Matthew Nistico

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since Nov 20, 2010
Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
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Recent posts by Matthew Nistico

S Tonin wrote:

Matthew Nistico wrote:

Bonnie Kuhlman wrote:I have some glass lids for mason jars but can't find the tops/rings to use with them.  The regular canning rings don't have enough depth to hold the glass lid on the jar.  Here are a few on ebay, but they are difficult to find.  If anyone knows where to find these, please share.  Or maybe if they hear from enough people, the jar manufacturers will start producing them.  Thanks.


I am curious... are these just collector's items, or is there a special advantage to using these glass lids?  I don't immediately see the purpose, especially given that you can't use them with the normal Ball hardware (rings).  The eBay seller to whom you linked didn't explain.

Weck makes jars with the glass lid/ rubber gasket combo, but they're pretty expensive (at least, outside of Europe).  The nice thing about the glass lids is they don't rust and nothing can leech out of them (though really, your food shouldn't be in contact with the lid anyway, but for the purpose of argument).  I've never tried them myself, but I think the Weck jars are easier to open than Tattler lids (the reusable plastic ones) because there's a pull-tab on the rubber gasket to loosen the seal.  I'd imagine that shortens the life of the gasket, though.

Okay, I now totally understand the value of a glass lid on a mason jar!  Since this initial exchange over a year ago, I have gotten into preserving lemons, Moroccan style.  You ferment whole lemons in salt and lemon juice, producing these wonderfully silky, mushy, salty, shelf-stable products that go great into salad dressing (diced finely, peel and all), not to mention all manner of traditional North African dishes.  They have a unique taste, still lemony, but also with the tang of a pickle.  You don't can them; just ferment them at room temperature in as close to a sterilized vessel as you can produce.  Technically this can be achieved in any tight-sealing glass or ceramic container that can be boiled.  Mason jars are an obvious choice.

Except that I've discovered the salt corrodes the hell out of the metal rings, to the point that every single time opening the jars requires hot water and grippy tools and entirely too much effort.  Enter: <DRUM ROLL> glass top lids!  Unfortunately, I can no longer find the glass lids that were discussed above.  Thank goodness there are many options on Amazon for jars with flip-top glass lids.  As already mentioned here...

ana wynne wrote:for those old mason jars with glass lids:

i have found some silicone gaskets at michaels before.  the old rubber seals were the best but cant seem to find them anymore.  (over a period of use, they dry rot).  i have found on amazon too.

the old jars with glass lids are hard to find too !!  i inherited several from an aunt who canned pickles.  they are huge !!  great for storing oats and flours !!

...they tend to be very large, more like canisters than regular-sized mason jars.  And I could not find anyone selling just the lids; you generally have to buy the jars with the lids.  But they aren't too expensive, and one can never invest too much in kitchen wares that could potentially last a lifetime.  I purchased these, and am very happy so far:

These were pretty much the smallest I could find at a good price, and they come with an extra set of rubber gaskets.

BTW, if anyone else is interested in preserving lemons, this technique is mentioned in the following threads:

This is the article I used as a guide in my own experiment, which has proven highly successful so far:

I used Meyer lemons from my parents' tree, which worked supremely well.  When those began to run low, I bought organic grocery store lemons and added those to the fermenting jars.  In this way, you can reuse the fermenting liquid for a good while: just keep topping off the jar with new lemons as the old are eaten!  Note: take out the old ones first, so that the newer ones can be inserted into the bottom, and then the older lemons put back in on top.  That way you will use the older lemons up first and, if you plan it well, the newer ones will get at least a whole month to ferment.

Though perhaps even longer would be better - the Meyers were fine after one month, but they have thin skins.  They are also much milder flavored off of the tree.  I ate the first of the grocery store lemons recently and it had a very different flavor, an intense, almost chemical-lemon flavor.  I'd definitely recommend Meyer lemons if you can get some, but perhaps these new lemons will improve with more fermenting time for their thicker rinds to soften and loose bitterness.

And definitely be sure to use only plastic or wooden tongs, or latex gloves, to remove lemons from the jar once fermented, as advised in the Epicurious article.  If you maintain this discipline, then I can confirm that the jars do just fine out of refrigeration for extended periods.  I've been dipping out of mine for more than six months now, and they've never seen the inside of a refrigerator!  When they reach a whole year, perhaps I will start again with salt and lemon juice to create a new batch with fresh pickling liquid.
2 weeks ago

Julie Reed wrote:I’m thinking it would work just fine on those roofs (better, really, since they get hotter than sloped roofs) but you’d need a different way to disperse the water, like a sprinkler or soaker hoses.

Thank you for considering the idea so carefully.  You might well be right about the feasibility on flat roofs.  The idea of intentionally creating standing water - or as you point out, very very slowly draining water - even the thinnest layer of it on a flat roof just scares the hell out of me.

Yes, I also suspect that this concept would prove very efficient compared to central AC.  But the proof will (some day) be in the pudding, as they say.
1 month ago

Mk Neal wrote:...I know on my block we actually get water quality problems from too LITTLE water usage (sediment builds up), so this might be worthwhile for my house.

Interesting.  I've never heard of such a problem.
1 month ago

Mk Neal wrote:Water use maybe more or less of an environmental issue depending on where you live...

Excellent point!  I still feel confident predicting that, even if the system I proposed uses as much water as you suggest, and even assuming drinkable city water were used, the household would come out on the positive side, dollar wise.  Particularly when you consider that reducing extreme surface temperatures is going to extend the life of a shingle roof, a very expensive and wasteful item to replace.  (Not that this matters to me; I have a metal roof.)

Dollars can be used as an equivalent to estimate energy and materials consumption between various human activities.  But it is a very rough estimation.  And as you point out, there are other factors beyond energy consumption that comprise total environmental impact.

Where I live, water is plentiful.  I am a couple hours away from a temperate rain forest.  And I otherwise use very little water on my property: I have no lawn, and as my permaculture systems mature, I almost never irrigate any more.  Maybe one month a year in a bad year.  Plus I was born missing the gene that causes most Americans to develop a fetish over the appearance of their automobile.  Mine gets washed once a year, and surprisingly it still drives just as well.

Also, even while I'm hooked up to city water, I already have 900 gallons of rain water harvesting capacity, so I'd probably try to use that first.

If I lived in the desert, on the other hand, I might well reconsider the pros and cons of the system I proposed.  But then again, if I lived in a desert other simpler evaporative cooling techniques, like swamp coolers, would be viable options!
1 month ago
Here is a good tip to augment your home cooling strategies, which I don't think anyone has yet mentioned.  This could be a great addition to a passive solar home design, even one off grid.  A couple of caveats, first:

1) I present one version that IS electricity free.  BUT it assumes you are hooked up to city water (or else that you have a well with a strong pump... which uses electricity).
2) I present a second version that is NOT 100% energy free, but can be implemented off-grid.  It does use minimal electricity to pump water against gravity, but reasonably small amounts of water, so we're talking about electricity that shouldn't max out your generator or solar array.
3) I've not yet implemented this design myself, so can't verify just how well it works.  Totally plan to, so will post an update whenever I do.
4) This is not my own idea.  I heard it advanced on TSP by alternative energy and prepping guru Steven Harris, who has more detailed info on his various websites... BUT as I write this all of his websites are off line.  I have no idea why or for how long.

The basic concept is to hook up a hose to your outside spigot, snake it up your wall, and attach it to a dispenser that runs along the ridge of your roof.  That dispenser could be assembled out of materials from a drip irrigation system, or it could be as simple as a cheap garden hose with carefully-spaced and -positioned holes poked into it.  On hot, sunny days, the spigot is turned on so that water dribbles down evenly over the surface of your roof.

This system recognizes that the majority of any building's heat gain or heat loss occurs through the roof.  That is why even conventional, energy-stupid homes have more insulation in their attics than in their walls.  In terms of summertime heat gain, with which we're currently concerned, a cooler roof means a cooler attic, and a cooler attic means a cooler home!

Obviously, you would only run this system during the day, not at night, and particularly during the hottest and sunniest hours of the day.  I believe the idea is to fine tune the flow of water so that only enough comes out to coat the roof - you want the majority to evaporate on the surface and not run into your gutters.  This could be done with a flow restricter built into the rooftop dispenser, or by adjusting the spigot to optimize the flow.  I imagine that it would take a little trial and error to fine tune the settings, and perhaps even those settings might need tweaking to adjust to the difference between a milder day and a true scorcher.

So this is essentially an evaporative cooler for your building.  But it has two huge advantages over traditional swamp coolers, as I see it, both of which advantages boil down to the same effect: this system should work even in humid climates.  Such as my own climate in the South!  Swamp coolers in a dessert make your house cooler.  But if the air is already heavily humid, they just make your house swampier!  Whereas the proposed system cools your building, not your interior air; all of the extra humidity created is outside.

Also, swamp coolers don't work efficiently in humid air.  They just don't evaporate enough water to do much cooling.  But the proposed system should work regardless, because it is powered by the 140 degree (or hotter!) temperatures on your sun-baked roofing material.

And I don't see why it shouldn't work on any conventional roof material: asphalt shingles, slate shingles, metal panels, or tiles.  It wouldn't work on a green roof, but those are already plenty cool.  It also won't work on a flat roof, like the tar or gravel roofs of some commercial buildings, or on the flat roof of an RV.

Another advantage of this system is that it doesn't interfere with the basic functioning of your home.  It doesn't have to be designed in.  It can easily be retrofitted with cheap, DIY materials, depending to some extent on how much you care about appearances.  It need not take the place of your attic insulation, or your radiant barrier, or your attic ventilation scheme, but rather works complimentary to all of those.

As described above, the system is powered only by the pressure of your water line.  If you are not hooked up to city water, you could still easily run the same system out of a rain barrel, but you will need a small pump (AC or DC, depending on your set up) to lift that water up the hose to your roof.  On the plus side, the water being used is free, at least until the rain barrel runs dry.  Then you'd have to refill using whatever source of water your house relies on.  One interesting idea for this kind of off-grid application would be to set up a small solar panel dedicated to running the rain-barrel roof pump, which in this scenario would be a DC pump.  It would only run when the sun was shining brightest, but then those would be the hours when you most need the system to work.

Plus, with that setup you can never forget to turn it off and leave it running through the night!  If running your pump off of household AC power, you could still set up a timer to control when the water flows and how much flows, perhaps pumping water to the roof intermittently during morning and evening, continuously through the afternoon, and off at night.  Either way, none of this would be terribly expensive to set up, nor too technical for the average permie to master.

As I said, I've not built this yet myself, so I can only guess at how effective it is - Steven Harris claims it is highly effective! - or how much water it consumes.  Or how much juice it uses if you require an electric pump.  I imagine these factors would depend on a number of variables, such as just how hot and sunny your summer days are, what color and material is your roof, and even what slope is your roof.  As they say, your mileage will vary, LOL!

I'd love to hear back from anyone who has actually implemented such a system!
1 month ago

Timothy Dowty wrote:

Built one of these for my kids dorm room.  It worked pretty good for a small space and a few hours of relief and a nap.  You can sub a small fan that runs off a solar cell in for the plug in electric one shown in video.  Happy Nappies ya'll

Thanks for posting!  I was well aware of this concept - portable, fan-powered, ice chest coolers - but this is the best construction guide I've yet seen.  I plan to make one of these for myself, as it will be considerably cheaper than fixing the AC in my car!

Every prepper living in a hot climate (as I do) should make several of these for emergencies.  During an extended summertime power outage, you could run an ice-maker for a couple hours off of a generator or solar array, but good luck trying to run your central AC, or even ceiling fans.  Especially if you could make them with battery-powered fans, each person carrying one of these around to wherever in the house they are working could be a good solution.

I note that evaporation-based coolers are simpler, cheaper, and less energy intensive, since you don't have to make ice.  And they work great... if you live in a desert.  If you live in a sauna, you have to go an extra length to create cool air.  This seems like an excellent path to get there.
1 month ago
Great blog post, thanks for sharing!  : )

I grew a sorrel in my old garden, many years ago. This was mid-Atlantic states, zone 7.  I'm afraid I don't remember what species it was, but I'm sure it was either French or English sorrel.

I am curious that the OP describes the leaves as tender.  I found that they had a very fine texture, and in fact would immediately wilt into slimy nothing when cooked, but also that they had very distinctive, tough, unpleasant fibers in them.  Perhaps I wasn't harvesting the leaves young enough, but I think I recall nibbling on small leaves out of hand in the garden and confirming they too had the fibers.

My best luck was making cream of sorrel soup.  It was so tasty!  Everyone loved it, and it froze very well.  I don't recall the exact recipe, but I know it was pretty simple: boiled sorrel leaves, blended to a smooth paste with some salt, some cream, and I think maybe some chicken stock.  They key step was forcing the sorrel through a fine mesh sieve after cooking it in order to extract as many of those fibers as possible.
2 months ago

Heidi Schmidt wrote:- I wax my armpits. No hair there helps A LOT. I notice a difference when the hair is growing back.

Very true.  I mentioned above that I trim mine every few weeks, and while not as complete a job as shaving, even that helps a lot.  I also find it more comfortable, once you're used to it at least.

One should consider why armpit hair exists in the first place.  Humans stand apart from other primates as "the naked ape," emphasis on "naked," though this of course varies in degree from race to race and individual to individual.  But even the most smooth-skinned Japanese still has three areas guaranteed to sport dense growth of hair: on top of their heads, under their armpits, and on their crotch.  Why should this be, evolutionarily speaking?

Well, hair on your head is easy to figure out: it protects your scalp and neck from the sun.  But what about the other two?  What useful purpose is there to pit hair and pubic hair, so much so that it overrode whatever positive attribute there was to shedding fur (and actually I couldn't guess what that was) which led natural selection to breed bare-skinned hominids in the first place?

It was the need to maintain pheromonal communication between individuals.  Pubic hair and armpit hair act as wicks to better disperse our personal scents, located conveniently adjacent to some of our major glands.  I suppose the fact that this hair also serves to harbor stink generating bacteria is immaterial to natural selection.  It certainly didn't bother our primitive ancestors enough to keep them from mating.

Unfortunately, this is inconsistent with the more delicate sensibilities of modern Western civilization.  Personally I'm all for pheromonal communication, but I'd really just as soon not stink, thank you very much.  So shave it all, I say!  Or keep it trimmed if shaving sounds too maintenance intensive and/or violates the aesthetic of your preferred gender identity.
3 months ago

Casey Pfeifer wrote:...add in 1-2 TSP of Hydrogen Peroxide while stirring. This will "fluff" the mixture as it reacts and is neutralized by the baking soda, making it easier to pack into the deodorant sticks and easier to apply due to the many small air pockets it creates.

Hey, that's a nice touch!  I'll have to try that.

And thanks for including photos.  Worth a thousand words.

I award an apple : )
3 months ago

thomas rubino wrote:I  notice several recipes that included "xylitol" a natural alcohol commonly used as a "sugar free" substitute.
For those that do not know, xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs.

Good point!  Never share your toothpaste or tooth brush with your dog  : )

Seriously though, pet owners who keep xylitol in the kitchen should absolutely take precautions to keep curious/hungry dogs away from it.

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol extracted chemically from certain cellulose plant materials.  It's been on the market for at least 70 years.  It is, as noted above, widely used as a sugar substitute for diabetics, as well as for us general health freaks.  It has about 60% of the calories of sugar, but because it is digested differently, only about 6% of the glycemic index.  Of all sugar substitutes I'm aware of, it has the best taste.  You might be able to distinguish it from sucrose in a blind taste test, but then again you might not.  I love the stuff and use it in almost any recipe calling for sugar, at least if I don' want to sub honey or maple instead.  Just be sure to use real sugar in any situation calling for fermentation, like brewing kombucha, since xylitol is anti-microbial.

Nota bene: When using in the kitchen, be aware that xylitol doesn't dissolve quite as easily as sugar, so you want to give it extra time or extra heat or pre-dissolve it in order to avoid adding a gritty consistency in some recipes.  Also, while the manufacturer advises you to sub 1:1 for sugar, I find that it is just slightly less sweet.  If I really really want my recipe to turn out 100% as sweet, I might add an extra 10% or 15% xylitol.

Xylitol is included in the recipes above because it has well-studied benefits for oral hygiene.  Rather than feeding mouth bacteria, as does sugar, it actively inhibits them.  For this reason, it's long been used as a sweetener for chewing gums.

When buying xylitol for use in DIY toothpaste or tooth powder, be sure to look for the following, available via several brands on Amazon: 1) "made in USA," and 2) sourced 100% from birch trees!

If it isn't birch xylitol, then the common cellulose source used is corn cobs.  That means that, even if it is made in USA, it is almost certainly GMO.  And if it includes imported corn cobs (i.e. Chinese), then who knows what additional quality control considerations might also come into play.
3 months ago