Friday, June 20, 2014

Building with Dirt (Part 2)

The first post about our house was literally about building with dirt. Here, I wanted to write about the home's energy efficiency systems. Although there are a few things that we would do differently if building all over again, which I'll mention below, the house in general performs very well---cool in the summer, warm in the winter. Our total energy bill was under $20 per month for the first few years we lived there. Adding a chest freezer and supplemental heat in the greenroom---plus a rise in energy prices---brought the bill to about $28/month, where it remains today.

Kitty contemplates the woodburning stove. Photo by Aaron.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Fig & Poppyseed Muffins (High altitude baking)

There’s nothing like that moment when you first check on the progress of your cake or muffin or bread as it bakes in the oven. What will it be: a flat, disappointing brick, or a softly rising mound that promises air bubbles and lightness of crumb inside?  Those of us at high altitude always have a little extra trepidation: the thin, dry, low-pressure air up here wreaks havoc on sea-level baking recipes, which rely on a finely-tuned balance between pressure inside and pressure outside the rising surface of the loaf or cake. I have made plenty of bricks, plenty of cakes that rose too fast and collapsed back in on themselves or overflowed their pans, and plenty of perfect and delectable desserty confections that are indistinguishable from their sea-level counterparts.