December 24, 2015

Undies of Desperation


I'm heading into year 5 of the No Buying Clothes challenge, and my underwear drawer is beyond shameful. I really want to make it through at least 5 years, but I've almost reached the end of the runway on undies.

November 29, 2015

Garden Review 2015: Sunchokes, Potatoes, and Other Roots



Sunchokes
These were the most successful root crop I grew this year. I planted two purple tubers from Food Forest Farm, I think in mid-May. One tuber in each of two 60x60cm raised boxes with lined bottoms in the front yard. Originally these were built for potatoes, but the soil there is taking a break from nightshades for a couple years.

November 20, 2015

Garden Review 2015: Greens & Herbs (Tokyo Bekana rocks!)


In early spring I planted spring radish, brassica greens, and chrysanthemum greens. I was inspired by the concept of "eat-all greens" outlined by Carol Deppe in her new book The Tao of Vegetable Gardening.

November 15, 2015

Foraging the Minuteman Bike Path - Fall


Ah fall. The absolute best season in New England, and it is an especially nice time to be out on the Minuteman bikeway. The weather first moderates, then becomes crisp, and finally downright cold. The trees drop their colored leaves on the pavement. And there are plenty of good things to eat!

November 7, 2015

Cider 11: Blockbuster year for apples leads to ~1100 Liter cider day


Another wonderful year of cider, and a record breaker for quantity. Ben's writeup is here.

September 9, 2015

Man Sized Cider Pants, with matching Cap


Riding high on the success from making Buster a pair of cider pants from well used cider pressing cloth, I decided to make a pair for myself. I've been feeling like it would be great to have more than one pair of pants suitable to wear out of the house. The last pair of pants I made myself took about 2 years, but I am getting better and faster when it comes to making clothes. Buster's pants only took me like a month, and the process of making pants was fresh in my mind.

September 3, 2015

Foraging the Minuteman Bike Path - Summer


Continuing the series started with Spring, here are the edibles I've turned up in summer.

July 20, 2015

Cider Pants for the Boy


At last fall's annual Cider extravaganza with the aid of an old electric sewing machine and some volunteers, I reformatted some of the press cloths to be of more uniform size. Over the ten years we have been doing Cider, a motley assortment of different size and thickness cotton cloths has accumulated, with some of them looking worn and herniated in spots. I proposed for fall 2015 we should introduce a new set of press cloths of uniform size and fabric, which would have the happy side effect of freeing up the current cloth set for a second life.

June 13, 2015

Foraging the Minuteman Bike Path - Spring


Most days I commute by bike to work, year round. Lucky for me, most of the distance from Somerville to Bedford (through Cambridge, Arlington, and Lexington) is on the Minuteman Bike Trail. This is great because there are few road crossings, which increases both speed and safety, and I get to see some greenery and wildlife along the way. Flowering wild apple trees are more scenic and multiflora rose more fragrant than the ass end of an MBTA bus. Downside is that plowing of the path by the different municipalities along the route in wintertime can sometimes be spotty.

Given that for 7+ hours a week I am travelling along the path, I spend a lot of time looking at plants. In the winter of 2013/2014 I checked out a slew of foraging books from the library, which were neat to read. I find nature much more interesting if I can eat it!

June 4, 2015

Herb Basket from scrap Red Cedar and Canvas


We were going to a saturday afternoon party at my work friend Branden's house, and I planned on bringing along some spring garden stuff as a little gift. But what to bring it in? An old plastic bag? Hmm... I've got all those scraps of clear red cedar in the basement which I'm generating by building our fence...

May 27, 2015

Birthday Party for Mice


We typically do a big combined party for the two older girls, but so far just small affairs for the youngest child. He had a lot of fun at the girls' party last fall, and this year for his fourth birthday he asked for pinatas and many friends. So we decided to switch the big party to the spring and make the fall events smaller.

Buster is insanely into mice. His favorite game is pretending he is a mouse, and his favorite video entertainment is classic Tom & Jerry. It's amazing how dated those seem now, but our kids think they are absolutely hilarious. He was delighted when I found a family of mice nesting in our compost bin this spring, and would often open the hatch to catch a glimpse of them.

April 27, 2015

Backyard Grain Maze



Our backyard, while big for a built up urban area, at about 240 square meters it is not very large in absolute terms. After renovating the back yard in late fall 2013, we were left with about a 9x12 meter space that wasn't already spoken for; this was frost seeded with ecolawn mix and covered with a thin layer of salt marsh hay at the end of the renovation.

Over the winter I read several books about small scale grain growing. As I am wont to do, I got unreasonably excited to make some efforts on this new project.

April 16, 2015

Cutter Family Clothing Archive: 18th Century Red Silk Brocade Frock


Becky's friend Becca comes from a family which has been in the Boston area for many generations. Last year her mom was downsizing out of her house in Cambridge and Becca was helping her clear out the attic. She asked us if we would like to take on the duty of storing and caring for some articles of antique clothing she came across. Even though they are not actually useful for anything practical, we agreed with enthusiasm to assume stewardship of these beautiful pieces of history. I'll be posting pictures and thoughts on the items over the next few months.

The most interesting piece is a dress in red silk brocade. Partly because it is a fantastic garment, and partly because it has a little documentation with it and some latter day alterations to puzzle out. The photo card at the top of the post was in the box with the dress, with notes indicating it was worn by Miss Thankful Hubbard of Boston, 1759 (1748 crossed out).

March 24, 2015

Best garden tool for 2014: Austrian Scythe



My favorite new garden tool from 2014 is an Austrian style scythe from Scythe Supply. Over the winter I read The Scythe Book and watched some internet scythe videos, of scythe wielders beating men with gas powered trimmers in competition, barefoot young ladies elegantly and speedily mowing meadows, and the like. So I ordered myself a scythe outfit, mostly for cutting the grass in the front of my house which is unpleasant to do with a normal lawn mower. The kids thought this was awesome and were really excited to try it out.

March 10, 2015

Making LED Grow Lights


I want to grow leeks and alpine strawberries this year, and would like to try tomatoes and a few other things from seeds rather than seedlings. The only convenient place to start seeds at my house would be the basement. It is dank and dim, so some grow lights were in order.

March 3, 2015

Felt Legion Cap


One day last fall, I could not find my felt gnome hat I made a few years ago. With cold weather closing in and no silly looking home made felt hat to wear, I urgently set to work to make a replacement. 

February 21, 2015

Urban Micro Orchard: Year 1



The narrow strip of bed was planned and built, covering about 15 square meters of bed area, or roughly equivalent to the area covered by one mature semi-dwarf apple tree. The back fence was put up, and the seven apple trees and a bunch of companions were planted.

February 10, 2015

Compost House


A key element in running a bigger garden is dealing with larger amounts of compost and other bulk materials like hay and mulch. I'm enamored with the no-till, compost heavy methods espoused by Lee Reich in Weedless Gardening, and plan to use that approach as a starting point for how I manage our growing areas moving forward.

Our old compost got cleared out when we renovated the backyard, so I could start with a fresh slate. I tried to envision a user friendly, easy to build system sufficient for our newly expanded gardening ambitions.

January 23, 2015

Canvas oilcloth overmitts sealed with beef fat, beeswax, and linseed oil


I commute by bicycle 36km roundtrip to work most days, year round. Being in New England, some specialized gear is called for in the winter months. With a good layering system, carbide spiked ice tires, and a sanguine attitude, the hour or so it takes me each way is almost reasonable. It is nice to get some fresh air, have time to think, and it is my only form of exercise.

One key element to the winter ensemble is overmitts. For the past 10 years or so I've been using some gore-tex ones Becky bought long ago for bike commuting. Overmitts are great, because you can put them over light gloves when it is not that cold, or over heavy mitts when conditions are frigid. They typically have a long gauntlet section that can lap up over the jacket sleeve to keep wind out. These ones were roomy enough that in very cold weather I could work my thumbs up out of the thumb holes and keep them in the same compartments as my other fingers to keep them warm, while riding. All in all, very satisfactory.

Unfortunately as the weather got colder late this fall, I could not find the overmitts anywhere. Arrgh! Being at the end of the third year last fall of the No Buying Clothes challenge, this was a serious problem since I didn't just want to purchase a new set from Amazon like a normal person. 

January 6, 2015

CNC cut Espalier Apple Trellis


One of the central elements that persisted throughout our many iterations of designs for the back yard was apple trees espaliered on the back fence. Having expended a lot of money and time to finally arrive at 7 baby apple trees planted in a strip of soil behind a retaining wall, positioned in front of a hopefully long lasting fence, it was time to build a trellis to train them along.