Wednesday, September 4, 2013

It's Time to Plaster! SEPT 28-29, 2013

Building a New World Through Natural & Healthy Materials

ROUND 3 WORK PARTY DATES: September 28-29 (Sat/Sun) 9-1:30pm
The earthbag foundation is complete and most of the strawbale wall is in place! Our main task this coming weekend will be plastering the outside of the structure with light straw clay (mix of clay, straw & water). If we have a big enough crew, we may work inside the structure as well. If the materials arrive in time, Logan will also be prepping and installing the roof. It's all coming together so smoothly. Help us keep the momentum up by offering your hands and heart for a few hours of fun, collaborative work, followed by a hearty, yummy meal!
Shoveling gravel into the space.
Eventually there will be an earthen floor in place.

The gravel is leveled...time to stack strawbales!

Heidi & Andres, working hard  
Tule, making sure the wall is straight
Luna & Ruben

Laughing Heart is building our first classroom! During the months of September and October we will be constructing a beautiful, unique natural building. This circular strawbale building will hold a space for workshops, group yoga and dance, ceremony and more. It’s a community gathering and workshop space.

If you want to learn how to build using environmentally conscious techniques or just love Laughing Heart and have some energy to lend a hand, please join us! We will have many more work days upcoming at each phase along the way!

PLEASE RSVP so we know how big a meal to make. RSVP & questions to Logan:
LaughingHeartLogan (at) gmail (dot) com or 530-559-4854

PLEASE BRING a water bottle, hat, sunscreen, work gloves and your shining heart--let's put lots of good energy and prayers into this space for it to bring much joy, connection, healing and love to our community and the world!

The joyful crew after at the end of the work weekend

Monday, September 2, 2013

Weekend At Home...From Garden to Kitchen

Cabbage sprout
What a beautiful--and full--weekend! Logan, Hanna, Judy & the kids all left for a family visit in southern Cali just as Andres & I were making our way home from a backpacking trip in the Tahoe Sierras. With only the two of us on the land, Laughing Heart feels much more like a retreat space than a lively community hub. And no matter how many people are around, there is always plenty to tend to!

Feeling refreshed and inspired by a few nights deep in the woods, we were up bright and early Saturday morn to start our farm chores. We put away all the gear from our trip, cleaned up the house and were ready to greet the land. To start were the usual daily tasks of tending the cats, dogs, fish and watering the gardens, greenhouse and orchard. A quick spray and wipe down of the solar panels, which had gone awhile without cleaning. Then we decided to continue the fall prep of the greenhouse and veggie

Andres harvesting Tulsi leaves
garden. A few weeks ago, Logan, Andres & I pulled many past-prime plants, amended the soil and put in lots of seeds to begin our fall garden. So many tender sprouts have shot up since then and it was already time for thinning. We thinned the kale, lettuce, cilantro, beets, chard and spinach, saving all the pulled sprouts to enjoy in our salads! Next was lots of weeding and a little harvesting. I trimmed back the overgrown Tulsi patch, saving the cuttings for us to harvest the leaves for tea. I pulled a few more plants that had gone to flower, including the buttercrunch lettuce, whose seeds I decided to save. It's quite a chore pulling out all those tiny pods!

Buttercrunch lettuce seeds
The greenhouse was once again feeling fully loved up! There's still a little space for some fall veggies, but those will need to be purchased at a nursery. We are now past the time of summer to plant seeds and get a fully mature, healthy plant in the fall. Thank you for sharing your wisdom on this, Logan! I am so appreciating learning more about gardening and all there is to consider to get your garden to thrive.

On to the veggie garden. We've had such an abundant summer of various squash, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, basil and melons in our much goodness! We've been continuously trimming back the massive squash vines to keep paths clear and make it possible to find the veggie treasures. Now it seems that the plants are nearing the end of their cycle. The two winter squash varieties we grew are both full of plump squash, ready to pick. However, I just learned from the woman who provided us the seeds that it's best to leave them on the vine if there is still life in the leaves and to harvest once all the leaves are brown or before frost comes...whichever happens first. So I continued to cut back the dead and dying leaves from these and other plants.

Where the green beans once lived
The green beans were another story. They have produced prolifically, despite having some sort of mite infestation for the past several weeks. As sad as the leaves looked, the plants all kept providing more and more beautiful and delicious beans! But now their time had come. I harvested the last of the beans and sang a song of gratitude as I pulled each of the plants and laid them to rest in the compost pile. Then I tilled the soil and scattered vetch seeds to provide a cover crop for the coming cold weather. A little more weeding and general fussing over and the garden was feeling tended.

Meanwhile, Andres had been tending other tasks. One of these was making hot sauce with peppers from our garden--yum! I'm hoping he'll write up a blog post soon with the recipe and some pics. Another task, the best of which (for me!) was him making us a beautiful and hearty brunch of poached eggs and lots of veggies from the garden, spiced up with yummy curry sauces. It was delicious, as his meals are known to be. In the midst of his cooking, he also harvested and prepped lots of basil for me to make up a big batch of pesto, which I did right after our meal. Though I don't tend to measure things out, I'm happy to share what I added into the mix. Lots
Andres plucks basil leaves
of basil, several cloves of garlic, olive oil, nutritional yeast, a little salt and some walnuts, all blended up in the food processor. Though I typically add nuts to my pesto blends, this was a first in using walnuts. While I liked the flavor, I was not so happy with the texture of this batch. Next time I will either use fewer (or no) walnuts or I will try a blend with some other variety. Still, this will make us a few good meals.

After storing the jars of pesto in the freezer, I soaked a big jar of almonds and a jar of buckwheat groats to make granola at some point in the weekend. I cleaned up the kitchen, started some laundry and decided it was time to get creative! I headed to my little art studio (a mosquito tent :-), and was just about to dive into a project when Andres came to inform me of a fire that had just been reported just a handful of miles away. We have only been in this area a little over 2 years and while we're familiar with the fire potential, we have not experienced any imminent danger. And we were unsure if the current fire (on Tyler Foote & 49) was an imminent danger. We discussed it for a few moments, while continuously refreshing YubaNet (so grateful this exists!) for updates. The fire copters could already be heard flying in to do their work. Was it over-reactive to start packing things up, or unwise to continue our day as though all were well? And should we message the family on their vacation to find out what they want packed up, or was this causing undue fear? While we had begun making a verbal list of what we would pack up and what needed our attention before leaving the land (if it should come to that), we did wait it out a bit to see what the reports said about containment. Within an hour of us learning about the fire, it was reported that much progress was being made and some resources were even being called off. An hour after that, the fire had been fully contained. The main thing this experience pointed out was that Laughing Heart needs to have an emergency protocol in place so that whoever is around knows how to tend all that needs tending (shut off the gas, collect the animals, etc) and is aware of the wishes of other landmates. Big thank yous to all the firefighters and to YubaNet for keeping us informed!

Today started out at a much slower pace than yesterday. After some morning yoga and tending to the morning feeding and watering chores, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast (again by Chef Andres!) and sat in the garden for a bit. Since today was so much cooler, we decided to go harvest peaches from the big orchard. We have been blessed with SO much fruit this year--apricots, pluots, peaches, nectarines, apples, pears--we have even been able to sell some of it to support the process of growing it all. So exciting! The peaches today were beautiful and blushing, though after harvesting a couple of trees we decided to leave the rest for a few more days.
Homemade granola

Once back at home, I decided to continue the granola making process. Before going to bed last night, I strained the water from the almonds and groats and left them to dry out on cookie sheets. I gathered up lots of goodies to blend together and this is what was created. It's a combo of dates, coconut oil, almonds, walnuts, buckwheat groats, flax seeds, hemp seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, vanilla & honey. After this picture was taken, I added raisins and coconut shreds as a final touch. Homemade granola is so the way to go! Thank you for encouraging this, Andres.

Add caption

Since the day was still cool and the oven
still hot, I decided to make good use of the situation and bake a treat! Andres LOVES when I make carrot muffins, which I haven't done in awhile. And since it is his birthday week, it seemed like the perfect time! So I pulled a few carrots from the greenhouse and collected all the ingredients. A little of this, a little more of that, stir it all up, pop it in the oven....ding! The final product, a gluten free, dairy free, hearty, chocolate chip, walnut, carrot cupcake. Looks good, smells and tastes divine! Then I decided it could use one more touch. Homemade frosting! My favorite concoction is cacao, coconut oil, vanilla, maple, cinnamon, cayenne and banana. Blend it all up, then let it solidify in the fridge for a couple's the best! A great way to wrap up a weekend of tending home, garden and loved ones. Hope your weekend was as sweet!

Cricket, hoping it's a doggie treat
One last share...these beauties are currently shining their light in the flower garden...

Friday, August 2, 2013

DIY Food Dehydrator

Andres recently made a dehydrator to handle the abundance of fruit we've been harvesting! He wrote an article on how to make your own. It's featured here:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Open For Business...of Yumminess!

Laughing Heart is expanding! We now have a roadside fruit stand. And it's very cute. The Blue Barrow fruit & veggie stand opened for business just after the Summer Solstice and it boasted white nectarines from our orchard that were juicy perfection! Of course, not many of you are likely to come across this stand...unless you come visit us! Which we encourage. 

Blue Barrow is located immediately across the street from Laughing Heart on Troost Trail (in North San Juan), about 1 mile up from Bridgeport. Mostly it will be neighbors purchasing our homegrown goodness. Though just today we put a big sign out on Pleasant Valley Road (the major cross street) to advertise aloe plants (we are abundant!) and Coratina olive trees for sale.  

white peaches
Our feature of the moment are white peaches harvested over the past two days from our orchard just up the road. Get 'em while you can as they will likely be gone within a week. Then on to yellow peaches, which are nearly ready to harvest. So much to savor in the summer! Be in touch if you'd like to come visit, take a tour, or purchase any of our plants or produce!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Green Is Growing All Around!

Veggie garden

There's so much growth and radiance in the garden, it brings a little awe to my heart every time I walk through it. Lucky for me, I walk through at least once every day! The family just left for a two week Solstice journey (we miss you!) and just as they're going, we seem to be abundant in home grown food. There are new flowers blooming, the fruit trees are heavy with all sorts of yumminess, the greenhouse is at capacity and the veggie beds are looking like a food jungle.

I'm so appreciative to be cultivating my relationship with the earth through gardening and to be deepening my understanding of Nature's rhythms through tending so many plants, trees, flowers, bushes and vines. And oh how they give when they are being given to! What a beautiful cycle.

Here's a few pics of what captured my heart today...
Cosmos, Zinnias, Desert Sage, Poppies

TeePee w/ Gourds & Beans

Artichoke blossoms
Squash, corn, sunflowers, cucumbers

It's exciting to see the watermelon growing
strong. This has been our most challenged
crop so far this year. We thought it was the
soil pH, turns out they needed more water!
We mainly use drip irrigation on the veggie
beds. Once we gave them overhead water
in addition, they started taking off!
Yahoo! The peppers are coming in!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Flying (sort of) Into Our Hearts

Tule with baby
In the nest we made
Andres walked into the garden this evening and saw one of the land cats, Rundi, pouncing into a bush. He went to see what the cat was after and found this little fledgling dove. He shooed the cat and checked to see if the baby bird was ok. The dove hobbled a bit and seemed in shock. Likely it is just learning to fly...or perhaps even fell from its nest. After a bit of "now what?", we put some hay, leaves and a little dish of water in a bin and gave her some time to recoup. After a short while, she jumped up on the edge of the bin...and there she stayed. Andres tried feeding her maggots from the compost, but she just sat and stoically stared. As twilight came on and we were ready to leave the garden, there was again the "now what?". With the bird still perched on the edge of the bin, we settled on putting the whole arrangement on the roof of the outdoor kitchen...out of sight/range of the cat and hopefully feeling a more familiar place being high up from the ground and so close to the oak tree. We put a little dish of compost goodies up there and said a little prayer for her well being. Now it's mama nature's turn to take over again. May her deep wisdom see this one fly safely and see a new day tomorrow! 
Andres feeding the baby


Friends, Fruit, Flowers & More...

Juniper found a baby salamander!

Logan's 30th birthday celebration
Surprise dress-up for papa Logan
I've been meaning to write for quite some time now, but it hasn't quite
made it to the top of my list. There's always so much going on around here! Granted, the priority isn't always work related, but celebrating Logan's birthday, dips in the river, long walks, short naps and swinging in the hammock with the kids are pretty important things to tend to as well. And I'd much rather spend most of my time outdoors than in front of the computer--so that's what I tend to do!

Tule planting potatoes in mid April

potato jungle in late May

In the weeks that have passed since my last post, there have been so
 many little nuggets I've wanted to share...the weeding in the gardens and orchards was all completed (thanks in big part to Juniper for motivating this chore and Pleasant Valley Sanctuary crew for rocking out a work day with us), all the seeds that we started are now full on plants thriving in the

Juniper & Andres planting

Logan tending the burn pile on a rainy Spring day
veggie beds, the potatoes Tule & I planted look like a wild jungle, the fruit trees are loaded with delicious treats (we've already eaten all of the cherries and apricots!), the woods around our homes have been cleared of dead branches and debris, all of it burned up (long before the current heat, of course!) and the ashes scattered on various garden beds and tree bases to neutralize our slightly acidic soil. 
Luna with a cherry harvest

Simran enjoying the cherries

One other story that stands out for me is of two young, but very knowledgeable gardeners here at Laughing Heart...Luna & Tule. While all the work of planting was in full force, they took on creating a garden of their own. Here is their story about that garden...

Luna & Tule's Fairy Garden
~~"The magic drew us to the space and we decided to garden. We pulled the weeds, we mixed compost in the earth, we dug the holes for the flowers and we transplanted flowers from the greenhouse and flowers we won at the Mayfair Plant Walk. We watered the earth.
Simran, Luna & Tule in the fairy garden

To make the space special and interesting, we found a post, stuck it in the ground and put flowers in the holes. All the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. We found an old watering can to make it even better. We found a sign that says, 'My garden blooms in the most beautiful shades of friendship & love'. We hung it in a rose bush. The garden is to attract fairies, gnomes, dwarfs and fawns. We will spend as much time, energy and love as we can on it. The garden makes us feel light, happy and joyful when we step into it."~~

 And now we have so swiftly moved into summer energy--the grasses have all browned, the heat is upon us, the school year has ended, and with all the life that has been bursting forth in the big energy of the sun, all the gardens are creating so much happiness and joy for each of us. I'll leave you with some of that blossoming joy in the form of this flower parade...

Love in a Mist


Soap Root
Hanna with Calendula harvest

A special little shout out to Juniper, who came to Laughing Heart several weeks ago to steep in the magic of
this land and to add her magic and support to all the cultivation happening here. Thank you, Juniper for all you do and all the ways you shine!

Simran, Andres & Tule

 ♫ .           And now I'll 
      •                    fly away......
 ¸.•´ ¸.•*¨ )    
( ¸.•´        •¸¸.•*.¸
                       *.¸ _ ¸¸.*♫*•* ¨¨ *•♫ * •.¸ . ♫ * * •. ¸• * ¨¨ * • .. . .  ♫ ..