Upcoming Events: Seed Swap and Film Series

1029176963This is your friendly neighborhood events update – here are a few things happening around Missoula in the area of food (do YOU eat food?), so mark your calendar and take advantage of some great local opportunities!

Seed Swap

Who: Open to everyone, hosted by Five Valleys Seed Library

– Where: Missoula Public Library, large meeting room

– When: Saturday, February 7 from 12 to 4 pm

– What: Bring seeds, get seeds… or just look around at all the cool seeds

Film Series

Brought to you by the Missoula Community Food Co-op: all movies showing at the Burns Street Bistro (1500 Burns St.) at 6:30 pm

Feb 25: The Real Dirt on Farmer John (trailer here)

March 25: Food Stamped (trailer here)

April 22: Symphony of the Soil (trailer here)

Apply Now to Live at the FLAT!

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Kara and David practice their “wanna join the FLAT, do ya??” looks at the annual winter retreat

That’s right, your life-long goal of living at the FLAT is one step closer to being realized! Every spring the FLAT reviews and then chooses students to fill the vacancies. It is open to ALL STUDENTS, undergraduate or graduate, from any department. This year we will have an unusually large number of spots opening up as many of us graduate or reach the end of the 2-year residency limit.

The 2015-16 new resident application went up on our website earlier today, giving applicants about a month to answer a handful of questions and return them to us by Monday, March 2. Applications can be downloaded here and sent to us at umflat@gmail.com. Any questions regarding the application can be sent to the same address.

We look forward to reading all of your thoughts and desires! The decision generally takes up to two weeks and includes an interview process for short-listed applicants.

Meet Our Lovely Ladies: Frida, Jeannette, Amelia, and Rosa

Have you met the lovely ladies of the FLAT yet? It’s hard to believe how much they’ve grown since we first brought them home from Clark Fork Organics in April. They’ve turned out to be well-behaved teenagers. Find out more about our stars (named after famous deceased women) by reading the following bios. We’ve now hung these bios up on the coop as well so next time you’re around take a look. Frida infojeannette infoAmelia inforosa info0103051625

So…what exactly do you guys do?

Recently at one of our sleepy-eyed Tuesday morning meetings, the FLAT crew was interviewed for a KBGA story on student housing by graduate student Nicky Ouelett. The story coveres the topic of themed housing and portrays what it is like living in one these more goal-oriented group living situations.

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Living at the FLAT, we often get the question “So…what exactly do you guys do?” It’s difficult to give a synopsis of everything that goes on though in a quick 30 second elevator speech. From the alternating monthly role duties of Chickens, Studio, Garden, Yard, and Web to the more demonstrative projects and community events, there is a lot going on all the time.

If you’re inspired by what you hear, look for the application to live at the FLAT in February. We’ll also be tabling in the UC early spring semester so come say hi and ask us any remaining questions you may have about what exactly we do at the FLAT.

(NOTE: you may have to be logged into gmail to listen to or download this linked version of the interview.)

Humble Abode or Glorified Creation?

This NY Times article, Exhausted by a House That Saves Energy: Was It Too Soon to Be Sustainable?, was floating around the FLAT this week featuring a retired couple who escaped to the woods of Vermont in order to build themselves this close to net-zero house. Instead of downsizing after retirement, this couple opted to build a 5,000 sq. foot house with the intention of it later accommodating their kids and grandkids so that the youngins could take care of them and continue the operations of the house. After reading the article I got to wondering, was it worth it to the couple to go through all this construction and labor just to maintain a house? They couldn’t leave for vacation unless a trained family member could tend to the house all day. It requires constant attention to ensure all mechanics are working and chores are being completed (ex. opening and shutting the 56 shades throughout the day). I bet you’re also wondering how much this fine beauty costs (including the garage, outbuildings, chicken coop, etc.)? A whooping $500,000-$600,000. That’s an investment for retirement.

Ok, so maybe I shouldn’t be as hard on them. They are trying to be a model for their community by demonstrating how various technologies and practices can lead to a  sustainable lifestyle. It’s just that I get a bit fussy when people say they’re living a more “sustainable” lifestyle, when in fact, they’re contributing more to the environmental footprint -in this case it’s the new construction, cutting of existing trees, and lack of small scale construction. But now I want to focus on some of the positive and really interesting things this couple included in their abode:

  • a compost-heated chicken coop in the winter
  • 71 photovoltaic panels
  • 8 solar thermal panels
  • insulation and tight walls
  • “fancy ceilings”
  • hydraulic elevator
  • swimming pool…(sorry, I couldn’t help the “…”)

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If you’ve been to the FLAT this year, you might have noticed some of the plans for our new abode. We don’t know where these plans came from or who took on this in-depth project, but we like it! Apparently so does Frenchie at UM Facilities Services. I don’t know about my fellow FLATmates, but I am perfectly happy with what we have now and am pleased to see all our hard work come to fruition around our small cozy house. I am proud to call this house with these fabulous people who live in it my home.

Its frozen outside so lets nuzzle up to a warm fire and watch a movie.

Much to our dismay or joy without warning winter is upon us and the pellet stoves have been thrust back into action.   Lucky for us we’re fully stocked with an array of winter storage vegetables ranging from burly potatoes to a colorful squash.  If you haven’t stocked up, never fear.  Check out the Western Montana Grower’s Cooperative fall/winter CSA shares and your local Missoula Community Food Co-op for winter storage veggies.  As we hunker down for a winter full of pond hockey, hot coco, and blazing fires our minds are squarely focused on warming foods as we’ll be hosting a handful of folks from the university administration to showcase our projects and talents.

I’d like to share one of my favorite cold weather recipes featuring my favorite soup ingredient, celeriac.  Feel free and encouraged to experience with variations, different squash, and even a dash of dairy in this gluten free and vegan recipe.  If you have never dealt with celeriac aka celery root here’s an excellent video on how to prepare this delicious treat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwDGEFrri-M.

Squash 1

Squashy Celeriac Soup

2 squash of your choosing (Buttercup, Butternut, Kabocha, and Pie pumpkins are all ideal)
¼ cup of oil of your choosing
1 softball size “bulb” of celeriac
1 onion
3-5 cloves of garlic
1 Tablespoon Sage
1 ½ teaspoon thyme
1 quart of broth plus water if necessary
Salt, Pepper, and Honey to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400º.  Slice squash horizontally and place skin side down in an oven safe dish w/enough water to cover the bottom, about ¼ inch deep.
  2. Roast 30-35 minutes until soft and scoopable. Scoop out seeds into compost and scoop squash flesh into a bowl.
  3. Remove scary hairy outside layer of celeriac root and dice into ½ inch cubes, dice onions into ¼ inch, dice celery ¼ inch, and roughly chop garlic.
  4. Over medium-low heat with the pot top on sweat onions, celeriac, garlic, and pinch of salt for 5-10 minutes until soft and translucent.
  5. Add broth, sage, and thyme. If necessary add water to cover vegetables.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until celeriac is soft and cooked through.
  6. Blend until smooth. If too thick add milk or water till you reach your desired texture.
  7. Add salt, pepper, and honey to your heart’s desire.

Our fall, now winter, movie series continued last Thursday with a screening of Damnation.  A rousing discussion followed the film lead by Chris Brick, PhD. Science Director from The Clark Fork Coalition.  We covered topics including: the expression of activism, the importance of watersheds to ecological vitality, and awareness of our Montana watersheds and damn influences such as the Milltown damn site.  No mention was made of the potential FLAT moat and hydroelectric damn project scheduled for spring of 2024.

If you didn’t have the chance to join us, don’t sweat it.  The film can be viewed at home on Netflix; of course we would be unable to provide warm tea and the rousing discussion with friends.  Don’t miss our next movie at “The Studio Auditorium” on December 4th.  This edition of our environmental film series will feature Momenta a film addressing the coal industry’s action in the Pacific Northwest.  Join us in our non-coal headed studio for an evening of film, tea, snacks, and a lively discussion.

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FLAT Winter is Coming!

With winter weather comin’ in hot…or I guess starting to cool off quite a bit, the residents at UM FLAT have been putting some finishing touches on winterizing the house along with some of our projects. At the UM FLAT, changing seasons mean changing focus and sometimes even switching our projects. Spring 2014 had us planting native gardens, preparing our vegetable crops and tomato greenhouse, utilizing our water catchment system, and raising our new young chicks.

Fast forward half a year and the FLAT is still actively working in the house and yard, but with different purpose. Here are a few things the FLAT has been working on recently.

Rye Cover Crop

Rye Cover Crop

We put our garden to bed! After pulling out a lot of the remaining roots, we planted a rye cover crop to pump back some solid structure and nutrients back into our garden’s soil system. This will help prevent rain-splash erosion, encourage aggregate growth and maintenance over winter, and will add a good amount of organic matter when spring comes. That Rye is looking Rye-teous!

Chicken coop weatherization

Chicken Coop Winterization

Another yard project FLAT residents recently took on was to make our FLAT Flock more comfortable. Dropping temperatures can reduce egg production, cause comb frostbite, and can make for some unhappy hens.  We’ve covered the majority of our coop with greenhouse plastic to greatly reduce the wind coming out of Hellgate Canyon and we’ll have a heat lamp turned on during the day to provide a little extra warmth and comfort to our laying hens.

Windows are Weatherized

Windows are Weatherized

If you do not have the extra space for a large garden, and are still lacking those little feathered friends in your backyard, weatherizing your windows is a pretty easy step to keeping the house warmer and reducing your energy bills.  It’s inexpensive and easy to do yourself. Stop by the FLAT sometime to see how we managed it and get some tips for your own home!

Bring it on Winter!