Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cozy Sleeping

At long last, we moved our bed into our lovely, finished bedroom, and have been sleeping in it, in the room, since Sunday night. It's a simultaneously WOW feeling, and also just a quiet, smooth transition into something we've been waiting for, literally for years.

How ironic that even sleeping in a much anticipated space, it's difficult to sleep in a new space! There are new sounds, new routines around going to bed, getting up in the night to pee, and all that. But there is a deeper quiet.

It's been my feeling for a while now that Drew and I suffer from a long term lack of deep sleep, created by a constant awareness of ordinary sounds heard through yurt walls: calm sounds like owls hooting, birdsong, and coyotes howling, as well as deeply and instinctually stressful sounds like 50 mph winds, pounding, needling rain, and cars, generators, and the like. I'm finding that I can hear a lot of the sounds in the house, but they are markedly quieter, and the inner stress level is so much less, because the house feels so solid and secure. I'm looking forward to catching up on deep-level relaxation in sleep.

Once this rain stops, we are ready to move all of our clothes over to the closet, and we are also soon to get Ella her own big-girl bed, so we can have our bed back to ourselves, after 4 and 1/2 years. I salute that!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

Round about now, the winter squash starts singing to me at 5:00 PM when I begin to contemplate what to make for dinner. This year, I had a bumper crop of butternuts, along with other squash, so I think I'll be making lots of butternut soup. Here's one of my first and favorite butternut soups...

From The Silver Palette Cookbook

Curried Butternut Squash Soup


4 Tbsp butter
2 large onions, sliced
3-4 Tbsp curry powder
2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into cubes
4 medium apples, cored and cubed
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup fresh apple juice
salt to taste
1 package of your favorite sausage (optional)
yogurt and/or herbs for garnish

Saute the onions in the butter for about 15 minutes over medium heat, until well softened. Add the curry powder and cook for a few more minutes. Add the stock, squash, and apples, cover and turn up the heat until boiling. Then reduce heat to simmer until everything is very well cooked and soft. Meanwhile, slice the sausage into rounds and brown in an oiled pan, and set aside. Use an immersion blender or food processor to puree soup until smooth. Return to low heat, and add apple juice. Add the pre-browned and cooked sausage. Heat through and serve with plain yogurt, cilantro or basil, and fresh buttermilk biscuits with butter. Sometimes I also serve it with leftover rice or other grains.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's Full Steam Ahead

Though I have had several days of low motivation, our crew is still moving all kinds of things forward with the house. Last week, Jemma and I plastered the big wall in the living room a lovely yellow color. This afternoon, in the sunset light, it was a magnificent, glowing gold, so I couldn't resist photographing it.

Living Room Wall Plaster in Golden Sunset Light

Also, our bedroom trim is done, and we're working on the doors so we can install the last of it in the entry and in the bathroom/closet. Today, Drew and I plastered the laundry closet with Structolite, so that when we move over to the house, we can move our washing machine, too.

Here's the Bedroom with Trim, All Done

A Bathroom Door

Stair Trim, Just Like Tetris

Last week, Karl and Drew had Cedar here with his trenching machine, and we ran phone cable to the house, propane line from the pad to the house, water lines and power lines. Karl is working hard to get all those utilities set up before he leaves in a few weeks. We've ordered new batteries for our off-the-grid power system, and we're looking forward to that purchase arriving. Our current batteries were used and cheap, and they have certainly done their duty. But they are no longer working very well, so we're excited for batteries that perform properly. Karl is building a little house outside the house for them, as well as the inverter and other electronics that operate our power system.

Hmmm, what else. Aaron is mudding and taping on the north slope ceiling, getting it ready for texture. I moved some window bucks along towards readiness for plaster. Jemma has been cleaning and oiling all of our window frames, including the clerestory windows. And the list goes on. There are a lot of steps!

Our bathroom sink arrived, as did our vent hood for the kitchen stove. We're lining ourselves up to do plaster and floors in the kitchen/living/dining, so that we can create a temporary kitchen.

Maybe we'll actually move into our room THIS weekend, we'll see!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Our Beautiful Concrete Floor

Bedroom Floor with Leather Brown SoyCrete Stain

Floor Closeup

A Preview of the Trimmed-Out Look (the trim won't go in till later today)

Bathroom Floor with Espresso Concrete Stain

I spent all last week laboring over my bedroom suite floor, and at the end of it, I gave birth to a richly varied, stained concrete that warms the feeling of the entire space. As with using any new product in a new context, I worried and fretted over whether I was doing it right. I experimented in the closet first, and it's a good thing, because I don't like the results in there. The second space I completed was the bathroom, which turned out much better, and finally, the big main bedroom, a spacious pallet of color.

The process is multi-step: meticulously scrape all visible remnants of joint compound splats, plaster residue, and structolite off the floor. Sweep and vacuum, leaving as clean a surface as possible. Apply a concrete etcher, to clean and open the pores of the concrete (Ecoprocote EcoEtch), allow to dwell for about 10 minutes, then buff with a floor buffer. This process impressively cleans the floor, which by this point in the house project contains nearly two years worth of construction dirt and activity.

After buffing, vacuum up the wet stuff and rinse, rinse, rinse. Allow to dry. THEN, the fun part. Apply the stain (EcoProcote SoyCrete) with a foam mop, and work into the surface of the concrete. Once dry to the touch, buff with the floor buffer (a rather squirrely machine!) to smooth out the application marks.

A day later, apply the penetrating sealer coat, Acri-Soy. Finally, enjoy the fruits of your labor, and experience the drastic transformation of a blue-gray concrete slab into a lovely, mottled, warm-looking, homey floor.

The Ecoprocote products are a pleasure to work with. Ultra-low VOC, they don't stink, are safe to work around without safety equipment, and clean up with soap and water.

Finish trim details, and MOVE IN. Coming soon, this week.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Comfort Food Recipes

As the season is winding down towards the winter solstice, and the garden is wrapping up its delights, and putting them away until next season, I am craving comfort foods: casseroles, warm soups, easy-to-chew things that are sweet and nourishing.

Last night's meal was a pesto-eggplant lasagne. Oh, it was good, so I thought I should post the recipe so others can enjoy it.

Pesto-Eggplant Lasagne

1 package lasagne noodles
2 roasted eggplants (see instructions below)
1 recipe basil pesto (see instructions below)
1 recipe red sauce (or a jar of prepared tomato sauce)
2 large balls fresh mozarella
3 large slicing tomatoes for topping

Begin by roasting your eggplant.

2 medium globe eggplant
olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400F or so. Oil a baking sheet. Slice your globe eggplants into rounds about 1/4 inch thick. Brush them all heartily with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bake about 15-20 minutes one side, then flip over and keep baking until they are very soft and lightly brown.

While that is roasting, make your pesto. You will need:

4 cups packed basil leaves
1-2 cloves garlic, pressed
1-2 Tbsp pine nuts or sunflower seeds
3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmaggiano Reggiano

Place all but the cheese in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add in the cheese and set aside.

Next, make your Ricotta Custard:

1 15-oz. container of ricotta cheese
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

Beat the cheese and eggs together, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

NOW, if you are a superstar, you could make your own tomato sauce: Here's my favorite way:

Tomato Sauce

1.5 lbs sauce tomatoes, pureed in a food processor, or finely chopped
1 onion, finely diced
ground beef (optional)
3 cloves garlic
2 bell peppers
1 med. zucchini
herbs of your choice (basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage, whatever you like)
1 cup of dry red wine (merlot or cabernet, for example)
bay leaf
olive oil
salt and pepper

Saute onions well in olive oil (10-12 minutes) over medium heat till very soft. If using meat, add now and stir until cooked. Add herbs, peppers, and zucchini, and saute until beginning to soften. Turn up the heat to high, and pitch the wine. Simmer until reduced by half, and then turn down the heat and add the pureed tomatoes and bay leaf. Cover and simmer as long as you like over low heat, to combine the flavors.

Assembling the Lasagne

Now that you've got all your components, begin your assembly. Scoop some sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Smear ricotta custard onto DRY (uncooked) lasagne noodles and lay into the pan in a layer. Cover with the roasted eggplant rounds. Cover with a layer of pesto. Lay another layer of noodles smeared with ricotta over top. Add more red sauce. Add another layer of noodles. Top with fresh mozarella, sliced, and fresh tomato rounds, if you've got them. COVER, and bake in a 375 F oven for about an hour. Serve with a green salad with balsamic vinaigrette, and listen to the comforting ooo's and ahhhh's around your table.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lots of Projects

We are on a mad mission. Karl is only here a few more weeks, and we are pushing to get as much done as possible. And we are really doing it. Making lots of progress. Every day. It's really thanks to all the great people we have working for us. Yay team!

To start, we are VERY close to being done with our bedroom! We slept out there for the first time last weekend, and today, I am about to stain the main floor. Karl did the ceiling trim and it's gorgeous. Also, a sill for our little recessed lighting cove with this amazing curly redwood. I think he did an awesome job here.

Ceiling Trim and Curly Redwood Sill, look how beautiful!

Meanwhile, I was designing our cabinets for our bathroom and kitchen. We mocked up the kitchen to approximate the locations of the cabinets/counters and the island. I spent a few days on the computer, which was hard on my back, but yielded a solid overall design.

Kitchen Mockup

Then this week, I began base plastering the remainder of the main room walls, and started on concrete staining the bathroom and closet floor, while Karl and Aaron were installing the wood ceiling in our guest/massage room and the entry way. Done, done, and done.

Living Room Base Coat Plaster

Guest Room Ceiling Done

Bathroom Floor with Concrete Stain

It's fully into the rainy time now, so there's nothing to do BUT work on the house. Indoors is the place to be.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Main Ceiling Finished!

After four solid days of work with the dream team, consisting of Karl and Aaron slinging nail guns, and yours truly running the chopsaw, we completed the entire big room ceiling today. It feels so satisfying. Partly because a project finished is a project finished, but also because it is SO damn beautiful. This wood sings. It is reflective, and warm, and looks phenomenal in that space. Now for plaster in that room, I think the wood will look even better with the plaster right up next to it.

We also had team girl today, Jemma and Hope staining additional boards for our next ceiling project. We had Kai on the roof, slow and steady, too. Jemma also finished the last of the compression in our bedroom, meaning we're now ready to tackle the floor project.

Ahhh. Progress. I'm ready for bed!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fall Garden

The fall garden in the Mattole is really where it's at. All you Central Valley peeps have your tomatoes in June, and all you Calistoga folks have your corn seven feet tall by 4th of July, but on the coast, here in the Mattole hole, we have the September/October garden peak. I tend to forget this, when nothing is ready by our Leo Party in August, when my aunt asks me what is ready. Usually only cucumbers. And she doesn't like them.

But once things fully dry out in the indian summer, and the sun is low and hot, we start our tomato pump, and the zucchini ride, and the corn is happening too fast to eat it all, and we STILL have cucumbers. And the winter squash is almost done, and the raspberries and strawberries are still happening, the green beans are still giving 4-5 pounds every three days, and the eggplant has at last begun to make fruit, and the peppers are even turning red, THEN I remember why I labor over those little seeds in flat, struggling to keep them warm in March, when they really should be snug in their seed packets in the shed.

All that, and we already have some of our winter crops, like carrots and beets. It's really a tremendous feeling of abundance to have all this food coming steady out of the garden. We've got extra people here, and we are not short on veggies. I don't really need to buy anything at the store but avocados, lettuce, and cabbage. And we'll have some of our own here soon.

And did I mention the egg machine? If you want eggs all winter, it's imperative to have April chicks, because they will lay eggs through their first winter. At the last minute this year, I bought 12 more laying hen chicks one April day when I was in town. Barred Rock beauties. We've been seeing a few pullet eggs here and there for a few weeks, but two days ago, we suddenly came in with 16 eggs in one day. Usually, we get 7-9. But now we have overlap, the new girls are all beginning to lay, and the old gals haven't quit for the winter yet. Hello, souffle!

I haven't posted a recipe in ages, but here's a summer favorite, to use up some of these veggies:

Cucumber-Cherry Tomato Salad

4-5 sweet garden-fresh cucumbers, cut in half, and sliced
2 handfuls Sungold cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 sprigs fresh basil, chopped
~ 1/8 cup fine olive oil, or to taste
~ 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, or to taste
~ 1/4 tsp. salt
a few dashes of toasted sesame oil

Mix together in a bowl, and enjoy heartily, around a table filled with family and friends. There really is a lot of latitude with this recipe, I make it a little differently every time, and the quantities of dressing are VERY inexact. Do what tastes right to you, the basic flavors carry through. Bon appetit!

Hanging the Main Room Ceiling

Last week, Karl and Aaron and I got to hanging ceiling wood over the kitchen/living/dining rooms. After an entire day just hanging the first course, getting it just right so that we didn't need any trim up against our showpiece redwood beam, we jammed on everything else you see here in one day.

This wood is really a treat. It is recycled straight-grain douglas fir. Which doesn't really capture the natural variation of color, grain, and patterning. It looks as though it could be a floor, but it's on the ceiling! Even better is that most of it was already coated with clear sealer, meaning for most of it, we won't have to do this. I'm looking forward to getting more of this done this week.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Preparing Main Room for Plaster

Filling out the sides of the window wells around protruding concrete

Windowsill showing a leveled surface, made from sand and cement mortar

Each step along the way with the building requires so many little steps before, and after. At first glance, why not just slap up some plaster onto those fancy block walls and call it good? Yes, we could, but I've found that once I delve into finish details, the details matter more. If I become unattentive, the final result will be less than desirable.

So to get our windows into shape for windowsills and plaster, the following steps are necessary:
  • Install an exterior windowsill, that is held in place by metal straps that come inside the house.
  • Pour a little cement and sand on the sill to level it.
  • Install wood windowsills (or in the kitchen window, tile).
  • Apply expanded metal lath over all gaps that can't hold their own plaster.
  • Apply lath to the top inside of the window wells. (Plaster can't stick upsidedown onto insulation).
  • Add layers of drywall if the gaps around windows are really big (greater than, say, 1/2")
  • Build out structolite plaster on the sides of window wells where concrete protrudes from the walls.
  • Fill in any gaps and holes that can't be filled with one coat of plaster.
After AAAAALLLL that, then we are ready for our first basecoat of plaster across the whole wall. Then we really start to cook! Then, it's a few hours for one coat, and another few hours for a second coat, and then, we're ready for finish plaster.

This is what I'm working on this week. Getting things prepared for large swaths of plaster...I'll keep updating. It's fun work.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Garage Slab and Other Concrete Adventures

Finished Garage Slab

Last Tuesday, we managed to pull together the pour for our garage, and two smaller landings and steps inside the house. We spent the week before excavating more dirt, replacing it with gravel, building forms, laying welded wire and rebar, placing dough-bies (?), and so on. In all, the day was really three small pour projects: a landing and stair between the garage and mudroom, a landing and stair between the hall and our bedroom, the battery storage box for our off-grid power system, plus the garage floor itself.

Prepped and Ready

The garage floor is such a relief to have done. This partly has to do with how the cats had decided the dirt/sand/gravel that was there before was an ideal litter box (pee-yew!). But also, now we can actually organize and store things in the space, knowing that we don't have to move everything out at some future date.

Greg Smith was our finisher, and we also had Mikey on hand to do some finishing, along with Karl, Aaron, myself, and Drew, to supervise and look on, with his broken collarbone not allowing him to work.

All in all, most things went smoothly on Tuesday. There were a few hiccups, as there always are on a pour day. But really nothing major. I'm happy with the results. I was telling Greg Smith, our concrete finisher, how great concrete projects are because by nature, you can't leave work till later. It's a lot to get it ready, but once you pour and finish, it's D.O.N.E. Then you get to sit back and enjoy the results.

The Landing into our bedroom

Filling Up the Landing into the Mudroom from the Garage

One quarter there in the garage

Finishing the Garage Slab

Finished Landing Inside the Mudroom

The Finished Landing into Our Bedroom

Sunday, September 26, 2010

All Mattole Foods Potluck 2010

Winner for Best Vegetable Dish: Lindsay's Carrot, Onion, Potato Cakes with Sliced Tomatoes and Yogurt Cheese

My Summer Veggie Quiche

Winner for Best Beverage: Ian's Yellow Jacket Apple and Cherry Juice

Winner for Best Dessert: Jim and Kristen's Lemon Blueberry Ice Cream

Winner for Best Meat Dish: Duck Dumpling Stew by Todd and Jessica

Winner for Best Overall: Ryan's Pumpkin Stew with Yogurt Chive Sauce

Each year the Mattole Self-Sufficiency Project puts on an all Mattole food potluck. Anyone can enter a dish, but all the ingredients of the dish must be raised in the Mattole watershed.

For this year's entry, I made a Garden Veggie Quiche. I grew some wheat two years ago, and ground the flour with our hand-powered mill. I made butter and ricotta cheese with milk I got from our friends' milk cow. I mixed up that butter and flour with a little milk and rolled out a crust, and then filled it with an onion, garlic, basil, egg, ricotta, corn, zucchini, and pepper filling. It was delicious.

The potluck featured a lot of lovely dishes, many of which were more complex this year due to the addition and availability of cow dairy. There were soups, stews, salads, veggie dishes, dried fruit, fruit leather, ice cream, grasshoppers, juice, alcohol, applesauce, and more.

The dishes were judged on a combination of flavor, complexity, difficulty of procuring the ingredients, and it seems there was a bonus for using other people's ingredients, as this represents community food sustainability. The winners were:
  • Best Veggie Dish: Lindsay's Carrot-Potato-Onion pancakes, served with sliced tomatoes and yogurt cheese
  • Best Meat Dish: Todd and Jessica's Duck Dumpling Stew
  • Best Dessert: Kristen and Jim's Blueberry Ice Cream
  • Best Side Dish: Mimi and Harold's Dried Fruit Collection. The presentation of this particular dish was stunning.
  • Best Overall: Ryan's Pumpkin Stew, served with yogurt chive sauce
All admission prices were paid in Petols, our local currency, which is based on the value of silver, and prizes were awarded in Petols.

I think that the next kind of food category to conquer is vegetable oil, such as sunflower, rape, olive, etc. That's mostly what's missing!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sunflower Seeds and Dill Seeds

Home-Grown Sunflower Seeds

A Collage of Sunflower Heads

Ella Harvests Dill Seeds

I've clearly been dismal at posting to my blog for several months now, but I hope to entice you all back into the readers' fold with posting a little more often...there is so much going on at the homestead lately. Aside from Drew breaking his collarbone two weeks ago, putting him out of work for a minimum of 8 weeks, we've been back to working on the house more intensively. We are nearly finished with our bedroom walls, and we poured our garage slab last week. Karl is back on the job for two months, and we're trying to push to get into our kitchen.

Amid doing the basic homestead chores for two people and working full-time on the house, I'm still nurturing our garden along. After a looooooong wait for many of our warm-weather, summer crops, they are at last filling out, plumping up, and reaching harvestable size. All except the tomatoes. Tomatoes are the garden crop that keeps me going, that motivates me in the winter when I start seeds. So it's been a little disappointing that they are just now coming barely, and slowly ripe. We have been eating a lot of sweet corn, zuchinni, green beans, cucumbers, and a few cherry tomatoes, a little basil, and so on. The winter squash harvest looks to be a bumper, and today, I prepared beds for all our winter crops: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale. The carrots and beets are already almost ready. I'm hoping we won't miss the window this year due to gophers or bad weather.

Today, I harvested our beautiful sunflower heads, which were drooping and heavy with the weight of seeds. Once I looked closely, I understood why, as each ten-inch disk was packed with black and white seeds swirling into the center of a fibonacci spiral. I clipped each head below some leaf branches, and wiped off the remaining flower tops to reveal the seeds underneath. Ella helped me carry them to the shed porch, where I hung them up to dry with some twine indoors, to protect them from birds and mice. But not before I sampled some raw, fresh seeds, which before they acquire the gray color you see in the store-bought variety, are pure white and very flavorful. What a rich food we can grow so easily.

Later in the afternoon, as I was preparing the winter beds, I pulled out the workhorse dill plant I had this summer. It was a volunteer that germinated very early in the spring. I carefully left it and weeded around it all spring and summer, and had a fresh supply of dill at all the right times as I made jars of cucumber and dilly bean pickles. Usually, when I plant dill, it's ready too early for the other supplies. The dried plant, before I pulled it up today, was almost as tall as me. (Don't worry, I still have another that is still making dill heads enough for canning and salads!)

Tonight after dinner, Ella and I carefully removed all the dried seeds from the heads, to save for gifts, for making sauerkraut, flavoring pickles, and to plant again next year. A full cycle of locally-grown seed is a good feeling indeed.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bathroom Plaster

It's been a while since I've posted, summer's schedule is unpredictable and inconsistent, but we are getting back to house work after Drew spent the last 6 weeks building instream rock and log structures in the Mattole estuary for the Mattole Salmon Group. I'd like to make a post about that soon...

But here is the lovely bathroom. This is still first coat of plaster, but it looks like a room now. The shower has the hardibacker in it and we are preparing that for tile. I'm loving the rich colors of the clay plaster, especially when the light pours through the windows in the late afternoon.

Yesterday, Drew and Aaron put the second coat of Structolite on the west bedroom wall. It was the last wall we needed to basecoat. Now we're ready to put clay on that wall, and then we can finish coat all the walls. I'd like to try and organize a work party, to get it all done in one day. Now that would be something. If you live close by, come by and look, and if not, enjoy these little photos....

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Finish Plaster!

From This....

And This.....


On the left is the wall that's been done, on the right, a wall with basecoat Structo-lite (Gypsum plaster)

I've been hard at work for six days straight, while Ella has been at day camp. I knew that I wouldn't finish the job, but that I could definitely move the bedroom project a lot farther forward. And how!

Last Wednesday, the first day of camp, I still had some sanding to do as prep, and even some mudding to do, to fill in some gaps in the wall. Thursday, I primed drywall mud with a transitional primer, to prevent variance in color with the final coats of plaster. Friday, I used the "sanded primer", which is basically glue and sand, and it goes on under the clay, so that it will stick, especially to a drywall surface. Also on Friday, Drew and I put the second base-coat of Structo-lite on the south wall.

Saturday was a nice day off, celebrating Adam and Unity's wedding. Blessings to them and their family! We went swimming too, and followed it with a lot of merriment at our wedding site, eating dinner, and dancing the night away to Absynth Quintet.

Sunday was back to it, with more drywall priming, and we mixed up our first batch of clay. It needs to stand a little while, so I mixed it for work the following day. And yesterday, Monday! I got to smear that lovely, smooth, buttery plaster on the east wall of our bedroom. It is a pleasure to work with. The color when it's wet is like chocolate milk, and when dry, it's a light light neutral brown. It's called Nantucket Sand. Today, I put on the first coat on the south wall, and after I finish my lunch here, I'm going to continue around the hallway. It looks awesome!

The clay does require a second coat, but I'm not concerned. The work is fun and easy, and SOOO satisfying. Once we finish this step, it's on to sanding/cleaning the floor and staining it, and then wood trim, and then our bedroom is DONE. I said DONE, as in, we can move our bed into it! Yippee!!! (Can you tell I'm excited?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Windowsills of 2x12 recycled redwood

Ceiling wood finished, love it. Stained Fir/Pine/Spruce

We're getting somewhere. Slowly. These things, as we've discovered, take time. Lots of it. I've lately taken to quoting Sarah McLachlan, with her album title, "Fumbling Toward Ecstacy". Yeah. So we've finished the ceiling in our future bedroom. And we've finished three of four windowsills. Sexy oiled redwood next to oiled pine. I love how it looks. And now we're ready for plaster on several walls, and all the materials are on hand, and Ella is a day camp all week. So I'm hoping to have more photos to post soon, showing our plaster progress, too.

We stained the ceiling wood with an EcoProcote product called TimberSoy, a totally no-VOC wood stain. It's pretty nice to work with stain materials that you don't need gloves, good ventilation, or skin protection to install, and then can clean up with soap and water. Go eco-groovy.

Also, here's a shot of our wall plaster in it's packaging: cloth bags. Love it. Can't argue with that. Compostable. Or reuseable.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bee Swarm

Last weekend, I was walking past the west side of our house with Ella, when I heard a curious sound...which I will illustrate with a quote from Winnie the Pooh:

"Winnie-the-Pooh sat down at the foot of the tree, put his head between his paws and began to think. First of all he said to himself: "That buzzing-noise means something. You don't get a buzzing-noise like that, just buzzing and buzzing, without its meaning something. If there's a buzzing noise, somebody's making a buzzing-noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is because you're a bee." From Pooh's Bedtime Book by A.A. Milne.

And when I adjusted my gaze upwards, I saw a whole pile of bees clumped on the rafter of the house. Two clumps, actually.

When one is not prepared to have bees of their own, as we are not at the moment, a person in my shoes needs to call Ben, who is very enthusiastic about his bee project right now. He said he'd come over shortly and try to catch the swarm, because he wanted to replace a hive that died over the winter. But by the time he got here, the swarm clump had shrunk, suggesting that they had already chosen our house as their post-swarm location. Which is what we confirmed. They had moved into a chance cavity at the edge of our roof. Darn.

So now we're not sure what to do. We're going to try to vacuum them out with a shop-vac. Short of that, we may need to close them up and allow them to die, as we can't have bees living in the roof. Just our latest homestead adventure...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spring Cleansing

Our Raw Meal, Before Doing Only Juice: Sprouted Sunflower and Grain Crackers, Carrot-Beet-Sunflower Seed Pate, Green Salad with Sprouts, and Lacto-Fermented Sauerkraut

During this last week, Drew, our housemate Andrea, and I endeavored to clean out our bodies a little by doing a juice f(e)ast. Though all three of us eat very healthy food, and have pretty healthy lifestyles, we felt a clean out would be a good idea. Many natural health practitioners recommend an annual cleanse, particularly in the spring.

The cleanse entailed descending slowly toward the fast: one day of whole foods, followed by a day of eating only raw foods, followed by three days of only vegetable juice. At the end of the third juice day, we did a liver and gallbladder flush. Then, on the way out of the cleanse, we ate mostly raw for a day, then back to whole foods. I can verifiably say that I got clean.

It's a funny experience to consciously alter the intake of food, and even to stop eating for a time. It was a very psychological process, one that we all learned a tremendous amount from, about our bodies, about our relationship with food, and about our regular habits. It was a pretty intense cleanse, and we all found that non-essential activities had to be put to the side. It was almost like a vacation. I would recommend it, for those so inclined.

To make the juice, as well as some of the raw foods, we used our prized Green Star Juicer. Each day, we consumed about a half gallon of raw vegetable juice each, which included an entire bunch of greens, a cucumber, carrots, beets, celery, and apples. After letting go of my attachment to chewing food, this juice is surprisingly nourishing. I learned about the healing power of raw veggie juice from the Juice Feasting website. Before my friend showed me this site, I couldn't have conceived of only eating juice, even for one day. But the basic concept, as with all types of fasting or cleansing, is to lighten the load on our digestive organs, so that they can work on eliminating their backlog of wastes and toxins. I can say, after going through this process that it really and truly does work. I am inspired by my body's ability to clean itself with a little help from my choices on the outside.

There are a lot of great resources on the internet describing cleansing. If you are interested in cleansing, do some research, or consult a natural health care practitioner.