i woke up at 7am to get ready for a day of shoveling but when i looked outside my living room window i was pleasantly surprised that there was no snow. only now, at the tail end of the fourth'easter, did it look like we were getting some precipitation, but it was too little too late. we'd survived this latest snowstorm and seemed to have escaped relatively unscathed. i waited an hour before i texted my sister to let her know there was no snow and we'd wait until later in the morning to decide what to do. my sister said she was going back to sleep. it would be warm enough throughout the rest of the day that we really didn't have to do anything: the inch of snow on the ground would all melt by afternoon. but my sister got in touch with me at 9am and i told her to come and pick me up at 10am, we'd clear what little snow there was, and then drive me to belmont.
by 10am the snow seemed to be transitioning to rain, further hindering any chance of the snow to stick around. i shoveled the sidewalk in front of my house before my sister arrived. i was surprised that my 2nd aunt didn't come to work, even though when my sister asked her yesterday she said she would. clearing the sidewalk amounted to pushing a bit of wet slush around. my sister sprinkled some salt to prevent any refreezing. we were done by half an hour, which included clearing the thin layer of snow from the parking lot. at my sister's place i installed a spare HDTV antenna i had lying around, a small tabletop model. i didn't think it'd do much, but the TV in the living room is in a good location with a good view of the sky and it managed to get good reception on many channels. i asked my sister about the motion sensor LED light she ordered for me a few weeks ago but i never received. she said it was somewhere in her horde house, but when i pressed her on it, she seemed to recall accidentally throwing out a box which had the light inside of it. i was angry but it wasn't the end of the world: i could always order the light bulb again, except it'd cost me twice as much now since it was no longer on sale.
we left for belmont around 11am, my aunt still a no show. my sister called her on the pretense of checking on her welfare, but actually just to see if she was going to open the cafe today. we thought maybe she was already on her way, but she was actually still at home, in no hurry to come in. she said the snow looked really bad from her place, which was bullshit because she lives in cambridge too and we hardly got any snow and all of that was fast melting anyway. she said she was thinking about coming in around noontime, my sister was trying to scold her but i was shaking my head, signaling her not to bother.
when we got to belmont, the sidewalk and driveway was already snow free from the melting. the only thing i had to do was to clear the snow from the solar panels, and most of that had melted as well, just bands of slushy snow on the bottom of each panels, including the ones on the sunroom. my sister had a doctor's appointment and i waited for her to leave before i climbed the ladder to clean, didn't want her coaching me again, better to work solo. there was no need to climb the roof, i could clear everything just from the ladder. for the most part clearing was pretty effortless, except some of the slush on the sunroom panels had a tendency to clump together, and i had to take a bit more time to clear them. i noticed there were animal droppings on the roof. that made me worry that maybe critters were hiding underneath the panels, but when i checked i didn't see anything. too big to be squirrel droppings, could they be raccoons? later i determined it was probably birds, because i also saw the same droppings in front of the house and on the car. and i didn't see any paw prints on the roof snow.
it took me just half an hour to clear the snow from the solar panels. afterwards i went to check on some perennial flowers. rabbits seem to be eating the crocuses, nipping the leaves and flowers. they seem to be leaving the other perennials alone thankfully: lupines, columbines, foxgloves. foxgloves are poisonous anyway, i wouldn't mind if they eat some of those, have fewer wild rabbits in the backyard.
the electronic mousetrap finally caught a mouse. i didn't think so at first because the green light wasn't flashing. but my sister asked if i'd purposely placed the trap crooked, and when i picked it up to examine it, i saw there was something inside, and finally noticed the green flashing led (long delay). i detached the trap from the battery half and opened it up. i was kind of afraid of what i'd find inside, because apparently this mouse had been dead for a while, since my sister noticed the crooked trap since monday. i was afraid it'd be all decomposed by now but it seemed fine, peacefully electrocuted. much smaller than the mouse we electrocuted last year. i did notice the back half of its body was sort of flat, but didn't think it was that unusual at first. later after looking at the photo i noticed a lot of scratch marks on the inside cover of the trap. i think after this mouse died, maybe another tried to get into the trap to get to the peanut butter bait, but wasn't able to because the passage way was blocked. anyway, i dug a small hole in the backyard and buried the mouse.
i chatted with my parents earlier, back at their airbnb place. it wasn't as nice as the airbnb they stayed in last time, no complimentary towels, and the landlord typically lives in the apartment but leaves when he rents it out, so some of his stuff is still around. good thing is it doesn't have any bad smells and has a nice view.
my sister came home around 12:30pm, bringing home some food. she buys the worst food, i would've preferred some burger and fries, so brought back a prosciutto cheese pesto sandwich that was mostly hard bread that scratched the roof of my mouth. i only ate half. she also gave me a musakhan, which i decided to save for dinner.
i got a ride back to cambridge. the sidewalks were all cleared, i probably didn't even need to shovel. it was still raining, melting some of the remaining snow from the last storm. i finished the rest of that hard bread sandwich. i walked to rite aid to get some snacks (diamond almonds, mentos, necco wafers). for dinner i heated up the musakhan. i've never had it before, i don't like it that much, too much sourness, not enough of the spicy.
belmont light's smarthub app and energy usage stats website are a piece of crap. as much as i appreciate the fact that i can get a lot of this energy data from our smart meter, i hate the fact that it's organized in such a crappy way. the android and iOS versions of the app look like they were designed by different companies. the android version is barely usable, can't display generation graphs for some reason. also recently it's been truncating the data from the last 2 hours of the day, so the usage numbers are all wrong. the iOS version is more accurate, will display the generation data, but seems to chop it off. the browser version gives more data, but slow and hard to use.
we produced 12.22kWh of energy today, slightly more than yesterday. going into the weekend, the weather will be a mix of sun and clouds, with the possibility of a dusting of snow saturday overnight. next week looks to be a few days of sunny weather.
at least i'm thankful this latest nor'easter is happening in the evening and overnight hours. that means i don't have to sleep over at my sister's place. the plan now is to wake up early tomorrow morning (7am), shovel the snow at my place, walk down to the cafe, shovel there, then get a ride to belmont, for one last round of shoveling, then clean the solar panels, before returning home. i don't foresee too much work, i imagine we'll get the same amount of snow as the second nor'easter
(the lil'easter), and that was relatively easy to clean
as it was already overcast this morning, i wasn't expecting much solar production. the power level barely crept above 1.5kW. we did manage to reach 10kWh by evening (10.36 kWh to be exact), which is good considering if the snowstorm arrived earlier during the daytime hours, we would've gotten zero production again, like during the third'easter.
i had a grilled ham & cheese sandwich for lunch and the same for dinner. i had to finish my sliced deli ham before it spoiled. throughout the day i snacked on some strawberries, drank black tea and chocolate milk, and had a half-sour pickle.
as the evening arrived and the night got later and later, the big question was: where's the snow? apparently the fourth'easter never made it this far north, instead circling to our south and impacting new york city more than us. even earlier in the evening, the snowfall level was being downgraded, maybe 2 inches in boston at most. but by the later news forecast, the meteorologists were saying we might not be getting any snow, with the dry and warm conditions preventing any snow from forming. this is great news, but i still plan on waking up early tomorrow.
i biked down to the cafe in the late morning to 1) deliver some kimchi, 2) defrost the freezer, 3) bring in the trash cans, and 4) let hailey out to use the bathroom. i made the kimchi saturday night. i usually like to wait 3 days before i put the kimchi away in the fridge to stop the fermentation, and though today tuesday was technically the third day, it hadn't been 72 hours yet. when i tried a piece it still tasted a little raw and could use some more fermentation. nevertheless, this was the best time for me to delivery them, as i put 3 jars in a cardboard box stuffed with packaging paper and strapped to the back of my bike. my 2nd aunt agreed that it could use more sourness and left the jars outside to ferment some more. saturday was also the last time i was here to defrost the freezer. after just 3 days, there wasn't a lot of frost on the fins and i managed to melt everything in a few minutes. finally i went to my sister's place to bring in the trash cans and let hailey outside. i noticed my sister had already placed a rug in the living room.
i'd set up my grow closet 10 days ago (bought dirt and a new light) so it's long overdue that i finally plant my seeds. the trick is to time the planting just right so as soon as the garden is warm enough to transplant, my seedlings are ready to go. the usual method is to find out when the last frost date and work backwards the number of weeks. average last frost in boston is may 1st-10th, so planting my seeds now gives me a good 6-7 weeks of starting time. it's also fitting that today is the first official day of spring.
i was going to plant the seeds yesterday, but was still waiting for a few items i ordered online from park seeds to arrive. as if on cue, they showed up in the mail yesterday, so now i had no more excuses.
gather the trays. i use plastic cafeteria trays my parents had left over from the cafe. pretty much anything is okay as long as it's waterproof and has a slight raised edge to it.
fill the trays with gravel. this was something i came up with a while back. by adding water to the trays, it creates a more humid environment for the seedlings so the soil don't dry out (especially in my house with the forced air heating). the gravel also creates a bit of drainage so when i water the cups the excess water can leak from the drainage holes and have somewhere to go instead of just pooling underneath the cups. i got a 50lbs. bag of generic gravel ($2.50)
- the cheapest kind i could find - and i reuse them year after year. ideally i'd want small gravel to give the cups an even surface to rest on, but not so small that they become compact like sand, since i still want a bit of drainage. i just put down enough gravel on the tray to create a layer, you don't need too much.
create planting cups. i just happened to find a lot of old planting cups i could reuse, about 40 of them. but that wasn't enough so i needed to create more. they're basically just 16 oz. plastic cups with drainage holes drilled at the bottom. in the early days i used a drill to make the holes, which was a real mess (lots of plastic shavings) and not all that easy (you'd be amazed how difficult it is to drill through a stack of plastic cups). but then i realized i could make the holes by using a stovetop-heated awl (i have gas heat) and then just sort of melt through the plastic bottoms to create the holes. it's also not that easy and probably more dangerous as there are open flames, burning hot spike, and the occasional whiff of melted plastic (which i'm assuming is toxic). there's also a limit as to the number of cups the hot awl can go through, usually about 6-8 before it becomes too difficult. if i'm lazy i only make 3 drainage holes, but if i'm inspired i make 5 holes.
lay out the empty planting cups and figure out how many containers of each plants. i went with a 4x3 configuration this year instead of the more compact 4x4 arrangement. it means i lose 4 cups per tray, but the advantage is i can group the cups more in a central location so they all get an equal share of the lights. the problem with the dense 4x4 grouping is that the containers along the outside edges don't get enough light and the seedlings grow crooked as they slant inwards towards the light source. so in the end i'm planting:
|hungarian wax heirloom||burpee||6|
|tomato 'summer choice hybrid'||burpee||6|
|tomato 'super sweet 100 hybrid'||burpee||6|
|tomato heirloom 'rutgers'||burpee||6|
|eggplant 'zhikou hybrid'||park||12|
|basil 'siam queen'||burpee||6|
|shasta daisy 'white knight'||burpee||6|
|chrysanthemum 'robinson red'||burpee||12|
not a lot of hot peppers this year, a conservative amount of 6 habaneros and 6 hungarian wax. peppers are slow to produce and we're lucky to get a few by summer's end. a good collection of tomatoes, 18 total, i usually like to grow 3 different varieties: cherry, medium, and large. tomatoes are good producers and make economical sense to grow them, although in recent years late season blight kills them off by late summer. i'm growing a dozen japanese eggplants. these were the special seeds i ordered online, after not finding them locally. japanese eggplants have deep purple stems. i've had a lot of luck with them recently, and they're good producers too, about an eggplant per week per week on the hottest days of summer.
i had some leftover flower seeds from last year, malva zebrinas and shasta daisies. i think i will have some self-sown malvas in the garden, but i'm growing 6 more as insurance, or maybe to plant in the front yard of my house. i'm still not sure if they're perennials, i get the feeling they're productive annuals that self-sow readily. i planted a dozen red chrysanthemums, though they look like red daisies. these are supposedly perennials as well, they might look nice growing in the front yard too. since paul and steve won't be here all summer, i'll have the backyard/frontyard all to myself.
filling the cups with dirt. i'm using miracle-gro potting soil this year ($8.99 cubic foot). last year i tried the vigoro brand potting soil
and it wasn't very good, a lot of non-soil debris, like chunks of cement and even a piece of wire
. at a cubic foot a bag, that comes out to 958 fluid ounces, and with each cup being 16 fl.oz. that means i can fill about 60 cups with one bag of potting soil. but i ended up filling 72 cups with a bit soil left over, because i don't fill the cups completely to the top. at this stage you need to be careful because a cup of soil can easily be knocked over creating a mess. that didn't happen this time but i've done it in the past. for extra tiny delicate seeds, i can't use potting soil and have to using a finer growing mixture. these plants (usually perennial flowers) will be grown in plastic inserts once i get my hands on a suitable growing medium.
soaking the cups. i was actually debating this because the potting soil looked pretty moist as it was. but i've always soaked the soil before planting, so i wasn't going to mess around with a well established system. this is how i could tell that the miracle-gro potting soil ('premium') was the better soil: there was no shrinkage when i soaked the dirt from underneath (dipping them into a bucket of water), the soil didn't float like in past cases, it soaked pretty quickly (a matter of seconds), and afterwards the water drainage out just as quickly, with very little leeching (i.e. the water came out clear, not muddy, which means the dirt was draining away). when the cups are soaked with water they're heavy and less chance of tipping, but you still need to be careful, as wet soil can be even more of a mess. because i don't let the water draw up to the surface, the top of the soil is drier. i fix that problem by spraying the surface with a water bottle.
planting the seeds. this was the more entertaining step, as i made little holes in the dirt, dropped in a few seeds, and covered them up. some of the tinier seeds don't even need to be buried, just pressed firmly into the wet soil. afterwards i watered the surface again with the spray bottle. the water spray also has an additional function because it helps the plastic wrap to stick better.
cover the cups with plastic wrap. i don't know if this is a necessity, but i've always done it, helps the soil to retain moisture so they don't dry out before the seeds germinate. at this stage the gravel is dry, so the water in the soil is the only water available to the seeds until they emerge (in which time i'll begin watering the cups regularly and filling the gravel tray with water as well).
put trays in grow closet. ideally they should be placed in a warm area to help with the germination. in the past i'd put them in the guest bedroom, the warmest place in the house. but i have so many cups each year, there's just not enough room. and sometimes i have roommates, so the guest bedroom is not always available. but i found that putting them in the grow closet works just as well. maybe it takes them a few extra days to germinate, but i've had no problems, despite the temperature in my house fluctuating between 59°F and 65°F.
i'd heard that clouds would begin to roll in this afternoon in preparation for the fourth'easter arriving later tomorrow. i wasn't expecting much production but was pleasantly surprised to see by day's end we made 37.08 kWh. still 8kWh shy of our current peak, but still good production number, 3rd highest this month, 4th highest all time. this will hopefully make up for the lost production come tomorrow and perhaps the day after, though i heard the storm wouldn't really pick up until evening, so maybe there's still enough daylight to eke out some energy.
for dinner i had two slices of the beef pie i made last night. they're so dense that after heating them up in the toaster oven for 20 minutes, they were still lukewarm at best. i was so hungry by that point i didn't care and ate the two slices while watching episodes of altered carbon. at 10pm i watched the 2nd episode of for the people.
my parents sent me photos of them arriving in beijing from shenyang (afternoon our time, late night china time), then waiting at the airport for their 8:10am (8:10pm US time) flight to taipei. both of them had digestive issues while in china, hopefully it clears up once in taiwan. my aunt lili and matthew are coming back to boston tonight; i don't know if their flight will get delayed or cancelled due to the storm. i heard they were flying into new york city, which is ground zero for the worst of the four'easter's impact.
gearbest is having an anniversary sale and i managed to snag another xiaomi mi band 2 for my 2nd aunt for just $20. my mother really loves hers (especially the sleep tracking, she's obsessed over her low deep sleep rating) and my aunt seems to want to get into the fitness tracking craze as well. she even bought a pedometer a while back to keep track of her steps, but it wasn't one that could sync up with internet devices. the only bad thing is gearbest ships from china, and if the last time is indicative of the shipping speed, i probably won't receive it until a month later.
i also got a pair of loneyshow-brand wifi smart plugs for $16.99 from amazon.com. fakespot says the 39 reviews are all counterfeit (a rating of F) but i checked camelcamelcamel and this used to sell for $35.99 a pair, not sure why now it's so heavily discounted. there are other generic-brand chinese smart plugs out there, but this is one of the few that does energy monitoring. it also uses the same app as the yidian smart plugs. it doesn't look as fancy as the yidian, but it has a small-format shape. i figured the worst that could happen is they don't work and i'll simply return them to amazon.com. i really need just one, for the living room lamp currently on a timer, i'd like to turn it off remotely when nobody is home.
i finally got around to updating my tp-link router's firmware to DD-WRT. it wasn't hard, the worst of it was updating all the port forwarding rules and fixed IP addresses i have going on with my various internet devices.
* paid my annual community garden fee * finished my taxes (including my grand uncle's) and went to the post office to mail them * went to the korean grocery store in union square to look for large sized jars for making kimchi (a single low-height 1/2 gallon jar for $5, easier just to buy a large jar of kimchi and reuse the jar), left with some nori crackers * got some groceries at market basket * went to star market to get some pie crusts ($1 more) * paid some credit card bills for my parents * prepared planting cups * today's production a mirror of yesterday's, but slightly more so yet another new record
|SAVORY PIE|| |
1 tsbp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
garlic cloves, chopped
2 lbs. ground beef
3 tbsp flour
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 cup red wine
1 can beef stock
3 potatoes, peeled, cubed
1 cup carrots, peeled, chopped
6 oz. can tomato paste
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 ready made pie crust
i was in the mood to make something hearty for dinner. there was a sale on ground beef at market basket, and originally i thought i'd just make a simple spaghetti sauce. then i went online and did a reverse recipe search by ingredients and found some savory meat pies. the recipe i followed was for a beef and potato pie. the recipe is a little suspect, with only 3 people having ever made it before, and the instructions rife with errors, like preheating the oven before simmering the pie filling for nearly an hour, or the amount of time to add and cook certain ingredients. having said that, the final result wasn't bad at all. the only ingredients i needed was the ground beef, the pie crusts, tomato paste, and beef stock; everything else i had, including the carrots and the potatoes.
after cooking the onions and garlic in oil and butter, i added the ground beef. the original recipe called for cubed sirloin chunks, but ground beef can also be substituted. i thought the amount of beef (2 lbs.) combined with the eventual chopped potatoes and carrots seemed a lot, and a check of the recipe calls for baking in a lasagna dish, not a pie dish, even though the photo shows the pie in a round dish. i figured i'd stuffed as much as i could into the pie and save the rest for either another pie or something else.
next i added the flour, pepper, and salt. i increased the spice portions (1 tsp ground black pepper, 1 tsp salt) because the cooked ground beef with onions and garlic tasted bland on their own. i then added a cup of red wine (merlot). that's when i began to have second thoughts about the recipe. the wine turned everything purple, and it just looked off.
after a few minutes of simmering, i added the rest of the ingredients: a can of beef stock, cubed potatoes, chopped carrots, tomato paste, and worcestershire sauce. the paste thickened everything, the beef stock turned the purple into a more pleasant brown. the red wine really adds an extra dimension that you wouldn't otherwise have without it. it smells delicious, i left everything to simmer for 30 minutes.
after 30 minutes i began scooping the filling into the pie crust. the filling was a little soupy and i was afraid it'd melt the raw crust, but nothing i could do at that point. i then put the second crust on top and sealed the edges, cutting a few slices into the crust before putting it into the oven for 45 minutes at 400°F.
the beef pie was finished by 9pm. as always the case, it was a little runny, so the first slice was easily gooey and hard to remove from the pie dish. i ate while watching an episode of altered carbon. just a single slice was very filling, but i still had room left in my stomach and went for a second slice. later i watched the good doctor.
looks like the fourth'easter will not miss us after all. there was hope over the weekend that the storm would blow off to sea, but every day since it crept a little closer inland, and now it looks like we're going to get a good amount (5-8") though nowhere as much as the third'easter. i'm hoping in the meantime the track can still change and maybe we'll get less than predicted. meteorologists always like to err on the side of caution, better to forecast more snow and get less, than forecast less and get more.
i was able to video chat with my parents, still in shenyang. a few days ago i found out my father had diarrhea, and now it was my mother's turn, along with puking. they didn't want to say over the phone was caused it but i can guess. tomorrow they take a 5pm sleeper train from shenyang to beijing, arriving at 1am. from there they will go to the airport and wait for their 8:10am flight to taipei.
the kitchen smells like cabbage, a side effect of kimchi fermentation. i personally don't mind, but when i've had roommates here, i usually warm them, or i don't even bother making kimchi until they leave, as a courtesy.
a cold day with a crystal blue clear sky, the optimal weather for peak solar production. the question wasn't if we'd break the all time record today - that was guaranteed - but of how much we'd actually produce. 45kWh? 50kWh? who knows, we were heading into uncharted territory. i kept my eye on the graph all day long, plotting it against past peak productions. it was actually sort of boring, as most of the day was just a solid block of production; only the beginning and ending was interesting.
|BLUEBERRY MUFFINS||(6 jumbo servings)|
1 stick salted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups blueberries
|bake 425°F 10 minutes, 375°F 30 minutes + 10 minutes|
in the afternoon i made some blueberry muffins. nothing exciting, just using some ingredients i had lying around the house. this was a whole milk muffin, using 1 cup of old fresh blueberries and 1 cup of frozen wild blueberries, with a stick of butter and eggs left out overnight to warm to room temperature. i tried to cream the sugar and butter the best i could, but i don't think i've ever mixed it enough that i've reached the cream stage. the only ingredient i forgot was to add a dash of lemon juice.
i baked the muffins at 425°F for 10 minutes, then 375°F for 30 minutes, adding another 10 minutes to darken the crust a bit. i think next think i will resist the temptation to bake the muffins an extra 10 minutes to see if they come out more moist, even if it means a slightly pale crust. it was one of those rare times when i ate a freshly baked muffin right away instead of waiting. right away i noticed a strong floury taste. was it because i used old flour? or too much baking powder? or because i didn't add a sour note with the missing lemon juice? after that initial hint the floury flavor disappeared and what i had left was a perfectly serviceable blueberry muffin. the fresh blueberries are great in that they simply melt from the heat, like chocolate chips. the smaller frozen wild blueberries are more robust, but even they seem to meld into the muffin. what i like the most is the crust on the sides though. if i could i'd make a cake that was mostly side crust.
i made a grilled cheese & ham sandwich afterwards for a late lunch.
once evening came, it was time to tally up the solar production score: today we made 44.69kWh, about 9kWh more than yesterday, which was the all-time production record for only a day before today's new record. the ending is still a bit of a mystery, around 5pm there seems to be a mini plateau of about half an hour before decreasing production again. i'm not sure what that is.
dinner came in the form of another grilled ham & cheese sandwich, a tall glass of chocolate milk, and some leftover fruit salad. i have a hankering for another food project and i really want to try making traditional kimchi. i want to get some ingredients from chinatown but tomorrow might be too cold to bike into boston.
i could've slept late but woke up at 8am. i think my body hasn't yet adjusted to daylight saving time. i wasn't entirely free of obligations, i still had to go down to the cafe and defrost the freezer then dogsit hailey in belmont for the day. when i contacted my sister, she said that wasn't until next weekend. by that point i was already dressed and ate a grilled ham & cheese sandwich for breakfast. it's been 5 days since i've been on the bike and my legs felt tired as i pedaled down to the cafe. weather didn't help either: temperature was in the lower 30's but with a strong breeze that made the wind chill feel like the 20's. it took a long time to defrost, and there were still a few ice patches that i couldn't melt no matter how long i blasted it with a blowdryer. i also emptied a full pan of drip water, managing to pour most of it on myself while i tried to maneuver it out of the freezer, narrowly getting electrocuted from all the extension cords on the floor. i returned home afterwards.
back at home i got started on my korean kimchi, since it takes a few hours for the vegetables to reduce. i briefly went to star market to get some garlic and a fruit tray i'd eyed hungrily the last time i was there.
|kimchi march 2018||(4.5x 1 qt. pickle jars)|
6.83 lbs. napa cabbage
2.16 lbs. daikon radish
5 tbsp fine salt
2 tbsp salted shrimp paste
12 tbsp red pepper powder
0.30 lbs. ginger, processed
2 heads of garlic, processed
1 asian pear, processed
15 thai hot peppers, chopped
2 bunches scallions, chopped
back in january 2017 i made what i thought was my most perfect kimchi recipe. a few months later i figured out the key portions per pound of vegetables: 0.54 tbsp of salt and 1.30 tbsp of hot pepper powder. i know how to make a bunch of fermented foods (sichuan paocai, sauerkraut, curtido, kimchi, kombucha) so sometimes i get them confused. like how i bought carrots when i don't need them for my korean kimchi recipe (i do use them for sichuan paocai).
korean kimchi is a little difficult to make compared to some of my other fermented foods because it needs ingredients that might be hard to come by in a typical supermarket. the main ingredient is napa cabbage, it won't work with anything else. i've seen napa sold at market basket on occasions, but always small and pricey compared to the ones you'd find in a chinatown supermarket. the other key ingredient is the red pepper powder. it's not the sort you'd find in a spice rack, because you need to get it in bulk since you'll need a lot of it. that's the sort of thing you would only find in an asian grocery store, although i've seen it in the international food section of some more larger well-stocked supermarkets. i also like to add daikon radish, and although you could substitute, a typical normal radish is simply too small. i've also been processing one asian pear into my kimchi, but there's no reason you can't use a crispy peeled apple instead, since you can't really taste it but the sweetness adds another layer of complexity. finally, good kimchi needs a little fishiness, which supposedly also speeds up the fermentation. i add that by using the shrimp paste, which is definitely an ingredient you will only find in an asian supermarket. but you could always substitute, like adding some raw oysters, anything to impart a slight fish taste.
ingredient-wise i was following the same as last time, except i didn't have garlic chives so i used scallions, and didn't have an asian pear so i used an apple. however, when i was down at the cafe earlier, my 2nd aunt just happened to have an old asian pear she didn't want anymore.
i cut the napa cabbages into squares (removing the core) and cubed the peeled daikon radish. the napa cabbage were the right size (not too large) which made cutting easier. i had about 9 lbs. total worth of vegetables, about the same amount as the last few times i made kimchi, so i used the same portion of salt to reduce, 5 tbsp. if i really wanted to be accurate, the exact portion is (6.83 lbs. napa + 2.16 lbs. daikon) * 0.54 tbsp of salt = 4.85 tbsp total. so roughly 5 tbsp. wearing a glove (i learned my lesson when i made sauerkraut yesterday) i mixed the vegetables and salt and left it to reduce in the 20 qt. stock pot for the next 6 hours.
even with the clouds we still managed to set a new production record for the month of march: 35.54 kWh. tomorrow (and the day after) is supposed to be a cold and cloud-free day, i expected us to reach an overall production record, 40kWh+. one thing i noticed when i stack all the production data for the past week is production can potentially be plateaued from 10am to all the way to 3:15pm. that's 5 hours of peak production, which in itself would produce about 31.5 kWh of electricity. adding the head and tail, i'm hoping to be impressed by tomorrow's numbers.
i returned to my kimchi by 8pm. throughout the day i stirred the vegetables to help with the reduction. first thing i did was to remove the cabbage juice. i managed to get about a quart of liquids. then i prepared the ingredients for the food processor: asian pear (removing the bitter core), ginger (peeled slight though not necessary), and garlic. i processed them in halves since my processor isn't very big. next i chopped the scallions and frozen thai chili peppers. into the stock pot went all the ingredients, along with 2 tbsp of shrimp paste and 12 tbsp of red pepper powder.
wearing gloves again, mixed all the ingredients, then stuffed them into pickle jars. i managed to stuff 4-1/2 jars of korean kimchi. i put them on lasagna trays with the jars slightly opened. they will ferment in my kitchen for the next 3 days, or until they begin leaking. that's when i'll seal the jars tightly and put them in the refrigerator to slow the fermentation process.
elsewhere, on the sauerkraut front, the sichuan sauerkraut seems to be fermenting well judging from the airlock. but there's no activity in the traditional sauerkraut airlock, though i've noticed juices already already leaked into the bowl. this jar is so compacted with sauerkraut there's just no space for the air to escape through the airlock so it vented from the side of the lid instead. i opened it up to further compress the sauerkraut before tightening it back up again.
for dinner i made another grilled cheese and ham sandwich. i watched the weekend rebroadcast of two new ABC shows, deception and for the people. deception reminds me of castle, serious lady cop (in this case lady FBI agent) paired up with not-so-serious writer (in this case a magician) who can help out with investigations. it's a played out formula (all the way to the days of moonlighting) but i still like it. i really like the actress who plays the FBI agent, ilfenesh hadera. i couldn't remember where i know her from until i realized it was from the baywatch movie. as for for the people, it's another shonda rhimes produced drama. i don't watch an shonda rhimes shows, but i do know her reputation. this show really wasn't on my radar, but i've been a fan of britt robertson since her swingtown (2008) and life unexpected (2010-2011) days, so i was game. the premiere episode turned out to be pretty good, sets up a little relational drama that rhimes is famous for. so i guess i have 2 new shows i'll be following.
good news on the weather front: it looks more and more likely that next week's nor'easter will push out to sea and not affect us directly. we have this cold snap to thank, all this high pressure is keeping the low pressure storm front from hitting us.
i think the next time i make kimchi, i'm going to try the maangchi recipe to make baechu-kimchi using a homemade kimchi paste. i like the kimchi i make, but i'd like to up my game, explore some other kimchi variety and methods. the one thing i noticed in her recipe is she only uses a little bit of ginger, while i use a lot.
i woke up at 7:30am to get ready for my 9:45am MGH dermatology appointment in boston. i decided to take the subway into the city because there was still frozen snow banks and the weather was a bit cold. however, i did see a handful of cyclists commuting down beacon street and elsewhere, and i felt a little jealous. maybe not so much the cold, but this time in the morning was rush hour and i wasn't looking forward to the crowds.
i left for porter square a bit before 9am. it's been 97 days since i last rode the subway (although i did take the commuter rail to north station back in early february). there was a lot of people but at least i got a good standing spot inside the subway car and it was just 4 stops to the charles/MGH station. i stood next to a very pretty woman twirling her hair and checking her phone. a passenger getting off banged into us with his backpack. the floor was sticky from some dried soda.
arriving at the station, it was a short walk to the dermatology building, located not on the main MGH campus but a few blocks away on staniford street. since i'd been there before, it was pretty routine, nothing to fill out, just had to sign in and take a seat in the waiting room where there was free wifi. a nurse led me to an exam room, asked a few questions, then left me to wait for the doctor. i was there for a possible wart, but it disappeared a few days after i made the appointment. i was really there to get rid of a few milias, but the doctor said they were benign and common and i should just leave them alone.
afterwards i walked down to nearby haymarket. it was relatively early and produce tents were still setting up. i didn't really have anything in mind i wanted. the orange sellers weren't even there yet. i left with 2 boxes of strawberries ($1/each), a bag of carrots ($1), a lbs. of ginger ($1), a large daikon radish ($2), and two heads of napa cabbage ($1 each, for making korean kimchi). i asked the vendor if he could weigh the cabbage for me (i wanted to see how much i was getting) but he got really angry and said they were just a dollar and he wasn't going to weigh them. i ended up dealing with his partner.
i could've taken the faster commuter rail back to porter square but i took the subway instead because i needed to go to harvard square to check out yulia's latest computer issue. she called last weekend, only now did i finally have time. so of course since that time the computer hasn't crashed, and it was a weird problem too, seemingly random and can't be reproduced. i double checked that all the automatic updates were turned off, and manually updated the OS X security patch, though i don't think that'd do anything.
afterwards i walked home, my obligations for the this week finally over. i heated up a leftover feta cheese spinach pie for lunch. i went out one more time to the dollar store to pick up some plastic cups for planting seeds (color tinted clear 16 for $1, i bought $4). i bumped into bruce, on his way to the liquor store. coming back, i went to star market to stock up on some canned soup on sale. i also picked up a single apple to be used as a substitute for asian pear in my kimchi recipe.
today was sunny but with periods of cloudiness. production never once reached 6kW, which so far has been the plateau. still, we managed to make 25.6kWh by day's end. the next few days are supposed to be very sunny so i'm looking forward to another record production day.
my lamp splitter base sockets arrived today. i ordered them from ebay less than 2 weeks ago from a chinese seller. they were a dollar a piece so i got 3 even though i only needed 2. i need these to make a pair of DIY lowel ego lights for food photography. however when i went onto amazon to buy the 27W CFL 5500K light bulbs, the prices had gone up by $9. i'm in no hurry, i'll wait until the price drops again, or search for alternatives. these bulbs are ideal because the ikea light cord i'm using can't go over 75W, so even with two bulbs it's still 54W.
around 8pm i got to work making my sauerkraut with the cabbages that've been in my fridge since last weekend. the sooner i got started the better, since it takes the sauerkraut several days to mature and develop it's sour taste. i still have several jars of old sauerkraut (and one car of curtido) from about a year ago; i'm planning to throw them out eventually, but i want to save some so i can do a taste test comparison between (very) old sauerkraut and fresh sauerkraut.
i had two heads of green cabbage so i made two different type of sauerkraut: one is the traditional with caraway seeds, the other is a sichuan paocai inspired sauerkraut. after shredding both cabbages (each one weighed about 2.5 lbs. each, standardized head of cabbage weight apparently), to one i added one tbsp of salt1 plus one tbsp of caraway seeds; to the other i added one tbsp of salt1, 7 chopped thai chili peppers, 3 tbsp of red sichuan peppercorn, and one tbsp of chinese baijiu. after mixing the ingredients, i left the cabbage on the counter to reduce for a few hours. i should've worn gloves because tiny microscopic cuts on my hands got really painful when exposed to the salt plus the hot chili peppers.
for dinner i made a grilled ham & cheese sandwich. i ate the leftover baklava for dessert. it was sickening sweet and the filo pastry got stuck on the roof of my mouth.
around 11:30pm i went back to the kitchen to pack the sauerkraut into jars. one head of cabbage reduced to sauerkraut should fit inside a 1 quart jar with some compressing. i barely got mine to fit. for the sichuan sauerkraut i used a different 1/2 gallon jar which was a lot roomier. i put the lids on with the airlocks and left them on the counter sitting in bowls to ferment.
1 the proper sauerkraut ratio is 3 tbsp of salt per 5 lbs. of cabbage. so i should've really used 1.5 tbsp of salt instead, but i don't want my sauerkraut to be too salty.
hailey slept with me in my sister's old bedroom, curled up at the foot of the bed. while trying to reach for her in the dark i accidentally poked her dog eye. she pressed up against me so hard that i was afraid i'd lose circulation in my legs. the room was cold and i tried to give her a corner of a blanket for cover. around 6:45am - about the same time as sunrise - i noticed she was already up, sitting on the bed. i let her outside to use the bathroom. when she came back inside she was waiting in the kitchen doorway for her breakfast. i gave her two scoops of dog food pellets and went back to bed. after she finished eating, she jumped back onto the bed as well, but left 10-15 minutes later, to go sleep in the living room, perhaps to wait for my sister to come home to pick her up.
around 8:40am i heard what sounded like maybe somebody coming into the house. i figured it was my sister but didn't hear anything afterwards, so thought nothing of it. i began surfing the web on my phone from bed, getting ready to wake up. that's when i heard my sister asking me if i was awake yet.
we were out in the backyard by 9am, to clean more snow off of the solar panels. my sister was complaining about the cold, she had no good reason to be outside except to spot me when i climbed the ladder. it had snowed a little bit overnight and there was a dusting of snow covering the panels i cleared yesterday. but in the amount of time it took me to get my equipment ready, that fine layer of snow was already fast melting once the sunlight hit it.
i first tried breaking the snow below the panels above the rear entrance. it was pretty stiff and even with the plastic snow rake i wasn't making much progress. it was also early enough that this area was still in shadow, and the sun didn't get a chance to soften the snow yet. i'd have to wait. in the meantime, i'd already decided yesterday i had to go onto the roof in order to properly clean the panels, even after my parents warned me not to do it before they left. i think if they could see how much snow was on the roof, they'd agree it had to be done. to wait for it to melt naturally would take days, and we'd lose valuable production during that time. it was primarily the area between the sunroom and the mainroom, a perfect place for a lot of snow to get trapped. i figured if i can shovel out that area, everything else will just melt on its own.
i moved the ladder to the other side of the sunroom, where i could get a handhold to help me up on the roof. i cleared some snow but apparently didn't clear enough and what wasn't supposed to happen happened: i slipped. but fortunately i had my hand on one of the panels and i didn't fall of the roof. that sort of put the fear of god in me, which i already had. once i was on the roof though (standing above the sunroom), i was safe. i began shoveling, the whole time sister pressuring me to hurry up because she remembered she had a doctor's appointment at 11am. from the roof i could see across to the neighbors with the new solar install, the contractors back again this morning to put down more panels. i wondered if they knew what i was doing, because from their vantage point it'd be impossible to know we had solar panels as well. maybe they thought i was just clearing the snow off of the roof, which still isn't a common occurence.
once i dug out a trench, i could gently slide the snow off of the main roof panels. i began shovel this new batch of snow, threw it over the roof onto the front of the house. with that done, it was time to work on the panel covering the sun room roof panels. it's a whole lot easier cleaning from the top than it is from the bottom. i tapped the mass of snow to break it apart then slid chunks of snow downwards off the panels and over the end of the sun room roof. unfortunately there was too much snow on the lower edge and there was a snow pileup, while i had to break apart by pushing the snow with the foam rake fully extended. i finally stopped a bit after 10am, with just a few panels still partially covered in snow, but confident the rest of the snow would melt once we reached late morning and the sun would be shining on it in full.
we left for my sister's place, where i stayed until she was done with her doctor's appointment around noontime. i brought the spare roof rake and cleaned up the edges of the restaurant, so there'd be an empty strip where the snow could gently melt into the gutters. once that was done i went back into the house. now that the internet was working, it was so much better, and it was far less boring. i copied some movies onto a 64GB thumb drive i found, thor ragnarok and jumanji. the drive was formatted in FAT32, which is supposed to support 4GB file sizes, but i couldn't over the MP4 files, which were about 2GB+ each. i did some searching online and discovered it's a known bug in OSX 10.13, that there's a file restriction of only 2GB when tranferring to MS-DOS FAT32 drives. i ended up making the transfer after all using the transmit app, which is what i normally use for ftp. i also checked the status of the solar panels. despite 4 panels still registering low output, production was already at 6kW.
my sister finally came home with gyros for lunch. we ate in the empty living room, sitting on the floor, watching the weather forecast on the news. once we finished eating, it was time to go back to work: first a quick stop in belmont because the monitoring app kept telling me 4 panels had very low production, and even though i'm sure the snow would eventually melt, just for my peace of mind i wanted to go back and clean off the final patches of snow; afterwards we'd go to market basket to pick up some cafe supplies; before finally dropping me off at home.
i thought i was clear the lower edges of the roof with the foam rake, but the angle just wasn't right, the pole kept hitting the gutter instead. finally i set up the ladder, and it took me under a minute to clear the remaining snowy patches, which by that point was quickly melting anyway, turning to semi-transparent slush.
we actually stopped by my place first, where i dropped off my bags, and grabbed my father's credit card for buying cafe supplies. but when my sister saw the card, she said it wasn't the right one. i unfortunately didn't have any money or additional cards on me (they were in the backpack i just dropped off at my place), but my sister said she had cash.
market basket was busy but we were lucky enough to find a parking spot right away, one that was big enough so my sister didn't have to worry about somebody scratching her car. inside the supermarket however it was very quiet, probably one of the least crowded times i've ever seen it. i think it only looked busy from the outside because so many parking spots were taken up by the snow banks, which we could see snow removal equipment busy working to clear it to free up more parking. it was weird shopping with a cart, usually i'm navigating the aisles on foot, putting everything into my shopping bag, so i can only buy as much as i can carry. my 2nd aunt requested milk, half & half, turkey, bananas, tuna, and zero-calorie jones soda. my sister bought a lot of stuff for herself. the only thing i got was a 99¢ 6-pack of yakult yogurt drink.
i finally came home around 2:30pm. it felt good to be back, but i was a little guilty for not helping with the shoveling. but i'm usually the one to shovel anyway, so i figured i'm allowed to miss cleaning up one nor'easter. even though i've been back to the house intermittently over the past few days, it felt like i was coming home for the first time in a long time.
i continued checking the solar production numbers. even though some panels were partially obscured this morning and a bit of early afternoon, the sun today was so strong that we managed to make 34.08 kWh, the second most production this month, only the 3rd time we reached 30kWh+ in march. i shouldn't be that surprised, as on february 27th we narrowly missed reaching 40kWh. if the weather cooperates over the next few days, and we get one of those perfect cloud-free days, we should reach 40kWh+ easily. today was also a weird day when the number reported for the inverter (34.05kWh) was less than that of the production meter (34.08kWh).
i ran speedtest on my home modem to see if i had the internet speed increase. it was just 24Mbps. so i rebooted the modem and ran speedtest again. this time i got a speed increase of 41Mbps. not the 60Mbps advertised, but not bad.
for dinner i finished my sister's leftover moroccan chicken tagine (purchased from the loading dock on brighton street belmont). she paid $12.95 for it but only took a few bites.
i woke up to the news that stephen hawking had passed way. that how my day started, with more snow to shovel outside. i began about 8:30am, happy to see that someone with a snowblower had altruistically plowed the sidewalk. so now all i had to do was dig out the car and clear the driveway. a few neighbors were outside shoveling as well. i saw our next door neighbor and we both shrugged and laughed. the driveway was easy to clear, but the part leading out onto the street was buried in more than 2 feet of snow courtesy of the snowplow truckers. digging that out manually would be too much work. so i pulled out the car enough so i could get into the garage and take out the big snowblower. i always have hard time starting it and today was more of the same. prime it, choke it, pull the ripcord, nothing worked. i ended up going inside and bringing out the extension cord. i managed to start the engine and clear several feet of snow before the machine sputtered to a stop. eventually i got it working, the trick is to not turn on the choke despite what the instruction said. with the snowblower working, clearing the snow was actually kind of fun. especially this particular machine, which is more industrial strength with a metal auger compared to the one at the cafe which just uses a rubber paddle.
it took me an hour to finish the front of the house before i moved onto the back (9:30am). up until this point i hadn't even been in the backyard, just enough to clear the snow off of the back steps last night. i assumed the panels were buried under thick snow so i dug a trench to the step ladder so i could climb it and get a good look. i then dug more trenches to either side of the sunroom so i could set up the ladder. i didn't start clearing the roof until 10am. the first step was to use a roof rack and clear the snow from the lower edges of the roof. this is important to allow the snow from the panels to eventually slide off the roof unobstructed. i then climbed up the ladder with the foam rake on the left (west) side of the sunroom. it looked daunting, there was so much snow, so thick that the foam rake couldn't make any progress, neither push or pull the mound of snow on the panels. i managed to clear a few lower panels on the main roof, but i was running out of time, because the comcast technician was arriving at my sister's place between 12-2pm, and i had to be there.
by that time my sister was back in belmont after picking up her car which had been safely garaged at the alewife parking lot. she would've been here sooner but realized when she got to alewife she forgot her car key, so had to go back home and get them. the plan was to go to my sister's place and wait for comcast to arrive (she also needed to clean up her room). after they fixed the problem, she'd take me back to my place so i could check if i needed to shovel my sidewalk, and so i could grab a few things (change of clothes, medication). then she'd drive me back to belmont, where i'd be dogsitting hailey for the night while my sister went out. this would give me time to clear more of the snow from the roof.
so i waited at my sister's place while my sister left with hailey. her dog couldn't be at home when the technician came because she wouldn't stop barking. we got a little freaked out initially because there was a comcast van parked outside the house when we arrived but then later left. i didn't think nothing of it, but when i checked the appointment information, the number they were calling was my father's number. so i had to call comcast and get them to update the number. according to their app (which i downloaded), the appointment was still on time, between 12-12:30pm, but then later changed to 1:00-1:30pm. all i could do was wait around, with no internet and busted tv reception. i saw on the news that patriots offensive tackle nate solder had signed a four-year $62 million with the new york giants. once again, i can't blame the guy, but it seems like so many people are leaving now, i wonder if the team will be any good next year.
the comcast technician showed up around 1:15pm. i saw the van pulled up in front of the house and i went outside to greet him, just in case he tried calling the wrong number. after checking the coaxial cable for signal strength (weak), he replaced the line. the utility pole was in an awkward spot, wedged between several properties, hidden in an evergreen tree. i showed a path so he could get in with his ladder. he climbed up and replaced the coaxial. he told me that squirrels had chewed through the cable. it might've worked if it had time to dry out, but water had gotten inside, which was causing the weak signal strength. besides the cable, he also replaced the splitter. once that was done, i went inside to check the cablemodem and saw it was working again, all the proper lights were on. it took a few more minutes for the router to fire up to see that wifi was working too. i called my sister to let her know she could come back to the house.
after the comcast technician left, i ran speedtest out of curiosity. i was shocked to see speeds approaching 60Mbps. did a new coaxial cable really make that much of a difference? it seemed suspicious, so i went online to see if comcast had bumped up their internet speed limit. sure enough, as of last week, comcast increased their internet speeds across the northeast. our "performance" tier of 25 Mbps is now 60 Mbps. i just happened to notice it because we had to reset the cablemodem. unfortunately upload speed is still not in parity, preventing customers from doing things like setting up a viable personal cloud server.
when my sister came back, she was shoveling snow in her backyard. i kept telling her i wanted to leave, because i still had to go back to my own place, but she didn't seem to be in a hurry. finally i got so angry i screamed, "I'M GOING HOME NOW!" and ran out of her place. if i had to i would walk home. you have to keep in mind that up to that point i hadn't eaten or drank anything, and it was already 2pm. i was so hangry it was making me crazy. my sister said she didn't hear me but i didn't believe her. in the end she did give me a ride to my house, where i was surprised to see the sidewalk was nicely shoveled. i shoveled away the snow around my furnace vents then went inside the house to grab a few things before we left again.
next we went to the burger king on concord avenue, where i bought a 2 whopper meal with fries and drinks, something for lunch, and something for dinner. my sister didn't get anything because of her gluten allergy, but earlier she'd bought some middle eastern food. we finally arrived in belmont sometime after 3pm. my sister ate her moroccan chicken tagine, me with my whopper. i ate that whopper in under 30 seconds. i would've eaten the second whopper as well but i was saving that for later.
i rested for a few minutes, enough to catch my breath, before i went back outside to clear the snow from the solar panels. despite the overcast, temperature was in the 40's and there was considerable melting today. what little snow i cleared from the panels earlier this morning had melted and slide off the roof, free about 6-7 panels. i worked the roof with the foam panel, but the snow was just too dense. tired, soaked, i decided to call it a day, and continue working on it tomorrow morning.
even though a lot of panels were buried in snow, the inverter still managed to recognize 16 of the 24 panels. hopefully there would be some more melting with the few hours of daylight left today. but i knew tomorrow i would be climbing the roof since that was the only feasible way to clear all that snow.
maybe it happened a few days ago, but i noticed it right away when my sister called me while i was outside digging out a backyard path this morning: i couldn't hear her when i answered the phone until i put it in speaker mode. that's when i realized that my phone was stuck in headphone mode. it's a common problem with iphones, it either means there's some obstruction in the headphone jack or water got into the jack to damage it. so when we stopped by my place briefly so i could pick up my pills and a change of clothes, i also grabbed my can of CRC 5103 quick dry electronic cleaner spray.
in belmont, i sprayed the headphone jack with some compressed air but that didn't seem to do anything. i then turned off the phone and sprayed the jack with some electronic cleaner spray. when i rebooted the phone, it was still stuck in headphone mode. i began to think the iphone was broken for real and started imagining myself with a new phone. maybe one with a bigger screen for my aging eyesight. definitely android. maybe a samsung? but then i tried one more thing: i misted a q-tip with some cleaner spray and gently inserted it into the headphone jack and swabbed out the inside. i then tried out the volume toggle and my phone was back to normal. iphone fixed!
hailey waking up at midnight to drink some water before i let her outside (where it was snowing again) to use the bathroom
i've been jumping from places to places within the past 48+ hours that i'm starting to forget where i am and what day it is.