Monday, January 31, 2011

Odds and Ends

It feels ages since I last posted.  Sometimes I get really busy with work and projects and sitting down to write gets pushed to the back burner.  So here's a recap of recent stuff:

I discovered a kindred spirit at work last week.  She isn't about to run out and get any chickens, but she has dramatically changed the way she eats thanks in part to Food, Inc. and other like-minded publications.  I knew she was a reader of my blog, but I thought it was just out of curiosity.  We saw each other at a work function, and she mentioned wanting to grow some vegetables this summer and even do some canning.  She just baked no knead bread for the first time this weekend too.  I really congratulate her on making a change against the tide.  When more people jump on this bandwagon, perhaps we can get the food industry to sit up and take notice.  B:  Whatever I can do to help, just let me know!

Up until last week, I had a blender I really hated.  It's apparently a pretty nice blender.  It has a glass jar, which I love, but the level of control over the speeds really frustrated me.  Whenever I would try to add the oil to salad dressing, I would spray the ingredients everywhere because I had no control over the speed!  I tried holding a towel over the hole, but I would end up pouring oil on the towel and making an even bigger mess.  Eventually I just stopped using it and started using just oil and vinegar.  Well, last week, I really wanted to make honey mustard dressing, so I pulled out the blender and decided to accept the consequences of my actions.  Then, it dawned on me!  You may know this already, but I'm slow on the uptake sometimes.  I pulled out a funnel, and stuck it on the hole.  It is so perfect!  It covers the hole and allows me to add the oil slowly and evenly without splatter.  Necessity is the mother of invention, right? 

Sundays seem to be the busiest day for me.  Because it gets dark so early, it's the only day I can get Nate to help with some projects that are just out of my league.  Yesterday, he made some self-watering containers for me.  I've never used them, but I'm excited to see how they do.  I'm hoping I can put them at the back end of my neighbor's yard that gets good sun, but for now, they are on the back end of my yard.  They will get some sun there, but not like they would in his yard.  I just need to discuss it with him before I plop them on his property.  In them, I've planted shelling peas, snap peas, lettuce seeds and transplants, and broccoli transplants.  Things are coming along nicely with my first set of dwarf pak choy and lettuce seedlings.  I'm hoping to harvest some really soon!  With the new ones I planted yesterday, I'm working on my succession planting.  I also transplanted some brussels sprouts in large regular pots, and along the border of one of my front yard beds, I planted onion sets.  One of my raised beds received radish and carrot seeds.  Each day, as I have time, I've tried to get some seeds going in the greenhouse as well.  This is the first year I've really tried to extend my harvest and I'm learning as I go.  The greenhouse has been wonderful in that regard.

I'm experimenting alot with different areas of my yard, timing, and growing techniques.  Sun exposure is a large stumbling block for me.  So, as I gain more experience about when to plant things and what I can successfully grow, I know I will work on producing more food.  I've started small and am growing from there. 

What are some of your gardening successes and failures?  What have you learned recently that will make you a better gardener?

Happy homesteading,



Sunday, January 23, 2011

Entertainment Resources and Shows in Our Queue

Are you ready for it?  It's ugly!  Don't say I didn't warn you.  Here you go.  We don't have cable.  GASP!  Our tv is used for watching dvds.  When Nate cancelled our cable, the lady asked him why he was cancelling, and he told her he was paying alot of money to channel surf.  In reality, we were so busy with other projects, that we never really had time to sit for hours and watch tv.  It was a waste of our money.  Plus, for the few shows I do watch, I found I can go online and watch them either through the network's website, Hulu, or YouTube. 

Okay, next.  Here's a double GASP for ya!  We don't use Netflix or rent dvds.  Why?  Because I can get just about any movie I like from the library.  What is great about the library is I can log into my account, search for the movie I want, put it on hold, and I get an email from the library when it has a copy, or most of the time, I find plenty of selections when I make my weekly visit.  Not only does the library have new releases and old classics, but it has an amazing collection of indie films.  I never fail to find something interesting there. 

The reason I say all of this is because I wanted to share a few things we've been watching on YouTube. 

Edwardian Farm

The much anticipated follow-up, at least in my house, to Victorian Farm.  Love it, love it, love it!  I was so disappointed when we finished Victorian Farm, and I'm going to be equally disappointed when we finish Edwardian Farm. 


FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system. Each has witnessed the rapid transformation of our agriculture into an industrial model, and confronted the consequences: food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity. Forging healthier, sustainable alternatives, they offer a practical vision for a future of our food and our planet.

Among several main characters, FRESH features urban farmer and activist, Will Allen, the recipient of MacArthur's 2008 Genius Award; sustainable farmer and entrepreneur, Joel Salatin, made famous by Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma; and supermarket owner, David Ball, challenging our Wal-Mart dominated economy.

What are some of your favorite entertainment resources?  What's currently in your queue?

Happy homesteading,


Saturday, January 22, 2011

My New BFF

Okay, well maybe not forever, but it's coming pretty close.  I have been reading about no knead bread for a few years, and I have never taken the time to try it.  Where have I been and why have I resisted?  You got me, because it is now a daily dialogue at my house.  Everyday, my husband asks me to bake bread, and I feel I must oblige because it is so darn EASY and delicious to boot!  I've always made decent bread with the use of my bread machine, but my eyes are wide open now to the wonders of no knead bread.  If you haven't tried it, I recommend you not go another day until you have.  Here are a few links to get you started:

Healthy No Knead Bread

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day

I've only tried the basic recipe and haven't quite perfected the art of making the loaf picture perfect, but what it looks like doesn't matter because it's gone in no time. 

Happy Bead Baking,



Thursday, January 20, 2011

Canning Center

I've posted before about my canning jar fetish. I don't know how many dozens I have; I'm scared to count them. Some have been acquired new and others at yard sales, attic sales, from basements where they were headed to the trash heap, and from the kindness of neighbors. The vintage ones I love the most, and no one will ever get them filled with goodies. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is.

I use my jars in a few different ways, first and foremost, to can, but I also store leftovers in them. My problem is, until today, I didn't really have a good system for storing them. I had some in a small cabinet in my kitchen, but I never seemed to have what I needed, and as we emptied jars, they would start to accumulate on the counter top because I wouldn't take them to the attic. Clutter overload for me! I have to have order, or I just can't function. Traipsing up and down the pull-down stairs to the attic to either put away jars or get them down for canning was annoying. Once in the attic, they were in such a varied array of boxes I had to search for the right box, and the boxes didn't match, which really got under my skin. I want to see what I'm looking for without having to search for it.

Today, I decided enough was enough, and the space in my office that was designated for my elliptical machine has become my canning center. Sorry elliptical; we'll get back together soon. Now, my jars, rings, and lids are easy to access and are organized, and I can see them. I even have space for my pressure and water bath canners and the jars that are still in my pantry and refrigerator filled with food.

I'm not quite finished because I'm thinking I might even bring my dehydrator down from the attic, so it would be my preservation center, rather than canning center.

I like it. I really like it!

Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Friends and Community

A few days ago, a friend and her daughter and husband came to see the rabbits. They are interested in getting rabbits as well and wanted to do a little research. I really enjoyed their visit because it was a chance to talk shop, and it got me to thinking about friends and community.

When I first got chickens in 2009, everyone I knew thought I was batty, even Nate. Chickens in town? Are you allowed? What do your neighbors think? Do you have to have a rooster? I fielded alot of questions because many of my friends knew no one else like me, especially someone who lived in the middle of town. So, with not knowing anyone locally who ran an urban farm, I found my community online and received the motivation, inspiration and simple knowledge I needed. Each year I've chosen a different pursuit to keep me moving forward with my goal, and I've depended heavily on my online community for help. Little by little, I am getting there, through trial and error and some success.

Since 2009, I have met others locally, chicken keepers, beekeepers, and urban gardeners, and I've expanded my community. Even my friends who don't participate in any of these activities, and who may still think I'm a little batty, enrich my life and show their support just be reading my blog or asking about the animals or the garden. I'm happy to say I've even inspired a few people to grow a few tomato plants when they had never thought to do so before. These same people are now talking about planting a garden this year.

Today, I don't have to reach out as far for support, and it's a joy to know I have both local connections as well as online ones to motivate, educate, and inspire me. I would have to say the new friends I've met both in person and online and the old ones who show their support in so many ways have been one of the best returns from of my urban farm.

Happy homesteading,


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Taking Down Trees and Blue Moon Cavorts

My dad came over today, and he and Nate took down two trees and some lower lying limbs on various trees in my neighbor's yard. We really need more sunlight in the backyard, and this was the first step. There are several trees that need the touch of professionals, but for now, I think we are moving in the right direction. As the sun gets higher in the sky, I'll be excited to see what effect today's efforts will have on the backyard.

The chicken tractor has been brought off its blocks and out of retirement for the rabbits. It's the perfect structure for them because I can put them in it, one at a time of course, and let them run around with only a little supervision. Blue Moon had the first round, and he was very timid at first and stayed inside for about 30 minutes, but he finally ventured into the run and after about any hour really started to enjoy himself. He was hopping and running around and bucking like a little bull. The chickens were super interested in him and hung around the run watching him. OP2 ventured over to see what the fuss was about and ended up running off with a puffed tail. Even Nate kept walking by and talking to him. I think Nate likes him. Even though he's a puffy pretty boy, he's a boy, and according to Nate, we don't have enough of those around here.

While Blue Moon was cavorting in the tractor, I stepped into the greenhouse and started some pepper seeds, Jalapeno, Chinese 5 Pepper, Chocolate Bell, Emerald Giant Bell, Red Minis, and Yellow Minis. I'm really loving the greenhouse. It's opening up a new world for me since I've never had any luck getting seeds started. The seeds I've started so far have sprouted, which is encouraging, and provided they prosper, will definitely giving me a jump start to my growing season.

What are your gardening goals this year?

Oh, and welcome to Jennifer, a new follower. Thanks for reading!

Happy homesteading,


Friday, January 14, 2011

Blissful Boo

This is my Boo.

This is my Boo on sun.

We all should know such bliss.

Happy homesteading,


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Simple Sewing on a Winter's Day

We had a few inches of snow yesterday, which means the whole city shuts down, and it gives me an excuse to putter around the house with no agenda. Responsibilities are put on the back burner for the day.

One of my goals this year is to become a more proficient sewer. I took a sewing class a few years ago, and at the time did not have a sewing machine to practice what I had learned to the point I felt comfortable tackling more complex projects. Now, the skills I learned in the class are lost. I have to start over. Recently I found a very inexpensive basic sewing machine on clearance and bought it. It was a great deal, and I thought it would be a good machine to practice some simple sewing.

Over the holidays, I came across this book:

Wow, simple sewing, that's me!

So with no agenda and a few sweaters that no longer fit, I reduced, reused and recycled them into a draft snake. Perfectly functional for our office that stays extremely cold in the winter. Until yesterday, you could feel the cold air shooting under the door.

I only used the front panel of each sweater, so I still have enough to make another snake.

Here are the panels sewn together.

A closeup of the finished product.

Once it was sewn into a tube, I filled it with beans and whip stiched the end together.

I am quite pleased with it, and what I love about it is I didn't have to go out and buy anything. The materials were already on hand.

This is another project from the book I hope to tackle soon.

Happy sewing,


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Productive Day

Wow, did we have a productive day!

Nate and I, but mostly Nate, built the shelving for my greenhouse and now all it lacks is electricity. That's a pending project for the future, but it sure is nice to have a space to start seeds. And it's been nice and toasty in there each day, so I think we chose a good spot. Thanks, honey for your hard work! You did a fantastic job as usual.

Yesterday, a friend and her sister stopped by to see the rabbits, and I found out her sister is a spinner and a member of the local fiber guild. My meeting her yesterday was perfect timing as the guild was having its monthly meeting today, so I went to check it out. There were probably about 8-10 ladies there with spinning wheels and several others just knitting. It was fascinating to watch them spin on the wheels and see the yarn develop. And, I was blessed to get my first spinning lesson on a drop spindle. Thanks, Donald for the lesson and for lending me a drop spindle. My first spinning effort is very interesting to say the least, thin and fat, twisted too tight and some not enough. You can see my craftsmanship below. LOL! I had a blast, and I always love to learn a new skill. I'm already looking forward to next month.

It's a great day when you can look back on it and be happy with what you accomplished or learned.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Olivia and Blue Moon

Nate and I visited the SC State Fair in the fall to see all the different breeds of chickens and the Nigerian Dwarf goats. The chickens were plentiful to see for sure, but the goat exhibit was not yet up. I was disappointed I couldn't see any goats, but something else caught my interest, angora rabbits. While thinking about my goals for the homestead this year, I decided I really wanted to add an animal that would contribute to the homestead in some way, yet be fairly easy to maintain and to house. I decided 2011 would be the year of the rabbits. So, about a month ago, I started researching rabbits. My initial thought was meat rabbits, but I kept thinking of the angora rabbits I saw at the fair. The angoras really interested me because they are fiber animals, so they would produce a sellable/tradeable product, the kits fetch a good price, and the poop is gold for the garden. I had a hard time finding nearby breeders and of the three I found and contacted, only one responded. Thankfully, she had exactly what I wanted and was so responsive in answering my million and one questions. I never make decisions about animals until I know as much as possible about taking care of one. I want to know what kind of commitment I'm making, and I feel it's the only responsible thing to do.

So, long story short, I drove to Gainesville, GA on Thursday and picked up

Creek's Blue Moon (Blue Moon)

and Creek's Baby Pearl (Olivia).

Yes, there is a rabbit under there. Both are pedigree blue English Angoras, and words can't describe how soft and lovely they are. Their color is amazing, a smokey grey/blue, and though I'm not a spinner (yet), I have enjoyed playing with and twisting their wool into yarn-like strands.

I look forward to getting to know them a little better each day and sharing my rabbit adventures with you.

Happy homesteading,


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Odds and Ends and a Wonderful Husband

Okay, here's the deal. I decided I wanted to track what we produce this year, and the best way to keep myself on task is to make myself accountable to someone. That someone is you. Hence, the Harvest Tally on the right. I'm sure updating the tally won't be daily, so I've devised a key that will help me tell when I last updated: Month (day of month): total for month. So, for January so far, it's January (1): 2 eggs. As I start to bring in produce, I plan to weigh it and post this as well.

We did some reconfiguring to the coop today and finally got rid of the floor boards and poop boards. I hated the poop boards, and the coop always looked dirty to me. Now I can throw down some bedding, rake and shovel when necessary, and practice the deep litter method. We also moved the nest box and reworked the roost to make it easier for Pearl to get on it. When you have a special needs chicken, you have to consider everything from her perspective.

We picked up shelving materials yesterday for the greenhouse. I am so excited to have it up and running, and the shelving will make things so much easier. I've already started some seeds in it. Various varieties of lettuce, broccoli, brussels sprouts and dwarf pak choy are on the way. I'm not the best with starting from seed, but I keep trying and am hoping the greenhouse environment will give me a leg up.

Lastly I wanted to say what a wonderful husband I have! He is patient, understanding, supportive, witty, appreciative, uber talented, loving, and overall, just a fabulous guy! My honey-do list never ends, and he is always willing to pitch a hand.

I have grand plans for 2011, so hang onto the oh-shit handle, this ride might be bumpy.

Until next post, happy homesteading,