Posts Tagged With: sustainable living

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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Biodynamics gathering afterthoughts

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?


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Right now we are in peak harvest time for tomatoes and my goddess to we ever have a glut of these beauties!  This morning I got to use the food mill for the first time to make tomato sauce. We have a beautiful hand crank mill and it works like a dream.  I was finding that I didn’t like how watery it was when I was using the attachment for making sauce so I decided to use the one for salsa. It has bigger holes so you get a slightly chunkier sauce.  It looks great! We have also been making salsas and soups with the tomatoes.

Last summer the farm had a late blight and they didn’t get as big of a harvest as this year.  The main differences in care have been tying the plants, periodic fertilizing with some manure water from our horses on the roots, and more regular watering.  It certainly would seem that all the hard work paid off.

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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!

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Pickling– a teaser!



Yesterday I took a pickling class with the Folk School.  We pickled carrots, garlic scapes, and green beans!

More to come later!

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I have always really liked store-bought kombucha but always had pretty funky luck with kombucha made by my friends so I decided to make some on my own starting with a bottle of store bought.  I followed these instructions and so far it seems to be growing wonderfully.  It’s going rather slowly, probably because the cabinet where I am keeping it isn’t very warm, but each day it looks a little bit better!  I can’t wait until it’s ready to drink!

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Oven Building!

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.

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Midwest Renewable Energy Fair

Each year just outside of Stevens Point, WI is a massive renewable energy fair.  The name is kind of misleading as it’s not entirely about renewable energy or even mostly about it.  If I could rename it I would call it the Midwest Sustainable Living Festival or the Midwest Moving-Past-Greenwashing-Into-Real-Solutions Extravaganza.  There are hundreds of exhibitors, hour long workshops on everything from solar panels to humanure to herbalism to building, great food, live music, awesome locally brewed beer at the beer tent, and an excellent vibe from everyone there. The four work studys and two board members went up to represent the Folk School and truly had a blast.  We brought with us a timberframe booth we made and a shaving horse for giving trunnel (wooden peg) making demonstrations.  I had such a fantastic weekend.

Since we had a booth at the fair we all took turns hanging out there, handing out catalogs, and talking with all the neat people that stopped to chat with us.  When we weren’t at the table we got to go to however many workshops we wanted! I went to a bunch including: Building Interfaith Environmental Coalitions, Ultimate Downsizing (living in small homes off grid), Using Local Herbs (herbalism/wild foraging), Pedal Power (using bikes to teach about electricity), and a couple others I am blanking on right now.  I learned tons and the instructors were all very inspirational.

When I first decided to move to Wisconsin I was nervous about what kinds of people I would be meeting. I definitely believe we are running out of oil and that our dependency is greater than ever—being at the Fair gave me hope for the future.  As we drove the couple of hours North for the Fair we passed thousands of acres of industrial agriculture but also wilderness areas,  beautiful rivers, and plenty of small farms.  Part of my reasoning for becoming a Driftless Folk School work/study was to learn more skills for homesteading, farming, and living sustainably and not only am I feeling fulfilled through my host farm and the school but also by the opportunities it is giving me—like going to the fair.

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