At 13, I started going away each summer to sleepaway camp in Maine and the spark for summer adventure was lit. Summer camp became my passion in life and what kept me going through what I always felt were boring winters on Cape Cod. After 4 summers in Maine I moved on to New Hampshire then Pennsylvania then New York. After college, which was already nearly 1000 miles away from home in North Carolina, I moved to California. I spent each summer for a decade at camp! After a year in CA, I landed here in Wisconsin at the beginning of last summer and experienced my first season without camp. I told myself it was okay because I was in a new place and learning things so it was kind of like being a camper again. When summer started this year I didn’t pack a duffle and head out the door for the first time– instead I stayed put and found adventure right here at home. I had brilliant climbing days, swam in beautiful lakes, biked everywhere I could, grew three fantastic gardens, hiked exciting new trails, grew closer with my partner, made new friends, and took/taught more classes with Driftless Folk School. At one point I even attended a talent show show in town that felt straight out of summer camp. While at first I felt restless, I am now appreciative to have spent the summer here in the Driftless learning about myself, my community, and this beautiful area.
Posts Tagged With: folk school
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!
This weekend Jamie and I went to the North Central Biodynamics Gathering and since then my mind has been buzzing with dreams for the future. The gathering itself was really interesting. I got to hang out with a Warren Wilson person I hadn’t seen since graduation and there was a lot of good food for thought– and my tummy. Biodynamics is still quite mystical to me. I don’t fully understand what it is or how it works and the gathering definitely wasn’t set up to explain any of that– it was more philosophical. In California I used Biodynamic preps for compost starter and compost tea but until I do some serious research it is going to be mystery. Below is a picture of me stirring some compost starter and water in summer 2010. I affectionately called it poop soup. It made our compost piles shrink a lot faster than the piles we didn’t add it to. Magic! One thing I did like about the gathering was listening to Craig Holdredge speak about Goetheian observation and how we can relate it to agriculture.
Going to gatherings and conferences like this one always leave me wanting more. I love the community feel and all the gained friends and connections. Jamie and I are currently on the look out for some land and a house to rent so that we can grow a whole bunch of food, raise chickens, and hold folk school classes. We have both done a bunch of farm, garden, and homestead like internships and apprenticeships and we know we don’t want another one but finding a decent place that is affordable is tricky. Plus since I don’t drive I would prefer to be within biking distance to town. Living in town generally means more expensive house with less land but close to all the action and community activities. Living out of town means more land, possibly less expensive, less towny noise, and most likely transportation issues. I dream of having a tiny CSA or at least a farmers market booth but is that a dream for this year? Do we have enough money? I feel an urgency when I think about all this. And not just because I have to move out of my cabin soon. It just feels like the time is now and I am ready. Anyone out there in internet land know of a good place in or around Viroqua?
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!
After saying that I would update more frequently I promptly left home and didn’t update. Sorry folks!
What I’ve been up to:
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!
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.
Making cheese is easy. For real. It’s time intensive and requires some things that you have to buy but it is so much easier than I thought it would be. Someday I will have my own milking animals and homemade cheese/butter will be an everday part of my life. Yummm!
Since taking the class I have become decently obsessed with pickling and canning. I have pickled garlic scapes, green beans, and beets so far. I love it. It’s easy and fun and makes for a nutritious snack later on. Here are some pictures:
Yesterday I took a pickling class with the Folk School. We pickled carrots, garlic scapes, and green beans!
More to come later!
Portable Brick Oven and Earthen Oven Building!
Last weekend I took two oven building classes and my mind if all a buzz with dreams of building my own someday. Both classes were full day, hands on, and we left having actually built an oven. See pictures below:
The first class was on Saturday out in Soldier’s Grove at the house of a now good friend of the Folk School. There were about 10 of us in the class with some people coming from several hours away! We started with a palette of firebricks, some insulating bricks, cinderblocks, and some leveling sand and in an hour we had a functioning and really attractive brick oven! The teacher asked that I not share pictures of the oven design online so you’ll just have to trust me that it was really neat looking and that the process of building it really didn’t take too long at all. After we built the over we lit a fire and then had a baking class. Once the oven was hot enough we pulled the fire out and bake some naan, pitas, and… ::drum roll:: PIZZA! They took no time to bake and were quite delicious. I can imagine it would be amazing having one of these in your backyard where you can light a fire in the afternoon, gather all your veggies from the garden, make some dough, and have pizza for dinner. The question on everyone’s mind—why is it called a portable brick oven—has such a simple answer that it didn’t occur to me. Of course the oven isn’t portable but the bricks certainly are because there is no mortar involved so it can be relocated, rebuilt, and redesigned to the owners delight!
The earthen oven class, in my opinion, was a lot more fun because we got super dirty and used mostly natural and local materials. Because it is such a popular class it filled on Sunday and another section was opened on Monday so that all the work/studys (and our new friend Randy!) could take the class as well. Class was held at the farm where two of the work/studys are living which is nice because it is a cool way of giving back to the community that supports us because they’ll have the oven for years to come. It’s not totally free for them but it sure beats using the woodstove inside to bake on a hot summer day so it’s definitely worth it! To make an earthen oven all you need is clay, straw, sand, some fire bricks, water, tarps, and nice level (preferable raised) place to put it. The bricks are really the only thing that cost money and I’m sure there are ways of getting around that! I won’t explain the whole process because I wouldn’t be able to do it any justice but I highly recommend building an earthen ANYTHING someday. It’s really fun to mix the materials with your feet and it’s definitely a great activity to do with kids. I dream of using natural building materials to build my house in the future and the folk school is making that dream feel more and more attainable.