Monday, December 30, 2013

The Straw Bale And It's Many Uses

Mighty straw bales...utilized in almost all of our projects, they are especially valuable for use with the livestock, in the garden, and for creative endeavors like building.  The straw bale is an essential reusable staple on our homestead.   Check out some of the ways we reuse this free available resource.

Cold Frame/Mini Greenhouse
Simply made from bales and old windows, this greenhouse fits about twenty wooden seedflats.

Natural Building

making cob with clay, straw, sand, and water
 Animal Bedding 

 Compost Material

layers of  green grass, horse manure, straw and a variety of compostable scraps
 from around the farm make a nice hot pile
Growing Mushrooms

 Mulching Garden Beds

potatoes do well mulched heavily with straw
photo by Lori Eanes
Children's Archery Range

Another good idea: Straw Bale Compost Bins

For the small scale farmer and urban homesteader the possibilities are endless.  You can find bales for sale at your local race track, feed stores and often free on craigslist.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

More Magic Wool

Our annual winter wool class last weekend seemed to be a success. We had fun learning some basic felting techniques such as needle felting and making wet felted soaps.  Both were a hit with the children who did not want to stop once class was over.  The color combinations were beautiful!  Hot spicy chai, lentil soup with cheddar muffins, and gluten free brownies topped off our afternoon.  Working with wool is a perfect way to enjoy a cold, blustery day.

Resources for felting supplies:
-Paper Scissors Stone: 
-Any foam mattress store (for less expensive needle felting boards)
-Local artisan yarn stores: more expensive but usually have unique materials and colors

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Urban Farming Book Give Away

Hey folks, this is our first give away!  We have three copies of Backyard Roots waiting to be mailed out.  If you have not yet seen it, this beautiful compilation by Lori Eanes is a photographic essay of thirty-five urban farms along the west coast ranging from the SF Bay area to Vancouver.  The pictures are stunning and the stories delightful.  All you have to do is leave a comment and we will randomly pick three winners.  Whether you want this book to give as a holiday gift or for your own coffee table, you will love it!  Check out Lori's blog for info and interviews with more local urban farmers.  The give away will close Friday December 6th at 5pm.  Below are some pics from the book (surprise we are in there!)
*photos by Lori Eanes

Monday, December 2, 2013

Real Men Make Cheese

You can only imagine what's been going on late nights around here. After the kidos are in bed its time to make cheddar-cheddar and more cheddar.  We have finally been breaking open some of the first hard cheese we made after Ginger calved back in May when we were inundated with milk.  The cheese is sharp and creamy, each one tasting totally different. One or two tasting not-so-edible but several that have been devoured with soup and crackers or warm bread. Making hard cheese definitely has a learning curve and since I have a shorter attention span, hubby seems to be the cheese scientist in our kitchen.  It is super fun to have different interests within the same overall genre of homesteading/farming.  We can enjoy and benefit from each others hobbies without having to do everything ourselves. There has been talk of creating a cheese cave for properly aging all this hard cheese.  But for now it is stored at the bottom of the fridge.  I have visions of shelves of yellow cheese rounds dancing in my head.  Who knows what 2014 will hold....

Friday, November 22, 2013

California Bay Nuts

Coffee substitute?  Bay nut truffles?  If you don't already know, get hip to one of our yummiest native wild foods, California bay nuts. Relative to the avacado, the California Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californica) has a myriad of uses from food and medicine, to furniture, flooring, cabinetry, and other woodworking.  

On a recent field trip to Point Reyes my son and I collected a bunch of bay nuts.  I brought them home and sat them in a bowl on the table to fully ripen. 

After all the skins were pretty dark, I peeled off the outer fruit which resembles a tiny avocado.  I then gave them a good rinse in a colander and roasted them in a shallow baking dish for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  I let them cool and cracked off the shells which revealed the bay nuts looking almost identical to roasted coffee beans just bit lighter in color. Into the grinder they went (with some cacao nibs for good measure of course!) and very own roasted Bay nut coffee.  It's pretty delicious, I must say I'm hooked, especially with fresh, frothy cream and honey.  Well worth the effort, all natural, hand gathered and without that jittery effect coffee can have.  Now I just need my year's supply! Here is the link to a great local video on how to process bay nuts.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tonics For Winter Wellness

Hey holistic health enthusiasts! Here are some of my favorite easy and effective ways to keep up a strong resistance through the fall and winter seasons.  All of these recipes act as prophylactics against cold and flu. Incorporate some or all of these into your weekly routine and you should notice an increased sense of vitality.  Don't forget your exercise and sleep!  

      I am in love with this stuff!  A wonderful liver and blood tonic, beet kvass is a surprisingly tasty fermented beverage made from raw beets, filtered water and whey.  A friend gave me the idea to add fresh lemon and ginger to mine.  Here is a basic recipe. (Definitely reduce the salt as the recommended amount is very salty.)

A vinegar infusion made with organic raw apple cider vinegar, garlic, onion, horseradish, ginger, and cayenne pepper.  This concoction is rich with acetic acid, mineral salts and vitamins.  The acidity kills many forms of bacteria on contact and helps aid healing and cleansing in the body as well as fight infection.  Fire cider is strongly ant-bacterial and anti-viral, great for boosting immunity and fighting off sickness, especially when taken close to onset.  It can be taken straight or added to water, juice, etc.  It is very spicy so nice to take with a spoon of raw honey.  Check out my recipe here.
     Add raw garlic to everything, fresh or cooked it does wonders for your immune system.

      Seaweeds like kombu, wakami, and nori make great additions to soups, stews, salads and main dishes.  They supply optimum nourishment, enhance immune function, and revitalize cardiovascular, nervous, digestive, and endocrine systems.  

      Honey is anti bacterial and demulcent, meaning it relaxes, soothes and protects tissues.  Honey is also nutritive and mildly laxative.  It is beneficial for relieving dryness in the throat and for treating cough and difficulty swallowing.  Combining honey with a strong infusion of sage is a classic preparation for relieving hoarseness and respiratory congestion.

-    MISO
      This fermented food is rich in vitamins, iron, potassium, anti-oxidants, and live lactobacilli, which enhance your body's ability to extract nutrients from food.  Miso is easy to make at home.  This is the recipe we use.   

      Kale, collards, mustards, dandelion- all do wonders for your health.  Eat daily chopped fresh in salads, steamed with high quality butter, sauteed with fresh garlic and ginger, or add to soups.  These greens will give you your dose of vitamins and calcium, while keeping you looking and feeling youthful and radiant.  
      Shitake and reishi are medicinal mushrooms.  Both are adaptogenic, revitalizing, regenerative, and able to directly suppress infection.  Cook mushrooms well (do not eat raw, as the chitin in the mushrooms needs to be cooked for awhile to break down).  Make a strong mushroom tea or broth for a nourishing morning drink.  

      Chicken, beef, fish and vegetable stocks are all super foods!  Bone broth can be a rich life enhancing foundation to to any meal.  A pot of simmering stock is an essential part of our kitchen.  We also make weekly root immunity soup.  Use the crock pot if you like, add astragalus and burdock roots, potatoes, carrots, garlic, lots of ginger, onions and seaweed. Cook until roots are soft then add miso, tamari, a squeeze of lemon or lime and some dark leafy greens or sprouts at the end.  

      Here's to winter wellness!!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Air Layering

For those of us who want an infinite supply of free fruit trees, this seems like a revolutionary technique.  Air layering, also called marcotting, is a technique of propagation where a target region of tree bark is wounded and then surrounded in a moisture retaining medium, such as compost, then covered with a plastic film.  Rooting hormone is applied to encourage the wounded region to grow roots. When enough roots have grown from the wound, the stem from the parent plant is cut and the new tree planted. It takes about two- three months for a new plant to become mature.  Now the question is...does it work?  We have tried it on three of our apples trees, a pear, peach, orange, and lemon.  We'll let you know in a few months!

We happened upon this you tube about air layering fruit trees.  If you are into propagating, this is definitely worth 17 minutes of your and find out what we are so jazzed about.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Seasons of Creativity

Beginnings of a new quilt made with scraps from my stash
Making time for the creative energy to flow freely is imperative for a healthy mind, body, and spirit.  Fall is the time of year I am most inspired to work with textiles.  Out of all the luscious natural fibers to choose from, hand dyed yarns, bright earthy colored fabrics, and raw wool roving are my favorites.  Several years ago I went to a quilting exhibit I will never forget at MOMA in SF.  The title was The Quilts of Gees Bend.

Below are three of the quilts I love from the Gee's Bend exhibit, they are so simple yet the colors and the designs are exquisitely artful. These quilts were mostly made from old worn out clothing, Sears corduroy and denim.

 The stories behind these amazing women are not only moving and inspiring, but humbling.  After experiencing the artwork at the exhibit and reading all of the women's stories in the book, I realized how important it is to use what we have, not always out of necessity but because frugality has become a lost art. 


recycled denim
These days, when I get excited about piecing together a new quilt or dreaming up some kind of crochet project I try to always use what I have whether it is just old scraps of fabric from previous projects, recycling some jeans, or yarn from my stash basket. This latest quilt I am making for my bedroom reminds me a bit of Frida Kahlo's style with the bright colors, flowers, teals and reds.  A little bit of color brings light and a warm uplifting energy, perfect as we move into the crispy cool days of autumn.