Saturday, January 2, 2010

Big Changes

Life has moved pretty quickly for us in the past few months. All of our interns left camp at the end of the summer and we had a quiet fall in the Gap. No funding has been found for our program for next year as of yet so we moved out of our home in New Jersey in the beginning of December. We were amazed by the amount of crap we accumulated in only a year and a half, as were my parents who graciously allowed their basement to be used for storage. It was hard to leave our little house, beautiful lake, friends, and the community we had become a part of, definitely sadder than any of our other moves have been.

First Snow in New Jersey

Catching Snowflakes

After a quick visit with friends and family in the Northeast we set off on a cross country adventure to spend some time in California. All in all Amara did great during our five day drive and enjoyed our stay with the Myers in Ohio and the Battista's in Colorado. The drive was beautiful, cold, snowy, and fairly uneventful.

Looking Good in Dad's Shades

We arrived in California just before Christmas and a had an amazing three day celebration with the whole Johnson clan. We enjoyed amazing meals, drank home brewed beer, mead, and limoncello, and exchanged thoughtful and often handmade gifts. We also played a lot of Wii and Mike got a new tattoo from his brother Timothy.

Ripping Paper Was Certainly The Highlight of The Day


Checking Out Her New Babies

On the 28th we got in the car again and drove North with Stephen and Jodi to stay with Jerry and Cathy (Jodi's parents) in their home in Pullman, WA. The rolling hills of the Palouse are a bit drab and muddy this time of year but one can imagine how spectacular this region must be during the growing season. We had a relaxed New Year's Eve with good food, plenty of wine, and cards.

Hanging Outside in Washington

We fly back down to California on the 7th and will be their for the rest of the month visiting with friends and family and helping Danny and Marie (Mike's mom and dad) out with projects around their houses.
After that you ask...well a little time in Connecticut, then maybe a farm in Maine for the spring and summer, maybe back to New Jersey if our program gets funding, maybe an SCA project somewhere else in the country. I suppose the world is our oyster right now.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

She Walks...Take Two

I took a shorter video because I could not get the other one to download. Amara is a walking champ and it is now here preferred method of locomotion. This one is sideways too, but hey, what can you do?


video





And a few pictures




Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Blur (and lots of photos)

The pace of life has certainly accelerated around here and the summer work is in full swing. Our interns all arrived at the end of June so we have about 30 people working and camping during the week and staying here in camp on the weekends. Mike and I (and Kimbo, our good friend and Mike's assistant) have found juggling work and Amara challenging but also doable with all the helping hands around here. Peiwen, a local teenager comes to camp on Saturday morning to watch Amara while I food shop in town and Mike bakes bread with the interns. Also on Saturday we tend the garden, give the compost the attention is lacks during the week, as well as focus on environmental education. Crew members can participate in an afternoon program which ranges anywhere from mushroom hunting with a local expert to volunteering on a dairy farm, to learning to fly fish. This Sunday Kim and I will bake granola and make soap with anyone who wants to stop by the kitchen and hang out. We have tried very hard to focus on and teach sustainable living skills to the interns. Although it makes for some long days and lots of extra work we enjoy the projects and love the results of our work.

The Finished Oven
Three Sister's: Corn, Squash, and Beans
A Snap Pea Blossom
Interns Harvest Swiss Chard
A Squash Blossom
Yellow Squash
This week Danny and Ryan, Mike's Dad and Brother, came to visit from California. We did have to work so we didn't do anything very exciting but had a really nice visit. We showed them around our little corner of New Jersey and they helped bake bread. Amara loved all the attention from her grandfather and despite not seeing each other often it seems the two of them have a special bond.
Amara took her first steps this week! She has been practicing standing on her own and cruising for about a month now. She is also becoming quite the little climber and can take a flight of stairs in no time. Today I saw her back down a stair for the first time instead of just face planting. She is the most fun baby I have ever known...very cool and relaxed, silly, and smart. She loves to play in boxes and bang on things with spoons. She likes to eat dirt and bugs and grass, well just about everything I guess. Mike took her in the lake for a real swim the other day and she giggled and splashed. She likes to be naked and throws a fit every time she has her diaper changed. She is stubborn and mischievous and just getting to the point where you can't take your eye off of her for more than a minute. She also got four top teeth in the last two weeks, needless to say it has been tough on all of us.
Oooh and the blueberries are ripe, this is the best time of year!








Saturday, June 6, 2009

Building With Earth!

So if you have spent any time around Mike and I you have heard about earthen ovens and cob houses. Here are a few pictures of our first solo attempt of building with earth. The material is sand, clay, and soil with insulating layers that also include wood chips, sawdust, and straw. The first picture is of the brick arch and the soil form that we built on top of. The second is after the dense layer (or heat holding layer) has been formed. We have to do two more layers tommorow and then will post pictures of the finished project and our first baking.


Amara helps us build...man it is hard to keep this child from eating stuff!


And the close up!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ice Cream



Amara enjoying her first ice cream cone!

Summer seems to be in full swing here at the old water gap. The quiet pace of the winter began to quicken in May when we hosted the SCA's national crew leader training. Mike coordinated the trail work projects and other logistical details while I cooked for the 30-60 folks we had staying in camp for 12 days. Stephen and Jodi as well as our friend Lindsay from Cali came to help me in the kitchen. The training went very smoothly, especially with the help of Grandma Patty, Auntie Kimmy, and Kaylee Rose babysitting over the busy weekend. Our group of 25 summer interns and their leaders come in about three weeks and we simultaneously host another big training for the SCA. Things are definitely about to get crazy around here.

We went to Washington DC with Stephen and Jodi this week and had a great time. We treated ourselves to a nice hotel room close to the mall and spent three days at the monuments, museums, and hanging at the Prez's house. Amara had a great time being packed around on Daddy's shoulders, checking out trees, buses, and statues in the art museum. We all had a fun, but tiring few days.


Mike and I finished planting the garden in camp today. The garden has been a huge group effort by everyone living in camp. From building the raised beds with logs hauled out of the woods, to shoveling soil, manure, and compost, to digging post holes for the fence, to starting seeds and transplanting the seedlings, to weeding and mulching. We have had several set backs to getting plants in the ground. First a mouse munched on all our seedlings while we were out of town, then when we restarted many of the seeds were eaten before they even sprouted. We finally got most of our seedlings growing, then supplemented with some purchased plants, and put them in the ground around May 15th. Well what do you know we had a frost (about 28 degrees) on May 20th and lost all of our tomatoes and the peppers and basil are struggling to recover. We are hoping to be over the hump now and are awaiting our first harvest of delicious vegetables. Right next to the garden is the start of our earthen oven. All having been working on hauling rock and soil and building a foundation. Mike made some test bricks today and we hope to begin construction of our insulating layer tomorrow. If all goes well we will have fresh baked bread out of a clay oven in a few short weeks.

Amara has certainly been growing by leaps and bounds. It is bittersweet to see her get bigger; watching her change and learn and discover is so exciting, but it all happens so fast you barely have time to enjoy all the little moments. She is so much fun to play with and she is beginning to recognize objects and remember songs and words. Physically she is strong and determined, she can pull herself onto just about anything and has stood all by herself for several seconds at a time. She can reach more than we expected and we have had to rearrange a lot of furniture and even the plates in the kitchen after she discovered she could pull those down off the shelf. We know it won't be long know until she is walking and we have to chase her all over the house.


A hand-me-down hairband from Kaylee Rose, it is so sparkly we couldn't help but put it on and giggle.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

It's Been Too Long...

Since we have posted. The pace of life has certainly picked up since this winter leaving a little less time for keeping up with the blog. Amara has changed so much in the past month it is unbelieveable! Her crawling has improved by leaps and bounds, she is quite fast and is getting up on her knees (rather than just army man crawling) more often. She has learned to push herself up to a sit as well as return to the ground without keeling over and banging her head. She has been very interested in standing and in the past week as been practicing pulling up on objects around the house. Yesterday she pulled up to stand on the coffee table all by herself and has repeated it a few times. Today she learned to sit back down gently even though we have had some pretty tough falls and a lot of crying. Amara's second little tooth poked through this week, they are very sharp and she bits hard when you try to pull the stick or rock or other random item she is chewing out of her mouth. She is also vocalizing all the time, Doggie (sounds like daw-ee) is officially her first word and she gets so excited to say it when she sees the dogs.



The garden is coming along, we have all of our seeds started, actually have started multiple times since a stupid mouse keeps eating all of our seeds. The raised beds have been built and now we just need to put up a fence to keep the deer out. We wanted to plant this weekend but it rained so much we will be postponed at least another week. We are waiting on some tempeh culture we just ordered and have built an incubator out of an old refrigerator so we will share the story of that adventure once we make our first batch. The beer brewing is coming along with mixed results, mostly mediocre batches and only one really good one, we are learning though. We also made our first batch of soap last week and it is currently curing, it takes at least three weeks to complete the chemical reactions between the fat and the lye so if you use it too soon it is very irritating.




video

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Noborigama Wood Fire

I love throwing pots. I know some folks out there may not be privy to the phrase; and probably have images of Erin and me throwing spaghetti against the wall. And as much as we are an odd couple, what I'm really talking about is pottery. I'm not really embarrassed to use the utilitarian or craft-culture term: "pottery"; rather than the bourgeois, "ceramics." Don’t get me wrong, society needs artists. And I would even go on to say that society needs art where the pieces go beyond form meeting function. But I digress…

Anyways, at this point I feel comfortable saying that I am a potter. This is one of the few creative outlets in my life for which I have developed a deep passion. And this past weekend was a great addition in my experience as a potter: a wood firing. I’ll give the briefest concepts of throwing pots that I can to give some background.

Ok. So, you’re probably familiar with the part where a clay pot is thrown on a wheel, sculpted with tools, or assembled with clay slabs. Once a pot is finished and dry it is called greenware; at this point it is fired (or heated) to a little over 1000 degrees in a kiln. Then it is decorated and glazed with a kind of wet clay/mineral based paint. At this point it can go through its final firing in a variety of ways: in an electric kiln, a gas kiln, or wood kiln. There are so many variables that can create different effects based on type of kiln, temperature, glazes, methods of firing, blah-blah.









This weekend was the first time I have fired in a large wood fired kiln, called a Noborigama Kiln. This type of kiln is based around a type of kiln called an Anagama which is one of the oldest wood-fired kilns: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anagama

The basic concept is that there are three chambers: the first one for a huge, hot wood fire; the second and third chambers hold the pots and get a smaller wood fire. And the third one also gets a bunch salt blown into it for different effect on the pots. So the temperature get above 2400 degrees F, ash showers down on the pots, and the glazes/ash/salt turn to glass.






All of this is done over a 2-day period of time. I partnered with another classmate to work the primary firing session from midnight to 6:00 am. We drank homebrew, played guitar, threw more pots, and kept the fire going.




A week after getting the kiln up to temp, we got to unload the kiln and see our pots. One of my favorite things about this style of firing is that it is so organic and uncontrollable. You are feeding the fire god and she returns with a gift; but you never know what that gift might be. So, here are some pictures of the gifts I received.










And some spring mushrooms, and salamander.