Things to do in 75MPH Hurricane Wind

Make shiraz!

No joke, we had to drive our golf cart up to our metal gates, the wind was so strong it snapped a metal bar in half!


Mesquite Toothpicks

Mesquite Toothpicks
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We go through a lot of toothpicks. I love the type sold at fancy pants health food stores. The tea tree flavor is particularly refreshing. Unfortunately these cost $4 a pack so we are always looking for alternatives. Lately I have been experimenting with mesquite as a toothpick. The thorns have a nice sharp point and are easy to trim from the trees.

Yummy Pumpkin Bread

Yummy Pumpkin Bread
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

This is definitely the biggest bread I have ever baked. Wendy was gifted a pumpkin this summer from a local resident who likes to drink 40's down by the river. Pumpkins can store for months so we waited until now to purée it.

Here is the recipe:

2 eggs
3 T olive oil
3 T brown sugar
1.5 t salt
1/4 t cloves
3/4 t nutmeg
3 t cinnamon
1 c pumpkin puree
1/4 c water (100F)
3 c flour
2 T yeast

A Day Inside: Homestead Chores Never End (thank goodness!)

I always say that I'm grateful that I never run out of work on our homestead because otherwise I'd have to get a job. While a cold front moves in we moved in doors. After finishing the flagstone fire pit this morning and on first wind gust we went inside to: make pumpkin puree, bottle ready batch and start a new batch of kombucha, make mozzarella cheese from raw milk, make sugar syrup for the bees, make a pumpkin bread, make spanikopeda.  Whew! Can someone say Possum Girl?

And if your so inclined: 

Wala! Flagstone in Just 2 Days

I did it! Two days of stone work and I am just about done. I still have to fill the spaces with sand.  That will have to wait. A cold front is moving in as I type this. I'm happy to report that my back feels good in spite of the fact that I moved all of this rock myself. I never did this work before so I was making up the process as I went. I floated the rocks in sand, kept it level and kept equal spacing between all rocks. Oddly today I laid the same volume of rock in 1/3 the time. I notice that this is typical with any 'new' skill. It takes one day to develop systems for how to work.

It's no coincidence that I have been reading an anatomy book. With two hernias under my belt already I can't afford a mistake. Just this week I read about how the spine deals with load when one stands vertical vs being bent. No one will ever need to remind me again why I should bend my knees when lifting. Unlike the anatomy books I read while becoming a yoga teacher, this illustrated book is focused on how the body acts in movement. It all seems so related to my life that remembering what I've read has become easy.


Fire Pit Flagstone Cont. . .

My back knows with no uncertainty, I have been lifting rock all day. Ouch! The before and after pic hows just how much rock I lifted. This stuff is 2", pretty thick! I also planted three trees around the pit: 2 mesquite, 1 bird of paradise. Tomorrow I'll try to finish the rock laying and plant three more trees: eucalyptus, fig and texas sage (these are not for the fire pit). Mikey's been enjoying a lift free day by running the electric. Once the rocks done I will weld together a custom lamp.


Tag Your Green * Vote For Mikey

As you may know MAKE magazine (a pub both me and mikey write for from time to time) is running a contest in which they're seeking DIY green projects in the categories of conservation, recycling, renewables, transportation and the like.

Mikey's converted chest freezer project is currently in 5th place with just a few days left to vote. Here's a direct link. Cast a vote for Mikey if you have a minute. Just click the image to vote. And. . . thank you in advance.

Tag Your Green


Sous Vide: Elk

Sous Vide: Elk
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I'm confident in my sous vide skills and have taken on a 1.5lb
piece of elk. This one is going into temperature controlled crock pot
for 2 days at 132F. It'll be shared with the hunter who caught it for a review. The marinade consist of:

4 T olive oil
1 t rosemary
1/2 garlic bulb (minced)
1 T liquid smoke
1 t salt
1 t pepper

Favorite Veggie Sandwich

Favorite Veggie Sandwich
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

When Wendy and I first met (almost 10 years ago) I lured her with this sandwich my own design (and a lot of chocolate). The sandwhich, now known as the Mikey Sandwich, is a hearty mix of tempe (fried in tamari), sun dried tomato, goat cheese, hummus and basil. A strong mustard/ garlic vinaigrette serves as the condiment.  It is a filling meal that has always been popular when at Burning Man. I think this is due to the intense smell of garlic cooking in tamari when making it. It lures starving desert dwellers who forgot to pack a meal.  The Mikey sandwich has recently been made better by the addition of our home made and home grown tempeh (smoked in mesquite), garlic, sesame, basil and sun dried tomatoes and mesquite nut bread with a chocolaty taste.

Dome Electrical Mounting

Dome Electrical Mounting
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Most of the domes electrical boxes are mounted each bolted to a thin sheet of metal in order to meet the requirements of the building code. The electrical inspector specifically asked us not to weld the boxes directly to the  structure.

Signs of Wonder on Another Great NM Hike

While hiking a familiar area today we came across a number of sweet nothings left behind by others who've traveled the path: a little nook adorned with rocks and a labyrinth were just a few.

Mescal Canyon #2

Rusty Ol Rake Multi Rack

A simple solution for all those tools, brooms and the like made by a friend from Montana who is anything but new to reuse. In fact Larry's known to whip up a bad ass guitar out of hubcaps and whatever else might be laying around just like this cutie of an amp he's got layin' around the porch.

"Everything in Moderation"

My favorite Xmas card this year came from a good friend along with the simple note, "everything in moderation."

The image is that it reminds me of a daydream I often have. It takes place 100 years in the future. People ask each other, "what did those people 100 years ago do when they had all those resources like petroleum?" The unspoken answer from our time, "we spent it on gum."

Spirit of the Elf - Yet Another Practice in Reuse

When we lived in NYC one of our favorite annual events was Santa Con.We made these elf suits just for the occasion.Without the santa pack we had in NYC we've modified the ritual a bit and made it a practice in reuse. Each year I fill my elf sack with gifts, these are things around the house that I'd like to get rid of but don't want to make landfill out of. Once I transform into my elf self - nose flute and all - I search out the right recipient for the gifts in my bag. It's wonderfully odd how I seem to be able to find a match for each item. It also makes a lot of people happy.


Hippy Made Rocket Stove

While out visiting our friends farm we discovered their hippy made rocket stove. I say that because when I asked about it they said, "some hippies that came by built it." You may recall that our friends Ryan, Tristan and Libby taught a DIY rocket stove workshop here a couple years back. Ryans was made of coffee cans, this one's a more natural mud mortar variety. Pretty cool.

Solar Widgets * Country Babies & a Beauty of a Day

This winter reminds me of our first year in T or C, warm! It's been in the 60's just about every day of December. Today we hauled out to a nearby valley for a heavenly and lazy day on a farm that's gearing up to be a local CSA. The purpose of the visit was to help off-grid friends troubleshoot the quirks of their solar system. A lovely country baby named Aizel made my day awfully fun.


Challah Bread

Challah Bread
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Today we made challah bread. It is so much easier to make than the
brioche I went for last week. It has very few ingredients and bakes
relatively fast compared to the other breads we have been making.
Challah Bread #2
Challah Bread #3


Roberta Riesling

What's another batch of wine without a new label? I made this one for Roberta. She's a bird dog. That is she instinctively smells quail and lets everyone know when she does. She's a liver colored german shorthair that belongs to our friends Larry and Donna, new snowbirds in T or C.

Fire Pit Progress

Fire Pit Progress
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Wendy's fire pit is coming along. She just realized it could be two weeks of labor to finish it. Today she dug out a 1/4 of the circle to a depth of 2". She also sifted the gravel from the sand using a make-shift window screen setup.

Fire Pit Progress #2
Fire Pit Progress #3

Battery Refill

Battery Refill
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

The batteries which store the energy for our home were looking a
little dry. I topped them all off with rainwater (15 PPM) in less than
30 minutes. It used to take me a lot longer to fill up the batteries
when I used a funnel. The process has become much less cumbersome
thanks to a small plastic watering can. Everyone bitches about how
difficult it is to maintain a battery bank, but it takes than two
hours a year of work to keep them happy.

Riesling Bottled

Riesling Bottled
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Our first white wine is out of the fermenter and into the bottles. We
filled 29.5 bottles to be precise. It is a riesling which already
tastes pretty good based on the mouthfuls I swallowed during the
siphoning process.

Oil Change Drain

Oil Change Drain
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Due to the overwhelming concern expressed from our blog readers I changed my oil in the grease car by using the bottom oil pan bolt. It was quick and painless. No need to jack up the car or dig a hole in the ground. I noticed that the collection vessel I used to collect the oil has a small drain plug making it easy to transfer the waste fluid to other containers.

Oil Change Drain #2


Ring Around the Fire Pit - Flagstone

Some Holy Scrap projects are Mikey's and others mine. Of course many we do together. You can tell this fire pit flagstone project is mine because it involves lifting rocks, digging and fire. Mikey generally avoids all of the above. I built the fire pit when we first got the property figuring that it was the heart of the piece of land. Now I'm adding ring of flagstone that will go 8' out from the center. Around that ring I'll add a ring of mesquite trees to make the whole thing like a cove. For day 1 I cleared the ring and measured everything out.

I'll also be rereading one of our favorite books titled Moving Heavy Things. It's a small book with ingenious ideas for moving things and fun stories of how people have moved things. One example I remember is waiting for winter to make a frozen water path between object and it's destination. Push object along the ice and in the spring it's in it's place.


French Brioche

Our friends Andy and Risi are avid bread makers. They introduced me to french brioche. After tasting the bread I realized that Wendy would go crazy for this rich "eggy" sweet bread. Brioche is reminiscent of the challah bread we both grew up with. The big difference between challah and brioche is that that brioche has 3x the sugar, 6x the eggs and 6x the butter. Now that I've made it, I  think of brioche as being the jolt cola of the bread world.

BTW, making this in a bowl was a bad idea. Next time I'll use a muffin pan or a flat baking sheet. These are meant to be rolls not a big blob of bread. The inside didn't cook all the way through.

Mid-December Tomato Update

It is mid-December and we are still eating tomatoes from our summer garden. The box ripening worked perfectly this year.

Wendy the Welder

Wendy has been welding in all the necessary infrastructure for the electrical outlets.

Whoops: Blue Cheese Mold in My Cheddar

Need I say more? 

New Mexico Light

One of New Mexico's best features is the light, it's what originally perked my interest in this state. Tonight we got a stunning sunset. It threw pinks and oranges on our other noteworthy feature rust and desert junk.