Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Winter Projects and Foods

Winter is probably the least interesting season for me.  Sure I like being able to slow down, read some books, and plan and think about the coming season.  But I think I'd rather everything be green and growing and be able to be out in it.  Of course, thanks to climate change, we have had a record warm winter, so there have been many days in the 50s and 60s in January and February so far. 

This winter I've been working on various finishing touches on the inside of the house.  I was racking my brains to find some good finish for the window sills of the deep wells on the strawbale walls.   I wanted something like tile, that would hold up better than earthen plaster to the wear and tear the sills would be subject to.  The commercial tile I was finding at the store seemed really boring, and the interesting Mexican tile was really expensive and not available at the local stores.  Then I stumbled across some more natural looking slate tiling.  Every piece was unique in its color and surface pattern, but they were all the same earthen hues.  I had the idea to cut them into shapes that would make them more interesting than just one foot squares.  The one foot square fit perfectly in the window sill with enough room to spare.  I cut the slate with a circular masonry blade. 

 Earthen plaster is so easy to work with.  I mixed up some extra plaster in the late fall during warmer weather and put it in buckets so I could continue these projects over winter.  I just bring in a bucket of plaster to thaw and add water to bring it back to life. I works great as a grout for the tiling.

This is a little alcove for hats and gloves near the door.

I plan to experiment with oiling the plaster and tile with linseed oil to make the sills even more durable.  I'm really impressed with how nice it looks.  All these windows need now are thermal curtains and they are done.

To make the curtains I've hired April, our local seamstress.  These thermal Roman shades will insulate with about 7R at night and on cloudy days in winter and on sunny days in summer.  I picked out the maroon taffeta fabric because I liked the way it contrasted with the earthen plaster.  To me it gives the interior an exotic look.  And it looks much better than the junky makeshift blanket shades I've been using for over a year.

I've also been able to get to some of the last sections of finish plaster. For one section I experimented with pigmenting the plaster with charcoal to get a darker color.  It seemed to work perfectly and I would recommend it if you want to make a wall look darker.  I'm sure you could even make design work by inlaying the darker plaster into the lighter.  It takes a bit of work to prepare, but I'm sure  there would be a way to make the process more efficient.  I basically took leftover charcoal I sifted out of the ashes from my wood stove, put it through a hand crank grinder, sifted out the charcoal dust, and mixed it into the regular plaster.  It takes quite a bit of it to change the color and you'd only be able to make it a uniform hue by measuring out a specific proportion for each batch.  But it adds color, it's an easily accessible pigment, and it doesn't appear to affect the strength of the plaster.  I was thinking it might even strengthen it in some way because it might bind with the ions in the clay.  It made a perfectly smooth finish.

The plaster with the charcoal in it is in the section above the door.

This is a section showing the contrast between the charcoal plaster and the regular.

Eating Local Food in the Middle of Winter

Because I want to eat as locally as possible and know where my food comes from, I have many ways of preserving food I grow so it will be available throughout the winter, when just about nothing is in season.  Of course, there is the hoop house, that has made it the season for at least something all year round.

This I a potato leek soup I made a couple weeks ago from potatoes from the root cellar under my floor, leeks I'd harvested from the garden that day, and carrots I'd harvested from the hoop house recently as well.  Below is a salad of mixed hoop house greens with homemade organic feta cheese, and carmelized carrots, also from the hoop house.

This is an omelette made with our chicken's organic eggs, homemade feta cheese, and onions from last year's garden. The bread is organic whole wheat sourdough made by Alyson, our local artisan bread baker.

And finally below, the abundant greens from the hoop house.
They slowed down over January and the demand here in the village seemed to far exceed the supply, but they are starting to pick up now that the days are getting longer.


Jenny Russell said...

Dan: I love your blog and seeing everything you're doing. It's amazing. I can't believe you're making cheese now, too. I've experimented with soft cheeses, but making gouda seems pretty advanced!

Keep on blogging!
Jenny (your cousin)

Dan Durica said...

Thanks for the comment Jenny. It's good to hear from you. I'm glad you've found my blog. I do enjoy cheesemaking, and I'm getting more into experimenting with the hard cheeses as you can see, though I make feta and mozzarella every week.