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Archive for August, 2012


from The Story of Stuff

Word. That’s why I only use spoons locally hand carved from wood harvested with a handsaw from urban invasive species trees and then delivered to me by bicycle. And I don’t wash them, just wipe them off after use on the hem of my shirt because we’re in a drought. Just kidding. Though, I do know a guy who makes said spoons so it’s theoretically possible…

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If wishes were horses…


I just finished taking an online class with Sharon Astyk called “Adapting in Place”. I’d highly recommend it, or any of her classes! Lots of hard questions from Sharon and informative discussions with the other folks in the class. One of the wrap-up prompts was, “What is your dream? What would you want if there were no constraints?” At about the same time, Jenna from Cold Antler Farm posted again imploring readers to write down their dreams and carry them around with them, and not to be afraid to ask for the moon and take small steps to get there. So here we go…

City mouse, country mouse dreams- city mouse: First, finish our little cabin- with lots of insulation, LED lighting and energy efficient appliances, and reused materials wherever we can find or employ them so we can stay warmer in winter, cooler in summer while using as few resources as possible. The first floor is open and you enter into a broad space with the fellow’s wood barrister bookcases and the rolling library ladders surrounding the wood stove lined with all our favorite books, the big barn wood dining room table in the center and the kitchen in the back all open to each other… a small bathroom added and a big pantry where the old bathroom was so we can feed all our friends. Good music, good food, and a trickling stream of good company fill our days as our friends stop in to say hello. The front bay window is a captain’s bed nook where our friends who’d like to stay longer or who came from afar can crash out…

We somehow buy up a bunch of the vacant homes in our neighborhood (there are a LOT of them), do energy-efficient retrofits and rehabs on them, and rent them inexpensively to other urban homesteaders willing to commit to growing at least some of their own food, reducing their car usage, and interested in learning real life skills and building a resilient and vibrant local community of all colors, ages, and avocations. Actually start teaching the classes that I’ve been dreaming and debating about for years- cooking from scratch, canning, food storage, backyard farming, brewing, soap making, etc. etc… Organize a goat-herd co-op, where member-neighbors take turns tending a small flock of Nigerian Dwarf goats and grazing them on vacant lots with portable fencing. Start a store that sells actual food in our neighborhood- bulk staples and fresh produce, canning jars and tools, not bags of chips and ho-hos, white owls and mad dog. Reach out to the neighbors we already have, who we’re starting to get to know better, and bring them along on the crazy ride.

Country mouse? At least ten acres, mix of wooded and tillable land, preferably with a clean canoeable river either bordering it or within walking distance (or rather, portaging distance), and/or a large lake nearby. The fellow has had his canoe stored in his parents’ garage for years, and I’ve never been out on a small craft, though I grew up a short bike ride from a lake where we spent most of our summer nights. Nothing is more freeing or refreshing on a hot night than floating and splashing, working up a shark-like appetite, and then cooking a simple dinner on an open fire on the bank. Somewhere with more stars than you can count on two hands. Same goats, chickens, bees, gardens, and classes… plus I can have a large pony or a small horse and learn to ride, oh, bliss! We’d have room to grow veggies and staples- potatoes, onions, even a pancake patch (we’ve been joking down at the Plant about planting a pasta tree… but everyone knows that bread comes from grass. I think Whitman told us that… bread is life, and all flesh is grass).

We park a shipping container or two for storage if the property doesn’t come with outbuildings, and put up a yurt while we build a strawbale or earth-sheltered house if there isn’t already an old farmhouse to restore… or if it’s near the Catskills, our cousin can build us an Earthship… if we have an invisible zoning/building inspector forcefield, that is. Hey, we’re dreaming here, we make the rules! For that matter, we could have 100 acres, divide it up, and recreate the family farm where I grew up (now mostly sold except for my dad’s parcel), hopefully somewhere with a better climate and bring everyone I love together. Reaaal hot down in the southern Ozarks now… and I’d get to see my family more than once or twice a year, work with them, and watch my baby nieces and nephew grow up in real life and not just in facebook photos, to really be a part of their lives and not someone they see at holidays.

This land would be within ten miles of a liberally-minded small to medium sized town with a good coffee shop, a cafe or three, and two small grocery stores. A theater would be nice, and a small college with a big library. It snows enough for snowshoes (and sleds! and sleigh rides!) but not all the time. The spinach and kale are sweet and fine in the shelter of the hoophouse, and it gets hot enough in the summer to grow good tomatoes and a tan. There are other farmers nearby using “real” horsepower who will teach us to farm with drafts… my grandpa (“Poppy”) had a mule but it was long before my time. My dad remembers it, but he was barely old enough to walk behind the plow and search for arrowheads, and it was retired for a tractor while he was a small boy- I have a few of these hand-hewn sharp points of flint and lime, and I treasure them- a link to the past even older than the hundred or more years my family farmed that land… a reminder that others once lived off of and loved it too.

Ok, someone pinch me. What’s your dream? Your perfect place? What would you do if there were no one to tell you no, no budget woes, nothing between you and your ideal life? And what can you do to start making it real?

For us, starting small- we’re holding open studios, a space for exchange of goods, ideas, and good will, starting this Sunday, Sept. 2nd from 11-4. The next will be on the 16th. And we’ll continue every first and third Sunday assuming all goes well. Possible BBQ afterward at the farmhouse… let me know if you don’t know where we are and want to stop by!

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double trouble

Bella and Harley had a playdate. I don’t get to see much of my old pal Harley since her papa moved out of the ‘hood, but he brought her over a while ago for a visit. So much rott racing and romping… I wasn’t sure if our backyard could contain it.

Instant pals… yeah, I know. They’re blurry. It was dark, and they were alll wiggle-butts…

Lots of kisses… or are they sharing secrets?

and for the finale, Team Digging! Man did they get down… Harley “helped” me dig one of the holes for our two apple trees in the backyard last fall, and one of Bella’s fave games is to dig a hole, pretend to hide a bone in it, then run off and hide the bone somewhere else. I can tell you their combined paw powers far surpassed either’s solo skills. Good thing we don’t really have a lawn or care about our grass/weed/mulch scape.

There was one moment of drama when Harley disappeared inside, and reappeared… carrying Bella’s GIANT bone that she’d snatched from her crate. Harley just stood there looking at her sheepishly, head cocked with a goofy grin, looking as innocent as possible while holding the purloined beef femur. I’ve never heard Bella growl so deeply… and luckily Harley thought better of her prank and promptly gave the bone back, which Bella proceeded to knaw, reclaiming her prize. We took it away from both of ’em lest any further fits of jealousy be sparked… and a good time was had by all!

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aural abuse

Urgh.  The neighbors are having a party tonight, and loudly replaying the same song about snitches, bitches, fake gucci, and sharkbites.  It’s hard to focus, since it’s coming from next door AND across the street.  It’s like being locked inside the trunk of a hooptie with a stupid stereo… six eggs today though.  Hallelujahs and small graces.  Someday we’ll bring the studio sound system over and drown out the thuggery with Carmina Burana and folk songs. Meantime, pass me another pint please… because now they’re fighting loudly over something, and luckily it’s all words and enticements to swing, come to blows… and I hope it blows over, and hope to the sky that they’re not armed.

A kid threw a pencil through my front wheel on my ride home today… there were a group of kids hanging out on a front porch on California Ave, and a cop SUV parked on the cross street at the corner. I’m not proud to say I reflexively flipped them off over my shoulder. I have three crowns and endured six months of painful dental work for a bike accident that involved something getting stuck in my front wheel… but I felt bad about my reaction- they’re just kids, and my gesture didn’t do anything to change their perceptions about the world in a positive way. That number two lead sailed cleanly through my spokes. They should take up archery, or at least darts. I was a few blocks away and still trying to get home, and all the better things I could have done or said came flooding in. A fresh yellow pencil, the sharp point visible as it bounced on the pavement has so much power and potential, much like those kids if they were to focus and have the right guidance. I wish I’d turned around and tried to tell them that… that projectiles will only get them as far as whomever the cops had up against the fence across the street from them… but if they can learn to use words and reason, to sharpen their minds like the fine point on the school supplies their mom probably just got them that they were flinging away, they might have a shot at getting real power in a rigged world, at getting a leg-up in the struggle… that words and a focused mind have so much potential. And it was a good reminder for me too… to try not to act reflexively out of anger or fear and instead to really think instead of just reacting. I’m really trying to make things better and not focus on how much is wrong, but it’s hard to keep your head up and eyes on the right sometimes.

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But you know, in a good way. I need to make new batches of both of these soaps… they’re some of my favorites! Ok, ok, they’re all my favorites. But I do really like these two.

Beeswax soap with Wisconsin honey, unrefined beeswax, and bee pollen. Honeycomb and queen bee not included!

Little Grass Skirt… it’s da islands, mon! Lemongrass and pink grapefruit, green and red clays, poppyseeds, tapioca, orange peel, lemon and lime leaves.

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Lets ignore the fact that that’s more eggs we’ve gotten in a day in a looong time. White? All right! Our first pullet egg… our little girls are growing up!

Atta girl! Of course, the california white leghorn was the first. Probably followed by the red star… and someday, we’ll get easter eggs (fingers crossed… blue not pink… blue not pink)…


Is this too tacky? ‘Cause it’s true…


This is the other side of the fence. Chickens? Did someone say… Chickens? Oh boy oh boy oh boy… chickens chickens chickens chickens…


She’s worn a packed dirt track from pacing back and forth to watch them. I throw mulch on it but she kicks it up again. Never gets old… she will literally do this all day if I let her, of course with breaks for meals and naps. Rough life.

All in a dog’s day’s work. And in a woman’s… super spicy salsa! Ball Blue Book jalapeño salsa, 1.5x the recipe, plus a half cup of lime juice. The tomatoes are from The Plant, the jalapeños are from the Gary Comer Green Youth Farm (thanks, T!) and the onions are from the store. Good enough. And it’s good… but screamin’ hot… yowza!

Ok, time to pack it up here, head to the studio, and make soap! I’ve been scheming on a new recipe for awhile and it’s time to jump in and do it… coming soon… Treehugger! A blend of spruces, pine, a touch of patchouli, tea tree, spice, and other woodsy goodness, speckled with blue spruce needles… still need to tweak the blend but it should be a nice addition to the line! It will be cured and ready by the second open studio… something to look forward to! But first, some glam shots from today’s back porch photo shoot… and there will be more tomorrow!

Coffee Stout!


Oatmeal Cookie!

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This is the sunrise I woke up to yesterday… I shuffled out to the coop with my coffee, to supervise the dog’s chicken surveillance, and was half tempted to get back in bed with a book for a bit… until I looked up. Whoa. Gorgeous! And, with the distant rumblings, a tad ominous. The top of the day’s to-do list was muck out the chicken coop bedding, spread the composted outside stuff on the garden, move the cleaner stuff from in the covered run to outside, and spread fresh straw all around… and if I was going to get that done before a possible downpour, that book would have to wait. This was the sky a few minutes after the first picture:

The dead tree behind the neighbor’s house makes this look like a January shot, not late August, eh? A good reminder to get to work, woman! Three hours later, the coop was fresh and I had a whole ‘barrow full of black magic for the garden, which is finally recovering from the rocky start this year:

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