Sewing for Sanity : I Made an Outfit to Tour In

Things have been hectic at Holy Scrap. Between Tarp Surfin and cooking with the anti-griddle we have been preparing for the release of my book which includes a significant book tour. The Good Life Lab comes out June 5th, that's when it will be available just about everywhere. The tour starts in May with a launch at the Maker Faire in the Bay Area. Then its 20 bookstores and hacker spaces in the north west, then Denver and Boulder, LA, NY etc. Mikey is presenting with me in the tech areas. I'm happy that the tour starts in those areas. He is a great support.

The book yanked me from the familiar and the comfortable and plopped me down in nervous, a sure sign I'm being stretched. I welcome the new and the  uncertainty it brings. But I notice that this time around while being prompted to be a beginner again, I'm also gathering 40+ years of living and standing on that solid ground. The beginner will fumble and make mistakes while the expert stands ground. Change and newness also seems to ask that bear what we can not change. All this feels like being calibrated.

Its has been a long time since I've been in the business of creativity. I don't much like the biz part anymore. In these last weeks before the tour we're readying our homestead to be in the hands of a sitter, shutting down systems that have been running for a long time: wine, cheese, ferments, and there's rhythms around land and our gardens, bees and pets.

It may seem odd but this leads me to the outfit that I made this afternoon. Noting that the stress in my life has increased, I am doing more yoga, taking longer walks with Sesame, and limiting my computer time and caffeine. Most importantly, I made time to be creative. Today I made an outfit to wear while touring. A while back I pledged to do this. Hardly a great sewer it was a hefty pledge!

I made a wrap skirt and simple top from raw undyed knobby silk and silk thread. Sewing felt like a life raft. Sewing brought me right to the moment. For several hours laser beam focus transformed me back to delight.

Tomorrow I will dye the two garments. with acid dyes I purchased in mauve and brown. I'll post the results.

Tarp Surfing

Tarp Surfing by mikey and wendy
Tarp Surfing, a photo by mikey and wendy on Flickr.
This is most likely the first time anyone has tried tarp surfing in Truth or Consequences, NM. Our friends had some old tarps which we zip tied together. We quickly figured out that the bigger the tarp the more fun the surf would be.

Garbanzo Tempeh : It's worked!

I just made my first garbanzo bean based tempeh. I had only been doing soy and had a few failed mesquite experiments. This was super easy as far as tempeh making goes. I was careful to not over cooking the garbanzo beans and to dry them thoroughly before inoculation. I also stuck the temperature probe directly on below the tempeh as I wanted to hold a solid 90F and not add excessive heat as the fermentation creates it's own.

Garbanzo Tempeh : It's worked! #2

Garden Update March 2013

All our cool and hot crops are coming in fast. We have seeded nearly 400 square feet of raised bed already. The grey skies are making it a pleasure to be out side and the plants are not getting cooked as they usually would. I've been using up our 1200 gallon rain water storage in anticipation of a extremely wet monsoon season which normally starts at the end of June.

Salt & Vinegar Popcorn

I'm desperate to recreate the delicious salty / sour taste of Kettle's Salt & Vinegar potato chips. Last night I tried putting rice vinegar in a atomizer and spraying it on popcorn then sprinkling with salt. This kind of worked. The popcorn was not wet and the sourness was coming through, but not strong enough. I think I'm going to repeat this experiment, but using malt vinegar next time. Has anyone else tried this?


Lifestyle, Environment & Hormones - A Rescue!

Once in a while I feel rescued. For a few years I'd been gathering up symptoms that seemed unrelated, weight gain around my belly, joint pain, memory loss and foggy thinking, lumpy swollen breasts, papering skin, and fatigue. I said things to Mikey like, "I guess this is what getting older feels like." When stress amped up and these symptoms did with it, I searched for answers and found them.

I found the works of John R Lee, M.D and Jesse Hanley, M.D., authors of best selling books about hormones. According to them our environment and lifestyle causes estrogen dominance in men and women. Our water supply and the animal products we consume contain hormones they shouldn't. Our stressful lifestyle and toxins suppress our own production of progesterone that would normally balance out the increased estrogen. Estrogen dominance means rapid cell growth, early aging, higher cancer risks, Lupus, osteoporosis and menopause symptoms ten to twenty years before menopause. It is why young women today are menstruating and developing breasts early and boys are developing androgynous qualities.

The rescue started with information, a book titled What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause: Balance Your Hormones and Your Life From Thirty to Fifty, and then a plant based over the counter cream that within a week relieved me of joint pain, memory loss, painful swollen lumpy breasts, papery skin, greying hair, fatigue and 10 pounds of water weight. The cream is applied anywhere on the body and is called Pro-Gest by 
 (be brand careful, not all progesterone creams are "bio identical" to humans and made from plant based wild yams). I also learned about vitamins, minerals, dietary and lifestyle changes that will improve my quality of life and health for the remainder of my days on earth.

Occasionally I learn something that I want to shout from the rooftops. This is one of those occasions. I can not count the people that I know who have symptoms like this and others that I did not have and who have no idea why. Some get surgery. Others go on scary pharmaceuticals with awful side affects.  Doctors won't tell you what this book delivers perfectly clearly because pharmaceutical companies can't patent and profit from natural plant based progesterone.

Cheers to good health friends!
- Wendy


Spring Garden 2013 Update

We have been transplanting our indoor seedlings out into the unprotected raised beds. The major decision we made this week was to let the east beds be more herb heavy since we don't visit them much. They still have some strawberries, kale and potatoes, but we added lots of dill, holy basil and parsley to go with the already established zatar, oregano and thyme.

Spring Garden 2013 Update #2


Charging Up the Weed Wacker Batteries

We have quite a few Ni-CD packs for our electric weed wacker. The batteries sit idle all winter. This is their third year and I just pulled them out today to start the recovery process. I wired up 4 in series and used Da Pimp to charge them up.

Dutch Oven Party

Dutch Oven Party by mikey and wendy
Dutch Oven Party, a photo by mikey and wendy on Flickr.
We spent Saturday with good friends taking our dutch oven skills the next level. We did a quad stack of different size 14", 10" and 8" ovens. Andy made a brisket, Jeanie made GF bread and a green chile pineapple upside down cake. I made a bacon kimchi stew with smoked tofu.

Dutch Oven Party #2Dutch Oven Party #3Dutch Oven Party #4


Rosemary Tea

Rosemary Tea by mikey and wendy
Rosemary Tea, a photo by mikey and wendy on Flickr.
I've been drinking rosemary tea for the last few weeks before going to sleep. I had read about some of the health benefits and prefer it to drinking wine at night. Apparently rosemary is loaded with vitamins (A/B/C/D/E/K), good for the brain and aids digestion. I normally cut several inches of fresh plant and soak steep it in 176F water for 5-10 minutes. There is no bitterness and it is extremely fragrant. I've tried additional variations such as rosemary and thyme and a third combo using honey as a sweetener and cooling down the rosemary as a ice tea. They are all very nice.

Rosemary Tea #2


The Walden Effect reviews Da Pimp

Our e-buddies Anna and Mark gave a nice review of my battery charger on their blog "The Walden Effect". If you are not already following their technical homesteader blog I highly recommend it.

More Flyers : Swap-O-Rama-Rama and The Good Life Lab

Three heavy boxes of flyers for Wendy's Swaps and upcoming book release arrived this week. We received a funny v-mail from our UPS lady who delivered them. She saw the publishers information on the label and assumed Wendy's books were arriving. She was so proud. We still have a while until books come in.

Dutch Oven Recipe : Milk Braised Pork

I've been trying dozens of new dutch oven recipes and this latest one produced a pretty nice main course. I braised two pounds of pork sirloin in a 1.5 cups of milk with some nutmeg and butter for two hours. It's a simple mostly hands off recipe that I like most about it. We also recently bought half a pig from a local farmer so I'm experimenting with different pork options.

Pi Day with Raspberries

What better way to celebrate Pi Day 3/14 than with a bunch of geeks and raspberry pi. Andy brought over his Pi which he's been hooking up sensors to control algae growth. Kyle brought some raspberry ice cream and we had a marathon meeting that went until 1AM. We successfully hooked up some sensors and had them logging to COSM so the meeting was a success.

Pi Day with Raspberries #2

Hiking with Larry

Hiking with Larry by mikey and wendy
Hiking with Larry, a photo by mikey and wendy on Flickr.
Wendy is on a 10 day retreat leaving me with the kitty. While she is gone I usually cook and party quite a bit more. I went out hiking with our neighbors in to see some of Larry's favorite spots across the river. There were beautiful rock formations and trails. Even some good looking ancient trash to be found.

Hiking with Larry #2Hiking with Larry #3

Hello Fruit Trees

Hello Fruit Trees by mikey and wendy
Hello Fruit Trees, a photo by mikey and wendy on Flickr.

It is mid-March and so far the following fruit trees are showing blossoms at our place.

meyer lemon

Plus all of them lettuces are coming in strong. In particular kale, green onion and arugula can be eaten daily.


Wahoo We Grew Cauliflower

Cold crops are always tricky for us. Each time we successfully grow a cauliflower or broccolli it's a big deal. Tomorrow I'm going to sous-vide the cauliflower into steaks which is my favorite way to eat them. Wendy likes to blend it into a fake mash potato.


A rusty can

A rusty can by mikey and wendy
A rusty can, a photo by mikey and wendy on Flickr.
The desert coughed up this rusty can that I found way out in Palomas Gap among a pile of others. A few cans had still readable parts. A lid read, Baking Powder. Someone made fire pit biscuits!


Furnace Air Filters

Furnace Air Filters by mikey and wendy
Furnace Air Filters, a photo by mikey and wendy on Flickr.
Furnace Air Filters #2
I learned a few years ago that the best way to keep a efficient home furnace running was to regularly clean or replace the air filters. You can see just how much difference it makes to quickly swipe a vacuum past the filter.

Cory Doctorow in Albuquerque - Spyware * Freedom * Connection

Mikey and I drove up to Albuquerque to catch Cory Doctorow's talk in support of his new book Homeland. Cory is masterful at being sweet and blunt at the same time and this made me like him right away. He reminded me of my hope that sparing becomes popular. As blog reader Joel describes, sparing as playful confrontation that models serious conflict.

Cory dives to meat of the matter, we must keep the internet free and open. He described internet regs as about as logical as plugging a waffle iron into a fax machine. He asked if we want technology to be like Hal, "I'm afraid I can't do that Dave," or if we want it to serve the individual.

I left the talk feeling grateful to Cory for his willing to stand up. He knows that to do so could be dangerous. Aaron Schwartz played a creative role in Cory's new book and in his life. One can still feel the thread of connection between them.

As I drove home I wondered what I can do to support people like Cory. Cory answers this question in the talk he gave:

Use open source and creative commons. Do not trust the machines that are not open. Spyware is an example of how machines can be used against us.

Stand up for digital rights. When SOPA was being fought against a winning strategy was used.  Web based pop ups directed people to their local congress people. This action helped tip the scale.

Corey reminded us to connect heart to heart with one another and ask others, "how do you feel?" Ultimately the world we're fighting to keep free is one of living creatures. Connect.

Desert Art - Rusty Old Can Landscape

I Claim This Land!

I Claim This Land! by mikey and wendy
I Claim This Land!, a photo by mikey and wendy on Flickr.
This week I learned that land can be claimed. Yep just like that a person can put a stick into the ground with a note on it that says how much land they claim. As far as I know this can only be done on Bureau of Land Management land, which is our land, the people of the United States.

While hiking in Palomas Gap the other day we found a claim that amounted to a stick in the ground with a tupperware bowl on it that contained a piece of paper with a claim. The person making the claim claimed an old mine and the area around by about 600' in each direction.

Claiming a Mine

Small Town Sharing - Asian Ink Art

Two things I love about small town life: it is intimate. One can know many people well, and town life has its own economy that is less money based and focuses more on sharing.

Last week I was the happy recipient of an invitation to learn about Asian ink painting. The invite came from painter and friend Susan Christie. After showing me her collection, much of which revealed the masters she has worked with and her influences, including the small vintage book that tipped her off to a desire to work in this medium and sent her to the other side of the planet to study, she took me to her studio to play.

For a while the two of us painted together sharing a single sheet of receptive rice paper. While we talked as neighbors and friends do it seemed that what was being shared was documented by the ink and paper between us. Like an ancient copy machine it held the stories in speckles of drip and smears of brush strokes from watery to densely black with expressive liquid charcoal.

As a conceptual artist I use people, places and life events as mediums. Tangible materials like paper and paint feel an odd fit. When I left her home I felt closer to my friend and more able to appreciate the ancient form of expression that until now escaped my attention.

Leeks Up!

Leeks Up! by mikey and wendy
Leeks Up!, a photo by mikey and wendy on Flickr.
I admit that my garden went vacant this winter. Winter is the best season for growing food in southern New Mexico. I'm in the process of learning how to be an author who writes about homesteading and also a homesteader. Now is the time for mastery, balance, and holding what once seemed to be opposites, business and a natural, uncommodified life. I'm happy to report that most of our garden beds are clean out. Some are seeded and I got lucky too. The leeks I planted months back and have appeared as if to say, "it's OK Wendy, the garden welcomes you back whenever you are ready!"


Open Call: Swap-O-Rama-Rama @ Maker Faire May 18/19

Early Buds First Week of March

Our apricot blossoms always open up around the first week of March. It's not safe with the possibility of freezes and frequent high winds, but they just can't wait. I also spotted pigweed (aka lambs quarters) popping up. We can eat that plant like spinach.

Early Buds First Week of March #2

Da Pimp on the Make Blog

My phone has beeping all morning with kit sales. Usually we just sell a few a day. I looked around and noticed that one of my pimp videos is on the Make website. Thank you Mr. Baichtal for the post.

Hiking Palomas Gap with Kyle and Jeannie

Kyle drove us out to a hike about 20 minutes from town on the other side of the river. The old trail we took was once the road to get the train in Engle where supplies would be delivered on a regular schedule. It's not a easy place to reach. I'm sure I our non 4x4 truck would not have made it due to size and lack of driving skill on my part.

Kyle's flip-flop broke and we managed to get him back to the truck using some yucca fibers as strapping. His shoe fell apart within 100' of the truck.

Hiking Palomas Gap with Kyle and Jeannie #4Hiking Palomas Gap with Kyle and Jeannie #3Hiking Palomas Gap with Kyle and Jeannie #2


Macbook Air Battery Replacement

My macbook air is from 2010 and has been a sweet little laptop. It's battery life has been reduced to lasting about 90 minutes from what was once 6-9 hours. I finally ordered a replacement pack on ebay and swapped it out. It's easy work with the right tools. It requires a torx T3 for the outer screws and a torx T4 for the inner ones. Doing this on my own for $60 was way better than the alternative of mailing the laptop to Apple and paying full price + labor for the swap ($129).

Macbook Air Battery Replacement #2

Sub-Zero Anti-Griddle Party

We had a nice turn out for my pre-birthday sub-zero party. We made the ghetto version of a anti-griddle using a $5 block of dry ice and a metal tray. The tray quickly drops to a very cold temperature near -80C after being placed on the dry ice. There is a initial nails on chalkboard audible racket. I'm not sure if it's the metal contracting or just the sounds of dry ice scratching the metal. We flash froze different ingredients into popsicles. We found a few recipes that worked pretty well. These are the favorites. I'm looking forward to trying this again on a hot summer day.

honey + lime chipotle
blood orange + cream + honey
balsalmic vinegar + vanilla + cream chocolate ganache
kashi cereal adds a nice puffed crunchy texture
pretzels sticks can be used in place of popsicle sticks for handles

Sub-Zero Anti-Griddle Party #2Sub-Zero Anti-Griddle Party #3Sub-Zero Anti-Griddle Party #4