Sunday, October 25, 2009

Garlic in the ground

Finally got around to putting the garlic in the ground. I planted about 130 cloves, and I still have about another 30 left over that I'm going to have to find a spot for. If all goes well, we'll be in garlic heaven come June.

Chicken Trouble

There's trouble in our flock of chickens. A few weeks ago, the entire flock turned on one chicken, a Rhode Island White who has always been pretty high in the pecking order. They weren't just challenging her, they were going for blood. We watched two chickens in particular jump on top of her and latch onto her comb and neck; the others joined in.

We removed the injured bird and have been treating a pretty sizeable wound on her neck. She's living in the chicken tractor, and has spent some of the colder nights in our bathtub, since the tractor has no coop built-in. We're not going to attempt to reintegrate her until the wound is fully healed, and we will probably remove the two ringleaders for several days beforehand, to knock them down a peg in the pecking order.

I can't find any information on Backyard Chicken that describes this situation or what might cause it. I suspect she may have been sick or injured already, and her flock mates sensed this. There's been a new cat lurking in the yard that is very interested in the chickens. Maybe he took a swipe at her and drew blood?

If any of you out there have any insight into this problem, please, please advise.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Where's Waldo and Curly Willow

These curly willow branches were part of a very fancy flower arrangement for a party at the office. When we dismantled the arrangement today, we found that the willow was putting out roots. My boss and I each took some home. Curly willows (well, all willows, as most of you know) like boggy soil. Something we don't have much of here in Santa Fe, EXCEPT in the spot in our yard where the graywater empties out of our laundry machine. Currently this boggy area is home to weeds of monstrous proportions, but I'm hoping we can get these little guys established, because it'd be great to have some shade in the courtyard. I've read that these willows can put on several feet of grow in the first year.

PS. Say hi to our neighbor Zevin, who's playing the part of where's Waldo in this picture. Nothing wrong with soaking up some rays on the roof of the carport, eh?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Diamond-back Draft Snake

It's finally getting cold here, and our house is a bit drafty. Normally not much of a sewer, I was inspired to make this draft snake. I've always loved these and wanted one, and I love how easy they are to make out of whatever you have lying around. This particular snake is made out of a worn out pair of corduroys, excerpts from an accidentally felted argyle sweater, and some of my great-grandfather's antique buttons (he was a tailor). The tongue is red binding tape that I happened to have lying around. I filled her with some pretty old pinto beans that we had lying around. This project has really inspired me to make further dents in my stack of old clothes waiting to be repurposed.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Ok, so I didn't grow most of the ingredients for this frosting, but I did make my own food coloring from onions and beets from my garden. These chocolate molasses cookies have been a halloween tradition in my family for at least 2 generations. My mom makes them with a beautiful pale orange frosting and candy corn jack-o-lantern faces.

I don't have any food coloring in the house, because it creeps me out and I rarely need it, anyway. But I just couldn't see making these cookies without orange frosting. They're almost not worth eating with plain white frosting.

A quick google search suggested onion skins for yellow, and beets for red. So I boiled some onion skins and added the teensiest, tiniest bit of bit shaving to attempt orange. It worked! The water turned a beautiful shade of orange. Sadly, when I made the frosting, the color diluted quite a bit and I ended up with more of a beige color. It's actually a lovely shade, very autumnal, and it does the trick for me.

It's the wrong time of day to get good shots of the icing, so I apologize if you can't see the color well. Has anyone else mastered the homemade food coloring? Maybe I should have boiled the liquid down further?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Food for the Apocalypse

Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes, are a high-yield, invasive tuber that packs more nutrition than potatoes and will grow just about anywhere. Sunchokes, or helianthus tuberosus, are sunflower family members (helianthus) that grow crazy edible roots (tuberosus). From what I hear, they are darn near impossible to get rid of, even if you think you've harvested every last one. This makes them a great low-maintenance, perennial vegetable. And they make a nice tall plant with small sunflower-like blossoms.

Sunchokes don't last very long once you harvest them, so they are best stored right in the ground, where they will keep all winter under a layer of straw. They're great in soups, or pretty much anything else you would normally use potatoes for.

I got these sunchokes from a co-worker in the spring. I dallied too long to plant them, and they started to go soft and moldy in the plastic bag they were in. I planted them anyway, expecting them to rot. But they sprouted, and then the sprouts sent off side shoots, and soon we had a large "fence" of sunchokes on the west wall of the property. Truly a food for the apocalypse.
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Garlic Prep

Lionshead and I enjoyed a quiet evening at home, prepping our garlic seed for planting. We had a very successful harvest of about 40 heads of garlic this year, but we are planning a massive expansion for next year. Garlic grows so well here, and takes up so little space, and we just love it so darn much.

We bought 3 pounds of seed garlic from these nice garlic lovers. The garlic is a variety they found growing wild near an abandoned adobe in Chamisal, NM. They suspect it had been growing there for quite some time. This is, of course, a top-setting variety, which means it produces small bulbils on the stalk in addition to a head at the bottom. This smart evolutionary move means that top-setting garlic can propagate itself without human intervention. Say, in the yard of an abandoned house...

We like plants that can survive without people.

And oh, this garlic. The paper separating the cloves is deep purple, the cloves are large and firm, and the smell is heavenly. I estimate that we will harvest several hundred heads of this wonderful locally adapted garlic next year.

Oh, and please don't make fun of me for the music in the background. I'm somewhat masochistic when it comes to my tolerance for community radio. I'm sure some of you will understand.


This afternoon we had a harvest festival at the community garden. We partnered with Santa Fe's brand new Food Not Bombs chapter for free food and silkscreening fun. Here's Tristan testing out our new screens. I've never used a photo emulsion to make a screen before, and I am amazed at how precise and crisp the images look. When the screen is printed well, you can hardly tell that the shirts weren't printed professionally.
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Friday, October 9, 2009

Steamed Pork Buns

Whenever I've had steamed pork buns, I was always suspicious that there was some chemical in the dough to make it so soft and fluffy. Turns out that's just what happens when you steam bread. These pork buns are a little bit elaborate, but they are so worth it. They are like sweet, fluffy clouds full of delicately flavored pork goodness.

I'll give you the dough recipe. The filling you'll have to figure out for yourself (hint: use hoisin sauce). Next I'm going to make some dessert buns with adzuki bean filling.

Steamed Bun Dough:

You will need:
White flour
Dry Active Yeast
parchment paper

1. Make a sponge with:
1.5 tsp. active dry yeast,
.5 tsp. sugar
1/3 c. warm water
3/4 c. white flour.

2. Allow the sponge to rise in a warm spot for 10 minutes.

3. Combine:
3.25 c. flour
.5 c. sugar
3 T. shortening
2 T. chives

4. Combine in a separate bowl:
.5 c. water
2 T. milk
1 egg, beaten

5. Add liquids, then dry ingredients to the sponge. Mix dough into a soft, ragged mass. Lightly knead the dough into a soft ball (don't overwork). Place in a large mixing bowl and cover with a large piece of saran wrap directly on top of the dough. Allow to rise in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours, until double in size. The slow rise makes for a softer bun.

6. Divide the dough in half and roll into 2 logs, each 1 foot long. Keeping one log covered with a cloth, cut the other into 12 pieces. Keep everything covered except the piece you are working with.

7. Make the bun:
Roll a piece of dough into a 4 inch circle. Roll towards the center of the bun to make a raised dimple in the center. Place 1 tablespoon of filling on this dimple, and close by making small pleats towards the top center of the bun. Turn the closed buns pleat side down onto an individual piece of parchment paper, cover with an egg wash, and allow to rise for 1 hour.

8. Steam the buns: place in a steamer and steam for 10 minutes.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

New Crock

We picked this crock pot up at a yard sale. We've been debating the pros and cons of yet another electronic kitchen device for some time, but we think this will come in handy for lazy winter meals. We've tried making these beans in the solar oven, but they really don't cook quite right. And to do them in the oven you have to stay home for 8 hours. These are my baked beans, made with a bacon instead of an olive oil base this time. Decadent and delicious. We had them with cornbread and collard greens from the garden.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


We've had bad luck with mozzarella in the past. This time we used citric acid to guarantee the correct acidity. The curds still didn't get as stretchy as we would have liked, but we did end up with tasty mozzarella balls.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dudes, we can't camp here.

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First Fire of the Season

Today we built our first fire of the season. In order to build a fire, we had to first collect some firewood. We went up to the ski basin and scavenged some dry, fallen aspen and pine with our new flea market handsaws. This turned out to be annoying, and probably not worth the effort. But the aspens are beautiful this time of year, and we had fun driving deep into the forest to collect our tiny bounty.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Prickly Pear

While exploring an old Turquoise Mine in Cerrillos, we stopped to pick some ripe prickly pear fruit. We (carefully!) opened them up and enjoyed sucking on the goo. In true NM style, we collected our harvest using a stick and a rusty can.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Our First Solar Panel

This morning we went to the Oshara Village Traditional Flea Market. The Flea Market is new this year, and it's intended to be a "traditional" market--out here, a lot of markets using the descriptive "flea" only sell new, artisan goods. We lucked out big time at the market, coming home with a bunch of great hand tools and a 50 watt solar panel.

We hooked the panel up to this pump (also a flea find) to test it out. Works great! We have some work to do to decide its best use around here. We already have an inverter, but we'll also need some batteries and a charge controller to make use of the panel rain or shine, daylight or dark.

This is our first solar panel, and we're excited about its possible uses. We think it will be especially useful as our first source of power if/when we ever end up building our own homestead from the ground up. For now, it may power our chest freezer or our cheese cave.

Fall Mucking

We muck our chicken coop twice a year, spring and fall. This fall, we decided to buy extra straw to provide a ground cover in the chicken yard, which has become dead, compressed earth. Mucking is pretty straightforward--clean the poo out of the chicken coop, rake the yard, and lay fresh straw down. The chickens love to scratch in the fresh straw, so all we had to do is distribute flakes of the stuff around the pen and the girls took it from there.
Mucking is also a good time to make other chicken improvements. Tristan added more roosting space and attached the roost securely to the walls of the coop. With more chickens, they needed the extra space and strength to prevent them from roosting in the nesting boxes (which leads to poopy eggs) and to keep them from knocking the roost to the floor under their additional weight.