Archive for August, 2008

What war is really about

August 24, 2008

Saw this in the newspaper the other day, and it occurred to me that I have the exact same vegetables growing in my yard as this Ossetian family did – the yellow is a squash blossom, with corn behind.  It struck me that this is what war is really about, when it comes right down to it.  You’re going on about your business, trying to raise a crop of pumpkins and kids, and somebody comes along and drives a goddamn tank into your dooryard.  They turn your bean poles into camouflage, and your kids into cannon fodder.  Somewhere far away somebody gets a medal.


Not half the calories, but half the dollars

August 24, 2008

Not long ago I suggested that while it was unrealistic to suggest that most people produce the majority of their food calories (short of a massive uprooting of the sort the Cambodians were once famous for), a more modest cultural shift could result in people producing enough to offset the majority of their own food dollars. This time of year that almost seems possible.

Overall I’d rate the performance of our garden this summer as marginal. We were out of state for most of May, June, and July, with only brief visits home in which I did my best to get things in the ground. As a result we missed the peas and the first beans, a lot of lettuce went by, things got really weedy, and my tomato starts got sunburned. Still, we have come to the point in August where it produces more fresh organic produce than we can eat on a continuing basis. Last night we had a meal that was easily over 50% home-produced, at least on a dollar-based accounting. (more…)

Pedal apple grinder – year four modifications

August 17, 2008

The equipment modifications for cider year four are starting to take shape in my mind. First, the press. I plan to take the basic grinder unit from last year and modify it in a couple of ways. First, I’d like to make fresh cutters with milled serrations, such that the apples are shaved into ~3/8″ wide strips rather than full-width slices. This should be a relatively simple operation on the milling machine. There’s incentive to remake the cutters anyway, since in the heat of the moment last year we didn’t realize that the sheetrock screws holding together the wooden plunger we hacked together were nicking the cutters. So, order stock (e.g. mcmaster 9524K192), cut to length, machine mounting holes and csink (I’ll put a different hole pattern in the drum rather than try to match the hand-drilled holes from last year; a drum remake in HDPE wouldn’t be a bad idea), clamp each piece at an angle and mill a row of shallow slots, then clamp with the cutting edge exposed and machine the 15 degree cutting angle (maybe order a 15 degree taper mill if there isn’t one around). (more…)

Pedal-powered interleaved-disk drum belt press concept

August 9, 2008

High summer has landed wet on the Upper Valley.  I took a walk up Quarry Hill this morning, and little streams and waterfalls that normally dry up in June are still running happily along.  Down in the valley the apples are swelling on the trees, and the first cider of the year is only a couple months away.  I’ve come up with a new concept for a pedal powered belt press that I think will be cheaper and easier to build than the previous concepts that I’ve explored.

The basic idea is to have one big drum (shown 16″ long and 16″ in diameter below) probably made out of a piece of maple tree trunk, and a series of smaller rollers consisting of interleaved disks (indicated as 6″ diameter, 3/4″ long, on 1.75″ centers) arranged circumferentially around the large drum, such that the gap between the drum and roller grows steadily narrower, squeezing cloth-wrapped apple pulp such that the juice is gradually expressed.

I’m soliciting feedback from my fellow engineers and cider zealots on the feasibility of the design, and any suggestions for improvement.  For instance:

  • Will the basic concept work?
  • Are the dimensions about right?
  • Should the clearance between the disk rollers and the drum be fixed, or should the disk rollers be spring-loaded?
  • Should the pedal drive actuate the drum, the rollers, or both?
  • What is the most economical way to produce the disk rollers?  (I was thinking the disks could be trepanned out of good quality plywood on a drill press; it might be better (though more expensive) to make them out of HDPE.  McMaster sells 6×1″ disks, but they are 17 bucks each and I need 35 to make the unit as shown.  They could also be trepanned out of HDPE; 8619K485 is about enough to do the lot of them for around $90…

Here are some SolidWorks snapshots:

oblique view:

Side view (apple pulp wrapped in muslin enters at right):

View from input end:

View from below showing interleaved disks: