Posts Tagged ‘diy’

So as usual, not all went according to plan in the artful brewing session, but all mostly went well… as always I owe the Fellow infinite thanks for going along with my crazy ideas without too much protest… he did all the hard work, and I (wo)manned the clean-up shift. Thanks to the fellow for his continued patience, and thanks to those who stopped by, to those who sampled the frothy medieval-style fresh beer in the big green bucket at the closing party, and to those who will try the finished beer in the new year that is currently bubbling away.  Photos from the day coming soon…

Highlights from the closing party included the summoning of the White Nile Crocodile, a fearsome beast with mighty riddles, conjured from the Lye Pit by the horned and wizened Al.  Nasty ashes from the junk mail burning two days previous still swirled around the bonfire pit as two modern-day hipster lumberjacks displayed feats of strength, laboriously sawing through a stack of over $50 worth of perfectly good pallets and torturing what looked like a serviceable crosscut saw with more than a few nails along the way.  The fellow and I looked on, somewhat bemused at the rhythmic soundtrack that their efforts lent to our friends’ crocodile performance… the first riddle (answer: gentrification) standing out in stark relief to these art-students chopping up what would have been a good week’s work for any scrapper in our neighborhood.  We wondered then what they were going to do with all that good kiln-dried wood, and recalled our kitchen last winter, a horror of sawdust, splintered wood and nails as we broke up pallets, fed them to the hungry wood stove, and huddled near their warmth. 

I had those small cares rocked away by the next performance, where I got the chance to climb into a resonant coffin that swayed gently as two ghouly femme fatales bowed and sawed away at the electric-cello-like instrument built into the top lid.  It was oddly soothing, and i enjoyed the brief sound bath. 

Good show, New Capitol.  It was odd last night to not have a bonfire to head to just down the street… though the smoky echoes remain, deeply embedded in the fibers of my Carhartt jacket… but I hope that you guys are enjoying a return to normality and regular sleep.  Cheers!


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soyajoy, diy-astyla

You can make your own soymilk? And even tofu? Yep, and it’s so easy, I wanted to teleport myself back to the vegetarian years when I bought the stuff all the time and kick my (even more broke than now) college behind. There are gadgets you can buy that will make it for you (soyajoy, etc.), but you don’t need a machine if you have basic kitchen tools (pot, blender, strainer, brain)… kind of like how you don’t need a “yogurt maker” if you have mason jars and a large pot of warm water… think about how to use what you have to do what you want to do before you throw money at the problem!

Here’s how easy it is:

Soak a cup or so of soybeans overnight in about 4 cups of water (bonus if you buy 50# bags of organic beans from your nearest farmer or mill- it’s $34.50 here from Ted’s Organic Grains in DeKalb… carpool and stock up on all your staples in bulk once and rejoice in lower grocery bills the rest of the year… and them’s drought prices, son… albeit cheaper at the source).

Then throw ’em in the blender with another cup or two of water and get them as smooth as you can.

Add in another 4 cups of water and put the whole mess in a pot.
Stir and bring it up to a boil (it will foam up like crazy at one point, don’t make a mess and let it boil over and scorch all over the stove… ask me how I know).
Seriously, don’t stop stirring or walk away until the foam goes down… this doesn’t take long. Sing yourself a little soy song while you’re at it, or something.
Simmer for 10-15 minutes (this de-activates the trypsin inhibitors in soy that make it impossible to digest the protein otherwise, or so says the Rodale Home Food Systems book on my shelf that like me, came out in 1981). Both of us are still good sources of useful information, haha.

Strain it through a fine mesh strainer and/or cheesecloth (or a clean pillowcase? use whatever you’ve got… coarse fabric or doubled cheesecloth in a strainer is probably best).

Press out all the drops with a spatula or the back of a ladle. Rinse a bit by pouring more water through and strain again if you want thinner soymilk and to get out the last of the goodies, especially if you’re making tofu with the soymilk and don’t care about the texture of the milk,,. if you’re not, reserve the “first pressings” for drinking and the later bits for cooking with.

There you go! You can add vanilla, honey, sugar, cocoa powder, Tang (ew!) or anything else that strikes your fancy. Now if I only liked soy in my coffee, I’d be set for quarterly grocery runs… Still hooked on the dairy wagon for now as long as I require that caffeine IV drip of joe.. we’ve all got our vices, hey? Actually, I’m fine with powdered milk in my coffee but the fellow draws the line there. Fair enough.

The bean pulp that’s left is called okara- you can season it and use it as a meat replacer or stretcher (the same Rodale book has a surprisingly yummy recipe for “soysage”) or feed it to your chickens! They LOVE it.
Here’s the mise for my soysage, aka “cheatloaf”, which is surprisingly tasty:

What will really blow you away is how easy it is to make tofu at this point… and how similar it is to making cheese, if you’ve ever done that (don’t worry if you haven’t, it’s not rocket science and you can still eat your mistakes)!

Mix up a cup of water and 1 1/4 t. epsom salts (or nigari or calcium sulfate if you have those… I don’t). Bring the soymilk back up to a boil, add the mixture one third at a time, letting it boil again and stirring gently between each addition.

Kill the heat and let sit for a few minutes, and you should get soy curds and whey! Back to the singing… “little miss moffet, sat on a toffet, eating her bean curds, oh hey!”

Ladle into a mold (anything food safe and porous… strainer works fine again, though I have a couple plastic cheese molds that I saved from some store bought panela that had ridiculously sturdy “disposable” molds as packaging) and let drain. Press with a weight on top if you want firmer curds.
Use the whey in your next soup stock or bread. Mind blown! Sooo cheap, it’s almost free.

In other home dairy news… our neighbor just got goats! So in addition to the visiting goats at the park, we also have a trio of permanent resident Nigoras (Angora and Nigerian Dwarf crosses)… Olga and her daughter, and little Walter, the future stud-muffin who for now is getting pushed around by the ladies. So there is goat milk soap in the future… and our neighbor agreed to teach me to weld in exchange for soap-making lessons. I love our street. Most of the time…

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School is in session! We’ll have our first class in early October at The Plant, and half the proceeds will benefit The Plant and our season-extension plans for the fall garden! This “Garden to Pantry” primer will be an overview of food preservation techniques to put up the harvest- either from your own garden, the late season abundance from your favorite farmer, or maybe that case of fruit you got at Maxwell St. threatening to turn into mush on your counter (ask me how I know about that last one). We’ll start in the garden with a bountiful harvest of fresh-picked produce, and then head to the kitchen to find out what to do with it all!

There will be samples of various types of preserves and demonstrations of equipment and basic techniques. Always wanted to try pickling, dehydrating, canning, freezing, or lacto-ferments but didn’t know where to begin? You’ll take home some recipes and a list of reliable information sources, and more importantly, the knowledge and confidence to put up healthy local food at home for year-round nourishment!

You’ll learn how to ensure both the peak of flavor and food safety in your preserved products from a trained chef, with techniques you can use in your own kitchen. This class will be an overview and introduction, with more in-depth topic classes to come… email me for more information or to sign up. This class will be capped at 10 participants. The fee for this class is $40 (for those who are able, email me to discuss paying-it-forwards and donating more to fund a scholarship spot in this or future classes for low-income participants). Date and time TBA!

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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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I love this! Free the children… and anyone else who wants to sell some damn lemonade (or whatever) to their neighbors.

the irresistible fleet of bicycles

August 16, 2012-Washington, DC (Business Wire)—On August 18, 2012 a group of mothers and others, members of the advocacy groups, the Raw Milk Freedom Riders and Lemonade Freedom Day, will take their raw milk and lemonade to the lawn of the US Capitol to celebrate their right to “voluntary exchange.”

By offering raw milk and lemonade for sale or barter, which is illegal in many places including Washington DC, these mothers and other activists risk criminal charges, and possibly jail.  Last August, in a similar protest, three people were arrested for selling 10-cent cups of lemonade.

The lemonade stands and raw milk tasting booths will be set up on the mall at 12:00 noon on the lawn of the Capitol reflecting pool. The approximate location is around 3rd Street Southwest between Maryland and Jefferson in Washington DC.

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For the record, chickens LOVE pie. Pumpkin pie, past its prime is deftly devoured and disappeared down beaks, after a bit of squabbling, wing flapping, and “hey, that’s my pie!”, “no, you seem to be mistaken… you ate yours… this is MY pie. Nomnomnom.” (no, they didn’t get that whole thing, just the last piece that sat on the counter too long and sprouted three fuzzy dots of mold. Chickens don’t give a cluck!).

Pie is a hit, but they are indifferent about nipples. Specifically, the “poultry nipples” which dispense water, mounted underneath a hanging five-gallon bucket with a submersible aquarium heater on a temperature controller that turns on whenever it’s below freezing, to free us from the worry and chore of constantly defrosting their waterer- they now have liquid water available in their coop at all times (added bonus- the design makes it impossible for them to poop in the thing, fill it with bedding, or otherwise muck it up, which chickens are adept at). Only problem? Getting them to use the darn thing. They’re red, like the base of their other waterers, which is supposed to be an “attention-getting” color for chickens. Mine didn’t get the memo. I’ve tried tapping it so that drops of water come out as they watch, which results in them pecking at the ground where the droplets fell but remaining oblivious to the source above them. I tried holding them and gently touching their beaks to the fount- mmm, tasty magic trick on my part apparently, no hoped for Helen Keller-AHA-moment… w-a-t-e-r… WATER! Hey, did you know there’s water in here? And its nice and warm, and here we’ve been eating snow and freezing our little chicken tongues off? Bitchin! I’d try finger-spelling it to them but I know that’s hopeless.

Yes, weird mammal over there. Why are you squawking about the nipples on that bucket when there's water in this dish? And solid water under that? I am chicken. I care not for the care you (or that other human) put into building the waterer to ensure my care. Now how about you throw us some of that nice corn and then go clean off the poop tray under our roosts?

How does the waterer work? Picture a water bottle for rabbits or other small animals- if you had a hamster or guinea pig as a child I’m sure you’re familiar with the mechanism- little ball bearing at the end of a metal tube is held shut by gravity and water pressure (sorry, not an engineer, people) and releases small drops of water when tapped. These work the same way, but with a little peckable stick thing that releases the water on a diminutive threaded valve that can be installed on the underside of just about any container. I keep hoping maybe they’ll run into it one day, get water on their head and finally look up, and that the one clumsy or bright bird (whichever) will figure it out to teach the others. Till then they persist in eating snow and ice with apparent relish, and drinking from dishes whenever I set them out for them. Any tips on training them to use the wonder waterer? I’m at a loss. They look like this, http://www.avianaquamiser.com/chickennipple/ (though we bought ours for about $12 for a 5-pack from an amazon seller, as we didn’t need the whole “kit” or pre-assembled ones that they sell, just the nipples thank you very much) and if I can get the girls to take to them would highly recommend them over the traditional style of waterer. I have yet to try the grape trick listed in the manufacturer’s troubleshooting page (http://www.avianaquamiser.com/troubleshooting/) but will give it a go… any other suggestions for titillating treats (sorry, couldn’t help myself) that will stick on the underside of the fount but not gum up the works?

In other news, we have a new member of our flock of three (now four). “Goldie Hen”, who was described as maybe a Buff Orpington, but maybe Minorca (she’s a wee thing, with a comb that flops slightly to one side… though her pale brown egg and gentle demeanor give credence to Orpington), was a rescue listed on the Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts list by a neighbor of her former owner. He’d gotten her as a chick last Easter and kept her in a cage as a house pet, and called her Colonel Sanders until she started laying eggs. Apparently the novelty of a chicken in the house wore thin (I can’t imagine- our three lived in an oversized dog crate in the kitchen for three days before we finished the chicken tractor, and it was three days too long). He was going to turn her loose “for the coyotes or whatever” but luckily his neighbor found us first and brought her over. We’re keeping her separate from the other girls, in the chicken tractor which is totally stuffed with straw that she can burrow in to keep her warm until she acclimates to being outdoors all the time. I’m not sure what he was feeding her, but she can’t get enough good organic layer mash, scratch, slightly-off aquaponic arugula, and oyster shell… I wonder if maybe she was eating birdseed before? We’ve gotten one adorable pullet egg already and hoping that she and the other ladies can get along so she can stay with us- I’m a little worried about her holding her own, as she’s a little timid and hasn’t been around other chickens before. Pictures coming soon!

La di dah, scratching in straw...

Wait a minute, who's this? (Goldie Hen has never seen another chicken before. Weird!)

"whotheheckarethey I'mjustfineinhere thankyouverymuch".

Someone's been sleeping in MY bed (this from the chickens who'd totally ignored the smaller coop since moving to the Chicken Palace of Luxury). The straw is always fluffier on the other side...

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A friend of mine shared this article on facebook recently… it brings up a current divide in the Slow Food movement about whether “good, clean, and fair food” also must be expensive. Some pit fair wages for farmers against the needs of those on a budget.

And here’s a response by Slow Food’s president, Josh Viertel, whom I met when I was a youth delegate (youth meaning under thirty, which I was a the time, and delegate meaning we cared enough to get there, and were given spots in the homes of locals to unroll our sleeping bags) at the infinitely inspiring Slow Food Nation event in 2008 that he mentions in the article.  He’s in my notes as “the Yale guy” though the direction he’s taken the organization is not the one that that title might suggest.


Edible Gardens in front of City Hall at SFN'08

Three Sisters and the Dome

My thoughts are, you can spend money, or you can spend time. Most people have some of either, or could shift their priorities and make it happen. The trick is making them WANT to make it happen. I’m a member of Slow Food, but only because of their “any gift makes you… a member” campaign, and because I could afford a student membership while in school. I wish the Chicago chapter had more low and no cost events like, say, Madison… about the only events I can afford to attend (or am interested in) are potlucks at the honey coop and whatnot. Expensive dinners downtown? Not in my budget. Unfortunately that’s what most people think slow food is about.

It doesn’t have to be one or the other as the first article suggests… you can support local farmers with fair prices AND eat cheaply. I’ve bought organic wheat for anywhere between forty cents and a dollar a pound by buying bulk 50# bags. You have to buy a mill (get a well-made used one, they last FOREVER) and have a little bit of room to store it, but you get food security (grain in the pantry), food justice (the farmers get the money, not middlemen, and you don’t have to be rich to afford it) AND amazing quality. If you bake no-knead bread, you don’t need a lot of time, skill, or an expensive mixer or bread maker- just an oven safe pot and an oven, about 10 minutes of active time, four ingredients (flour, water, salt and yeast), and a little planning ahead… presto, you now have a $5 loaf (or more) of real bread for pennies.
(one of many excellent how-to’s for this baking technique is here:

No-Knead Bread (this one with walnut fudge chunks- a fantastic save for a batch of siezed candy)

It’s attainable and as cheap or cheaper than ramen (don’t get me wrong, without ramen I would probably not have made it to adulthood, or at least would be skinner and have lower blood pressure, heh… but homemade whole foods are a much healthier alternative). I’d like to see more inexpensive workshops for this sort of thing as activities. I guess that means, get up and make it happen rather than just talk about it, huh.

Organic arugula (or kale, or lettuce, or whatever) from the store is expensive. Organic greens from your backyard are almost free. Good food does not have to cost a lot, and I’m glad they’re breaking this myth down. Yes, if you want to buy the organic equivalents to processed foods, you will break the bank. Learn some life skills (cooking, growing, buying in bulk, menu planning, food preservation) and you can have a rich diet on a poverty pocketbook.

Another friend raised a very valid point: “but one can’t have a rich diet on a poverty pocketbook without a wealth of knowledge which many folks don’t have access to.”

And this is so true. Most people didn’t grow up on farms with quasi-hippie parents and Rodale Press Home Food System encyclopedias on the shelf. I was baking yeast breads at home (which I learned from books- my mom only made quick breads),… reading about cheesemaking and daydreaming about a dairy cow while the pre-teen next to me on the school bus was reading Seventeen. But you don’t have to be that out-there to figure a lot of this out… you do need knowledge, and access to information. We still have libraries, albeit with shorter hours… but most people aren’t going to do this until someone reaches out and shows them first that it’s possible, and second, why they should bother, and then, how. Organizations like Share our Strength do a good job getting kids into the kitchen and cooking from scratch… I realize that a school system that is struggling to get our kids up to snuff on basic reading and math is hard-pressed to fund Home Economics. One of my resolutions for this year is to reach outside my comfort zone and do more teaching and skill-sharing.

Even when you're living paycheck to paycheck, eating should be hand to mouth (or teat to mouth- notice that this milk is bypassing the bucket)... the less steps between your food's origins and you, the more affordable and healthful it is likely to be.

I’ve been thinking a lot about food access, food justice, and the knowledge gap that keeps most folks with limited means from accessing a healthy diet. There’s a heated debate going on in the local food and urban farming community about the best way to address this problem. Our mayor and some others think that getting local foods and fresh foods into Walmart and Walgreens is the easiest solution to the problem. While, yes, this may help put a bandaid on it in the short term, it won’t solve the root problems of poverty that are the real cause of the problem, and the knowledge gap that prevents people from making healthy choices when they are available and affordable. Local businesses with ownership in the community will be better able to meet the needs of their neighbors and keep scarce dollars flowing in the neighborhood economy. No, not every neighborhood can support a Dill Pickle coop, but there has to be a happy middle ground.

People need access to resources and educational programming to teach them how to be more self-sufficient. Growing, cooking, and preserving food at home isn’t hard if you know how… these are basic skills our grandparents had, and vital if we’re going to meet the demand for local healthy food and overcome the health problems associated with poor nutrition- obesity and diabetes are serious problems that can only be solved by changing the way we eat.
This is a really good examination of the issue on a national level:


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