Passion is found in exploring the ingredients that you start with. It must be fresh and grown sustainably to achieve the best flavor. I build flavor as I cook, using my palette to compliment your entire meal or experience. I like to push the edge and get you to explore new flavors and unexpected surprises. I want everything you to eat to be followed by “wow” I didn’t know something so simple could taste that amazing.


Life lessons learned from a small garden in Western Colorado

Mary Lyon (1797-1849) of Buckland, Massachusetts once wrote, “When you choose your fields of labor, go where nobody else is willing to go”.  

Mary Lyon was the founder of one of the first colleges for women in the United States.  She chartered Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in 1837, now known as Mount Holyoke College, and opened its doors to the first 80 female students who desired a more challenging curriculum of science and mathematics.  She required the students from all ethnic backgrounds and economic resources to engage in chores and upkeep at the college to keep the cost of tuition at a reasonable rate.  Her student body quickly grew and in 1843 she wrote the book  A Missionary Offering which challenged the educational community to develop other college resources for women, which subsequently encouraged the opening of Wellesley and Smith Colleges.  Poet Emily Dickinson, playwright Wendy Wasserstein, Virginia Apgar (developed the “Apgar score” for newborn infants), Francis Perkins (first woman to be appointed to the presidential cabinet), and Gloria Johnson-Powell (first Black woman to tenure at Harvard Medical School) are some of the fruits of her labor.  Her roots grew from a small 100 acre farm in Massachusetts, where she and her siblings tended to the day-to-day operations of subsistence farming.  Her first educational job was as an untrained teacher at the age of 17 in a local town in Massachusetts and she quickly realized that to grow as a professional teacher she would need more education.  After enrolling in Sanderson Academy in Ashfield, her interests grew in the study of the sciences.  After completing her education there she quickly realized her goal of desiring to share her experiences with other disadvantaged women in the turbulent times of the post-Civil War United States.

One could learn a few lessons from this woman’s endeavors.  I find it intriguing that her first lessons came from farming such as the planting, growing, tending, and reaping of plants for food and materials.  One can only speculate on her specific family farm chores, but recognizing my own experiences observing how a family farm operated in central Illinois in the 1970’s, I can draw some reasonable conclusions on how these tasks must have impacted her own upbringing.  

  1.  For some to grow and prosper, others must be sacrificed.  When small seeds, such as carrots, are planted in a neat little row they are often too small to pick out individually.  So a gardener will plant the seeds in a haphazard way down a little 1/4″ deep row, then cover gently with a little of soil, to protect the seeds during their initial watering and emergence a few days to weeks away.  When the primary leaves pop up there will be way too many seedlings to logically grow into carrots.  If a gardener does not thin them out, they will compete with each other for resources and water and sunlight, crowding each other, potentially all dying off and never growing into beautiful sweet tender carrots.  Additionally if they are not thinned enough, perhaps feeling remorseful about the “taking of a life”, they will still be too spindly and overcrowded to grow into plump nice little salad offerings.  Buddhism only goes so far.
  2. Unplanned surprises in life sometimes offer the most rewards.  After gardening for several years accidental plantings will sometimes happen in a garden.  I am reminded of three such occurrences this spring alone in my own gardening space.  This sometimes happens during the fall when seed pods scatter, dropped seeds happen from birds or children playing, or perhaps the fruits of your own labor.  For example you might pick a raspberry for yourself and drop said innocent raspberry in some quiet, undisturbed fertile soil which might result in a lovely small raspberry bush popping up the next spring.  I had a cute lone-wolf black seeded Simpson lettuce head grow between some paver stones on my makeshift patio.  I let it grow and had a nice little salad.  I did not pluck it because it “didn’t belong” amongst the sedums and tiny creeping thyme; who really cares anyway?  Are there garden police out there?  I don’t think so. I have little random Kale plants growing all over the place, even amongst my violas and pansies.  Who knows how they got there?  mmmmm salad.  I have a single sunflower growing next to the fence right beside a pepper plant.  Incidentally, I have tried for years to grow peppers to no avail because it becomes Africa-hot during the middle of the day here in Gypsum, Colorado.  It was too hot for every pepper I had purposefully planted, until now.  I guess I discovered the micro-climate for growing peppers along one fence line.  A gardening space is filled with many micro-climates that a good gardener must explore through trial and error to find which plants thrive best in which locations.  Sometimes it takes years and patience to find these micro-climates.  
  3. Let life be life.  We cannot control the forces of nature.  We can try to nurture these forces with our own knowledge or the sharing of ideas but the cycle of life has a powerful healing quality of balance that will seek to reach an equilibrium within itself that we, as man or gardener, may have little influence upon.  My raspberry bush pictured below began with one small $5 quart raspberry bush from a local gardening center.  Now it has become friendly with my neighbor across the fence and he has a little raspberry patch.  I had to cage it in with rocks and lava rock to control its babies sprouting forth like the ingenious idea I had at the age of 10 to buy a male and female hamster and “see what would happen”. (Don’t do this by the way).  This process (the raspberry project not the rodent experiment) has only taken three years. I had some doubts.  The first year my raspberry plant almost died.  The second year the plant had a few berries, a couple of cousin plants, and mostly long, leggy stems which I cut back before winter slightly disappointed.  Little did I know that plant was deep at work underground growing a root system that this spring showed its true purpose with so many little raspberry plants that I had to control them before they knocked my 1963 chain link fence down.  Patience is definitely a virtue that a gardener must keep in mind.  Things don’t occur or grow overnight, or even in one year.  If one nurtures the proper environment for something good to happen, it will happen eventually.  It takes time.  Within this digital and global world of instant gratification we must remind ourselves of things we learned in our past.  True joy and satisfaction from the fruits of our labors is never easy.  It takes patience, time, and methodical planning for the end result to be fruitful in gardening and life.


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Pallet Inspiration

Pallet Inspiration

Great re-use of pallets for a stylish furniture change

I have been following the creativity of fellow “junkers” on the search for a more sustainable life and home environment with great intensity.  Many gardeners, treasure-hunters, and recycled-material enthusiasts have been busy innovating unique ideas for turning what used to be trash into eclectic and funky furniture, hardscape, and home accoutrements.   I am excited to share some of the finds I have come across.

Pallets, normally used for the shipping of heavy materials and lifted by forklifts are often discarded or left to decay in landfills, junkyards, warehouses, and even roadsides.  However, according to the USDA Forest Service and research done by the Virginia Tech Department of Wood Science and Forest Products, out of Blacksburg, Virginia, which tracked activity in the U.S. wood pallet and container industry between 1992 and 2006, most wood pallets are recycled, repaired, re-used, or turned into other products such as chipped wood landscape mulch and animal bedding.  According to the 2006 Virginia Tech research study, which determined trends in wood use and pallet production within the industry, less than one-quarter of 1% of pallets are headed to the landfill due to production facilities’ efforts to divert used pallets and either reuse or repair them.  Of the 590 US production facilities surveyed, 55.5% were involved in pallet repair, recovery (undamaged), or re-manufacturing through re-nailing of old pallets that were broken during shipping.  Approximately 67% are repaired and 10% were reused without repair according to the study.  (Araman, P. B. 2010. “U.S. Wood Pallet Material Use Trends”, Blacksburg, Virginia: USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station; Department of Wood Science and Forest Products, VA Tech).  This is a considerable step, both driven by corporate financials and through efforts by the USDA Forest Service in management of our natural resources toward better use of our forest products.

Pallets are a veritable wealth of resources for recreating into a number of useful products, furniture, standing prop gardens, fences… name it!  The limits of creativity are purely your own.  You can find pallets at many warehouses and retailers, where they will sell them cheaply to the public.  You may even find them propped up and discarded almost anywhere.  Most (approximately 63.6%) are hardwood, which is a more durable material for long-term use and will withstand outdoor weather better.  They are easily disassembled with simple tools and re-made into whatever your project idea is.  Keep your eyes peeled and happy collecting!

TED talks, February 2013. Allan Savory: “How to fight desertification and reverse climate change”

While thumbing through my new iPhone app – TED talks, I found this remarkable newly released video from the conference in February.  I was fascinated by Savory’s ecological research over the past forty years and his charting of the profound visual and substantive positive and natural changes in the landscape from virtually dying land in various areas of the continent.  This researcher should be heralded for his life’s work and passion.  He is truly a remarkable contributor to a new era of thinking and re-evaluation of the methods that we have previously employed.

I also reviewed the ensuing long list of feedback comments from other viewers of this TED talk and saw how quickly the topics of discussion turned into a “vegan and animal rights vs. ecological stability” argument.  One commenter, David Heigis writes, “What Allan is suggesting is a more natural system based on how nature actually works and has been working for quite a long time. The moral issue on who eats what has no place in this. Going back to a more natural system in producing food where grass eaters place a crucial role, especially when it comes to reviving dead land, IS the only way to go. It should be obvious to anyone. And as in all working sound ecosystem there is (a) food chain that is there to keep the balance of everything. To suggest that we can construct a better system than nature has already done is nothing short of naive and a belief that has put us in the situation that we are currently in.” (May 3, 2013; TED talks, reviewer comments section).

Please enjoy this short video on the groundbreaking ecological research of Allan Savory.


Allan Savory TED talk

Allan Savory: Grassland ecosystem pioneer

Allan Savory

Allan Savory works to promote holistic management in the grasslands of the world.

Desertification of the world’s grasslands, Allan Savory suggests, is the immediate cause of poverty, social breakdown, violence, cultural genocide — and a significant contribution to climate change. In the 1960s, while working in Africa on the interrelated problems of increasing poverty and disappearing wildlife, Savory made a significant breakthrough in understanding the degradation and desertification of grassland ecosystems. After decades of study and collaboration, thousands of managers of land, livestock and wildlife on five continents today follow the methodology he calls “Holistic Management.”

In 1992, Savory and his wife, Jody Butterfield, formed the Africa Centre for Holistic Management in Zimbabwe, a learning site for people all over Africa. In 2010, the Centre won the Buckminster Fuller Challenge for its work in reversing desertification. In that same year he and his wife, with others, founded the Savory Institute in Boulder, Colorado, to promote large-scale restoration of the world’s grasslands.

Summer Colorado Cherry Cobbler

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This has become one of my favorite staple recipes for a quick and simple dessert.  I have fond memories of my grandmother making peach and apple cobblers.  I remember as she pulled them out of the oven and scooped a big melty spoonful of vanilla Blue Bell ice cream in the bowl brimming with warm fruity goodness straight out of her olive-green gas oven, that I thought this must be the definition of heaven.  This recipe seems to be quite similar to the one my grandmother used to make, never one for too much fuss or fanfare.  She was a busy woman, always flitting about in either the garden or about her modest North Texas post-World War II frame house that she and my Grandfather and her father built before he was drafted and the Navy shipped him off.  Women of the Depression often utilized whatever little ingredients they had and as such were creative in the recipes they came up with.  If one flips through old cookbooks you can still see the remnants of such recipes such as mayonnaise cakes and tomato soup cakes.  They made it work and were proud of the contributions they offered to their families.  I hope you enjoy trying this recipe!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, use a half hotel pan, 2″ deep or a standard 9″ x 13″ pan.

1/2 C. butter, unsalted.  – Melt in pan while the oven is heating up

Combine the following by hand in a small mixing bowl.  After mixing the batter, add it all at once into the melted butter hot baking pan.  Do not stir it up.

1 C AP flour

1/3 C white sugar

1 t. baking powder (teaspoon is usually represented with a small “t”)

1/2 t. salt

1 C. milk or non-dairy milk such as Almond-Coconut (my favorite)

—–  wipe out the mixing bowl and combine, toss until the cherries are coated well

2 C Cherries, pitted and cut in half

1/2 C white sugar

1 T. AP flour

a squeeze of lemon juice

Then drop the cherries all over the batter, resist the urge to mix it together!  Place in the oven – Check at 35-40 minutes, it might need a few more minutes…





Build a brick rocket stove: Is it safe to use concrete blocks?

love this!


Posted on October 12th, 2014 by Leon in Survival Equipment

“…“I spent many years in masonry construction. Chimneys and fireplaces were our specialty.
“Fireplace construction uses firebrick for the firebox and ceramic flueliners to carry the heated air out of your house.
It would take very intense heat for a concrete block to “explode”. (Think cutting torch temperatures). Over time,they will deteriorate with heat. As mentioned below, the yellow fire brick, or chimney brick, is the only brick to use. They do not absorb heat. Not sure on the cost but it would be money well spent.
“If you are just occasionally using a rocket stove, you should be ok with regular brick/block.
“Also, if you are building a “permanent” rocket stove, don’t use regular brick mortar for the fire brick. You will need a small bag of “fire clay”. You mix with water just like mortar…”


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Coconut, Almond, Chia Milk

I have been using this non-dairy blend in my baking, cappuccinos, and on cereal and it is delicious.  I wanted to share and promote this product as an alternate non-dairy milk other than Soy products, since they are supposedly harmful in large doses for women.  There are Organic varieties for this product and I have been able to catch them on sale.  It is aseptically packed, so you can stock up on it when it is discounted, then open one and refrigerate it when you are ready to use a new package.  The price is affordable and it is quite tasty!  Enjoy!