Rotisserie Pig–Part III–Campout Day

As most of my stories go, the pig roast was almost a success…  I learned a lot about how closet rods are manufactured and why they are not ideal for use as rotisserie rods.  For those that are just tuning in, here is Part I and Part II, leading up to the big day.

First, a big shout out to Adam Robinson who came up with me on Thursday night to prep for the roast.  If he wasn’t there, it would have made the ordeal nearly impossible. 

We drove into Ensign Ranch about 7:30 pm after picking up the pig from Green Valley Meats.  We camped out in a tent and woke up around 6:30am to start getting set up.  We prepped the pig and applied olive oil and salt inside and out.  Then, we shoved the closet rod through the pig.  We put apple and onions in the belly cavity and sewed it up with steel bicycle brake cable.  Then, we put the pig on to the stand. 

Ideally, we would have used a steel rod for the rotisserie, but steel is much harder to work with than wood.  The advantage of using a wooden rod, is that we could drill holes easily through it.    We need to drill some holes to fix the pig to the rod using a clamping mechanism.  We also had to attach a sheave to one end and a counter-balance on the other.  There are ways to do this using a steel rod, but it would have been significantly more difficult.  My biggest concern was that a wooden rod might start burning if the fire got too hot.  It ends up that there are other issues with a wooden rod which I’ll get into later.

Once the pig was all set up, I tried to hook up the motor, but the motor was not nearly powerful enough and it would turn the sheave.  Within a minute, I realized we were not going to have an automated rotisserie.  That’s OK… Plan B… we’ll just crank it manually.

At about 9am, we lit up a half a bag of charcoal and dumped it on the base of the stand.  It wasn’t much heat, but we didn’t want to burn the pig… you can always speed up cooking later, but you can’t unburn a pig… 

For the rotation, we ended up using a clamp on the sheave to keep the pig fixed in different positions for about 10 minutes, then we would rotate it about 90 degrees.  After about an hour of this, we started growing concerned that the pig was not cooking fast enough.  We decided to amp up the heat and increasing the frequency of rotations.  We started putting piles of wood on top of the coals, then rotating the pig at 1 minute intervals.  The flames were coming up about 1/2 way to the pig and it was definitely cooking at this point.  This probably goes without saying, but manually rotating the pig at 1 minute intervals was extremely tedious.  I would not do this again unless I had complete confidence in an automated motor solution.  Adam’s dad owns a garage door company.  He mentioned that he had several old garage door opener motors.  That probably would have been perfect.  We may look at putting together a better solution for the next roast.  I’ve secured budget for a Lamb Roast for my 40th Birthday coming up later this year…   So, hopefully we can put together something before then.

There were a couple times where we missed the 1 minute alarm and kept the pig in the same position for a little too long.  It was interesting to see the liquified fat underneath the skin sloshing around.  When the pig was in the same position for too long, the skin was start deep frying from the inside out.  Apparently, this is how pork rinds are made.  The skin start styrofoaming.    Later, when we tasted this part of the skin, it tasted exactly like pork rinds you would buy at the store. 

Aside from a little bit of pork-rinding on the back side, everything seemed to be going well.  Throughout the day, there was a little bit of rain sprinkling down on us, but nothing beyond a light mist.  All the people at the ranch were wishing us luck because they saw that there was supposed to be rain that day.  If it poured down rain, that would have been the end of the rotisserie.  However, rain was not the issue.


After about 7 hours of roast at 4pm, the unexpected happened.  The closet rod broke in half in the middle of the pig.  The pig hung loosely just inches from the fire.  Adam jumped on top of the pit to hold the pig off of the fire.  I ran and got a table set up with a tarp on top, so that we had a place to move the pig.  Within a minute, we heave the hot carcass on top of the folding table.  The backside of the pig burnt a tiny bit, but otherwise the pig was still intact.  We removed the closet rod to find that the rod was assembled using offset half rods that were glued together.  We saw that the heat and moisture inside the pig had made the joints expand and eventually the glue came apart.  This is why you shouldn’t use a closet rod for a rotisserie stick.

Now, we had a bit of a problem.  Finding another rotisserie rod was out of the question.  We transported the pig to the kitchen at the ranch.  They had 3 huge ovens.  Each of them could easily fit half of the pig.  We cut the pig in half, put each piece in a large tray, covered it in foil, then popped them in the oven for the last 2 hours of cooking.  But, before putting the pig in the oven, we took a few affectionate pictures.   


In the end, this was probably a good thing as we could comfortably cook the pig at a higher consistent temperature.   We’ve had the pig on the rotisserie long enough that it got a very nice smoked color to it. 

At 6pm, people were starting to arrive.  We took the pig out of the oven.  Several volunteers came and helped chopping up the pig.  Cutting up the pig was a lot of work.  There was about 70 people to feed.  We had to cut up the meat in small pieces.  We found that there was still  a little bit of pink around the thighs, so we just put those pieces back in the oven.  We kept the head intact for guests to take pictures with.    But, eventually throughout the night, we cut up all the meat on the head, too.  There was only a zip-loc bag of meat left by the time it was all over.  It seems like a 60 lb pig will feed about 80 people (provided there are other side dishes.) 

In general, the pig was super moist and tender.  A few people wished it had a little more flavor.  We didn’t really season it other than the light salting and olive oil.   The Korean people ate the pig with SaeuJeot (pronouned Sae-Woo Jot).  SaeuJeot is fermented and salted shrimp.  Adam tasted it and said it was saltier than salt.   Some people also dipped the pig in GochuJang (fermented red chili paste). 

It was quite a bit of work, but at the end of the day, everyone got to eat pig and it was pretty delicious.  Again, I can’t thank Adam enough for coming up and helping out with this project.  Not only would it have been nearly impossible for me to set up by myself, but turning the pig every minute for 7 hours would have been unendurably dull.  Needless to say, the emergency rescue once the rod broke would have also ended up in a bigger disaster.


About Ensign Ranch

The following day, we enjoyed the other amenities at Ensign Ranch.  Ensign Ranch is a property owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  For anyone interested, it is open to everyone.  It is about 25 miles East of the Snoqualmie Summit ski resort.   It is about $10-$30/night depending on whether you stay in a campsite or a cabin.  There is horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, and a gigantic slip and slide.    Most importantly, they have a pretty nice pit to do a pig roast.


One interesting thing to note about Ensign Ranch (and other church-owned recreational properties) is that it is maintained and operated by volunteer church member missionary couples.  All church members are encouraged to serve volunteer missions not only when they are 18, but also when they are older  (Senior Missions).  Senior missions are typically served by married couples that are empty nesters.  Just like the 18 year-old missionaries, senior missionaries also save up money to fund their own missions.  Tenille and I are also looking forward to and saving up for missionary service when our children take off for college.   It’ll be a fantastic way to travel somewhere new and give service for a few years.  This last weekend, we met missionaries from Utah, California, and Washington staffing various areas of the camp. 

The lady who checked us in was from Vernal, Utah at which point my eyes lit up.  I’ve always wanted to visit Vernal which has the Dinosaur National Park.  But, it’s about a 3 hour drive from the closest major city (Salt Lake City).  She vouched that it was worth seeing.  So, maybe I can try to convince my family to make that 6 hour drive commitment on our next trip to Utah.


Rotisserie Pig–Part II–Lab Test

Pig Roast day is rapidly approaching!

For anyone interested in trying, I’m getting my pig from Green Valley Meats in Auburn, Wa.  60 lb pig is about $200.


The toughest part about making the rotisserie was hand-crafting a sheave.  I made one by drawing a circle on a piece of plywood, then cutting it out using a jig-saw.  My plan is to use twine to turn it.  So, I need to make guards around the edges so that the twine doesn’t slip off.  I got some thin MDF and cut out portions of a circle, then screwed it onto the sheave.

I made a base for my motor and wrapped the twine around the sheave and my motor.  I’m using a dutch oven to keep the motor in place during my test.  In the field, I’ll probably use the battery or find some heavy rocks.  I also put some sandpaper around the spindle for my motor for some added friction.  This is where I fear there will be the most slippage.

With my fingers-crossed, I conducted my garage test.  Here is the result in video.  For the non-Korean speakers, the voice in the background is mom expressing her doubts.

This reminds me of the the home-made breast pump I tried to make with a windshield wiper motor.  It could be argued that it “works”… but will it perform its intended purpose?

There are still a lot of questions.  Will the motor still spin with a 60 lb pig on the rotisserie?  I’ve screwed on a handle on the sheave just in case we need to go to Plan B.  Will it last for 10-12 hours?  Will the twine, sheave, or rotisserie rod be able to withstand the heat?  (I’m bringing a bunch of aluminum foil to try and shield sensitive components from the heat.)  Will there be an electrical outlet nearby?  I’ve got 2 spools of extension cord.  If not, how long will the battery spin the rotisserie?  Is the pit long enough to fit the pig? 

If everything falls apart in the end, we can go to plan C, which is to chop up the pig, and roast it in parts over a grill.  That would be disappointing, but at least people can eat.  I’m bringing a lot of tools, so hopefully we can do some minor (or major tweaking) as necessary. 

I found out this evening that Adam Robinson will be joining me, so my confidence level has doubled.  The rotisserie is now packed in the van.   I pick up the pig tomorrow.  Friday, I have an all-day appointment trying to cook it.

In Part III of the series, I’ll post the results.

Rotisserie Pig

This Friday, I signed up to roast a whole pig – rotisserie style – for our church camp out.  There’s nothing else on the menu that I’m aware of, so the pressure’s on.  9 years ago, I roasted a whole pig for my dad’s 59th Birthday.    Back then, I rented a rotisserie.  This year, I’m building one…

I got the rotisserie stand all built.  I used square aluminum tubes and aluminum angle stock.  The bottom is made of chimney liner that I straightened out.  The rotisserie is a closet bar made of oak…


I disassembled a motor from a Ryobi hand saw.  I also purchased an electronic component from ebay that allows me to control the speed of the motor.  I’ve hooked it up to a deep-cycle marine battery.  I figure I’ll take 2 batteries up.  I’ll just charge one, while the other is rotating.  It’s possible that the motor might burn out long before the 12 hours of continuous operation…   The contingency plan is to crank by hand.


I’ll put a groove in the spindle.  I’m not sure how yet… But, I plan to wrap some twine around the spindle, then have it rotate a giant sheave which I am making out of plywood.  I’m not sure yet how I’ll make a groove in the sheave.  I’m also wondering if the temperature will catch the twine on fire…   Will it catch the oak closet bar on fire?  Maybe I should have gone for a steel bar, but wood is definitely easier to work with… and I needed an easy way to attach the pig to the rotisserie…

I probably need to get this all figured out tomorrow…

Family Vacation to Nevada

This year, the Roberts family (Tenille’s Mom, Dad, brothers and sister) went to Henderson, NV.  When we went to Disney World in Orlando (and dropped some coin), we had postulated that the kids would probably have just as much fun if we got a big house out in the desert with a swimming pool.  This vacation proved out that theory.  We didn’t shell out big dollars on theme park tickets, but it was just as much fun – just proving again that it’s who you vacation with, not where you vacation….

We spent most of our days playing in the swimming pool.  Since there’s almost 30 of us, our family pretty much took it over.   Andrew had taken some swimming lessons, but it was really on this trip, that he started swimming on his own without a life jacket.  He loved fetching rings, so I played fetch with him most of the time we were in the water. 

After the Cancun trip, Caleb had been pining for an underwater camera.  That was his Christmas present this last year.  So, we had some fun taking underwater photos and videos.  There were a bunch of pictures and videos, so I mashed’em up in this compilation.


During the day, we visited Red Rock.


The rocks don’t look quite as big and grand in the pictures as in real life when your children are climbing up on them…


There was some foolishness in the car with the cousins. I guess this is what happens when children have their own cameras.


We went to Ethel’s chocolate factory.  It was a self-guided tour.  They did a surprising amount of the chocolate making by hand…which explains the very expensive chocolates.  We had some samples, but that was it.


We stopped by the Las Vegas LDS Temple and took a family picture.


After most of the family left, Tenille’s Dad, Mom, and sister caught the Jeff Civillico show in Las Vegas.  We thought it was going to be a magic show, but it was a juggling comedy show.  Both Andrew and I got selected from the audience to help him.


I had to throw up a marshmallow and catch it in my mouth.   He kept calling me “Chia” (as in Chia Pet) because of my exquisitely soft hair.


I also had to help Jeff get on top of a Unicycle…. and ended up getting to know him a little too well…   He gave me a DVD of his show… I felt I earned it… and perhaps he owed me a little more…


Andrew was a little more shy on the stage, but he actually ended up doing some tricks. 


The audience applauded loudly for him when he lifted up one leg, so that he was spinning 3 plates while standing on one leg.  Andrew got a “learn to juggle” kit. 


On Thursday, we joined Randy and Jaime’s family at Sand Hollow.  We got to try a standing paddle board.  Andrew learned how to kayak.  Caleb got to knee-board.  Everyone did plenty of tubing.  Tenille got up on the wakeboard and pulled off a few jumps.  A big thanks to Randy’s family for inviting us!


On our last day in Nevada, we visited the Venetian and saw the Gondolas.


Then, went to the Mac King comedy magic show.  This time, Caleb was chosen out of the audience as a volunteer.  He was asked to check inside the tent to see if there was anything strange about it.  Then Mac King made shadow puppets on the tent wall.  When he made a shadow of a bear, a man dressed in a bear costume came popping out of the tent and scared Caleb.  Everyone laughed.  Caleb got a magic book.

Maker Faire San Francisco 2014


  I would imagine this is what the after-world might look like for me.  For Tenille, I’m not so sure…

We attended the World Maker Faire in San Francisco.  It was full of all kind of geeks that must just have an infinite amount of spare time.   It gave me something to aspire to.   One of the first things we saw was a group of people that converted their Rascal scooters into horses and they were riding those around the fair.  (Later, I found out why… because 10 hours of walking around makes everyone cranky… )  Andrew got to also ride around on a remote control horse that Tenille drove.

There was just so much stuff… The pictures say it all… but I’ll provide some captions where I think it might add some color.



P1000354  See Mech Warrior behind Caleb.

P1000357 See through Pinball machine with original components.

P1000360Not sure what these people were doing… but I think they were trying to make that big doll thing walk…

P1000361  Fire tower

P1000368Not sure… some kind of a trojan ship/car…

P1000369P1000374  Tandem bike… for kids?

P1000367Bicycles pulling a sled with a dog driver…

P1000379 Metal anaconda… powered by hydraulics.


P1000383Steam powered vibrating couch.  Steam engine behind Tenille.

P1000384A bacon food truck… line was incredibly long…


P1000389wall garden


P1000395Music stage entirely powered by bicycles.  Apparently, they would lose power if there’s not enough juice coming from the bikes.

P1000399  Not sure…

P1000400  Some kind of post-apocalyptic brass vehicle


P1000402Giant Octopus that shoots out flames from the tips of its tentacles.

IMG_6931DIY handheld gaming device

IMG_6941PVC Pipe vertical garden

IMG_6940Giraffe sculpture

IMG_6946Kinematic cardboard elephant powered by a bicycle

IMG_6947  Completely exhausted.

Bunch of stuff I’ll check out when I have some spare time:

First Lego League

Roblox – Build your own game

Tynker – learn to code

Spark chip – wi-fi on a chip

Do it yourself 3D

1sheeld – turn your smartphone into an Arduino shield

Kinetic cardboard sculptures/robots

Bicycle Wheel light art

Xulu Virtual World creator

Christian Passover

Why would a Christian celebrate Passover?  Isn’t it a Jewish tradition?

1. The point of this annual tradition is for people to remember the Exodus from Egypt and all that God has done for his children.  I suppose there may be some that may have a narrower view of the Passover – that it is only for the children of Israel and it is only to remember what the God has done for the Israelites.  But, I subscribe to a broader view of the meaning of Passover.  I believe it applies to all of His children.

2.  The Passover Lamb is a prototype of Jesus Christ.  The sacrifice of the unblemished lamb to free the Israelites from slavery is the foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ so that we may be redeemed from the bondage of our own sin.

3.  Jesus Christ’s final supper was during the week of Passover.  There is some debate as to whether or not the Last Supper was the actual Passover ritual, but celebrating Passover gives a lot of context to the description of the Last Supper in Matthew, Luke, and Mark.

Over the last 3 years, our family (or parts of our family) have attended various community seders with different Jewish congregations that welcomed outsiders.  Like Christmas, we found out that everyone does it a little bit differently, but there were some core traditions.  We also found out that most families celebrate Passover at home.   So this year, we decided we’ll do it on our own and create our own family tradition.  The Alstons and the Tomlinsons also joined us.

For those that might be considering celebrating Passover, here are some tips from our own experience. 

1. The first step I recommend is attending a Passover seder.  Of the few different Seders we’ve attended, Bet Alef in Seattle felt the most inclusive and was very children friendly.  In early April, you should contact them and ask if it’s ok to join them. 

2. I got a cartoon Haggadah from Amazon Barnes & Noble.  What is a Haggadah?  It is literally, “the telling.”  It is a script for the Passover dinner.  The cartoon version I got was short and kid-friendly.  (Note: If you’re going to buy a Haggadah, make sure to get it at least a month in advance.  It was sold out at Amazon a few weeks before Passover.)  You probably don’t need to buy one as there are plenty of resources on the Internet, but I liked the one I got.

3.  You eat at the end.  If you have kids and/or guests it’s always good to set expectations. If you start at 5pm, you’ll probably get to the food no earlier than 6:30pm.  And that’s if you’re really hustling…

4.  We had our kids watch Prince of Egypt in the morning.  During the dinner, there is a presentation of the entire Exodus story.  I gave the fast forward version, but the kids can help out as they recollect the cartoon movie.  There’s also a part when we name all the plagues.  That’s a place where the kids all seem to chime in.

5.  There are a few places where we sing some traditional songs.  The song that I heard at every Seder was Dayenu (It would have been sufficient).  Here’s the sheet music.  We also threw in Let My People Go.  Here’s the sheet music.  For Hallel (Songs of Praise section), we did Redeemer of Israel, a traditional LDS hymn which I thought was appropriate for the occasion.

6.  Food – there are rules specific to passover – such as no leaven (yeast).  At the original passover in Egypt, Israel was commanded to roast the sacrificed lamb and eat it.  However, for some Jewish communities it is forbidden to eat roast lamb at the Seder meal until the Temple in Jerusalem (destroyed in 70 CE) is rebuilt because sacrifices may only happen at places that God appoints.    With that said, we had lamb.  Tenille also made Matzoh Ball Soup, Roasted Lemon Herb Chicken, Green Bean with Almonds, and Green Salad.  She also made charoset which represents mortar, but is quite delicious.

7.  One of the traditions of the seder is to have 3 pieces of Matzah wrapped in a napkin at the table.  These 3 pieces of Matzah are said to represent the division of the Jewish people: Priests, Levites, and Israelites.  Some also say that it represents the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  During the course of the meal, the middle Matzah referred to as the Afikomen is broken, wrapped in a napkin and hidden for children to find at the end of the meal.  The Afikomen represents the sacrificial lamb.  It also represents the middle Patriarch, Isaac, who was taken to Mt. Moriah by Abraham as a sacrifice.  The Greek word Afikomen also means “that which is to come”.  According to Jewish tradition, the Messiah will come at Passover to bring a redemption that is similar to the one brought by Moses.  As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ was that Messiah and did redeem all mankind by sacrificing himself.  When it comes time to break and hide the Afikomen, this symbolism deserves some explanation.  Here is a succinct Christian perspective of the broken Matzah.

All in all, it was fun.  We’ll probably do it again next year.  There are some portions where we offer a prayer.  This year, we just followed a scripted prayer in the Haggadah.  I think next year, we’ll change that and have different participants offer their own unscripted prayer – which is probably more in line with LDS tradition.