Tuesday, December 28, 2010

i be jammin'

Today, I canned some triple berry jam to utilize some fruit that partially defrosted when our refrigerator went bust a few days ago. Waste not; want not and a great way to make lemonade out of our old refrigerator, I mean lemons. Oh, our old refrigerator was a lemon. Canning this jam has been on my list anyway, but I put it off for other things and to save heating up the kitchen in the middle of summer. Today was the first time I've used the low-sugar pectin, and I really like it. The jam is just sweet enough, and I feel much better about the quantity of sugar used.

I have to say I've been loving some pepper jelly on biscuits in the morning, but this will be a great change up.

What's your favorite jam/jelly?

Happy homesteading,


Monday, December 27, 2010

Living Without

We have been living without a refrigerator since yesterday. Plain and simple, our refrigerator is a lemon. We have only had it for about 5-6 years, and we've had to fix it 3 times prior to yesterday. Each time we pay to fix it and have to frantically eat and/or throw away good food while we wait for it to be repaired. Yesterday, we decided we have had enough and made the gut-wretching decision to buy a new one. Ugh!!! It absolutely killed us to make that decision, and we were probably the most unexcited consumers the salesperson has ever seen. The whole time the salesperson droned on about the newest technology and features, I was thinking this money could have gone to so many more useful purposes. Not that a refrigerator is not useful, but I expected more years from ours. Our saving grace is our small chest freezer. With the refrigerator being so unreliable, I started using the freezer to store our meat. Fortunately, the temperature is hovering at freezing or below outside, so we shoved what we could into our chest freezer, and packed everything else in coolers and containers and put them in the workshop. Meanwhile, I've been using what I can because most of the fruits and vegetables are now partially defrosted, and they will never be the same if I try to refreeze them. I have an interesting soup concoction in the slow cooker right now, and tomorrow I plan to can some blackberry jam, which has been on my list anyway, and probably bake some cranberry/blueberry muffins. I made a joke this morning about going out to the spring house to get breakfast materials and had to tell Nate what a spring house was. So, if you don't know what a spring house is, here's your pioneer lesson for the day.

A spring house, or springhouse, is a small building used for refrigeration once commonly found in rural areas before the advent of electric refrigeration. It is usually a one-room building constructed over the source of a spring. The water of the spring maintains a constant cool temperature inside the spring house throughout the year. In settings where no natural spring is available, another source of natural running water, such as a small creek or diverted portion of a larger creek, may be used. The main use of a spring house is for the long-term storage of food that would otherwise spoil, such as meat, fruit or dairy products.

Happy homesteading,


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Greenhouse Installation, Part Two, a Comedy of Errors

The greenhouse assembly was really more comedy than errors. Prior to purchasing this kit, I had read alot online about the assembly process of this particular greenhouse and already knew the instructions would be vague and hard to follow. There are whole discussion threads on the subject on various websites where people post pictures and clarification of the instructions and how they improved the basic plan. I literally spent over an hour one morning just reading through the various threads to prepare. So, we approached the project warily and with the great tools provided. Just joking.

Luckily, Nate is very handy and can assemble anything. He did a few things backwards, but fortunately they were easily remedied. The biggest problem he had was with the window assembly, and we didn't get quite enough bolts. Luckily Nate had some that would work in his workshop.

Now we just need to make sure this is the best location for it. Since it's small, it won't be hard to move. Once we decide it's permanent, we'll run electricity, build some shelving, and modify it a bit more for good cross ventilation. I'm so happy with it and look forward to a stable, permanent place to start seeds.

Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Baby Goat Holiday Cheer

These baby goats are too cute!


I see two Nigerian Dwarfs in my future! How soon? I don't know, but I anxiously await the day.

Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Greenhouse Installation, Disappointment and a Silver Lining

Today is oh so chilly and overcast, and Nate has been out in the cold starting the ressurection of my greehouse. Normally I would have suited up with my long johns and wellies and been out in the middle of it, but I've had several work appointments today and have been coming and going, so this phase has been totally up to him. First he started by leveling out the ground, then made the base to which the greenhouse will be connected, and then continued building up the ground until the base was level. The next phase will be to start assembling the frame. Seeing this activity makes me want to pull out my seeds and start planning for 2011. I received my favorite seed catalog a few days ago, so the wheels are already turning.

Yeah, progress! Now the disappointment. This location is not were we wanted to permanently leave the greenhouse. The problem with our lot is we are completely surrounded by trees. Our neighbors on all sides have trees galore! Not ornamental trees, but tall 30-60 year old oaks and pines. Our neighbor to the east has probably 6-8 trees in his front yard and even more in his backyard. I have always wanted to take down trees in both his front and back yards but have been too chicken to ask. It dawned on me a few weeks ago that the back half of his back yard, which is not as densely populated with trees as the front half of his back yard, would be a great location for gardening if a few trees, rather than many, were taken down. And it would give me a perfect place for the greenhouse. We approached him about selling, negotiated a price, and I went down to the courthouse and pulled our neighborhood covenants from the 1940s. Here's the disappointment. The covenants do not allow subdivision of lots, so he can't divide his lot and sell us a portion of it. Through this process we discovered he has been wanting to take down trees but hasn't had the money to do so. He has agreed to let us take down whatever trees we want, at our expense, of course, but the benefit to us is that it will open our yard to more sunlight and a larger gardening arena, which is what I have been craving for years. Of course, the negative is we would be paying money to improve someone else's property even thought it would benefit us to some degree. I still think he would let us use his back portion for gardening free of charge, or at the least, rent it to us. Either way, I would probably start with container gardening instead of spending the time and expense of clearing the undergrowth and tree roots that abound. To really maximize the space, there are some trees that could come down but, once again, spending money on someone else's property is not ideal. Whatever we decide to do, whether it's take down some trees or container garden where the sun hits the best, it's nice to know we now have options that we didn't have a month ago, and that's my silver lining.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

All I Want for Christmas...........

is a greenhouse. Well, I've wanted one for my birthday, last Christmas, and any holiday for that matter. I have been collecting old windows for this purpose, but just can't get Nate motivated to tackle the job. Working out the framework for different sized windows would be a nightmare, he says. I was promised a greenhouse this fall, and it's now winter. So, I've compromised because I've lost patience. We bought a greenhouse kit today and leveled out a pad for it. The chickens had a blast eating the worms that surfaced. The greenhouse is actually going in a temporary location for now, or at least I hope it's temporary. We have bigger plans for it in the coming months, but they aren't definite, so for now, we will work with what we have.

Oh, and I broke in my muck boots and had a blast myself playing in the dirt!

Happy homesteading,


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Muck Boots

Okay, a gift to myself. I have been needing a good pair of muck boots for general chores around the garden that could be washed off and cleaned without getting my feet wet. But sometimes my frugal side just gets the best of me, and I've been making due with an old pair of tennis shoes. They just weren't up to the task though. Trying to get chicken poop out of tennis shoe tread is no fun. Anyway, tonight these cuties were calling my name. I'm so glad I bought them and look forward to using them. I know they will serve me well. And, they're blue, my favorite color!

Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Backyard Homestead, Finally

I have been coveting this book for over a year now, and it's finally on my bookshelf! I browse through it every time I go to the bookstore. The best part is I only paid $2.88 with tax for it. Between a coupon and rewards program money, I got it for a song.

It covers everything from vegetable gardens to cheesemaking to raising livestock. It seems to me to be a great starting point for anyone interested in homesteading, especially for those who only have 1/10 to 1/2 an acre. It focuses on utilizing the land efficiently and productively to get the most out of the property.

I can't wait to really sit down and start reading.

Anonymous: If you are reading this, you are in trouble now! You know who you are. Get your hammer ready. LOL!

Happy homesteading,


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bread Challenge

For a time, I made all of my bread from scratch and even had a pretty decent sourdough starter going, but when I started working a full-time schedule, I had to let something go. That something was homemade bread. I fell into the habit of buying organic bread, which consumes a large part of my grocery bill. Well, enough is enough. My problem is I haven't been planning very well. I have the time to make bread; I just haven't taken the time to do it. So, my challenge to myself is to start making homemade bread again. My saving grace is my bread machine. I find my machine very functional and time saving for me. I usually use the dough cycle and finish baking it in the oven. Doing it this way avoids the paddle hole in the bottom of the loaf, and let's me shape it into rolls or bake it in a loaf pan for a traditional shaped loaf. Another positive is I can experiment with different recipes to find the ones I like best. Today, I'm trying a jalapeno cheese bread, which I shaped it into hamburger rolls and will use for supper tonight. The hamburgers won't know what hit them. A few days ago, I shaped a batch into rolls, and some were baked for supper and some frozen for later use. And the best part is my bread is so much tastier than what I buy at the store and it's cheaper. Do you bake your own bread? If so, what are your techniques and useful hints?

Another tool I find indispensable is my kitchen scale, which is wonderful for weighing the dough and dividing it, especially when making rolls.

Happy homesteading,


Thursday, November 25, 2010


I just spent the last hour or so in the hammock with my hubby with our outdoor cat, OP2, wedged between us. She purred the whole time. Now as I type, I have my cat, Lucy, in my lap. If I'm seated, there is no other place she would rather be. I cooked lunch, but someone else did the dishes. These are moments for which I am most thankful.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Green Tomatoes

When the summer comes to a close and fall starts creeping in, a gardener's dilemma is what to do with green tomatoes. Some tomatoes store very well and can be ripened over the winter for fresh eating. While they are not as good fresh summer tomatoes, they are usually better than store bought ones or so I've read. I didn't really have the quantity I needed to attempt this and most of the tomatoes I had left on the vine were very tiny. So, with the few I had, I decided to experiment with some recipes. Fried green tomatoes immediately come to mind, but I really wanted to see what else was out there.

The first recipe was a Green Tomato Pie (aka Fake Apple Pie). It was decent and did resemble apple pie in texture and flavor. I would probably make it again, but it's not on the top of my list. I told Nate it was an apple pie, and he ate it well enough.

My next recipe is being much better received and is quickly becoming a favorite relish of mine. I made this green tomato relish, http://www.food.com/36487. The only modification I made was to use ground spices and put them directly in the mix as I didn't have whole spices to use. I'm so happy I tried this recipe, and it will become one of my staple relish recipes for next year. I only made one batch since I didn't know if I would like it, but now I wish I had made more. By the way, www.food.com is an excellent resource for canning recipes.

Finally, I had just enough tomatoes to try this last dish, and it is delicious. It's a very moist spice cake, and while some of the reviewers topped it was a cream cheese icing, I left mine plain. It is plenty sweet enough. This recipe I will also keep for next year. http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Green-Tomato-Cake/

Now I wish I had more green tomatoes!

Happy homesteading,


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Victorian Farm 1/36

I sat down to write a post this morning, but as always, I first gravitated to my favorite blogs to help myself ease into the morning while I enjoyed my cup of java. I already had an idea in mind for my post, but I came across this series on the BBC and put my idea on the back burner for the time being. I am so excited to watch this series! I've watched the first episode and am already hooked. I loved PBS's Colonial House and Frontier House, so this will be right up my alley. Enjoy. I know I will.

Happy homesteading,


Saturday, October 30, 2010

State Fair

Nate and I recently attended the SC state fair and had a blast looking at all of the animals and exhibits. I have to say I haven't been to the fair in years, and the last time I went was not with the intent of prowling the livestock barns. Seeing the canning exhibits made me want to enter something next year, so maybe it's something to consider. We saw so many different chicken breeds, and I loved the angora rabbits. My biggest disappointment was the goats were not scheduled to arrive for another few days. I was really interested in seeing some Nigerian Dwarf goats close up. Eventually I would love to have some goats, and the Nigerian Dwarf is the breed that interests me most, mainly for its size.

This is a Jersey Giant behind Nate. They were absolutely huge!

I think the Silkies are cute, but I don't think I would want one.

But I would love to have some type of Polish chicken. They look so punk rock!

And I fell in love with some of the roosters. After this trip, Nate is really wanting a rooster. One day, when we finally move from a neighborhood and town, we'll have one.

Have you been to the fair lately? If not, check out the one closest to you!

Happy homesteading,


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Happy Birds!

I mentioned in my last post that we had a new addition to the homestead. Her name is Bella, and she was adopted from some friends who could no longer keep her. She's had a time over the past several weeks with establishing pecking order, but the other girls have finally accepted her into the flock. She's a sweet bird and a good layer. Her original name was Rainbow, but she's such a pretty bird that we changed it.

While I'm talking chickens, I thought I would post some new pics of Thelma and Louise. They have grown to be beautiful birds to which a happy healthy environment contributes. I love to see their feathers glisten in the sunlight.

Thelma when we first got her

And, the beautiful bird she's become

Louise as a chick

Louise today

As I was browsing through pictures to decide which ones to use, I came across this photo of Vanilli. We bought her at the flea market because we just felt so sorry for her. She was a prime example of an animal who was poorly kept. She smelled so bad we could barely get near her. Contrary to what you may think, healthy chickens who have the opportunity to take dust baths and preen do not smell. Her comb was scabbed over from being pecked continously by other chickens, and her whole backside was missing all of its feathers, either from being kept in a cage or from being picked on by other birds. She was a mess.

Today, Vannilli is a completely different chicken, and who would have thought her featherless hiny would have grown such fabulous tail feathers. We didn't. Plus she lays green eggs. Nate calls her our American Bald Chicken as she looks like an eagle to us.

Finally, we have Pearl, our HHIC. She was our very first chicken and is our most special one. She's handicapped, but handles it like a champ! She's our best egg layer and a hawk attack survivor. And while she can be a mean old hen to the others sometimes, she's overall just a great chicken. She rules!

We are so blessed each day to get eggs from our backyard and so thankful we don't have to contribute our money to a dreadful egg industry.

Happy homesteading,


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Few and Far Between But Still on a Mission

My posts seem to be getting fewer, but don't fret. I'm still here and on a mission. Life has been crazy lately, and this time of year seems to be the best time to step back and take stock of the year and begin planning for next. I've been told I'm an inspiration. I'm proud to know my adventures inspire others. To me, what I do is just right. Part of what keeps me on my journey is the inspiration I find with other blogs. One blog I really love is Cold Antler Farm. This girl is doing it alone, but she has a dream and works each day to fulfill it. I totally admire that! Check out her blog on my blog roll.

Happy homesteading,


P.S. We have a new addition named Bella. More on her later!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stuff Me Baby!

My pepper plants have been so fruitful this year, and today I harvested some that were screaming to be stuffed! So, I made a "Mexican" concoction if you will of rice, diced tomatoes, corn, black beans, ground beef, cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, and various seasonings and proceeded to stuff about 40 jalapenos for various shindigs and these beautiful bell peppers. The jalapenos have gone to the freezer and will be roasted as needed, but the stuffed bells were topped with salsa and more cheese and baked. They're what's for dinner!

Happy homesteading,


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Rain Glorious Rain

Ah, rain! I've opened the windows to hear it. I had planned to go to the grocery store this morning before heading to work, but I think not now. We can go another day.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bottle Tree

I have wanted a bottle tree for years! I first read of them in Southern Living, and years later, I finally have one. Nate made it for our anniversary, and he enjoyed making it so much, he plans to do another one. Our neighbor wants one for her yard as well. For several months, our bottle tree has been a natural metal, but rust was starting to accumulate, so yesterday Nate decided to paint it a fire engine red. It provides such a pop of color for the yard. Now I just need some blue wine bottles for it. Anyone?

If you are interested in a brief history of bottle trees, visit this site, http://www.felderrushing.net/HistoryofBottleTrees.htm.

I hope you like it!

Happy homesteading,


Monday, August 23, 2010

Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers

I've had a glorious year of peppers, especially jalapenos. They just seem to keep coming, and I've done my best to utilize them in as many ways possible. Yesterday, this was my harvest.

Today, these are the products of this harvest, 14 pints of pickled peppers and 6 jars of pepper jelly.

I love stocking my pantry with homegrown homemade products!

Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Vanilli and Pearl are BFFs. I may have mentioned in a previous post that Pearl has a bum talon that we think is a birth defect, so it's difficult for her to do typical chicken things sometimes. She can't jump high, so the roost is close to the floor as is the nest box. She also has balance issues when it comes to roosting, so her BFF helps her out. Vanilli puts her wing over Pearl to help her balance on the roost. It is so sweet!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Recipe Share

I just finished supper and having enjoyed it so much, I thought I would share the recipe with you. This dish ranks as one of my favorites, and this time of year couldn't compliment the ingredients more. Plus, it's super easy and quick to make, which is an added plus. Thank you vegetariantimes.com. I hope you make it soon, and if you do, please let me know what you think of it.

Thai Spicy Eggplant with Sweet Basil

* 1 cup jasmine rice
* 2 Tbs. peanut or vegetable oil
* 1/2 to 1 tsp. crushed red pepper, or to taste
* 3 baby eggplants, peeled, cubed into bite-sized chunks
* 1 medium-sized onion, diced
* 1 medium-sized red bell pepper, seeded and diced
* 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
* 2 Tbs. white vinegar (I use Rice Wine Vinegar.)
* 3 Tbs. dark soy sauce, such as tamari
* 2 Tbs. dark brown sugar
* 20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn


1. Cook jasmine rice according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, heat a deep skillet or wok-shaped pan over high heat. Add oil and crushed red pepper, and let sizzle for 10 to 15 seconds. Add eggplant, and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic, and stir-fry for 3 minutes more. Add vinegar and soy sauce. Sprinkle with sugar, and toss for 1 or 2 minutes longer.
3. Remove pan from heat, add basil leaves and toss to combine with eggplant. Serve over hot cooked rice.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


While I would like to tell you growing your own food and trying to build an urban homestead is all peaches and cream, the truth of the matter is it's hard work and sometimes very frustrating and disappointing. Sometimes I wonder why I continue on this path, and then I see my chickens free ranging in the yard and I collect my eggs that weren't laid in a cage in a building with artificial lights, and I know for me, it's the right thing to do. I am determined to continue to grow and learn and take the good with the bad. However, sometimes we focus so much on our perceived disappointments and failures, we fail to see what we've accomplished and be thankful for it. So, I thought I would take a moment to look back on some things I'm proud to have accomplished this year. We added two new chickens to the flock, bringing it to four. We built the fabulous GA State Henitentiary, moving the girls from the chicken tractor to larger digs. We continue to get 1-2 eggs a day from Pearl and Vanilli and look forward to getting eggs from Thelma and Louise starting maybe the end of August. We started two bee hives, and while not a complete success, a valuable learning experience indeed. We added a rain barrel to the front of the house making it easier to water the veggies up front. We built and planted 7 raised beds in the front yard for vegetables. I have canned Fig Cognac Jam and Pepper Jelly. I have dried numerous trays of peppers, hot and sweet, and figs. Our blueberry bushes, planted last summer, gave us a decent harvest, enough to make some muffins and to throw some on cereal in the morning. I have frozen numerous cubes of basil from the garden, the wild blackberries we were able to pick in the spring and pureed figs. I've made and frozen several jars of jalapeno pepper sauce and bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapenos. Several jars of refrigerator pickles sit in the refrigerator as well.

By our standards, wow, what a list, with five months left to go in the year.

There are other non farm-related things for which I'm am thankful as well, but that's another post.

Happy homesteading,


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Double Egger

This is our Black Star chicken, Pearl. She is our star egg layer.

She has laid a double yolk egg in the past, but I swear she laid two eggs today. We were on vacation last week, and it was a staycation, so the chickens were allowed to free range almost all day every day. Needless to say, they were pretty mad yesterday when they were left in the run. Vanilli expressed her anger in very loud calls and ran up and down the run having hissy fits. Well, we didn't get any eggs yesterday. Normally when we don't get an egg from one of the chickens one day, there is usually an egg waiting for us the next morning. There were no eggs this morning when I checked the nest boxes. I came home today and there are three eggs in the nest box. Thelma and Louise are not old enough to lay, so I know it was neither of them. There were two brown eggs and one green one. The only chicken that could have laid the brown eggs is Pearl. I checked online to see if a chicken can lay more than one egg a day, and while it is rare, they can. Pearl got an extra fig tonight for a reward!

Crazy for Figs

My neighbor, the same wonderful neighbor who brought me several boxes of mason jars a few months ago and whom we affectionately call the Squirrel Slayer, has part of a gorgeous fig tree falling into his yard from his neighbor's yard. Last year he gave me free reign to pick figs from his side of the fence, and I made the most of it. You see, I am somewhat of a fig fanatic. Fig jam, preserved figs, fig marmalade, fig pizza, dried figs. Figs, figs, figs. Nate asked me last year if I was sick of figs yet, and I thought he seriously needed to be committed. I asked him if he was crazy. They rank pretty high on my list of favorite fruits and to have such a wonderful supply of them is amazing. I digress though. This evening, he told me his figs are starting to ripen and to pick as many as I want. He also went on to say that he was speaking with the neighbor in whose yard the fig tree originates, and he mentioned to her how much I love figs. She told him I could come to her yard whenever I wanted to pick figs. The majority of the tree is in her yard, so I am so excited to have access to that part as well. Don't you know I hightailed it over to his yard after supper and picked a large bowl already. While there, I saw the neighbor lady in her yard, introduced myself and talked to her about coming over the fence to pick on her side. She was very nice and said whenever I want, just come on over. I think I will wait until the weekend so I won't be a nuisance, but I am so stoked. We are eating our last jar of fig butter so the timing is perfect. These are the beautifully sweet figs I picked tonight.

Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Story of Why

I'm on vacation this week, so the blog posts will be few and far between, but this is from my friend, Krista. I just had to post it. (Disclaimer: I tried to enlarge this, but couldn't get it any bigger, so if you click on it and open it in a new window, you should be able to see it better.) Enjoy!

And that's why the chicken crossed the road!

Happy homesteading,


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Glimpse into "Old School" Homesteading

Since I was a small girl, I have loved the Little House on the Prairie books, but being written for children, the stories are simple and romanticized. In reality, homesteading was a hard life 24/7, but it's a life that fascinates me. If you wanted beef, you raised a cow, slaughtered it, and preserved it one of several ways. There was no convenience and easy way. Self sufficiency was the name of the game, and convenience had no place. Today if we want beef, we go to the store and buy it. Today convenience is the name of the game and self-sufficiency has no place in most lives. We take for granted so many things that are just expected and most of the time without thought as to how it was produced or where it came from. I'm trying to retrain myself to think about my purchasing decisions, my food choices and the way I live. My journey is not a perfect one, but hopefully it's a step in the right direction. For a glimpse into "old school" homesteading, here's a great article I found. I would love to find out what in this article was most interesting to you.

"Homesteading in Appalachia" by Karyn Sweet page one

Happy "modern" homesteading,


Thursday, June 24, 2010

In The Old Days

In a time not so long ago, water used to fall from the sky. The old timers call it rain.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Weekend Recap

We had a busy weekend, and I couldn't seem to find any time to write a post, so I thought a weekend recap might serve to highlight some of the happenings at our little urban farm. In addition to garden maintenance and cleaning the coop, here's what you missed.

My zucchini plants were attacked by squash vine borers, and since this has never happened to me before, I caught it too late. I have one zucchini plant that is barely hanging on and a few squash plants that don't seem to be affected. So I replanted some zucchini seeds and hope for a late summer harvest. Late is better than nothing, so we'll see what happens. I was fortunate enough to be given some zucchini by a co-worker last week, so this weekend I made the most of it. I used some of it to make veggie burgers for the freezer. We love these burgers, and they are WAY better than the frozen burgers at the store. They have saved my life more than once for a quick fix when I'm too tired to cook. The rest of it I used to make zucchini cakes one night for supper and also an ingenious recipe for mock 'apple' pie. Amazingly this pie, using zucchini, tastes like apple pie.

The same co-worker also gave me some cucumbers, not enough to go to the trouble of canning, but just enough for some refrigerator pickles. If you've never made refrigerator pickles, you should give them a try! Easy to make and delicious to eat!

My jalapeno plants are rocking right now, so I sliced up at least a couple dozen peppers and threw them on the dehydrator. I could have canned them, but I dried some jalapenos last year to see how I would like them, and they worked wonderfully for many recipes, so I think drying them is the way to go for me. Plus, I put the dehydrator outside on my deck and it doesn't heat up my kitchen like canning would.

All work and no play makes me a dull girl, so we hit the town Saturday night and went to the ASA BMX Big Air Triples Competition. Wow, seeing a double front flip on a BMX bike is amazing. This kid did 3 or 4 double front flips throughout the night and each time made it seem so easy. And he's only 15. I wish I had that much talent going for me at 15.

We got up early to go wild blackberry picking on Sunday. We have a couple of places we go, but our favorite is a huge field full of blackberries canes. This is what we found when we arrived.

THE CITY MOWED THE WHOLE FIELD TO THE GROUND! Add on the fact that it has been extremely hot and dry lately and the disappointment mounts because most of the berries we did find were dried up. We have been able to pick about 2 quarts, but that is nothing compared to what we usually pick. I put them in the freezer for now and will use what little I have from last year to make some blackberry jam.

We checked our bees last night, by ourselves, without our mentors. Going solo with no supervision is a big deal in our book. We took our time and looked at each frame for signs of queen cells, new eggs being laid, and capped brood and honey. Everything seems to be going smoothly. It was definitely very intimidating as the population has grown with new bees hatching daily. It seems like we have a good productive queen though.

Who says cats and chickens can't get along? Here, OP2 and Pearl share a leftover biscuit from breakfast.

Until next post, happy homesteading,


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pickles and Shelving

I am constantly amazed at the quantity of food Nate can put away. I joke that we have to have a garden; otherwise, we couldn't afford to feed him. He's so skinny, yet he can eat just about anyone under the table. A few days ago, I opened my last quart of bread and butter pickles. At the time, we had a few on our burgers, so the jar was still practically full. This evening, Nate ate 1/2 of that jar of pickles after eating his supper. That's 1/2 a quart. His excuse is they are so good he can't stop eating them. Flattery will get him everywhere as will giving me the following cast-off from his workshop. It's going in the attic to store my canning jars. I'm so excited!

Happy homesteading,


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Front Yard Gardening, Part One

We've lived in our house for several years, and each year until last year I have struggled with trying to grow vegetables in a shady back yard. When we first moved in, I really wanted a vegetable garden. I staked out and installed four raised beds, not really knowing much about gardening or the sun pattern in my back yard. I soon realized my dream of a bountiful garden was not going to be. Four beds soon became three, then two, and then one. The last bed is used for herbs and cooler weather plants, such as lettuce, that can't take the hot summer sun. Even most of my front yard is shady, but part of it is somewhat better as far as sun exposure. Last summer, it dawned on me I should try growing vegetables in my front yard, so I experimented with a few plants and was able to get a decent harvest. It was the first time I was ever able to grow a bell pepper. My harvest last year was nothing to brag about, but it was enough to give me hope and encouragement. This year, I have several raised beds up front, and I am anxiously waiting for my first beefsteak tomato to ripen, and most importantly, my first tomato sandwich. Tomato sandwiches made from cherry tomatoes are no fun. My soil still needs some work, but so far so good on my first year of front yard gardening.

Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bee Lessons

So, our mentors came over tonight to check our hive and make sure we are on track with everything. Prior to tonight, we've inspected the hive a few times on our own. Each time we wanted to make sure the bees were building comb and storing honey, and the queen was laying eggs. Tonight was especially great because we had someone experienced to point things out to us. Now, sit back and enjoy some of our recently taken pictures.

This picture shows burr comb (top right and left side), which is extra comb the bees build to fill in extra space. It's not needed, so we cut it off.

This frame is full of beautiful comb the bees have built in a matter of a few weeks.

This is a great picture of capped brood (baby bees) and capped honey. The tan capped cells in the center contain the brood, and the white capped cells hold honey. In a matter of days, our bee population will expand dramatically as the new bees emerge from their cells.

Can you see the bee carrying pollen in this picture? It's easy enough; I circled her for you! Nate and I love to sit near the entrance of the hive and watch bees bring in pollen. The way they come and go is like a mini airport.

Last but not least, and probably my favorite pictures so far, some that Nate took.

Happy homesteading,