This is David & Susan Sifford's journal of what we pray is our sojourn of life (Hebrews 11:8-10) along the narrow way (Matt 7:14), even the old paths (Jeremiah 6:16), submitting to the Bible as a light unto both (Psalms 119:105). It is our prayer that these documented moments in our earthly time benefit whom God might choose to edify, but ultimately that God glorifies Himself through them.

Month: October 2010

A House – Update VII – Floored

With the foundation beams up, it was time to start on the floor.

Floor Joists

Given the approximately 8 foot spans, I chose to go with 2x8s for the floor joists, which I planned to overlap on each beam, spaced 16 inches on center. (I had originally thought I would need the entire piers under the floor; but in looking back, given there is planned to be a porch, I probably would have brought the ends of the floor to sit right on the beams.)

I started with the ends, which I decided to double because they were going to support the gabled walls; and I staggered them, similarly to the built-up beams. Also, since I would be overlapping the joists as they crossed the beams, this would offset the joists 1 1/2 inches off from the 16 inch on center layout, which would cause problems with being able to lay the subfloor down evenly centered on joists. However, having these end joists doubled would allow for shifting the subfloor boards to once again end up sitting evenly centered on the joists. The final subfloor board in a course would end up 1 1/2 inches off the end, which I would cut off and put back on the other side, which had been shifted 1 1/2 inches away from the end:

House Floor Outer Joists

After putting them up on both sides, I ran a header string from each built-up joist…

House Floor Outer Joists with Header String

…which would be used to line up the internal joists with each other:

Floor Joist Lined Up with Header String

Once a joist was in place, I toe-nailed it to the beam….

Toe-Nailing Floor Joist with Nail Gun

And finished them by hammering them in further. Being right-handed, it was fun to learn and practice hammering with my left hand:

Hammering In Floor Joist Toe-Nails

And here is one side of the joists all set in a line:

Joists Lined Up with Header String

This is the overlapping of the joists. With any warped boards, I would sometimes have to clamp them together to be able to nail them together properly:

Nailing Together Overlapping Joists

I added spacers between the joists to straighten them and give the overall floor more stability. Also, I put them on the beams, again, for more stability:

Spacers Between Floor Joists

After getting the joists in place, I added the header boards:

Floor Joists Header

Because we are planning on having an inner wall down the middle of the house, and the middle of the house is in between two beams, on every other joist on the middle row of joists, I doubled the joists to give extra support to that wall. I doubled joists for another inner wall that’s to run parallel with the joists; and in this picture, I added several doubled joists in a row, which is where we are planning to put our wood burning stove:

Double Floor Joists for Extra Support

To help against wind lift and to better secure the joists to the foundation, I attached each joist where it crossed each beam with hurricane clips:

Hurricane Clips Connecting Floor Joist to Foundation Beam

And here are the joists completed…

Middle of Completed Floor Joists

…facing South…

Full Picture of Completed Floor Joists Facing South

…and facing West:

Full Picture of Completed Floor Joists Facing West


For this, I chose 3/4 inch tongue and groove plywood; the tongues and grooves fit together to make the places where the boards span floor joists much more stable. I also heard it was good to glue them to the joists and use screws, so I used external Liquid Nails for the glue and 3 inch deck screws to secure them, placing screws 8 inches apart on the board edges and 1 foot apart at the internal points on the joists. The board would be fastened down short end to short end across the whole platform, making a “course”; and each course would be staggered from the previous one by half the board.

When I first started, I didn’t really think through which long end type I should place against the first outside corner, the tongue side or groove side of the board. Well, I chose groove side, because it didn’t seem right to use the tongues side. Well, this stroke of genius started me on a path where with each subsequent course I was trying to fit the groove into the tongue. Needless to say, it was quite difficult, although I finally did get into a pattern where I’d loosen the screws next to the tongue of the previous course and use the mini-sledge hammer to knock them up and loose from the glue so they would flex better when I was trying to slide the groove onto the tongue. I also learned to clean out the groove and clean the tongue so nothing was in the way of them coupling. All of this worked ok until I learned from those much smarter than me at Ranchfest that you could hit a board against the opposite site to force the tongue and groove together. I thought I had tried it before; but when I tried it again after Ranchfest, it worked great. Of course, by then I only had about a course and a half left. 🙂

At any rate, given how long it took to get the floor on, I figured it was going to be a while before the house is dried in, so we painted the subfloor with water sealer, tinted cedar color (just to make it darker as a personal preference). Notice the stagger pattern of the boards from course to course:

Painting Subfloor with Water Sealer

Here is a course where the boards were shifted 1 1/2 inches to accommodate the overlapping of the floor joists, and I cut off the other overhanging end of the last board of this course and brought it over to this end to fill in the gap:

Subfloor Offset Fill Piece

And here is the platform finished. Thanks to Sue for all of her helping me get the boards in place, and for painting the rest of the floor and repainting my terrible painting job!

Completed Subfloor Facing Southwest
Completed Subfloor Facing West

Even though it took several months, it’s finally done; and we thank the Lord for the continued progress on the house.

— David

Fall Ranchfest 2010

Twice a year we have an “event” around here called Ranchfest, when we have an official time where people who follow the ministry of our teacher Mr. Bunker come visit. It’s a time of fellowship; an opportunity to meet new people; see others we haven’t seen in some time; a time of teaching, questions and discussion; and a time where we work during the week on projects for Mr. Bunker and his family as a way of communicating (providing means of support) to him as our teacher (Gal 6:6).

And so, we wanted to pass along a few videos one of the folks put together of some of the projects and things that went on during the week, to give you a little taste of Ranchfest:

We’re thankful for the opportunity of gathering together to serve each other and fellowship together as a community.

— David

How To Render Lard

As most of you know recently we had our sow, Missy, butchered. The butcher gave us all of her fat. which I rendered into lard. I thought I would share that process because it’s so easy, and people don’t think of lard as a great source of healthy fats anymore.

The fat usually comes in bags of large, thick, strips:

Bag of Pig Fat

To enable the fat to melt quicker, I cut it into 1-2 inch pieces. It seems to cut better and easier if the fat has been chilled and is less rubbery in consistency:

Cut Up Pig Fat

Then I put it all into one or more simmering pots. (Any stock or soup pot or even large sauce pan seems to work fine):

Cutting Up Pig Fat

I place the pot onto a burner and turn it to the lowest setting. Some people might prefer to put a heat diffuser under the pot to more evenly distribute the heat and protect the fat from burning. I don’t have one yet, so I just put the pot right on the burner. As the fat heats up, it will turn rubbery and creamy white in texture and appearance:

Pig Fat Starting to Simmer

As the fat continues to melt, it will become increasingly bubbly. Rendering fat is not something you can start and come back to in a few hours. Due to the fact that it is very hot and can burn easily, you want to stir it fairly often (not constantly, but you want to be nearby enough to keep an eye on it). Also, please be careful not to look directly down into the pot as the fat is extremely hot and can pop up into your face and burn. I also don’t usually put a cover on the pot, as the condensation drops down into the fat and causes more popping if I do. But do whatever you prefer and feel is safest:

Pig Fat Melting and Bubbling

There will be a point where the bubbling will start to subside after a period of time (a few hours in my experience):

Pig Fat Very Bubbly Melting into Lard

After the bubbling subsides a bit, you will see the pieces of cooked fat called “cracklings” floating in the liquid fat. At this point, the rendering process is close to complete; and you want to watch to make sure your fat doesn’t start to smoke or the cracklings scorch. This makes for burnt lard, which is still usable but not desirable:

Pig Fat Cracklins Sinking to Bottom of Pot

I have learned it is better to turn off the heat sooner than later to ensure no burning of the lard. When the bubbling has mostly stopped, I turn off the heat; and the cracklings start dropping to the bottom of the pot:

Pig Fat Melted into Lard

After a short time, most of the cracklings should sink to the bottom of the pot leaving pure liquid fat waiting to be spooned out and put into hot jars. Some resources will say this process can take up to 18 hours, and maybe I’m doing it wrong, but the method I use seems to only take a few hours per batch. Perhaps I’m not getting all of the liquid out of the fat pieces, but right now I don’t have the luxury of more time, and I’m not sure how one could get much more from letting it simmer a lot longer. And mine always starts to smoke if I leave it longer anyway. So, whatever method works best for you is the best method!

Pig Fat Cracklins Sunk to Bottom of Pot

Since the melted fat is EXTREMELY hot, it is best to heat up your jars before spooning the fat into them. I take clean jars, place them on the rack in the oven, and turn it on to warm or a little higher, and let them heat up while I’m prepping everything else. Then when I am ready for the jars, they will be nice and warm/hot to accommodate the very hot liquid:

Heating Lard Canning Jars in Oven

To prevent little tiny particles of cracklings to get into the lard, I filter the liquid while spooning it into the jars. You can use whatever method works best for you (cheesecloth, paper towel, mesh strainer with cloth, etc.) I recently found that a goat milk filter works great, so I’ve adopted that method. I place the filter into the canning funnel that fits into the mouth of the canning jar, and it makes a nice filtering setup:

Filtering Setup for Pig Fat Liquid Into Jars

Since most of the cracklings have sunk to the bottom, it is very easy to ladle out most of the liquid fat into the jars:

Tilting Pot to Spoon Out Last of Pig Lard

I tip the pot to get the last of the liquid out:

More Spooning Hot Pig Fat Into Canning Jars

All that is left are the cracklings after spooning out the liquid fat. I munch on a few as I process the fat but don’t usually do anything with them except feed them to the chickens. However, some people I’m told put salt and seasonings on them for a tasty treat.

I try to press out as much fat from the crackings as I am able, but there is still a bit left in them. I used an antique lard press a few times but came to the conclusion that the amount of extra fat I was getting was not really worth the mess the press made and the resources required for clean-up. But some people may be very loyal to them. It’s certainly a personal choice:

Cracklins Left After Spooning Out Last of Melted Pig Fat

And here is the rendered fat ready to be sealed and either stored in a cool place or canned and stored. I usually end up yielding several quarts of lard when we butcher a pig, and since Dave and I don’t go through it quickly, I like to pressure can it. I was surprised that there is VERY little information on the Internet about canning lard. I probably way overdo it, but I can it for 90 minutes as if I were canning meat, because I can’t find any reliable information otherwise. So I can it a lot to ensure its safety. If you can reliably provide additional information from your own lard canning experience, I am all ears and would greatly appreciate it. Until then, I’ll play it safe. I have not experimented to see how long an uncanned jar of lard will last down in our root cellar but hope to remember to try it next time. But I would hate for all those quarts to go rancid from not canning them before we are able to use them. This way they are good for years.

The rendered lard hardens up and turns white (or a little darker depending on the type of fat rendered and if it got burned in the process). The lard will turn to liquid again if heated:

Melted Pig Lard in Jars Ready to be Pressure Canned

I love using lard now for many, many things. I use it to pop popcorn, on bread for grilled cheese sandwiches and toast, as an oil in recipes and baking, etc. It may sound icky but it’s a wonderful and tasty organic animal fat. My friend Shannon, once again, has a great blog post on healthy fats, and lard is right up there at the top of the list. I had to be re-educated on the benefits of healthy animal fats, and I’m assuming most people think it’s very unhealthy, but I believe we truly need these healthy fats in our diets. I hope you take a few minutes to research it for yourself.

Also, I’m sure most people may not have a freshly butchered pig “hanging around,” but I’m told many local butchers and processing places will either give away or sell their fat, so you may want to check that out in your area.

Lastly, if you don’t have a copy already, I highly recommend the Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery to get you started on rendering lard. It is truly a survival book for those of us just starting out on our domestic, animal husbandry adventures.

We also currently make homemade fat lamps with our lard, and I hope to experiment making soap from lard as well and will let you know how it goes, Lord willing. You can also render lard out of beef tallow (fat), so maybe sometime we’ll be able to butcher one of our Longhorns and I’ll be able to share that adventure as well. As always we are so very grateful for God’s provision to have this homemade healthy fat resource.