Posts Tagged With: driftless folk school

Salsa Making Class

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What is the point of knowing a skill and keeping it all to yourself?  Today I taught a salsa making class for the Driftless Folk School and it was a blast and a half.  Though the class only had 2 students, a couple from Madison area, we managed to make two kinds of salsa and a chutney—that may not seem like a lot but with all the processing we had to do it took all day!

Because it was a class not a personal canning project I decided to use recipes rather than just wing it like I usually do.  Tomato canning can be scary because of botulism fears so when in doubt always follow a recipe.  I’ve been experimenting lately with different kinds of tomatoes and acids.  The tomatoes I used in my class were a mixture of heirlooms from our garden, some Amish paste from actual Amish people, and a neat little variety from the farmers market that originated in Iraq.  Combined they created a super flavorful and powerful blend.  For acid we used white vinegar simply because it was the cheapest thing to buy for class.  I’ve been putting lemon juice into some of my home creations and it is definitely noticeable when you are eating it later so I recommend using it for spaghetti sauces because it adds a cool dimension that seems fancy and purposeful.

Overall I think think my class was a success.  I wish more people had been there but there is always next time.  I love teaching and I love canning and I love eating salsa so today was a great day for Annie!

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Illinois Adventure

On the road again!  Jamie and I went on another Driftless Folk School sponsored adventure this week—Oregon, Illinois for the Oregon Renewable Energy Fair.  The fair itself was kind of a bust because the attendance was so low but we enjoyed exploring the area.  Our first night there we went our to Dekalb for dinner because we saw they had a food co-op and figured that would mean other cool things as well.  We were most impressed with their beautiful artwork all around town.  One mural was particularly stunning and I couldn’t help being a tourist and taking a bunch of pictures.  Since the Kickapoo Country Fair, Jamie and I have been on a gluten free diet to see if it helps us out at all so finding a good place to eat was difficult.  We finally settled on a cool looking coffee shop where they served us the most delicious PESTO nachos! On the way home (we skipped out early) we stopped in Galena as suggested by our friend Jacob.  The town has an amazing downtown with loads and loads of fancy little shops.  We went to one place that sold canned goods where you could sample everything before buying it.  Naturally Jamie and I went around trying all the different jams, salsas, spreads, etc and took some mental notes on things we could make and can ourselves.

Special Note: Look closely at the sunset picture and you will see something unusual.  The Renewable Energy fair was in the shadow of a nuclear power plant—eeks!

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Four Months Later…

4 months.  That’s how long it has been since I last posted.  As I completed another round of folk school catalog design this week and went to delete “Annie writes a blog called Drift Less, Learn More” from my bio, I decided to instead actually take up writing again. As there is no way I could possibly write an update on everything I have done in the past 4 months, here is a “brief” slideshow of events instead.  Enjoy and come back soon for more updates!

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Where have I been?

In November I moved off the farm and into a cabin in the woods on the opposite side of town for the winter.  The cabin is one room, small (12′  x 17′) and about 6 miles from Viroqua on 5 acres of wooded ridge land.  My water comes from a well pump about 100 feet from my door and my bathroom is an outhouse about 20 feet away. Despite not having water, I have electricity, wireless internet, and a landline.  My heat comes from  beautiful and efficient woodstove and my food is cooked on the gas stove.  It’s a pretty sweet deal.

After my work/study position ended with the Drifltess Folk School I applied for and got the job of Administrative Coordinator.  For now it means that I am in charge of registrations and publicity and this summer I will also be coordinating the work/study program.  Sometimes it is stressful but in general it has been a ton of fun.  We are currently seeking new instructors for our upcoming catalog so if you are reading this and have some skills you want to teach then let me know.  I plan on teach a couple classes myself this time!

Besides folk school stuff I have also been teaching chemistry to juniors at the local waldorf high school.  The experience has been very eye opening.  I went from knowing very little about Chemistry to feeling like I have been teaching it for years!  I would love to teach an ecology, humanities, or outdoor class with them but for now Chemistry is excellent.  Next week is my final week teaching and the students are giving presentations.  They made me promise that we would have at least one explosion and one baking day.

In my free time I have been embroidering gnomes, drinking copious amounts of tea, eating my pickled goodies from the summer, spending hours at the food co-op and/or cafe, hanging out with friends, and baking lots and lots of bread.  I have also been doing a lot of pleasure reading and garden dreaming/planning.

My time in the cabin is up the first week in late March and I am currently on the hunt for my next place to live. I want it to be close to town but with enough space to hold some folk school classes, have a large vegetable garden, and have chickens. Where  I am now I rely a lot on my neighbors to drive me into town and for my next place I want to be within biking distance.  Money is tight but maybe I can throw in a box of vegetables and eggs for rent reduction!

Now that I have filled in some of the blanks on what has been happening in my life, I plan to continue updating regularly about my adventures in rural living. Enjoy!


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A Tribute to Dan

When I first arrived here in early June, I had no idea that I would still be here in January.  As a lover of post-grad internship hopping I have been traveling around the country taking various jobs for a while now.  I assumed I would finish my work/study position and move on to my next place.   The beauty of the rolling hills, the amazing kindness of the people, and progressive attitude towards organic and regenerative agriculture have me hooked on the Drifless Region.  This week has been a hard one for me and for the community but if nothing else has cemented in my brain that I am meant to stick around here for a while longer.

On Wednesday morning a dear friend of mine, Dan Peper, passed away.  Dan was one of the first people in this community to reach out to me with kindness and I already sincerely miss him.  My first full day in Wisconsin was spent at Dan’s woodshop learning how to timber frame and creating a beautiful facade to go over the Driftless Folk School booth at conferences and fairs.  I was struck by his gentleness and patience that day as he taught me how to use a shaving horse, chisel, and sharpening stones.  He didn’t care if the project took us months or if it never got finshed– what he truly cared about was that we were having fun and learning useful skills. I remember going out to lunch with Dan and  work/studys that day and how excited he was to introduce us to people.  Dan was a great community organizer and had so many brilliant skills that he loved sharing. He dreamed of starting an intentional community and said on more than one occasion that my partner and I could come stay with him if we were ever in a bind.

Dan was an amazing man.  For the last few weeks there was scarcely a day that I didn’t spend at least an hour sitting with him at the food co-op talking about the folk school, his horses, intentional communities, and our dreams for the future.  I had a joke that when I was stranded in town I could always find Dan and he’d give me a ride home– which he did on two occasions even though he had other places to be.  Dan believed that our future depends on community and cooperation and really walked the walk, letting others stay in his home and getting involved in transition town conversations.  When Occupy Wall Street first started up Dan went to New York to show his support.  I’ll never forget how he came to my birthday party when I didn’t have many friends here. His absence is being felt all over town  because Dan was a true friend to one and all.  He was genuine, hilarious, and full of light.  I feel blessed and inspired by our friendship and lucky I got to eat lunch with him on his final day with us.

So here’s to you, Dan.  I love you and learned so much from you. Thank you for being my friend.

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Early American Knives!

Before coming here whenever I would show someone the Driftless Folk School website the thing people were most excited about was always blacksmithing. “Oh you NEED to take that class” “Wow they offer blacksmithing?” “I can’t wait to hear about blacksmithing”

Well friends, it was awesome.

Our class was 2 days long and held at Robert (one of the Folk School founders)’s homestead out in Hillsboro. He has 5 forges so though some of us had to share there was plenty of space for all of us.  Robert is an amazing teacher and gave us the instructions in a way that it was really easy for us all to go at our own pace while still feeling supported.

The first day was spent forging out the blade from a steel rod (I’m sure there’s a fancier word but I just don’t know it!) and believe me there is a lot more involved than it sounds.  I’ve never done any metal work before so at first it was a little intimidating. The steel needs to be heated until it is a bright yellow/orange before it can be worked with and with the hot coal forges it takes a lot quicker than I thought. After a couple hours a heating, hammering, heating, hammering, heating, and hammering– first to flatten the metal then to shape the blade and tang– I had someone this resembled a knife blade!

The next day I did more heating and hammering until it was exactly how I wanted it.  Then I filed it to the perfect shape and buffed out some of the blackness (I wanted to keep some so it looked rustic though most of the people in the class left with a smooth silver knife). I then heat treated and hardened it. My handle was made from a white tailed deer antler. It was cut down to the size I wanted it and then I had to hollow out the inside enough to fit the tang inside.  A hole was then drilled in both the handle and the tang and I drove a peg though the holes and hammered it down so they would stay together.  A metal was then poured on it for the fitting to keep the neck and blade together.  After a little more filing it was done!  All this took about 12 hours. There are so many details that I didn’t explain here and a real blacksmith person would probably laugh at me for this explanation.

All and all I really loved the class.  I learned a ton and found working with a forge to be super empowering.  If you ever have the chance I definitely recommend taking a forge class!

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Northwoods and Knives

After saying that I would update more frequently I promptly left home and didn’t update. Sorry folks!

What I’ve been up to:
Northwoods Vacation!
Jamie and I took a trip up to Superior country for a few days. It was wonderful.  The lake and surrounding area are gorgeous. I really enjoyed seeing Ashland and Northland College as I had thought about going there way back when during college application times in high school. One night when we were camping I heard some crazy wildlife that I am unfamiliar with and haven’t been able to identify.  I also heard WOLVES!

What Cheer? Brigade!
On Friday night the What Cheer? Brigade took our little town by storm and it was a dance party extravaganza never to be forgotten. Pretty much everyone I knew or have ever seen in town was there and dancing and having a blast.  Not many bands come to Viroqua and it was great to see everyone out and having fun!  I love this community!

Early American Knives!
A full update with photos will follow this but let me just say that I made a knife and its awesome! I’ve never done any blacksmithing or forge work before and I really loved it!  More later.

We recently got a half bushel of peaches and I have been preserving them in various ways all day.  I have some peach rings and fruit leather in the dehydrator right now and I am mid-canning some in a light syrup. Unfortunately the propane tank ran out and I must wait for the new one to get here this evening until I can finish!

We harvested the garlic a couple weeks ago, tied it, hung it in the barn to dry, and yesterday I cut it down, cleaned it, and prepared it for storage! It’s fun to see the whole process and it smells oh so yummy!

More to come and don’t worry, there will be pictures!

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Happy August!

Growing out of some old compost are a ton of volunteer squashes.  To celebrate the beginning of August I harvested a pumpkin and made a special Jack-o-lantern!

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Kickapoo Country Fair!

This weekend was the Kickapoo Country Fair sponsored by Organic Valley and held at their headquarters in La Farge.  The Folk School had a booth where we unveiled our brand new catalog and met lots of fun people that will hopefully come take classes.  Highlights of the fair for me included: camping out the night before, eating maple sugar cotton candy, seeing friends from previous folk school classes, eating lots of yummy dairy products, volunteering in the kids tent, and watching the CEO of Organic Valley speak.  George is a personal acquaintance of mine so it was cool to see him talk about the business and I really enjoyed all he had to say.  I love this community!

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New Catalogue!

Life here is all about learning and this week I decided to take my skills to a place where I didn’t think I would go with the folk school—the computer.  After a very full 8 hour day working on the new catalog with the rest of the work/studys I decided that I would step up and volunteer to finish the project of my own.  At some point it just felt silly to have everyone working on it when we only had one computer with the design program. 60+ work hours later, the catalog is finally finished and I can breathe easy.  In creating the catalog I learned two valuable skills that I can honestly say I didn’t have before starting the project—using a Mac and using InDesign.  Through this process I have learned that I am way more of a perfectionist than I ever claim to be, I am capable of living on little sleep and lots of caffeine even without the college environment, La Crosse is a great place to get stuff done, and I have a great support system here.  Mad props to the other work/studys and several board members for calling around and gathering/creating sweet artwork.   Even more gratitude and awe goes out to Jacob for compiling and writing all the class descriptions and teacher bios.  Also props to Jamie for designing a beautiful cover, finding lots of great artwork, doing the final touches and supporting me like no other.

You can find the new catalog here.


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