WeMos D1 mini – getting going

Arduino, Technology No Comments »

I’m going to write this here for later versions of me to refer back to.

Using a WeMos mini D clone – how to get it working with micropython.

Flashing the thing is fairly straight forward using esptool – just remember that the tool is case sensitive – so – this means that you need to write COM4 rather than com4.

What else? THONNY is kinda useful as a simple ide.

My soldering is shitty.

Check the address of the i2c device. i2c.scan() returns a decimal – you need to convert it to hex. In my case I was getting errors like this:

Traceback (most recent call last):
File “”, line 2, in
File “BME280.py”, line 153, in init
File “BME280.py”, line 159, in _load_calibration
File “BME280.py”, line 119, in readU16LE
File “BME280.py”, line 102, in readU16
OSError: [Errno 19] ENODEV

Kinda strange – indicates no device being detected. At first I thought it wasn’t soldered correctly. Then maybe pins were wrong but no….

The default address in the BME280.py file was 0x76. I needed 0x77.So I changed it in the library then finally found out that it doesn’t update the lib on the device. I will remember for next time.

What is good though is that because I could get a stack trace for the error – I could go into the lib and call the I2C stuff at low level – that was how I found out about the device was actually working and wired correctly, it just needed the correct address.

So – part 1 of many just works. Happy:)

Orange liqueur

Drinks, Liqueur No Comments »

We’ve done the limoncello and that’s going nicely.

Vodka was on cheap at the store so we’ve stocked up on a few extra liters for just-in-case. I mean, it’s not as if it will go off. Right?

Oranges are starting to come down in price.

Alcohol and oranges? Hmmm – I wonder what could happen there?

So I went looking. Turns out there are a lot of different recipes for making “Orange liqueur” and some sounded better than others. On the basis that simplicity is often the best option – I decided to go with this one:

  • 1l Jong Jenever (Dutch young gin – any grain based alcohol will do I guess but not vodka) at least 35%.
  • 1 orange
  • 40 coffee beans
  • 40 raw sugar lumps
  • 1.5l preserving jar with WIDE mouth.
I forgot to include the sugar in the picture but it’s needed:)

And what do you do with all that lot?

Scrub the orange under warm water, this removes the wax ans also makes it a little more pliant. Get a sharp knife and make holes in and around the orange and press the coffee beans into each hole (so that’s 40 holes right, probably at this point you may need to think about the size of orange you are using). Hint: make sure you go INTO the orange so you can access the juice.

When you’ve done that, put the orange in a large jar, add the sugar lumps and then cover with the gin.

Shake it a little to dissolve the sugar and thats it.

Leave this for 40 days:)

Put it in a dark place and leave for 40 days. Why 40? Probably because of the 40 beans?

After the 40 days – it’s ready. Filter the liqueur into a nice bottle (maybe give the orange a squeeze or just eat it?) and serve.

Orange wine – pitched

Drinks, Wine No Comments »

5 days ago, I spent the night with a bunch of oranges and lemons. Zesting, peeling, pithing, crushing etc. Today, i spent some more time with them. this is what it looked line:

The must after 5 days. This also included pectinase which helped break down the cells walls and release more juice.

As a reminder – I’m making the wine from this recipe:

I heated them up to just below 100 deg C (don’t want any bugs in there that shouldn’t be. I strained them to get all the bits out. I fed them 4 kg of sugar solution (found out the 1 kg of sugar in 1l of water increases the volume by just over 0.5l) and nearly drowned them with another 5l of liquid.

Straining the original must. It needed a bit of help to make it through the straining bag. This may cause it to go cloudy later on although the pectinase added at the start “should” prevent this.

And then we get to the magic part.

Giving them yeast and letting those little animals eat them and the sugar, pooping out CO2 and alcohol.

This part of the process is called “pitching”, where you pitch in your yeast…

In this case I made a “yeast starter”. So – got a bit of juice from the bucket, added some yeast starter nutrient, a bit of sugar and left it to cool a little (to lukewarm) . Shook it. Then added the yeast. Leave it for a little while till it starts to bubble (around 3 to 6 hours) and then thrown that directly into the orange and sugar mix.

Yeast starter. Sterilized jar used.

Put the lid on tightly. Insert the airlock and leave it. I did take a sample and measured the SG – it was pretty high (possibly too high) – >1120! Assuming the yeast holds out – it’s going to be pretty potent stuff at the end of it.

Shortly after, the air lock starts to bubble and you know them yeasts are doing what they should be.

They will carry on for a week or maybe more. At that point I’ll rack it from the bucket into glass demijohns and leave it to finish. This is what sometimes is called “the secondary”. You get an initial or “first” fermentation – so sort of fast and furious. Then it dies down and proceeds really slowly. This is where it’s a good idea to rack it off the lees and just leave it to do what it does – finish turning all the sugar into alcohol and then clear.

How long will that take? I honestly have no idea. I’m guessing 2 weeks for first and then maybe 2 to 3 months for secondary. After secondary – I may bottle if it’s clear or rack again and leave to clear before bottling.

In any event – we are under way.

When life gives you lemons…

Drinks, Liqueur No Comments »

Make Limoncello (and Lemon Cordial)…

Limoncello is great. Point out. As an aperitif, as dessert, as an anytime drink. Ice cold in a small glass. Wonderful.

But, shop bought is expensive and also not always that palatable. What to do?

Easy – make it yourself.

Doing just that though leaves you with a problem…

Waste!

You need only the lemon zest and not the whole fruit. Dilemma.

Or not really…

Be smart – use the lemon juice for lemon cordial. It’s not the harsh, acid drink you imagine. It’s rather smooth, tasting of lemon and great as a basis for mocktails (I know, I know).

Anyways – below are two recipes that make what they say.

As a side note – get 12 lemons. Scrub them and then zest them. Keep two of the lemons zest separate (perhaps a little more). Also, when you have the boiling water to soften the lemons (cordial), juice them and throw the skins in the boiling water. This makes it extra lemony. This doesn’t make much sense now. It will do when you’ve read the recipes. Honest.

For Limoncello…

(read the whole page – contains very useful information about alcohol strength):

And for the cordial:

https://www.kilnerjar.co.uk/lemon-cordial

Have fun making.

Planning and record making

Drinks, Food, Outside stuff, Technology No Comments »

So – you have a few batches of wine (or indeed, whatever) on the go. You wrote everything down in your book and now you go to your notebook and find out that one of the kids has used it for school. Disaster has struck…

No notes.

It’s not exactly the end of the world but it’s inconvenient at best.

Here’s an online idea for you that may help save some frustration and a few batches of wine.

The internet has many useful tools and services that you can take advantage of for free. Of these – I would like to introduce you to:

OneNote is a Microsoft program and may not be free – sort of depends on your license. EverNote is free for all, although you may be limited in the amount of records you store (but for our purposes – it will do fine).

Trello uses a “board” to store a number of Lists. Each list is made up of cards. A card can have various information with it (due date, photos, text etc).

If we use one board called say “Wine” and then make a list per batch of wine. We call a list after a batch of wine e.g. “strawberry”. We create a card for “Starting” and in the card we put a due date of the day started. I also put in a link to the recipe and some other stuff in there.

Then, when you rack the wine, you create another card called “rack” with a due date the day you rack. Continue with adding a card for each time you do something. A nice way to keep records. But, wait, there is more…

The “Due Date” field can be used to plan. Create a card for say “Bottling” and put a due date in the future – and you get the basis of a planning system as well. Nice. When you’ve done the job on the card – mark it as done (and make sure the date is the date you did it) – so you can have a good indicator of where you are.

How does that look in practice? A bit like this:

wine planning on trello
A Trello Board.

And this is what a card looks like:

A Trello card

Give Trello a go – it’s kinda cool. You can also share your boards with other people. This lets people work together for say maybe if you have a shared room or such and need to see where certain things are. (I don’t want to use the term “project management” but you get the idea).

This is all well and good but it’s not a real notebook – more of a scheduling tool. This is where we bring IFTTT (If This Then That) into play.

We can make it so that when you enter a new card – it adds to your online notebook. By connecting Trello to IFTTT and then into OneNote or EverNote then you can take your note taking to a new level.

First, make sure you have a OneNote available online. EverNote is always available online so it may be a little easier to deal with.

Then go to IFTTT and create an account. There are some good resources there that explain the next step – linking IFTTT to Trello and also to your OneNote/EverNote. When those two services are added – you need a recipe like the following to do the lifting of creating notes from cards:

Example IFTTT recipe.

When this recipe is run it will add a new page to your notebook. For me – this is OneNote and looks something like this:

OneNote in action.

This is just the start of where this can go. Using services like IFTTT, we can link numerous things together to get some useful and handy solutions in place.

Orange Wine

Drinks, Wine No Comments »

We’ve done the Pear wine – now lets try something a little more Christmasy (maybe)?

Orange Wine.

Oranges and Lemons
Oranges and Lemons

From this link:
https://www.lowcostliving.co.uk/home-brewing/simple-orange-wine-recipe/

Look there for instructions – there is a bit of preamble before you get to the nuts and bolts about half way down. Anyways – here’s my version. They main difference for what I’ve done (so far) is I added a bit of Pectolaze. This is an enzyme that breaks down pectin.

Why do this?

It turns out the oranges contain some of the highest pectin concentrations in the fruit world. It’s concentrated in the peel and pith. You don’t want those in the wine anyways as they leave a bitter taste so you remove those where you can.

Why don’t we want pectin?

Pectin is really useful if you want to make jam. It helps the jam set. But, if you want to make wine, then it can leave a cloudy presence in the finished product that makes clearing harder. Also, pectin is contained in the cell walls of the fruit and we want the juice out. So we can use pectinaze (it’s an enzyme) to help break down those walls and get the juice out.

What was a problem for me was that I don’t have any fine measuring scales (I’ve fixed this problem and ordered a set). So – adding a fine powder at 3g to 10l is not the easiest thing to do when you can weigh blocks of 10g. Long story short…

I added half a teaspoon. See how it goes.

The process?

Zest the fruit (remember to scrub the fruit first with warm water to remove any wax coating). Peel and remove what pith is possible (taking the pith?). Then cut up and mash the fruit together with the zest in a fermenting bucket. Add 6l of boiling water and mix. Important to have it boiling as this will kill and bugs that may have wandered in.

zest and fruit
zest and fruit
6l water added
6l water added

Once the lot had cooled – I added the pectinaze and now have to leave it for 5 days.

Be back then.

Pear wine – for beginners…

Drinks, Wine No Comments »

So – you’ve got loads of pears or someone wants to dump a load on you (or other fruit for that matter)…

You can only make so much jam and cakes. Freezing, dehydration and canning isn’t an option. Ice cream is great but…

What to do? Maybe…

Make some wine.

But thats like complicated and needs loads of equipment and lots of other things and if you even look at it wrong – it will turn to vinegar and and and…

…loads of excuses follow. Well – just maybe bugger that and give it a go.

There are lots of great resources on the net for making wine and many wonderful sites exactly for the beginner. Here’s one I found which does a way better job than I can on making things easy and straight forwards:

https://www.selfsufficientish.com/main/2009/12/taking-the-fear-out-of-wine-making-part-one-by-mkg/

Anyways – here’s my take on pear wine (for those that can’t wait for the end – sorry – you just gonna have to – making wine requires patience and a willingness to take a little time).

What do you need to make 1 gallon of wine?

  • 2.25 kg or pears
  • 1 kg sugar
  • 1 tsp citric acid (from chemist)
  • yeast and a bit of yeast nutrient (probably need to get these from home brew supplier.

Equipment:

  • Large Pan
  • Large food grade bucket (get a fermenting bin)
  • Fermenting vessel (1 gallon demijohn)
  • airlock for fermenting vessel
  • Big spoon (plastic?)
  • Straining cloth (and holder/frame – maybe from jamming)
  • Optional – hydrometer (measures specific gravity – lets you know how much alcohol your wine will be)
  • sterilizing chemicals (again from home brew supplier)

No need for anything specialist and the few things that are – well – you can always buy a “begin wine making” kit from t’internet.

What do you do then?

Well – you need to extract the juice from the fruit. This can be done many different ways – but in our case – we start by getting the pears, chopping them and then squeezing. I did take out the seeds. I don’t know if you need to or not – but. No need to peel the fruit. As the pears are kinda soft when ripe – you can use your hand to squish them. If you don’t like that – then use a potato stamper – works just as well.

pears
pears
pears in pan
pears in pan

So – the pears are put in the pan and squished. I made the volume up to 9l with just tap water and then boiled the stuff whilst stirring. Here we are both sterilizing the “must” (the fruit we are going to ferment) and extracting the juice (and sugar). For pears – it’s a good idea to not boil hard or longer than 20 minutes. If you do – it won’t affect the taste but it may make the wine difficult to clear (in wine making there are a lot of words like “may” and “could” – it’s a natural process;).

Once you’ve got the stuff boiling and stirred and waited (in my case) 15 minutes simmering – then you need to strain the liquor over the sugar. I put the sugar in a fermenting bin (you can use a bucket but make sure it’s “food grade” – this is important as there are some chemicals in none-food grade that you really don’t want messing with your wine. I also have a strainer that is used for making jam. You could also use a simple sieve or cheese cloth etc – I just find this thing a lot easier to use.

straining pear liquor
straining pear liquor

This all looks pretty gross – but – it smells not too bad.

When all the juice is strained – use the big spoon to make sure all the sugar is dissolved in the liquid. This part is important – you need that sugar – it’s whats going to feed your yeast.Add the Citric acid and nutrient to the liquor and stir again. Add tap water to bring it up to the 9l mark. There is a reason for this (you don’t want to fill the fermenting vessels too much) but that is only apparent AFTER you’ve done this once and made a real mess;) Make sure it’s all dissolved and then leave to cool (with the cover on).

When cool (around 25 deg C) – take the SG of the fluid (if you have a hydrometer) and put the liquid into the demijohn.

SG 1105
SG 1105

Add the yeast (pitch) to the must and fix the airlock to the demijohn. Then leave for a few days until the vigorous initial fermentation has stopped. Once it’s stopped – then you can either fill up to the bottom of the neck with water OR make up a sugar solution of around 200g sugar to 1l water. Why the choice? You can have either a really dry wine or a less dry one.

ready to pitch
ready to pitch

And thats about it really…

There are a few things to remember – and that’s really about hygiene.

Use the sterilizer to make sure anything that comes into contact with the liquid AFTER it’s boiled is sterile. This doesn’t mean operating room sterile and don’t get absolutely paranoid with it – but – it’s important.

Yeast eats sugar. When it does this – it poops carbon dioxide and alcohol. Other bacteria also eat sugar and poop other things. It’s these other bacteria that can spoil your fermentation. Same as for making jam or pickles – things need to be clean. It’s difficult to boil out a demijohn which is why we use chemical cleaners. This is why it’s a good idea to start with a wine making kit. This will give you some exposure to the basics in a guided manner.

But – if you want to go on your own – by all means – do so. Just remember hygiene ūüėČ

So – thats about it – the yeast is pitched and is doing it’s best to eat all that sugar and poop magic.

New Tent!

Uncategorized No Comments »

There you are, browsing Amazon, looking at new kit that you won’t buy, you wonder how much postage is going to be, you click the buy button to go through the process to check just how much it WILL be and then…

Oooopsy

You hit the button that you think changes currency but is actually the Buy Now button.

And thats just exactly what sort of happened to me;) Well kinda.

I was wanting a new one person tent, and I had found a great deal and well…

ANYWAYS…

Here’s the tent and the offer:

Snugpak Ionosphere
A fantastic deal at that price.

What’s so great about it?

It’s small and light but pretty roomy inside and very well constructed. The material it’s made from is durable ripstop nylon. The poles are well formed strong aluminum and it even comes with it’s own repair kit! Simple and quick to put up. What’s not to like?


Not a lot really. Maybe that it pitches inner first (not always an advantage in Northern Europe) or the pegs (which are a little bit hazardous with sharp bits).


I’ve spent two nights in it so far, two very comfortable nights. 

The temperature was around 2 degrees above freezing and damp. First night was just the tent and a inflatable thermarest sleeping pad with a sleeping bag rated for -10 (apparently). It got a little chilly but not insufferable. Second night I used a good space/survival blanket and that made a big difference. 


What else about it?

It’s fun to get in and out of. But once you get used to it, it’s not too bad. What I would be tempted to do if using for extended trips is to take a small tarp and use that as well.

Would I recommend it?

Absolutely. It’s light, packs to more or less nothing and is very comfortable. 

Longer term? Well – time will tell. My feeling is that my oopsy purchase will be a bit of a winner.

Dutch Oven Soda Bread

BBQ, bushcraft, camping No Comments »

Sometimes…

…it’s time to shake it up a bit and try something new.

…you have an itch to scratch.

…you just want to do something different.

…you just wanna burn stuff.

 

That time was a few weeks ago. Having received a small open BBQ and bought a heavy cast iron dutch oven, I wanted to do something with them. Nothing too involved just yet. This was, after all, the first time I would use the dutch oven. But just something a bit different.

At Christmas, we have a tradition of making¬†an oat based soda bread and serving this with homemade potted pork and/or smoked salmon. The bread is very easy to make, incredibly tasty and requires no yeast or even kneading. As such, it’s great for¬†lazy people like me. Experience told me that this would be a great project just to get started with. Experience was right.

The Dutch Oven

Basically a Dutch Oven is a large heavy cast iron pan with a lid that can go directly on an open fire and is used to cook things. Things like stews, roasting meat or even bread. Made famous by the Settlers in the American West and now used not so much. Which is a shame.

They are seen as hard work, requiring seasoning and special care. A pain to clean and maintain. Well yes, and maybe no. Once you’ve used them a couple of times and understand that cleaning should be done after use, and not three days later, then life becomes much easier.

Cooking with them may require a bit of muscle but thats ok, the type of food you are going to cook will have plenty of calories in it and you needed that work out anyway.

Cooking with them outdoors, can be done on gas but that just isn’t fun.

Cooking with them outdoors is done on real fire, with real burning wood. Thats fun that is.

Cooking with them outdoors¬†requires a few extra skills and some planning for sure.¬†Skills that are easy to acquire and very valuable. Probably you already have them (and if not – then I’ll post something about those soon so you can learn ¬†too):

  • Fire Lighting
  • Fire Building

The Fire

There is a lot to write about fires and what type fire is best for which job. I’ll skip a lot of that here as most of the heat we need for soda bread comes from embers and not¬†open fire. In fact, at a pinch and not as much fun, you could bake soda bread using BBQ briquettes. But you really wouldn’t do that, would you? Missing out on all that smokyness. That would be a sin!

Briquettes on top of Dutch Oven

Briquettes under stand of Dutch Oven

The recipe

This is not my recipe. I got it from the following link:

Soda Bread Recipe

The link contains a lot of information about how & why it works without yeast and all that good stuff. Even if¬†you only make it in a regular oven – it’s still a good bread to make.

HINT – do not overwork the mixing. Read the recipe closely and understand what it does.

That all said – this is what it looks like before it goes on the fire:

Dough mixed an in the pot

The Bake

This is where it gets a bit tricky so take note…

Heat on top and (too much) below.

When I did it, I had way too much heat on the bottom of the oven. This made the bread burn on it’s underside. So what would I do different?

The BBQ I used was too small. This really limited the sort of fire I could build and amount of coals I could use. Limited is perhaps the wrong word, I had too many. Normally, there would be a fire to one side and coals would be taken from that and placed on and under the oven away from the main heat of the fire.

Because of the limited space – I had way too much heat in a small space. I know that now. As to how much heat to use initially, here is a little snapshot from a great little book I bought:

Fuel guide for Dutch Oven

Pencil figures are temperatures in degrees Celsius.

The Result

Well…

The results speak for themselves:

Fresh Soda Bread still in the oven.

Freshly cut Soda Bread

It tasted really good warm with butter. Even the burnt bits were not too bad:)

Summary

Cooking using a Dutch Oven is fun and flexible

Learn to control heat and be aware that more is not always better

Cleaning the Dutch Oven should be done as soon as is practical and don’t be afraid to re-season it.

 

BBQ lighting – a tip…

BBQ, Food No Comments »

A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away…

There was a poor defenseless little hibachi, desperate to be lit. He cried out for flame to ignite his charcoal. Flame was duly brought forward. Alas, the little heat the flame could bring was just not sufficient to support combustion of the little hibachi’s valiant charcoal.

Along came Darth Petrol bringing with him the lure of the dark side. Maximum heat, quick ignition, superb fire spreadability. The innocent little hibachi jumped at the thought of quick burn. To be lit and give forth searing heat was all it wanted…

Slosh went Darth Petrol, whoosh went the hibachi. Heat was brought forth in a marvelous energetic dance…

For in a few seconds, hibachi’s coals were hot. But too hot, the fire would not recede, the heat began to burn through poor little hibachi and then it was no more. Hibachi had melted. He was no more. The lure of the dark side had reduced him to slag. Never to be cooked on again.

Here endeth the lesson and beggineth the tip…

When lighting your BBQ, NEVER use petrol or other accelerants. They burn too quick, damage your grill and leave a nasty taste in your mouth – quite literally. Also, they are pretty dangerous. 

How to do it safely?

Get a BBQ lighting chimney, use organic, environmental friendly lighting blocks (marked as suitable for BBQ) or…

Get the heat gun you use for stripping paint, put it on it’s hot setting and leave it for a few minutes….

For a few briquettes – it looks like this and works a charm. Why only a few briquettes? I used them for starting a slow burn. If you have more to do then fire the heat from the bottom up.

Use your heat gun to light coals

Lay a snake of coals for a long slow burn

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