Friday, October 28, 2011

Cheep Cheep!

cheep cheep ..... cheep ..... cheep cheep cheep cheep ..... cheep cheep...
cheep cheep cheep .... cheep

Nerdy Fun!

I know this is incredibly dorky of me, but I've been eagerly waiting for googlemaps to take a new satellite photo of Mellish Fields West.  All privacy aside, I've been curious about how all of the work we've done in the last year and half looks from the sky.

So you can imagine my excitement when today, while using a cool new tool called SunCalculator, which is a hacked edit to goolemaps that superimposes the path of the sun over the satellite images (very handy for somebody designing a solar PV set up), I came across our new snap shot.  And what day did they get around to taking it?  Our wedding day!

I don't know how to post the picture, but I think this LINK ought to take you there (click on the "satellite" view option)... It probably doesn't look like much, especially if you're not familiar with the lay of the land, but the house foundation, chicken coop, garden and greenhouse are all visible.  The shop and bandstand are mostly shaded by trees.  I can tell it's from the wedding day because of the cars parked in the back and the porta-potties by the greenhouse.

Thank you for humoring my geekitude.  Hoorah!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Garden goody Ravioli

We threw a Ravioli Party last night!   We found ourselves with a rainy Sunday thrust upon us and a veritable ton of pumpkins we must do something with. We grew the small sugar pumpkins and they were very very happy in the greenhouse. We have alot.  We decided that the day was perfect for roasting the pumpkins, pureeing them and freezing the puree for soups, muffins, pies, cookies, etc. I found an amazing sounding recipe on a new favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen, for a pumpkin soup that features pureed pumpkin and black beans. But I digress. It didn't take a huge leap to decide to make Pumpkin ravioli and freeze them as well. And an even smaller leap to a full on Ravioli Party.

We invited the cats to join, but they already had plans to sleep, so it was just the two of us. We had spinach that needed to be eaten as well, along with cheese and one lone sausage so we decided to just spend all day making ravioli with all the ingredients that we had.  I don't eat gluten and so we embarked on making a gluten free pasta dough. It was actually really easy. We used Bob's Red Mill gluten free all purpose flour, which is a mix of flours including chickpea, tapioca, rice, millet, and potato. We had vague plans about making 4 or 5 different kinds of ravioli, so we used 6 cups of flour, 8 eggs plus 1 yolk and 6 tablespoons of olive oil. You just mix it all together using a Cuisinart or a hand mixer.  Really easy.

The fillings ended up being spinach, sausage, and mozzarella for one batch, pumpkin in another and the last was candied walnut and ricotta.  For the pumpkin puree I tried two different methods for extracting the extraneous moisture. I laid the puree into a shallow baking dish and put it in the oven on low for about an hour and I also put some in a lined colander and set a bowl of water on top. Both methods proved  to be successful and equally easy. Since keeping the oven on also heats the yurt, I will probably stick with the oven method.

So with all of your fillings ready you are ready to Pah-tay! To start you flour a flat surface and roll out a handful of dough. Roll it very thin. Spoon your fillings onto the sheet of pasta and brush beaten egg onto the remaining surface of dough then cover it with another sheet of rolled dough. Press around each mound to close the dough and then cut out the ravioli pieces. Using a fork gently press down all four sides of each ravioli. This is the part that is time consuming and labor intensive, but if you call it a party, drink some wine and listen to music then it is fun and at the end you have dinner for months!  Brush beaten egg on top of them all and put them in the freezer for about half an hour. Freezing them before bagging them into portions will keep them from freezing into a solid mass.

We did not have our camera during the making of the ravioli (Boo), but I did take a picture of the dinner we had tonight! We tried the spinach ones with some of the tomato sauce we canned recently. They turned out delicious! For the pumpkin, John has plans to make a chervil bechamel sauce and we think the ricotta ravioli should be served with a simple brown butter.

We are thinking of doing something similar with Tamales soon. If anyone wants to make a filling and come make Tamales in the yurt.... come on!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Egg-siding News!

Man, putting up siding is gratifying work!   It moves quickly and really makes the project look like something.  We ended up finding a local mill to sell us 8'' tongue and groove Western Red Cedar, which is gorgeous and sustainably harvested.  Take a look at the grain!

And we haven't even stained yet!  Very exciting.  For the front of the shop we're going to side 4' up from the bottom with corrugated metal, and run the cedar vertically above that, just to keep things interesting.  We haven't figured out what the back will be sided with yet, but it will end up being whatever is cheapest (and not a petroleum product.... no vinyl), because it's going to be covered up by racks we're going to build to store all of our salvaged lumber.  All that's left before our final inspection is wiring!

Meanwhile, back at the farm, we're ready for the winter!  I used some of that aforementioned salvaged lumber to create a little insulated home for all our pipes and water heater, which are all outside of the yurt.  Christy says it looks like an outside in space ship.

Also in the works, 10 gallons of blackberry wine.  Batch No.1 moved into it's tertiary fermentation period tonight, and batch No.2 goes into it's secondary fermentor tomorrow morning.  I've never made blackberry wine before, but it smells really great so far.  We should be drinking it by the holidays.  I'm making a video showing the whole process, which I'll edit together after we uncork the first bottle.

Also on the "To Do, "Doing" and "Done" lists for these dog days of fall, the ordering of chicks.  Take it away, Christy:

 The Chickens on the farm had gotten old and had decided they were done laying eggs and prefered to be pets. We decided not to kill them but to give them away. We sent all 19 of them to a very nice farm and are now preparing for a new set of chicks! Teri, the owner of the farm we live on and where the chickens live, had her eyes on some Pencil Wyandottes and I have been wanting Araucanas, so we joined forces and ordered 25 chicks. The hatchery did not have the Pencil Wyandottes but they did have Silver Laced Wyandottes, so we have 13 Araucanas and 13 Silver Laced Wyandottes ariving this week!  Here is the beauty that is the silver laced:

The Araucanas are nowhere near this pretty but they do lay green and blue eggs, something like these:

I have never raised chicks before and am very excited to get them! We will post some pictures of our new charges soon!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupying my Mind

This week has had me utterly laid out. The sickest I have been as an adult. I had a double ear infection and acute tonsillitis. I have not been able to talk in days and it still hurts to speak. ( To those of you who have not received a call back from me yet.... Call the dogs off, I am trying to heal my throat.) John, bless his soul, got me a hotel room so I could take a bath and rest uninterrupted.  For several days I was in a fevered sleep dreaming about saving water droplets and re-dispensing them to save the world. Not save the planet, save the world. The people. I had a very logical, intricate system of harvesting the dew and saving each droplet and the way that they had to be distributed and to which country first. It kept me tossing and turning. The system and the fever I am sure. In the wake of the fever breaking I have spent a fair amount of time on the Internet following the news of Occupy Wall Street.

To be honest, a month ago when these protests started I was quick to dismiss them as idealistic hippies and prone to thinking that they would go back to hacky-sacking soon ( and I live in a Yurt). I bit at the nugget the media tossed out, the "what's their message? What are their demands?". I wanted them to be more organized, more intellectual, to stop having drum circles. I thought they were making liberals look bad. John and I spent time trying to formulate demands for this protest, to draw into focus the crux of the issues, and to figure out why we felt bad dismissing them but had no other answers.

There are lots of facts out there. Facts about how our country started sliding into economic havoc when Reagan slashed taxes to the extremely wealthy 30 years ago. Facts about the widening gap between the rich and the poor, the eradication of the middle class. Facts about the minimum wage not rising since the 50's ( given inflation).  Facts about the golden parachutes the bankers received after we the tax payers bailed them out. Facts about the mortgage lenders taking huge bonuses for deals they knew would blow up in Americas' face.  Facts about billionaires being taxed on 14% of their income while their secretaries are taxed at 36%.  There are sites with nothing but charts, graphing the decline of the collected wealth of the lowest 99% while the top 1% skyrockets. Charts that show these numbers side by side with rising debt.  They actually made me cry from frustration. I, personally, don't know what to do with all of this information.

This is why I am so proud of all the people marching for the past month. They are taking action. And quickly, that action is taking shape and it is getting organized and it is motivating people. The main site in New York has set up teaching stations. If you know something about economics, well, here is your corner, give a lesson a few times a day. You have a camera, well, here are some stations where you can upload your film for someone else to edit. People are gathered and they are sharing and talking. They come from all walks of life. They started out young and under-employed, but this revolution has grown to include retired people, unions, pilots, rich people.

The message is still encompassing a wide swath, but that is what happens when there are so many things that need fixing. If anyone knows a way to solve these problems under the umbrella of one cause, step right up. The umbrella would have to be pretty huge. It would need to hold unemployment, living wages, corrupt politicians, deregulation on banks and mergers of large businesses, crushing personal debt and mortgages defaulting, health care costs skyrocketing and insurance companies gouging, deregulation on big oil, big agriculture and big business. And this is the short list. As far as I can see, our elected leaders are not doing a great job of figuring things out up on the hill. They are not exactly creating Jobs and lowering debts.  They can't agree on anything. They do not have the answers and it is time we stopped looking to them and our corrupt election process to change things.

These marches in every major city, millions of small towns, and even up to the Arctic tundras, are an inspiration.  To dismiss them, mock them, ignore them, is to miss the point.  The point, the message, is that we are all the 99% and it is up to us. 

I was going to post a bunch of links to charts and facts, but that is not my point either.  Snoop around the Internet, you will find many articles, written way better than me, and all the charts and graphs you can stand. You will also find alot of  motivated people to connect with. That is the point.

We are the 99% and it is up to us. I will fully support this movement wherever it goes. The time is always now.  

Saturday, October 8, 2011


What a lovely day!  I'm kind of embarrassed to say what time we got out of bed today.  It was before noon, but not drastically.  Christy hasn't been feeling well, and I didn't sleep very well, so it wasn't totally indulgent, but for two people routinely up and moving by 8, it felt pretty nice.  Add to that the unobstructed sunshine coming through the yurt's roof porthole, and you get two happy, happy homesteaders!

We used our day to leisurely finish up the painting around the shop's fascia, windows and doors, put the last screws in the metal roof, and cover up the house foundation for the season.  Here you can see how we've employed our arsenal of retired advertisements to protect the foundation, as well as the former Yome deck / MFW bandstand.  If Google Maps takes any new pictures while these are splayed out, we just may try for an endorsement deal....

Does this make us look kind of redneck-y?

The whole roofing process is done now.  During the process I was having second thoughts about Snap Loc roofing.  It does go up quickly, and a lot of the work has been done for you, but some of the details around corners, edges and the ridge are less than eloquent.  The bit of trimming we did have to do was a real pain in the neck, too.  We ended up giving up on the tin snips and tackling the project with a jigsaw, which is not recommended.  The tin snips, in addition to being tedious and painful, were giving up bent, jagged edges in very visible places, like the plum cut over the fascia on the front gable end.  Now that it's done, I suppose it went well and looks good, but we definitely have a better idea of what we do and don't want when it comes time to do the house's roof.

The next step is finding siding.  Our dream of finding some great salvageable barn wood has proven to be unrealistic.  As "green" becomes more of a buzz word, and salvage becomes more chic, we're competing with upscale designer builders, public works projects and fancy art museums in Los Angeles for the once ubiquitous beat up old doug fir barn planks.  It's fantastic that reusable materials are making their way into the mainstream and cutting edge of design, don't get me wrong.  It does mean that thrifty little gatherers like ourselves are being overbid and discouraged from using these materials, though.  Old, distressed barn wood is being sold for $5 a linear foot!  On craigslist!  We just can't afford it.  The plan right now is to contact some local mills and price some cedar tongue and groove planks, which are generally less than $1 a foot.  Tough time to be trendsetters, I suppose.

Coming soon, the exciting details of our PV Solar setup!  Jonathan, our solar guy, has been working on a new mounting setup, which we'll be the first to try out.  The whole process will be thoroughly documented.  I'm hoping to film a little interview with Jonathan the next time he comes out, too.  Stay tuned!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Battening Down Our Hatches

In this part of the country we're blessed with fairly temperate weather year round.  In exchange for our temperance, however, we take a staggering amount of cloud cover and precipitation.  While winters are mild, they will sometimes include 40 day streaks without a single unobstructed glance at the sun.  Longtime Western Washingtonians are referred to by their peers as "moss backs", because anything that sits this far in the upper left hand corner for long enough will find itself covered in lichens, fungii and mold.  Of our two seasons, Summer is the wild card.  For three or four amazing months we are hyper fueled with vitamin-D-rich, 18 hour long days.  We dry out, to the point of actual drought!  And then, abruptly, right about now, summer leaves for another eight or nine months and, as is said around here, "the rain starts".

The rains have started.  I realize our blogging has been sparse lately.  Sorry about that.  The truth is that this  recent swing in our weather back to it's homeostatic drizzle has sent us scrambling to complete our list of projects we hoped to accomplish before "the rain".  That list?

1) Seal up the shop
2) Put a roof on it
3) Cover up the house foundation
4) Weather-proof the water pipes and on-demand water heater for the yurt
5) Clean up and finish the "inside bathroom" at the farm
6) Decide on a fate of the Yome platform / MFW bandstand

Shop wise, we're looking pretty good.  Christy and I put all the windows in with no hassle a couple of days ago, and then made up for our good luck by spending a solid five hours hanging the doors.  That's still a touchy subject, so I'm not going to elaborate.  Suffice it to say that those SOBs are hung, plumb and squared enough.  Today, under the threatening gray ceiling of fall, we scrambled to get the metal roof up.  The days are shortening, however, and by sundown I was futilely determined, in Ahab-like fashion, to finish the roof even if it meant balancing on a 16 foot ladder with a screwdriver, guided by a BIC lighter and prayer.  Level headed Christy, thankfully, talked me off the ladder.  The ridge cap will wait until tomorrow.   We're back at the yurt now enjoying the wood stove, a box of wine and some Van Morrison.  I'm glad she's around to talk sense into me sometimes.

As for the rest of our "rains" list, stay tuned.  It's all going to have to happen sooner than later.  Not to mention the planting of our winter crops in the greenhouse.  And oh yes, I'm working in a kitchen a few days a week.  Why would I have ever thought that there's a rest period after harvest season?

And now it's raining.  Shit.