Saturday, March 28, 2009

Moving Time...

Well, we are getting ready to hit the road. We picked up our Uhaul this morning with our handy car hauler to pull the Forester.

We will hit the road early March 31st and arrive in Carlsbad, NM on April 1st. Due to the move and the setting up of internet service The Common Milkweed may not be updated for a week or so, but then do check back. We will be up and running again soon with a southwest flair!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Year Ago Today...

Steve and Jen walked to the funky court house in Santa Fe, New Mexico...

and tied the knot. Yep, in hiking clothes! We were hiking afterward of course. :)

It was a funny little 4 minute ceremony where we nervously chomped our gum the whole time (we ate Indian food first - he he), but the sentiments were real and we are so glad we took that step forward. To celebrate the day we took the day off from packing and preparing to move and enjoyed a slow morning drinking coffee and hanging out, took a couple of walks in the sunshine, visited Borders to peruse magazines and drink more coffee and hit one antique store where we found a cup we liked a few years ago. We found two cool big plates (for $0.50 each!)...

A great all glass covered dish (trying to rid our plastic food storage larder sometime in the future)...

and a sweet little coffee mug. I love the red stripe inside.

All in all a pretty great day. :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ancient Sunlight, Our Driveway and a Bobcat

Long before carbon sequestration and CO2 offsets were trendy we read a great book called "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight" by Thom Hartman. Its all about how our fossil fuels (coal/oil/natural gas) originated from ancient sunlight. In other words, the decayed remains of the creatures that comprise our fossil fuels were sourced from the rays of sunlight that shown on the earth eons ago. Its a great read.

Anyway, we could also speak of ancient sunlight with respect to limestone - because it is comprised of the remains of sea creatures and has been deposited over the eons. So that brings us to our driveway.

Our driveway is hard as a brick most of the time but, when it rains a lot, it can be an embarrassment. So we decided to get ourselves a little ancient sunlight in the form of crushed limestone from a local quarry.

We were amazed that you can get some guy in a humongous dump truck to haul such a huge load of stone to your house for so little money!! Here's the load after part of it had already been spread:

We are lucky enough to have a neighbor who facilitated all this and also spread the stone with his Bobcat. This guy is an incredible Bobcat operator. He'd get a scoop of stone and then spread it like a steady rain:

All that was left for us to do was hand rake it a bit...

...and admire our sassy new drive:

Only in America can you call a guy at 8AM and have a newly-stoned driveway a couple hours later !!!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Incredible Opportunity for Volunteering on Some Spectacular Indiana Nature Preserves

If you are anything at all like us (well, you are reading this) you love nature, love to learn and love to experience unique natural areas. In our collective experience there is no better way to do all of these things (while also making great connections) than volunteering for nature preserve stewardship work days.

One of the very best organizations to get involved with in this way is The Nature Conservancy. You will connect with extremely knowledgeable conservation professionals, learn the importance of stewardship to the preservation of sensitive natural areas and get to see otherwise inaccessible nature preserves. The roots of many-a-career were first sunk into the fertile soil of volunteerism!

There are volunteer opportunities around the state of Indiana and the entire country, for that matter. Here are a couple examples for northeast Indiana (Steve's comments are in black font, the text from the original TNC announcement is in blue font):

Douglas Woods is a rare and fine example of upland hardwood forest/ephemeral wetlands complex. There are impressive stands of trees, whimsical ephemeral wetlands and steep bluffs overlooking Fish Creek. This place just feels like an old, old forest. Here's the details:

Saturday, May 9
Douglas Woods Nature Preserve, DeKalb County
Garlic Mustard - Invasive Specie Removal
9:30 a.m to 3 p.m. (Eastern)

For all you spring wildflower nuts please join us for a fun day of invasive species removal and hiking at Douglas Woods Nature Preserve. Garlic mustard threatens the native plants and old growth forest of this beautiful preserve. We will be canvassing the preserve and hand-pulling the garlic mustard. As a special thank you we will spend some time in a relaxing wildflower hike. Come prepared to spend a day outdoors. Please wear long sleeves, long pants, and sturdy shoes. Make sure to bring gloves, lunch and plenty of water.

From I-69 exit 140 (Ashley/Hamilton exit) travel east on CR 800 S for 7 miles. Turn left (north) on SR 427 and travel 0.4 mile into Hamilton. Meet at the gas station in Hamilton located at the intersection of SR 427 and SR 1. We will leave the gas station at 9:30 am to caravan over to the preserve.

RSVPs are greatly appreciated, but not required. Please contact Beth Mizell by phone at 260-316-0868 or by email at

Swamp Angel represents northeast Indiana lake country in its natural state. You will not see another example this fine. 'nuff said, here's the details:

Saturday, April 25

Swamp Angel, Noble County
Garlic Mustard - Invasive Species Removal
9:30 a.m to 3 p.m. (Eastern)

Join us for a fun day of invasive species removal and exploration at Swamp Angel Nature Preserve. Garlic mustard threatens the native plants and oak forest restoration of this beautiful preserve. We will be hand-pulling the garlic mustard along steep slopes. As a special thank you we will get our feet a little wet and venture into the wetland fen for a relaxing hike. Come prepared to spend a day outdoors. Please wear long sleeves, long pants, and sturdy shoes. Make sure to bring gloves, lunch and plenty of water.

From I-69 exit 134 (Waterloo exit) travel west on US 6 for 17 miles. Meet at the Short Stop gas station located at the intersection of US 6 and SR 9 in Nobel County (5.5 miles west of Kendallville, IN). The gas station will be on the north side of the intersection. We will leave from the gas station at 9:30 am to caravan over to the preserve.

Swamp Angel is a sensitive preserve with limited access. Participation will be limited to 15 persons and RSVP is required. Please contact Beth Mizell by phone at 260-316-0868 or by email at

Sunday, March 22, 2009


There is a large patch of horseradish growing along the south side of our planted prairie, a remnant of the prior owners large garden on that end of the property. I never thought much about horseradish till we moved here and Steve's brother and some friends harvested some roots, grated the roots for eating and shared some with us. We used that horseradish in everything - even vegetarian potpies! The horseradish gave such an interesting flavor to anything we put it on or in. We are total fans. I read the other day you can grow horseradish in pots (and some folks prefer to do so because it spreads) so I decided to dig up a few roots for New Mexico apartment growing. We will see how they do!

While I had the shovel, I dug up some catnip (lower right) for Bounder & Bobcat. The other pot houses a mint that I rescued from one of our big box home improvement stores. At the end of last season I put the pot and the dried (thought to be dead) plant in our potting shed - then thought to water the roots this spring. Sure enough, the plant sent out leaves almost immediately.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Rain Garden Opportunity for Fort Wayne Homeowners

For those of you who live in Fort Wayne, there is a new program whereby city residents can receive training and incentives to install rain gardens!! This is a great opportunity to create beauty, natural space, wildlife habitat and to help rainwater soak slowly in the soil.

There are a series of free workshops (taught by a good friend of ours) starting the end of this month and running through April.

Click here for a pdf with all the information. What a great way to celebrate spring!!!

Click here for a Wikipedia link for general information on rain gardens and some pics.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How to drill a hole in a rock: A Tutorial

As I talked about in this post, I love to collect rocks and make crafty things with them. Some of you let me know you are interested in how I drill holes in my rocks so here is a photo answer/tutorial for you.

First things first - you will need a small drill such as a Dremel. I use a drill press that Steve's great uncle made. My drill is electric and works great for me though I know some folks prefer battery operated since you use water in the drilling process. Here's a couple of views of my setup:

My drill adjusts up and down along this rod allowing me to get in close to my rock.

This switch increases and decreases the speed of my drill.

Ok, back to what you need to drill a hole in a rock. Besides a drill you need a drill bit. I use a diamond tipped drill bit from Indian Jewelers Supply Co. in Gallup, New Mexico. They have very reasonable prices - last time I ordered my standard diamond tipped Triple Ripple 2.1 MM bit it cost $2.00. You can see the bit in the foreground of this photo.

Other supplies:
-safety goggles (a must to protect your eyes should rock fragments fly!)
-durable dish with cool water (filled so it will just cover your rock; water is essential to keep your bit cool enough!)
-towel to dry your hands as needed
-straight edge such as a straightened-out paperclip
-sharpie for marking drilling location
-tools to tighten your bit if necessary (I need to use my Gerber pliers & channel locks to tighten my chuck (part that holds the bit) tight enough so the bit does not just spin on the rock)

Here is the procedure I use:

Step 1: Put on safety glasses!

Step 2: Setup drill for drilling.
Insert drill bit and tighten chuck. Put water dish with rock under the bit on the press. (Mark rock with sharpie where you want to drill.) Lower the drill to ~1/8-1/4 inch above water. Turn drill speed to low and then drill in.

Step 3: Drill halfway through rock. Hold rock tightly with two fingers and use other hand to move the press up so the rock contacts the bit. Hold very firmly until the bit bites. If you are drilling an uneven rock your bit is likely to jump to the lowest spot so pick a good drilling location and then hold tight! I find if I am drilling an uneven rock I can shim a piece of foam or wadded string under the lower side to bring it more level so I can put the hole where I want.

I turn the speed to about medium to get the hole started and then to medium-high to high depending on the type of rock. I don't really have any hard and fast rules about drill speed. I am sure someone does, but I just tell by the rock dust filtering through my water and how the bit feels on the rock. If you are not seeing any dust (indicating rock being eroded away) adjust your speed. If this does not help and you are using a used bit switch to a new one.

Once my bit bites, which will be in a matter of seconds, I slowly move the press up and down so the bit is coming in and out of the rock ever so slightly. This allows rock fragments to clear the hole and for water to enter it. Some rocks make cloudy water very fast and I need to change the water midway through. Just make sure you can see clearly and you will be set. Also - if I am drilling a particularly hard rock and it is taking a while to get through I will change the water when it starts to warm. Cool water keeps the bit cool.

Continue drilling till you are about halfway through the rock.

Notice the cloudiness from the drilling action next to my finger on the left .

Step 4 - Turn rock over and finish drilling hole from the other side. This step is essential or else you are likely to chip a chunk of your rock away as your bit punches through the other side. The tricky part is to get your two holes to line up! I use a straightened paperclip: I stick it in my drilled hole and eyeball a line through the rock and mark that spot with a sharpie. See photos:

Once you are satisfied with the location to drill, put your rock back in the dish (changing the water if necessary) and repeat Step 3. I have misaligned holes before and it isn't pretty, but you do learn as you practice. :)

Here's a photo of the front of the rock drilled halfway through...

And a photo of the back of the rock getting close to through...

Once you get close to getting all the way through you will notice a couple of things. First, your drilling will feel different. It feels crunchier to me - sometimes you can hear this crunching. When you notice this, hold on securely and go slowly. If you push hard you might chip out the other side, even with pre-drilling, or you might drill through your container or both. Check out the nice hole in my rock in the following pictures.

This rock took about 5-7 minutes to drill through. If this rock was thicker it might take 20 minutes or so because it is quite hard. Rocks such as sandstone, which is very soft, drill very quickly...sometimes in a minute or two.

I hope this tutorial is clear and helpful. It takes time, care and effort to tweak out your equipment and technique. As with any process that uses power tools and hand tools, safety come first - if you don't feel comfortable that you can safely attempt this process, seek help from someone who is more experienced.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Food Not Lawns & Some Cat Photos

Look at this gem of a book I found at the library! This book has been around for a while and I've not yet read it, but the title and subtitle make me VERY excited.

We are brainstorming different ideas for Carlsbad since we will live in a very small apartment and are considering such techniques as container gardening (as much as possible in dry heat), indigenous seeds, window herb & greens trays, sprouts, visiting the local farmer's market regularly, and drying, freezing and canning whatever surplus we can glean from local farmers. We feel it is so important to take control of our own food supply for ethical, environmental and health reasons. What are you all doing? We would love to feature different folks taking on some of your own food production - however it may be. Let us know if you are interested.

Our cats are gearing up for the big move too! (EEK! - 24 more hours in a cat box in a car...) Here's Bounder admonishing me for disturbing her wildlife watching session.

And little Bobcat under her faithful chair - her only place of safety and comfort. This little lady is under the chair for most of the day only to emerge in the evenings and only if it is just Steve and me at home.

She did come out briefly this morning when she heard me coming in the house with some fresh picked catnip. Cameras make her nervous too...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Wonders of Free Internet Media

The last time we moved we decided to give our TV/VCR/DVD stuff away and its been one of the best decisions we've ever made. Now we watch one show per night on the internet and listen to tons of music online too.

Hulu is a great place to start for free internet TV and movies. There's tons of resources for free internet radio as well. One of our favorites is Radio Screamer. Sorry Mac folks, this one is Windows-only as far as I can tell.

Once you've downloaded and installed the free program (if you are comfortable with that sort of thing), you'll have this quick and easy interface to connect to hundreds of internet radio channels:

It includes information about the current artist and song, a direct link to the channels' website, a number of menu options, playback stuff and even a Record button (better check with your legal counsel before using that one!).

Here's an example of how to find stations by genre - soooo many options:

We listen to Folk Alley and Roots Radio a lot during the morning and afternoon and then often switch to 1.FM Blues at night. Almost no commercials and very seldom are there repeat songs! A winner, we think.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dye Plant Book

Keeping with the thrift and antique store theme, check out this book given to my crafty friend Alicia! This book is so cool especially if you are interested in using plants to make dyes for use on fiber or just for historical purposes. Even though this book focuses on the Rocky Mountain area, many plants covered will be found across the country.

After an introduction to dyeing with plants and Anne Bliss' method the book is packed with over 100 different plant descriptions. Below chicory is showcased with a drawing, description of the plant and different mordants used to set the dye and the colors that resulted. Historical uses for the plant are also often listed making this a true gem of a book.

Another example...
Here you can see a map illustrating the range of plants covered, but I think all of us across N. America & even Europe (since many of these are introduced plants from our ancestors) would find many plants in this book in our local areas.

I took this up to the fiber mill where I volunteer and Jamie, one of the owners, purchased a copy off of Amazon. I think there are a three more listed if you are interested. I found one too - on ebay! With shipping mine totaled about $4.oo (not sure about the condition of mine), Jamie's $14.00 (great condition).


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Thrift Store Finds

We love to garage sale and hunt treasures at antique stores & thrift stores. It's such a satisfying stuff, good prices & nothing new added to the eventual waste stream. Today we went out in search of a few very needed kitchen supplies and found two great plates and bowls at a local thrift store for a grand total of $4.25. All made in the USA.

The best part? We found this cup a few years ago at an antique store. Look at that match!