Saturday, August 27, 2011

Timberframe Bent-Raising at Wabi Sabi

NOTE: all photos are clickable for a larger view.

Two of the many things I love about Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage are these:
1. When you need help, folks come a'runnin'
2. A variety of building methods, techniques, and philosophies are embraced, encouraged and supported.

Yesterday was a good example. Wabi Sabi, a food cooperative with Thomas, Ziggy, April and Ali as members, hosted a bent-raising for their under-construction kitchen. Joined by work exchangers Jacob and Jonathan, they've been working hard getting ready for the big moment. 

It was an impressive set up.  I apologize in advance for the poor photos - I did the best that I could with my goofy outdated camera (hint to Kurt: I need a new one!) while trying not to be crushed to death under beams that surely weighed a zillion pounds. Additionally, April was shooting video that will soon (I suspect) be posted on Ziggy's blog,  at A Year Of Mud

The building is being built with the timberframe method: the method of creating structures using heavy timbers jointed by pegged mortise and tenon joints. So here was the challenge - to get this peg into this hole (one of these on the north and south sides of the building),

and this little piece of rebar into that little hole, on the middle post. 

Which doesn't sound like such a big problem until you realize that these pegs/rebar are supporting these mondo huge beams. Here is a view from the other side.

In the photo above you can see how they have rigged up a pulley. Attached to this crossbeam are the three posts which are being lifted into place. We hope.

Here (above) the crew of volunteers gets instructions from Thomas. He's the one on the right in the dashing bonnet. In the background you can catch a glimpse of Wabi Sabi's temporary kitchen, complete with "clerestory" windows.

Katie, Jordan, Claire, Jacob, Maikwe, Jenny, Marqis, Kate
About this time Thomas yelled "PULL!" and so they did. At the same time the other half of the crew, below, supported the beam with notched 2x4s.

Snack, Tim (boots only are visible!), Craig, Dan, Travis, Ziggy

This is when Ziggy called to the rope pullers "oh! Watch out for the sweet potatoes." OK, Zig. No problem. You can see that Jacob and Jonathan ran around the garden patch to pull while not stomping on dinner. Good job!

Meanwhile, Pug supervised. He did an exemplary job.

While the crew with the 2x4s supports the beam (the rope has been tied off at this point) Ziggy and Thomas check to see how close (or how far) the pegs are from the holes.

The pegs are close! First they adjust the one on the right (south), then move to the middle. This takes a lot of crowbar action and careful support from the 2x4s. Jacob get ready to grab the "persuader." Talk about perfect names for things. The Persuader must weigh at least 20 lbs, and is bigger than Rhode Island.

I realize that this looks like a photo of Ziggy's lovely behind, but it is REALLY a shot of all of the careful aligning being done. Jacob is persuading, Thomas is working the crowbar, BETsey and Marqis are supporting with a 2x4 (as are Snack, Tim, Kurt, DAn...). An impressive group effort!

The pegs pop into place. Kurt and Thomas screw in supports. 

And we're done! Which is when the playing begins. Below, Kate demonstrates the power of persuasion on Tim.

Thanks for reading. More soon! 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

When It's Too Hot to Cook, Cook This.

GMO soybeans, feed corn, and sunflowers do not make a great meal...
Photo by Julie Traichel.

Living here in the middle of rural Northeast Missouri we don’t have access to the abundance of farmer’s markets like those of you who live in real live cities (my oh my, if you ever have the chance to visit the market at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, do it – check out the photos here). If we were to eat truly local we'd be chewing on GMO soybeans and feed corn. But I digress...

The good news is that we do have a lot of great produce being grown here in the "Tri-communities" of Dancing Rabbit, Red Earth Farms and Sandhill Farm. We've gotten beets, carrots and potatoes from Sandhill, tomatoes from Nani here at DR and Jacob at Red Earth, gorgeous cucumbers and beets from Dan D., who also makes feta and mozzarella cheese. Garlic is available from the Ironweed Garden, we've scrounged hot peppers from Tom & Tereza, and are growing tons of our own basil and other herbs. Each year there are more gardens and gardeners producing more and more great vegetables. It is very exciting.

A few weeks ago we had a streak of record-setting almost-too-hot-to-live days (soaring into the high 90’s, with humidity to match). That kind of weather doesn’t exactly make one want to rush into the kitchen and turn on the oven. So I looked at the gorgeous produce we had waiting for us in our kitchen and went searching for recipies that didn’t involve a lot of cooking. Some ideas came from Mark Bittman, some ideas came from Lorna Sass, some I made up in my own little head.

Kurt and Alline dining at the Mercantile.

Here’s what we ate a lot of during the heat wave:

Roast beets whole (or boil them or buy them precooked), then slice or cube. Toss with a little chopped garlic (or a lot of roasted garlic), toasted walnuts, orange juice and olive oil.

Fast, grown-up potato salad: Boil bite-size red potatoes. While still warm, dress them with olive oil, lemon juice, whole grain mustard, capers and parsley.
boil bite-size potatoes (or new potatoes cut into bite-size pieces). In a separate skillet, sautee a couple cloves of garlic, chopped until it is fragrant. Toss potatoes with garlic and oil, a little salt and freshly ground pepper.

Creamier Hummus
Instead of using garbonzo beans, cook some navy beans (or get a couple of cans of navy beans). Rinse and drain. Put the beans with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Pulse until smooth. If needed, add a bit more oil or lemon juice. Serve with pita bread or pita chips and raw veggies, with a handful of kalamata olives on the side. Speak with an unidentifiable accent and pretend you are somewhere exotic.

Nothing says summer like a plate of sliced tomatoes. Branch out from those plain old red ones – try the green, the yellow, the purple. You’ll be so glad you did!

Arrange sliced ripe tomatoes on a platter. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese. You can add some cukes and some fresh basil if you have some in your garden (I hope you do). Instead of feta, fresh mozzarella is great, too. Drizzle with a balsamic reduction*. You are going to be so darned impressed with yourself.

Grate about a pound of (peeled, organic) carrots. In a blender mix approximately 3 Tb. Sweet Mango Chutney, 3 Tb. lime juice, 2 Tb. peanut butter, 2-3 Tb. water, 1 teaspoon salt. In a large bowl toss the grated carrots with the dressing. Top with chopped cilantro and chopped roasted, salted peanuts. Recipe from The New Vegan Cookbook by Lorna Sass. **

Cold not-sesame noodles: Cook and cool noodles - udon, soba or even good old fettucine. In a blender or food processor combine about a half-cup peanut butter with a tablespoon soy sauce and enough coconut milk to make the mixture creamy (about a half cup), along with garlic and chili flakes. Toss sauce with cooked and cooled noodles, a load of mint, Thai basil, and/or cilantro, and lime juice. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Shredded cucumber and carrots optional.

Happy eating.

* How to make a balsamic reduction:
  1. Pour the balsamic vinegar into the pan. Use enough so that you allow for it to reduce by half--I like to reduce a whole liter of vinegar and keep it on hand.
  2. Heat the pan to high.
  3. Whisk briskly, even prior to boiling. Once it starts boiling, keep whisking constantly to prevent burning.
  4. Sprinkle in a tablespoon of sugar.
  5. Reduce by half, or until the vinegar takes on a syrupy quality.
  6. Allow to cool. You are gonna love this stuff.
** I love Lorna Sass. I first heard about her from a fabulous woman named Cathy who did recipe testing for Lorna. Cathy and her husband Neil came on a Sierra Club trip (hiking in Northern England). Conversation turned, as it often does, to books and food. One thing led to another and because of Cathy I found these innovative, easy-to-follow cookbooks. Do NOT be dissuaded by the word "vegan" on the cover. This only means that there is no cheese or eggs or pork chops. Step away from the dogma and check it out. You can always serve these vegan dishes on the side of a big juicy steak if you choose. Just sayin'.