Chocolate Temperer

Chocolate Temperer
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

A friend of ours over at Madre Chocolate has informed me of a gaping hole in the equipment options for chocolatiers. There doesn't appear to be a inexpensive chocolate temperer that can handle 10 lb+ batches and automate the temperatures control required for different types of chocolate making. I've whipped up this schematic and will try to get the prototype shipped out this week for a intelligent temperer that costs 7x less than the ones available on the market.

Winter Comes and the Bread Flattens

Winter Comes and the Bread Flattens
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Getting a good bread rise is a lot easier during our relatively humid / hot summers. Now that fall is upon us getting a bread taller than a frisbee is a bit more difficult. I am trying a rapid bread making process combined with the fermenter controller to get a nice fluffy loaf.

Mix all ingredients (I use my cuisinart with a bread paddel):

- 1 cup - 100 deg F water
- 3 cups white flour
- 1 tbl yeast
- 2 tbl salt

Place in chest cooler and set temperature controller to 80F with a cup of boiling water (for more humidity). Let rise for two hours.

Place in Sun Oven at 350F for 1.5 hours.


Freezing is the New Canning

Lazy Canning
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

After going through a peach canning marathon (Wendy made chutney with them) we had no desire to do anymore canning. I just sliced up the remaining peaches, vacuum bagged them, and froze them. This morning I cracked open a bag of our frozen peaches and the contents to my home made greek yogurt smoothie. This idea worked out great.

Cherry Tree - Get in my Belly

Our Cherry Tree Lives On
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We killed a few trees this summer. Rather than just burn them as firewood we have been saving them for smoking our food. The cherry tree has been particularly tasty. We don't have a good system for breaking the tree down so I just used a power saw to make small chunks and then a coffee grinder to get it even finer. It sort of works.


Take Back Your Culture

Today Mikey passed me a link about a free culture event that is taking place in Barcelona. This got me thinking that this community has been in need of a slogan for a long time. The Libre Culture Forum sets out to address these very kinds of issues like how to craft language and counter arguments. Anyway.. the slogan I found so appealing is. .


For more on OXCARS and Libre Culture Forum

Back to Biz in the Desert: Food, Water and. . .

No doubt we're home. This morning we ran out to visit a good friend that Mikey is advising on setting up a solar pump for irrigation. Our friend's got one of the strongest backs in the land and he's in his 80's. This year he set up a new farm, when we left him he was going out to collect rocks to build a root cellar. As is custom in places like this where the domestic economy is alive and well, I left with loads of Anasazi corn and enough hubbard squash to get me through the winter!


Home Sweet Home: Truth or Consequences, NM

OK I know. . . all these travel posts are inherently skewed because the point of the trip was to cure a thing, small town blues. Logically I had to gather a story that made all places less good than my own place, otherwise I might get pretty unhappy about my choices. And we did not spend nearly enough time in any place and therefore could not learn much more than what was offered on it's surface. Nonetheless I do think some observations are worthy of note and come only when one breaks away from their own pattern.

For me the question is always one of how to live, how to be free and happy. Visiting other places invites that very inquiry. In the great "out there" people are in various observable states of wakefulness. The cliche - ignorance is bliss - is evident everywhere as people recklessly burn fuel, eat poison, destroy their home (earth), and allow themselves to be filed into stalls (jobs) that limit them intellectually and creatively. They give their best to a system that forever undervalues them. They appear to be at a great banquet. Yesss bliss. I remind myself, lest I get cynical, of the words of a great mystic Hazrat Inayat Khan who said of ignorance that "it is a shield for that which are not yet ready to face." We are all seeking happiness which we do from the awareness we currently have. The real struggle is that in all of our many stages we share one planet, one life. For those who are more awake the weight of responsibility that comes with knowledge is a necessary burden. So what to do?

From this new view I see that MIkey and I did a partial opt out. We're connected to the (failing) system but we don't let it take us over. Our time, at least for now, is mostly our own. In that way we're somewhat free. We work and use money even if we can imagine a more free society. Like everyone we live in flux in a society that is not yet in agreement about what it wishes to be but we manage to feel free within it. And this freedom is everything. I think that it comes from a never ending conversation about what life, happiness and freedom are and look like. We always ask "why do anything and for what ends?" This conversation has provided a healthy ground for debate, learning, contemplation, change and adaptation. It keeps us feeling expressed in the world rather than squashed by it. It is likely the most important thing that we do. I am comfortable making discoveries and thinking that I understand how things work while knowing that I will correct myself later when I can see more and have a wider view. Anything else is a lie. The only constant is change.

We saw some of the flux I am talking about on the road when we got a good glimpse at the new American poor. They were the middle class. Now they are taking in room mates to make the bills, and realizing that the "new" home they bought faces the wrong way, has little insulation and will break them to try to heat and cool. Many are one unexpected emergency away from loosing everything. What makes the difference between rich and poor? Happy and miserable?

Krishnamurti said, "It is no sign of wellness to be well adjusted to a sick society." I see the society as sick. The only reason I can opt out on some fronts is that I trust myself. I know that living a heart centered and contemplative life provides me with keen awareness and better "data" than any book, school or system can provide. Living near and with nature is like having a teacher always present. It's interesting to note how observation of nature can teach one about the whole universe. While the life man put on top of nature (the system) offers knowledge of a narrow and limited variety. It can't ultimately keep one alive. I trust what is generated by my own awareness. Most important, I trust myself with myself and so the system offers me nothing.

I am also happy with the view that life is hard and punctuated with joy. People through all of time have said so and that's ok with me. How else will be able to leave this world? Look at how some kick and scream and wish for resuscitation of every grotesque variety to give them one more gasp of life on earth while others welcome death when it comes. Observation of nature (a natural system) not only teaches one how to live but also how to die. It is ok to be tired of the story of earth and it's struggle at the end of a life. Perhaps this is why mystics suggest that we live here as a visitor, a passerby.

Having been a visitor for a couple of weeks my own home feels awfully good. I'm welcomed back to hot springs, huge open skies, sunshine, a low cost of living, great community and a garden that promises organic food at the cost of my time and attention. Sold!

Road Trip Notes: Last Stop Moab UT

I realize that these posts sound like a whole lot of ranting and little joy. . . in truth, we really enjoyed most of this trip. It seems that the struggles are really the most interesting, memorable and in retrospect, the funniest moments. Moab was set to be our last stop and we had plans to pop in on a friend who had a B-n-B that was now for sale situated on some acreage with a natural spring. It was lovely and again too short a stay. Moab is stunning and situated in dark rust colored rock formations. The natural beauty is probably the entire reason that people are there. We rolled through on the main drag. Businesses with huge signs promised exciting trips on the river or in vehicles of an amazing variety. Our host went on to tell us that there are now vehicles that climb up rocks. It seems that just like our neighboring town of Elephant Butte where people bring their boats to the shop to be made louder, Moab was hell bent on burning fuel for "fun." Again as an x-windsurfer I can attest that plenty of excitement of extreme variety can be found without the combustion engine. Ah well. . . at least I know that one day this will pass as fuel is a non renewable. I only wish I could be a hundred years in the future so that when someone asks, "what did they do with all that free energy when they did have it?" I could say, "We spent it on gum, hello kitty and driving in circles."

My Moab friend represented yet another variety of opting out. His version looked like a BnB that didnt turn out to be such a great producer after all. So often folks opt out and then drown. "Why is that?" I wondered. Is it because being outside of such a massive thing (the system) is isolating and scary? I thought about the many that make impotent efforts to scrape a living together on the outskirts. They often fail, after all there are no systems or support for alternative lifestyles. Everything in our culture says "one way" and that's head on into the machine of capital. These failed efforts to scrape by render people utterly powerless. Much like the guy in the film No Impact Man, its easy to renounce a thing and then feel empty and lack. This led me to thinking that one who opts out must work hard to do things and finish things even if there seems no final benefit and especially when they're living outside the system. We must see ourselves (through our work and effort) manifested in the world. It locates us. By doing so we earmark the world as part of rather than separate than ourselves. The truth is that life is more abundant outside of the system, we just need new (and more rewarding) skills to live there. With the world changing in every possible way right now, it seems pretty obvious that adaptation is the most important skill of all.

As we pulled out of town excited for the next stop - HOME - the hole in the rock sign reminded me one more time of man's never ending need to piss on everything he sees.

Road Trip Notes: Better Get Out of Boise

Sigh. . . some road trips seem blessed from the moment you hit the pavement. This one however, not so much. With two tickets, no entry to Portland (our actual destination) and a wicked seasonal cold I was more than ready to get home. Unfortunately over 1000 miles stood between me and my own bed. We stopped in Boise only because it's where we where when we got too tired to drive further. While pulling into a parking spot one of those new species of humans, the kind who weigh double what the others weigh and eat lots of high fructrose, was standing outside her SUV (snack properly stuffed in face) fiddling about with something in her back seat. Rather than move aside to let me in the parking space next to her she used her hands to guide me in around her. Just so happens she guided me into a short cement wall. Moments later my radiator fluid was all over the parking lot.

The hotel gave us their last available room. I snuck Sesame in the side door and crashed hard. In the morning I got the car towed to what seemed a local mom n pop shop, Gary's Auto. Upon it's arrival there they revealed that they were a NAPA station (insert sound of doom music here). They boldly quoted me between $700 and $800 for a radiator. We had already sourced one at a local supply shop for just over $100 and looked up the going rate on labor, and the hours estimated for this repair, about 4. My New York roots revved up and I called shop after shop offering, "Here's the deal.. I'll pay anyone who'll promise to do it in a day $500.00, that's a fair hourly wage and a little mark up on the part." Someone finally agreed and I re-towed the car over. All there was to do was wait.

What made this stop particularly awful was the realization that there were no commons. Without a friend, our own home, or a car to store or bodies in, we had to "pay the parking meter" so to speak by giving a hotel 1/2 day rates, $50 per 6 hours just to be alive. We walked the area around the hotel to find concrete, wallmartsucks, giant big box stores and no sidewalks. One was not meant to walk here. This landscape was the new arteries of the machine that had become America. Lifeless and based on oil, commerce driven, and NO COMMONS. The nearest green space was way to far to walk. We reluctantly went into a wallmartsucks and got some strawberries. Behind the massive building next to heaps of cardboard ready for recycling a tiny strip of grass and a tree turning yellow and dropping it's leaves offered us a moment of repose. We rolled around in the grass as though it were water in a desert.

Oh.. One positive thing happened here. . . . Sesame got her own bed.

Road Trip Notes: Hood River

I took my mucus producing self, fevered and tired to the best Best Western on the map. Again Yelp guided us and guided us well. The hotel sat directly on the lake. Through sliding glass doors I was able to watch (from my sick bed) a stunning and ever changing view featuring fog, sunrises and sets.

I had some idea of what to expect from Hood River. I used to be a wind surfer and so I know the culture that has made the place their own: a bit beach bum but able to scrape together some dough (after all windsurfing is expensive!) and wired up for peak experiences and play. I often wonder if the whole point of being a human being on earth is to play and the rest of what we see here is simply the result of our egos tricking us into thinking life must be misery. I often ponder the many "opt out" models people follow and find myself sympathetic. Participation in "the system" (at least in the US) comes with an unbearable heap of non-reality. It is easy to wish to go to sleep and many do just that. To step one foot in and participate is to be sucked into the machine and ground up in the gears. Student loans, the gateway drug to debt society, invite all minds down a road in which reward is only given for greedy behavior while cries of morality are signs of weakness. It takes a giant to be "successful" and still remain a whole person within this system. So yes play, play if you can play!

I spent many hours fascinating over the television while stuck in the hotel room. The last time I owned a TV was around 2000. I completely "cracked out" watching in amazement as the hosts on QVC talked about a plastic necklace seamlessly and with peaked interest for nearly 1/2 hr. Most shows I turned off quickly because the violence was too harsh. My 10 year media fast worked and my emotional system was working properly again: the news made me cry, I was positively tortured by what has become common violence on TV shows and I winced in embarrassment as people willingly made fool of themselves on reality TV shows. After a few hours I renewed my commitment to remain TV free.

Thanks for helping me get well Hood River, it's time to head south.


Road Trip Notes: Polite Portland

Another short run delivered us to Portland. While Portland was the one city we most wanted to check out, it was impossible to do so. The crash pads we prearranged fell through and all the hotels were booked solid! We interpreted this big "no" as a reason to stop in for lunch and move on to a city not even in our original plans, Hood River.

Our entire trip we relied on YELP with pretty good results. And in Portland we were rightly guided to Pok Pok, a thai restaurant in the south east quadrant of the city. Here we got a great belly full, I picked up some parts for my bicycle and Sesame got more practice wearing her service dog vest which is an excellent item to travel with for moments when you just need to bring that dog with you. On route we visited lush water falls and lovely landscapes.

Once again it seems my foreign license plate set me up for road disaster, aka another ticket. While in a traffic circle I needed to change lanes, and though given way by the drivers behind me the cop found the move less than forgivable. Unlike Berkeley however, the cop made mention that since we were "guests" I could write an explanation and he would approve it for dismissal and no fee would apply. Suddenly I could see the stark contrast of Berkeley, home of the truly poor because they had wealth but did not know it. Portland, a relatively poor city that felt being polite was an important nicety. In my view the Portland community had far more wealth even if it could not be measured.

I found it remarkable to consider this trip was made in our VW Beetle TDI using hyper-miling and getting 50 miles per gallon so that we could go to Portland and back consuming less than $200.00 in fuel, yet with tickets the trip could easily be over $1000.00. Hummmm....

Road Trip Notes: Eugene's Family Castle Homestead

From Ashland a short crawl brought us to Eugene for a quick trip, a one night stay in a ferro cement castle built by a friend who is the maker of a mortar sprayer which we used during some of our paper crete building. A cold that I picked up from my girlfriend's daughter while in LA was now creeping up on me and I immediately crashed while Mikey was welcomed by our friend and his family which includes three bright and happy children, a dozen or so kittens and bunnies, a dog and variety of free roaming chickens. One does not often find such a litter occupying - of all things - a castle.

The castle has taken Noland 12 years to build, all the while the family lived quite joyously in a trailer. They reflect on those days with much happiness as they share stories about it, including one in which the trailer (once the castle was complete) was hoisted and hauled away the kids asked curiously, "I lived in a trailer?"

Like many homesteads the property was a virtual museum of large machines in half working condition. Projects to be completed one day were everywhere and it seemed the home was just sharing space with the fascinating hodge-podge of future possibilities. The greatest feat by far was the heating system that keeps the family home warm. The massive 3000+ sq ft home is heated by the same garbage fuels that Noland runs his car on: hydraulic fluid, train diesel, motor oil and the like. To burn them for home heating he built a massive incinerator of sorts which sends heat to hydronic tubing in the home's floor.

The rest of Eugene, on quick glance, seemed like a dark and wet town of mid size with no one in it. Having little further interest we moved on to Portland.

Road Trip Notes: Ahhhhhhhh Ashland

Climbing our way north we felt the density of California's cities slip away. The speed limit changed at the Oregon state border from 70 to 55. Along with it sales tax dropped to a manageable zero. Pine trees and space replaced smog and road congestion. We found our way to a friend's empty home that was being loaned to us for a couple of days. We signed in relief as we felt welcomed by the homes lush gardens and tall trees as well as the happy people living in the beautiful town of Ashland.

Ashland was such a surprise that it took us both a while to process what was happening. For one thing the town's full downright happy people who have money enough to be eco-fashionable in humble and earthy style as one might expect from an Oregonian. Most seem to own a nice home (there's hardly a crappy home to be found) and contribute through high taxes to a vibrant city. Even the deer were friendly here. They appeared in city parks and neighborhood lawns, calm even with children playing 10 ft from them.

The town's residents represented every age range in equal balance. They were all out and about like a huge community in perpetual agreement on where to be at a given moment. On the color spectrum however, one could not help but wonder where the people of color where. Everyone in Ashland was white, smiley, bright and they looked you in the eye when they talked to you, but white. A local indicated that Ashland, much like the state of Oregon, had a sorted past on racial issues. Even the (white) dreadlocked street folk seemed to be "doing vagabond as a style." The homeless touted fancy brands of clothing and good shoes. This town had money and the people in it seemed pretty happy about it.

Now I'm not judging money in and of itself, but things (and money in particular) dont exist in a vacuum. A longer look around demonstrated that as a community these folks used some of their wealth wisely. Sewers and drains were marked with fancy emblems indicating where the water went. Parks and natural resources were considered precious and this was made evident by a variety of signs and funds spent on preservation. Round wire mesh compost containers were practically on every corner. Even our root beer bragged "no high fructose." The co-op of course offered just about everything in bulk and plethora of local food.

Now I'm particularly sensitive to consumerism and I'm rarely fooled by slight of hand tricks. Even when it looks earthy and is made of hemp it's still consumerism. A stroll through Ashland's main streets offers boutique shopping that few can afford, though everyone there definitely could afford it.

On some levels Ashland appears to be paradise. Who could say anything but "yes" to local food, well adjusted children, composting, great fair trade coffee, a city without fructose, gardens, parks, yoga, clean water and of course theater (what Ashland is best known for). Yet I also wondered, what would one offer to a place that's already figured it all out? Where is the growing edge? What would someone like me do there, shop? Gosh no! I left Ashland really curious to know, "where are the people who made all these lovely homes, gardens, buildings and the like?" They are not the same people who occupying them now. And what kind of taxes are people paying for this quality of life?

Road Trip Notes: Tired in San Francisco

By the time we arrived in San Francisco we were tired from city life. It's hard to be in a city when you dont have a home there. One's always getting pushed around by it, being told where to go and not go and how long to stay (parking meters). With population increases come reductions to freedom and as rules became more abundant it's was easy to feel confined, tired, and fearful of making an error. My hip was hurting now. I had forgotten that I had arthritis and also how it felt. The dry climate in New Mexico alleviates just about all arthritic pain.

While staying with friends in Oakland we took a trip to Berkeley, a city we've always enjoyed for it's intellectual, creative and liberal population. We were not 5 minutes into town before a cop pulled us over on a very flimsy call - not stopping for a pedestrian that was wandering near a crosswalk but had made no gesture towards it or in any direction for that matter. You guessed it, a ticket which we're told will cost a few hundred dollars. Having been legally pick pocketed by the city of Berkeley I began to feel vulnerable and wondered if it would be a wise gesture of self defense to steal a local license plate so that I would not be a target to the states patrollers during this time of financial decline. Then, noticing my thinking it was easy to see how "aggressive behavior" spawns additional aggressive behavior. It's like a game of hot potato until someone has the guts to just hold the damn thing, dissolve it, and free the world of that particular bit of nasty.

Our Oakland friend (a transplant from NY) had just bought a lovely (and expensive) home in the area. Asking ourselves if we could have made such a life work we immediately said "no" due to lack of space to make stuff and demands to earn money. Taxes alone were several thousand. Besides, where would one weld? Grow food? City life just does not offer what we have come to value. Sadly, much like Tucson, crime was up in his neighborhood. They'd been enjoying a 4 week period in which there were no burglaries. This came after about 5 in one month.

I've loved SF in the past. And I know there IS much to love but again, visitors don't have the security and comfort of familiarity and a place of their own. I'll save future city trips for occasions in which I have a couple of weeks - time to acclimate.

We enjoyed our friends and their new home very much but found the area tiring. Every move - to go out to eat, find a place to walk the dog, park, shop - was so tiresome that we feared to go out at all and opted instead to get a bit of rest and head off to less densely populated areas. Next stop Ashland, OR.

Road Trip Notes: California Coast

As we climbed the Cali coast we realized that this state is no friend to the dog. We struggled to find a dog park in LA and now places for Sesame to run (and yes poop!) were few and far between. Though Ventura looked like the apocalypse had made an early preview there, buildings were in a state of total decay and the homeless (and trash) filled the beach, the town was quite clear that there were to be no dogs on the beach lest they make a mess of things. Holding my poop bag ready to scoop and unwanted treasure from their sand I stared at the garbage blowing down the beach wondering how society got so very f*%ked up.

Here I began to consider something my friend in LA had said. She told me that because California was broke they had recently taken up the habit of ticketing the kids for being out past the 10pm curfew that LA had. I could hardly get over the shock I felt upon learning that LA had a curfew and then I felt no surprise at all to learn that the state was getting money to support itself from the middle and upper class parents to these young citizens. A logical byproduct that perhaps the state did not consider. . . the kids were now totally scared of police. Wonder how much it'll cost to undo that?

On route to our next stop (Oakland) we witnessed the agricultural wonder of California from the seat of our Beetle. Both sides of the highway were wallpapered with farms. Migrant workers huddled around moving machines that looked like Howl's Moving Castle only they were processing vegetables picked and thrown to metal tumblers by the workers. Cars dotted the sides of each farm. The workers were likely hauled in from a poor neighborhood somewhere out of view.

As we passed one after another of them I wondered why they were all so close to the highway (within 15'). Was this to reduce fuel coasts? Now these very vegetables might be organic and yet they are being hit by enough car exhaust to kill most any living thing. And what about the motor oils and chemicals that drip from vehicles and into the earth? Suddenly California's agriculture seemed a whole lot less sexy.

In contrast Cali (in particular the southern part) touts loads of wind turbines. These are a visual delight that remind that there are things unseen all around us, in this case wind.

Road Trip Notes: California - Los Angeles

I'm a New Yorker, but NY is pretty far to travel to just to scratch an itch for a bit of culture. So next we headed to LA to visit my childhood best friends. An early stop at a Trader Joe's reminded me that I'd crossed over into Cali. As I grabbed a pack of doggie treats a woman made a point to tell me that the treats I selected had sugar added. She knew because her diabetic dog could not have them. Surely we had arrived.

In relief from the sprawl of Tucson, I enjoyed the older, less monotonous and better built homes of LA. I always enjoy their manicured lawns and pretty gardening although I am endlessly dumfounded when I consider that ALL of LA's water is borrowed. "Fragile!" Nonetheless the result is something like a neighborhood in the movie Edward Scissorhands.

I enjoy LA. As long as I don't have to live there I can dip in and have fun, spoil myself and get out again unscathed. My girlfriend and I did a bit of shopping (just like old times). The store that I bought a pair of jeans in provided them to me in a cloth, reusable bag of a nice design. Cool. The Bike culture in Santa Monica pointed to the upside of city life. Everyone had their own fashionable fixed gear. And who am I to mock them? I still have my own fixed gear from my previous life in NYC. With bikes consuming only people power I took a moment to celebrate the idea of it even if the basket on front was Louis Vuitton.

Of course there is hardly a shortage of gas guzzling vehicles in LA. Just point your gaze in any direction and they are plenty. For hybrid owners the city offers free parking in some areas. My girlfriend commented that "people here do their part," evidenced by the many hybrid cars in LA. Recognizing that we each see the problem from the limitations of where we're standing I did not offer up an obnoxious heap of data about the impotent impact the hybrid car has in the fuel consumption drama. Now gas is more expensive in California than in neighboring states, yet when traveling the state hyper-mile'ing becomes impossible. All other drivers on the road become angry and aggressive if one tries to drive below 70 on LAs highways!

My girlfriends fridge is evidence of the just how much good food is grown in California. She had several varieties of berries, a local free range chicken, organic potatoes yadda yadda yadda. Even Sesame ate organic chicken and sausage on this stop! Of course these perks do not come cheap. Ta ta LA, we're off to San Fran. . .

Road Trip Notes: Tucson

We're home after two weeks of wander with hopes of dispelling our T or C blues. We had suffered from having not gotten out in a bit too long and needed to be reminded of why we love the life we chose to live. So off we went to a total of 9 ciites beginning with Tucson to visit Mikey's sister

With my mind cued up to compare places and ways to live with the one I chose, we arrived at stop number one, a housing development in Tucson's sprawl. The two story, two bedroom home of new construction was cheaper to rent than the apartment Mikey's sis was living in and so she recently moved from one to the other. I guess this was due to the screeching of breaks the housing market experienced these past couple of years. We parked around the block. It seems homeownership in sprawl doesnt include "parking where you want or even near your own home," there are limits to the number of cars that can be anywhere. Sprawl has it's effect, including a monotony induced sleepiness that made me drowsy as I traveled the maze to find the dog park to walk Sesame.

On the way Mikey's sister apologized for the many homeless that dotted the walking trail. Many Tuconians are now living under the city's bridges and in the parks. Tucson recently cut some programs that directly effected the city's poor. She also told us she was looking for ways to better secure the yard and home because the neighborhood had been having a lot of break ins. I started to reflect back on the many times my car was broken into in Brooklyn. What fun.

As we left I felt a small tug of desire as we passed Trader Joe's. A store like it could make life in T or C a bit easier. Off to LA.


Veggie Gyro

Veggie Gyro
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Home made tzatziki sauce over our recently fermented tempeh on a pita. The tazatziki was fun and easy to make from our other recent fermentation which was greek yogurt. It only required us to chop up a few ingredients we normally have around cucumbers, dill, olive oil, garlic, pepper, lemon juice and salt. We smoked the tempeh over hickory shavings for about two hours which gave it a nice nutty taste.A touch of hot sauce made it more fun.


Stupa Update: Going Up!

It didnt take long for the community to get the newly delivered stupa assembled. Today 4 out of 7 parts were put together. The lama (Lama Rinchen) spend much of the day inside filling it with little ceramic statues filled with prayers, precious objects and the like. The energy at the Dharma center was festive. Tomorrow may complete the building process. I guess that means you can all come on down and circumambulate whenever your ready!

Holy Crap @ Holy Scrap

Whewwwwww.... that was a doozie of a harvest season day. At 10am I stepped into the kitchen. It's 4:46 and I just stepped out. I'm burnt. It's harvest season and so I made three pints of red tomato sauce (every ingredient from tomatoes to garlic and spice from our garden) and about 7 pints of peach chutney (from our peach trees of course). Then I roasted about 2 lbs of peppers and fried 2 lbs of eggplant and vacuum sealed them for winter storage. I also dried a bunch of herbs. Now... a glass of wine and rest!!!

Saving Smoking Wood - Cherry

I wish I was saving cherry tree wood because my tree was so big and abundant... nahhh it's because my little starter tree that did fine in a pot did not make it when I planted it in the ground this past spring. I cut it up to store for use in the smoker. Put a nice hole in my hand chopping it, whoops!


VW Window Repair Kit

VW Window Repair Kit
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Our little beetle encountered it's first problem last weekend. While Wendy was in Santa Fe her driver side window got stuck in the down position. While she was driving around enjoying the breeze it began to rain. It actually rained that weekend and even more upon her return to TorC (odd how that works). Anyway we discovered this is a common failure for VW owners. VW offered a 7 year no charge replacement, but we are outside of that so the dealership offered us a $400 repair. Nice. We decided to order a $44 kit and do it ourselves. The results were pretty good. In 3.5 hours we had a working window and everything back in place. I just got a text from Wendy about the door handle being wonky, but we kind of expected more issues as this is a pretty invasive repair.

Despite the kit not including any instructions there are some great resources on-line.

YouTube Window Repair Video (p1)
YouTube Window Repair Video (p2)

Door Panel Removal PDF
Regulator Removal PDF
New Clip Install PDF

VW Window Repair Kit #2 VW Window Repair Kit #3 VW Window Repair Kit #4 VW Window Repair Kit #5


FAIL : Popcorn Sprouts

FAIL : Popcorn Sprouts
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I bought a 25 lb. bag of organic popcorn last summer. The seeds have dried out to the point that the popcorn no longer pops. When this occurs people call the kernels old maids. I tried sprouting them since my attempts to rehydrate the kernels over night also failed. Sprouting sort of worked. I did get little green shoots, but there was a awful vinegar like smell coming from the sprouts after just a few days that made me toss the batch. Now I'm looking at the remaining 10 lbs of popcorn kernels and wondering what to do with them. These might just be compost.

Stupa Delivery - Vietnam to LA Port to T or C

Today TorC's Buddhist community received delivery of it's stupa. The stupa is solid marble and came in 7 parts. Our "go to" guy and good friend Jason handled the unloading (you may remember him from the flagstaff delivery). On jobs like this it is important to have a "can do" person and he surely is. This week on Friday the stupa will be assembled. Then, "wala!" T or C will be host to a very big (and needed) blessing. After the stupa was safely unloaded the Lama wanted to take a spin in our electric car. I get the feeling he's ready for one of his own.

Yogurt = Temp Controller + Light Bulb

We have never made yogurt before. The recipes I looked at all had a series of procedures including pasteurization, ice baths, and pre-heating of the yogurt culture. It all seemed excessive. I thought why not just warm the yogurt up with the culture from fridge temps to 110F with our temperature controller? Sure it will take longer, but I don't have to sterilize so many containers or watch something on the stove. My theory worked out. Check out our super reduced yogurt recipe.

I should add that we wanted a raw yogurt so we intentionally avoided pasteurization temperatures.

Yarrow's Hair Conditioner

Thanks again Yarrow! Yes, the conditioner is forever named after you. Today I made a batch hair conditioner, recipe supplied by blog reader Yarrow. I loved making it! The herbs look (and smell) so beautiful at each stage. The kitchen filled with the smell of rosemary. And as you can see, the yucca root foamed up beautifully. Like many things I've done it once now and so I'm over all fears. I used it too and wow, I'm surprised. It detangles very well. I smelled like vinegar only slightly and briefly, while my hair was wet. I have to say, this conditioner rocks! On the details. . .

I made a small test batch because I was missing a couple of things. I boiled 2 cups of water then turned to a simmer and added all but the vinegar which was added last to the cooled and strained mixture.

a handful of rosemary off a bush next to my porch

about two thumb sizes of fresh yucca root

a small handful of hibiscus

2 cups vinegar - I used white distilled only because it was what I had. I wanted to use my own Kumbucha but after tasting it I realized it still had too much sugar in it. So I'm letting this batch go for a couple more weeks and will use it once it's vinegar. I also didnt have any apple cider vinegar around.

Next time Im going to add the following both for their value and because I can wild harvest them: horsetail (aka scouring rush) and calendula.


Hair Conditioner - Plants With Saponin

You may recall a few days ago I posted about DIY cosmetics. Blog reader Yarrow had a wonderful conditioner recipe to offer which I'm trying out. For it I needed yucca root so tonight Mikey and I went out to harvest some. While there we checked in our our soap nut tree stand, the one we usually get our soap nuts from. They were not yet in bloom. But we did notice that the tree is prolific. Where there was half a dozen last year there were likely fifty today. Since they were so abundant we grabbed a couple of baby saplings to try and start here at the homestead.