Shop or Swap? Hint: One is Free and Uses No New Resources

This year instead of participating in black friday we gathered our local tribe to participate in a clothing swap in which we purged the clothing no longer fitting for us and passed them on to friends who desired them. Free, fun and it requires no harvesting of new raw materials.


The Solar Tomato - Thank You Sunshine!

As our boxed green tomato's ripen to red I've been splitting them between two modes of cooking with the sun: the solar oven for tomato paste and the solar dryer for sun dried tomatoes. Thank you sunshine!

Gleaner of Biomass

The leaves are quickly falling from the trees. By the weeks end they'll be bare. Meanwhile many of my neighbors bag em and place them by the dumpsters where I'm all to happy to pick them up for my compost. Thanks for the winters worth of bio mass!


Buy Nothing Day - Considering Desire

It's Black Friday or Buy Nothing Day if you are so inclined. In keeping with the theme of consumerism, yesterday after Thanksgiving dinner a friend pulled out a board game called Bargain Hunter. The game encourages one how to apply for credit, identify sales, acquire goods and perhaps most essentially it amps up ones desire. Unfortunately the desire is then aimed at the acquisition of crap. Four decades after the creation of the board game we have a holiday that did not exist at the time it was created, Buy Nothing Day. The holiday is a logical response to something that has gone out of bounds.

What I like about Buy Nothing Day is that it brings renunciation back to the realm it is fitted for, daily life. Renunciation is just a tool to bring balance where balance has been lost. We only need to give up what has control of us.

For Buy Nothing Day we call the thing that is out of bounds consumerism. Just beneath the surface of this label is something essential - desire. It is worth a look at desire because it is here that lots of confusion has occurred. I think it is safe to say that desire is a necessary state that brings about action. Gain and success of all good things depend on it. Without it nothing happens. It is the cause behind the exchange between two poles: stillness motion, expansion contraction, particle and wave. Things that need renouncing are bi-products of context. I distinguish between context and it's spark because this is where religion has historically failed in it's practice of renunciation. Religions have tended to group behaviors into categories of favorable and sinful. The categories themselves presume that one can find a moment that is without context and in which a thing can be viewed in isolation. But no such moment exists. Categorizing in this way suggests that a thing can have inherent wrongness. But no-thing is wrong by existence alone. Wrongness springs from context. To truly understand this is to recognize that we (as agents of action) curate morality. Even more bazaar religion has at times gone after desire itself as though it can be renounced.

This is why our view of reality can not be dualistic. If it is than we create a world that we must ourselves run away from. A dualistic reality will extinguish all action deeming each one harmful one at a time until we are left in a stark world of non movement. In this world desire would have no object. Reality would fold up into a singularly. One must name this death.

In reverse we could say that for life freedom is form. Form (which is animated by desire) brings about perpetually changing context for a 'neutral' array of concepts to be experienced. To borrow words from religion, "transcendence" might be the neutralizing (freeing from duality) of concepts. Seen as movement this might look like us living lives.

Unlike many who've been stung by the religion they were raised with and now can not stomach the idea of renunciation, I quite like it. It's no different than fasting. It's a tad of restraint to remind ourselves that we're paying attention in the broader sense. Renounce what you must to restore balance but do resist labeling it good or bad, just call it out of bounds. This way you assure that your participation is in life's boundlessness rather than it's limitation. After all reality is as dynamic as the capacity of the one who experiences it.

Happy Buy Nothing Day.

Footage of shopping riots.I can hardly imagine a world in which we are as motivated about our civil rights as we are about shopping.



Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Each day I walk Sesame along the Rio Grande. I've noticed a bush bearing fruit, but never tried it. Now that Wendy has brought it to my attention I've been snacking on our local Goji berry (aka wolfberry). I enjoy the berry on many levels. It has a sweet taste, it is high in antioxidants and fruits very late in the season when everything else has gone dormant.


Our First Cheddar

We've LOVED our access to raw unpasteurized milk. While before we had it we were both pretty lactose sensitive, now we're enjoying all sorts of cheeses, milk, creme, and yogurt without a grumble from the belly. The living enzymes in the unpasturized cheese have made all the difference for the two of us.

Tonight we began our first cheddar. It will take a total of 3 months. And any time one allows it to age beyond that will increase the sharpness of the taste. The two photos here show two stages of the cheese's development. These were taken only an hour apart in time. The second photo appears dryer and less globy, this is because it's been salted. Now it will sit with a weight on it and become something that resembles a cheese wheel.

If your curious about the progress of the blue cheese we began a couple of weeks ago, it stinks like a locker room full of athletes foot! I understand this is normal if not pleasant. Good thing our cheese fridge is far and away from the parts of the house we spend most of our time in.

Scardy Cat & Mikey Make a Holiday Riesling

We've been making kit wines as practice for when our fruit trees are actually producing fruit. I have high hopes for apricots, peaches and apples next year. Meanwhile the kits have us in the habit. They also familiarize us with the process, additives and their properties and effects. Tonight Mikey and Scardy Cat siphoned off a Riesling we started a week ago. It registered a 11.77 alcohol by volume, one of our strongest yet. The color is a lovely soft yellow. Can't wait!

Clean Dirt

Clean Dirt
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Except for one odd bed, our garden's raised beds have remained relatively weed free even with crab/bermuda grass in every direction surrounding the beds. When we built them we lined them with weed cloth purchased from Peaceful Valley (about $200 for a pretty huge roll).

Today I took apart the one bed that was invaded with bermuda grass since we established it. I emptied all the dirt from it, sifted out the weeds and returned the soil again to the bed cleaned. I found that for reason's still unknown the bermuda grass was able to penetrate the weed cloth. It grew right through the bottom. Having now gone through a pretty laborious process to clean the soil and reset the bed, this time I lined it with two layers of shade cloth followed by cardboard and newspaper. My fingers crossed. I'd be more confident but I've seen bermuda grass grow through wood! Sigh. . .

Clean Dirt #2Clean Dirt #3Clean Dirt #4


DIY Reuse Gifts: Knitted Hat & Sweater Doodad

After the last Swap-O-Rama-Rama in Los Angeles, the event's producer sent me a little care package that included knitted flowers clustered together with coated wire. They were little ornaments that one could add to hats, sweaters and the like. As soon as I saw them I knew that I'd be making a bunch for my friends this winter. Today I gathered a handful of sweaters that I had saved for the next clothing swap, along with all the buttons I'd gathered at garage sales and I made about a dozen of these cuties. In case it's not obvious I simply used thin coated wire to hold the buttons to the layers of sweaters which I cut into simple flower patterns.


Learn to Make 2-Day Kimchi in 3-Minutes

Using a live culture can save weeks when making kimchi. Mikey Sklar explains how he makes delicious kimchi in 2 days using lacto-fermentation. The key to this technique is the use of kefir whey and a temperature controller.

Grocery stores charge $15 a pint for kimchi. Mikey shows how to make $120 (4 quarts) worth of kimchi for less than $10.

Please vote for our YATC temperature controller using the link below.

Tag Your Green

Purchase a YATC temperature controller:

Fridge / Fermentation Controller



Conserve Energy with a Converted Chest Freezer

Refrigerators use more energy than any other appliance in a household. The US has over 200 million refrigerators running at this time. The temperature controller that I designed combined with a chest freezer will out perform any energy star refrigerator by a factor of 2 per cubic foot. Shrinking the size of the chest freezer will increase efficiency even further. In our case we switched from a upright energy star refrigerator to a small chest freezer and reduced our refrigerator energy usage by a factor of 8.

Please vote for our YATC temperature controller using the link below.

Tag Your Green


Cold Frames For Cold Days & Nights in the Desert

It's time for the cold frames and the winter garden. Winter gardening has it's perks. There's less bugs, less watering (because I only use the cold frames) and I love to eat what grows in winter: fresh lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, etc. It's also amazing how little is needed to make a cold frame. These are made using old trailer windows we found in the trash. The sides are wide open and it does not matter one bit.

Autumn: Dry, Muted & Stunning

The transitions of Autumn are everywhere now. The change is marked by a shift in which plump, needy and energetic plants give way to dry, pale and unmoving statues of what once was. The conservation of energy is evident. Life has slowed to a crawl. These change in form remind me of something yogi John Friend paraphrased to a classroom that I was part of just a couple of weeks ago. He reminded us that we admire the wrinkles in trees (the bark) and appreciate them for their age. Then we go to the mirror and judge ourselves for the wrinkles we wear on our face. Autumn hosts stark shadowy reminders of simple truths - life is beautiful in every state.


Favorite Dog Walk

Favorite Dog Walk
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

November is the craziest month of the year for us. The population in
TorC seems to double over night and we are slammed with social
obligations. Even our dog struggles to deal with changes to her
walking and meal schedule. We managed to
sneak a nice walk in this evening.

Favorite Dog Walk #2Favorite Dog Walk #3


Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We kicked off our first white wine fermentation kit today. Riesling is
a favorite in our household due to it's sweet taste. It will take a
few weeks before we can bottle it, but we should be able to share it
with our friends before New Years.

VW Beetle Headlight Bulb Replacement

VW Beetle Headlight Bulb Replacement
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

The drivers side bulb on our '98 VW Beetle headlight died last week.
We picked up a replacement bulb for $5 from a local auto parts store
and had the headlight working in less than forty minutes. I just
looked up the dealer price and found out that it is $70+ to have them
replace the $5 part. These two sites were helpful.



VW Beetle Headlight Bulb Replacement #4VW Beetle Headlight Bulb Replacement #3VW Beetle Headlight Bulb Replacement #2

Eat Mesquite! A Cookbook by Desert Harvesters

We were happy to be visited today by friend Brad Lancaster. He gifted us a copy of a new book that he contributed to titled, Eat Mesquite! A Cookbook by Desert Harvesters. The book will be available and for sale in just a few days so keep an eye on their site.

In addition to Brad's extensive work educating people about harvesting water in deserts, he has also been instrumental in creating a mesquite culture in Tucson. With Desert Harvesters he developed an annual hammer-milling event at which the community now collectively mills their pods. They also make mesquite pancakes and lots of other yummy mesquite treats.

We are excited about this book because we have been harvesting and milling mesquite for a couple of years and we are always seeking ways to add this local high protein flour to our diet. Our own town would be a great fit for a shared hammer-mill and annual milling event.

As soon as Brad left I applied our home-milled mesquite flour to one of the recipes - mesquite flour lemon/ginger cupcakes. YUMMMMM! Thanks Brad!

Plumb Done

Plumb Done
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

The sink clog stopped all progress here at Holy Scrap. It took two days to repair. Realizing that the plumbing we had was a mess of ad hoc nonsense we reconfigured the whole thing. First, we closed off the grey water line (too many animal products have been going down our sink to keep releasing that water to the trees outside). We then adjusted the drain tilt for better drainage performance. Along the way we managed to crack a pipe and then cut into a copper pipe which lead to the main and another full day of plumbing repairs. It's always stressful when plumbing issues come up. But it's still worth doing the repair yourself.

Tomato Dehydrator

Tomato Dehydrator
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We're giving the outdoor air dehydrator a go on the last tomatoes of the season. Though we overproduce solar power this time of year and could use the electric dehydrator, the volume of tomatoes fits best with the outdoor dryer.

Bee Checkup

Bee Checkup
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We did our final bee checkup this week. They have not produced much honey or new comb since late summer. We decided to resume sugar water feeding for the winter. There is still a little traffic going through their door, but it is nothing like this summer when a 100 bees patiently waited in line to get into the hive.


Repair Manifesto

Today I enter my second day under the kitchen sink repairing what began as a clog and has become a complete pipe reconfiguration. It happens. I'm about to head out for my 3rd trip to the hardware store for PVC and no I'm not bitching. I'm pretty thrilled actually that I learned a bit more, got the pipes to a place that was better than when I found them and didnt pay a plumber. As I scratched out my parts list for the store this morning I found the repair manifesto on ifixit.

From ifixit, The Repair Manifesto.

Vansteaders Visit

A funny coincidence. . . we got an email from a blog reader the other day. Heidi was visiting a friend in NM and dialed up the available wifi connections in the neighborhood to find one called Holy Scrap. She thought, "I read a blog by that title." She was on the other side of the fence that divides our property from our neighbor.

Heidi and Mike have a universe all their own and a blog called Vandwellers and another, Vantramps for folks who live in vans like her and Mike. She's also a bit of a homesteader, as much as one can be living in a van. From what she showed us there's a lot you can do. For instance she's making rice and a whole lot more in a thermos. Apparently there's a little community of thermos cookers. It was a fun coincidence and exchange. Happy travels Heidi and Mike.


Russian Man Returns to Homestead to Make Blue Cheese

That same Russian who was blow torching a wok in the yard has returned and now he's making blue cheese in my kitchen. Mikey is Russian actually but it was never so obvious as now, the mustache has um, lots of personality!

We just kicked off our first blue cheese. We inoculated it with a cheese we bought and that seemed to work just fine. This one's got lots of little processes and many weeks of salting, turning and sitting in a cheese fridge which of course we made using the Temp Controller for sale on our site. We'll report back on this in a couple of months when we are able to taste it.


First Frost Tonight - Summer Garden Comes to a Close

It was a lovely summer of gardening and we're pretty lucky that we've gone this late into the year (well if you can call climate change good luck). A frost is upon us. Tonight we expect 30 degrees, later in the week colder still.

We spent most of the afternoon pulling out 6' tall tomato plants. From them we pulled 41 pounds of big green tomatoes and boxed them to ripen indoors over the coming months. We took the remaining plant matter and all the little tomatoes still on them and piled them on the ground. Rumor has it that these too will ripen in time.

The garden also gave up peppers (4.5 lbs), eggplant (4lbs), loofa, and pineapple tomatillos (1.5 lb). A few winter crops are started up already: carrots, cauliflower, fava bean and the like. I left plants like castor bean and okra in the ground hoping that they will help the garden look lively this winter. They seem like they'll be pretty in their dry state.

We also popped the windows on the beds that convert into cold frames. This week I'll start seeding these with winter crops. The cycles of growth are again comforting to be a part of, the expansion and contraction of the garden is like being breathed by the earth. Viva! La Chaim! Alhamdulilah!

Gather Heat and Keep It: Easy Window Insulation

A new friend came over the other day and she noticed how warm our home was. As she walked around our 40 yr old remodeled trailer she said "Wow you must have great insulation! It's so toasty in here." It was a cold day. And as you may know trailers are NOT insulated. We do however have a few tricks which I'll share now with you.

In the morning we expose all our south facing windows to let the light in. That is we pull back all the curtains so there is just glass. When the sun hits the west side of the house we expose those windows the same way. The west windows have, in addition to a heavy curtain that I made (two layers and a sheer liner to soften the light), a roll of mylar coated bubble wrap that I hung at the top of the window and made a latch for so that it can roll up and down inside the window frame thus covering the glass completely. The minute that that sun is no longer filling these windows we close all curtains and roll down the mylar to cover the glass. This holds whatever heat we've gained in the home well into the night.

I put up a couple of photos for you to see the very simple mylar bubble wrap mod I made for the window. I used metal wire to create a ring and a picture hanger hook to latch it to. In steps: cut mylar to fit (snug) in your window. Drill through it and into the window frame where it meets the top of the frame, a few screws with washers will hold it forever. With the mylar rolled up to the top of the window, make a mark with a sharpie where the metal wire latch should come through for it to meet the picture hanger hook. Then open the mylar up and puncture the metal wire through. Hang hook in mid point of window frame, wala! We replace the mylar every couple of years. Stay warm.