New “Project” in Irvington

We went to check it out a new art gallery in our neighborhood last night.

5547 Project

5547 Project

We found that 5547 Project is not just a gallery–it’s a study in the art of reclaiming. The space itself is a repurposed industrial shop. Within are local artists’ works, plus furnishings made from natural and upcycled items.

Table made from railroad ties, with groovy antiques

Table made from railroad ties, with groovy antiques

We met the man behind the project, David Jackson, a retired Marine who wants to make the neighborhood rock even more than it already does.

David Jackson, founder of 5547 Project, with coral fountain and cool wall art

David Jackson, founder of 5547 Project, with coral fountain and cool wall art

David brings a rotating cast of artists in each month, and every Friday serves local craft beer, wine, and refreshments. Last night’s opening featured Heidi Unger, a gardening buddy and stellar photographer. She’s the one responsible for the beautiful banner photo on this site, and several others you’ve seen around here, like this one:

Photo by Heidi Unger

Photo by Heidi Unger

My oil painter friend Rita Spalding also has her work up.

Some of Rita Spalding's work displayed on reclaimed wood wall

Some of Rita Spalding’s work displayed on reclaimed wood wall

Some of the artists also market handmade goods at the gallery. Cheryl Lorance (check her artwork out!) just moved to the neighborhood from New Mexico. Her line of skincare products is called Mount Sapos.

Sculptor Cheryl Lorance makes bathsalts, body butters, and soaps (local Traders Point Creamery milk is a key ingredient!) Displayed here on upcycled pallets.

Sculptor Cheryl Lorance makes bathsalts, body butters, and soaps (local Traders Point Creamery milk is a key ingredient!) Displayed here on upcycled pallets.

David mentioned the possibility of opening weekdays with simple coffeeshop fare. I so hope he decides to do that. I can imagine this becoming a real neighborhood gathering place.

cool light fixtue

If you’re in the neighborhood, stop and check out 5547 Project!
 

 

Solar Cooking, the Cookprint, and You

Solar cooker demo at the Flower and Patio Show

Solar cooker demo, Flower and Patio Show

Yesterday I had the chance to bring my well-loved handmade solar cooker to the Urban Homestead exhibit at the Indiana Flower and Patio Show.* I was a little worried that my cooker, made of cardboard, duct tape and aluminum foil, would feel self-conscious in the company of all those gleaming new grills and such. But: We rocked it.

No one seemed to care that the glass has a nice “patina,” as a friend christened the smudges I could not seem to remove with vinegar water. They were too busy peering into it and asking questions about how it works and how it’s made.

This will be my fifth summer of solar cooking. It was a thrill to spend part of a snowy day sharing my cooker with gardener types, a few of whom seemed ready to go right home and make one.

My solar cooker at work

My solar cooker at work

Not only is solar cooking crazy fun, it means we drastically reduce our natural gas use from May to September. And the fact that we can make something so useful from (nearly) all salvaged materials and make it last five years and counting? Well, it kind of feels like getting away with something sneaky.

I’m even prouder of my solar cooker since hearing a radio interview with the author of Cooking Green: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen, which concerns ways to “shrink your cookprint.”

The local food movement has raised awareness of our “food miles.” But we don’t always consider the impact of another aspect of eating: what we do with the food after we get it home. Anyone who gardens or belongs to a CSA knows that procuring food sustainably is only the first step. Once you have all that produce staring at you, you’ve got to process it. Except for salads, cold soups and the like (raw foodists, holla!), this task generally involves using some form of energy–turning on the burner, heating up the oven, plugging in the crockpot.

I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know if she advocates solar cooking as the ultimate in cookprint reduction. In the interview the author shares tips like this one for pasta-making:

Tip: Bring the water to a boil, then turn the burner off once the pasta is in the covered pot.

gas burnerI imagine pressure cookers are high on her list as well. (Don’t tell my solar cooker, but I’d be lost without my pressure cooker, at least from October through April.)

What about you–have you looked at ways to reduce your “cookprint?” Do you use a solar cooker–or would you like to? Share in the comment section below! (If you’d like more info on solar cooking, contact me for recipes and tips. Find DIY instructions here. You can buy one here–but really, don’t. So easy to make!)

*Still time to check this out if you are in Indy–through March 17. I’m told sheep will be grazing the urban homestead grass at some point in the next few days. Get your coupon here.