Category Archives: DIY Projects

Monday To-Do: Lady Beekeepers of AR Monthly Meeting

Join Lady Beekeepers of Arkansas for its monthly meeting tonight at 5:30 p.m. in Little Rock. This month, the group will meet at a member’s home to make lip balm and lotion bars with honey. For more information about the meeting, email ladybeekeepersofarkansas@yahoo.com.

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Saturday To-Do: Cob Workshop

WHAT: Cob Workshop

WHEN: Saturday, September 25

WHERE: Home of Gerald Anderson in Tilly, Arkansas

Great opportunity to build with your own hands – and feet!

Led by Jeremy Wilson, previously with Cob Cottage Industries in Oregon, now settling in Eureka Springs and promoting alternative building with cob and straw bale to empower rural Arkansans.

The workshop will be held at the home of Gerald Anderson in Tilly, Arkansas. Contact Gerald for directions to his place: (501) 329-5360.

Free and potluck! Donations for Jeremy will be appreciated. The workshop is planned for all day Saturday, September 25.

For more information, contact Gerald Anderson at (501) 329-5360.

Roasting Coffee at Home

Some posts are worth repeating.

I have a confession to make. I’m a coffee geek. Good coffee makes my day, and bad coffee makes me mad. When I get a cup of joe at a coffee shop, and I ask what kind of beans they use for their house blend, I get ticked off when I get an answer like, “Oh, it’s French roast.” Okay, you told me how you roast your house blend. What about beans? Chiapas? Yirgacheffe? Monsoon malabar? What is it???

Our home coffee roasting device

As you can tell, I’m little passionate about coffee. Several years ago I decided to start roasting coffee at home so that I know what I’m drinking. You need only four things to roast coffee at home: 1) green coffee beans, 2) measuring cup, 3) timer, and 4) old air popcorn popper. You read it right. Old air popcorn poppers that you see at a thrift store for $3.50 make a perfect home roasting device. Caution: do not use a popper with mesh bottom. When you roast green coffee beans, skins come off from the beans. When you use an air popper with mesh bottom, skins may fall through the mesh, burn, and ignite fire.

View looking down into the chamber of my air popper. Note the solid chamber bottom and louvered vents around sides.

Let me tell you how easy it is to roast coffee beans. Place 1/2 cup green coffee beans in a popcorn popper. Set your timer for 5-15 minutes depending on your roast preference. Turn on the popper. After your timer goes off, place roasted beans on a pan. De-gas for 48 hours. After 48 hours, it’s grinding and drinking time!

I buy my green beans from Sweet Maria’s. My last order included beans from a women’s coffee cooperative in Rwanda. I try to support Rwandan coffee whenever I can so that the Rwandan economy, devastated by the genocide during the 1990’s, can make a comeback. Sweet Maria’s also offers beans from Mexico, Indonesia, India, and various South American and African countries. The website is http://www.sweetmarias.com.

De-gassing roasted coffee beans.

De-gassing roasted coffee beans.

Now let me make a case for roasting coffee at home. First, you will know what you are drinking. Many people drink coffee everyday, but they have no clue what they are drinking. Are they drinking arabica or robusta coffee? Are they drinking Sumatra or Harrar? Are they drinking sustainable or not-so-sustainable coffee? Wouldn’t you want to know what you drink everyday? When you roast coffee at home, you become involved with the selection of beans. You’ll know if you’re drinking organic Mexican Chiapas from a farmers’ co-op or Rwandan coffee from a women’s co-op. You’ll get to know your beans intimately. Second, you can control quality when you roast coffee at home. When you buy green beans from reputable suppliers such as Sweet Maria’s, you know you’re getting good quality beans. You can roast your beans to your specifications when you roast at home. Here’s the bottom line: your beans will always be fresh since you get to roast them whenever you want, however much you want. We roast ours once a week, so they are always fresh. In comparison, most coffee shops use beans that have been roasted 3 months to a year ago. Finally, I believe home coffee roasting reduces my carbon footprints. When roasting companies such as Green Mountain Coffee purchase beans, the beans travel from the plantations to the roasting companies. After they are roasted, the companies ship the beans to the stores. You purchase them at the store, and finally, the beans come home with you. My beans, on the other hand, travel from the plantations to Sweet Maria’s. I purchase them from Sweet Maria’s, and they arrive at my home. Voilà, I just eliminated several trips.

When I drink my home roast, though, I don’t think about all that. I just enjoy a good cup of joe. Coffee, anyone?

Guest Post: Eddy Moore – Bike to Work

Two big purchases cause most of your environmental impact – your house and your car.  The environmental footprint of these two big items merge when you think about location: Is your house located where you can conveniently bike for some of your trips?

A car is 3,000 pounds or more. (We will try not to even consider those 6,000+ pound SUVs).  So, if you need to get a pint of milk, it is pretty inefficient to move yourself, plus a 3,000 pound metal car, a long ways to get 16 oz. of milk.

Going to work may be your most frequent trip.  If you live close to work, with relatively safe streets for biking, biking to work can be a refreshing, environmentally sound way to avoid unnecessarily burning oil to move a 3,000-pound piece of metal.   However, keep in mind that it is not worth (in my opinion) biking near fast traffic.  The death rate for car-bike collisions goes up very sharply as traffic speed rises above 25, 35, and 40 miles per hour.  Many avid bikers will disagree with me here, so it is a matter of preference.

A fancy bike is not needed.  If you need to carry stuff, get a mountain bike (or touring bike) and attach a rack and panniers to carry lunch, laptop or papers.  You can make your own waterproof panniers out of kitty litter buckets, using conduit hanger and screws to secure them to the bike’s rack. (There are DIY plans all over the internet that use bungee-cords; do yourself a favor and use metal hardware, so they don’t pop off unexpectedly.)

If you can travel light, a road bike gives you more speed and range.  From about 2000 to 2006, Giant made road bikes (the OCR line) that also accept racks and panniers, giving you the best of both worlds.  Old touring bikes (look like road bikes) also have attachment points for panniers.

Yes, it is 100 degrees during the summer in Arkansas.  So, if you don’t live very close to work, you can wait for fall (but buy an LED headlight so that you are lit coming home).  We live on a landscape built for cars; but with common sense, and the right location, you can enjoy a bike ride to work at least some of the year.

Make Your Own Glass Cleaner!

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Cleaning this weekend? Don’t buy Windex. Make your own glass cleaner at home!

It’s super easy to make your own glass cleaner, and you save LOTS of money. Here’s what you do:

  1. Mix 1/8 cup vinegar and 1 cup water in a spray bottle.
  2. Shake and apply.
  3. Wipe clean.

Isn’t it so easy? Windex costs anywhere between $2.50 to $5. Vinegar, on the other hand, costs anywhere between $1 to $3. And, you only use 1/8 cup at a time, saving you LOTS of money over the long run.

So, stop spending money on Windex. Start making your own glass cleaner at home!

Saturday To-Do: World Wide Knit in Public Day @ AR Studies Institute

untitledWanna knit? Then, head to Arkansas Studies Institute in downtown Little Rock for the World Wide Knit in Public Day, Saturday, June 19 from 10 a.m. Started by Danielle Landes in 2005, the World Wide Knit in Public Day brings together knitters , crocheters, and spinners so that they can enjoy each other’s company. Beginners and experienced crafters alike are welcome to attend. Bring your yarn and needles (or other tools) and meet new people! Knitters may work on any project, but they are encouraged to contribute 7”x9” knitted squares to make an afghan to help a local charity.

For more information, contact Patrice O’Donoghue at podonoghue@cals.org.

We All Scream for Ice Cream!

Eddy churns ice cream.

Taking a peak to see if it's ready.

Voilà!

What did you do when you were snowed in? I like to cook when I’m snowed in, so when Eddy told me we have more berries in our deep freeze than we would ever use, I declared, “It’s ice cream time!”

Every harvest season, I freeze tons of Arkansas blueberries and blackberries. I combined them with homegrown eggs and local farm-fresh milk and heavy cream to make mixed berry ice cream.

Several years ago, Eddy’s parents gave us their old hand-crank ice cream maker, so we used it to churn the cream. With all the snow, it took us less than an hour to churn. The result? Mmm, good!

Check out the ice cream recipe as well as some of my favorite recipes in the Recipes section!