Last Week at the Institute — 2–8 Dec. 2017

Last week was a busy one at the institute: a workshop, preparing for first snow of the winter, and roofing continues. This is the first of what may become a weekly feature describing the goings-on here. In some cases, this will be a video update.

Venison Butchery

T. Flemming demonstrating knife sharpening.

We had five people out to butcher a deer at a workshop last Saturday. Attendees got a primer on sharpening knives from member and volunteer, Todd Flemming, who will be teaching a whole workshop on sharpening soon. We discussed field dressing, skinning, quartering, and boning out the deer as well as chronic wasting disease and the variety of uses for the meat.

Preparing for Winter

Winter is coming and we needed to get a few things together. We used the scythe to cut down the dead hostas in the front yard as well as raking up leaves into wire bins, where they’ll decompose over the next year into compost. The rhubarb got tucked into its bed with straw, composted manure, peat moss, and a covering of landscape fabric to keep the chickens off. The Kale-Mustard hybrid experiment continues and I self-seeded the bed. By this last weekend, we got our first real snow of the year. Unfortunately, I still have things to report in the next section.

Roofing Continues

RoofingAlthough the snow flies and daily temperatures are rarely above freezing, we are continuing to install our roof. Unlike asphalt shingles, which shouldn’t be put down in the winter because they need some heat to seal the shingles together, cedar shingles can be installed year round, much to our chagrin. The ridge is the last step for much of the roof and we’re 85 percent done. We’ll finish another 10 percent in the next week or two and then call it quits for the season.

Interior Improvements


Now that much of the necessary exterior work is complete, we’ll turn our energy to interior improvements. Over the winter we’re updating three bathrooms, the kitchen, and entryway, as well as painting and repairing minor wear and tear throughout the house. When possible, we’ll be designing with future modifications in mind, such as the installation of a graywater system and solar-powered hydronic heating. This week we built an 8-panel door inspired by the antique doors in our 1855 home. We’re starting on the bathroom next and will chronicle our renovation here.


For the second year running we made candles out of beeswax from our hives. This year’s candles were better than last year and our process could be further improved in the speed department — next year’s goal.


FruitcakeThis year’s fruitcake was sweetened by our own honey, used our own eggs, and included some of our own dried fruit. A full blog post and recipe was given in the blog last week, so check that out if you think you don’t like this delicacy.

Wood and Kitchen Stoves

This week was the first time we had to clean out the woodstove. I’ll be doing a blog post soon about our winter heating this year and how that will be changing in the next few years. We also purchased an industrial stove and converted it to accept liquid propane fuel instead of natural gas. This will allow us to use biogas in the future: using our compost and other wastes to generate methane for cooking. Not only does this provide cooking heat, it will break down the harmful methane into less potent greenhouse gasses.

Woodworking Project

IMG_20171204_102453889The winter is a good time for small-scale woodworking projects. This week I was working on a few little sushi boxes. I’ll be doing a post soon on how I built them and how these are used. In short, since the 800s CE, sushi was made by compressing fish and rice in wooden forms. The rolls we eat today are post-war phenomenon.


This week’s bread was sourdough with a bit of rye flour and oats, as well as ground flax and millet. It was cooked partially over the wood stove and then finished in the small convection oven. Yum! I hope to offer bread-baking classes once our stove is fully installed. Stay tuned!

One thought on “Last Week at the Institute — 2–8 Dec. 2017

  1. love the looks of the bread. We call it bake here, which we have for breakfast on many mornings or for dinner with cheese or another side dish. yum!

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