The Stone Soup Institute is an international school offering courses of study which integrate traditional and contemporary practices and knowledge in the Agrarian Arts & Sciences, Crafts and Fine Arts.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays!

 Its starting to look like winter here. The cove is starting to freeze, animals aren't stirring around as much.  Its nice to be able to slow down in the winter, like most of the other forms of life that we share the planet with.

We gathered feathers, berries, horse hair, and vines to decorate the tree. Its came out looking wonderful.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lovely Things That Happen:

We played music yesterday evening, until very late with some friends and my favorite vocalist, Dori Barns. A great night.


This is the cove where I go for walks in the morning:

Every morning Jim brings the horses out of their hovel and walks them down to the pasture. Zeus runs in big circles around them the whole way. That is how he herds them.  Its dangerous business- he gets too intense. One time he ran directly into a stopped car. After that, we  tell him  to lay down when the cars drive by, because he clearly does not have sound judgment regarding cars. But despite that issue, its wonderful to see the horses coming down the road every morning, making their horse feet noises on the pavement.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Trees and Forests

I have spent a reasonably large amount of time outside and around trees, but I recently learned about something that is a relatively big deal to me that I never had thought about before.

When a hardwood gets cut down, new saplings grow out of the stump, and this makes the tree have a few trunks that grow up together.  The tree on the far right is hardwood and the tree on the far left is softwood.

Most of New England was clear cut, so as the  forest grows back, it grows back differently because of this characteristic of hardwood. It struck me as a really big impact that we have made. Even though we have a lot of forests, we have a lot of altered forests. I would like, personally, to be able to go somewhere near here, and see really old trees- a whole forest of them, but its something that can't really be done... ( as far as I know.)

In other news, here we have a good example of lack of foresight.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pizza night

As most of you know, pizza night is a very special time. At Stone Soup, making pizza starts with getting the fire going a few hours ahead of time, so the oven is hot. Then, when its all ready to go, pizza dough is prepared. We made dough with whole wheat flour, and generally, make everything with whole wheat flour, even cookies.
The hardest part of making pizza is the implement used to  get the pizza in and out of the oven. It has a long handle, made of a stick, and a pizza board on the end. It does not fit in the kitchen very well, and generally, creates the impression that it will knock over all the things in the kitchen made of glass. However, no such thing happened, and it was a great help in getting the pizza in and out of the oven with no injury incurred.

 Here we have wild mushroom pizza ( we canned the mushrooms when they were plentiful) and wild mushroom and onion calzone. Served with beer, and a rainstorm.

"Screw Pizza. I want hugs."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Smoked Fish

Having acquired 1 1/2 pounds of salmon, the consensus was that it should be smoked. I made a brine for it, and let it sit for about 1 day.


 The fire in the smoker is made with apple wood, a very nice wood to smoke foods with.
 The brine sits below the fish, in a bowl right over the fire.

The whole thing gets closes up, and the smoking starts.

About 30 minutes later, we have fish smoked with apple wood.  I pulled off some Apple Wine which I started in late October, to have with it. Delicious.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Living With a Peaceful Mind

One of the challenges of being an environmentally oriented individual is the complete and utter confusion of growing up in this era of mass production, mass consumption, thoughtless action toward each other, and general neglect of relationships between human and the non-human world.

However, I believe that there is a great deal of momentum towards a more balanced and meaningful relationship with the earth and the resources we are provided. There are more and more people who do not want a "piece of the pie" seeing as it is an irradiated, GMO-filled, cancer causing, libido-killing, diabetes causing, homogenized, mess that is not actually something designed for eating.

Winter = resting
Summer = growing
Moving away from the familiar, regardless of how painful the familiar might be, is always hard. The makings of a meaningful life is an entirely personal matter and the feeling of being alone in your convictions can be exhausting.  I do think that for many people, knowing their place within a larger, beautifully functional system heals us of this mistaken loneliness. The very presence of the ground promises us that we will be fed, the sky promises us water, the forest promises shelter. Through our gentleness, respect for and care of the earth we are endlessly provided with what we need to survive.   I have found living closely to the earth to be my greatest joy. From the wisdom and sanity of  its natural rhythm we can learn to live as if this world before us was not chaotic and dangerous, but as though it is symphonic in nature, punctuated with great joy, and great loss, with understanding and confusion, with love and death, all with its own place, all with its wisdom, and all of this resounding with the energy of simply being true. The greatest benefit of knowing that something is true is the ability to trust it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The art of preparing root vegetables

At Stone Soup, a lot of cooking is done in a  Finnish fireplace. A Finnish fireplace has a woodbox, where the wood burns, an oven to cook in, and a chambered chimeny, which circulates heat back through the chimeny instead of going out through the top. All the wood has to be burned up before you close up the chimeny vent, or else smoke and other noxious death-bringing gases are piped into the house. That is an important thing to understand.

We cook in that oven a lot- because it is almost, exactly a bazillion times more delicious then any other way of cooking. The flavors are very pronounced, the smoky flavor can be integrated into the food by removing the cover, and it is very energy efficient, because the heat you are cooking with also heats the house.

Carrots, leeks, turnip, rutabaga, beets, celery, my thumb .
Into the oven with you veggies.
And out comes marvelous food.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Current

Having once put his hand into the ground,
seeding there what he hopes will outlast him,
a man has made a marriage with his place,
and if he leaves it his flesh will ache to go back.
His hand has given up its birdlife in the air.
It has reached into the dark like a root
and begun to wake, quick and mortal, in timelessness,
a flickering sap coursing upward into his head
so that he sees the old tribes people bend
in the sun, digging with sticks,  the forest opening
to receive their hills of corn, squash, and beans,
their lodges and graves, and closing again.
He has made their descendant, what they left
in the earth rising into him like seasonal juice.
And he sees bearers of his own blood arriving,
the forest burrowing into the earth as they come,
their hands gathering the stones into walls,
and relaxing, the stones crawling back into the ground
to lie still under the black wheels of machines.
The current flowing to him though the earth
flows past him, and  he sees one descended from him,
a young man who has reached into the ground,
his hand held in the dark as by a hand.

Wendell Berry

Time to plant garlic!

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Yesterday, I was walking and heard all kind of commotion in the woods. A blue jay was calling over and over again, in a really serious way.  I stopped and looked around for a minute, and saw the jay was defending its area from this  beautiful owl.
The owl flew right by me, about 7 or 8 feet off the ground and landed in this spruce tree. his wing span was at least 3 feet I estimate.

I have been wanting to see an owl in the woods for a while. The last time I saw owls was in a program at a public library, but the owls all had a sad story about why they couldn't be released.  It was amazing to see this one.
Hopefully I  will meet up with him again.

Friday, December 3, 2010

One of my favorite Wendell Berry passages

From the Unsettling of America: p 8.

" The nurturer, on the other hand, has always passed with ease across the boundaries of the so-called sexual roles. Of necessity and without apology, the preserver of seed, the planter, becomes midwife and nurse. Breeder is always metamorphosing into brooder and back again. Over and over again, spring after spring, the questing mind, idealist, and visionary, must pass thorough the planting to become nurturer of the real. The farmer, sometimes known as husbandman, is by definition half mother; the only question is how good a mother he or she is.  And the land itself is not mother or father only, but both. Depending on crop and season, it is at one time receiver of seed, bearer and nurturer of young; at another, raiser of seed-stalk, bearer and shedder of seed. And in responder to these changes, the farmer crosses back and forth from one zone of spousehood to another, first as planter and then as gatherer. Farmer and land are thus involved in as sort of dance which the partner are always at opposite sexual poles, and the lead keeps changing; the farmer, as seed-bearer, causes growth; the land, as seed bearer, causes the harvest."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Zeus is the best dog.

How you doin?

Living at Stone Soup....

Today began with letting the chickens out. Zeus, our resident sheep dog, stands watch right outside the hen house door, making sure that none of the hens run out.  He takes his stance, and the hens all start clucking and carrying on about Zeus being there. They bail out the hen house door into the hen yard, running around and checking out the pile of kitchen scraps I threw in there. Jim went and mucked out the horse stalls, and to feed and water the horses, then bring them down the road to the pasture they stay in during the day.Breakfast is fresh eggs, fried potatoes that Jim grew and some onions that I grew, seeing as he can't grow onions worth a shit (his own assessment, not mine) . And left over cornbread.

Jim, co-founder of SSI hauled spruce from the wood lot next door with Gus, one of his draft horses. I think, often, that I see here what my ancestors must have seen as they went about there day and I eat the meals they must have eaten.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Adjusting to the Chickens

This is the first time I have lived with chickens.  And they are shocking. A number of things have happened with the chickens.
This is one of the more dramatic chicken experiences:
When we first got the chickens, we mixed two flocks, and there where two little ones that didn't fit in. They got attacked and hassled all the time, so, as their guardian, I decided to keep them outside of the hen yard. I fed and watered them, seperatly, and made a little home for them in buckets placed on the side, filled with hay.  But, it didn't take....after about two weeks, one of them wandered off. They next day the other one did too. After two nights of them missing,  I enlisted Jim to help me find these missing chickens and bring them home.
Zeus, who is a sheepdog and a very good one at that took off on his own way.

We checked the neighbors chickens, and they weren't there.  So we mosied back over to the house and something obviously had gone awry.
Zeus was all worked up, and in the neighbors yard running around their porch.  When we had gone off to look for the chickens, Zeus did the same, but he had found them.
I went and got some food figuring I could coax them with some food and some nice cooing sounds.
When I arrived, with my plan and materials, I saw the situation had gotten completely out of control.
Zeus took it very seriously to get the chickens. So seriously he had bitten both of the chickens in the butt trying to get them to come out from under the porch.  The severity of the damages was not yet assessed , however, I feared the worse.
Jim pulled out the first chicken.......its was all bitten up, muscles showing, and real quiet, not even fighting.  I held that one while Jim pulled the next one out. She put up a little more of a fight, but was also really torn up and hurt.
I never had chickens before, but I knew these two were not going to make it.  You can imagine the rest- we killed them respectfully and quickly.
The next day, we had company, and cooked them up with some root vegetables. The meal came out very well.

I realized that being respectful of chickens is important, however, they are not puppies with feathers. I love caring for them, building a relationship with them. Killing  them is hard, but, in order for anyone to
eat meat, something has to die.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Adjusting to the Chickens Part 2: Chicken Medic

A few days ago some very alarming screeching and general panic and commotion erupted from the hen yard.  We let Zeus out, and he tore after whatever was causing all the trouble. After inspection of the hen yard, a hen was found with her neck pulled through the fencing. There is a fox that lives near by, and he had grabbed her by the neck and torn it up pretty badly.
She certainly looked dead, but when we went back out to go gather  her up, she wasn't there. Taken by the fox? There was no way for him to get her through the netting. She was alive and back in the hen house, nestled down in the corner. She was certainly hurt, but seemed alright.  I decided to keep an eye on her, and see if she would heal up.
Day 2:  I went in to the hen house to check on her. She is up and about, looking all right.
Day 3:  The chickens are pecking at her! I am disgusted and outraged at they they could do that to her. I talk with Jim about it, and he assures me that they are just chickens. However, I assure him that they may be chickens but they are, without a doubt a bunch of bastards.  She may have been doing allright, but now that the other chickens have been pecking at her, I  change into full on chicken medic and start setting up. She has her own recovery box, a dog create on the porch. The floor has a thick layer of wood shavings. I have a blanket to cover up the crate at night.  The crate is pointed south, so she has ample sunlight for healing up.
For eating she has: chicken feed, a rotten apple, turnip greens.  One of the most amazing mushrooms that grows wild here is called Chaga. It seems to cure people of cancer and all sorts of aliments, so I decided that it can't hurt her. I poured some warm tea on her neck, and mixed some into her water.

Things were rocky for the first day or two. She wasn't eating much. After about four days, she started looking good. I took her out to check her neck and it was all healed up! She was active and would try to get out of the dog crate when I opened it to check on her. That night I put her back in the hen house and she is doing great. A little strange looking with her neck feathers missing, but, healthy otherwise.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sumac Tea.....who knew.

Today, I learned something very interesting.  The little, dried up clusters of sumac berries make a wonderful tea.
I always related to them as ornamental type berries,  and in my youthful foolishness, I may or may not have used them as artillery for imaginary battles with my loved ones.

 However, they make wonderful tea.

Strain the tea,
Then make kombutcha!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lessons from Wild Harvesting

Like most every delightful gift of the earth, harvesting wild mushrooms is something that really can't be rushed. Here is an example of lessons learned mushrooming:

I am walking, walking...... off to find some mushrooms. I can do it!.....walking walking, looking, looking looking...walking, walking faster......getting impatient. "Where are they? Are any mushrooms even around here?"  Then, I  put pressure on myself, thinking, "Just look harder. Try harder at it." And I feel all freaking constrained and uptight.  This sort of nonsense could be carried on for a while. Then, finally, the culmination of my 21st century  pace:  "Screw this. I am a terrible mushroomer!"   I stop  looking, and divert my attentions elsewhere.
The sounds of fall, the movement of the leaves in this forest, the new cool feeling of the wind as New England leans into winter, there is a very large bird that flew up from the underbrush,  my boots are sinking in this mud, a stream that I might jump over, or maybe I'll walk on the log to get over it, walk, walk, walk, jump off...and MUSHROOMS! They just popped right out at me as soon as I got over myself.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Cornbread.

I don't know if anyone is harboring any feelings one way or the other about corn bread. I really hadn't until recently. Cornmeal ground fresh from kernels of corn is delightful. The corn stays very sweet and tastes just like corn, however I think it looses some of its sweetness when its ground up and sits for a while.

Cornmeal, if you think about it, has no reason not to taste like corn, and it is kind of strange to be amazed at the fact that it does taste like corn.....all that aside, I do want to add that last night, I made green bean casserole, with canned soup and canned fried onions.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Harvesting Root Vegetables

Root vegetables can stay in the ground for a while after its gotten too cold for other plants. But we harvested today and ended up with
  • 2 bushels of carrots
  • 1/2  bushel of beets
  •  1 1/2 bushels of rutabagas and yellow turnip
 We snapped the tops off all the roots and gave the tops to the chickens to eat. Some of the smaller carrots where fed to the horses Molly, Gus, and Marcus.Overall, Marcus tried to hog them all, but thankfully Molly doesn't put up with that kind of crap.