Archive | July, 2012

Local peaches

Organic Maine peaches from Fresh Off the Farm. Delicious!

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While working in the woodshop this past week, I had a strange allergic reaction to something I came in contact with. The skin around my joints and on my torso became inflamed and and swollen—like a really bad sunburn. It’s difficult to determine the exact cause of this reaction because there are a few variables at play, like the foods I ate and the materials I was working with, but I suspect it may have been a result of working with MDF (medium density fiberboard) to build a jig to cut some mortises. It hadn’t occurred to me that the binder used in most MDF is a formaldehyde resin.

It took me a couple of days to identify the MDF as a possible cause and then limit my exposure to it. Meanwhile I looked for ways to ease my discomfort without using oral or topical medication. Besides the obvious concerns about packaging waste and further exposure to chemicals my body has long gone without, sedative antihistamines and power tools don’t mix well. I mentioned my condition to my teacher Tim at lunch and he asked me if I was aware of the botanical farm just up the road from the school. What? I’ve been here this whole month—how did I miss that one? I headed straight to Avena Botanicals at the top of a steep hill exactly one mile from my classroom.

When I entered the main visitor building, a young woman named Jill appeared from the back to greet me. I introduced myself and explained my predicament. She asked me some questions about my symptoms, recent activities and food intake and then suggested that I start a nettle tea regiment to flush my system of toxins. Nettle tea is also known to be a calming agent for inflamed skin. She also recommended turmeric and ginger root for their anti-inflammatory properties.

I didn’t have a container or produce sack with me so I purchased a brown paper bag full of dried nettles. The bag is labeled with a company sticker that also indicates the contents. I sipped the tea throughout the days and evenings this week and it really helped to sooth the burn. I’ve also been using a salve purchased in a small tin that contains calendula, lavender, and beeswax. I am through the reaction at this point and my skin is healing.

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Bench lunch

Chickpea, tomato, peach, and basil salad with olive oil, balsamic, and black pepper. Fuel.

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Working on a knockdown joint for the small dinning table I’m building. The wedges pin the tabletop stretchers to the apron. No glue needed.

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Early to work

Sunrise at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship.

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Cashew butter and fruit at the workbench. Purchased at the Belfast Co-op.

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Fresh Off the Farm

Pictured above is a market I’ve been frequenting here in the Pine Tree State. Fresh Off the Farm has been my main source for produce and dry bulk goods since I’ve been here. The employees are really accommodating and friendly. I love stopping in.

Even small produce are kept loose for customers to take just as much as they need. There’s always something local, like potatoes, baby garlic, cucumbers, or carrots available.

Bulk spices!

Pack of goods.

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My home away

The clothesline at the apartment I’m staying at in Maine is so perfectly positioned. Laundry dries much faster high up off the ground in the sun and breeze than it does in the machine. The air here has been dry and warm during the days and my sheets only need to hang out for about 15 minutes. The apartment is also equipped with a little foldout rack, perfect for skivvies. Check out the solar panels in the back. There’s also a compost heap and a chicken coop below the deck. Property owners Eric and Laura know what’s up.


In the garden, raptor silhouettes help deter small birds from the berries. Such a simple form of pest control. So far, they seem to be working—the crop has been bountiful.

The grapes on the vines just a step downhill from the blueberries are coming along. I’m really hoping that some will ripen before I leave. It can be difficult to find grapes in a store without the plastic bag.

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Blueberries, raspberries, and red currants picked from the property I’m staying at. Brought these with me to the studio today.

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Star anise

This star anise was purchased in bulk at Fresh Off the Farm in Rockport. So far the store is my favorite source for groceries here. I picked these up for a friend at the wood school. They are a key ingredient to a delicious Thai meal he cooked and shared with me.

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Maine adventure

Foraged wild blueberries picked on a hike at the destination spot.

Destination spot.

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Wood school

The last two weeks have been fantastic. My weekdays are filled with studio work—learning to sharpen hand tools and cutting dovetail and mortise and tenon joints. I’m working amongst some really inspiring people here and I’m making friends. Breaks from the work are filled with adventures on land and in water. Hiking, biking, swimming, and sailing.

Getting package-free food in this new setting is going really well so far. There are a couple great dry bulk grocery store options (one of them even sells bulk spices) and for the most part I’ve been able to get what I need. For the sake of research and curiosity, I plan to check out a couple recommended co-ops that are a bit farther (one 7 miles and the other 25 miles) away at some point. I may need to refill on cooking oil before I leave Maine and I’d also like to get some bulk tea.

I’ve been making dinner at home for friends and myself and saving the leftovers for lunch the next day at school. There’s also a business not too far down the road from campus called the Market Basket with a great prepared food selection and the employees have been so nice about filling up my stainless steel container on the days that I arrive to school without lunch. The picture above was taken on such a day. I enjoyed a meal of wild rice with walnuts, roasted potatoes and stuffed grape leaves at my workbench.

I had one fail at a fish market in Rockport called Graffam Bros. Seafood Market when I went to get a piece of Arctic char to cook at home. I introduced myself to the woman at the counter and proposed my special request. She happily agreed but then laid two pieces of sheet plastic on the counter to cut my piece to size. At the register I asked her if there was anyway around having to use the plastic and she explained that she needed to cover the counter surface to make the cut. Understood. The next time I went back, I was shopping to make dinner for myself and two others. The young man behind the counter that day was able to tare my container and put one large uncut fillet directly into it. The piece ended up being the perfect amount for the three of us. It was super fresh and delicious.

For sustenance, I’ve been toting stone fruit, carrots, almond butter, nuts, and energy cubes to class. Yesterday I snacked on wild blueberries while out on a hike with a friend. My land people have been extremely generous in offering me sugar snap peas and berries from the property and when the grapes on the deck are ready, I will help myself. I’ve been eating like a king.

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Great escape

I’m currently in Maine. I’ve been here since Sunday. I’m enrolled in some woodworking classes at a school in Rockport and I will be here for the entire month. Being away from home for this time means having to make adjustments to keep my No Trash Project on track. Luckily, I’m finding I am surrounded by resources that support my lifestyle.

I’m staying with a couple that rents their garage apartment to students of the wood school. They have the most beautiful home with spectacular gardens. Eric and Laura live on about six acres of land, much of which they’ve cultivated into a community garden that’s shared with and cared for by about 10 of their friends. They’re growing so much food! I am so inspired by the work they’ve done and the systems they’ve established. The scene above is what I wake up to every morning. The deck off the apartment kitchen overlooks the vegetable garden, berry bushes, orchard, chicken coop, compost pile, and solar panels. A grape vine is growing on the deck railing, and a clothesline runs from the exterior of the garage to the trunk of a pine tree. There’s also a modular greenhouse in the side yard. The enclosure sits on tracks and can be moved to house different crops at different times of the year. Their Labrador, Moxy is hanging out in the apartment with me, sitting on my feet as I type this. Basically, I’m in heaven.

I’ll be in class full time during the 4 weeks that I’m here. Right now I’m learning how to hand cut mortise and tenon and dovetail joints. I hope to come out of the courses with two functional objects. Some of my posts this month will be about the property I’m living at (fruits and vegetables will be ripening while I’m here), shopping for food and hygiene goods in a new community, woodworking waste, and conservation. It’s going to be a good July.

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