This Site’s “SEO”

This is a weird little blog/site off the edge of nowhere, and I’m sure people who stumble upon it via more recognized channels may wonder why it exists.  It’s a long-term search engine optimization (SEO) project, and it’s finally taken off, after over a year of writing with long periods of neglect. Here’s our Google Analytics plot.

Woo hoo! We’re up to three visitors a day. It took a long time, too. The reason is that Google needs time to figure out if this site is a scam. Once the domain looks like it has a legitimate content, it’ll start showing it in listings.

Depending on how hard you work, it could take months to years. This blog got new content sporadically. As of today, there are only 25 posts.

The specific content you have also matters. This content is mainly just “lifehacks” with some old content ported from a personal site. Lifehacks are considered “evergreen” content – it may not get much traffic, but it’ll be relevant for a long time.*

The promotion you do also matters. No promotion was done, at all.

You should add your site to the Google Search Console tool, which includes a way to submit a sitemap to the search engine.

So, almost everything here was done wrong, yet, around August 2018, Google decided this was a legitimate site.

*The lifehacks here are not the popular kind that start with “This one trick…”. They’re more like something from the Rodale Press and start with something ecological and time consuming.

So, if you have a new website and are wondering why your articles don’t show up in Google, here you go. It’s just “SEO” – you need to give the search engines some time.

Conserving Cooking Oil

Nearly all of us use some kind of cooking oil, and most of us eat meat (still) and produce what we think of as waste fats. By conserving and using this “waste” fat, we can save money and avoid additional harm to the environment.

In the United States, until the mid and late 20th centuries, people regularly collected and reused fat. This seemed to go by the wayside as people started to throw away fats, usually into the garbage.

Advice for Meat Eaters

Contemporary practice is to trim the fat, perhaps remove the skin, and then throw them away. This makes sense, because these are generally considered unhealthy fats, but it represents an expense: you paid for that fat at the price of the meat.

What you should do is render the fat, and then collect the liquefied fat into a jar. This fat can then be used to grease up skillets, and used to fry food. It can also be used as a substitute for butter.

To render fat: put around 1/2 cup of water into a pot, and then add the skins and fat trimmings. Bring it to a low simmer, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the skins and fat become brown and harden. Spoon off the fat into a jar. Store in a refrigerator. It can also be stored at room temperature for a while, because saturated fats tend to go rancid slowly.

You can also collect fat that’s drained from ground beef.

The names for some fats: beef milk fat is called butter, beef fat is called tallow, chicken fat is called schmaltz, pig fat is called lard, lamb fat is called suet. I think turkey fat is also called schmaltz.

As always, reducing meat consumption is good for the environment, and your health. If you find yourself with a surplus of gathered fat, consider eating less meat.

Advice for Vegetarians

Vegetable oil goes rancid, so you should keep it in the refrigerator. Collected fat should also be kept refrigerated.

Used vegetable oil used for deep frying is called “brown oil” and can be collected after it’s been  used for frying. Let the oil cool and settle.  Then, using a funnel and a paper towel folded into a filter, pour the oil into a glass jar.

The filter will catch the browned crumbs, and the used oil will go into the jar.  This oil can be reused for frying. Brown oil tends to help battered and breaded foods fry up harder and darker.  You can also just use it for skillet frying.

If you fry a lot, and end  up with brown oil that’s going black, you should get rid of it. Unfortunately, there aren’t many options for recycling the oil, unless you can find a restaurant that will allow you to dump oil. One partial use for the oil is to help ignite charcoal for grilling. It burns nothing at all like lighter fluid, and is safer, but it does provide enough heat to get the coals started.

Oil can also be filtered and then burned in a furnace to provide heat.

Used vegetable  oil can also be processed to make biodiesel fuel. This is a process of combining the oil with a methanol-and-lye solution to produce diesel fuel and glycerine soap.

You can also filter and then reuse the oil to make soap without the biodiesel. The main problem is that this soap, if formulated to be gentle for your skin, will smell like fried food. Soap that’s made “hot” with a little excess lye is good for cleaning floors, and will not smell bad.

Cleaning Sticky Residue and Rubbery Paint Off Plastic

Danger – this is a potentially dangerous cleaning hack, but it works. If  you have a sticky, greasy material that’s like the flypaper schmutz on your plastic products, and it doesn’t seem to come off with soap and water, try this crazy technique.  Be careful, because it can burn your hands.

Continue reading “Cleaning Sticky Residue and Rubbery Paint Off Plastic”

How to Sharpen Knives

There are a number of ways to learn, but I think videos on youtube are the best.

This tutorial won’t get into using one of those diamond edge tools where you slide the knife forward and back across the diamond surface, which is mounted in a slot.  Those things are pretty good, if you don’t want to learn the freehand method. I don’t own one, but I did like using one.


I would start out with a cheap $5 stone from the dollar store, and a sturdy, but low-end, stainless-steel knife with a flat, not serrated, edge.  These are the hardest to sharpen, but also the most plentiful, and cheapest.

If you have a good, high carbon steel knife, you’re lucky.  You can invest in a better stone of 1000 grit or finer, and keep that knife sharp. These stones are $35 and up. I like 1000 grit because it’s a medium coarseness, and takes off very little metal. I don’t have a finer stone, and I’ll explain why later.

I’d recommend getting the cheap stone.  We all have some annoying stainless knives, and you really need to be able to scrape the hard steel to develop an edge.

This dude here uses a cheap stone:

The 19 Degree Angle

You usually hold the knife against the stone at a 19 degree angle.  That’s around 1/3 of a 45-degree angle, or slightly less than 1/2 of a 45-degree angle.

If you have a well defined bevel, you can copy that angle. You’ll feel it.

Pushing or Pulling

There are two motions: pushing to grind down the metal severely, and pulling to more gently grind the metal and form an edge.

If you have an extremely dull knife, you will need to use the pushing motion, where the edge of the knife pushes into the stone.

For a very dull knife, you will need to spend a lot of time grinding. Follow the video, and note that he does five strokes on one side, and five on the other side.  You need to use and equal number of strokes to make sure you remove an equal amount of metal from each side.

Repeat that 10 or 20 times, and see the effect on the knife.  A dull knife will start to cut, roughly.

Once the knife is cutting roughly through paper, you can change your motion to a “pulling” motion, where you drag the edge over the stone. You might also start using the medium grit side as well.

Pulling is just more gentle than pushing. It removes less metal.

What’s Happening to the Blade

The edge of a knife isn’t smooth: there are tiny microscopic “teeth” on the edge, somewhat like a saw.  The coarse grit side of the stone leaves large teeth.  The medium grit side knocks down the high spots and turns them into many more, smaller teeth.

These smaller teeth feel “smoother”, and are also “stronger” because they’re shorter and less prone to bend and flop over under pressure.

This video shows some chipped and rolled edges under a microscope:

Here’s a video where they play with the “burr”.

When you sharpen the knife, it redefines the edge so it’s like a tiny saw. Sharpening also produces a “burr”, which is the metal that’s coming off the knife. You need to remove that burr by grinding the edge a little more, and then “stropping” the knife.

Stropping is usually done on leather strips embedded with a polishing compound, but you can fake it. Just use a piece of corrugated cardboard, which has clays embedded in the paper.

Pull the knife across the corrugated cardboard, like you did across the medium grit stone. You can also cut into the edge of the cardboard to remove the burr and polish the edge.

This guy is stropping on cardboard:

These videos show guys using diamond hones. I haven’t used diamond, except in those easy-to-use sharpeners, but I don’t really like diamond. It’s an extremely hard material, and will grind away a lot of the metal.

I prefer the regular aluminum oxide stones. That material is also hard, but not as hard.

Finding a Better Knife

The easiest knives to sharpen are made of “high carbon steel” or “carbon steel”.  They may be stainless and called “inox”, or they may stain.

Stainless steel is tougher, and also bends. Carbon steel is harder, and chips.

In a knife, you want that chipping quality, because it helps you create a better edge.

Carbon steel knives at a kitchen shop tend to be expensive, but you can find them for as little as $15 each online. They aren’t as fancy, and the metal isn’t as good, but it can be sharpened, and can perform well. It’s far better to have a knife that’s easy to sharpen than one which holds an edge for a long time.

Another way to find a good knife is to look online and buy a used knife.  Most people with nice knives just don’t use them too much. They may not bother to sharpen them.

I would just look for some common, popular brands, like Sabatier four star elephant (there are multiple, different Sabatier companies), Henckels, Wusthoff, Global, Mac, Victorinox, Dexter Russell, EKCO, Forschner,

You can also find them at a thrift shop, but that’s going to be difficult, because there are fifty crap knives there for every one good knife.

How to Clean Gas Range Burner Grates with Ammonia

For each grate:

1 gallon zipper plastic bag

1/4 cup ammonia

Put the grate into the bag, and add ammonia.  Seal the bag and wait 12 hours.  Remove grate from the bag, and clean off grates with a sponge.

I read this here and here.  I can verify that it works.

Another way I tried to clean grates was with a soak in washing soda and hot water.  This worked somewhat, and helped reduce the grease, but the ammonia method above was cheaper and better.

Ammonia works on even the blackened, hardened fats. It didn’t clean mine entirely, but still did a visibly good job.