Monday, August 29th, 2011

Food Con 2

Opening this Friday at the Harrison Center for the Arts in Indianapolis, Indiana is Food Con 2, an unconventional convention exploring the art and culture of food in Indiana.

I will be exhibiting art work in the main gallery featuring a guest appearance of 30 nearly extinct Marshall Strawberry plants in Marshall Strawberry, Now There are More.  Check out the events page on the website for more programming including Food and the Machine, a collaborative work of performance and presentation by Butler University art and business students, and and Uncooking class! Please join us!

Food Con 2
Harrison Center for the Arts
1505 N. Delaware
Indianapolis, IN 46202

Friday, September 2
Reception 5pm-9pm


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Monday, August 22nd, 2011

2011 Kneading Conference

A few weeks ago I attended the Kneading Conference in Skowhegan, Maine. The annual conference was started five years ago by a group of local residents looking to further dialog around the importance of wheat to revitalizing local communities and local food production. Participants were a delightful mix of bakers (novice and professionals), chefs, grain growers, artists, food writers and local residents. I attended workshops on sourdough fermentation theory and practice, wood-fired pastry production, baking as an artistic practice and building your own earthen oven. I learned so much, and the food, catered by Local Sprouts was beautiful and delicious. All ready I can’t wait to go back next year and focus on small scale grain production for my upcoming work Rising Fields! Here are some photos of the weekend. Check out those amazing wood-fired ovens and the click over to their website for more photos and information.

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Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Painted Hives

Check out these beautiful painted hives from Italy. My friend Maria sent me this image from her recent trip. Oh the possibilities!!

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Friday, July 1st, 2011

Tiny Houses

Fuel efficiency, environmentally responsible, simplicity, easy upkeep, no mortgage, mobility, all reasons to go tiny. We flew to beautiful Olympia, Washington last weekend and attended a tiny house building workshop led by Jay Schaffer, artist and owner of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. Since building and living in his own 89 square food dwelling in 1997, Jay has become an expert on tiny houses and has made a major contribution to what is now a solid movement towards smaller living.

The intensive two day workshop included information on zoning and building codes, tools, tiny appliances, foundations, siding, windows, doors, framing, insulation and then design, which is my favorite part. On day two we got to design our own tiny house with the help of Jay and his assistants. So now I have drawings and first draft plans for my own little dream home! Will share my designs down the road when things are fleshed out. Meanwhile, check out Jay’s site for more information on tiny living–truly inspirational! Thank you Jay, Steve and Takeshi for sharing your knowledge and expertise.  Can’t wait to start building!

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Monday, June 20th, 2011

The Hive Has Arrived

A couple of weeks ago we traveled to Humansville, Missouri to visit Bee Landing and picked up a beautiful handmade homestead bee hive fashioned by sustainable beekeeper James Zitting. Sustainable beekeeping is local, small scale and built around the welfare of the animals.  Industrial beekeeping by comparison is exploitive. Bees are kept in inadequate housing, fed high fructose corn syrup instead of their own nutritious honey, shipped around in the country in big trucks to pollinate large areas of farmland and bred for a size much larger than nature intended. And we wonder why colonies are collapsing?

James has been a hobby beekeeper for over 20 years and he’s put all of that knowledge into designing his homestead hives to closely replicate a more natural environment.  He recommends honey feeding the bees to get them started and then not harvesting for the first year to give the colony time to build up enough reserves to last the winter. And then the following year to share honey with the bees, so  they have enough of their own food to live off of. Emphasis here is SHARING with the bees.

It was really amazing to see working  hives and to meet James and his gracious family. There were about 10 other folks in attendance from all over the country to pick up hives and nucs (a queen and worker bees) which means the interest in hobby beekeeping is growing. Check out his website for lots of fantastic information about sustainable beekeeping, and to buy your own hive. The last image showing what I have is by Bee Landing.

I was supposed to pick up a nuc as well, but by baby daughter was on board, and couldn’t take the chance of some bees escaping. So I’ll be working with local wildlife folks here at home in the spring to adopt a feral swarm.  Meanwhile, I’m learning as much as I can about our winged friends–reading, watching and attending another workshop on over wintering hives at Cornell University in September. I’ll post a list of resources on the links and books. articles and film pages as I go along so please check back.

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Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Strawberry Preserves with Honey

This was the last week of strawberry season– too fast! I scooped up  4 quarts of sweet, ruby red little lovelies. One we ate fresh right out of the bag, one went into the freezer for breakfast smoothies, and two preserved. Last year when canning was novel, I was all about jams with fancy flavor combinations. So beautiful, so delicious, so full of sugar! This year I want to focus in on the natural sweetness of each fruit enhanced with a slight kiss of local honey.

Preserves without sugar do not gel well, so you need to add pectin.  Pectin is a natural substance found in certain fruits and gels when heated with sugar. Pectin can be made at home, which I will try this fall during apple season, but for now I went with Pomona Universal Pectin. It was really easy. I used the least amount of honey possible 1/2 cup to 4 cups of mashed fruit. I also added a tablespoon of lemon juice for a little zing. Wow, super yummy.

Strawberry Preserves
inspired by Pomona Universal Pectin
4 c washed, hulled and mashed strawberries
1/2 c local honey
2 teaspoons pectin
2 teaspoons prepared calcium water
1 tablespoon lemon

In a large pot bring strawberries and calcium water to a boil. In a separate bowl mix the pectin, honey and lemon juice. Add the honey mixture to the boiling fruit and stir 1-2 minutes to dissolve. Remove from heat and skim off any foam. Store in the refrigerator to eat now,  or water bath process in sterile canning jars.

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Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Leave the Car at Home

Our third poster in the LendAHand! Artist poster series Leave the Car at Home by Maine Artist Robert Colburn will be HOT off the presses in short order, just in time for Father’s Day!  Also ready for shipping Tending a Difficult by Sara Jones and Being Thrifty is Nifty by Felicity Jones. Get yours here!!

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Thursday, May 26th, 2011

When it Storms

Make candles! A wicked storm passed through here the night before downing tree limbs and knocking out our power for about 12 hours. Luckily I have a flashlight, and the batteries were in working order… this time.  Here in Southern Indiana, we live on the outskirts of tornado alley. Last night sounded like a war zone. Violent thunder explosions shook the whole house and warning sirens pierced through sheets of rain five times from dusk to dawn.  One actually touched down on the west side of town.  Luckily no one was injured. All together unnerving and awe inspiring.

Today I picked up more fallen branches, and made some candles to store away as a no tech back-up light source just in case.  Candle making is really easy and supplies readily available at my local farmers market and craft store. Bees wax and soy wax are a bit more expensive, but burn clean.  Speaking of which, wax is flammable if it reaches too high a temperature while melting. This is not something you can leave unattended. My set up at home is very rudimentary. I used a double boiler on the stove, melted the wax in an old tea tin, and clean recycled glass  jars as containers.

Candle making was a childhood hobby and I remembered how-to, but found a great video that covers the basics for those of you new to the craft.

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Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Lilac Sorbet

Sorry about the late post. Lilac season is probably over for most by now, and if so, this is a keeper for next year.  Lilacs are my favorite flower. When I was a little girl we had two beautiful lilac bushes on the side of the house, one white and one lavender. Every spring I ornamented my wrists and neck with hand-threaded blossom necklaces and bracelets made to port around the intoxicating scent. Each deep breath in hatched daydreams of lazy summer days soon around the bend.

Here at home stands one tired old lady. She still blooms. Not with bounty anymore, though just enough to get a small  fix. This year instead of wear-ables I made an edible, lilac sorbet. Tastes like it smells–a soft blush of sweet, subtle and momentary, like daydreams…and lilacs…

Lilac Sorbet

2 cups washed and chopped lilac blossoms (just the blossoms, not the stems nor leaves)
2 boiling cups water
1/4 cup honey ( I used a very pale and mild French honey)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 small sprigs fresh lemon verbena (optional)

Place chopped lilac blossoms and lemon verbena into a glass or ceramic mixing bowl or container. Pour boiling water over the mixture. Cover and seep over a night or two in the refrigerator. Strain out the plant material and then pour the liquid into a small saucepan with the honey.  Heat up the mixture just enough to melt the honey. Stir until well incorporated. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice.  Chill and then freeze in  your ice cream maker according to the manufacturers directions.  Makes 1 pint.

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Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Candied Wild Violets

Spring is when Bloomington lives up to it’s name. Flowers are bursting up from everywhere, a sensual and intoxicating melange of colors, scents and tastes!  In my yard right now are hundreds of violets. Violet flowers and leaves are high in vitamin C. They can be used fresh in salads, fresh or dried  for tea, made into syrup and candied.  I’m drying a bunch for tea, and candying some blooms for our Easter cake.

To candy violets, you will need fresh blooms from a chemical free area, sugar, gum arabic, water and a small soft paintbrush. I found gum arabic at Goods for Cooks, our local gourmet cooking store. Mix the gum arabic in a small amount of water to the consistency of egg whites. Paint each petal with the paintbrush front and back and then gently roll the wet flower in sugar. Transfer to a wax paper or parchment lined tray and dry for 24 hours.  Once hardened, use candied violets within 4-6 weeks to decorate cakes or as a sweet spring treat.

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Monday, March 28th, 2011

Baby Banket

Just finishing up my first baby blanket.  Ran out of pink and need to go get some more. But here it is in progress. I used a free pattern from Lion Brand and yarns from my local shop. Really love the pretty bright colors. Looks kind of like an Ellsworth Kelly or Mark Wethli painting (note to self). It’s super easy too, just knitted squares sewn together. For beginners like me, the repetition is good practice.

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Monday, March 14th, 2011

Alabama Chanin

Last weekend I traveled to Florence, Alabama to learn the art of hand sewing from the lovely and talented ladies of Alabama Chanin. For those of you who need an introduction, founded by Natalie Chanin upon principles of slow design, Alabama Chanin and their team of local craftspeople turn out the most beautiful handmade organic cotton jersey knit clothing. I’ve had Natalie’s first book for over a year now, but felt too intimated to sew clothing by hand.  Well no more.

During the workshop, me and 10 other very cool women from all parts of the country learned about organic materials, stenciling, beading, quilting, loving our thread and sustainable business models.  We also ate delicious local food, shared stories, swapped favorite music, books, movies and generally had a wonderful time together. By the way, grits are delicious! Thing about hand sewing is  no noisy machines involved, which opens up the work to be communal and restorative.  I’m sewing a baby doll dress in carmine with a beaded bodice.  It’s going to take awhile to finish, but a worthy investment, as these clothes are made to be cherished for generations.

If you feel inspired to give this a try, workshops are held regularly, and finished pieces, project books with patterns, materials, tools and diy kits are all available for purchase on their website. I also picked up a wonderful book on embroidery, Elegant Stitches by Judith Baker Montano, also available online.

Thanks so much Natalie and staff for your grace, patience, knowledge and fine Southern hospitality!

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Monday, February 28th, 2011

Backyard Maple Sugaring

Late winter to early spring is maple season. I have three huge old silver maples, two in my front yard and one in back.  It occurred to me last week to tap them and make maple syrup.  Tapping is a surprisingly easy process. Necessary tools are a drill (hand or electric), a 7/16″ drill bit, a collecting spout (spile), a hammer and a small bucket or container to catch the sap. All of the supplies were available at my local hardware store.

In a maple tree of at least 12-18″ in diameter, drill a 2″ hole into the south side of the trunk with the 7/16″ drill bit slanting slightly upward.  Clear any wood shavings from the hole. If it’s deep enough, sap will immediately begin to dampen the inside. Tap the spile into the hole with your hammer. Hang your bucket on the hook. Partially cover the opening to prevent rain or snow from getting into the bucket.  Sap should be collected daily, run through multiple layers of cheesecloth to remove any debris and stored in the refrigerator until processing.

Sap is made into syrup by boiling off water until the reduction reaches 7 degrees above boiling. It’s been taking one five gallon bucket of sap to produce about a half pint of syrup. Silver maples have less sugar content than sugar maples, so that ratio would be better with sweeter sap. I’m processing in a stock pot on my kitchen stove gauging temperature with a candy thermometer.   When the syrup has reached the proper temperature and consistency, it’s ready eat, or for bottling and storage. I pour my syrup into clean canning jars and boil them in a water bath just enough to set seal.

Sugaring season ends with silver maples when they break bud, which will probably be in just a couple of weeks. Funny, normally these late season, cold, gray days leave me aching to the bone for spring. But sugaring has brightened things up considerably. So in exchange for few more jars of warm, sweet, amber nectar, maybe Winter could take a slightly slower road home.

Here are a few more online resources on maple sugaring:

Making Maple Syrup by Dr. David Fankhauser, University of Cincinnati
How to Tap Maple Trees and Make Maple Syrup by The University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Homemade Maple Syrup, Michigan Maple Syrup Association
Maple Syrup Association of Connecticut

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

First Booties

I’m moving beyond scarves to booties! Even with my modest skills these were super easy. I found the free pattern on the Lion’s Yarn website.  Registration is required to gain access to their library of hundreds of knitting, crocheting and craft patterns for all skill levels. Found a super cute baby blanket pattern I’m working on right now too.

Another fantastic resource for patterns is Etsy. They cost on average 3-5 dollars each, but the designs are super creative so it’s totally worth it if you want to make something out of the ordinary. I bought 3 adorable bootie patterns that look fairly easy to make, we’ll see…

One more is Ravelry, more of a social networking/online toolkit  site  for knitters and crocheters. Here you can find free and for purchase patterns, shop for yarns and knitting supplies, communicate with others through their forums and form groups.  Would be great to add to the list, please send me your favorites.

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Monday, February 14th, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day!

She bath’d with roses red, and violets blew,
And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew. – Edmund Spencer 1590

Oh, stop fighting it! Valentine’s Day has been celebrated since 500 AD, way before Hallmark.  It’s focus of celebration has changed throughout the ages from a religious holiday to romantic love, and now, well unfortunately consumerism. But there’s no need to buy in. I embrace the holiday wholeheartedly simply as a day to honor love and friendship. And the world need so much more of that no?

To celebrate, here’s a new recipe! Home baked treats are the perfect sustainable gift as nothing gets left behind.  Inspired by Heidi Swanson’s Quinoa Cloud Cookies, mine are vegan, and I’ve replaced white sugar and flour with maple sugar (yes, it’s expensive) and spelt flour for even more whole grain and natural goodness.  These are perfectly sweet enough for me as is.  You can make them sweeter if you like by adding some sugar sprinkles on top before baking like Heidi does, or use a less bitter chocolate, or just by sharing them.  A couple of these crunchy, chocolaty yummies served with a nice hot cup of tea–well, that will rosy up anyone’s day. Enjoy!

Quinoa Spelt Heart Cookies
3/4 cup quinoa flour
1 cup whole grain spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup Earth Balance, room temperature
1 cup maple sugar
1tsp vanilla
1/2 cup grated or shaved bittersweet chocolate
2 or 3 T large grain sugar or sugar sprinkles (optional)

Sift the flours into a bowl, add the salt. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla in a separate bowl either by hand or using an electric mixer until fluffy.  Stir flour into butter mixture until  just incorporated, then stir in the chocolate.

If the dough is too soft to roll out immediately, gather and mold it into a flattened disk. Wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Before baking, preheat oven to 350 degrees, and either lightly oil your cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out shapes and sprinkle with sugar if desired. They spread out a bit while baking, so leave 1/2 inch in-between.  Bake for 7-9 minutes or until cookies are just browning around the edges. Cool and serve!

Yield depends on the size of your cookie cutters.

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Monday, February 7th, 2011

I Heart Handmade

Last month I took the pledge to make or else buy handmade.  Perhaps one reason for our mindless consumption and wastefulness is because we’ve lost connection with craftsmanship. Objects churned out by machines of cheap materials and bought for next to nothing, are easily disposed of once their short lifespan has ended.  We just don’t get attached enough to care.

By comparison something made with skill by a human being, carefully crafted with fine materials, is worthy of love and cherish. Also more sustainable as maybe we’d be less apt to toss aside possessions we’re more invested in whether that be in time as the maker, or more money spent on quality.

So I’m making my valentines,  fashioned out of remnant fabrics, decorative papers and newspaper. Each one is unique, sewn with lots of love and has a handwritten message on the back.  Now it’s your turn. Give it to ‘em strait from your heart…and your own two hands.  Promise it will be a keeper.

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Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

K1, P1 *

Over Christmas break I learned to knit! Just the basics really, but enough to make scarves. I invested in a set of gorgeous wooden needles and some local hand dyed yarn at Yarns Unlimited in Bloomington. It’s an awesome shop with helpful staff, wide selection and classes (February = socks). Here are a couple of good starter books I’ve been learning from, Stitch and Bitch: a Knitters Handbook, and One-Skein Wonders. Both have projects suitable for beginners as well as excellent how-to stitch instructions.

For those who learn better live action, I’m filming a series of handmade videos of basic stitches, casting on, knit stitch, pearl stitch, k1, p1, and casting off to be posted next week.

Meanwhile, it’s time to order seeds for the garden! I’ve posted a list of my favorite sources on the Sharecropper.

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Monday, January 24th, 2011

Thank you!

I’ve been awarded a Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship! With the grant I will be traveling and learning. Stay tuned to posts about knitting, sewing, weaving, beekeeping, tiny house building, botanical medicine, wild edibles, alternative energy and lots more about food. Thank you very much to the selection committee and Jeremy Efroymson for this amazing gift!

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Thursday, December 30th, 2010

2011 Lend a Hand! Artist Poster Series

Huge thanks to all of the artists who submitted designs for our 2011 Lend a Hand! Artist Poster Series. I received submissions from New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Texas, Indiana, Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota, Georgia, and New Hampshire. They were all so creative and beautiful I reached out to Kyle Durrie, Andrea Wenglowskyj and Sara Jones for help deciding on 6.  Much appreciation for your time ladies!

Here are our selections:

Being Thrifty is Nifty by Felicity Jones (New  York)
Leave the Car at Home by Robert Colburn (Maine)
You Are What You Eat by Kaela Gallo (Massachusetts)
Support Your Local Farmers by Chloe Donovan (Massachusetts)
Appropriate Technology by Alyce Santoro (Texas)
Use Water Wisely by Kimberly Votruba-Matook (Massachusetts)

Now you can call these fine hand-pulled limited edition letterpress beauties your very own, by visiting Etsy! Tending a Difficult Hope, by Sara Jones and Being Thrifty is Nifty are ready to ship out. Kyle, proprietor of Power & Light Press in Portland Oregon will be printing the others at the rate of  one every other month. But because these are editions of 500,  all including the whole set are available for pre-order.

Your purchase will help support the artists, keep Ms. Durrie very busy, and make it possible to expand the Tending a Difficult Hope self-sustainable skills public workshop series while keeping classes free of charge, so everyone who wants to join in can.

Also in the works, a traveling exhibition featuring all of the submissions! More on that TBA, so stay tuned.  Happy New Year Everyone!

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Monday, December 27th, 2010

Lunch with Wendell Berry

One more re-cap from SoFA before we move forward.  I had the incredible honor of making lunch in the galley for a major hero of mine, Wendell Berry, along with a group of students and community activists committed to initiating food production on the IU campus.  It was sort of a meeting of the minds kind of afternoon, very enjoyable and exciting because the plot I grew on over the summer has now been officially blessed as the campus vegetable garden.

Thank you Mr. Berry for your time, graciousness and wisdom,  Bill Brown for these lovely photos, and IU students for carrying the torch forward. I wish for many bountiful and beautiful harvests to come.

Tune in next week for the unveiling of the 2011 Tending a Difficult Hope artist poster series!

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