Scenes from (Early) Spring

It’s starting to feel more and more like Spring on the farm!

…And it’s starting to feel more and more like we actually live on a farm!

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Maple production has continued.  We finished our 3rd batch this past weekend and it was the best one yet.  This week we’re in the midst of the fastest rushing sap we’ve seen so there will be at least a 4th (and probably a 5th) installment of our syrup!

We’ve tried boiling the sap down a number of ways – a grill, a rocket stove, and this last time we used a portable electric cooktop that we placed outside.

I think the rocket stove was the most fun, but we had a hard time keeping the sap boiling and it took a lot longer than it should have (like, 10 hours!).  We finished the last bit of sap on the kitchen stove and ended up with a decent amount of syrup.

The electric cooktop definitely won the contest for the most efficient way to boil down the amount of sap we collected. Continue reading

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A Visit to Quiet Creek Herb Farm

A couple weekends ago we made a trek across Pennsylvania to attend the Mid-Atlantic Women’s Herbal Conference. It was inspiring to be in the company of so many like-minded women and I was especially grateful to finally meet one of my favorite herbal mentors, Rosemary Gladstar.  I’ve been an online student of hers for some time, but hearing her speak in person really reaffirmed how wonderful it is to call her one of my teachers.

She has an amazing way of synthesizing the big picture on the interrelatedness of herbs, health, happiness, and our connection with nature into an easily accessible and moving message.  I hope I can be like her when I grow up!

On our way home, we planned to spend several days in the Western part of Pennsylvania visiting old growth trees in Cook Forest.  Serendipitously, as we traveled along the road to our lodge we passed a sign for “Quiet Creek Herb Farm”. Continue reading

First Cob of the Season

There’s nothing quite like sinking your toes into cob for the first time in the summer (or the first time in your life!).

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There’s something about cob that draws people to it like insects to glowing lamp lights.  We hover around it, watch it with amazement, and can’t help ourselves but to dive right in. Continue reading

Adventures in Natural Building: Strawbale Studio

Walking into Deanne Bednar’s Strawbale Studio in Oxford, Michigan is like walking into the future…or maybe the past.  Either way, it is at the same time homelike as it is ethereal and dreamy.  It is a wonderful, welcoming space in which to find oneself.

Here, you are immediately immersed in a more nature-based state of living: jars of herbs, kombucha, and kefir line the counters, whittling projects lie about the room, and natural trinkets like spiraling wood, herb bundles, and dried flowers can be found in every corner and adorning the walls.

What is more unique to those unfamiliar with natural building techniques are the wonderful Earthen plasters that soften edges, relax the eyes, and bring the outdoors into the home.  Continue reading

Experimental Earthen Painting

I don’t know anything that draws as many people from different backgrounds, generations, and skill sets as permaculture.  People from all walks of life are waking up to realize that our current culture is destructive and unsustainable.  It’s wonderful to be in presence of people who are interested in and excited about creating the alternatives!

Yesterday, I had another opportunity to be in a group of peraculture-type people as we met to play around with Earth-based painting techniques.  We were working in a gorgeous old apartment building built in the early 1900s.  Through years of wear and tear, some of the units are in better shape than others, and we were practicing in one that is being completely redone.

So why were we playing around with Earth-based painting?  Continue reading

Straw Bale House in the City

Humans have been creating homes out of the Earth for as long as we’ve existed.  It’s only recently that we’ve been building structures out of synthetic materials that may emit hazardous chemicals into our living spaces, and have consistently increased the size of the homes that we live in so that we must import materials from other regions and use massive amounts of fossil fuels in their construction. Continue reading