Day 271

It occurs to me that I should be paying more attention to this blog!  With my laptop gone, I have to remember to use the “big screen” because my tablet makes it a little convoluted to post.  Here’s to good intentions! Things have definitely picked up around here – my two classes are taking their […]

It occurs to me that I should be paying more attention to this blog!  With my laptop gone, I have to remember to use the “big screen” because my tablet makes it a little convoluted to post.  Here’s to good intentions!

Things have definitely picked up around here – my two classes are taking their amount of time, and it doesn’t help matters that I’m creating everything for my humanities class. But that also means that when I teach it again, I will have much more time to tweak things and not worry about having to make a presentation for the next class.  Good news there.

The barn is filled with hay – next step is to go back out and mow the second cutting. For that, we all need to be healthy and able to sit on a tractor for hours. We’re working on that. It may be a touch of the flu, it’s definitely allergies, and all the bean/corn dust in the air from harvesting isn’t helping one bit. If you’re driving down the road in the morning and notice what looks like smoke hanging over a harvested field – that’s probably dust still hanging in the air from the combine harvesting the day before. And it is horrible for breathing!

Remember these cute, fuzzy things?

IMG_0370

They now look like almost proper chickens, just smaller:

2013-09-28 08.26.46They still have the fuzzy chick head, but the rest of them look like proper Barred Rocks. I didn’t know this, but their legs have black bands on them.

Lovely harvest moon the other evening – hope you had a chance to see it. Yes, those are geese!

2013-09-18 19.27.31

 

We have a couple large stands of pampas grass (a tall, decorative grass) that the dogs love to hide in. You’ll be walking around and hear “swish swish” as they move through. I found Prince hanging out in here the other day:

2013-09-18 14.00.12He’s such a silly dog.

Interwebz shopping is just about awesome. Click, click, and here comes the UPS or FedEx truck with your goodies. I don’t remember ordering this though:

2013-09-19 14.32.27

 

The garden is finished – we got a lot more tomatoes of the vines, harvested the potatoes, and pulled the last cabbages. Now for the clean-up crew.

2013-09-28 08.25.34They’ve done (as always) an amazing job of eating, and they haven’t even been in here a week. After they’re finished, we’ll put them back in the “test garden” to work in there some more, then start our soil amending in this garden – cow/horse manure, straw, and green manure (a seed mixture that fixes nitrogen and other good stuff in the soil). After the green manure has a chance to get started, we’ll probably open the gate for the chickens to scratch around and do their thing. It’s going to be a lot of work (well, what isn’t around here!!), and a lot of poo to move, but in the end, we’ll have better soil for food growing.

If your garden didn’t perform “up to snuff” this year, chances are you may be missing something in the soil. Our corn was pretty lack-luster – small stalks, small ears that weren’t all filled out – so that was our clue that the ground needs some TLC. You can buy soil analysis kits at home improvement stores – try one and see what your soil is telling you.

 

 

 

Day 271

It occurs to me that I should be paying more attention to this blog!  With my laptop gone, I have to remember to use the “big screen” because my tablet makes it a little convoluted to post.  Here’s to good intentions!

Things have definitely picked up around here – my two classes are taking their amount of time, and it doesn’t help matters that I’m creating everything for my humanities class. But that also means that when I teach it again, I will have much more time to tweak things and not worry about having to make a presentation for the next class.  Good news there.

The barn is filled with hay – next step is to go back out and mow the second cutting. For that, we all need to be healthy and able to sit on a tractor for hours. We’re working on that. It may be a touch of the flu, it’s definitely allergies, and all the bean/corn dust in the air from harvesting isn’t helping one bit. If you’re driving down the road in the morning and notice what looks like smoke hanging over a harvested field – that’s probably dust still hanging in the air from the combine harvesting the day before. And it is horrible for breathing!

Remember these cute, fuzzy things?

IMG_0370

They now look like almost proper chickens, just smaller:

2013-09-28 08.26.46They still have the fuzzy chick head, but the rest of them look like proper Barred Rocks. I didn’t know this, but their legs have black bands on them.

Lovely harvest moon the other evening – hope you had a chance to see it. Yes, those are geese!

2013-09-18 19.27.31

 

We have a couple large stands of pampas grass (a tall, decorative grass) that the dogs love to hide in. You’ll be walking around and hear “swish swish” as they move through. I found Prince hanging out in here the other day:

2013-09-18 14.00.12He’s such a silly dog.

Interwebz shopping is just about awesome. Click, click, and here comes the UPS or FedEx truck with your goodies. I don’t remember ordering this though:

2013-09-19 14.32.27

 

The garden is finished – we got a lot more tomatoes of the vines, harvested the potatoes, and pulled the last cabbages. Now for the clean-up crew.

2013-09-28 08.25.34They’ve done (as always) an amazing job of eating, and they haven’t even been in here a week. After they’re finished, we’ll put them back in the “test garden” to work in there some more, then start our soil amending in this garden – cow/horse manure, straw, and green manure (a seed mixture that fixes nitrogen and other good stuff in the soil). After the green manure has a chance to get started, we’ll probably open the gate for the chickens to scratch around and do their thing. It’s going to be a lot of work (well, what isn’t around here!!), and a lot of poo to move, but in the end, we’ll have better soil for food growing.

If your garden didn’t perform “up to snuff” this year, chances are you may be missing something in the soil. Our corn was pretty lack-luster – small stalks, small ears that weren’t all filled out – so that was our clue that the ground needs some TLC. You can buy soil analysis kits at home improvement stores – try one and see what your soil is telling you.

 

 

 

The thing about artisanal things

The coffee roasting I do is probably best defined as artisanal. That word tends to conjure the image in most people’s minds of a skilled craftsperson working tirelessly to produce masterpiece after masterpiece in his or her chosen form, and to a great degree, that image is correct. Most of the time. The fact is, […]

The coffee roasting I do is probably best defined as artisanal. That word tends to conjure the image in most people’s minds of a skilled craftsperson working tirelessly to produce masterpiece after masterpiece in his or her chosen form, and to a great degree, that image is correct.

Most of the time.

The fact is, however, that even for the most skilled craftsperson, things sometimes go wrong. And so it is with coffee.

This summer I’ve been having quality problems with some of my coffee, especially my Tanzanian Peaberry Mt. Meru Estate. Something has just been off with it. Between two batches roasted one right after the other to the same time and temperature, one will under roast and one will over roast. One will crack quickly and heavily where another will never crack. This problem has generated the first complaints I have ever had about the quality of my coffee, to the point that I feel I need to discuss it here.

I will be the first person to admit there is a problem. The fact is I haven’t quite solved it yet. Coffee roasting is a complex process at any level, but in my little roastery I have to deal with a variety of variables that makes the problem more complex than most. My roastery is not climate controlled, so I have little control over temperature and humidity. Both of these factors do things to the beans, and in the case of the Tanzanian, I suspect the wild swings in humidity we’ve had this summer are the culprit.

On the upside of this problem, it has forced me to revisit my roasting process in a very direct way. I’ve even added new, more precise equipment to help me sort out certain specific factors that contribute to the quality of a roast. Yet, even with those factors in place, the problem persists, and I continue to work on it.

So, with all that said, I want to pass on to you, dear coffee drinker, this reality: if it’s bad, don’t drink it, even if it’s artisanal and even if you paid a lot of money for it. If it’s bad and I roasted it, let me know. I will replace every ounce of coffee I’ve roasted for you until it meets your satisfaction.

And, that last bit is why artisanal coffee–or food or clothing or whatever–is superior. We artisans care about what we produce and want to make it right. I hope that fact alone continues to earn your business.

DLH

Day 258 – laptops and plumbing

First off, the laptop and the plumbing are two separate things – although I would like to throw technology in the toilet at times. My laptop had been clunking along for awhile, then it got a little worse, but was still clunking along. This past week, it up and died. For a piece of technology […]

First off, the laptop and the plumbing are two separate things – although I would like to throw technology in the toilet at times.

My laptop had been clunking along for awhile, then it got a little worse, but was still clunking along. This past week, it up and died. For a piece of technology that was purchased in 2006, I’m told that this is a good long life. Off to our computer boneyard it goes, probably to be resucitated at a later date as a robot or something. We do have the “family computer” for me to use when the tablet or phone just won’t do the job. At this point, the only thing I really need it for is making presentations for my humanities class. I’ve figured out how to do everything else on the tablet. Yay, me.

It’s been a relatively calm week on the farm – it was too stinkin’ hot for a few days to do much of anything except stay inside and drink lots of water. So I got some studio time in – mostly glazing. I went to Cornell Studio Supply in Dayton for their “Clay Day” festivities. Nothing like a bunch of clay artists getting together for food, beverages and clay games. I was the left hand in a pair throwing contest, and made a 30 degree bowl – while blindfolded! Saw some friends, made some new friends, and generally had a good time.

My friend Erin (who owns Cornell Studio Supply) – she was part of the 13 pound challenge, which was to form the tallest/widest work from 13 pounds of clay.
2013-09-14 17.13.00

The highlight of the week came today – plumbing! Our kitchen sink has needed a new faucet for a while, so a trip to Menards netted a nice faucet/sprayer combo. That was about 4 months ago. I guess I needed time to work into it. Or something! My problem is I want/need a whole day for this stuff in case I screw it up and need to make trips somewhere to get, well, something to fix the mess.

As expected, it took awhile to complete – the cold water hose was cemented onto the threaded pipe under the sink (we have really hard water). Denny suggested the Dremel tool and diamond blade for some plastic wingnut demolition. It worked.

Here’s the remains of the wingnut, and the new faucet assembly:

2013-09-15 15.55.06

2013-09-15 14.53.09

Something I now know how to do, although it’s ok if I don’t have to do it for awhile!

Food for thought – we were discussing how people view animals and food. Example – at one of the farmer’s markets, a lady was very upset that the veg seller would be taking his unsold produce home at the end of the market and feeding it to his chickens. He and I weren’t quite sure why she was upset – the chicken eats the produce, gets big and strong, and is butchered for meat to feed the human. Seems like a pretty good cycle to me. Moving along to our own garden. We decided that we had canned enough tomatoes for our future needs, and have been picking tomatoes to eat fresh. This picture from last week shows that we still have a lot of tomatoes on the vine:
IMG_0361

And after the mini heat wave, they are going bad very quickly. What to do? Pull the vines and feed them to the chickens, who pull off the leaves and tomatoes for a nice feast. We humans will still get the benefit of the tomatoes down the road when we eat the chickens. So have the tomatoes (or the leftover produce of my farmer’s market friend) been wasted?

Day 258 – laptops and plumbing

First off, the laptop and the plumbing are two separate things – although I would like to throw technology in the toilet at times.

My laptop had been clunking along for awhile, then it got a little worse, but was still clunking along. This past week, it up and died. For a piece of technology that was purchased in 2006, I’m told that this is a good long life. Off to our computer boneyard it goes, probably to be resucitated at a later date as a robot or something. We do have the “family computer” for me to use when the tablet or phone just won’t do the job. At this point, the only thing I really need it for is making presentations for my humanities class. I’ve figured out how to do everything else on the tablet. Yay, me.

It’s been a relatively calm week on the farm – it was too stinkin’ hot for a few days to do much of anything except stay inside and drink lots of water. So I got some studio time in – mostly glazing. I went to Cornell Studio Supply in Dayton for their “Clay Day” festivities. Nothing like a bunch of clay artists getting together for food, beverages and clay games. I was the left hand in a pair throwing contest, and made a 30 degree bowl – while blindfolded! Saw some friends, made some new friends, and generally had a good time.

My friend Erin (who owns Cornell Studio Supply) – she was part of the 13 pound challenge, which was to form the tallest/widest work from 13 pounds of clay.
2013-09-14 17.13.00

The highlight of the week came today – plumbing! Our kitchen sink has needed a new faucet for a while, so a trip to Menards netted a nice faucet/sprayer combo. That was about 4 months ago. I guess I needed time to work into it. Or something! My problem is I want/need a whole day for this stuff in case I screw it up and need to make trips somewhere to get, well, something to fix the mess.

As expected, it took awhile to complete – the cold water hose was cemented onto the threaded pipe under the sink (we have really hard water). Denny suggested the Dremel tool and diamond blade for some plastic wingnut demolition. It worked.

Here’s the remains of the wingnut, and the new faucet assembly:

2013-09-15 15.55.06

2013-09-15 14.53.09

Something I now know how to do, although it’s ok if I don’t have to do it for awhile!

Food for thought – we were discussing how people view animals and food. Example – at one of the farmer’s markets, a lady was very upset that the veg seller would be taking his unsold produce home at the end of the market and feeding it to his chickens. He and I weren’t quite sure why she was upset – the chicken eats the produce, gets big and strong, and is butchered for meat to feed the human. Seems like a pretty good cycle to me. Moving along to our own garden. We decided that we had canned enough tomatoes for our future needs, and have been picking tomatoes to eat fresh. This picture from last week shows that we still have a lot of tomatoes on the vine:
IMG_0361

And after the mini heat wave, they are going bad very quickly. What to do? Pull the vines and feed them to the chickens, who pull off the leaves and tomatoes for a nice feast. We humans will still get the benefit of the tomatoes down the road when we eat the chickens. So have the tomatoes (or the leftover produce of my farmer’s market friend) been wasted?

Day 250 – tomatoes, chicks, fall, onion eggs

There’s still so many of them – I picked the left side of this row and ended up with a 1/2 bushel basket full.  And I still have the right side to pick!  I’m going to enjoy tomato soup this winter, I’m going to enjoy tomato sauce this winter.  But right now I’m tired of […]

IMG_0361There’s still so many of them – I picked the left side of this row and ended up with a 1/2 bushel basket full.  And I still have the right side to pick!  I’m going to enjoy tomato soup this winter, I’m going to enjoy tomato sauce this winter.  But right now I’m tired of picking tomatoes!

IMG_0368It’s done!  And I have no idea what that fuzzy bit in the center is all about.  But the mini-yard is enclosed (and lidded to keep little nuggets from becoming hawk snacks), the door has latches, and —

IMG_0370—we have new nuggets!  These are Barred Rock hens from Meyer Hatchery – we’re trying them to see how their chicks do for us.  They were shipped on Tuesday, arriving on Thursday morning.  So they are already growing their wing feathers and giving me the “stink eye” as I call it – that sideways look that chickens give when they’re sizing you up.

IMG_0374 IMG_0373

More nugget pictures, just because they’re cute!  And one has figured out how to jump up on the warmer.  That’s, Just. Great.  Usually if they are that quick, they are going to be a handful when they grow up.

IMG_0363It’s looking more and more like fall.  The tall grasses are dried, the bean fields have a little more yellow in the green, and the corn is about 1/2 dried (or more).  It will be nice to see all the way to the river.  Corn makes me a bit claustrophobic – it’s so tall and looming!

IMG_0375

And which of these things is not like the others?  I’ve been drying the onions on racks in the garage, and it seems that a lot of the onions are more or less egg-shaped.  Which leads to the hens pulling the onions off the racks, and nesting them.  Sigh.  They’re going to be pretty upset in the morning – I removed all the onions.  This is the fun you get with free-range chickens who are too smart for their own good.

 

 

 

 

Day 250 – tomatoes, chicks, fall, onion eggs

IMG_0361There’s still so many of them – I picked the left side of this row and ended up with a 1/2 bushel basket full.  And I still have the right side to pick!  I’m going to enjoy tomato soup this winter, I’m going to enjoy tomato sauce this winter.  But right now I’m tired of picking tomatoes!

IMG_0368It’s done!  And I have no idea what that fuzzy bit in the center is all about.  But the mini-yard is enclosed (and lidded to keep little nuggets from becoming hawk snacks), the door has latches, and —

IMG_0370—we have new nuggets!  These are Barred Rock hens from Meyer Hatchery – we’re trying them to see how their chicks do for us.  They were shipped on Tuesday, arriving on Thursday morning.  So they are already growing their wing feathers and giving me the “stink eye” as I call it – that sideways look that chickens give when they’re sizing you up.

More nugget pictures, just because they’re cute!  And one has figured out how to jump up on the warmer.  That’s, Just. Great.  Usually if they are that quick, they are going to be a handful when they grow up.

IMG_0363It’s looking more and more like fall.  The tall grasses are dried, the bean fields have a little more yellow in the green, and the corn is about 1/2 dried (or more).  It will be nice to see all the way to the river.  Corn makes me a bit claustrophobic – it’s so tall and looming!

IMG_0375

And which of these things is not like the others?  I’ve been drying the onions on racks in the garage, and it seems that a lot of the onions are more or less egg-shaped.  Which leads to the hens pulling the onions off the racks, and nesting them.  Sigh.  They’re going to be pretty upset in the morning – I removed all the onions.  This is the fun you get with free-range chickens who are too smart for their own good.

 

 

 

 

Day 244 – another week in the books

My part-time teaching gig began this past Monday night, so I am re-acclimating myself to being places at particular times and articulating all that Spanish that’s banging around in my head.  Added a Humanities class just to spice things up a bit (2 mornings a week), and am loving it.  It’s all those things I’m […]

My part-time teaching gig began this past Monday night, so I am re-acclimating myself to being places at particular times and articulating all that Spanish that’s banging around in my head.  Added a Humanities class just to spice things up a bit (2 mornings a week), and am loving it.  It’s all those things I’m interested in – music, dance, 2D and 3D arts, art history, theater, cinema.  And it’s hopefully giving people a wider window to the world.  Plus my class is pretty good on the participation thing, which always makes a teacher’s life easier.

So the chick coop is mostly ready to go – as you can see, the door is on, the ramps are installed!  I need to adjust the frame piece on the right – this is on corrugated siding, and it won’t lay flat for me to install the door locks.  So will pull it off, add an appropriate shim, re-install, and hopefully it will be even enough to install the locks.

And as an FYI – oak is a pain to work with.  For cutting, used the circular saw.  For drilling – punch through a pilot hole, then ready to run a screw through.  But it should last!

As to the grooves cut in the ramps, my Dremel Trio helped out with that.  We had seen a chicken coop at the fair that had grooves cut in the ramps (as opposed to nailing a small piece of wood across the ramp), and I thought that was pretty neat.  Just in case – the grooves or cross pieces of woods give the chickens something to grab on to as they go up and down the ramp. Otherwise, they slide down, and may not be able to get back up the ramp into the coop because there’s nothing for their claws to grip.

2013-08-29 17.28.41 2013-08-29 17.29.11

What else happened this week?  More canning of apples and tomatoes and green beans (they’re still blooming?!!)

And our chickens look like someone did a bad job plucking them.  This poor birdy is scraggly all over.  Some have just lost their neck feathers, some just on their backs between their wings.  They look really sad right now.

2013-08-29 17.27.06Another week of farmers markets, and it was pretty stinking hot and humid for our afternoon markets.  This is my view at Vandalia:2013-08-30 15.05.12

The red tent on the left has salsa (new vendor, didn’t get a chance to try their product), then we have Muddy Truck Patch with some great veg (and mums for those of you who need some fall decor).  Rinaldo’s – simply amazing baked goods (breads of all types, sweets, soft pretzels…), and next to them is Rue Farms from Springfield with their delish potato chips (several varieties and no salt chips available).  And looks like some coffee and mugs in the foreground.  :)

Seriously, this is a great market to patronize if you’re anywhere near Vandalia on Fridays from 3-7.  Fruit, veg, soaps, baked goods, coffee, honey, food trucks, artisans.

And if we needed another sign besides the cicadas that fall is coming, check out the goldenrod.  2013-09-01 19.17.23

 

Day 244 – another week in the books

My part-time teaching gig began this past Monday night, so I am re-acclimating myself to being places at particular times and articulating all that Spanish that’s banging around in my head.  Added a Humanities class just to spice things up a bit (2 mornings a week), and am loving it.  It’s all those things I’m interested in – music, dance, 2D and 3D arts, art history, theater, cinema.  And it’s hopefully giving people a wider window to the world.  Plus my class is pretty good on the participation thing, which always makes a teacher’s life easier.

So the chick coop is mostly ready to go – as you can see, the door is on, the ramps are installed!  I need to adjust the frame piece on the right – this is on corrugated siding, and it won’t lay flat for me to install the door locks.  So will pull it off, add an appropriate shim, re-install, and hopefully it will be even enough to install the locks.

And as an FYI – oak is a pain to work with.  For cutting, used the circular saw.  For drilling – punch through a pilot hole, then ready to run a screw through.  But it should last!

As to the grooves cut in the ramps, my Dremel Trio helped out with that.  We had seen a chicken coop at the fair that had grooves cut in the ramps (as opposed to nailing a small piece of wood across the ramp), and I thought that was pretty neat.  Just in case – the grooves or cross pieces of woods give the chickens something to grab on to as they go up and down the ramp. Otherwise, they slide down, and may not be able to get back up the ramp into the coop because there’s nothing for their claws to grip.

What else happened this week?  More canning of apples and tomatoes and green beans (they’re still blooming?!!)

And our chickens look like someone did a bad job plucking them.  This poor birdy is scraggly all over.  Some have just lost their neck feathers, some just on their backs between their wings.  They look really sad right now.

2013-08-29 17.27.06Another week of farmers markets, and it was pretty stinking hot and humid for our afternoon markets.  This is my view at Vandalia:2013-08-30 15.05.12

The red tent on the left has salsa (new vendor, didn’t get a chance to try their product), then we have Muddy Truck Patch with some great veg (and mums for those of you who need some fall decor).  Rinaldo’s – simply amazing baked goods (breads of all types, sweets, soft pretzels…), and next to them is Rue Farms from Springfield with their delish potato chips (several varieties and no salt chips available).  And looks like some coffee and mugs in the foreground.  🙂

Seriously, this is a great market to patronize if you’re anywhere near Vandalia on Fridays from 3-7.  Fruit, veg, soaps, baked goods, coffee, honey, food trucks, artisans.

And if we needed another sign besides the cicadas that fall is coming, check out the goldenrod.  2013-09-01 19.17.23