20120830

Mesquite Harvest

Mesquite Harvest

It's the end of august so we find ourselves going out multiple times a week to pick mesquite and prickly pear. The mesquite pods need to be dried before we grind them in the vita-mix.

Mesquite Harvest #2
Mesquite Harvest #3
Mesquite Harvest #4

Portable Camping Power Rig

Portable Camping Power Rig by mikeysklar
Portable Camping Power Rig, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
I'm really happy with my little power setup that fits snugly in a plastic box setup. I'm using a 8 year old motorcycle battery (12V / 12Ah) combined with a 100W inverter and Belkin 3 way splitter with dual usb outlets. I charge the battery with Da Pimp before leaving home. This provides plenty of juice to power my inflatable air mattress, phones and tent lights.

Tomato Drying

Behold our stolen bread rack system for drying tomatoes. It's low tech and reliable. In our dry climate it takes about 3-4 days for the tomatoes to completely dry.

Tomato Drying #2

20120828

Fermenting with Sandor Katz

Sandor Katz Fermentation Class

I just returned home after a 3 day fermentation training course taught by fermentation guru Sandor Katz. The class took place at The Lama Foundation just outside of Taos where the elevation is 8,600 feet. The course covered usual fermentations (tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut) which we regularly make, and fermentations that are new to us such as,

- kvass - (stale bread, tea, honey naturally carbonated)
- koji - (which can be made into miso, soy sauce, amazaki and saki)
- pickling - (almost any veggie in a salt brine)
- country wine - (fresh fruits, lightly fermented with sugar)

Sandor Katz Fermentation Class #2
Fermenting with Sandor Katz #3

Strange Beauty



I have mixed feelings about Elephant Butte Lake. It is a man made lake nearly 60 sq. miles in size with a WPA backed damn that holds back water from all who live below Truth or Consequences, NM namely Texas and Mexico. The fish are stocked. The wind is unpredictable with huge gusts that have knocked people from boats and taken lives. There is hardly any life around the lake except for weekends when over 100,000 people appear with boats and things that float and lots of beer. Mostly one sees only sand, distant mesas, scrub. A prehistoric bed of fossils and bones lay below.

This is not a natural story so much as one in which man interfered with a natural process and forced a form on it. Today the lake shrivels. Watermarks show that there was once water in the giant reservoir. Islands and land bridges appear regularly. Boats toeing jet skis zoom by as if they hardly notice.

The huge lake has a moonlike, stark beauty. I wonder if it is due to the New Mexico sky, which features a flattering light bulb for any landscape and makes ratty trailers look reasonable.

For me something will always be missing. Maybe I want mother nature to be the signature and not the afterthought.

20120826

One Garage Sale

Can you tell that these items came from the same garage sale? Total, $2.00. Potential value, priceless.

Drying Everything I Can Find

The mint, holy basil, tarragon, thyme, orageno and zatar are forgiving. In spite of my not having paid them much attention, they've grown big and hearty. I'm drying bundles to ship to friends this winter.


20120825

Prickly Pear Concentrate



The tunas are ripe in the southwest. I spent a couple of hours on the laborious process of burning the thorns then boiling. Once blanched and burned the skin is taken off with tongs, the center of the fruit blended, strained, and frozen prickly pear punch all winter long.

20120824

Busted China


I found this lovely vintage Wedgewood cake plate at a yard sale. It's chipped. They lady selling it said, "how bout a quarter?" It may be chipped but it's doing a fine job of supporting this orchid. When it can no longer fulfill this task I smash it and use it instead of gravel as a first layer in potted plants.

Back to a Project Oriented Life - 70's Lamp



In a recent post I whined about how writing a book took me away from the life I was writing about.

I'm trying to find my way back. One thing that I noticed is that my habits have to be rewired. Writing put me in the habit being in front of my computer as my life's default position. It's time to shift that. Today I yanked this lovely 1970s lamp that I got at a yard sale for $4.00 and figured out a way to hang it.

Since our home is a trailer that has no useable ceiling I wasnt sure how to approach mount it. I found a solution.  A right angle bracket with butterfly screws to add support. It worked! I am exited to get rid of a space stealing table lamp.

20120822

Maker Faire NYC's First Swap-O-Rama-Rama

I began Swap-O-Rama-Rama in 2006 in New York City. In 2007 I brought it to the west coast and produced it for the first ever Maker Faire in San Mateo, then to Austin for the Tx Maker Faire.
 Swap-O-Rama-Rama and Maker Faire have been happy partners for years.

I am thrilled to announce that Swap-O-Rama-Rama is coming back home to NYC to join Maker Faire at New York Hall of Sciences in Queens in September.

If your in NY, don't miss it. Swap-O-Rama-Rama is the largest clothing swap and textile repurposing event in the world and it is loads of fun!


Lama Foundation - Annual Pilgrimage


This summer Mikey and me and taking turns visiting The Lama Foundation. I just went to meet up with a group of Ruhaniat Sufis and  dance with them and remember my connectedness to the life of this world. This weekend Mikey makes the 8,000+ foot high climb to get there and spend time with author of the book The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz and friend and herbalist Kathy Hope. This workshop still has space so if your interested in studying fermented foods with the living expert, this is your chance.

Lama Foundation is a lovely intentional community located on a mountain top in Questa, NM north of Taos. There one can experience alternative buildings, cisterns, gardens, and view that's just crazy beautiful. Its worth the trip.

False Start Monsoon

While we have not actually been rained on much this year, we do get the lovely monsoon sky almost daily. The mountain ranges that surround T or C cause rain packed storms to turn and miss us. They are also the reason we'll never have tornadoes.

20120818

Our First Romano of the Summer

It's been over six months since I made a Romano cheese. I enjoy making / storing / eating the hard cheeses more than the soft ones. The big difference for me is that to make a little romano wheel takes 5 days. Most of that is drying time before being vacuum sealed. It breaks the work up into manageable chunks. Storing the cheese is fun because you get to keep checking in on it while in the cheese fridge. Finally, eating a cheese that has 6 months a to a year of real age on it is intense! We like to describe it as "a hint of foot". I love shaving it on all of our pastas, pizzas and breads. These cheese store well and can go for years.

Our First Romano of the Summer #2

20120817

Liquified Pears

Liquified Pears by mikeysklar
Liquified Pears, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

I quickly tossed 10 lbs of pears into the blender. They broke down easily and were then bagged and frozen. There is pulp mixed in, but I'm hoping that if I let them partially unfreeze the sugary pear concentrate will be released before the fiber and frozen water. Just a experiment. If it does work out my process for getting pear concentrate (used for last step fermentation) will be a lot faster than using a juicer.

Gifts from a Customer?

Gift from Customers? by mikeysklar
Gift from Customers?, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
One of my favorite aspects of running a store combined with a blog is that many of our customers are readers. Today we received payment via snail mail along with several gifts from this customers garden. In the bottle is a liquid soapberry mix (looking forward to trying this on my laundry). One jar has dried figs which are delicious. The other jar contains home grown and canned peppers which I've not tried yet.

Rain Storm

Rain Storm by mikeysklar
Rain Storm, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Yes, we finally had a decent summer rain. It poured occasionally and went on through the night. I tapped our four rain water catch tanks this morning and noticed that three of them are approaching full. We have a good chance of getting more rain this week.

20120816

The Prickly Pear Processing Trick

I processed a little over two dozen prickly pears the other day. It took me a while to remember how to burn, blanch and remove the skins. They key to getting skins off is to cut each end of the fruit before trying to pull the skin otherwise it gets stuck and tears. After blending and filtering out the seeds the prickly juice is frozen into cubes for long term storage.

Rope Swing

Rope Swing by mikeysklar
Rope Swing, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
Every summer we enjoy swimming laps in the pool, tubing down the river and skimboarding at the lake. This summer has been extra special with the addition of a rope swing. Jeannie, Kyle, Lauren and I enjoyed a 3pm cool off on the swing the other day.

Rope Swing #2Rope Swing #3Rope Swing #4

20120814

Mikey on Hack-A-Day



Caleb Kraft from Hack-a-Day stopped in to visit while he toured the Southwest last week. Caleb and I had exchanged e-mails for years, but had never met in person. After showing him some geeky stuff we drove to a nice spot of the Rio Grande and sat around in the river to cool off.

20120813

Kimchi with CO2 or Without

Kimchi with CO2 or Without by mikeysklar
Kimchi with CO2 or Without, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
I'm still experimenting with mason jar whey infused kimchi. I had read that some people prefer to taste of kimchi that off gassed the CO2. I'm not sure which way I prefer it so I made a 4 quart batch leaving the top 1/4 of each jar empty. Two jars received airlocks and two are closed with standard mason jar lids. Next week I should have a favorite to share with you. Bubbles or no bubbles, that is the question.

Prickly Pear Tuna Harvest

Prickly Pear Tuna Harvest by mikeysklar
Prickly Pear Tuna Harvest, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
It's mid August and some of the prickly pear cactus fruits have reached full size. I picked two dozen this morning and will start the process of burning the exteriors and freezing the juice for future fermentation experiments.

Watermelon Drink

Watermelon Drink by mikeysklar
Watermelon Drink, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
I love juicing the $4 watermelon. It only takes a few minutes and provides over a gallon of beverage. Usually I just chill and serve as is. Today I tried blending with purslane, but it changed the beautiful pink melon color into ugly grey and tastes as though I added too much plant.

Funny Church Sign

Funny Church Sign by mikeysklar
Funny Church Sign, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

20120812

Pear Trade

Pear Trade by mikeysklar
Pear Trade, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

I traded for 20 lbs of pairs recently. I plan to use them to top off some of our Meade and hard cider with a sweet pear finish.

Summer Drink : Yogurt Basil Lime

A friend of a friend on Facebook turned me onto this refreshing drink that somewhat resembles a Shamrock Shake in color. It's a strange taste, but it will impress.

- 2 cups yogurt
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup basil
- 2 limes pressed
- 1/4 cup honey
- pinch of salt

Blend with a tray of ice cubes and serve.

Trick for Opening Stubborn Watches

I scored a awesome 1970s Pulsar watch from a yard sale earlier this month. When I went to open the watch back to replace the batteries I realized this was one of those crazy double notch types which can be difficult to open. After a few minutes of google searches I found that people use calipers when they do not have proper zero friction watch tools. They worked great.

Trick for Opening Stubborn Watches #2

20120810

Commodified?

We have lived in New Mexico for 6.5 years. In May the Holy Scrap blog will be 5 years old. Neither Mikey nor me has had a real job since 2006. I just finished writing a book. Nothing is as it was when we met in New York City and determined that hustling in our respective careers, me a marketing exec and Mikey working on Wall St, was no longer the wise thing to do.

In New York we were utterly commodified. Now we are what we would once have considered money poor. We are also time wealthy, abundant and free.

For the first time since arriving in the desert I did something that commodified me. I wrote a book for a publisher. To do so I stopped living the life I created and wrote about it. Mikey can attest, I fulfilled the cliche image of manic writer tearing their hair out behind a screen, pale skinned and pimple faced from irregular eating and lack of sleep.

The book is finished. It made me notice where we are, have been, and who we are for having traveled.

This summer I've blogged less than any previous year. It was not that I was too busy writing though it is true that I was.The book took precedence over gardening, cheese making and the new project list. It turned me inward. I struggled. I prefer to struggle alone. Blogging was the wrong direction. What I share through this blog is quite naturally outward. Why? Outwardness is the direction of joy.

I didn't anticipate crossing an emotional chasm to return from the book back to the life I created in NM. I didn't realize what the life I made was composed of, things I never allowed myself while living in NY: having no set schedule; star watching in the middle of the night and taking inventory of the life in the garden each morning; saying no to distractions but for the most special things; harmonizing my particular psyche with sewing for repose, long spans of silence, noticing the small like my breath, rigorous landscaping to release tension, gardening to tenderize my heart and remind me of connection, and the blog to remind me to digest, contemplate and articulate my experiences.

Quitting your job and buying a fixer upper wont provide any of this. The formula is complicated. When we arrived in the desert we listened, trusted, and responded to things commodified life left no time for: our desire, our hearts desire, our whimsy, curiosity and play. At times we made little sense to others. We decided, "lets get rid of all the money we have as quickly as possible by buying things that have real value, things that make other things." Then we bought tools we did not even know how to use; cement mixers, power tools, kitchen tools. We gave the best of what we had away knowing the gift is the most powerful tool of all.

These decisions made us free. Freedom has a rhythm that's outside of time. One does not enter and exit it. When you are on it's wing you know it because you feel joy. Back on the ground all you can do is dream of flight. If it were easy who would care. It is easy only once you have arrived and getting there is worth every ounce of effort.

I'm not back in my life yet. I'm on the edge wanting in, remembering. But I all I need to get there is desire. And if I can not find it, well I can read my own book!

20120807

Making Baby Tomatoes Last

Making Baby Tomatoes Last by mikeysklar
Making Baby Tomatoes Last, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
Our tomatoes are coming in quickly. Normally when I harvest the tomatoes and leave them on the counter they tend to go soft in about 4-5 days. I am trying to make them last a few more days by putting them in a mason jar, pulling a vacuum and leaving them in our fridge.

Book: Abundance The Future is Better Than You Think

I've been looking forward to writing up this NYT Bestseller that I've been reading for the last week. The title "Abundance - The Future is Better than You Think" describes the authors optimistic view of how exponential improvements in technology can solve our world problems today (or really soon). I applaud this book for doing a fine job of describing the problems this planet faces with food, clean water, over population, health care and energy. I also enjoyed hearing the solutions some of them so technical that only a geek could love them. I strongly recommend any DIYer read this book.

The book had a few angles that I didn't like. One of which was whenever a new technology was described to fix a serious world problem it sounded like the PR group for the company wrote that section of the book. I would have preferred more of a engineers view of the technology describing why the solution was so hard to implement and the real problems they were facing. Another angle I didn't like was a end goal of once everybody has the basics they can then go to work everyday and buy stuff with that income. That doesn't seem like such a great goal, but obviously I'm biased.

Santa Fe Opera

Santa Fe Opera by mikeysklar
Santa Fe Opera, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
In the off chance that you happen to be going to Santa Fe I strongly recommend checking out the Opera house. It is a wonder. Wendy and I attended Maometto last weekend and loved it. The best part was happening off stage. Well off and on merged when a massive thunderstorm going on in parallel with the play sounded off as if on cue with the script. The opera house building design features open walls and so inside and out are hard to distinguish.  We enjoyed our inexpensive standing room only tix, especially when they seated us at the start of the first act.

Salt Containers

Salt Containers by mikeysklar
Salt Containers, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
We love salt. Recently Wendy bought a salt pig and a stone holder for black and grey salts on the table. I really like the salt pig which just sits on a shelf and you can stick you hand in without having to open jars.

Sage Deodorant

Sage Deoderant by mikeysklar
Sage Deoderant, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
I like the smell of sage and have been wanting to use our giant sage plant to make deodorant. I only have a slight idea of how to do this, maybe some readers can suggest a better technique. Pretty please? I used filled a small jam jar with fresh sage leaves then soak them in 80% (160 proof) alcohol for two weeks. I then poured the contents into a 2oz spray bottle and added a few drops of lavender, clary sage and tea tree essential oils. It smelled okay, but not what I hoped for. Anything is better than summer BO and aluminum tainted store bought crap right?