Sunday, April 6, 2014

Growing Power Urban Farm & NCECA

March 2014
This month was busy with a little more time away from my studio then I would like. But I did have a wonderful visit with my family pre-NCECA. My parents came over from Michigan and we visited my grandma and cousins, if felt like a family reunion! My parents were kind enough to bring me into Milwaukee for a whole day driving me around town to art shows, lunch at the Comet Cafe a triple D, and a visit to a well known urban farm Growing Power. I think my parents had enough NCECA to last for a while now but it was fun enjoying the art with them!
I was visiting Milwaukee for a ceramics conference but I knew I could not miss the opportunity to tour Growing Power urban farm. It is a nonprofit farm, started by Will Allen, focused on brining healthy sustainable food at affordable prices to the community. The organization is a complex system including large scale growing, composting, farmers markets, community gardens, and school projects. I was able to tour the original greenhouse complex- goats and all! They have sprouts, aquaponics systems, mushrooms, goats, chickens, you name it they probably have it. The tour included a very simple overview of the organization and unfortunately I did not get to meet the founder, Will Allen. It is evident that Growing Power has done an amazing things for the local community, located in a food dessert, outside of GP even today there is no sign of fresh food for miles. I was thankful for this experience and I hope to return someday soon to take one of the intensive workshops.

Below are photos from NCECA the national ceramics conference. Forrest had an interactive piece in the NCECA Student Juried Exhibition! Being married you would think I would play has games often but since we do not live together it is a rare occasion that I get to interact with one of his pieces. When I was ready I took the ball from the rack and I instantly panicked I felt like I could not do it. It was the weirdest feeling before picking it up I was confident that I would make it in the basket and take the ball home with me. Once I touched the ball I lost it - I was so scared to break it I almost talked myself out of playing. I did finally play and SMASH there went the beautiful orange ball. Then my mom played and that was the real entertainment. She went through a very similar feeling but with a little more emotion as she tried a few times and it did not break (because of the carpet) and then she got it in! I can assure you she was the most excited person in the gallery that evening, I guess I know where I get it from!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

Forrest and I were able to enjoy some time together this past week. I went down for a visit to help him prepare for his thesis exhibition and to escape to cold north! In between all the work we enjoyed spending time together, eating good food, cuddling with Beast (our kitty) and just loving life. The loving life part took us on a day trip down to New Orleans to visit the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum (for me!) and searching thrift stores for sinks (for him!) for his thesis exhibition.


The Pharmacy Museum was filled with antique gems from a time before I was even born. Living so fully in the present sometimes takes importance away from our rich history. My mind was a bit on overload during my visit because there was so much to see and learn. I walked around like a sponge soaking up everything about our past use of medicinal herbs from echinacea to poppies. It was interesting to read about what created the shift from this natural form of medicine to what we have today. People were not properly labeling their products and with the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 came a strict enforcement on labeling. Today with proper labels I am not sure that actually makes all the medicine we fill our bodies with safe in anyway.

Possibly the most interesting and 'close to home' thing I saw was a tool used to remove the tonsils. It had a blade that would cut the tonsil off and a small basket behind it to catch the tonsil for fear that one might choke or spread infection. It just so happens that I have had tonsillitis twice in the past year and yesterday evening after returning from my trip I started feeling 'sick in the throat' as I call it. I am all too familiar with that tingling in my throat to know what was coming on. So I rushed to the store for an echinacea tincture, garlic, ginger, honey, and lemon. I made myself up my 'sick in the throat' drink and for the first time I think I actually stopped the onset of tonsillitis. The past few times I knew what was happening but I was to late in my attempt to stop it and ended up at the ENT with antibiotics, something I really do not like.

Downtown New Orleans this museum is a must see even if you are not head over heals in love with herbal medicine (like I am!) It is worth a stop in if just to see the live leaches they have swimming around in one of the jars.

<--Special bottles that were placed in the front of the pharmacy to alert costumers to know it was a pharmacy.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association OEFFA

This week provided me with so much inspiration it is overwhelming. I was able to attend the Ohio Ecological Food and FarmAssociation (OEFFA) conference held in Grandville, Ohio. I attended many sessions including: Twelve Herbs to Use in Emergencies for People and Animals, DIY Aquaponics, Herbal Balance, Cooking and Eating GMO-Free Meals, Creative Dehydrating, and Debunking GE Myths. If you want to know details about any of those sessions feel free to contact me, I do not plan to go into it here. One of the most inspirational parts of the conference was the keynote speaker Anita Diffley who spoke on Farmers as Role Models and Leaders: Protecting Nature and Creating Social Change. She spoke so beautifully and intelligently and it would have been hard not to motivate each person in the room with her story. The short story is her family was working an organic farmon a large plot of land in Minnesota, The Garden of Eagan. A school purchased part of the property and things began to change and soon the land was no longer farmable. They relocated to a difference piece of land that had been used for conventional farming and took three years to reclaim it for organic farming. In 2006, the Diffleys received notice that the MinnCan pipeline was proposed to bisect their organic farm Gardens of Eagan. The Diffleys filed evidence establishing the nature of organic production and the unique vulnerability of the Gardens of Eagan vegetable farm to the harms resulting from a crude oil pipeline. As a result of these efforts, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission included in the permit for the pipeline what is believed to be the first organic agriculture mitigation plan in the country applicable to energy infrastructure. This mitigation plan provides rights and protections for any affected organic farm in Minnesota. What a beautiful success story for this small organic farm! It is hard to sum up everything that came from this conference but I can tell you I am filled with joy knowing there are so many people who care about the earth in the same way I do. So many people gathered together who are focused on nurturing the land. As I left the conference I could not help but continue to think about how the decisions we make about what we eat directly impact the earth we live on and the power of social movement in food! I am starting to view this relationship I have with the earth more as a responsibility and I have decided with the support of my husband that someday we will live on a ceramic homestead. Where we can balance our lives as artist with caretakers of this earth.
I meet Val the owner of Jorgensen Farms, one of the farms I hope to visit when the weather shifts. She gifted me some wool for my harvesting color project so I can try out some natural dyes. In exchange, I am going to give an artist lecture for her and we might even collaborate on a farm dinner in the near future!
To top it off I had a wonderful visit this week with my friend and fellow ceramic artist Lindsay Scypta. She was in town for a visit to see Gun Young Kim's thesis show that looks terrific, images coming soon! I am thankful I was able to spend Valentines Day with this lovely lady. We started our day with fresh cold pressed juice from a new organic juice bar Native Juice. We visited the greenhouse and planted some vegetables and flowers that Lindsay gave me for my birthday! My greenhouse space sometimes feels private because few people come visit my plants; I think that is why I love sharing it on the blog! I had a really nice time showing her around and planting seeds with a great friend who loves planting as much as I do. After we used up our green thumbs we headed to a lecture “Performing to Politics of Food and Agriculture” by Dr. Ann Folino White professor and Michigan State University. A powerful lecture on ‘theater and food’ a topic that I had not considered prior. Following the lecture we had dinner at the Crest in Clintonville one of my favorite restaurants. We finished the evening with our first ever men’s gymnastics meet… amazing need I say more.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Farm to Fork: Food Dialogues

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the event Farm to Fork: Food Dialogues hosted by The Collegiate Young Farmers at OSU. The event was free and included a nice dinner: a side salad, eggplant, and fruit salad for dessert. The main course was rice wrapped in a delicate slice of eggplant served with a red sauce, it makes my mouth water now thinking about it.

Farm to Fork Food Dialogues encouraged discussion of agriculture and food production focusing on biotechnology. The first portion of the event was table discussions and I just so happen to sit next to a master candidate in the Department of Anthropology, Mark Anthony Arceno, who is ‘learning through food.’ You should check out his blog where he talks about “learning about people and cultures through the foods they prepare and consume; the recipes which have been passed down, shared and adapted over time; and the meaning behind the meal. Situated within an ethnographic approach to food and a passion for "feeding the experience," I extend my foodie platform to include the cutting board, the in-between from farm to table.”
Following the dinner conversation was a panel discussion. This is when I started to get frustrated. I understand we have two ears to listen and only one mouth to talk but when everyone else is using ‘twitter’ to tweet comments and I am sitting here thinking I do not even know what twitter is. By the end of the evening those of you who know me can only imagine I was jumping out of my chair and one of my table mates let me borrow his ipad to tweet something. But of course I get the ipad and I have no idea how to tweet so someone had to help me and by the time I tweeted the discussion was over…  A few of the conversation topics were what does local mean? Does it mean food miles, community impact, increasing transparency, regional food system? Then one fellow on the panel suggested that it was local if he bought it from him local grocery store it did not matter is it came from Ecuador?  What do you think? I was about to tell him what I think but then I thought better of it. I realize the food did not come from the moon. But that cannot be local, can it? To me local means a days drive, that I can visit the place and the people that produced the food. To me local means supporting your local community and buying from farmers who live, work, and sell in your own neighborhood. We discussed GMO genetically modified foods and the push for labeling. Do we have a right to know what is in our food? Someone asked, is not using GMO even and option? Well is it? Where does our food come from? One of the panelists was an organic farmer and he talked about organic being labor and hard work. Isn’t that what farming always has been? The conventional farmer made it seems as though he never even touched his soil the machinery and technology did it for him. He did not even have to till his field, no more brown snow he said because his soil stays put. My question is if we are no longer touching the earth how are we connected to the earth? What kind of food are we producing and what is it doing to our bodies? My work as an artist has always been about food as a vessel maker it is something that I am constantly considering. In my recent work I realized I could not make something for or about a plant with out knowing how it grows. So I started growing and yes it is a lot of work. I am at the greenhouse at least three days a week if not more. I spend hours there planting, watering, transplanting and tending to the needs of all of my plants. But I know more now about these plants and what they need then I could ever get purchasing them at the grocery store. Maybe all we need is to connect back to the earth? The last portion of the discussion was on food safety. This I when my table mate let me send a tweet in I said, “how can you claim food is safe when you sold me something contaminated with salmonella?” That salmonella changed the entire course of my life in ways it is hard to go into now but the reality is they knew the food was contaminated and still chose to ship it out to consumers. So I ask again how can you tell me the food is safe?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Everyone has them right? The kind of day you would never wish on anyone. There is a book from my childhood that I always think of when I have these kinds of days Alexander and the Terrible Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. Today I had one of those unfortunate days. I went to the greenhouse to plant some more seeds and check on my plants. I had noticed last week that I had some yellow leaves on the bottom of my ashwaganda so I was keeping an eye on it. I decided to do some further inspection and when I checked the underside of the leaves they were covered in bugs. I wanted to run out and forgot what I had seen but unfortunately bugs do not go away in the greenhouse. It is a confined space and it makes it easy for pests to take over. With some help from the greenhouse staff I was able to identify the pests as mealybug and whitefly. Unfortunately they had completely taken over the ashwaganda and I had to remove it from the greenhouse. So on a day of new life and planting it turned into a day of death. I was so sad to kill my plants but in a communal space you have to work towards to greater good for everyone. I am very passionate about raising my plants organically but in this setting I realized I would do more harm if I did not quickly address the problem. So I gave into a ‘soft’ treatment for the white fly what was infesting almost the whole bench. I am working this week on the mealy bugs that will be hard to eliminate but I hope to control until I can bring them outside.
 The good news is that not everyday is all horrible. I was able to see the Echinacea and milk thistle in full bloom. The first group of poppies has all dropped their leaves and the second set is starting to bloom. I can think of nothing more enjoyable then entering the greenhouse in the middle of winter to see rows of green and flowers blooming. A few of my plantings from earlier this week have started to sprout!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Introduction to Permaculture at Solid Ground Farm

This weekend I took a trip to Athens, OH to celebrate my birthday with my in-laws and little brother Noah! I made a trip of it and went on a farm tour at Solid Ground Farm in Athens County. I am very interested in permaculture but to be honest I am still figuring out what it is…. so when I saw that Solid Ground a permaculture based farm was offering a introduction course and farm tour I decided I could not pass it up!  I never thought I would go on a farm tour in the middle of winter but it was fun, educational and we kept moving so I stayed warm for the most part.
 The first thing I must say is that permaculture is so much bigger then I thought it was. When I first started researching I thought of it only in terms of farmland and animals. I first heard the word permaculture in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Since then I have been interested in the health and ecological benefits of farming with a focus on the symbiotic relationship between animals, plants and people. Pollan visited Polyface Farm in Virginia, a farm that runs on a permaculture design. But WHAT IS PERMACULTURE? Visiting Solid Ground Farm was my first experience on a permaculture farm and I was determined to figure out what permaculture really is. Before visiting the farm I believed that permaculture was a form of sustainable agriculture based on a philosophy of working with nature, not against it, “of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than creating any area as a single product system.” (Mollison, 1988) Thanks to Weston the farm manager for expanding my knowledge I now know that Mollison is only half of the permaculture story. Bill Mollison collaborated with David Holmgren who explains permaculture as a “design system for sustainable land use and sustainable living. Focused on production aspect of how we provide human needs from nature and consumption how we use natural resources.” (Holmgren, 2010)
My favorite part of visiting Solid Ground Farm was the Cobb house. Cobb is made from a mixture of clay, sand, and straw. It looked similar to the pump house we had on our property growing up small, quaint and maybe a little more rustic. I would absolutely live in it other then that it doesn’t have a shower. I am sure I could get used to that. Anyways, I have added it to my to-do list: build cobb house and live in it or maybe I will just go live in Earthaven Ecovillage near Ashville, NC.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Harvesting Color Part III

Today I learned some basics of natural dyes below are colors extracted from madder root, osage orange, and indigo. I am looking forward to using plants to make natural dyes. I purchased a packet of Dye Plants Seed Collection from Horizon Herbs Chamomile, Dyer's; Elecampane; Indigo, Blue; Madder; Marigold, African; Nettles; Our Lady's Bedstraw. I am headed to the greenhouse soon to plant some of these natural dye plants!
We revisited our TLC to compare lutein levels in all of our Marigold samples. This included (yellow/dried, yellow/fresh, orange/dried, orange/fresh) plus three for our control group (two lutein supplements and one beta-carotene). This time the experiment worked and we were able to record and compare the thin layer chromatography (TLC) separation. We recorded four different substance spots for almost all of our samples. The top being beta-carotene with a RF value of .97 below a few unidentified RF values at .73 / .369 / .27
I am keeping busy at the greenhouse I planted a variety packet of calendula, marigold, and natural plant dyes. I also planted lots of medicinal herbs and some vegetables! The second round of poppies in the drooping buds stage and an echinacea that is just starting to bloom!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Harvesting Color Part II: failed experiment

Today is color day. All of the colors below have been extracted from different forms of French Marigold. Color, color, color lots of color! After letting the flowers soak over the weekend we unwrapped them from the foil that was protecting from light damage and strained them. 
After straining we had four vials (yellow/dried, yellow/fresh, orange/dried, orange/fresh) plus three for our control group (two lutein supplements and one beta-carotene). We then did a thin layer chromatography (TLC) to compare lutein levels in all of our samples. Using special TLC sheet we applied the extract in small dots adding up to ten layers to build up color. We then placed the sheets in a solvent as the liquid moves up the sheet it brings with it the lutein. Typically you would then compare the samples with some simple math, measuring from the starting line to the substance spot divided by the measure from the staring line to the solvent front. For reasons we have not yet discovered the experiment failed and the only substance to move up was the beta-carotene. We will retest next week, until then enjoy the pictures!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Harvesting Color

This semester I decided to start researching a few different medicinal herbs. The stars aligned for me and there happen to be a harvesting color class that is working with the Calandula flower doing science experiments and making art. So of course I signed up and Calandula is on my research list of this semester!

Harvesting color begins: Comparing the amount of lutein in calendula/ marigold flowers grown in the greenhouse.  I am interested in the calendula and its lutein content because it has medicinal properties and is used to support eye health.  We are conducting two experiments one comparing the amount of lutein in a fresh picked flower(2014) versus a dry flower(2013). As well as comparing the amount of lutein in the orange versus the yellow flower. We collected four samples removed the petals placed them in beakers and added 50 ml of ethanol and wrapped them in aluminum foil because it is light sensitive. We also extracted a few supplement samples. I removed as much liquid as possible from the capsule an we placed it in tubes with 20 ml of ethanol, they are now in the lab on a spinning machine that I wish I knew more about. Expect and update next week!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Dish Set Challenge II: Final Day in New Orleans

For our final meal together on the dish set we made a trip to New Orleans to visit our friends Cari & Mike. We planned a stop for lunch at my favorite NOLA restaurant Satsuma Cafe. For the most part this week we have avoided getting and type of drink if we were eating out. Anyone who knows me well knows I love fruit and and love my juice, so I finally gave in and asked them to serve us in the cup. Thankfully they accepted and when the juice man was preparing out drink he yelled out "Forrest? are you sure you want your drink in this cup it looks a little difficult." We responded from across the restaurant that of course we wanted it in there and we knew how complicated it was going to be! The restaurant was packed with people, so busy that we had to wait for a table. After we got a table we both sat on down on the side with a booth so we could be near each other. That opened up a chair across the table from us. The chair was soon filled with the body of a women that neither of us knew. She started talking and asking us questions about the cups and the project. She was interested and quite inquisitive. We shared our project with her and soon our meal was served. They miss understood our request a little bit and still brought Forrest's sandwich on a separate plate so we split the salad and he ate the sandwich.  It was a wonderful final meal that neither of us will soon forget. We hope you enjoyed following us on this weeks adventure. Tomorrow will be the last post of the project with a reflection and a few more images. Thanks for reading, come back soon!
The special chosen dishes after the final meal. A Mikey Walsh cup and to no ones surprise Andy Shaw plates. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Dish Set Challenge II: Pecan Pie Party

This morning we filled our bowls with fruit and attempted to drink tea but that never goes well. The tea is hot, the cups do not have a handle and then once you can hold the cup the tea is cold. It is making for a very frusterated husband who needs his morning tea….
Lunch proved to be a success with our farmers market salad served with all local fruit, veggies, and homemade goat cheese. Topped with a simple homemade dressing with local pecan oil from Ingelwood Farm
 I made a dinner of leftovers with Forrest's garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus, and mushroom rice. Simple and nice.
This evening we hosted a Pecan Pie Party. I baked two pecan pies with local cane syrup instead of corn or rice syrup that I might use in the north. I was happy with the results the pie seemed very similar to what I made in the past maybe just a little sweeter. I used a mix of local cane syrup from the farmers market and a more common brand we picked up from a different market. If you don't live in the south where cane syrup is abundant you might be able to locate a bottle of Steen's 100% Pure Cane Syrup. We invited over friends served the pie, some spiced cider, had lots of laughs and a good time!
And we really do not have many chairs so almost everyone joined us in sitting on the floor, we are not sure if they enjoyed that but they did like the pie!

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Dish Set Challenge II: The Art of Simple Food

Saturday is my favorite day of the week because it means we get to go to the farmers market. I love all the fresh food, meeting the farmers and tasting all sorts of things. We were in such a hurry running out the door we grabbed a cup of yogurt and did not even take time to put it in the bowls. The Baton Rouge farmers market was fantastic as usual with fresh greens, pecans, pecan oil, goat milk, and strawberries. Nothing could possibly make this northern girls heart as happy as eating fresh strawberries from the farmers market in late December! Other then maybe sharing them with my husband!
Lunch was simple leftover chili for Forrest and a grapefruit for me.
Forrest prepared a fantastic meal with a white sauce recipe from Alice Waters cookbook The Art of Simple Food. He added asparagus and spinach to the white sauce and served it with pasta and homemade garlic toast. We could not even finish half of the food on our plate. I guess we over estimated today but that will mean good leftovers!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Dish Set Challenge II: eating out

Do you ever need a little love for breakfast? Well thats what we made this morning! Plus a pear for Forrest and a grapefruit for Jeni. After breakfast and some studio time we decided to spend the next few meals eating out we each chose one place to eat. I picked lunch at Magpie Cafe my favorite spot in Baton Rouge, other then maybe the NOLA snowball place but they are not open this time of year. Magpie's always has amazing fresh squeezed juices, soups, and sandwiches plus its all as local and organic as you can get!
Forrest choice was no surprise at all, Fat Cow. Its a burger place near campus that he frequents but never with his own plate! The kitchen is open and the staff really loved to plate and even commented on the cup. I do not eat burgers but thats ok because they have the best fries I have ever had so I ordered my side of the plate full of fries.
 What is a date night without dessert? We made some homemade brownies and since we are little home sick we picked up some Jeni's Ice Cream from the one grocery store in town that carries it.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Dish Set Challenge II: eating on the floor

Today was the first day that we ate a meal at separate times. I cut up the grapefruit that I wanted Forrest to eat for breakfast but he was not interested so I are both sides by myself. I love having the double bowl all to myself and having the convenience of having both sides of the grapefruit in one bowl was awesome! I made Forrest oatmeal and a stewed apple placing one in each side. He enjoying having the bowl to himself as well or maybe he just enjoyed the freedom of eating with out our bodies pressed against each other!

It was so nice outside we decided to have lunch in the courtyard. Chicken salad with celery and grapes on a bead of farmers market greens. Thank goodness for sunshine.
We had a nice dinner at home salmon with a herb butter spread from the cookbook The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. And one of our favorite sides roasted brussels sprouts with soft goat cheese. I mentioned yesterday that we do not have a kitchen table. We do have camp chairs and a coffee table and this usually suites our needs but not with this project. The chairs can't get close enough for us so we moved to the floor. So here was are on the ground eating this wonderful dinner.
Craving a sweet treat we stopped by Truly Free Bakery on the way back to the studio. Any time I am in town visiting we usually make at least one stop at this bakery. We usually get the cinnamon rolls but they come prepackaged and so we decided to choose from the unpackaged treats. We both decided on a chocolate covered donut, it was a good choice!