Spring is here early—more food & gardening posts coming soon

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We’ve been doing some kitchen remodeling. My Santa Fe kitchen had no stove vent. One has finally been installed by bartering baked goods and other vegan goodies with a friend who is good at home remodeling. I put the iron stove grills on this 50 lb wheat bag from my local food cooperative to keep them out of the way. Pablo decided this would be a good place to sit, naturally.

Spring has arrived a few week early, thanks to climate change. This past weekend I’ve started gardening at my neighborhood community garden and have also been using my solar cooker. I need to work on posting up some new blog posts this week.

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An Uzbeki bread stamp

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A loaf of my whole wheat sourdough flatbread stamped with a bread stamp I bought from Uzbekistan. I bought the stamp on Etsy. Bread stamps prevent flatbreads from developing pockets like pita bread.; it’s the same principal as when I use a fork to keep pizza crust flat. You stamp the bread after it has risen, right before you bake it. Central Asian bread stamps are particularly artistic and come in many different designs, often with a floral look.

A rainy baking day in Santa Fe

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What I’ve been doing today: I baked whole wheat loaf bread, flatbread and peppermint chocolate chip okara cookies with flour I ground by hand this morning.

A soy milk making demo

I hosted a soy milk making demo using my SoyaPowerPlus milk maker. The strained-out fiber, called okara in Japanese, is great for making vegan “crab cakes,” “fish sticks,” cookies, and other goodies. The milk maker also can make nut and grain milks, vegetable purées, and more.

My new neighborhood

My neighborhood is in south Santa Fe. It has a large park-like trail system that crisscrosses the neighborhood and circles through pinyon-juniper forest. The pinyon-juniper woodlands include typical understory vegetation like the yellow-flowered rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa, commonly known as chamisa), prickly pear cacti, and agaves. The small arroyo (dry wash) pictured empties into the Santa Fe River. The Santa Fe River flows west to the Rio Grande River, which joins with other regional river like the Pecos. The river flows through northeast Mexico and eventually flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Within the developed part of the neighborhood, the landscaping is irrigated and includes many fruit trees and shrubs, including apples, apricots, plums, peaches, and barberries. I easily collected a large bowl of apples on the pictured walk. Last year, the HOA built a community garden with raised beds; I need to get on the waiting list for nest year.

At almost the identical elevation to Flagstaff (7,000 feet), Santa Fe is further away from the nearest mountain range, the Sangre de Christos to the east, than Flagstaff is from the San Francisco Peaks, so the climate is a little warmer (five to 10°F) and the monsoon rains tend to happen later in the afternoon and evening than in Flagstaff (monsoon storms begin the mountains and repeatedly re-create themselves as they move away from their origins and down in elevation). Mornings are almost always sunny. The Jemez mountains are to the west. To the south are the Sandia and Cerillos peaks. Catholic Franciscan missionaries got here before other European religious denominations and named everything they could in the Southwest, often after St. Francis De Assisi; Flagstaff’s main north-south street is San Francisco St., while Santa Fe’s is St. Francis Dr.

Across the main east-west road in southern Santa Fe is a section of the city’s wonderful fully paved urban trail system named after rabbitbrush (Arroyo De Los Chamisos Trail). The view from my bike (last photo) is what I get to see on nearly every trip to the north and east of my neighborhood. A lot of big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) grows along the arroyo. The Rail Trail runs through the city alongside a commuter train track connecting Santa Fe and Albuquerque; that trail has a much more urban feel to it because it heads directly downtown. I bicycle on the roads as little as possible, mainly towards a shopping district to my west.

Solar cooking in my Santa Fe backyard

Most of my new backyard faces west and north and is heavily shaded by trees. However, a strip of land along the northern side of the house receives plenty of sunlight between the morning and early afternoon during the couple of months on either side of the summer solstice. I’ve decided to use my solar cooker there, directly on the ground, for now. Monsoon clouds and rain tend to appear in the afternoons when that piece of land is shaded by the house anyway. I like this location because there is easy access to the kitchen through the patio door and the dining room. I am storing the cooker uncovered underneath the patio overhang to protect it from rain. During late fall, winter, and early spring, I’ll have to use the cooker in front of my house, which faces south; that location will require carrying food up and down half a flight of stairs, and through the front door and front gate, and storing the cooker in the garage.

It’s getting close to moving time

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I’ve been packing up all of my kitchen and cooking tools and equipment in stages. I packed my Global Sun Oven in a large box using the blanket pieces from my fireless cooker as padding. The Sun Oven reflectors fold up neatly  across the oven door, and there is a latch that holds the reflector snugly against the oven body. I placed a piece of bubble wrap in between the glass door and the reflectors to protect the glass.