20100831

Simple Paper Bag Drying

Once again, though I like the outdoor dehydrator for drying herbs and seeds, I find the indoor bag method to be favorable because I dont have to worry about changes in the weather. I can just pin the bags up and forget them for a while.

Bowl Full of Rocks

Sesame is my first dog. So sometimes I'm a bit naive about what a dog is and what to expect from their behavior. Today Sesame really confused me when she buried her food bowl in rocks. Mikey thinks she's protesting her food, saying she doesnt like it. I thought she was covering the scent of her food either because my cat IO steals it, or just to keep other animals away. Hummmm... insert head scratching here.

Look Familiar? The NM Diet

Does this pic look familiar? Ya, it's the same every time I harvest from the garden. This year demonstrated to me why NM's diet is what it is: peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, okra. . . it's a salsa diet. I give. Cheers to salsa and bruschetta spreads.

20100830

Typical Harvest Day Activities


Typical Harvest Day Activities
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We spent most of today doing the sort of activities one would expect us to be up to during summer harvest.

- weed wacking
- wine kit start (this one is a Petite Sirah)
- raw milk mozzerella cheese
- basil pesto (make/vacuum/freeze)
- holy basil drying
- sage drying
- prickly pear processing + drinks
- freeze roasted peppers

Potato Masher Technique for Honey Harvesting

Our good friend (and blog reader) Nat has asked us to elaborate on the potato masher bee honey harvesting technique that we picked up at the bee keepers meeting. It goes like this.... Begin with honey comb that's been uncapped (the wax that covers each honey cell is opened up with a fork tool). This should be done indoors so the bees don't find you and get involved.

Then place a strainer inside a bucket or stainless pot. In the strainer place your honey comb and using a potato masher (see pic) press and break apart the comb thus releasing the honey and basically making a big mess of busted up comb and dripping honey. The ideas is to let the honey slowly seep out of the busted comb, through the strainer and into the bucket or pot.

After allowing to drain for some time take all the mashed up honey comb (wax) and place it on a cookie tray next to your hive. Give the bees some time to clean it all off and take back whatever honey they can harvest from it.

Then take the bee cleaned comb and place in boiling water. The wax will rise to the top while remaining honey will mix into the water. This last step gives you back your cleaned wax so that you can use it.

That's it!

20100829

Fridge / Fermentation Controller Schematic (in progress...)


Fridge / Fermentation Controller Schematic (in progress...)
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I've been working on the schematic for the fridge / fermentation controller. I had no problem tossing in the main components, but things have slowed down now that I need to do a few custom symbols and footprints.

Madrid.. Small Town Life in NM

When you live in a small town like TorC it's important to get out! So while upstate for the bee keepers meeting we played in Santa Fe and visited Madrid. Madrid is another tiny NM town known for having a community of artists. It's cute, down right pretty and while there I was reminded that if I could replace all the cigarette smoking artists with raw food eating yogis I'd be love. Once again, there is no perfect place. . . at least I have not found it.

Sesame proved to be a tad thin skinned as a traveler. Anytime we tried to leave her behind and go out she cried and let us know that our doggie had a bad case of separation anxiety. Of course we then took her everywhere only to watch her pout and express her desire to go home. Our remedy? More travel.

Buzz Kill

We finally went up for Santa Fe's beekeeping group meeting. It's the only group we know of in the state. The topic was harvesting and processing honey. Perfect, that's right where we are at.

While the meeting had an excellent turn out of nearly 30 people, the venue and speaker were disappointing. No one introduced the group to itself, as seats filled a back up cue formed made of people who had no idea where to go or how to find a seat. The host saw this but did nothing. Many tilled around and eventually crawled through gardens and over half walls to get near where the speaking was taking place. It was less than comfortable.

The speaker made no opening comment, welcomed no one (even though I heard that attendance was about 5X it's norm due to honey harvesting season) and eventually just started the talk which was muddy and hard to follow. She had knowledge, there's no doubt about it, but she couldnt quite convey it without meandering and getting lost in thought. The talk had no beginning, middle or end. It was peppered with questions, each leading the group on it's own new course until the next came along to change directions.

We did learn a simple way to extract honey with just a potato masher and this will prove valuable.

20100825

A Week Of All Things Bees

This week we're engaging in all things bees. We've spend last night watching YouTube videos about hive maintenance. Tomorrow night we attend a class on harvesting honey.

This afternoon we suited up and opened up our hive for the first time. We checked the honey production, scraped off wax where it didnt belong, and moved some frames around. The second frame I pulled out was covered in capped honey. Positively beautiful. Then I dropped it! Yah..... sigh. The bees got a tad aggressive after that, several guards going for our faces and wiling to follow us as far as 50ft. But, no stings! We added a bit more smoke and things calmed down fast. We managed to do all the maintenance needed. All in all it went well. Hooray!

Fermenter Controller is Functional


Fermenter Controller is Functional
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

The breadboard fermenter controller is finally stable. I spent a good deal of time proving out the components and testing the firmware until I felt things were solid. Now I can begin the schematic capture and board layout which usually goes much faster than the software development.

20100824

Hot Weather Break


Hot Weather Break
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We spent all of august sweltering in unusually high temperatures and humidity. Our average high for August normally is 88F this month was 95F! Today a cold front and a series of welcome storms have kicked in making things lot more comfortable with a high temperature of less than 78F. We can actually soak in our hot spring and stop running the swamp cooler.

Bill Gets his PV Solar Pump Setup Running


Bill Gets his PV Solar Pump Setup Running
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I spent the morning helping our neighbor Bill get a direct PV solar water pump going. He had collected most of the equipment from another neighbor years ago and just needed a pump, some cable, and a bit of guidance about how to hook it all up. We used a 12VDC / 7A / 3GPM ShurFlow pump connected to his 30 year old 12V / 8A panel array. Bill made a slick angle iron tilt mount so this inexpensive little setup should be able to provide a reliable 900 gallons per day year round. Not bad for less than $200 in hardware expenses.

Finally! Eggplant Yummmmm

I have to thank you guys for all the recipes. I have to admit I started with the one with the fewest steps, the easy one submitted by Eric the Wonderful. He suggested cutting in strips dipping in milk, breading, oven cooking. I did this, came out great and I loved that there was no frying but it had a crunch. Then I made a topping out of oil, garlic, fresh basil, roasted tomatoes, and red pepper (till cooked), balsamic vinegar and chopped fresh mozzarella. Wow!!!! The eggplant is a great bread alternative and just as satisfying. And it's pretty too. I will be trying more of the recipes you guys sent in, my eggplant harvest has just begun. Thanks again!

Holy Basil Drying for Winter Tea

Today's turn in the weather made me realize I ought to get my holy basil prepared and dried for winter tea. I had a huge crop this year. While I usually use the outdoor dehydrator I made I'm using the excalibur today because it's damp and dark outside. I hope to make three quart jars full plus extra for friends.

The tea has a range of medicinal benefits that include reviving the adrenals, it's a nervine as well as a digestive, and anti inflammatory to name a few. it tastes wonder and smells like double bubble gum.

20100822

Surfing in New Mexico

I cant believe its true but it is, we regularly surf right here in NM. T or C is conveniently sandwiched between two huge lakes. So huge in fact that in this thinly populated area, we have all the beach one can ask for, no neighbors. Of course this doesnt make us good skimboard surfers.

Moonsoon + Sunset = Wow

We'll be missing the lake this winter, the dogs will too. Sesame has a blast out there with friends Bean and Lu Lu.

20100821

I'm going to EAT YOU!

Just noticed these two lovely yellow flesh watermelon. It's amazing how they seem to just appear as if they grew to that size over night. I've been walking by, checking their bottoms and threatening them every day, "I'm going to eat you!"

MIkey Makes Mootz!

We in the routine now of picking up raw milk from princess the cow every Saturday and making cheese for the week. We make 1.5 lbs of mozzarella, 1/2lb of butter and 1/2 lb of cream cheese. If the milk is low in butterfat on top we may have to make the butter and cream cheese later, when it forms. We also use this day to make staple foods for week, things that need prepping like salsas, hummus, a new batch of wine, kumbucha etc. It's a great way to spend a saturday.

Fear of Flowers

You may recall that I had some trouble growing flowers in previous years. This year I committed myself to it and wala! It's been fun, beautiful beyond words and now I'm hooked. These pink and peach creme colored flowers just came up, I was delighted. Cant remember what they're called though. Anyone? And each year I grow about 10 or more of the hot pink globe amaranth. The plant is much like a bush, comes in late summer and remains with flowers through late fall. Then the flowers can be dried, they maintain that hot pink color all winter. I suspect one can extract a dye from it too.

Its Like a Jungle Out There

This years garden looks good but it's a bit deceiving. There's lots of green, my tomato plants are 6' tall, but they're just beginning to fruit and I'm not sure it'll be a big bounty. The corn dwarfed and it looks like my giant brussel sprouts, while lovely, may not fruit at all. Strange year. . . .

Suddenly Sesame & Loads of Loofa

I was delighted and surprised when I saw a sesame plant for the first time. Now I grow a few each year because they're so beautiful. Here are a few pics. The flowers have a sweet bell shape. The fruit is in the pods that are along the stem. Each has four quadrants filled with seed that are ripe when the pod turns brown and begins to peel itself open.

I was also amazed to learn that loofa is from a plant not from coral reefs! I've also taken to the habit of growing loofa so that I can be my own supplier of sponges for the bath. This year will be my very best harvest yet!

Good Harvest Today

Not bad. . this morning I picked a handful of red peppers (that I immediately roasted and froze), eggplant, okra, sage (that I dried), tomatoes, onions, tomatillos and a couple of melons. Not bad at all!

Mikey immediately made a tomatillo salsa that blog reader Bosque shared a week or so ago. Came out great. For the recipe click the title of this post.

All Things Eggplant

Within the week I'll have more eggplants than I will know what to do with. I grew two types, a purple and white variety (round) and a dark purple variety (long). I"m not sure how big these long dark one's get before they're ripe. . . I often go with the squeeze test. Mikey likes to pick when the vine connection starts to die.

I've been trying to figure out ways to make and store eggplant and so far I've tried eggplant parmesan that I make in big muffin trays as individual lunches that I freeze for winter; and today I learned about soaking the eggplant in salt water for an hour, ringing out and then roasting. I'm about to try a roasted eggplant bruschetta.

20100820

Hot Summer = Loads of Peppers!

This basket of peppers represents about 1/8 of what's ripe in the garden. I wasnt sure I could roast them all today so I picked just a few. Next steps will be a red pepper spread that I can preserve for the winter.

Still Trying to Master the Chili/Pepper Roast

Still working on this green chili roasting process. The stove thing kinda works but not really. I used an upside down cookie cooling rack today so that the peppers wouldnt fall into the gas fire. I have a feeling I will like the fire pit method best, that is the throw em in technique. I'll try it once this summer heat backs off. Meanwhile got a decent blackening. And putting them in a bag to sweat seems to work well. Smells great. More innovations to come. . .

Big Boxing. . . Citizens As Immune System

No matter how many of these street performance, artivist projects I see I still cry every time I a new one shows up on the web. A blog reader and friend sent me this lovely bit done at a Target store. When I ask myself why I these make me cry I realize that the way this occurs to me is this. . . If the whole world was one living being than these acts, the people in them, are like the cells in our immune system saying "I'm working! I'm fighting back!"

PS: for all of you who are mad at me for going to Wallmart, I'm awfully glad your mad. That's what friends are for.

20100818

WallmartSucks Even More Than I Thought They Sucked

I know it's hard to imagine amping one's image of wallmartsucks up a notch - when I say up I mean in the direction of sucking even more than we thought they sucked! I was already in a tizz about dead peasants (did you know?). Today I went to Wallmartsucks and as is the case every time I go there I can find something appalling. Sometimes I try to find food without fructose. It's a small amusement, at least the act of playing a game breaks the tension that I feel when in there, it prevents me from getting rowdy and into trouble. Today the thing that took me to the edge was Gulf oil T-shirts. No kidding! Wallmart sucks is selling Gulf oil T's right this very minute.

When I wonder about the person who'd wear this shirt I think of something the sages say, they say that "ignorance is a shield for that which we are not yet ready to face." This offers me that little bit of compassion, perhaps just enough to prevent me from tipping over the edge and having a total breakdown.

Corn Fritters & Pepper Spread

We're still at it, figuring out recipes to use what's ripe in the garden that is. Today Mikey made a lovely corn fritter (separating wet from dry and them combining: corn scraped from the cob, corn meal, flower, cheddar, chives, butter, s&p) and I made pepper spread (red peppers, oil, lemon, cumin, pinon nuts in a food processor). It's another hit in the holy scrap kitchen. Yum!!!

An Economy Not Worth Saving

Passing on a post . .. this one from Dale Pendell by way of my buddy Nat, titled An Economy Not Worth Saving

image by Giovanni Rubaltelli, Abstract Design

Mythical Beings are Here

I know three people that if someone told me they were really of another species (not human) I'd believe them. In all three cases the distinguishing feature is that they are all uniquely creative and think in ways that no other does. One of them is one of my life long best friend who I also played in a band with (moxie 1996 to 2001), songwriter Farrell Burk. You might be able to scrounge a track of hers on the web if your lucky. The other is Mikey. He's right here in the kitchen and if your reading this you are well aware of his unusual problem solving skills! And the third is Gretchen Elsner, and she just put up a new blog that I thought I'd pass along for you to see.

I came to know of her through her creative reuse of textiles and my project Swap-O-Rama-Rama. She's got a habit of writing pop up books that are wearable, yes like a dress. Well... you'll figure it out.

20100817

Front Loaders, Flagstone & Friends

Whew. . what a day! Today 12 tons (24,000) lbs of flagstone was delivered here. Only 4 tons are for us but we were the drop location for a huge 18 wheeler full that was ordered by a collective of people in my community. My buddy Jason provided the front loader, we had to gather a community to stand on the back of it to add enough weight that we didnt flip it. I got to drive the front loader across town, that was pretty fun. : )