When my in-laws moved, they had some really nice shelving units in their garage. The garage of their new house had a bunch of even nicer built-ins, so Craig and I inherited the shelves. Due to the layout of the garage, we haven’t been able to use all of them in the garage. When we got rid of our gas grill and switched entirely to the Weber, I lost my little bit of counter space to set food on that was out of the reach of dogs. Without wanting to spend any real money on a proof of concept, I set up one of the garage shelves under the covered deck area and began using it. And it has been really great. A few weeks ago, I dragged everything off the deck to pressure wash and stain it (it’s been 3 years since it’s been done!), and finally felt comfortable enough with the cure level of the stain to start bringing things back onto the deck. It wasn’t until that point when I saw just how shabby the shelf had become. Despite being under cover, the melamine covered particle board had absorbed humidity and in addition to getting discolored in spots, had begun warping and overall just gotten icky. My first thought was to build a freestanding shelf out of that black plumbing pipe and fittings. But then I went to Lowes and just the pipe and fittings would have been over $100 for something sufficiently stable. And frankly, I didn’t hate the existing shelf $100+ worth. So I sat with it and mulled it over for a little while, and decided that since there is nothing wrong with the framing portion of the shelving unit, and it is actually very stable. So I decided to replace the warped shelf boards with lumber. From there it was just a matter of figuring out how to fill the 18″ depth of the shelf in the most efficient manner. Remember if you’re using dimensional lumber, you should subtract .5″ from each dimension of the lumber. So a 2×4 is actually 1.5×3.5. Don’t ask me why, that’s just how it works. Anyway, we determined that 5 2x4s would fill the space with half an inch of room to spare, which could easily be made up by spacing the lumber like deck boards.
So I went to Lowes. And I spent 15 minutes digging through their pile of 8′ 2x4s. Dimensional lumber isn’t designed to have a pretty appearance and smooth finish, so it takes digging to find a few boards that look nice. Take note that one side of most lumber will have printing on it. It also usually has large tooth marks on it from feeding through machinery. I wasn’t concerned with the printing and the crump on the back because it was going to make up the bottoms of my shelves, but it proved tricky to find 5 boards that weren’t super rough (If I had been willing to spend more than 5 minutes sanding things, this wouldn’t have been a problem, but I wasn’t) and full of divots and dings and whatnot. You have to remember that this needs to be easy to wipe off, as I’ll be setting food on it. Buying 8′ boards allowed me to just have them cut in half as my shelves are 4′ long. Once I found my lumber, I tracked down someone to cut it for me (seemed easier than cutting it myself). Total cost was about $15, but I also bought 2 throwaway paint brushes to apply the stain with, so I guess I’m looking at about $20 after tax for the cost of the shelf update.
When I got home, I unloaded the boards, laid them out in the gravel area near the deck and knocked down all the edges with a sanding block. If I came across any rough patches, I’d sand them a little there as well. All in all, I spent about 10 minutes sanding. Then I dug into the garage and found some spare brown stain and went at it. It was super hot, so by the time I had stained all 4′ sections (stain the bottom first!), I was able to flip them onto their sides and then eventually do the tops of all of them. I did the ends last. All-in-all, this probably took 30-45 minutes. I let it sit out to cure for about 24 hours in 80 degree weather, and came back the next evening to assemble.
Assembly consisted of placing the boards upside down on the shelf (printing side up!) and spacing them evenly (remember that I had to make up 1/2″ overall). For this, I was able to just use the screws that I was using to hold them together. I found some more scrap wood in the garage. Ideally, I’d have used 1×2, but I forgot to get any at the store and wanted to get it done, so I just used some leftover cedar decking from when we built the deck. I cut it into 16″ pieces, so that it would easily clear the supports on the sides of the shelves. I could have used some metal strapping, but a) I didn’t have any, and b) I wanted to tie the boards together with something stiff to help support the middle boards along the 4′ length, and tying them to the side boards with something rigid should help with that.
Then I just lined it up and used some old deck screws (that were short enough not to go through the boards and poke out the other side) to secure both of the ends before screwing the middle boards in. To pull some of the boards in, the screws ended up digging pretty deeply into the soft cedar, but the screws didn’t go through, so no biggie. Then the shelves just got flipped and set into their unit.
Nobody knows the odor.
But seriously. A couple weeks ago, I had just made a monster batch of chicken stock. We are talking 4 gallons of liquid gold. It was glorious. And rich, and gelatinous, and all of the things you want chicken stock to be. And after it had simmered all night, I got up to vacuum seal and freeze it. As the vacuum sealed baggies of stock set out on the counter to cool down to room temp, I decided to construct a flat spot in the chest freezer to set the baggies to chill and freeze. So I went into our laundry room and flung open the door to the freezer, only to be greeted with the unholy stench of rotting flesh. The freezer was not cold. Based on the state of things, it hadn’t been in quite some time. I checked the outlet to verify that it was working (it was), and the little light on the front was still blinking, but for some reason, the compressor must have bit the dust.
It was upsetting. Not only because the chest freezer was only like 4 years old, and we would have to buy another one (I like to horde food projects like gyoza, cakes, and bread, also, we have some meat to replace, and our current fridge is 14 years old, making it essentially a ticking time bomb), but also because we had a pretty soul crushing combination of meat in there. The ducks that I raised from ducklings and then slaughtered? One of them was in there. My favorite one. The portion of the steer that we bought and split with friends? The first deer that Craig shot? Portions of them were all in the chest freezer. So in addition to the putrid odor of weeks-old death, animals that I felt personally responsible for, and was doing my best to honor every time I cooked had gone to waste. And not even in the “oops, I made this dish and it was icky” sort of way. In the “we literally let this animal die and then just sit there and rot” kind of way. So in addition to feeling somehow responsible for the freezer dying (I was not at all responsible for that), feeling upset at realizing that the freezer had died 20 minutes before I needed to leave for work, and trying to process that I’d have to do something different with the huge volume of chicken stock I had just made, I also began a sort of mourning for those animals who had lost their lives so that we could eat them, and that apparently wasn’t going to be happening either.
And with that, the freezer was closed back up, and I figured out where the heck to jam all of the chicken stock I had just made before heading off to work, knowing full well what awaited me when I returned. While at work, I found out that the trash collection company that we are switching over to after the first of the year, and we’d have to hold onto the freezer til then. That meant that it needed to be cleaned out. It was not something that I was looking forward to. But when I got home, I rolled the trash can into the garage (near the laundry room door) got out a few trash bags, and went to town. I filled 3 kitchen-sized trash bags to the point that they were difficult to lift. And then I had to suck about 2 quarts of rotten blood liquid out of the bottom of the freezer with a turkey baster because the drain in the bottom clogged almost immediately. I dry heaved multiple times while trying to accomplish this task. After I got most of the liquid out, I soaked and wiped up everything I could with paper towels and sprayed the inside with bleach. Then I put the lid back on, and it is STILL in the laundry room, waiting to get picked up by the new garbage company.
And now that I am done being negative, let’s discuss what we lost, and what we didn’t.
I had been meaning to reorganize the freezer situation for a few weeks. The fridge-freezer was packed full, and I wanted to rotate things out to the chest freezer, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it. (Thank GOD!)
What we lost:
~10lbs of ground venison mixture
2lbs thinly sliced and ready to be marinated venison jerky cuts
~20lbs of beef soup/dog bones
9lbs of beef heart
3lbs of beef tongue
2lbs pork liver
2lbs beef liver
6lbs of gorgeous beef marrow bones
2 lbs beef shanks
1.6lbs t-bone steak
.75lb filet mignon
3-5lbs ground beef
2 duck breasts from my favorite duck
2 duck legs from my favorite duck
back, neck, wings, from my favorite duck (stock!)
2 dozen meyer lemon cupcakes
2 loaves homemade bread
2 gallon sized ziploc baggies full of falafel patties (probably 65-70 patties)
Other misc freezer items that I have blocked out
What we did not lose, because I am too lazy to organize my freezer space:
ALL of the really high quality deer parts. This includes:
2 gallons grassfed beef stock (this stuff is like gold)
2 duck breasts from the scrawnier duck
1 dozen chocolate stout cupcakes
I am pretty bummed. We have taken so many steps this last year to make better decisions about our food sources. We have switched over almost entirely to purchasing ethically raised and slaughtered animals, or doing the hard work ourselves in a responsible and respectful manner. We go to the effort of making even convenience/junk foods from scratch most of the time (falafel, cupcakes, etc) in bulk in order to know what is going into what we are eating, and all of our hard work, money, and emotional investment has been rewarded with such a devastating loss.
And to try to bring this back to something a little positive: Planning for the future! We will get a new chest freezer, probably the next size up. This will allow for us to get 1/4 cow ourselves, and still have enough room to store that and the next deer that Craig harvests. In order to prevent losing all of everything in the eventuality that this freezer dies, I am going to get a thermometer with a probe that sits in the freezer, that has an alarm that sounds when it hits a certain temperature. If I set it to something like 10 or 15 degrees Fahrenheit, that should give us enough time to either figure out what’s wrong with the freezer and fix it, or get things moved around, or buy a new freezer and transfer stuff over before it thaws. So now to keep my eye out for appliance sales!
A few weeks ago, I came across some block printed tea towels for sale online. They were $20 apiece. And I am crafty. So I thought to myself “Self, you could make these for way less than $20 apiece.” And when I was in high school, printmaking classes were my favorite elective, so I have some experience, but it’s been a while! So I went to Dick Blick (they didn’t sponsor me, but I wish they would….ahem!) and ordered all of the stuff I thought I’d need, and then eagerly awaited the arrival of my package. When it came, I jumped in with both feet. I drew out designs and carved several blocks. When I had time, I went to the Costco business center and picked up a few dozen flour sack tea towels, and then did nothing for a little while. I’ll write a real post with better photos about the start-to-finish process at a later date, but I mostly just wanted to show you how the towels turned out!
As a way to dust off my skills, I started off small with some gift tags and a 5 golden rings design that I’m using for labeling Christmas gifts.
Rolling and mixing the ink. I went with a yellow-green-red combo for the artichokes.
Depending on how much ink is on the glass, how sticky it is, and how hard I press with the roller while I’m inking the block, I have some control over the darkness of the print and whether ink goes into the lines between flat areas.
This was a canvas bag that I did. It is much more 3 dimensional than the tea towels, and it was the tail end of my green ink, so it ended up printing much lighter than I had desired. The bags will take some additional practice.
I’m really happy with how the broccoli turned out. I wasn’t expecting much from it when I carved, but I think it’s pretty neat.
This octopus proved to be a bit challenging. I had to have a very light hand with the tentacles, as the “back sides” with the suckers had a tendency to get blacked out with too much ink.
My stand mixer print actually looks better than the photo (it was a weird perspective), but the block does need to get fine tuned a bit. The ink was just too thick and ended up filling in all of the voids. I am pleased with myself that I was able to get the color almost exactly what I wanted. The mixer print that I ended up getting on a canvas bag actually turned out beautifully.
This one’s my favorite. I love the happy llama. 🙂
Sock cat is more of a personal joke that I have with Craig, and I thought it would be a funny block. It is. I mean, it’s pretty creepy, but also pretty funny.
The beets were toughies. They were the only thing that I printed with 2 different blocks. I did an awful job of lining them up properly, but I think if I come up with some sort of index mark, I’ll be able to figure it out. Also, I lost a lot of detail in the leaves, so that is going to take some fussing with in the future.
Here’s the brisling (sardine) print that I did. Above you can see it on the tea towels, and below it is printed on the back of a piece of scrap paper. There is a huge difference in the clarity of the lines between fabric and paper. This was one of the few prints that I tried to work with a gradient. I wanted the belly of the sardine to be lighter than the top. It kind of worked, but wasn’t as dramatic as I’d have liked.
Here some of the prints are drying. Once they dried overnight, they were still a little tacky (the ink is oil-based, which makes it capable of handling a wash cycle, but it takes a long time to dry). Based on the Speedball Ink’s recommendation, it doesn’t need to be heat set, but many fabric inks do, so I figured it couldn’t hurt. The next morning, I hit each piece with an iron, and it did seem to help set them a bit. I’m excited to give these to my friends and family as Christmas presents!
Probably not funny if you’re not an art geek, but I know that my community college Art History professor would love this, and yes… it is my favorite thing on the internet ever.
It’s kind of nice to occasionally go through what we’ve been up to for the last year. It helps give perspective.