Monday, October 25, 2010

DIY Fest 2010

DIY Fest was great.

A very special shoutout to Tess, Nick, Alix, all the amazing people who hosted workshops and tables (for FREE), and of course, to the people who shared the day with us!

I especially loved that a smattering of various DIY subcultures were represented, from punk zines to homemade infant care.

The idea of learning free skills and how to make things by hand appeals to so many different people for so many different reasons, and I really felt like DIY Fest reflected that sentiment. Some people want to learn survival skills, some want to save money, some want to create an alternative to the mainstream consumer world, and some just want to have fun and learn new things.

DIY Fest is a place where you can meet someone who raises their own silkworms!

It's all about the freedom to make stuff and do things. It's great to get inspired for different projects you can do around the house, learn how things work, and personalize your lifestyle.

The awesome map and schedule:

The very well attended cordage and fire by friction workshop at the Ancestral Knowledge table:

Learning how to make and use cloth diapers with Baby Dooty:

People relaxing and enjoying the couches:

Baltimore Biodiesel:

Handmade instruments:

Crafty knitting stuff:

(For the record, I am now obsessed with the idea of finding an old sweater at a thrift store and using it to make a pair of felted slippers for the winter. And maybe a felted cap too.)

Buttons and patches:

Apologies that there couldn't be photos of all the tables and workshops, but this is what we have for now. There were several other people with cameras and video so hopefully more footage will be coming soon.

I was so happy that the Alternative Economic Models was well attended:

John Duda (Red Emmas), Baltimore Bicycle Works, and Fusion are all very experienced with the nuts and bolts of how to match political belief with the reality of economics.

While a lot of us talk the talk when it comes to political and economic thought, it's another things to actually have a bank account and employees. It was great to get an in-depth look at all of the work behind the idea of collectively running a business. It's one thing to talk about horizontal power structures and another thing to know the tax code bracket you fit into.

It was great to see the range of different structures and to know that many of these groups rely on each other for support and shared knowledge. The more people there are like them, the more availability we all have for thinking about different ways we can structure our own world.

If you are interested in learning more about Red Emma's, 2640, the Free School, and how you can get involved there is an information session at Red Emma's this THURSDAY the 28th at 7 p.m. 800 St. Paul St.

Thanks again everyone for reminding me why DIY is such a big part of my life.


The new online Baltimore culture journal What Weekly posted an article about the Fest. It's not the most in-depth coverage, nor the most accurate (the event was not organized by Red Emma's) but there are some really pretty photos.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fourth Annual DIY Fest Coming Soon

We've been working hard planning the 4th annual DIY Fest, and now SUNDAY (the 24th) is the big day!

Can't wait to see you there, there are so many amazing workshops. And for the first time ever we are also having a panel discussion.

There are so many interesting business cooperatives opening up in Baltimore, we thought we would include a discussion with Red Emma's, Baltimore Bicycle Works, and the Fusion non-profit partnership to talk about running a business outside of the usual economic model.

2640 St. Paul St.
12-6 p.m.

The DIY Fest website has details on the workshops and times.

Urban Foraging (12:00 – 1:00)

Zines & the Art of Self-Publishing (1:10-2:10)

Reusing Yarn Fiber for Knitting/Crocheting (1:45-2:45)

Cordage, Flint Knapping & Fire by Friction (2:15-3:15)

Alternative Business Models Panel (3:00-4:00)

Pumpkin Carving/Painting (3:15-3:45)

Infant Care Workshop – Baby Dooty (3:45-4:45)

Roadside Repair (4:15 – 5:15)

Urban Composting (4:30 – 5:30)

Home Brewing (5:00 – 6:00)

Intro To Screen Printing (5:00 – 6:00)

Of course, you don't have to attend the event all day, stopping by is perfectly fine!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Hard Cider Experiment

Who knows if this will work. But for $2 worth of apples, it's been fun trying to make alcohol with as little resources as possible.

A few weekends ago I purchased some apple "seconds" for the October foodmakers potluck.

For those unfamiliar with bargain farmers' market shopping: when fruit or vegetables are bruised or misshapen, they are sold as seconds to canners and other foodmakers who don't necessarily care that food is supermarket-perfect.

Tomatoes and apples can be bought very cheaply by the bushel to make economical tomato sauce and applesauce. Plus it's fun rescuing the unwanted fruits from being wasted!

I ground up and froze the apples to maximize their juice output. Here is my fancy pressing system:

The defrosted apple bits are wrapped in a cheesecloth in the colander, with a weighted saucepan pressing down to extract the juice.

The chickens have been eating a lot of apple mash!

I was a little cautious about the food safety of my apples since they had been ground up and then sat outside in the warm sun for several hours during the potluck. I decided to pasteurize them by boiling the mash on the stove for about ten minutes.

Of course, I then consulted a book after doing this and learned that you only need to heat the apples to 170 degrees to pasteurize them, you don't need to fully boil the apples. Boiling (which is about 212 degrees) gives your apple cider a cooked taste.

The apple cider did taste cooked.

So I kept reading to see if I could ferment the cider. My favorite reference books right now are The Encyclopedia of Country Living and The Backyard Homestead. Thinking about it now, I suppose I could have checked out Wild Fermentation too.

The Backyard Homestead gave me what I needed: an old-school recipe for fermenting cider at home with bread yeast.

I know that most beers and wines are made with special yeasts, and probably could have gone to a brew store to buy yeast for the cider. But of course, I wanted to make something right then, with things found around the house.

So I thought I would experiment to see which method would work best. Which takes us back to the photo above.

Jar #1: store-bought cider with no added yeast

Jar #2: home-made cider with no added yeast

Jar #3: home-made cider with 1/2 tsp bread yeast

Jar #4: home-made cider with 1 tsp sourdough starter

Luckily Chicken Man had some latex gloves around the house from the lab, so I used those as airlocks for the jars.

So far #3 and #4 have obviously been giving off more gas, since they had the added yeast. We vented #3 at some point, and the glove actually blew off #4 at some point.

Now all I do is wait. I'm guessing I'll wait for about a month, then decant the homebrew into new jars. Maybe I'll add some raisins into bottles when I cork the brew (the added raisin sugar makes it fizzy...). I might try half in a few months, then save half to try a year from now.

This could be totally disgusting. But it could also be homebrew apple cider for $2!

Either way, it will be a few months before I know. Can't wait.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I'm on Stay-cation!

Yes, I took the week off work and I'm staying home.

I thought about traveling somewhere, maybe camping in the Appalachians, traveling to the Pacific Northwest, or something like that. But I have so many things on my "To Do Wishlist" I thought it might be more relaxing to spend my vacation getting things done around the house and exploring a little of Baltimore.

Yesterday I visited the Rawlings Botanical Gardens in Druid Hill Parks. (Special thanks to Flickr user wjklos for the above photo.)

Unfortunately it's closed on Tuesdays, but at least I got to lay around the outside gardens in unseasonably warm October weather. My favorite part was the geometrical orb of a sundial that gave the time for regions all over the globe. (Kid Baltimore had this photo.)

Today my friend Katie Red and I walked around Ellicott City, which has a cute historic Main Street. We also had lunch at Lotte Plaza, which has an awesome Asian food cafeteria with really cool wooden tables and stools.

Otherwise I've been doing the usual foodmaking fun.

The tomatoes in my garden are looking pretty busted, so I wanted to make some kind of relish with them.

Green tomato relish! I modified one of the recipes in my Ball Blue Book and cooked the tomatoes with banana peppers, a yellow and red pepper, and some onion.

Should have been a little more patient with a few of the tomatoes, they were turning red inside!

Plus I got a new sourdough starter from my fellow foodmaker Johanna at ChiliBrew, so I've been reading up on how to make good sourdough in the King Arthur baking book.

A few tips and recipes are listed on the King Arthur website if you're interested in learning more.

Collected the carrot seeds from the garden too. I knew they were little black seeds from the ones I got in my seed packet earlier this season, but I didn't realize they had tiny little hairs all over them. A neighbor was wandering in the garden and it was fun showing him what carrot seeds look like!

Sadly some of my seedlings are looking a little nibbled on. Poor baby bok choy. The peas definitely seem like they preferred spring too.

Looks like I'm going to get a fair amount of daikon radish though. Kim chee!

Hah, you know you're an urban homesteader when you take the week off to shovel rabbit poo.

It makes great compost! Most animal waste (chicken, horse, etc.) needs to be composted first before being used as fertilizer, but rabbit poop can be put right in the garden. Thanks bunnies!

What kinds of things would you do on your Baltimore stay-cation?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Upcoming October Events

There are so many upcoming fall events!

From urban design talks to volunteer opportunities, Baltimore folks are sure to get involved with something interesting.

Here's an overview of some of the fun:


Come to ChiliBrew at 2640! Eat chili and taste homebrew to your little heart's delight. What more could you want? A $10-20 donation gets you a commemorative pint glass, and the money goes to support the 2640 space, Velocipede, and the Free School. Last minute entries are available! Come to 2640 St. Paul St. at 6:30 p.m.

Friday 10/6 and Saturday 10/7

How to Grow a Pickle. Puppet theater about where pickles come from. Click the link for more details and locations.


FORCE, the Culture of Rape art show opens 7-10 p.m. at the Current Gallery. 421 N. Howard St. Baltimore, MD 21201.


An agroforestry workshop about planting vegetables with fruit and nut trees as an integrated approach to increasing our urban food sources. Parks & People is teaming up with Baltimore Greenworks for this workshop by Katrina Krouse of the U.S. Forest Service & Anne Draddy from TreeBaltimore. Plus the workshop is at Brewer's Art! Awesome.


Urban design discussion about the importance of planning, zoning and vision in the rebirth of our cities followed by a panel discussion by local city planners, developers, and citizen groups on implications for planning in Baltimore.
Here is the link for more details.


Maryland Home & Garden Show for all of your home improvement and gardening needs as you get your living quarters ready for winter.


Starting Saturday, October 17 Real Food Farm will be hosting volunteer days and farm tours the 1st and 3rd Saturday of every month. If you would like to volunteer, you can join them at 9 a.m. for planting, weeding, harvesting, and other work around the farm. Now featuring a farm tour and potluck as part of the experience.


Baltimore Greenworks and the Museum of Industry are having a workshop about sustainable food processing. Click on the Museum of Industry link for more details and to see a full list of all their exciting events.

Phew! So much going on. I'll have to make some choices about what I'm able to attend, and when I need to stay home and knit/bake/clean/garden.

This weekend though I hope to press some cider at the October foodmakers potluck and also pick up some native plants at the Herring Run native plant sale.


Oh no, how could I have forgotten to add this in my original post. I forgot to mention DIY FEST!

We're going to have all sorts of awesome workshops, like home brewing, urban foraging, wildlife survival skills, DIY infant care, yarn re-use, bike repair, and self-publishing with zines.

Plus for the first time ever we're going to have a panel speak about alternative business models from local examples Red Emma's, Baltimore Bicycle Works, and non-profit umbrella organization Fusion.

The event takes place from 12-6 pm at 2640 St. Paul, and it's FREE!

Hope you enjoy this October, whatever you do!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Muhammad's Squash Fence

Last November I mentioned Muhmammad, one of my favorite Remington gardeners.

(Scroll down on this blog post to see a photo of his taro roots and cilantro.)

This man knows what he's doing. Not only is he growing giant okra, taro, and a ridiculous amount of beans and squash, he somehow manages to sneak a garden into nooks and crannies all over the neighborhood.

This fence at the end of our alley has slowly been taken over by the biggest squash plant I have ever seen. I'm not 100% sure of the type of squash, but I think it might be a bitter melon.

It's starting to climb up the telephone wires and has even taken over the tree.

Now it looks like the tree is growing bitter melon!

There is a tiny strip of land about six inches wide below the fence, and he has even managed to cram a few food crops onto that. He is growing hot peppers and some jute, which I thought was just a fiber plant (burlap is made out of jute), but it turns out that the leaves of the plant are edible.

So much food on about a foot of land! Muhammad is my gardening hero.

My goal next year is to plan more squash and beans like him, since I notice that he has steadily been harvesting really high calorie food while I keep throwing out my insect damaged tomatoes and don't have very much food coming out of the garden these days...
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