Hot & Busy
It’s been quite warm these last couple of days; however, it’s supposed to cool down slightly today.
The other day I made two lemony sweet jars of lemon verbena syrup. I plan to use the syrup to sweetened lemonades and other fruit desserts. Yesterday, we baked up another batch of blueberry muffins (with our blueberries, of course) in the solar oven. The muffins baked up in less than two hours and were very moist and delicious. Another plus with cooking with the sun it that you can never burn the food and the food doesn’t dry out.
Since we can’t always bake things in the recommended black pots (because black absorbs the heat), we have to find ways to bake things like muffins while maintaining a consistent temperature. We’ve used bricks, pizza stones and glassware for this effect.
We are nearing 50 lbs of blackberries – incredible! What a blessing to be getting so much fruit from such a little area of fence line in the front yard.
Harvesting beans, peppers and handfuls of swiss chard.
Yesterday evening, we gals and a friend took the goats and went for a stroll in the Arroyo Seco again. It’s so beautiful at that time of day (5-7pm) –The path is shaded by the canyon wall covered in oaks and sycamores — cool and quiet. Above, the brilliant blue sky and sunshine plays off the famous Colorado Bridge . The goats love going for walks. Blackberry likes to “talk” to herself practically the whole time, like she’s carrying on a conversation with herself. She’s so funny.
We put some of the straw bales in the animal enclosure and the all the animals are thrilled. The goats use them to jump, climb, bounce, slide on (even a scratching post). Yes, goats are just like human kids– they love to slide. Blackberry puts her two hooves out straight and slides down the bale on her belly! We placed the three bales on recycled cinder blocks, tilted two of them to leave gaps underneath the bale because the bunny likes to use it as her hide out and the ducks use it as a quiet place to lay their eggs.
One of the bales we picked up on Sunday had strings missing and it was falling apart. So we put down a new layer of straw in the animal enclosure. Straw and mulch are our favorite ground covering to use in the enclosure. Not only does it keep the dirt covered, it also makes it easier to keep the place clean. All we have to do each morning is fluff up the area where there is any manure. The manure easily falls to the ground, leaving the straw clean and fly free.
In the animal enclosure, we have bucket, half a chair and whole chair for the goats, ducks and chickens to perch on. The chairs and buckets were all picked up on the side of the road. Actually, the “whole” chair is not only for the animals. This chair is one of our favorite places to sit in the early morning and evening time – watching the goats do their gymnastics and dances, the ducks playing in their pond, the chickens happily going about scratching and bunny munching away on her favorite gourmet greens.
When you are in with the animals, it’s better than watching tv and it’s so relaxing. I think that is why we like the chair so much… it’s our meditation, relaxation chair. Well, that is until two goats jump on your lap and vie for your special attention. There’s some serious jealously and jockeying for the best lap position.
Fruit & flowers
Living Off the Land
There’s a battle that we are faced with every day: we have to decide whether we spend time writing/talking/teaching about the homesteading and simple life, or, instead, actually live it.
One such example: A few months back, Jules was invited to be one of the keynote speakers (along with the likes of Dr. Brian O’Leary &Julian Darley) at a sustainable conference in the state of Washington. The timing of such a “sustainable” conference was unfortunate since it was in June. After thinking about if for a time, Jules decided against going. He felt such a trip at that time in the growing season would be going against the very principles that he believes in.
There comes a time when you have to choose between being truly tied to the land and not living off workshops/books/films/speaking engagements about living off the land. People, fame, money–all pull at you, but the pull of land must come first. If the conference had been, say, in January, like the Eco Farm Conference, or even in late August like Sol Fest, the pull from the land would be a little less.
We have to admit, it’s tough to make such decisions. It’s so “comfy” to sit a chair in front of computer or audience instead of sweating and toiling with your hands in the earth with dirty knees on the ground. It’s only human of us to want to choose the easier path and we struggle with this each and every day. How do we manage this site and writing about how we are walking this path and actually walk the path, step by step every day? It’s definitely a challenge to keep the balance. For example, while at the Sierra Club Summit in September 2005, we were watching a film screening that was attended by the film subject himself, and someone stood up and asked the man (subject of the film), when was the last time he was on his farm. The “farmer” answer was that he hadn’t been back to his organic farm since November 2004(!!) because he’s been too busy touring with his film. I thought to myself, when does such fame not make one a true farmer (homesteader, environmentalist, etc) any longer? That’s a tough conundrum.