Author Archives: Joseph Raymond


Yesterday we finally got around to cleaning and blanching our fiddleheads.  We picked about 6 lbs this year, a little less than we planned on but pretty decent over all.

In case anyone is interested in freezing their fiddleheads, here are a few pointers.

1.  Make sure to clean off as much chaff as possible before doing anything else with them.  This is best accomplished outside with two 5 gallon buckets (or other similar sized containers).  Put all the fiddleheads in one bucket, lift it about 2 feet above the other bucket and slowly pour the fiddleheads out.  This works best with a light breeze so the fiddleheads drop down, but the chaff blows away.  A large fan could be used to supply the wind on a calm day if need be.

2.  Bring in your fiddleheads and rinse them in the sink.  Cold water is fine, you’re just trying to get off as much of the sand and small pieces of chaff as you can before you blanch them.

3.  Now you are ready to blanch your fiddleheads.  Bring your pot of water up to a steady boiler, pour in your fiddleheads and let them stay in there for 2-3 minutes.  Make sure the fiddleheads are entirely covered in water.

4.  Take them off the heat, drain them and rinse with cold water in the sink.  Freeze them immediately.  We use quart size freezer bags, but you could use gallon bags or plastic containers if you want to.

That’s it.  It’s a lot of work from the time you pick them by the river to when they are cooked and on your plate, but well worth it I think.  Last season we had enough that we had fiddleheads for Thanksgiving and Easter!



(Originally published: May 10, 2010.)

Winter projects – Electric

Every winter I make a list of projects I need to do.  I do this because winter is the “slow” time around here.  I say this loosely as we are still quite busy.  But, I have finally started to work on my list.  The big things this year are electrical work and then cleaning/organization.  Here’s how it’s coming along so far:

– Wire outlet for new chest freezer (had been on an extension cord) :: DONE
– Rewire basement lights so they are all on one switch instead of two :: DONE
– Wire outlet for sump pump (currently on extension cord)
– Clean/organize basement
– Clean/organize “corner cubby” in kitchen (tools, parts etc)
– Clean/organize my electronics work desk
– Clean/organize my side of the bedroom

I may also add to the list that I need to install a new light fixture in the downstairs bathroom, but not sure yet as it is less of a concern than the rest of the list right now.

New muffler on the truck

Our Ford Ranger’s muffler was ready to go to the great metal pile in the sky.  Actually it looked like it was getting ready to swim to the bottom of the ocean since it had evolved gills in the sides.

I decided to replace the muffler as well as convert the truck’s exhaust to a side exit.

For the muffler I chose a compact Jones Turbo Tube (model ATT12S-3) that was only $23 from  It was the best fit for the custom exhaust I was planning, not glass packed and made in the USA – perfect!

I installed a new exhaust gasket, bolt/spring kit and tailpipe piece along with parts of the existing tailpipe to make my new exhaust.  I welded it together with my 50amp 110v buzz box running 1/16″ 7014 rod, despite everyone telling me I couldn’t weld exhaust with a stick welder.  Maybe it’s easier for some with a MIG, but I don’t have one, so I use what I do have.

See the pictures below which chronicle the adventure.

Old Rusty Muffler

Here is the old muffler, removed and sitting in the bed of the truck, waiting to go to the metal bin at the dump. Notice the rusty “gills”.

Newly Welded Exhaust

Here is the newly welded exhaust, ready to be mounted to the truck.

New Exhaust on the Ranger

Here is the Ranger with it’s new side exit exhaust. The Jones Turbo Tube sounds great and was easy to work with. No complaints.

Electronic transfer case no more, convert it to manual

Last fall my electronic transfer case decided not to allow me into 4-Low.  Normally this isn’t an issue, but I was needing to pull some trees around after felling them and didn’t want to burn out my clutch.  I’ve always hated the electronically activated portion of my 4wd system, so I decided to get rid of it.  I installed The Shiftster.  A neat little device that takes the place of the electronic shift motor.  It is designed and built right here in the USA which is great and only cost me $60, a new shift motor was 2-3 times that.  I then disconnected the 4wd controller and made an access panel in my floor so I didn’t have to crawl under the truck during inclimate weather to put the truck into 4wd.

This is a picture of the Shiftster the day I installed it.  You can kind of see the make-shift access panel I had above it.

This is a picture of the Shiftster the day I installed it. You can kind of see the make-shift access panel I had above it.

My first attempt at an access panel was quick and dirty.  I cut the hole in my floor, then used that piece as the “door”.  I siliconed on some rubber fuel line around the hole to “seal” it while closed – it leaked horribly.  It stayed closed via 2 eyelets that 2 rods slid into and then a homemade latch using a hitchpin.  I had to physically remove the panel to gain access and put the truck into 4wd.  It took just under a minute to open the panel, take it in or out of 4wd and remount the panel.  Not bad, but pretty bothersome.

Now that better weather is here and I can weld outside again, I’ve fabricated a better solution.

This is a picture of the new access panel closed.

This is a picture of the new access panel closed.

Using 1/8″ thick 1×1 angle iron I made a “frame” for the door, this gave me a flat surface to work with. The hole measures 4″ x 4″. I used a scrap piece of Lexan (polycarbonate sheet) that I picked up from Portland Glass in Farmington for the new door. Then I used a hinge to attatch it, vinyl door seal to seal it and two harddrive magnets to pull the door down and give a positive seal. Works great and now I can check what mode the truck is in just by looking down (dash lights don’t work for 4wd since I disconnected the controller).

This is the new access open.

This is the new access panel opened up.

* Copied from

Ideal “Heat Plan” for our home

This came from my other blog,

I have come up with various schemes for heating our home efficiently, cheaply and safely. In the past they have all revolved around a hydronic system since we already have baseboard heat. However, we lose our service contract for our oil furnace if we tie in to the system with a solid fuel boiler. Plus hydronic systems need to stay above freezing at all times and since there is no chimney space for another appliance in the house, we would need it in an add-on or in an out building.

Here come’s the magic: wood burning forced hot air furnace. It gives you redundancy (run out of oil, still have wood heat/have a leak in the baseboard, still have forced hot air), it would allow the burning appliance to be in an unheated, unplumbed (ie-cheaper to build and easier to insure and get permits for) add-on to the house and it wouldn’t matter if you went on vacation for a week (the oil would keep the house warm like it does now, and the add-on and furnace would get cold but it wouldn’t matter).

So here is the plan:

* Home heat: Wood forced hot air/oil boiler with baseboard heat
* Hot water: Solar hot water/oil boiler (with indirect tank setup)
* Run the oil boiler with a outside temperature reset

Right now we are heating entirely on oil and burn 650 gallons/year for our 1,250 square ft home. With this new setup I would expect to burn less than 50 gallons/year. This would save us $1,500 per year. Even accounting for gas and wear and tear on the truck getting wood as well as chainsaw fuel and maintenance etc that would mean we’d still save a minimum of $1,000 per year and a maximum of $1,300 per year.

Let’s do some math:

Furnace – $3,100

* $1,100 – US Stove hot air furnace model 1357M
* $1,500 -add-on to house
* $500 – chimney and other hookups

40 gallon Tank water heat zone for oil – $1,500

Solar hot water system – $3,000

Total cost: $7,600

In 6-8 years time we would be saving money.

Immediately we would be saving the environment.

Over the lifespan of the systems (25 years or so) we would save between $17,000 – $25,000.

I would estimate that 80% of the savings here is through the wood furnace alone. That said, you could pay less than half of the initial burden and get most of the gains of this system.