20100430

Sweet Travel Setup


Sweet Travel Setup
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Diesel mercedes airstream van towing what at first looked like a tiny electric vehicle. I just learned that the vehicle being towed is most likely a speeder railcar used for inspection of railroad tracks. Spotted along the Rio Grande during fiesta week.

20100429

Baby IO White Zinfendel Label

As you well know one of my favorite things about making wine is making the label. Here's the latest for the Baby IO white zin.

Crazy Wind Day


Crazy Wind Day
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

The wind has been particularly intense today. It started last night as we were going to bed and now is holding over 48 mph with gusts to 67 mph. We picked up stuff that tends to fly away yesterday and so far the only item we have seen make a break for it is a laundry room throw rug. It is nice to have a day off from outdoor work, but this kind of weather is hell on the seedlings and blossoms.

Crazy Wind Day #2 Crazy Wind Day #3

Snacking on Spring Cactus Pads


Snacking on Spring Cactus Pads
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We tried our hand at foraging for wild foods last summer. Our success stories were mesquite and prickly pear fruit. While reading about those I realized that other parts of the cactus such as the young pads (nopales / nopalitos) are quite popular in some parts of the world.

Gathering / Cleaning
Yesterday, I watched a handful of youtube videos then went to the park to score a few nopalitos. Within minutes I had gathered 5 lbs of pads using only a pair of tongs. Much like the prickly pear fruit I just burned the stickers off over the stove flame and dipped them in boiling water to wash away the remains and soften up the glochids. The young spines come right off with a knife. I finally went over the nearly smooth pad with a old sponge to try and pickup any remaining stickers.

Cooking
Lots of options for cooking the pads. I'm partial to the idea of coating them with olive oil and grilling them. I didn't have a grill handy so I went with frying them in a pan with a bit of bacon grease and they came out quite edible. A little snotty for the texture oriented. The pads can also be baked.

\ Snacking on Spring Cactus Pads #2 Snacking on Spring Cactus Pads #3 Snacking on Spring Cactus Pads #4 Snacking on Spring Cactus Pads #5

20100428

IO Zinfandel Bottled


IO Zinfandel Bottled
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Our third batch of wine is complete. We bottled up a white zinfandel which really has a very pink color. Wendy is working on the new label as I post this.

Sick Apple Tree?


Sick Apple Tree?
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We have four apple trees. Three of them are doing pretty well, but this guy looks a bit sickly. I tried making it a batch of worm compost tea this morning. This is just two shovel scoops from the worm bin and 3 gallons of rain water. I'll try to remember to take a photo in a week and see if it is looking any better.

A Successful Fava Bean Harvest


A Successful Fava Bean Harvest
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Our fava beans rock! We have been eating them raw in the garden, but also started to do quick dishes with them in the frying pan. This week we have been into a fava bean, shrimp and bacon dish over rice. What a great survival food this would be.

Fresh Mozzarella Cheese


Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We have been refining our recipe for mozzarella cheese. We had only made a farmers cheese up until now. Using only lemon juice and salt with our local milk. Now we have started playing with rennet, citric acid and some cheese specific additives to try and get a real mozzarella. We are getting closer, but the shine is not quite right yet.

20100427

Tincture DIY

CRAFT just posted my recent article on tincture making. Have a look.

Seedling Xfer


Seedling Xfer
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Our first round of seedlings are ready for transplant. We are holding back a bit due to high winds in the forecast for the rest of the week. Wendy did put some peppers into a bed that already had some seedlings of red okra. This bed recently contained our arugula and broccoli rabe both of which provided a incredible harvest this winter.

20100426

Welding the Shade Posts


Welding the Shade Posts
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We spent the morning trying to get our first set of shade posts to align. After some clamping and bitching we managed to get something within reason and I did a few tack welds to hold it together long enough to grind off the paint in the weld zone.

Welding the Shade Posts #2 Welding the Shade Posts #3 Welding the Shade Posts #4

What a Spring


What a Spring
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Our weather this spring has been incredible. We are just now, at the end of April hitting the same temperatures that we had last year at the end of February. Each week has brought us a reasonable rain which has made our garden super abundant.

Youth Center Fun!


Youth Center Fun!
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

During our evening walk Sesame and I came across this trashed vehicle. It had been gutted of internal electronics and looked like someone had been hitting it for hours. I took a few photos thinking it important for documentary purposes. On our way home from the park we saw about 50 high school kids gathered around. They were hitting the vehicle with a sledge hammer and jumping on various parts of it. This is all taking place behind the christian youth center known as "The Club". It looked like they even had adult supervision.

Sealing Up the Shade Posts


Sealing Up the Shade Posts
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

The upper beams of our latest shade structure were wide open after we made our cuts. This would allow birds, insects and even water to make it's way into our beams which is not desirable. We decided to spend the day cleaning up some old sheet metal to make custom plates for the end of the shade.

Sealing Up the Shade Posts #2 Sealing Up the Shade Posts #3

20100423

Shade Metal Cutting Continued


Shade Metal Cutting Continued
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Wendy and I finished making the angle cuts for our shade frame as well as cleaning up the edges. Now we need to make a jig and begin welding it all together.

Mescal Canyon Hike


Mescal Canyon Hike
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We did a fun little hike this morning with two of our dog owning neighbors. If we cross a bridge and get on the other side of the Rio Grande there is a area where people often shoot guns at garbage. Just passed that is a incredible canyon with a trickling stream of water.

Mescal Canyon Hike #2 Mescal Canyon Hike #3

20100421

What's DIY Tincture Without a Pretty Label?

Much like our wine making, I think I enjoy making the label as much as I do making the wine or in this case, the tincture. Here's my new "Gravity Free" tincture label.

Slab Shade Prep : Cutting Metal


Slab Shade Prep : Cutting Metal
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

The high winds brought a bit of cloud cover which made for a nice day to work outside. Wendy and I resumed our first shade structure project for the summer by cutting up some 4x4 steel posts.

Slab Shade Prep : Cutting Metal #2

Wild Lettuce: Medicine

Today I harvested wild lettuce, which is in bloom right now. I harvested a good 15 full sized plants (1' to 3') which I processed in two ways. I made a mash (medium fine chopped) which I set in 190 proof alcohol to sit for about a month. I will then make a tincture of it. And I also juiced the plant to produce a pint of liquid. This liquid went into the dehydrator where it will change state a few times until it's down to a gummy handable material that can be smoked. I also harvested some prickly poppy. I dried this plants leaves in the dehydrator for a soothing tea. For more about the medicinal properties of wild lettuce: check out this page. Keep an eye on the right side of this blog. If I produce extra (more than I need) of any of these tinctures, smokes, teas etc, I'll add it to the pop up list so that you guys can get some too!

Tincture for 2010: Red Root & Calendula

This year I have committed to harvesting, growing, and making my own tinctures. It's been a busy week with many plants in bloom and ready for processing into medicine. Yesterday I finished a red root and calendula tincture. I'm using the old percolation method which was taught to me by a good friend and herbalist.

20100419

Wild Lettuce - The Hard Way


Wild Lettuce - The Hard Way
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We have a common weed that grows in every yard around here. It is a ancient form of lettuce simply referred to as wild lettuce, but it is also known as opium lettuce. This plant is not at all related to opium, but has some interesting alkaloids. We tried to access the interesting properties using a razor blade and and collecting the milky latex sap. It smells the same as opium, but does not have the negative side effects. Although mild, it is still quite effective. I've read about processing these plants using a juicer then reducing the liquid to make a more potent medicine. In the future I will try to juice some lettuce and Wendy will try a tincture.

Pomegranate Dancing


Pomegranate Dancing
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We have managed to get four pomegranate trees in the ground in less than two hours this morning. We had to dig up and move half of them from other locations. We might have a few years before we actually get some edible fruit, but they already are providing a visual barrier in the yard that looks nice.

Soil Exchange


Soil Exchange
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Our blueberry bushes are a joke. A very small sad joke. Our friends Jay and Ryanne who reside in Virginia sent me some soil from their blueberry bushes which I added to my blueberry bushes today. The idea here is to achieve a acidic pH level through proper bacteria. I believe our soil is base due to the bacteria and we don't have enough acidic loving bacteria to make a happy blueberry bush. Let's see how my experiment goes.

Pesto Madness


Pesto Madness
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

4.2lbs of arugula/pecan pesto (no cheese added). I tossed these in the freezer and will probably be eating them until 2012.

20100418

Poke Root Tincture - Extra if You Need it

I made a rather large batch of poke root yesterday, more than I need for my own uses. I have a few ounces that I can spare. As you may know not too many people offer poke root tincture. Poke root is a poison if used for too long. But rightly used as a remedy it's effective, very potent! Should anyone need some I'll offer it as "buy it now" on the right side of the site until I run down to the quantity that I need for myself. It will come in a standard glass tincture bottle. The extraction was done with Everclear via percolation. The root came from Mountain Rose, a great source for fresh, organic herbs.

The price is $10.00 plus 2.50 for shipping. The tincture is super fresh, made yesterday.

For those who are asking, "what does one use poke root for?" here's the skinny on it's uses:

Poke Root is also known by the names Pigeon Berry, Cancer Root, Red Ink Plant, Shang-lu, Congora, Coakum, Inkberry, Scoke, and Red Weed.

Poke Root is broadly described as an alterative, purgative, and emetic. An alterative is any herb which will gradually restore the proper function of the body, and increase health and vitality. They act to alter the body's processes of metabolism so that tissues can best deal with the range of functions from nutrition to elimination. Emetics are herbs that cause vomiting through irritation of the stomach or nervous system. A purgative is an herb which has the effect of causing rapid and violent diarrhea. In large doses, Poke Root may produce gastro enteritis with concomitant vomiting and diarrhea. It acts as a depressant on the respiratory and cardiac centers, as well as depressing the visual and auditory senses. Known topical applications of this herb have included its use as a poultice for boils, fungal infections, skin and breast cancer, and as a compress for mastitis. A poultice of the berries has been used on boils, ringworm, scabies and wounds, and as a salve for bedsores, carbuncles, chickenpox, eczema, fungal infection, hemorrhoids, herpes, measles, psoriasis, and shingles.

Poke Root Tincture

Pesto Time


Pesto Time
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Our arugula crop has reached the end of it's season. We pulled up two large grocery bags worth of arugula leaves and a mason jar of arugula flowers. I'm in the process of converting it into pesto tonight which will take at least two hours. My recipe is simple:

- 2 cups arugula leaves
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup soaked pecans
- parmesan to taste
- 1/2 cup olive oil

Bag, vacuum seal, and freeze. Hopefully we can make it into next year.

...brutal, but I managed to make 4.2lbs of pesto without the cheese... Pesto Time #2 Pesto Time #3 Pesto Time #4 Pesto Time #5 Pesto Time #6 Pesto Time #7 Pesto Time #8