Life on a little urban homestead in the making, with ideas for self-sufficiency, food preservation, chicken keeping, cookery, organic gardening, crafts, DIYing, thrifting, vintage stuff,
and more...

Jun 17, 2018

Would My Grandparents Be Happy?

Laura and Arminius

Would My Grandparents Be Happy?
Yesterday Dave and I were talking at breakfast, eating some of our wonderful eggs and an English muffin. I mentioned that my Grandmother Marguerite always told me to either use butter or jam, but not both, on my toast. I think she thought that was wasteful. I only grew up knowing one set of Grandparents, my Dad's, because the others passed away when I was very young. My Mom's parents met me after I was born, but I was very young when they died. I don't have any direct memories of them.

My mom had told me a lot about them, including the stories of the wonderful gardens they grew out in Nebraska. How grandma Laura raised Rhode Island Red chickens and preserved foods. They had their root cellar and they survived the depression. She also told me how they escaped tornado's by going into the wet, cellar full of toads. She told me about what a hard worker her mother was and that my grandmother was always a tough, but caring woman. I have two wonderful quilts of hers and think about what it must have been like for her to sit there and make those out in the middle of nowhere Nebraska, in the dark. I'm not sure when electricity went into the rural areas of Nebraska, in the 1930s? I visualize her using kerosene lamps or candles to sew by.

My grandfather Arminius was a mechanic who worked on trucks, tractors and cars and they would barter his repair services for things they didn't have. They would get roasting chickens, bread, fresh milk, etc., in exchange for his services. My mom said during the depression that she drank coffee instead of milk as a kid because they didn't always have that. I have great photos in my head of my grandparents and their girls in Nebraska in this house-
Nebraska home, I'd love to go there someday

Pete and Marguerite

The grandparents on my Dad's side I spent lots of time with. They also raised two children during the depression and my grandmother Marguerite was a wonderful cook, baker, seamstress, knitter, crocheter and made tatting. She sewed me wonderful clothes and knitted me lovely sweaters. When I was young they were living in southern California and that was a great climate to grow things in. While living in the city of Pomona, named after the goddess of plenty, they grew quite a bit of things on their city lot. Ironically they had a Little Homestead in Pomona of sorts. I remember the three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath house very well. Lawn in the front, in back lots more! They had an avocado tree, a lemon and a lime tree, plum tree, a kumquat tree, trellises with concord grapes, and strawberries. I don't remember them ever growing any vegetables however. I remember my grandmother making homemade grape pies, canning home-grown grape juice, grape jam, and I think she made plum and Kumquat jams. I'm not quite sure whose idea it was to have all of the fruit trees because I don't know if those were there before they bought the house. I suspect on some level having fruit trees in the backyard was a nod to wanting to be more self-sufficient, having surviving the depression, but that is just a guess.

I know my grandfather Pete was an avid gardener and loved working in the yard. I think some of that may have been to avoid my grandmother, who is not the nicest person. As an adult I would jokingly call her the iron fist in the velvet glove without the glove!My grandfather Alva (he went by Pete) was the opposite, really a sweetheart. He jokingly used to call me microbe or peanut!

So... I think that they would be proud of me with what we're doing here, and if they were alive they would probably be doing something similar. I can see them having chickens, preserving foods, and fixing lots of things themselves. I hope they would be proud of me for the lifestyle I have. While I didn't do it for them I think that they would appreciate it. I hope so.

Jun 10, 2018

Garden & Chicks Update, Potato Progress, Cell Phone Deal/Insurance, Farm Fresh Decor

Garden & Chicks Update-
We have had more of the same wacky weather, temps swinging like a pendulum here! In the 80s's all week, then wind hit bringing a cold front, temp dropped 20 degrees this weekend. 45 this morning, brrr. We've been trying trying to figure out when to plant some things, and that can be a little bit challenging. I had planned on putting the chicks out this weekend for a while, but the weather was just too cold.  transferred them from the laundry basket that we had them in for one week to a larger box last weekend. It works out really well since they have plenty of room, with nice pine shavings. Today I took them out, then I took the box outside and pitched it all into the compost pile. Hopefully next weekend the weather is supposed to warm up, we can move them out into a temporary coop for a while and see how they do. I plan on putting them out this week for few hours in the warm evenings. We have an outdoor playpen that we got at a thrift store years ago. It's really fun to see chicks go outside for the first time and explore! Here's the 2 boxes I put together for their temporary digs, and added chicken wire on top-

busy exploring!

It's amazing how fast they grow in 2 weeks! Feathers coming in, getting taller-

Our hens were in trouble last week. Due to a too-low gap in fencing, they got in and completely ravaged our lemon cukes. Dave was in a huff and went shopping and came back with a few. He also bought taller chicken wire. Next night he stopped somewhere else on the way home. He bought some on sale tomatoes, more lemon cukes and some peppers. I think we're set for now! Lots of berries on the vine, and first blossoms on squash/slicing cukes. Now we just need some warm, stable weather!

waeting out the rain, again

My flower seeds are coming up,flowers blooming, and the rain has really helped with that! Warm and wet, perfect for plant growth.

Potato Progress-
Our free potatoes seeds planted in the trash cans are doing really well! After having some torrential downpours I thought maybe they would rot in the totes, but they had pretty good drainage. We planted them in a light, fluffy organic potting soil and Dave had drilled lots of holes, so that helped. We've been adding soil once or twice a week as the green start to come up. I'll be really curious to see when we can dig the first potatoes.

Cell Phone Deal/Insurance-
I had an interesting experience last week. My old Galaxy 6 phone wouldn't hold a charge over several days so I could tell it was on its way out. I had insurance on the phone for several years and knew there would be a copay to replace it. I called my service provider ATT (work discount) and asked about the co-pay.  To make a long story short I paid $112 copay for an $800 new Galaxy 8 Active phone. Yes, retail about $800.00, geez! The guy in the store was really shocked that I got such a good deal. He was really helpful transferring all the data from the one phone to the other. It's a heavier phone with really long battery life and tons of storage. I thought it was kind of funny that being a homesteader of sorts I wound up with a military grade phone! It has little rubber bumpers on each corner and actual screws on the frame on the outside. I did order a couple of inexpensive covers as the back is a little bit slippery. It's great to know that it is waterproof, dust proof, sand proof, etc. It'll be nice for blogging since I can now take photos on my phone and upload them to my photo editor on my computer. I used to be able to do that but the plug-in port died a year or so ago. I was able to wirelessly charge the phone but I couldn't transfer any photos directly to my computer. I could upload them to Facebook and transfer them from there, but that was kind of a pain. So insurance may be a good idea for some people and with AT&T the co-pay goes down over time, it's not fixed. Even with the premium for the insurance of about $10 per month for the last 2 years, and the copay, I still wound up with a heck of a deal. I could have potentially bought a phone off of eBay, Amazon or some other website but I was wary of doing that. So,just a thought- if you're thinking about getting a new phone, slap a little insurance on it!

Farm Fresh Decor-
I finally hung up my Farm Fresh wall art, and I love it! Up close it looks like an original piece of art. I love the colors and size, perfect over my little side table. It's made of wood, 13.5" long x 24" tall x 0.62" thick, less than $20.00! More info here-


Jun 3, 2018

Blogger Changes and Anonymous Comments

Blogger Changes and Anonymous Comments-
I just wanted to update readers here as Google is changing some of the Blogger features. That is something I will be unable to modify. Typically I get emails alerting me when someone has made a comment, unless it is anonymous. I can go in quickly and answer any questions, or comments. Be aware that any anonymous comments here go into a spam folder. Typically I only check that periodically since there's nothing to tell me that anything is there. I went through the folder this morning and 99% of it was spam and there were a few actual comments. In the future if you want to make sure I see your comment please use some kind of log in. Otherwise it will go to spam central. I'll add a note on the home page as well. I don't want anyone to think I'm ignoring them! I love comments!!! So far I haven't detected any changes of any features on the blog. I've been trying to find the notification again that I received about the changes, but if I remember correctly some of those won't affect this blog. Some bloggers use features that I simply don't and so that's a moot point. So please let me know if you do see something odd that I may need to adjust. Thanks!!!

May 31, 2018

Oh Hail No! Debbie The Sci Fi Chicken

Oh Hail No!!!
Last night I was watching the radar and another storm rolled in. I realized it might get pretty nasty so I put the chickens inside. Next I moved my basil that I haven't potted yet under a table for protection. Things transpired pretty quickly! In no time we had a long round of marble-sized hail-

All I could think of was just if the cucumbers and tomatoes would survive, this but it appears they have. We had really high gusting winds and torrential downpours for a good half hour to an hour. It's one of the worst storms I've seen in a long time with a lot of thunder, lightning and wind. We all survived and the chickens will live to see another day! Speaking of chickens.......

Debbie The Sci Fi Chicken-
Well you know it had to happen sometime! A chicken was introduced in Netflix's new wonderful series Lost in Space. I really love the series myself and I think it did a great job rebooting the idea. Early on in the show, without giving too much away if you haven't seen it, there's a crash with a lone chicken survivor-

The very hunky Han Solo-ish character Major Don West (dashingly played by Ignacio Serricchio) decides to save the chicken. As I was watching this scene I had to just really crack up when he said no chicken left behind! He talks to the chicken occasionally-

So without giving too much away, if you haven't seen it, he saves the chicken and then the chicken saves his life, with the help of a little technology-

He then names the chicken Debbie. At one point he has to go on a dangerous trip and leaves Debbie in the care of someone else. It's pretty funny when he describes how to put the chicken to sleep at night, by laying on her back and rubbing her stomach. Great cast, much of it was filmed in Canada and the CGI is excellent!

There's also blog link listed below with some fun information and I highly recommend the show if you like sci-fi. Honoring Debbie The Spacefaring Chicken

May 29, 2018

New Chicks! Garden Update, Growing Potatoes In Garbage Cans, Thrifting Scores

From the L-Sarah, Annie, Pru

New Chicks!
Sorry I haven't posted anything for two weeks but life has been crazy. Between babysitting 2 toddlers Sat./Sun., work and gardening it has been a lot to keep up with. I was really happy that I took today off work and had a four-day weekend. Since we don't travel on Memorial Day weekend it was a good time to plant the veggie garden, sleep in (a little) and play catch up. I have a few more projects today and then back to work tomorrow. I'm going to plant some herbs, shop for some odd things, and barbecue beef is in the crock pot. It's 79 degrees and humid but it beats the rain!!! So here we go-

Saturday we went out to Caldwell, just outside Boise, to the Dunlap Hatchery and bought 3 new chicks. We bought a Black Australorp, the black speckled chick-

Black with teal, pretty!

A White Plymouth Rock, the yellow chick-

A New Hampshire Red, the yellow/gray chick-

Our NHR hen from years ago- 

They should all be about the same size when grown, very intentional. They are six days old and all did really great through the weekend! There was a lot of distress crying from the one chick for the first two days, but that settled down. With our tiny little flock it's interesting to see their personalities, and the curiosity right off the bat. I added a little mirror which they stand by, like to look at and preen in front of. When one starts grooming then they all start grooming, ditto eating and sleeping. They're already developing a flock mentality apparently. I always name my chicks and Pru is the Black Australorp, Annie is the Plymouth White, and Sarah is the New Hampshire Red. I like old fashioned names from New England, since they seem to fit the old New England breeds. Chick area in our spare bedroom-

I made a mistake the first time I bought chicks, buying them over spring break. It made it necessary for them to be inside way too long. I've learned since then to wait until the weather is fairly warm and then buy the chicks, so they will be inside for a minimal amount of time. They will feather out in the next couple of weeks and I will start putting them outside to integrate with the flock then. We did a system before that works pretty well Chick to Flock Integration Tips  We separated them in a small part of the garden for several days, and in the coop, and integrate them after several days, no drama!

That went really well giving the older hens a chance to get used to the babies. The babies then just joined the older girls in the main garden and in the coop. It will take about 5 months or so for the young pullets to start laying, so that will put us into late fall-early winter depending on how things go. With having two older hens, winding down on their laying (you never want to have one chicken alone) it was a good time to get some chicks!

New Verbena, pollinators!

Garden Update-
The weather has been really crazy lately, with a lot of afternoon monsoon rains. I don't remember this kind of weather pattern this time of year ever, but on the bright side everything is super, super green. Sometimes the rain doesn't last that long but sometimes it does. Late last week around sunset it started pouring for several hours leaving everything nice and wet. Sunday night we had a really massive lightning/thunder show for several hours and torrential downpours overnight. That left everything pretty steamy and humid yesterday but that was okay. Garden is coming along great, both in the front and back yard. Lots of flowers are blooming, peaches on the peach tree, pears too.  We had a lot of shade n our veggie area, so Dave took down a large, lower branch off our monster maple tree before we planted the veggies-

Cutting up for our city compost bin

Bottoms up! Free ranging during pruning/planting time

Dave removed a small evergreen shrub that got mangled by a garbage can, shoved across our sidewalk by a (apparently) drunk driver. Bizarre! It was really damaged so Dave dug it up and we bought a couple of perennials for the area- 



He also dug up a big shrub (vines) that we inherited when we bought the house. He really likes digging up unsightly shrubs, go figure! It bloomed in the Spring, the rest of the year just sat there. Neither of us liked it so he removed it. We planted another perennial there. I chose Tickseed and Yarrow because both are pretty low maintenance, bloom, are pollinators, don't require a lot of water-

Another Yarrow

Adjacent area, 2 year old Catmint, huge and the bees love it!

Our front entryway, nice and lush!

Over two weekends we bought some vegetable starts, herbs, and annual flowers. Yesterday we laid out all of the warm weather vegetables in the main garden, and Dave planted a row of green beans on the side of house, where we tore down the shed-

Last year's 2016-2017 heavy winter snows really did a number on the nurseries, and warm weather starts were hard to find. This year the opposite, we found BIG tall tomato plants in tiny pots, $3.00!

Various heirloom tomatoes with Italian peppers in front, much sunnier, thanks to tree trim!

Lemon Cukes, with room for more peppers

Tomato, Zucchini and slicing Cukes, 

Having chickens we do put things in a couple different areas with divider fences and that works pretty well.

Kale ready to eat, with peas behind

Herbs to plant and I started Nasturtium seeds

Dave got a great idea from his brother that I thought I'd share here and hopefully this will make sense. We don't have a sprinkler system on our lot, so we drag hoses around, either hand water, use soaker hoses or use small garden sprinklers. One of the things that we wound up doing (like lots of people) is crimping the hose so you can take the sprinkler head off/change to the hand sprayer. Dave bought a short hose, 15 feet, and an adapter to put on it. When you put on the adapter it gives you the ability to not only turn the water off, but also adjust the flow. So instead of walking clear across the yard or around the house or crimping the hose you basically shut off the water at the start of the 15-foot section. Then you unscrew your sprinkler and put on your handheld watch her or vice versa. It works great and saves you from getting soaked by the sprinkler, walking back and forth repeatedly, or trying to adjust the water. Especially if you're working around a corner! So you can just buy a short stretch of hose and then by an adjuster easy peasy! Hose was $8.00, adjuster $4.00, much simpler. No more damaging hoses by crimping them.

Growing Potatoes In Garbage Cans-
A friend of Dave's at work gifted us with some potato starts and while we weren't planning on doing this we decided why not! It's a great way to plant and grow vertically in a small space. We had two garbage cans that were pretty beat up, one was cracked on the bottom and the other was getting pretty worn out as well-

 We decided since we didn't really use them anymore we would grow potatoes in those. For $6 we also bought a plastic tote at Home Depot-

Leveled after photo

We planted Yukon Golds in the two large containers since those are my favorites and red potatoes in the blue tote. I did quite a bit of research and the basics are- drilling holes in the bottom of the container, some holes in the lower part of the sides for drainage-

We added about 3 inches of almost-ready compost to the very bottom, with several inches of potting soil on top of that, and the potatoes on top of that-

also leveled

After you cover the potatoes with soil just water to keep them moist,but not soggy. We put them in 3 different spots in full sun. It's good we had drainage after a torrential downpour Sunday night as I could tell that the soil had compacted and it was pretty wet. With temperatures in the 80's this week hopefully the soil will dry out and we will be fine. Once we start seeing some greens coming up through the soil we will cover those with more potting soil. Just with that continue until there blooms up on the top of the vines and they turn brown. And then it will be harvest time! We can store some of the potatoes in our small outside refrigerator, and may give some away.

Thrifting Scores-
I found some great thrifting scores a couple of days ago, I bought several new books for a grand babies and a really nice large ceramic water pitcher for our dining table. It has Irises on it, one of my favorite flowers. One of the things I want to do this fall is actually plant some bulbs including some irises so it was a good reminder! I bought two used cook books on Amazon. I went out to Eddie Bauer's Outlet since we got a $10 coupon in our email. It's always funny to go there when I get lucky, since I basically found a nice pair of $75 work slacks. The original tag was $75, mark down to $40 something, with the sale reduction and my $10 coupon I paid a whopping $5! They're nice dressy fabric in a dark gray which will go with lots of different tops.

I also found two blouses on eBay, one is a Columbia Sportswear fishing blouse, (yes fishing) with a SPF built in. I've owned one of these blouses before and they are great for summer weather because they are cool with vents on the back of the shoulders-

It's actually dressy enough to wear to work. On the surface it just looks like another cotton blouse and I love the pink and green plaid. The other I found was a new blouse a Caribbean Joe brand with great colors again to wear to work in the hot weather. It will look cute with dark slacks! Maybe the Eddie Bauer ones!

The total for both tops was less than I would have paid locally for new. And it's easier to find specialty tops like that on eBay than it is driving all over town to various thrift stores. I also found a pair of shorts for Dave on eBay that he loves. They're about $35 new, and he loves them since he does some running, and a lot of heavy yard work in the heat. They're breathable lightweight shorts. They are Adidas brand, $12,  and another pair I'm keeping an eye on. When you really like something really specific eBay is definitely the way to go. I was also happy I also sold something on Etsy, for about the price of what paid for the slacks, two tops and Dave shorts with some left over! Worked out pretty well!
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