a windmill fit for a house

back in january, i mentioned that we were planning to get a our own little (5.5kw) wind turbine. soon after that, we filed papers with the municipality for the permit. it's a good eight months on and we've not yet heard anything official from them.

husband talked to the person responsible for the permits at the municipality back in march and he actually said, "that's an awfully pretty area you live in, so we're disposed to turning down such requests." instead of encouraging people to be more environmentally-friendly and less dependent on fossil fuels, the municipality is inclined to turn down such requests for aesthetic reasons. i'll give you a moment for that to sink in and leave it with a resounding silence on my part, which should speak for itself. 

this weekend, we were invited to an open house to see one of the little turbines the company (eurowind) has installed at a farmhouse here in denmark. this one is on a 24 meter steel tower and is similar to the one which we would like to install. the cost of this one was 166,000DKK ($32,000) and that's about the same as the one we would like to install, tho' we were planning on a 20 meter tower.

the components are surprisingly small and quite simple when they're all laid out on the table. it gave us the sense that you could very nearly build it yourself.

gratuitous shot of the free hot dogs they were serving. i could do a whole post that is an ode to the perfection of a danish hotdog, but that would probably be more appropriate on one of my other blogs.

we were surprised at a number of things. for one, it was really quite noisy, which was surprising because the big, commercial wind turbines are quite quiet. for another, the tower was in fact, pretty ugly and the foundation took up quite a lot more space than we had been imagining/planning on giving it.  we had also expected better quality for the price. it struck us as pretty flimsy.

we left feeling much less sure that we want to invest in our own turbine at the moment. it seems like there is a lot of room for improvement, in the product, in the regulations, in the attitude of the municipality. we're definitely going to be looking into other manufacturers and alternatives. we apparently have plenty of time while we wait for an answer from the municipality.

i had to share this photo of their van, only in the wind industry can you write "erection supervision" on your van with a straight face.


waiting for the apples

over the past week or so, husband has been hard at work building an apple cider press.  he searched online, watched a couple of youtube videos and then went to work. we've got grand plans for hard cider and regular cider production and tho' we only just planted our apple orchard this year (and 4 of the 10 trees we ordered died), husband thinks it's never too early to get started.

we had an old sink from the old house and he cleaned it up and repurposed it for the press. what's great is you can take advantage of the drain and drain the cider into a clean bucket as it's pressed. the construction is very sturdy, as you can see, but the jack that places the pressure on the apples (which are wrapped in lengths of clean, unbleached fabric), will put a lot of pressure on the frame.

husband loves french screws (that's his name for them - in my opinion, they look like bolts), so he used plenty of those. we don't have apples that are ready yet, so i can't show you the press in use, but as soon as we do (we've arranged to get a bunch from a neighbor since our baby trees aren't producing yet), i'll be back with more pictures and more about how we're going about this.

last friday, husband had a little encounter with this big, mean table saw, but it didn't stop him for long and he got to work making a little machine that will chop up the apples so that we can get more cider out of them and i won't have to stand with a big dangerous knife and chop them up, likely necessitating another trip to the emergency room.

husband loves to work with wood, so he created this little chopper, repurposing an old bench grinder for the bit that does the chopping.  you can catch a little glimpse of his bandaged left thumb here.

he placed screws at regular intervals on the wooden drum inside and so they chop up the apples as you feed them through.

we're not sure if this little engine is actually going to prove too wussy in actual practice - we've fed a handful of apples through and it was up to the task, but we don't really know it will handle a major apple chopping job.

husband built a bench out of an old pallet to fix it to, as it's got quite a lot of vibration.

the chopped apples come out below and fall into these plastic ikea tubs. the chopped apples will be enclosed in big squares of fabric and then pressed. ultimately, we'll put the cider into those wine balloons so it can ferment into hard cider. but more about that process when we actually get to it in a few weeks.  this project has actually made me excited that autumn is in the air!

i just wanted to share this project as it goes along, mostly because of how creatively husband has repurposed items  - the sink, the car jack (not pictured) that will provide the pressure, the pallet, the old grinder. now that's what i call living sustainably!  you never know what you might be able to build with things you already have around the house! it's easier on the environment and much more economical. even if it is, at times, hard on your thumb.


A road trip involving lettuce

This is a story about the dangers of reading too much about gardening. It starts with a mad idea to do a road trip from where we live in southern Denmark through Germany to Alsace, France. This trip is mainly premised on cravings for warmer, sunnier weather and to sit at a cafe having delicious croissants and cafe au laits. All very good, if somewhat impractical, reasons. After many hours of driving, we find ourselves in Scherwiller, Alsace camping in a vineyard. On the Saturday we are told of a great local market at the nearby town of Selesat. The market is laid out simply in two rows facing each other. We start at one end and work our way up purchasing local goats cheese, yogurt, freshly picked wild blackberries, and eggs. I can see at the other end an elderly lady with small living lettuces in trays in front of her. And here is where too many gardening books comes in, I assume that she has in front of her a mesclun bed. A mesclun bed is a mixture of salad greens grown closely together and harvested as young leaves originally from France. I approach her thinking I will buy a bag of mixed salad leaves which she will harvest in front of my very eyes. Because, in my excitement of being in France at a French market, I completely assume she is selling French salad leaves from a French gardening technique. Although the sign in front of the leaves says, "12 pour 2Euro" which makes little sense if you are buying a bag of leaves, my husband goes ahead and tried to order some leaves. She is very agreeable and asks which of the types of lettuce we want. She starts selecting our choices and instead of cutting the leaves, puts the whole living lettuce in bag. She then gestures to the sign and indicates we have a lot more choosing to do to get up to 12. Oh no! We realize that we are in fact buying 12 starter plant size lettuces while on a camping holiday. We can't walk away, she's elderly, she's already put four lettuces together for us, we're too polite to do anything else but complete the transaction. And so we leave the French market with 12 lettuce starter plants all because I've read too many gardening books, and because I leapt to conclusions based on those books!

As a gardener though I can't throw out 12 lettuce plants so I tend to them. They have some soil around their roots, they are wrapped in some newspaper and then in a plastic bag. So, I water them, I place them in a sunny location while camping, I make sure they are brought either into the car or into the tent's vestibule at night so they don't get soaked by the nightly thunderstorms. And on the drive home, I carefully place them on the back of the car behind my son's head so they get light on the drive. At the camping spot on the drive home, I take them out of the car before anything else so that they get some fresh air and aren't damaged. I am sure that some of the people at these campsites are telling their friends about this strange lady who seemed to be coddling a yellow plastic bag. My son can't believe that on a camping trip, I managed to have a garden.

But they made it home and are now planted out on my terrace and we harvested some leaves last night for the salad. And they were delicious!

As an aside, we know driving 2500km is not great for the environment but we had an environmentally friendly car and there were three of us in it so it was better than flying but not taking the train or bus.

--- Jude


Traveling Locavore

I love a car trip!  There is nothing more exhilarating, and exhausting at the same time.  It gives you the freedom to pack with much more flexibility.  I have some wonderful friends who are pitching in to take care of our precious garden while we are gone.  Since we are taking a family vacation with our friends in our gourmet club, there will be loads of cooking in addition to hiking in the fresh mountain air.  As I empty our produce-filled fridge into a cooler for our long drive to the Rockies, I ponder, then I giggle a little.  After all of this work, what will my food miles be?  Is it still local once I drive with it 1000 miles before I cook with it?  The things this traveling locavore thinks about!

Have a great week all!


eating less meat


i was feeling pretty bleak about the state of the world yesterday and what we can do as individuals to affect change. whenever i feel that way, i watch some TED talks and it usually makes me feel better. and while i realize that in posting this video here, i'm preaching to the converted, i wanted to share it anyway. i think the biggest surprise in it for me was that we should only be eating half a pound (250grams) of meat per week (if we're not going wholly vegetarian) and instead, many of us eat that per day!  i know that at our house we've cut back significantly...for example, making a roast chicken stretch over 3-4 meals - from the initial roast to boiling the carcass for broth to use in soups or risottos to using the leftovers in salads and sandwiches and perhaps also a risotto. but i'll also admit we're not there yet. we're definitely going to make this half pound/250 grams of meat a week a goal around here.


how we saved our cucumbers

these little puppies...phytoseiulus persimilis - or spider mite predators - have rescued our cucumbers from blight and all four plants are producing again!! they're a natural biological, organic and safe deterrent against that nasty little spider mite that makes the little baby cukes turn yellow and fall off before they even get a chance to grow.

if the leaves of the cucumbers have some white residue on them (check the underside), you probably have spider mites and need some of these little predators...they come in a little vial in the mail and you sprinkle them on a few of the leaves of each plant and they spread out and do their work, quickly, efficiently and seemingly like magic.

now if i could find something to use against the little green worms that are eating up my tuscan kale...


Quick Tasty Tip

 A while back I posted about a by-product of a plant that has gone just past it's peak; edible flowers from arugula.  Here is another tasty tip.  If you have too many radishes, or they start to bolt too soon, let them go.  Let them get scraggly, leggy tops and form seed pods.  Then, take those deliciously sweet/spicy pods and throw them into a stir-fry.  Fantastic!