Archive for January, 2012

January 19, 2012

Fox II

On our way south from the Bay Area to LA, we picked up another beautiful road-killed grey fox.  We skinned and cleaned it on our first day back at the co-op, removed its brains and cleaned its bones on the second day, brain-tanned it on the third day, and smoked it over the fire pit on the fourth day.  I think we may have given some of the younger coopers a bit of a shock!




























In case you’re interested in becoming one of us weird people who does these kinds of things, here are some good resources:

Brain Tanning Furs by George Michaud

Tan Your Pelts with Nature’s Tools by Jim Miller

Skinning, Tanning, & Working Hides: A DIY Guide to an Ancient Skill by Rowan Gangulft, PhD


January 14, 2012

Dumpster Score: South Bay TJ’s Circuit

All in one night!
















January 12, 2012

The East Bay Veg Oil Boon

Enough oil to get us from Oakland to LA via the South Bay Trader Joe’s circuit, no probs.

January 9, 2012

Mariposa Grove, Oakland

Mariposa Grove is a retrofit co-housing community of about 20 people (aged 50s to young children) in Northern Oakland, very close to where my friends live.  Most of the property is owned by a community land trust, though one of the houses is owned by an absentee landlord.  We’ve visited retrofit co-housing projects before; the term refers to an intentional community consisting of several neighboring houses which were standing before the community was created, and which were (usually) purchased by the community in their original locations to be owned and operated communally.

Mariposa Grove’s Mission Statement: Mariposa Grove is a member-owned, consensus-based intentional community in an urban setting that supports sustainability, social justice activism, creativity and the arts. We are creating a permanently affordable home, a physical and social space where we share resources and responsibilities, grow together and support each other to fulfill our personal dreams while providing a model for the larger community of which we are a part.

Mariposa Grove is technically “low-income housing,” though most members own their homes and pay mortgages (the exception is the house owned by a landlord).  There are all-community meetings twice a month and decisions are generally made using consensus, though not everyone who lives at Mariposa Grove is members of the land trust, so the land trust board has more power in certain decisions.

The top floor of one of the houses is communal space, with a large kitchen and living area.  There is a beautiful garden (even in winter), nine chickens, and a grey water system which feeds out to a stand of fruit trees.  Despite its location, it doesn’t feel urban at all.

I was only able to meet two community members (one being an infant!), but I spoke at length with my guide about diversity at Mariposa Grove.  Almost all members of the community are white, and though some members would like more racial/cultural diversity, this has always been a challenge (despite the diversity of Oakland generally and Mariposa Grove’s neighborhood specifically).  Recruitment usually happens within an already-established East Bay co-housing community which seems to be predominantly white and middle-class.  Despite Mariposa Grove’s Mission Statement, which mentions support for social justice activism and “providing a model for the larger community of which we are a part,” the co-housing community appears quite separate from the larger community of people in this area.  I didn’t ask my guide what Mariposa Grove meant by “providing a model for the larger community,” but I often find such intentional community models to be gentrifying ones.

The one house which is soon to be rented out by its landlord is, despite the unideal situation of being owned by a landlord, a potentially positive situation because it could provide housing for lower-income people who cannot or will not buy in to the community land trust to pay a mortgage on a house.  This option, which is relatively new to Maripiosa Grove, seems similar to what Monan’s Rill was planning during our visit there; it might lead to a more diverse community.  Of course, for people of color to feel comfortable living at Mariposa Grove, the current members would have to be willing to listen to their needs and concerns, and change (perhaps drastically) their status quo to make their community more welcoming, and this is entirely up to the current members.


January 9, 2012

Vegan German Chocolate Cake

I wanted to bake a cake as a thank-you to Desi and Rubin’s house for hosting me for nearly a month now.  I like to bake vegan, and my favorite cake is German Chocolate, so I found the following excellent recipe.
















Vegan German Chocolate Cake
recipe courtesy of Morrow Cookbooks/HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS

3½ cups all- purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups soy milk

1½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder(we recommend Hershey’s)

1 cup canola oil

3 cups real maple syrup

1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Coconut- Pecan Frosting
½ cup soy milk

¼ cup cornstarch

1 pinch kosher salt

2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar

1½ cups coconut milk

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 cups sweetened shredded coconut

1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Vegan Chocolate Ganache
½ cup soy milk

8 ounces unsweetened chocolate

¼ cup real maple syrup


1. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350°f. Have ready two 8- inch round nonstick cake pans.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. Heat the soy milk in a small saucepan to slightly bubbling, and then add the cocoa powder. Remove from the heat and whisk well.

4. In a medium bowl, combine the oil, maple syrup, vinegar, and vanilla. Whisk well. Pour in the soy milk–cocoa mixture, and whisk until smooth.

5. Using a mixer or by hand, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until the batter is smooth.

6. Pour the batter evenly into the two cake pans, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean. Set the cake aside to cool thoroughly.

7. To make the coconut- pecan frosting, whisk the soy milk, cornstarch, and salt together in a small bowl.

8. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the brown sugar in the coconut milk. Cook, whisking, until the mixture comes to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

9. With the mixture on the stove still over low heat, pour in the soy milk mixture and stir continuously until the mixture is very thick and smooth. Remove from the heat and beat in the vanilla, coconut, and pecans. Cool before using.

10. To make the chocolate ganache, combine all the ingredients in a saucepan over low heat, and stir continuously until the glaze is smooth. Remove from the heat, stir for another 2 minutes, and then cool to room temperature.

11. To build the cake, place 1 cake layer on a cake plate or stand, and spread a layer of the coconut- pecan frosting over the top (but not the sides). Place the second layer on top of the first, and spread a very hearty layer of the frosting over the top. Using an offset spatula, ice the sides of the cake with a thick layer of ganache. Then warm about ¼ cup of the ganache in a small saucepan, or in a micro wave oven, and drizzle it across the top of the cake (or use a pastry bag to pipe it).

It came out superbly, though not exactly as the recipe describes!  We didn’t have 8 in. cake pans, but we did have two 8 in. pie pans, which are not as deep as cake pans and also have slanted sides (the sides on cake pans go straight up so that you can stack the layers and they’ll fit together!)  I poured a good amount of batter into the two pie pans, but still had quite a bit left in the mixing bowl.  The only other round bakable dish I could find was a large cast iron!  So the cake ended up being three layers, and they were slightly different sizes.  But covered in frosting no one can tell (nor do they care!)

Also, the “ganache” (chocolate drizzle) didn’t become thin enough to drizzle, so I served it on the side.  Delicious.


January 9, 2012

Friends in the Bay Area


January 1, 2012

The Fox

So Max and his friend Alex went biking one day and came back with a road-killed grey fox in a plastic bag.  Who knew those natural history museum skills would come in handy on the road!