Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Antique coffee grinder

My grandmother used this antique coffee grinder as a planter for years. I've put it back into use doing what it was originally intended to do. It took some cleaning and de-rusting, but now it makes great finely ground coffee. As cool as it was with a spider plant growing out of it, I'm glad that it's back in commission. By the way, its buddy up above is an antique juicer that Tristan gifted me--we've been on quite the fresh-squeezed OJ bender lately.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Weekend Mod: Stationary Bike/Lamp

Saturday thrift store scouring is a regular habit of ours. In the middle of a brutal winter like this one, pickings get pretty slim. So when we saw this beautiful vintage exercise bike, we had to have it. The question is, what exactly did we have to have it for? A thrift store lamp and about an hour of tinkering yielded the lamp/bike. Once the right plan emerges, we plan to turn the seat area into an end table.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bock (Name TBD)

What better way to spend a cold Sunday in February than by warming up the house with some brewing? We sold all our brew gear when we left Santa Fe (Tristan still hasn't forgiven me). A few weeks ago we scored a carboy at a flea market, and so our home brewery is up and running again. It's hard for me to believe, but it's been over a year since our last batch of beer. This one is an American Bock, and it's our first lager, which needs cool temperatures to ferment properly, making it a perfect winter brew. It will ferment in our cool basement at around 55 degrees F.

All homebrews need a good name. What should we name our bock?

Urban Homesteading Day of Action

Urban Homesteaders in Santa Fe, NM
I'm sure many of you have heard by now that the Dervaes Institute has managed to trademark the terms "Urban Homestead" and "Urban Homesteading" and have recently begun going after authors, non-profits, and bloggers who use these terms in their work.

Today is a day of action for urban homesteaders to stand up and be counted, and to let it be known that urban homesteading is a movement, and that no one has the right to claim ownership of the language we use to identify ourselves.

I have no doubt that the Dervaeses will soon find themselves on the losing end of legal action (thanks to the good people at EFF). This brand of greedy legal intimidation won't win them anything in the courts , and it won't win them any friends either. And so, I don't want to waste too much breath on a rant about why it's wrong for the Dervaeses to trademark these terms. It's obvious, right?

A movement has really come together over the past few days to defend the spirit of collaboration and generosity that is so central to this lifestyle. One of my favorite things about urban homesteading is that it means many different things to many different people. It's so broadly used a term that I doubt we could even agree on a definition. I've been reading some of the other blog posts associated with this day of action, and I really admire the diversity represent. Some of us are applying permaculture principles in our backyards, others focus on preserving foods they get from local farms. We are radical homemakers, businesspeople with chickens on the side, and everything in between. Heck, we don't even define the term "urban" the same way; we live in major metropolitan areas, small towns, and suburbs alike. It's inspiring and invigorating to know that there are thousands of us out there, and I'm proud to be a part of this loosely defined movement.

I want to give a special shout out to Grow and Resist, who has made me think hard about the connotations of adopting a loaded word like "homesteading" to define my lifestyle. In her words, "...the term homestead is loaded with historical traumas. Some things come to mind are manifest destiny. The displacement of Indigenous People by force. Genocide.  It is a history of white privilege and power. Current day the term is often seen as a movement of only positive things, such as practical, sustainable and environmentally sound principles.  Ignored is the gentrification that often takes place as well as the white dominance of the movement." Now, I've been running around calling myself an urban homesteader and building covered wagons, and needless to say it's time for me to re-evaluate the way I talk about my lifestyle. So thank you, Grow and Resist, for keeping me on track to do just that.

Problematic though the phrase "urban homestead" may be, it's what we've got for now, and its meaning has been defined collectively over many decades. "Urban homesteading" has united us, helped us find each other online, on blogs, meet each other at social gatherings and identify a common vision. We own it in a way that no corporation can, because it's not simply a piece of "intellectual property" to us; it's a part of our identity and it's a vision for our cities and our neighborhoods.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New Home, New Worm Bin

I recently counted the number of homes that Tristan and I have lived in as a couple. In our 4+ years of cohabitation, we have called nine different dwellings home (and yes, that includes the gypsy wagon). A few weeks ago, we moved into our latest place, an apartment I hope will be our home base for some time.

This place has a very different vibe than all that came before it. It's newly renovated, we have no housemates, and everything is clean and *gasp* functional. I know. It actually has felt a bit awkward for a couple of DIYers, itching for any excuse to break out the drill gun. More than once in the past fews weeks I've asked myself, "will this place ever feel like our own?".

Well, nothing makes a newly renovated apartment feel homier than a new worm bin. I've grown so used to composting that I feel out of sorts when I don't have the means. Having to throw food waste in our makeshift trash can felt so wasteful, and not just wasteful--smelly. So it was with sheer glee that we welcomed the delivery of red wrigglers that came in the mail today, and we spent the evening fixing them a new home of their own.

There are billions of tutorials for making worm bins on youtube, so I'm not going to provide a tutorial here. I'm no vermicomposting expert, either, so please, check out the vast universe of expertise on the web. We've had various different composting systems over the years, including worms, and to be honest we've never had great success with this method. In New Mexico, we actually didn't produce enough food waste to appease our chickens, outdoor heap, and the worms, and so the worms were neglected and hungry, and eventually I froze the poor darlings solid.

But you know what they say: if at first you don't succeed...

I try to be conscious of the question of appropriate technology when it comes to sustainable living. Worms weren't an appropriate technology for us in New Mexico, because we had better alternative methods for disposing of our food waste. But now we live in an apartment complex in town, and the ground will be frozen solid for months to come. Vermicompost seems to be the best tool for the job.

Our little friends will live in a simple home of storage tubs, tucked out of sight in a cabinet right next to the sink, under the dish rack. This placement is dark and consistently warm, and easily accessible for plate scraping and the like. It feels good to add a new living system to the house. Real good. Feels like home.