Saturday, February 19, 2011

Music: Homegrown and Handmade

In Jenna Woginrich's book MADE FROM SCRATCH: DISCOVERING THE PLEASURES OF A HANDMADE LIFE there is a chapter entitled "Homemade Mountain Music". It got me thinking about how music was such an important part of Helen and Scott Nearing's 'good life'.

The Nearings are considered the great-grandparents of the back to the land movement in this country. Helen was a trained violinist and she and Scott played music together to relax after a hard day's work. I'm sure with all of the visitors they had over their long years of homesteading in Vermont and Maine they had many a music jam!

If you have not read their 1954 book "LIVING THE GOOD LIFE" now is the time.

Helen and Scott were devoted to a lifestyle giving importance to work, on the one hand, and contemplation or play, on the other. Ideally, they aimed at a norm that divided most of a day's waking hours into three blocks of four hours: "bread labor" (work directed toward meeting requirements of food, shelter, clothing, needed tools, and such); civic work (doing something of value for their community); and professional pursuits or recreation (for Scott this was frequently economics research, for Helen it was often music - but they both liked to ski, also). -Wikipedia

Helen did love her classical music records. You can see her phonograph behind her.

We hosted our first-ever potluck and old-time music jam a couple of weeks ago. Everyone ate out on the front porch and then moved inside to play music. It was an unusually warm evening so the front door was open. In between songs we could hear applause from neighbors passing by.

Here's a picture-

Actually, we had fourteen people crammed into our front room. We had an upright bass, four guitars, four banjos, a mandolin, and four fiddles. It felt like this picture looks!

Even the cat joined in....

Actually, we don't have a cat!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Greenhouse Comes to Life

We love building with recycled, reclaimed and salvaged materials. The redwood for the greenhouse framing came from a disassembled water tank. The wood had been stored in a barn for 50 odd years awaiting reuse. Luckily, someone who knew its value was present when the water tank was taken down. It is beautiful wood.

At Sonoma Compost there are stacks and stacks of reclaimed redwood boards. People tear down Redwood decks and fences and take the wood to the dump. Luckily, they set it aside for reuse. We've found gorgeous water tank wood there, as well as beams from old barns. It's wonderful to see all that useful and beautiful wood being diverted from the wood chipper and eventually the compost heap. Thank you Sonoma Compost! Check them out at They are located at the Sonoma County Landfill. 500 Meacham Road in Petaluma.

The greenhouse rafters are tank wood and the ridge beam is made from old siding off of our house. It was in the lumber pile and it fit the bill. Blessedly, it was unpainted redwood as well. In the background our backyard Redwood tree looks down on the new 6' X 9' greenhouse.

All of the windows for the greenhouse walls came from Recycletown ( at the Sonoma County Landfill, Petaluma. We could not have found more perfect windows for our needs. Nine of them six-feet tall with bottom sliding windows and screens for ventilation. They made the project much easier to build because of their height and uniformity.

Now that we have our final dimensions we will look for a door and some front windows at Recycletown or Urban Ore ( Right now, we're in the middle of a storm so construction has halted. We'll post any progress once we get back to work.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Birds Watching

Ours is a permaculture garden. It is constantly evolving. As we observe more we learn more about what grows well in which parts of the garden. Who likes to grow with who and what kind of soil do they like best. We are still building our long-term goal of a permaculture food forest. It takes time to build and a willingness to adapt (just like the plants).

We have been starting seeds in cold frames for many years now. It works well but now we are ready for something more. So, our dream of a small backyard greenhouse is coming to life.

We are not the only ones adapting to our site. We are not the only ones who live here. We live with many birds both wild and domestic. Every one of them is watching everything we do in the garden.

Now, with a new structure being built it is just too fascinating to resist. A new foundation? Rocks! Ooh! Cutting wood! It's all too exciting!

Next up, the greenhouse comes to life!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Good Ol' Truck, Good Ol' Wheelbarrow

Around here we love old things. I guess that's why we bought this old house. When we bought it the realtor considered it a 'tear down'. She thought someone would buy it just to build something new in it's place. We saw the heart and soul in it. It's great natural light, the wildness of the yard, the good neighbors.

When we dug into and got down to the bones of it we travelled from the 1970's back to 1907. That's a lot of layers and sadly a lot of trips to the dump. We needed a truck for dump runs and after buying the house there was no money left to purchase such a thing. Then, we remembered Big Blue sitting out in a field at my husband's old family place. The '69 Chevy hadn't run in many years but we knew it could. With some elbow grease and a trip to the junk yard for new wheels and tires Big Blue was on the road again. In no time we were on our first run to the dump with a truck load of green 70's carpeting, cheap wood paneling, and many layers of wallpaper and acoustic ceiling panels. We were feeling good and getting things done. Then the hood blew up and the engine overheated and we were stuck on the side of the road. We were out in the country so we knocked on the door of a nearby farmhouse and got some water for the radiator. Got some rope to tie the hood down and continued on our way.

When we got there we couldn't believe all of the trucks and trailers filled with usable things heading for the landfill. This was the last year our local dump just had you drive to the edge of a great precipice and dump everything over it. As we pulled up to our spot on the edge I saw a truck parking with a wheelbarrow in the back. As my husband parked I jumped out and ran like the bionic woman over to that doomed wheelbarrow. "Wait!" I yelled. "I'll take that!". Whew! Nick of time. I had it in my possession. We got it home, fobbed up a new axle for it and have been using it for 9 years now.

As I said, that was the last year our dump operated that way. Now, there is mandatory recycling and an amazing place called Recycletown where the still-usable items are sold for a nominal price.

I recently thought about all of this while using the wheelbarrow to haul base rock for the floor of our new greenhouse. We just started construction last week. It will be built with windows from Recycletown, redwood from an old water tank, salvaged leaded and stained glass windows and a salvaged door. Should be fun! I'll post our progress here.

Big Blue has since gone on to be a Father and Daughter restoration project in a nearby town.