Monday, June 30, 2008

Dumpstered Divinity

Late last night, while hanging out with a friend, we got the sudden urge for snack food. The stores were closed, so we hit our favorite dumpster, and man did we hit the jackpot. It's as though the dumpster gods knew we were in a snacky mood.

We got a watermelon, frozen edamame, olives, salsa, plus some pasta, chicken (pre-cooked) and several dozen eggs. I'm enjoying my edamame with salt as I type.


No-knead Bread

I've sort of fallen off the bread wagon. We used to make fresh bread weekly, but since we moved things have been a little too hectic. Last night before bed, Tristan whipped up some no-knead bread dough. It just takes a few minutes to combine the ingredients together. The next morning, the dough has doubled in size and the slow rising process means that plenty of gluten has developed without the need to knead.

I folded the dough, plopped half of it into a loaf pan, and baked it for about 40 minutes. The result:

With the other half of the dough, I spread it out on a greased cookie sheet, sprinkled olive oil on the top, and covered with oregano and garlic. I baked this at 450 for maybe 15 or 20 minutes. The result:

Wish you could taste it!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Homegrown Dinner #3

  • Garden salad with homemade feta and dumpstered walnuts
  • Home-grown greens (kale and collards)
  • Dumpstered pre-marinated leg of lamb ($20 piece of meat), slow roasted



On an impulse last weekend, I bought a washboard. And no, not to play music on. I bought a washboard for its intended purpose--washing clothes by hand.

I am tired of going to the laundromat and paying $5 to wash and dry my clothes, and I can never get there before it closes, so I thought I'd see how handwashing goes. So far, I find it pretty easy, if slightly hard on the knees. It doesn't take me very long to rub an article of clothing up and down the washboard a few times, and the clothes seem to come out just as clean, but a little stiffer than machine-washed clothes.

We'll see how long it lasts, but for now, I'm into it!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Feta Cheese

Further experiments in cheesemaking...

It's been awhile since we've had a cheese post. This time, it's all about the feta. Feta is traditionally made of sheep's milk, but we used goat milk from a local dairy. Having just gotten approval from the landlord to have chickens, we think goats would be pushing it.

We followed the fabulous instructions of Dr. Fankhauser to make our feta. I won't go into too much detail, but it is a cheese made with rennet that you basically press and then brine. I just put the feta in the fridge to pickle for a couple of days, and then it should be ready to eat!

Home Grown Dinner #2 - Quesadillas

Homegrown contents:

Cabbage, kale, collards


Garlic, Onion, Tortillas (local) and cheese (local)

Hopefully we'll be making our own tortillas and cheese for next time!

Monday, June 23, 2008

One Tank a Month

I have a new goal for car usage--not to exceed one tank of gas a month.

Before moving into town, I was going through a tank a week! I filled up last night. Stay tuned for thrilling updates...

Home Grown Dinner

This evening we went to our first garden at our old apartment to see how our garden is doing. We haven't been in almost 2 weeks so we feared it would be all dried out. Luckily our housemates have been watering it for us, and we arrived to a beautiful, filled out garden.

We did a bunch of weeding and harvesting. We harvested: 4 kohlrabi, a cup or so of peas, a huge bowl of lettuce, spinach, and cabbage leaves. There are carrots, beets, onions, broccoli, wax beans, potatoes, horseradish, and more of everything above on the way.

In a matter of minutes, we had collected enough food for a dinner for three. We made a peanut satay style sauce, made some rice, and stir fried the veggies. We hope this is the beginning of a long season of home-grown, home-cooked meals.

Here's roughly the recipe for our dinner:

Homegrown Veggies:

kohlrabi (greens and root)

Bought Veggies:

potato, onion, garlic

Sauce (all bought ingredients):

1 can lite coconut milk
1/4 c peanut butter (could have used a bit more)
dried chili
agave nectar
soy sauce

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Chickens: Week 3

It is our week to have the chickens. Our neighbor packed them up their little chicken suitcases and sent them across the driveway to our house. They are back in the bathroom, snug as bugs. Here's what they look like now:

They are learning how to fly, and so we often go into the bathroom to find a chicken perched on the ledge of the container. We will have to devise a lid STAT. They have probably tripled in size, have way more feathers (including cute little tails), and they are just started to develop combs. We threw an ant into the ring a few days ago, and man did that thing get gobbled up quickly. It will still be several weeks before they can live outside, but soon we will start building their coop and chicken run. Yay Chickens!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Creepy Crawlies

Since we moved into our new apartment, we haven't had a good way to compost our kitchen scraps. The previous tenant was pitching them over the fence, but there wasn't really an active compost heap per se. Since the yard is shared and I don't think the landlord would be hip to a compost pile, I decided to set up a vermiculture bin in the kitchen.

This project has been on the back burner for awhile, partly because I couldn't find a cheap source for the worms. They go for $20-30 a pound (plus hefty shipping fees) online. Even though it was a longshot, I turned to my old friend Freecycle. Freecycle is an email list (most cities have one) where people post items that they are giving away, or wish to receive, for free. Believe it or not, I got a response to my post! A nice man with an established whiskey barrel full of worms offered me a starter batch.

We picked them up this evening. When I looked into the container, I saw a lot of worm castings and only a few worms. But when I dumped the container into my temporary worm bin, hundreds if not thousands of little red wrigglers were exposed, and immediately began burrowing for darker, wetter territory.

My current worm set up is just a plastic bucket with moistened newspaper bedding and food. I put the worms on bottom, bedding in the middle, and food on top in hopes that the worms will venture upwards. We'll see if there has been any action in 24 hours or so.

We're planning to build a fancier home for them soon. It will basically be a series of trays with wooden frames and a hardware cloth screen. This way we will be able to separate the castings more easily, and we can add layers of food and bedding as we wish.

I'll add pictures tomorrow--there's not enough light to get a good shot of the worms now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bicycle Update

I have been trying my hardest to continue to bike to work every day, but I have to admit that so far, it hasn't been easy. My legs are sore pretty much all the time, and the less I rest in between attempts, the more it hurts to get back on the bike. I assume at some point my muscles will be up to par and I won't have this problem, but's going to suck a bit to get past this point. If anyone has any tips, please share.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gray Water

We are experimenting with a graywater "system" to help us use our water more efficiently. So far, it consists of a bucket under the kitchen sink where the used water drains. A spigot was recently added to the bucket so that we can move the bucket outside, attach a hose to it, and let gravity water our gardens. We would like to connect the top of the bucket back to the drainage pipe so that we don't have to worry about the bucket overflowing.

Ideally, the system would involve some sort of pump so that we don't have to move it outside to water the garden. Perhaps we can build a solar powered pump to accomplish this.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Ladies and Gentlemen, today I bike both TO and FROM work without wussing out! It took me 40 minutes to get there and 50 to get back. The way in was pretty easy, mostly downhill, but it was cold and that made my asthma act up. The way back is almost all uphill, but I didn't get wheezy and I didn't have to stop to take any breaks (except to pick some wildflowers that I could not resist).

SO LONG, CAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am seriously considering making a sandwich board for riding to work that communicates the joy of saving gas money while getting in shape and enjoying the scenery.

By the way, in case you are thinking about doing this as well, you should know that I am NOT an athlete. I guess if you're reading this you probably already knew that....Anyway, not only am I out of shape and somewhat asthmatic, but I also have never been particularly motivated to push myself physically. Until now. I took it fairly easy today and I STILL accomplished my goal. And guess what? I felt freaking GREAT all day. I was in a better mood, more awake, and felt really proud when I got home.

I'll let you know if my muscles still work tomorrow...

Frozen Yogurt

Last week I had two felicitous experiences: I made some yogurt, and I discovered a frozen yogurt shop that sells the most delicious and expensive tart frozen yogurt EVER. Alas, I do not have an ice cream maker. Just when I could not contain my craving any longer, the internet brought me a solution: stick the frozen-yogurt-to-be in a jar, put it in the freezer, and shake it ever half hour for 3-4 hours.

It came out kind of hard, but man is it tasty. What's in it?

A bunch of yogurt (approximately 3 cups)
2/3 c of sugar

That's it! I will be experimenting with ways to improve the consistency, but this will definitely do for now. Yum!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Garden Update!

The soil temperature is finally up to about 60 F now, which means the garden(s) are really taking off. Today we went to the old apartment and harvested a HUGE bowl of lettuce. We harvested an equally huge bowl of lettuce only two days earlier! We think it will start to bolt soon, and since we don't go out there often we are trying to catch it before it does. We gave half of it to a friend, and will try our best to consume the rest of it. At our new place, some new sunflowers, corn and beans are peeking up through the dirt. We also planted more pepper and tomato starts because all of ours bit it.

Something new to ferment!

Tristan and our friend Liam have been plotting to make tempeh for quite some time. Liam ordered a starter online, and it finally arrived, so we've just begun our first batch.

Tempeh, in case you've never had it, is a high-protein food popular with veggies. It's Indonesian in origin, and is made from soybeans cultured with a mold. The mold actually makes soybeans, which are hard to digest, easier to handle. Kind of like the lactobacillus in yogurt, which breaks down the lactase and makes the milk easier to digest.

Anyway, we soaked a bunch of dried soybeans overnight, and then went through the arduous process of hulling them by hand. Then they got cooked, and the culture added. Now it has to incubate for about 24 hours, at which point it should be ready to eat. Here are some photos of what it looks like now--will post finished pics tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Chickens PS

Think I can teach them to do this?

Bok Bok!

We have been dreaming of having chickens for awhile now. We never thought we'd have the opportunity to do it while renting, let alone in town. As luck would have it, our new landlord is totally into the idea of having chickens, and encouraged us to get them as a collective undertaking with other tenants on the property. So...yesterday we bought 6 baby chicks for our Collective Chicken Project (CCP)!!!!! It all happened so fast we can hardly believe that the chirping noise incessantly emanating from the bathroom is from our very own brood!

We got our chickies from the feed store. It is actually pretty late in the season, which is why we got them right away instead of thinking it over like rational folk. If we thought about it too much longer, we'd have had a whole year to think it over. So, on Monday we went to the feed store and they only had 5 or 6 chicks left. We were sad, but the owner (who is quite a character) informed us that he'd be receiving a new shipment the next day. So we returned the following afternoon with our neighbor and partner in the CCP. She brought along two chicken experts, who happen to be 12 and 8-year-old children who have been raising chicks practically their whole lives. The elder girl led us through the whole process and made sure we had everything we needed. We bought 6 chickens: 2 Buff Orpingtons, 2 Rhode Island Whites (yeah, I'd never heard of them either), and 2 Arakaunas (they lay blue-green eggs!!!!) All are purported to be good layers, so we should be getting about 6 eggs a day come October.

Total startup cost so far is about $45, but that's not so bad when it's split between the three CCP members. Supposedly we will just about break even in terms of the cost of chickens v the cost of buying eggs, plus they will be super fresh and we'll know exactly how the chickens were treated and what they were fed. Not to mention no fossil fuel is required to get the eggs to us AND they will eat most of our kitchen scraps.

The chickies will have to stay inside for the next 4-8 weeks, until they have their feathers. Like divorced parents, we are sharing custody with our neighbors, trading our babies off every other week. So far the cat is intrigued but not aggressive towards the chickies, but we definitely don't let her near them unsupervised. I'm pretty sure we'd come home to a box of decapitated baby birds if we did.

A Revolving Revolution

Tristan and I have decided to eliminate the need for a car this summer to save the environment (but more importantly our wallets) from imminent doom. Gas is expected to hit $7 a gallon in the next 6 months, and I know I don't make enough money to support this humongous increase. I find it hard to imagine that ANYONE makes enough money to support the increase. I am very curious to see what will happen to the lower middle class and their car dependencies this summer. What do you all think will happen?

Anyway...On our first day in town we biked to the co-op and bought a backpack full of food. It was hard for me because I'm way out of shape, but it was also extremely gratifying. Yesterday we didn't manage to take a bike ride because we were buying heavy things like compost and moving crap from one house to the other, but today we biked to a cafe to meet friends. After our friends departed, we swung around to the TJ's dumpster and filled our pack with strawberries, raspberries, feta, tortellini, and almonds. Yum! Then to another cafe for internet access (blargh) and home again.

We're in the process of building a bike trailer that can be easily transferred from one bike to another. This way we can eliminate the need for a car to transport large/heavy items. We were gifted some discarded bike wheels from the guy who rented our apartment previously, and had a piece of plywood lying around. We bought some brackets and screws and found a piece of PVC pipe lying around, so we should have most of what we need to build our trailer. I budgeted the cost of a tank of gas ($50) for the project, but so far we've only spent about $8.

Update: The bike trailer was finished today! Total cost was about $25. We have yet to take it on its inaugural journey.

Garden(s) Growing

We have 4 beds planted at our old place south of town. They have taken off in the last week or so—we now have more lettuce than we can eat, kale, collards, and radishes. Our onions, broccoli, peas, beets, kohlrabi, etc are all looking beautiful. We've also got potatoes and horseradish and Tristan planted a whole bed of wheat as an experiment to see how much yield we would get.

We broke ground on a new garden on our second day at our new apartment in town. It's considerably smaller, and has mostly hot crops so far (tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, squash, cukes, pumpkin, watermelon, sunflowers, corn, beans, amaranth). We also transplanted some cool crops of in the brassilus family. We actually had to buy a pick ax to break up the hard pack ground in the backyard. We bought some inexpensive soil builder from the nursery less than half a mile from here an incorporated it. I was surprised to find that under the first layer of very dense earth was healthy soil chock full of worms! I think we will have great success with the garden, provided that our transplants survive the shock of the move. Our swiss chard is not looking happy...

A New Apartment

We've moved from our rural apartment 17 miles from town into a cozy (read: tiny) apartment right in town. The rent is the same, and the location and privacy is definitely worth the space crunch. We've outfitted the place with tag-saled or found stuff, and have most of what we need. We are still lacking a frying pan and a clothes-containing device, but other than that we're good. Our new place is kind of a DIY-ers paradise: there is lots of room for improvement, and the landlord is more than happy to let of make the improvements ourselves. At the same time, he's tolerant of our crazy whims. He's given us lots of garden space in the yard, and is amenable to some of our resource-conserving ideas as well.