Hi, folks! I’m going to be doing a few workshops in 2015. Come see me at:

  • Chelsea District Library, June 2, 6:30pm: Gourmet Berry Jams (Free registration required)
  • Farm Education and Sustainable Food Fest, Matthaei Botanical Gardens, June 14, 10-12: Canning Demo
  • Ypsilanti District Library (Whittaker Rd. branch), June 25, 7-8pm: Homemade Salad Dressing and Condiments
  • Chelsea District Library, August 19, 6:30pm: Intro to Canning (Free registration required)


So what have I been up to in the last two years?

  • Moved to a passive solar house
  • Started gardening at a community garden
  • Dug deep into my hyper-local neighborhood
  • Began the School of Dentistry “Help Yourself” Garden (website | news story)
  • Organized several group purchases of edible perennials and dry goods

I’m thinking about starting to teach again! If I did, what topics would you most like to see?

Hey, everybody-

After three years and something over 50 workshops, I am stepping down from heading Preserving Traditions. The last two last workshops currently planned are July 23 (Intro to pickling) and  Aug 27 (Intro to Canning), both at the Chelsea Library from 7-8pm.

What’s next for PT? I’m glad you asked, because the answer is largely up to you! The Pittsfield Grange is very interested in seeing Preserving Traditions continue, and has expressed strong support for the project. But what form should it take? Should PT retain its focus on food, or expand to other traditions, such as handicrafts like spinning, weaving, sewing, carving, soapmaking, etc.? How should PT relate to groups such as the Grange’s Junior Makers program (where kids learn basics of woodworking, electronics, and carpentry) and the ReSkilling Festival (which teaches all sorts of “people-powered” crafts from canning to beekeeping to permaculture)? How often should events be held? Should we do more demos, or more work days? What kinds of online resources would be helpful?

And perhaps most importantly – who will keep the group going? I tended to take a “do all the organizing and most of the teaching” approach, but it need not continue on that way.  There will probably be room for a number of volunteers and time commitments ranging from a few hours on one day to jobs spread out over seasons.

If you would like to be part of the discussion, please contact Joan Hellmann c/o the Pittsfield Grange Facebook page, or via e-mail ( There will be a one-time strategy and planning meeting to brainstorm ideas for moving forward. Coming to the meeting doesn’t commit you to any further participation, though of course we’d love to have people volunteer to teach, organize, or otherwise support Preserving Traditions with time.

In the tradition of good food and good friends,


With the talk at the Ypsi Co-op on Oct. 7th, the second year of Preserving Traditions winds down. This seems like a good time to think about where to go with the group in 2011, and I’d love your input.

Recap: What we did this year

It’s been a busy year – a total of 22 workshop, demos, and work days in Ann Arbor. All but five of those were taught by yours truly, and eight were in the peak season of July-September. I also turned down half a dozen offers to teach at other locations; I just couldn’t meet all the need for all the interested folks out there! I really love teaching, and I leave events more energized than I arrive. I do need to remember to pace myself, though; more than two sessions per month (even if I’m just organizing and not teaching) is pretty brutal.

I taught at some new venues outside the Grange this year, including the Re-Skilling Fair, the A2 Farmer’s market, Downtown Home and Garden, and St. Joseph’s Hospital Women’s Center. Sylvia Nolasco-Rivers also led a workshop at her business (Pilar’s Tamales) that sold out in 3 hours.

What’s inspired me this year

  • The Detroit Zymology Guild is a group that gets together to pickle and can all sorts of amazing foods – some of which were “wild”-harvested in Detroit.
  • The concepts of permaculture and edible landscaping.
  • Low-energy cooking, such as solar ovens and rocket stoves.
  • Local foodshed-building projects such as the Farmer Fund, which helps local farmers build hoophouses to extend the local growing season.
  • Rob Frost’s One Straw Revolution and his efforts to put a potato patch and willow coppice in every suburban lot to radically increase home food production – and his observation that we need to dramatically step up home food production, more than one potted tomato at a time.

Room for refinement

I have learned that I am not cut out for market demos. For one, I’m not great with heat…I nearly passed out while demoing raspberry jam this year. :/ For another, you can’t really learn how to can just by walking by a demo, and that’s all most people have time for. And as I get more requests to teach, I want to focus on maximizing the number of people who can then go home and use the skills I’ve just taught. So I think in 2011, I will reduce the number of “walk-by” events I lead.

I am also wondering about the balance of teaching people how to can, and actually getting jars into pantries. The revelation to me from the salsa work day was that yes, we canned about 80 pints of salsa, but it took 60 worker-hours to do so. We could easily have made as much salsa in that amount of time with half the people. But is the point food in jars, or know-how in heads? (This is one point I’d especially like y’all to help me think through.)

One thing I do know…I can’t teach 8 workshops in 3 months while working full time, maintaining my own garden, canning my own produce, and not taking any extra vacation time. I think I’ll be scaling back the garden next year, as that is the most easily replaceable item, given our excellent markets in this area. I don’t want to cut back on teaching – in fact, I’d like there to be *more* teaching – but stressing out the way I’ve done the last 2 years isn’t something I’d like to make a regular feature of my summers from now on.

Preserving Traditions Boot Camp?

One option, of course, is that I don’t need to be doing all the teaching. I have been toying with the idea of leading a “train-the-trainers bootcamp” for people locally and from afar who want to teach similar classes. I would love to have a network of people in town who could field some of these requests for teachers. I know many folks who are capable cooks, but I don’t know if you want to teach. (If you do, please let me know!) I’m wondering – are there folks out there who are good cooks and canners, but not sure if you’re ready for the teaching aspect? Would you attend a workshop (potentially multi-day) that would teach some kitchen skills and some “how to lead a workshop” skills? With a chance to try teaching in a supportive environment with lots of feedback? (My day job is teaching teachers how to teach, so you’d be in good hands.) I would have to charge for such a workshop; what would you think is a fair price for two and a half days of instruction, plus breakfast and lunch? Take the survey about camp here.

Oh wise friends…help guide me! Leave your comments here or mail them to Together, Yes! We Can!

Legions of jarsHello, hello to all of you visiting from Jennifer McMullen’s article on the Ethicurean web site. Take a tour around the site, learn a bit about the group, see some photos of the group, peruse the store for “Yes. We Can.” items, and see what events we’ve got coming up in Ann Arbor and West Bloomfield, Michigan.

If you are interested in starting a branch of Preserving Traditions in your town, or in attending a “train the trainers” session, see the “Start Your Own” page or contact me at


Learn to make basic condiments – ketchup, mustard, and salad dressings – with Preserving Traditions. This will be part demo, part hands-on workshop, due to the time involved (overnight soaking, etc.) andthere will be a number of varieties to sample!

Bring at least half a cup each of any type of vinegar and oil. You may also bring fresh herbs, crumbly cheese (feta, bleu, etc.) if you wish. Also bring a couple small jars if you want to take home samples.

March 14, 2pm
Pittsfield Grange
$5; free for Grange members

Ok…I need reviewers interested in Preserving Traditions to go to, scroll down about halfway, and let me know what you think of the workshop outlines. The idea is to lay out everything a would-be presenter needs to know to run a workshop on a particular topic (assuming they are able to do the skill in question, but just need some help turning that into a workshop).

I also hope that other people will take the template and start submitting their own workshops (Mary…how ’bout writing up your pierogi workshop?) for inclusion on the site. You can submit your own workshops to

Ah, and I think I need to run my own instance of WordPress’s blog on so I can set y’all up as authors without having to get your own WordPress login…so much to do…it’ll happen, albeit slowly…

Sunday, Jan. 10th, 2pm, at Pilar’s Cafe, 2261 W. Liberty, Ann Arbor (map).

RSVP at by noon on Saturday!

The tamale-making workshop has been postponed. I was out on family business for essentially all of December and couldn’t nail down details before our presenter left for the holidays.

I’ll try to reschedule, but I’m not sure when that might happen.

cabbageOld-fashioned, homemade sauerkraut is nothing like the salty, sharp kind you get at the store. Instead, it’s tangy, crunchy, and full of healthy probiotics (like in yogurt). It’s also really easy to make!

Bring one head of green cabbage, the fresher the better. You’ll also need to bring a wooden spoon and about 1 gallon’s worth of containers. If you don’t have the traditional pickling crock, you can use any of the following:

  • The ceramic liner of a crockpot you don’t plan on using for a couple months and a 1-gallon freezer bag
  • A clean, food-grade plastic pail and its lid, or a freezer bag
  • Two half-gallon mason jars  and plastic lids <–these are actually my favorite kraut pickling jars
  • Four quart-sized mason jars and plastic lids (or just bring one or two and make less kraut for this first trial run)

Sunday, November 8th
Pittsfield Grange
3337 Ann Arbor-Saline Rd.
Ann Arbor, MI

Cost is $5; free for members of the Grange. RSVP here!

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