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: » » »

Jasmine Chicken Stir Fry

Dinner, it just keeps coming up…  We (Mike) cook (pretty much) every night.  It can be tough to come up with something nutritious and fast each evening.  One of our standbys is stir fry.

Mike: The best part is that no matter what you have in the fridge you can always work it together into a stir fry.

Molly:  Who doesn’t love stir fry?  Especially on jasmine rice!

Mike: That’s right!  Because it wouldn’t be Jasmine Chicken Stir Fry if it wasn’t on jasmine rice..  Seriously though, jasmine rice is a great rice to serve with stir fry.  It’s a long grain, aromatic rice originally from Thailand.  If you haven’t tried it you should.

This recipe is just based on what happened to be on hand tonight. » » »

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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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 » » »

‘The’ Chocolate Cupcake of Chocolate Cupcakes

I think one thing I make clear around here is that I am a lover of  baked goods.  My second love is chocolate.  That said, I don’t eat cake all that much. It’s a little to heavy for me so I hold eating cake to special occassions.  I’m a cake snob; I will pass over a cheap grocery store sheet cake at a graduation event.  I do this with ice cream too.

Mike: Not me, I can’t help it.  Even when I know it will be bad I’m still lining up for a piece of crappy cake.  It’s been happening a lot lately as we reach the end of the school year.

I love making cupcakes.  They are just a small piece of cake.  I can make a batch and toss them in the freezer (yes, icing and all) and have one when I get a hankering.  My all time favorite cupcake is this recipe I came across in America’s Test Kitchen years ago and have been tinkering with ever since.  The cake is moist and doesn’t crumble.  When you take a bite the frosting is light and fluffy then suddenly you discover a dense chocolaty surprise of a spot of ganache in the middle.  You don’t eat this cupcake, you experience it!

A chocola-tie experience!

A chocola-tie experience!

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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. » » »

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 » » »

Homemade Coffee Burr Grinder

I’m on a quest for better coffee in our lives.  One of the victims of our austerity measures has been premium coffee.  First we stopped buying from the local shop that roasts their own beans and switched to Trader Joe’s coffee.  It was a little cheaper and a step down in quality but tolerable.

After the next set of cutbacks we switched to bulk coffee from a NM roaster that was being sold at Sam’s Club.  The price was much better but you had to buy 3 lb bags of the stuff.  The lower quality of the beans was obvious so I mixed it with some of the Trader Joe’s to help the flavor.

The next go-round I figured “What the hell? We’ve come this far down the road…” I squeezed that last bit of room out of the coffee budget and bought Sam’s Club Brand Coffee.  It’s not very good….at all.

Molly:  OK mister, I may have Scottish genes but I’ve got to drink this stuff in the morning.  Can’t we do any better?

Mike: Hey! I’m doing my best with what I have to work with.

Molly: Really? No coffee improving robots or anything??

Mike: Well, now that you mention it… » » »