Monday, January 23, 2012

Native Seed Starting

We collected native wildflower seed this past summer/fall during our weekly hikes and just recently put them into some soil to overwinter.

We, of course, headed out to our potting shed for the fun!

Inside, with a little heater, we stayed quite toasty and happy.  We put Steve's new potting bench to work and loved having a dedicated space for activities such as this.

Here's a few of the seeds we started:

Close up of a pile of mixed wildflower pretty!

We did not do any real seed preparation, but rather planted the seeds in a flat....

and put the flat outdoors to let the weather do the work.  We will report back on our success next summer.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ruminations on Food

A family member recently asked us how to get started with vegetarian eating. While we certainly do not feel compelled to tell other people what to eat, we do feel strongly about the importance of healthy eating (of any kind). In the spirit of that, we thought we'd share the snippets below more widely. 
Here's some stuff to get started on:  (or any of the Moosewood cookbooks. Moosewood is a famous vegetarian restaraunt in Maine)

A couple of things to focus on:

1) Learn how to cook grains (brown and wild rice, spelt, millet, quinoa) and beans and integrate them into your cooking. Learn how to flavor your food with spices, peppers, onions, garlic, sauces and marinades (rather than salt, butter and fat).
2) Learn how to make your own pie shells (so that you can make veggie pot pies - you can put all sorts of stuff in pie shells).
3) Lean how to cook and use squash (butternut is the best to start with) in your cooking. You can buy this in the freezer section if you don't want to process fresh squash. Pureed squash is sweet and makes a great "matrix" for burritos and pot pies.
4) Ethnic foods such as Mexican and Indian lend themselves better to vegetarian eating than do the traditional american "home cooking". For example, you can make a huge batch of beans/rice/cheese-based filling for burritos, pre-roll and freeze a bunch and then just bake them when needed. You could also just buy bean burritos but they won't be as good as home made.
5) Your likelihood of success at any kind of healthy eating is greater if you cook your own food and greatest if you also enjoy cooking your own food. Quality over quantity (in both your ingredients and your portions sizes) will go a long way to helping you to dispel the myth that quality food "costs" more.
6) Share your passion for healthy eating with others. Hang around people who share your passion for health.
7) Experiment wildly with your cooking. What have you got to lose?
8) Have fun when you cook. Eat slowly. Share meals with others.
9) Look for quality ingredients at food co-ops, Whole Foods stores or the organic/health food sections of major grocery chains. Buy organic food and ingredients as much as possible. If buying quality food seems "expensive" then don't eat out and use the savings from that to "subsidize" your new found habit of supporting sanity in agriculture. Soon you will realize that this "subsidy" is really just paying the true cost of healthful food.
10) Spread the word about how good you feel (physically, emotionally, spirtually) since you've reclaimed your palate and energized your mind and body with GOOD FOOD!

Transitioning to a plant and grain-based (yes, we eat eggs and dairy but as condiments, proportionally) diet is one of the most life-changing things we've come across. Give it a go, be patient, be open, have fun!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Making Watches? Never!

I may have mentioned this in previous posts but it bears repeating, as it's a life-altering concept. One time my brother and I were working on a project that certainly did not warrant the level of perfection that I (at that time) was requiring. He grabbed whatever it was out of my hands and said, "we ain't makin' watches!". The point being that watchmaking requires extreme attention to detail while many, many, many other things do not.

Here's a more recent example:

This old table was used and abused and left behind in our basement...

...but it has a solid frame and some excellent natural paint patterns, so....

...why not use the originally-elaborate top with folding leaves and....

 ...with some scrap oak, cut some strips to...

 ...span the misc. top boards and...

...fasten them down to...

...create a new top (this new top will not have folding leaves nor the associated moving parts and complexity - but retains and highlights its "distressed" appearance)...

Now, just to attach the top by...

...driving some long screws into the...

....frame. I carefully measured the spacing on the scraps that span and combine the top boards into one piece. Why? Because, in so doing, I eliminated unwieldy measurements to evenly distribute the top with respect to the base. In other words, the properly-spaced scraps dictated the position of the top on the base w/o additional measuring.

Prior to my brother's "we ain't makin' watches" lesson, this sort of project would have involved a complete dis-assembly, re-gluing and clamping of the joints in both the base and the top (then an overnight delay for the glue to set), stripping of paint, sanding, staining, get the idea.

Under the "we ain't makin' watches" framework, this project took about 2 hours!

Check out that cracked paint! Rich people would stumble all over each other for a chance at this thing, were it in a fancy shop.

 The best part is that this project is complete and ready to use (and it didn't cost a single penny). If you have a propensity for hand-wringing over "the details", feel free to try the "we ain't makin' watches approach" - if you try it on a project that you've scrounged for free, then you've got nothing to lose (and productivity to gain).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Entertainment Center Still Captivating

Our Multi-Media Entertainment Center is still doing the trick:

Now we just need to paint the walls a vibrant color (just got the paint tonight) and we will be set until spring when we will shift to our outdoor multi-media center!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What To Do When You Can't Sleep: The Little Shop Of Colors.

 This morning I (Steve) woke up at 5AM and knew that there was no going back to sleep (even though it was the weekend and I should have been able to sleep in!). What the heck, I got up, brewed some coffee, ate some cereal and headed out to the one-car-garage-disaster-area that, this AM, was my shop-in-progress.

Here's what was I was facing - everything piled in the middle so that the walls could be insulated, sheeted, primed and painted.  I'd already completed the first 3 tasks over the past week but the finish painting remained so I took a deep breath, fired up the kerosene heaters and got after it.

I used a combination of colorful paints that we'd used in our kitchen and dining room. While living in New Mexico we became captivated by the fiesta of colors that is commonplace and we've been inspired ever since.  This project, being a creative space, was very much in need of the energy that colors can bring.

Here's two walls...the place is still a mess but more colorful and, given that, I was excited to get this shop up and running. More paint and quite a few hours of organization later and....'s the very same wall that is shown in the first photo in this post. To the left is my indoor stockpile of reclaimed wood nicely organized on a rack that I'd build from "junk" that was left behind by the previous peeps. To the right are a few old saws that I find interesting and inspiring (3 of them were pulled out of junk piles here and there). The big one is a gift from Jennifer.They all still cut just fine too!

 Here's a shot of the opposite wall - same yellow but a nice deep red for contrast. I made the workbench along the wall from wood that I pulled out of the trash when we lived in Grove City (trash day was always a bonus there). The metal cabinets and some of the other racks were purchased (thought I'd better chip in and do my part to boost the consumer economy since black Friday and cyber Monday have seemingly "failed" us).

I found this little gem in a junk pile in another scenario and screwed it to the wall for fun and to store small things and maybe a first aid kit (got all ten fingers still but one never knows....). That cracked paint is NOT faux, believe it or not!

Finally got to put up the Audubon bird call clock that my brother got for us several holidays ago. Yeah, that's 6PM, same day (I was going on a 12+hour day).

 Here it is, pretty much ready to go for woodworking and maybe some metalsmithing.

A recording of a particularly heavy set by Umphrey's McGee helped me kick this project's butt, and I must give a headbangers seal of approval for their version of Dr. Feelgood. Additional thanks for inspiration go to Jennifer and The Land of Enchantment!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Case #1 - 2012: Northern Cardinal

New Year's Day brought an injured male northern cardinal to our feeders.  He attracted our attention because the other males kept jumping at him trying to get him to leave, but he would just pitch forward and try to balance again with his wings.  We let him go for a few hours as we went on a hike knowing it's generally best to leave wildlife alone and figuring he may have struck a window and needed time to recover, but alas when we returned he was pummeled by the crazy wind and blown into a hole where we dug up our septic tank lids.

The little dude was mostly immobile so we decided to try to help. 

There's a great wildlife hospital on the north side of Columbus so off we went. 

Upon arrival the cardinal was still quite alert and after a bit of his fear wore off began to eat some seed.  When I left the doctors were inserting tubes to feed him intravenously due to his as yet unexplained "extreme emaciation."  The cardinal was the first case for 2012 so he's a bit special to everyone I think.

Thinking good thoughts for the little bird!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Getting A Good Jumpstart on a Great 2012

Premonitions, signs...whatever you want to call those feelings that are available to us regarding the future...we've recently had a couple of clear ones that predict a great 2012 here on 3.5 acres in Morrow County, OH.

First, we visited our local USDA Service Center (epicenter of The Farm Bill) and were whisked through the process of registering our property as a farm!!!

Here's an aerial showing our place (yellow rectangle in the center) amidst a rural mix of agricultural and woodlands. There's a lot more forest around here than where we are from and we love that.

Zoom in and you will notice several polygons. The north polygon is what we've designated "pasture" while the south polygon contain our buildings, our yard/wildlife habitat, our garden and our orchard.

Around this same time we found the below note tucked in a Christmas card in our mailbox. Apparently, someone had been driving by who still had some emotional ties/memories of the place and was happy to see it being LOVED again:

When you are coming off a year of cleaning up other people's trash and a series of projects just to get a place back to live-able, it's nice to have a couple of pats on the back like this.

Here's to a quick jumpstart on a great 2012 to ALL OF YOU!!!