How to Make Liquid Castille Soap

I love liquid soap and I can’t stand bar soap (It’s icky sticky and yuck!).  The problem is that you can get great quality bar soap for a fraction of its liquid counterpart.  I’ve experimented before with making liquid soap with little success.  I finally found a recipe that is equal or better to any liquid soap out there.  Silver Fir Farms is a soap maker and over a year ago she was sweet enough to not only share her recipe for liquid castile soap but couple it with an instructional video. Get her recipe here and watch her video below: » » »

Yarn Bombing

I love graffiti.  (I’m not a fan of tagging though.)  I like the idea that you wake up one morning and chaos has ensued on a wall. Pretty, interesting, chaos.  Gone is the plain block wall replaced by art that says something left by someone you probably don’t know.  I  wish one day it would happen to the outside wall of my studio.

In the universe of graffiti there is something out there called ‘yarn bombing’.  It’s a form mostly lead by women.  The bomber knits or crochets over public objects typically in the dead of night.   I love the fact that women have found a unique voice in the graffiti world.  It tends to be colorful and soft but explodes out of the landscape.  You can’t can’t notice it!

I knew yarn bombing had hit the big time when I came across this ad in last months ‘People’ magazine…

Tampax ad starring Ishknits

Tampax ad starring Ishknits

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How to Make Your Own Shingles

Almost exactly a year ago my sister Heidi, her boyfriend Alan and his daughter Ellen came out to visit.  Never ones to miss an opportunity to advance a building project we put Alan to work helping to put a roof on what was just a papercrete ring at the time.  It was a big push and as they left, I promised that I would finish covering the roof so that all our hard work wouldn’t be in vain.  Alan, it turns out, isn’t one to let an opportunity to go by either.  In the past year he managed to finagle Heidi into agreeing to marry him and produce an exact replica of himself.

Alan and Gordon

Congratulations on the cloning efforts guys!

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Fresh Poultry

We are deep into our chicken season and it seems like there is a chicken at every turn.  This year we decided to raise and process 200 chickens.  Hmmm, what to do with almost 200 chickens?!  That is the question.  For now we are going with the ‘if we build it they will come’ attitude.

Mike:  Yep, cause’ that has worked so well for us before!

Molly:  Alright, we are out at the Farmers Market in Eldorado on Fridays through June and a new totally awesome market on your way out to Las Campanas at the wine store. 

We started this a few years ago to see what it was like to raise our own food.

Molly:  Having raised chickens for eggs for over a decade I wanted to challenge myself.  When I researched how chickens are raised for food my eyes were opened to the great wide world of the industrial poultry business.  I just could not see being a chicken farmer using these industrial techniques where the conditions seem awful and disease was a huge issue.  Right away I read everything I could get my hands on small scale chicken farming.  This education sent me to the conclusion that I would raise my own chicken using these guidelines:

  • Chickens raised in the outdoors
  • No pesticides
  • No meat by-products
  • No antibiotics or drugs
  • No growth enhancers
  • No hormones
Cornish XCross about 5 weeks old

Cornish XCross about 5 weeks old

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The Great Compost Shuffle

Around here if it rots it goes into the compost pile.  That includes chicken parts when we’re processing the meat chickens.  Hold on! All the gardening books insist that you can’t compost meat.  Well, you can.  Everything rots and given enough time and the proper conditions it turns into nice black humus.  Nature is very efficient and you can really see it in action in a compost pile.  We let our chicken compost go for two years so that the microbes have a nice long time to do their work.  In the end, aside from an occasional bone, we end up with great compost.

There is a caveat though.  Chicken guts don’t smell the best for the first couple of weeks as they are rotting.  In fact (big surprise) rotting chicken guts are really smelly!  We do our best to minimize the smell mixing lots of straw and other high carbon materials in to help combine with the nitrogen rich chicken parts.  After the first couple weeks the smell dies down but as we’ve increased our batches of chickens from 25 to 50 though it’s gotten pretty stinky around the compost piles.

Old compost piles » » »

Strawbale Gardening

I came across strawbale gardening last year but it was too late in the season to try it so it went on the back burner and waited for this year.  The idea is simple.  Put some dirt (about4″) on top of a straw bale, stick a plant in it and let it grow.  The dirt supplies the nutrients and the strawbale acts as a giant sponge holding and supplying water.  It also breaks down over the course of the season and supplies some nutrients as well.  Supposedly you can get two seasons out of a bale.  When it is spent you just compost it!

Strawbales » » »

Papercrete Greenhouse Phase 4

Last weekend we held a papercrete making workshop. It was divided into two parts. The first half we cast some blocks and the second half we added to the walls we started last year.  The weather was perfect and we had a great time. About 10 people showed up.

Mike: I had no idea how many people we would have, whether it would be 5 or 55…

Molly: 10 was a great amount.  Not so many we were overwhelmed and not so few that we felt like the workshop had no draw.

I have to admit there was a Tom Sawyer aspect to this class.  It worked out quite well.  Everyone got to try stacking blocks while I kept them supplied with mortar and advice.  We got the rest of the walls completed in a couple hours!  The first half took us most of a day.

Molly: It felt great to make a big push on the greenhouse project.

Mike: What should we teach next?  How to cover a yurt roof?

Molly: YUP!!!! » » »

Papercrete Greenhouse Workshop

This Saturday, May 5th, we’re putting on a papercrete greenhouse building workshop In conjunction with Homegrown New Mexico.  If you’re thinking paper whodiewaha?  Check out these posts on papercrete where I go over what it is, how to make papercrete blocks and how to make your own papercrete mixer.

The greenhouse has been a work in progress for the past three four years.  Every year around plant starting time I’m kicking myself for not finishing it.  I’ll bet we get a bunch done this weekend though.  Hopefully the momentum will carry forward and the greenhouse will get finished this year. » » »

Spring Fever = Terracing

Every year around this time I seem to get waylaid by projects I wasn’t expecting.  This year it started innocently enough.  It was high time to deal with the north side of the yard.  We had some terraced garden beds that had always been neglected.  They had a few hardy succulents hanging on from the last owner but mostly just collected leaves.

North side bed

This bed extended almost all the way to the fence.  It was impossible to get through with a wheelbarrow. » » »

How to Make a Dirt Sifter

After putting up the post on making raised beds I realized I should probably go a little more in-depth on the dirt sifter since it’s a vital part of my gardening routine.  If your dirt is in need of as much amendment as mine you’ll be doing a fair amount of sifting too.  If not, well lucky you.

My sifter was scrapped together in an afternoon.  Even though it’s not real easy on the eye it functions quite well.  I’ve put thousands of pounds of dirt through it and it’s still holding up.

The Base

Sifter Base » » »