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,


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One of Those Days

This is how my day started:

Not only was my breakfast ruined, but I broke a canning jar and had to throw out some divine blueberries off our bushes. This turned out to be a symbol of my day.

But, along with some time relaxing with a good book and a little gardening this evening, this is how it ended:

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Since becoming a chicken tender (ha, ha Lori) and beekeeper, I have been amazed at the conversations I've had with people. Both subjects are definitely conversation starters and people take a genuine interest in learning something about both chickens and bees. Many are amazed that chickens have personalities or that chickens will eat just about anything, including cherry tomatoes, figs and cockroaches. We have living pest control at our house. These hobbies are a joy to us, but are considered weird by some, admirable by others, and just plain "hippy" by most. I don't know many people like me, so in my close knit world of friends and acquaintances, I'm an oddity. Being an oddity, I have to go elsewhere to get knowledge and inspiration. I am a member of my local beekeeping association, so I have local support in that regard, but I often find myself going online for additional support and guidance. One of my biggest inspirations is a family in Pasadena, CA. Their organization is Little Homestead in the City, and I would say it's partly because of them that I started the journey I'm on and realized I don't have to own multiple acres or live in the country to strive toward self-reliance. Start where you are with what you've got. Their urban homestead is indeed a feat, and I am in complete awe of their accomplishments. For an eye opening look at urban homesteading, click their blog button to the right.

Happy homesteading,