Beautiful Cota

Today we tried our first cota bundle made into a tea.  The color, as you can see, is a stunning yellow gold. The tea tasted remarkably similar to a black tea, the kind you'd use in making iced tea. The plant's refreshing quality was detectible. We didn't 'love' it until we played with other ingredients. Mint produced a  complimentary taste. Sugar improved the overall likability but maple syrup and mint combined were the clear winner.


Who Are You?

There's alway a plant that evades me. The one shown here was obviously planted by me, there are about 30 plants in a stand. It's in the mint family, the stem is square, yet it's not minty. I don't recognize the smell at all. Anyone? ?  ?

Herb Drying & Seed Saving

This year I have made a real effort to save seed and dry herbs. I've put to use a variety of widgets for the cause. The grain mill seen here has been very handy at separating seed from plant material.

Keepin' it Wild: Navajo/Hopi Tea, Globemallow

Navajo/Hopi Tea aka Coda is nearly in bloom, it's appearing only in town. I'm waiting for rain so that I can catch a harvest in the wild. Made into a tea coda is cooling and delicious. One bundle is brewed in a half gallon of water and simmered for 15 minutes. Mint and honey are optional. If I can score a good stand in the wild I will offer it bundles in the HS store. Fingers crossed.

Globemallow is also blooming. This native plant is so drought resistant that the lack of rain has not slowed it down one bit. The plants soft and almost fuzzy leaves give up a clue to how it is used, which has to do with its mucilagenous properties. Mallows soften and soothe. This family of plant can be added to salves or made into a poultice. But where it works magic is in the gut for irritable bowel, constitutional dryness and chronic inflammation. Mixed with chamomile it's a divine medicine. 


Good Sport Plumber

Mikey's been a good sport about all the plumbing he's been doing. Lets face it, we're not free until our beds can water themselves with timers. It's got to be done. Today he put yet a few more hours in in the hottest spot in the yard in 90+ degree weather gluing things together. All I can say is thank goodness for audio books and pod casts.

Awwww, thanks Mikey!

Sage Varities

New Mexico has many many varieties of sage. Few are culinary. All smell great! To learn about them I've been gathering and bundling them. Once we get some rain and our fire ban is lifted I will test each one out by using it to light the fire pit. They all look very beautiful and smell super duper in dry form.

The Pool is Back

The Pool is Back
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Our town pool is open and we were at the front of the line to do laps this morning. We are shooting for daily distances of .5 mile to mile. The pool is under new management and has some crazy new billing which could cost us as much as $400 a month to swim there. Hopefully their passes will be more fairly priced.

Potato Talk

Two years ago I knew I'd become a gardener because my potatoes woke me in my sleep. I dreamed of them all night as though on a ferris wheel of endless repetition, "potatoes, potatoes, potatoes!" Then when I woke I went outside to discover they were ready for picking.

This year my method is a bit more linear. When the plant dies back it means that the potatoes below are ready.

Surprise! Underplanting Magic

As I pulled bolting lettuce and broccoli rabe I discovered a whole crop of beets that look just about ready to eat hiding below. I love love love underplanting, the canopy of shade helps fragile young plants get their start. And then there's the surprise of discovering what's been brewing just out of sight.

Humm. . . never ate beets. Anyone have a good recipe?

Harvesting & Replanting a Garden's Second Turn

It's not yet June and we've already had a full turn over in the garden. We've been eating fresh lettuce and radish for weeks. The broccoli rabe came and went. The carrots are flowering. Potatoes are ready to eat along with bok choy, onions,  bean, leeks, beets (to name a few). Simply put the whole garden was early. The warm crops that we started early bolted and will need restarting.

Today I cleared out what was bolting to make room for hot crops like peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, okra, castor, loofa, melon, pumpkin and the like. 

Timing: Harvesting Coriander

This morning I was talking with a friend in Maine who was just now planting her cilantro. On the same day I was harvesting my coriander. Just a few plants produced so much mass and coriander that to dry them I had to hang them outside in bunches.

Coffee Presses That Don't Filter Mead

When a new widget enters the homestead we try to explore all it's uses. Here's Mikey trying to filter mead with the Aero Press which was designed for coffee. It didn't work.


Strawberry Mead Update

Strawberry Mead Update
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

It has been two weeks since I started a strawberry mead. I decided to rack it over to another bottle to reducing the sediment. I thought maybe the aeropress would be helpful to filter out the yeast from the
mead, but that totally failed. The mead tasted horrible like a cheap alcohol. I'll leave it in the secondary fermenter for 2 months then bottle it. I'm hoping that if we wait a year it should taste amazing.

Umm, Relays

Umm, Relays
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Relays arrived for the BDC3 battery charger and desulfator.

Cutting Plexiglass with a CNC

Cutting Plexiglass with a CNC
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I have been making custom enclosures out of plexiglass with my CNC. I've noticed that plexi is a tricky material to work with because it melts if the machine moves too slowly (heat builds up) and it is brittle enough to crack if the machine moves too fast. The best results I've found is to cut at a depth of 10 mils using a feed rate of 100 and a 'V' shaped carving bit. Even for a thin plexiglass material this means a minimum of 8-9 passes. It is best to stop short and not cut all the way through the material. This avoids a piece getting loose and flying out of the machine.

Robot Vacuum and Mopper Repaired

Robot Vacuum and Mopper Repaired
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I just repacked our iRobot vacuum and mopper battery packs with
replacement cells. I have had to do this on a annual basis to keep
them running. I've switched from Li-Ion packs which I had been making
by hand back to the standard 14.4V NiMH packs. I'm using my new
capacitive charger to charge two packs at a time. It can charge up to
6 packs simultaneously. Maybe with the new charger I can make these
packs last longer.

Giant Onion

Giant Onion
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We grew this giant onion and ate it in our chicken soup yesterday. We have grown onions in the past, but they never came out this large. I think it is due to all the extra watering we have been doing to compensate for the dry weather.

Endless Plumber

Endless Plumber
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I've been connecting up the irrigation system to our two new beds (12 x 4 ). The plumbing never ends.

Longest Period Without Rainfall Ever Recorded (here)

Longest Period Without Rainfall Ever Recorded (here)
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

As of this week we broke all the records. We exceeded the record of 120 days without rainfall. We have only received 1% of the rainfall we normally receive from last fall until today. Southern New Mexico and West Texas are both in uncharted territory. The scary part is that the temperatures are now nearly 100 deg. and the winds are still strong 20-45 mph. Millions of acres have already been burned, but it looks like there is more to come. The good news is there is slight chance of rain in the forecast next week. However, it looks like it will just hit the mountains and some areas surrounding us. We ordered another 2500 gallon water catch tank to add to our 1200 gallons so that we can be better prepared for these conditions.


The Swap-O-Rama-Rama Fashion Show at Maker Faire

Loads of great pics and feedback are coming in from the Swap-O-Rama-Rama that just took place at the Maker Faire. Here's a lovely shot from the fashion show, this design by Miss Velvet Cream and her Camp Couture label.

(Photo by Angela Davis)

Ocotillo - Pepto Bismol - NEW in HS Store

Today we added our own favorite local remedy to the Holy Scrap Store. The plant is called Ocotillo and it can be used just like Pepto Bismol, after a big, heavy or fatty meal. Simply put, it brings relief to an upset stomach.

I keep a bottle in my purse. When I went to New Orleans I put a few drops in every glass of water I drank.
It's wonderfully simple, the only ingredient!

Enjoy and cheers to your good health!

Holy Scrap Store Pointing the Way Back to Plant Remedies

As you know we've been working on our cottage industry, the Holy Scrap store.

Since many folks are just now learning to use natural plant remedies, we designed our labels in a way that teaches each plant's use and properties by way of association to common store bought products like Pepto Bismol, Bactine and No Doz. We've also rewritten all the item descriptions and simplified the text.

Mormon Tea

It's funny to consider that when the synthetic products came on the market their marketers has to teach people to move from plant remedy knowledge to learning the use of the synthetic variety. Now we're working exactly in reverse. In our view this is a good sign.

These three products pictured here are native "master" plant remedies. As a trio, a Southwestern Medicine Pack, they offer a basic and essential medicine cabinet for any home. We've offered them as a gift pack.

Product Review: Aerobie AeroPress for Tincture

I picked up a neat little coffee press by Aerobie with hopes that it would filter small batches of herbal tincture.

It works as you might think, a hollow dowel is pressed inside another slightly larger dowel with a filter at the end of it. These are placed over a container that catches the liquid that gets pressed through. A filter at the bottom of the unit catches small particulates. The inner dowel's strong gasket allows an air gap to maintain itself as liquid and solids slowly press their way through.

It's well made. The plastic is thick and sturdy. It comes with a lot of filters and the suggestion that one can clean and reuse them. In my own experience a quick rinse between filter uses readied the filter for several more rounds. I was able to get 4 or 5 rounds at best.

I also enjoyed all the accessories. They were well designed, sturdy and just what was needed as I worked.

I did notice that when pressing, if I pressed too hard, the material would hemmorage out of the bottom where the filter was and spill over the edge thus missing being filtered by the filter. Slowing down remedied this problem.

In the end I think it is a fine product for under $30.00. It's great for small tincture filtering however it is not a press. It's a tad too clumsy to push down hard on to try to extract liquid from plant matter. And it's not designed for it either. But if you need to filter small particulates out of a liquid, this will do it just fine.


A Super Swap-O-Rama-Rama @ Maker Faire

From the producer of this years Swap-O-Rama-Rama at the Maker Faire. . . 

A few cool things that happened:
Little boys being STOKED to use a sewing machine

Dads bidding on Ebay right then and there for sewing machines for their children

Three little girls made cool stuff and strutted it in our fashion show Saturday

Katy Simola (one of our sewing machine helpers) made a kick-ass skirt out of an umbrella!!



Spring Garden - A Closer Look

Wendy wanted to show more plants and less people so she cut a second garden video.

Wreck the Economy - Give it All to the Billionaries!

I wanted to thank HS blog readers for the spirited and thought provoking contributions to the recent posts about money here on the HS blog. When reading the comments it is clear that thought went into what was shared. And I learned something from each of you. Though we all had different views, with the gusto of a good spar we exchanged them with "no fighin' words."

The conversation left me wanting to send all of my money to the worlds billionaires. After all, they're the only people who have it all and still think they don't have enough. They are our poor, our burden! And they need welfare if they're ever to change. We can give it to them. We can't afford to let another day go by that proves to them that their belief in lack is true. Lets prove abundance is real and send them every nickel we have.

Of course the byproduct of this action will be that the billionaires will have all the world's money and the rest of us will be forced to create a world without it, yes we'll have to share and take care of one another, darn! But perhaps for a fleeting moment the billionaires will believe that they have it all, right before they realize that the paper ain't worth s*it if no one else but them uses it.

Have a heart and send your money to the first billionaire you can find. And thanks again for a great conversation this week.

(PHOTO: Billionaires for Bush)


Video: Our Spring Garden in 90 Seconds

Wendy takes us on a 90 second tour through our main south facing garden. It has been a good year for us.

Borage & Comfrey for a Homestead

I"m excited to add borage and comfrey to the garden. Both were started from seed. The comfrey is the smaller plant that's on an "IV," (aka a wine bottle full of rainwater). The borage is really taking off.

These two somewhat related plants have my attention because of their varied uses. They're food, medicine, and have applications in cosmetics. Comfrey is also a soil fixer and compost enhancer and could be food for animals. Click the links I provided above for great details on how to use them.

Onion Pickin' Time!

This year I did not plant onion bulbs because our previous year's harvests came in mushy and rotted too quickly. In spite of not planing any, I have tons that came up in the garden that were likely left overs from previous years. Oddly, they're stunning, huge and there is no sign of soft mush rot. These are the best I've ever grown.

Things That Suck: Weed Cloth That Does Not Prevent Weeds

Three years ago I purchased a $200+ roll of weed cloth. Enough I figured to last me several years. Unfortunately it does not prevent bermuda grass from finding it's way through. The weave is simply too open, and bermuda is excellent at finding the opportunity of a small lead and making it's way through. Bummer!


Pictures Worth a Thousand Words

For the HS reader who has been with us for a while and knows Scardy Cat and our dog Sesame, and the drama that ensues when pets come together to share a household, this photo defines a the relationship of one aloof doggie who's scared of cats and one tough cat who wishes to be her friend. Awwww. There's a little heartbreak in there.

Coriander in Crowds

When it rains it pours. I have bowls of coriander, which is the seed of the cilantro plant. It smells crazy wonderful. Now I just need some new recipes that use fresh green coriander seed.


Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We did have one super meal this week. Wendy mixed up a cream sauce gnocchi with prosciutto and fresh snap peas from the garden. We added our favorite garden salad of arugula, mixed lettuces, sunflower seeds, dried berries and a honey cilantro dressing.

Spanakopita ... Oopsie

Spanakopita ... Oopsie
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Wendy and I have been talking about making spanakopita all week. We finally sat down to do it and made a pretty mediocre version. If we had done the following three things it would have been a lot better.

1. Lots of FETA - maybe 1 - 3 lbs worth
2. Butter instead of olive oil on each layer of phyllo
3. No phyllo in the center only bottom and top (12 layers)

Andy and Risi Wedding Gifts

Andy and Risi
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Our friends Andy and Risi recently got hitched in Vegas. We wanted to give them something special that we made at home. We presented them with various things from the HSHS Store. Wendy and I also worked on putting together different images for a custom keychain rack that we let the CNC cut out.

Andy and Risi #2
Andy and Risi #3


Maker Faire Swap-O-Rama-Rama

In a few short days  the Bay Area will bustle with makers of things in every variety: geeks, welders, fire artists, engineers, crafters, foodies, to name a few. Amongst the many ways to play at the MAKER FAIRE guests will find my own project, Swap-O-Rama-Rama, where all things texile reuse will be taking place. If anyone in the area wishes to be part of the Swap's creative staff, contact Erin (erinescholl-at-gmail.com), she's got room for a couple more. 

Clean out your closets the Bay Area 2011
May 21 & 22 11am to 5pm
San Mateo Fairgrounds, San Mateo, CA

"There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness." Gandhi
Join in the communal process of reuse and celebrate our collective creativity! You are invited to Swap-O-Rama-Rama, a giant clothing swap and series of do-it-yourself workshops in which a community explores reuse and creativity through the recycling of used clothing. 

It's easy to make the move from consumer to creator - and it's fun. At this Swap-O-Rama-Rama you'll find a host of talent brought together to teach you how to transform your new/used duds into works of your own. Together they bring you: DIY Stations where you can learn many wonderful ways to create out of textile reuse, Sewing Stations where local designers will teach you fresh clothing mod tricks, on site Silk Screeners with a host of original designs and extraordinary local designers who'll show off their work in the Swap-O-Rama-Rama reuse fashion show.

Of course the core of the swap is the gigantic piles of free clothing (several thousand pounds!). These piles are the collective total of each guest’s contribution of clothes, so clean out those closets and let go of what's no longer inspiring. Take home as much clothing as you can carry. Remainders go to the Salvation Army.

When You Wanna Know More. . . 
Swap-O-Rama-Rama is a Creative Commons Project