall stacked two or three high depending on the lay of the hill.  I started at the highest part of the hill so I made the wall low that way I don’t end up with too high a wall at the end.  Now I need to break up more concrete and get more mortar so I can finish the rest of the wall.

After working on the wall, I decided to plant a Pomegranate tree I bought a few days before.

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The dirt in my yard is shallow and is over clay.  The clay is thick and hard to dig, even worse there is a white clay under the brown clay that is like digging in rock.  I spent many hours trying to plant trees in the past and wasn’t able to dig proper holes for the trees.  All that work and effort helped me convince my wife that I needed a jackhammer with spade attachment.  For digging in my dirt, it was totally worth the money.  I was able to dig a good sized hole for the tree in about a half hour rather then several hours.

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-Joshua

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Pancit Bihon – Do you have the patience of Job?

I grew up eating pancit, adobo, sinigang, lumpia, etc.  Lumpia is the only Filipino dish I had figured out how to make until about a month ago when the light came on for me on how to make pancit properly! Even though I know how to make it, I still prefer my mom’s pancit, and her adobo (and my dad’s too!), and anything else she will cook for me.  Her pandesal is delicious!  Anyone else’s pandesal is too salty or too sweet. Hers is perfect.

The secret to making good pancit for me is to use a seasoning mix!  Yes, it’s that easy. Well, the cooking part is anyway.  The prep work is the difficult part. I cheat when I make my lumpia and use a bag of frozen mixed vegetables. I can’t use frozen veggies in pancit, so this means I have to take the hard route of slicing all the veggies myself. And as my husband will tell you, I am VERY SLOW when it comes to cooking or baking. I also make a huge mess!

My usual mix of veggies for pancit: green beans, carrots, and celery. I don’t like cabbage very much so I don’t put that in.

French-cut green beans or as close as I could get them to French-cut.

French-cut green beans or as close as I could get them to French-cut.  These green beans are from our garden.  I used about 1/4 pound I think, probably less.

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Stuffed Shells in the Crock Pot – Is that lazy?

It has been hot hot hot here! That means I avoid using the oven if possible. So today I made stuffed shells in the crock pot. After I had everything put into the crock pot, I realized I should have posted this as a recipe. Oh well! I thought my pasta sauce was a little thin anyway.

Yesterday, I posted about homemade ricotta cheese. So today I used that ricotta cheese in the stuffed shells! I also had to make my own pasta sauce and that was not quite as successful as the ricotta cheese. I think it was mostly because I had to throw it together in less than 30 minutes. I was also afraid to season the sauce too much because my boys don’t like their food “spicy.” I would definitely go with a jarred pasta sauce in this if you have it. There are seven of us in our family so I have to buy the large jars of pasta sauce from Costco. Sometime soon I will figure out how to make my own pasta sauce but that is a project for another day!

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The shells were done after about 3 hours in the crock pot.

My plating skills leave something to be desired, but the shells tasted good! I even went back to get more.

My plating skills leave something to be desired, but the shells tasted good! I even went back to get more.

I did sneak a taste of the leftover ricotta cheese. It does taste different than store bought. It definitely has a fresher taste as well as an aftertaste of sweetness that made me think of mixing honey with it and eating it for dessert. I think the next time I make ricotta I will probably use it to make a honey ricotta cheesecake.

Moving posts – the tedious way

We started our blog at another site and had a few posts over there that I will be moving over here. I don’t know how to port them all over lickety-split so I will be one at a time copying them over here and putting them in the right categories. I may not even move all of them since some of the posts, especially the ones about our bathroom remodel, may be too boring, have too many numbers, etc.

Wow, this place is a mess!  We hope to have it looking better soon!

Wow, this place is a mess! We hope to have it looking better soon!

Making butter – originally published 4/11/2015 – in a baby food jar?

If I had known how fun this homeschool activity would be, I would have done this much earlier in the year!  Yesterday, during my sons’ homeschool videos, I had them make butter.  I put some heavy whipping cream and some real whipped cream into four baby food jars and had my boys shake away!

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