Thursday, January 31, 2013

Local Food Challenge - in January

A friend requested I feature some more positive food entries on blog and facebook.  True, I post and share frequently about gmo's, chemicals, additives, and other sobering facts.

So, in answer, here is our locally sourced lunch - most came from withing 1/4 mile of my kitchen.  we eat this way in January, and there is no reason food needs to come from far away.

Our menu: goose breast medallions sauteed in chicken fat with red onions in reduction of potato cooking water homemade dandelion wine and tamari, mashed potatoes, squash with nutmeg and chopped toasted nuts (usually our hazel nuts, but pecans from my parents in this photo), green beans,

with Ken's cultured vegetables from our field and garden, and baby greens and sprouts from the windows of our house.

Purchased items: tamari, salt, pepper, and nutmeg

Note: pottery was also locally made - from within 1/4mile!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Glaze Testing

Ken mixes all his pottery glazes.  Some potters buy glazes, and like cake mixes they are consistent.  But mixing glazes leads to some pretty exciting results.  

For the last few years Ken has been using more and more local materials - local rock powders and ashes from burning plant parts like corn stalks or bean husks.

Doing this means gathering the materials and running glaze tests.  As he lists out ingredients and what they do - melt, stick to the pot, add color, add matte shiny or opalescent qualities, my head spins.  And then as he moves to molecular weights and chemical bonds, I am left behind!

Today he is trying six versions of one local rock.  First he ground it in the ball mill for about a week.
This magical jar is filled with rock powder and porcelain balls.  The turning moves the balls, and they crush the rock.

Then he measures out the same substances, but in somewhat different ratios.  He weighs them combines them with water and mixes them.

After he labels each test to keep them all straight,  he has to let them sit for hours so the ingredients become consistently wet.  

Soon the glaze tests will go on small fired pieces of clay into the test kiln.

The Lengthening Days

Ready to plant
Each culture and religion seems to mark the lengthening of the days near the start of February.  Whether we call it Groundhog Day. Candlemas, St. Blaise Day, or Imbolc, this mid point between any equinox and solstice is dramatic for those connected to soil and nature.  The equinoxes and solstices mark ending and beginning like the shortest day and now the days begin to lengthen or even day and night length before either nights or days lengthen. 

 But those halfway days are when the drama of the change is happening.  On February 2nd, the days have been lengthening since the solstice in December and now we can feel the stirring of the earth as she awakens and starts to sprout and grow. 

 Happy days of change to you.

Sorting Seeds

Today I have been sorting seeds.  

First I sort into families, then by planting dates.  Planting continues, and soon transplanting outdoors will begin!

Good by and Good Luck

Loyal has decided to leave this farm.  The rabbits, goats, and pigs that came with him have also left. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Back at It

From the left
Well, today I got the repairs done.  Thank goodness for two long red shoe laces.  

From the right

I wrapped them around the beam and the metal bar where I had attached the warp (previously connected to the ripped apron fabric).

From the back

Then I cranked it tight in hopes the tension would be even
The tough part was to get the rug I had woven wrapped and the unwoven warp wound back up so the tension would work.  Ken came and operated the brake - it was a three handed job.

Now I am glad to be back at it!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Just when I was Making Progress - A Sad Sound - rip!

Well, I got started weaving and was making progress.  

When I had enough woven that I needed to wind up the beam to make room to weave more, I released the brake, wound. set the break and was tightening the front beam when Rrrrippp!  The apron on the front of the loom ripped halfway.

This makes it impossible to wind on more and also makes the tension uneven.  What to do?  I ran and got some red shoelaces and tied it up until I could figure out what to do.  Sometimes it is good to sleep on it and come back fresh with solutions the next day.

I have a plan and will try it tomorrow.  Stay tuned....

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Now that the tax prep is in the accountant's hands, the seeds have been ordered, and the CSA mailing is out, there is a small window for me to weave.  There are other items on my agenda - update website, get online pottery sales going, etc. but I have been sewing denim strips together.

I enjoy each part of weaving from reused materials - cutting up the garments, cutting strips, sewing strips, warping the loom and running the shuttle.  This winter I have many strips to sew to form balls.  Part of me thinks I am a "cut bait" type of person.  When people say, "Fish or cut bait!"  I realize I am easily lost in the preparation.  

But today I unearthed the loom.  My life often feels like an archaeology dig as I go to do something and see it buried with layers of valuable and interesting items!

So, now  I wrap up strip sewing and start the moving of the shuttle.  And the scraps from sewing the strips will be filler for future dog beds. So much can be used and so little needs to go to waste.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sausage Sunday

Ken at the grinders and stuffers
Some people have a super bowl Sunday in winter.  Ken has a sausage Sunday each fall or winter.  Today when temperatures were chilly he spent the day mixing up three batches of sausage.

Imagine me at the kitchen aid on the casing end; Ken on the stuffing end
  I volunteered to help fill the casings. 

First he grinds the meats.  Then he weighs and combines meat with spices and herbs.  He consulted me on this.  There were three batches: a savory, an Italian, and a chorizo.

First batch: savory
All the sausage is in the freezer and Ken is cleaning up.  At this house sausage is "fast food."  Thank you, Ken!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Side Trip to Flagstaff

Jerome with the San Francisco peaks in the distance
When we visit my parents we try to arrange a small side trip to give them a break from our chaos.  Last year we discovered Flagstaff has much to offer: we walked along downtown streets and discovered galleries we revisited this year on the monthly art walk.  

San Francisco peaks from the Sunset Crater
This year we got to attend three tai chi classes in as many days, we got to do an art walk, a contra dance, and visited ruins.  Our hostel was in walking distance of everything but the ruins.

Ken's Yoga Retreat

As self employed people who work where we also live, we feel the need to leave our workplace and unfinished projects at least once a year.  Last season's weather was particularly intense, and some months in late summer we did not leave work home and work behind for even a day.

Most years we can find a responsible hearty soul to take on the job of farm sitting here - wood heat, window temperature controlled root cellar, animal chores, and more "rustic life style" choices.  And once we find someone, we often head to visit my parents in Prescott, AZ - a delightful, moderate city neither in Phoenix's arid desert nor Flagstaff's snowy highlands.  Thanks to my eighty plus year old  parents for their tolerant welcoming attitude as we invade their calm, organized life with our chaos and crusading attitudes about organic agriculture.  And thanks to our farm sitter.  They all make our intense 50 weeks possible.

And although Ken loves my parents., sometimes it is rather like being at the class reunion of someone else - "who ARE these people from your childhood?  Your great aunt who, etc. So while I visit and ask those questions I want to ask before my parents are gone, he heads off to a rejuvenating yoga class - or classes.  It is quite exciting for him to experience several teachers and styles at one studio.

On New Year's Eve I joined him for a yoga class ( and I confirmed I am still a tai chi, rather than a yoga person) and chanting in the new year.  As A former zen meditation chanter it was fascinating to enter an Indian chanting of repetition of 108 times - what a way to ring in the new year: chanting while we heard fire works!

 Thank you. Brandon and Yoga Shala!

Ruins North of Flagstaff

Ruins!  We love ruins, their history and the many artifacts at many sites.  after all Ken is a potter, and pottery often remains at these sites.

Sunset Crater
North of Flagstaff are the Wupatki ruins, a series of ruins located on a scenic driving loop that also includes the sunset crater, a mountain of lava.  Similar geological occurrences also are seen in Hawaii, but there the rainfall assists lichens change the lava cinders  to fertile soil.  Arizona's arid climate breaks down the cinders very slowly.

That same arid climate preserves ruins of cultures past.  Many people built stone structures of varying sizes for various purposes - trading centers, homes, agricultural areas.    

We were impressed not only with the stone structures, but also the fact that these peoples farmed with incredibly low levels of water.  

Ken's shadow on my image - yes, we vacationed together!

It shall be difficult for me to whine in future when I have read that people traveled ten miles for water.

The Tibetan Center

Thanks to our friend Loring - on many counts.  He included us in one of his rehearsals - a real treat for this theatre major.  

And he got us to the pulling of the plastic on Matt and Sarah's farm

He brought us to a beautiful Tibetan temple with a view to one side of Chino Valley and Sedona to the other.

And for many other kindnesses, thank you, Loring

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pulling the Plastic at Rabbit Run in Skull Valley, AZ

What do two older farmers do on their vacation?  They gladly help younger farmers pull the plastic on their new EQUIP grant greenhouse!  Ken and I went to visit my parents in Prescott, AZ recently.  Last year when we visited, my parents told us we should meet "their farmers" Sarah and Matt, a "nice young couple" at the weekly farmers market - "They sell great vegetables."  So we called Matt and Sarah, they gave us a farm tour and we had a wonderful visit.This year we let them know we were coming, and we got a call they were pulling the plastic - could we help?
We convinced a friend to drive and we all went and helped.

Since Ken had pulled plastic on several greenhouses, he was able to share his experience.  I took photos as that was the one thing neither of us had done when we pulled our plastic.  And the crew they had assembled was friendly, willing, and a great help.  Pulling plastic is like a barn raising - it goes much more smoothly when many people help.  And like a barn raising, pulling plastic brings people together with a common goal.  People come because they want to help.  The energy is really quite remarkable

We enjoyed meeting and working with everyone.  Once we finished, Sarah had hot soup to ward off the chill as the sun's power waned.  It was a beautiful and satisfying event.  Thanks to my parents for introducing us, Loring for transporting us, and thanks to Matt and Sarah for including us