Monday, April 27, 2009

Things I Learned This Weekend

1. Don't Forget to Look at the Flyers

I was meandering around this past Sunday in the hot, lazy weather, wondering what I was going to do with myself for the evening. As I was coming up Chestnut St., I took a look at one of the electrical boxes outside of Dangerously Delicious Pies, and saw the beautiful Microcosm Press flyer. I saw "April 26th!" and thought "Why, That's Tonight!" I even had the event in my trusty pocket calendar, but it being the weekend and I, I hadn't really checked.

The event had a pretty low turn-out, sadly, I guess due to it having been so gorgeous all weekend, everyone was probably pretty tuckered out by 7 p.m. on a Sunday. But there was a few zine die-hards (and local press members- what's up Metro Mix ) who came out to eat some yummy vegan food, sing a sea shanty, screen print some t-shirts, and watch the new "Plan-it X" video about the DIY/punk culture which gave me a lot of food for thought about the cultural movement of it all.

I could type for hours about this event, but then I wouldn't be able to go on with my list! Anyway, my very first screen print is the photo above, and I wore the shirt to work today like a geek :D

2. Don't Forget to Look Up

Built a rain barrel at Red Clover Collective through the Heathcote Permaculture Series workshops. Then realized that our roof is covered in tar, and all our water runs off it. Collected some rainwater as a test, and there is some weird orange-y sediment. Booo. Won't use barrel until water can be tested.

Happy looking up story: Was lying in a hammock last night, and turned my head out to the side to let it hang upside down. You know, to relax. Looked up, and the Big Dipper was DIRECTLY over head. Got out into the yard to face the North Star. Very beautiful nature moment, right in the skinny backyard between the rowhouses.

3. Porches Are Great

Especially one one of the first warm days of the year. Prop up your feet, eat some lettuce out of the planter, watch the people walk by. Yum.

4. Oil is Great

O.k., not sure about this one, but according to a guy I met at a potluck, who swears by oil. Like, eating mainly raw food, and eating several tablespoons of flax, olive, safflower, and other oils. I tried to convince him of the awesomeness of vinegar. Made me wonder if certain people are built to crave certain foods, and why. Strange conversation, but interesting nonetheless.

5. Books Are Great

I really picked up a haul at the Microcosm Event. Split my purchases evenly between Atomic and Microcosm. Got some patches, a sticker for my new bike helmet,

two copies of "Smile, Hon" (one from Atomic, one from Microcosm :D,

a copy of "Make Your Place" by Raleigh Briggs (because I refer to her natural cleaning zine a lot, and really wanted this nice bound version!)

"Dreamwhip #14" by Bill Brown (if you click on the link, see the comment section for a great review by Beatbots (Bmore represent!)

"Xtra Tuf No. 5" by Moe Bowstern (an Xtra Tuf lady who became a commercial fisher in Alaska, and led us on our shanty song. "Blow boys, blow!" Luckily we didn't need to pound ice of the deck in rhythm to the song).

Aand, that's what I Learned This Weekend! I'll stop here, since it's Monday, and time to do office-y things...


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

2009 DIY Fest Schedule!

As you can see from the Community Co-op Kitchen post below, I've been a busy little bee. Full time work, part time school (the poetry is great, but the time needed for the graphic design kicks my ass), plus packing in as much gardening and 2640'ing as I can, it's been pretty crazy around here.

But the latest, biggest, about to blossom project is the 2009 DIY Fest!! Mark your calendars for May 9th. (see for more details).

This schedule is totally amazing. It has a range of everything from small animal skinning (for reals- the girl who is teaching it has a hat made out of a fox that is one of the most fascinating craft projects I have ever seen) to small container gardening to computer security (one of my personal favorites, since computer operating systems and their use is often overlooked by the activist community. Plus the workshop leader is one of the organizers :)

"I see you, with your bikes and your dogs and your punk rock, and then I go over to your computer, and there's Windows ME, staring me in the face."

Also, I will be auctioning off some DIY supplies to help support Red Emma's and 2640. Rather than make this post insanely long, I will post those at a later date. If you have any items you would like to donate please contact me!

Community Co-op Kitchen: Update

Posted to the Food Makers list:

" It occurred to me at the April potluck that most of the people interested in a commercial kitchen are already involved in this foodmakers group. I really enjoy our relaxing potlucks and informal talks, and I'm worried about the unnecessary stress that running a fully operating commercial kitchen would bring.

This is a real dream I have for the future, and I may start trying to tackle the project in the winter instead of during the busy growing season, but for now I've decided to take a step back. I'd like to ride out this summer and experiment with various projects to see what works and what doesn't before jumping head on to something that I know would require a gargantuan amount of organization and time.

Thanks everyone who is interested, please feel free to experiment with these kind of community-involved food making ventures, and let me know what you learn!


Aliza "

Monday, April 20, 2009

April Foraging Update

Michelle wrote a much better description of our adventures on Saturday, so I thought I would re-post her email to the Foodmakers group:

"Hi everyone,

... (deleted some personal hellos & info...)

The evening began with a slide show on identifying 13 easy-to-find
local wild plants and was followed by a long ramble through Cromwell
Valley CSA's organic fields. We tasted and gathered all kinds of
delicious plants, including spring cress, wild mustard greens, clover,
dandelion, chicory, chick weed and garlic mustard and collectively
foraged a salad which we ate as part of the pot luck dinner
afterward. Some of the bravest group members volunteered to get stung
by stinging nettles, and then eased the burn with a plantain poultice.

After washing the greens we enjoyed pot luck & conversation outdoors.
Besides collectively foraged salad there was green tomato compote,
blue corn bread, a vegetable potage and several other terrific
dishes. Conversation ranged from kombucha making to medicinal plants
to yogurt with many many other fascinating side conversations taking

After dinner seven people stayed to do an impromptu morel mushroom
hunt in the park, and in about an hour we were able to find enough
mushrooms for everyone to take home about five or six each. It took a
little while to get our mushroom-finding eyes on, but once we got
started everyone was able to spot at least a few of the elusive morels
plus jack in the pulpits and fiddlehead ferns.

Brian took some photos of our morel haul, which he's promised to post,
and I promise to figure out how to post the powerpoint weed
identification slide show here on the site ASAP."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

April Foraging!

The April Foodmakers potluck at Cromwell Valley was a delicious time! Not only did the lovely Michelle take us on an "edible weed walk" around the farm, after the potluck some of us went into the woods and found a bounty of morel mushrooms! Apparently since it had rained for a few days and was sunny for a few days, it was great timing for mushrooms.

It was a first mushroom hunt for most of us, so we were all really excited to learn how to hunt for these secret beauties. A keen eye, a bit of luck, and shouts of "I found one!" are all you need!

I also brought a kombucha SCOBY and gave a brief description of how to ferment the tea. I'll probably bring a bunch of "babies" to the next potluck, so perhaps in June we can have a kombucha tasting party.

Sharing tips and strange, healthy, free, delicious food... magical!

(Almost as magical as the snail we found curled up inside the stem of one of the morels! Definite fairy territory :)


Friday, April 17, 2009

Note to Self: Spread Seed Balls on Waste Lots

A great way to attract beneficial microbes & insects, and bring nutrients and ecology back to waste sites:

Thanks for the tip @permiedotnet! Great tweet'ed link to several seed ball tutorials.

Now to find out where to get terracotta clay...


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pesach DIY

Although tonight marks the end of Passover, I just found this post from a Jewish environmentalist who really sums up my opinion of the holiday. The symbolic food and communal story re-telling are actually so much nicer than the usual holiday experience of going to synagogue.

But I'll let Nina's words tell it for me:

" Which brings me back to this Passover. Walking down the supermarket aisles, looking at the profusion of hametz look-alike products, seeing all the did-it-for-you prepared foods, never mind the extraordinary expense we are all burdened with in buying all that stuff, I cannot help but believe we have strayed from one of the premier lessons of Passover: simplicity. On Passover, hametz/leaven, is the symbol of too-muchness. It is the symbol of bloatedness, the things of our lives that are more than is necessary. It is a time when we are to simplify, take only what we need, only what we can carry.

On Passover, my kitchen reverts back to the essentials: fresh and frozen raw fruits and vegetables (I will be more aware this year about what is seasonal and what is not); eggs; oil; matzah meal; spices; cheese. I will do more cooking the week of this holiday than I do in over a month during the rest of the year. And despite the amount of eggs and oil I use, this week will probably produce some of the healthiest food to come out of my kitchen."

Read the whole post at Nina's Blog


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Great Permie Blog Shout-Out!

I just added a new "Sustainability" section to my Bookmarks. Reading these great blogs makes me feel a little less crazy for being so obsessed with urban permaculture right now, and I learn a lot of great tips.

So here's to:

Peak Oil Hausfrau (great name, huh?!) (A fellow Twittrr!)

Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op

Soup-Maker (I follow her on Twitter too!)

Thanks for the amazing tips!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Kombucha Tips!

The Homegrown Evolution blog recently posted a very interesting debate about kombucha's safety and effectiveness. I recommend reading it before embarking on any kombucha making!
BaltimoreDIY (12/8/10)

Several Baltimore Food Makers were looking for kombucha, and of course once you have one SCOBY you have eight million SCOBYs, since it divides about every week or so...

While writing an email to one of the women I gave a SCOBY too, I ended up writing a giant memo! So I figured I might as well kill two birds with one stone and post it here:

Some kombucha tips!

1. Brew the tea like you normally would (maybe a little stronger).

I like to get loose tea in bulk, since I brew the tea from my kombucha a bit stronger than I would brew a cup of tea, and it's cheaper to use bulk tea, and also wastes less (no tea bags or boxes). But tea bags are fine too, especially if you're just doing small batches. Try mixing a blend of teas, and make your own flavor! I have a berry herbal tea that makes a great sweet kombucha. It's also a pretty pink :)

2. I guess for the small jar that I left on your porch, I would use about an eighth of a cup of sugar, maybe a little more, depending on your taste. I'm not sure what rapadura is? I considered using honey but then read that there might be bacteria in honey that could contaminate the SCOBY. The sugar is what feeds the yeast, so I like to make the tea pretty sweet to start out with, and it will get more acidic as the yeast metabolize the sugars.

3. Do not put the SCOBY in hot tea!!! The boiling water will kill it. Make the sweetened hot tea and let it cool completely before adding the SCOBY to it.

4.I like to clean my hands and anythign that will be touching the SCOBY with a vinegar-water cleaning solution to prevent the kombucha from getting contaminated.

A healthy SCOBY will be a solid cream color- there are some pictures online, but I think it's pretty obvious when something is off colored or lumpy looking that it has been contamined.

There will be brown stuff hanging down from the bottom of the SCOBY- don't be concerned, it's just the dead cells (the strings of them are called squidlies from what I've read online :) Straining the kombucha through a tea strainer before you drink it will take out any of the weird texture from the SCOBY remains.

5. Please let me know if you figure out how to make the kombucha more carbonated! Bottling the liquid after about 7 to 12 days, and letting it sit in the sealed containers does build up the carbonation some, but it's nowhere near the store-bought level.

Be careful though! The pressure can build up and your glass bottle will explode. A good & fun way to prevent this is to seal your bottle at the top with a balloon. If the pressure builds up too much, the balloon will expand, not the glass.

I like to keep a separate jar or two of kombucha in a cabinet, just in case one fails. Freshen up the kombucha with fresh sweet cold tea once a month or so, and it will be good to go.

Random tip: I've also read that putting in an eggshell adds calcium to the brew since the acid dissolves the shell a bit..

UPDATE: Don't leave your kombucha in a sealed jar (until you want to drink it). The bacteria in there need the oxygen to make all that fermentation! I rubber-band a paper towel around the top of my brewing kombucha jars.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Open Letter RE: Starting a Commercial Co-op Kitchen in Bmore

Hey fellow makers, growers, and builders of things! I'm trying to gauge interest in the creation of a co-operative commercial kitchen in Baltimore City.

I'd like to set up a meeting on Sunday, April 19th, maybe around brunch time, to discuss ideas for this kind of a space. (Possibly at my apartment, but it's a very tiny space, so it depends on the turnout!) Please feel free to spread the word if you know someone who might be interested in this project.

There are a few great reasons for starting a commercial kitchen space in the city.

1. Purchasing local produce is awesome, but much of that produce is only available for a limited time. With a commercial kitchen, there would be a central location to pickle, can, and freeze large amounts of food purchased from the Farmer's Market, CSAs, or our own gardens. Sharing knowledge and equipment is much cheaper than doing it individually!

2. There are many Baltimore residents who do not have the knowledge or time to purchase, can, cook, or preserve this produce. I'm thinking we could use the co-op kitchen to sell our local, homemade food at low cost to many Baltimore residents who don't have access to it.

3. I know there are a lot of vegan bakers, canners, bread-makers, and other entrepreneurs out there who want to cook and sell their food on a small scale. Many of them run into the problem of not having a commercially certified kitchen to use. This project would be a great space for stay-at-home moms, the elderly, or people who just plain want to cook on their own for a living to have a way to start their own small scale business. Yay, local economy and personal economic freedom!

It would also be great to host workshops for church groups, school field trips, etc. to teach people about healthy eating and cooking habits. And depending on the space where the kitchen is eventually located, I would love to have a space for workshops for teaching people how to live sustainably in the city, with workshop series on everything from worm bin composting to crafting/homeskills workshops. But for now, the kitchen is the first focus!

So, thoughts? Anyone have experience in a similar project? Email me to RSVP for April 19th, and I'll send out another email closer to the date to confirm.

Apologies for the long email!


Aliza (
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