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

Dec 29, 2011

"Hour Exchange" in Maine- Bartering System

It's so nice to see this kind of thing on the national news! Maybe it will inspire people! I posted it to Youtube to help share the idea. Pass it on! Thanks!

Hour-Exchange-Program- Text from article and video.

Here's their program page- 

Dec 28, 2011

Happy New Year- Time to Reflect

Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life it's easy to lose track of the really important things in life. The old saying "if you don't have your health, you've got nothing" seems pretty true right now. My husband was reading a family Christmas letter he got yesterday (they always send them late!) detailing who got married, who had kids, who moved, who died. As you get older, you start seeing that "gone" list more. We are getting to be elders in our expanding little tribe.

Every time I get a yearly physical, I hold my breath. While I feel fine, you never know what can be lurking. When everything comes back good, you breathe a sigh of relief. I've started seeing others infirmity more clearly around in our tribe- the one with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and his caretaker stressing. The one's who forget to close the dishwasher door when their guests are in town, too distracted to notice. Do they do that when they don't have guests? The cancer survivor, who bounced back. The older ones fixing up a place and I wonder- what will happen if one passes or becomes unable to help? Who will pick up the pieces?

I'm very glad Dave and I downsized our home and simplified our lives five years ago. If a major complication arose, we, or each of us individually, would be fine. Sometimes those tough decisions earlier give you a sense of peace later, and it all makes sense. Sometimes the tribe leaves me scratching my head, and that's okay. I just watch from another angle and let it unfold. Sometimes distance gives you perspective.

When we went to Portland recently to see Dave's large, extended family for an early holiday gathering, we went to Willamette National Cemetery. Three of our parents are buried there, and my father has a marker, as he wanted to be cremated. It was wet and muddy, but beautiful. It was very busy being expanded, I'm sure due to the war and the aging veteran population. Both my parent served in the Navy during WW2. Dave's father served in the Army during the same time. It's a beautiful facility. As we walked along a narrow road I thought of how much nature surrounded the place, when 3 beautiful deer crossed the grass ahead of us. I smiled. Life goes on, even in a cemetery...

Dec 24, 2011

Happy Holidays! Ikea Trip

Happy holidays, and we will put out something for the tomtens and their helpers tonite!
llustrations by Jenny Nystrom


Portland Trip- I had planned on doing a longer blog about my recent trip to Portland to see my husband's family. Then two days after we got back, food poisoning (best guess). Ugh, I spend most of the last two days in bed, but am feeling much better, just low energy. More to come....

IKEA Trip- I did make my first ever trip to an IKEA store, as they built it after we left Portland, of course. I picked up a new set of white dishes, a great price, and some various kitchen goods- new dish towels, a table runner, a 2-sided grater, winter napkins that have cross-stitch snowflakes (cute!), winter cookie cutters, gooseberry and lingonberry preserves (big chunks of fruit!),  a juicer (with 2 sizes for large and small- love the Swedes!), herring, and Swedish meatballs. I'm grateful that I was able to get this much due to an unexpected bonus on our paychecks! Good timing, and my dishes especially were pretty beat up. I will say, I love their prices and variety. I could get lost in there though, it's huge!

I mentioned to someone how much I enjoyed the IKEA displays of tiny rooms, and their use of space. She replied- yeah, it's great if you're in college. Oh well, some people still live large in a shrinking and aging world. To each their own. I was glad to come home to our relatively energy-efficient, warm, cozy home, and firm bed! I see aging people who are in large homes, and wonder what will happen when they are gone and their children have to deal with things? The debt involved, not to mention the work? Life happens so fast, and you can't always plan for it...

Going into the new year I'm grateful for my family, friends, and health (except the recent bout). Someone told me in a doc's office last week for my yearly "you sure look younger" (than 55). I just smiled!

Happy New Year if I don't post before then...

  A vintage german color new year's postcard. I love the lucky pig :)

Dec 8, 2011

Winter Chickens, Pagan Christmas Origins, Rescued Beagles

I let the girls out a bit today. It's been really cold, 20-ish, so I let them stretch their legs out in the backyard since it was sunny. They've been pretty much in the fenced veggie garden area outside the "sunroom"after we get home.

Sweetheart Ellie, who I bonded with during her recent wormy illness. I love the photos of her on my chair looking out the picture window! I found 2 very petite eggs, from Buffy and Ellie today, in the same nesting box! Finally! Dave kept calling them "your defective chickens". Now all 3 are laying, with shorter days, a bit off cycle. We got the 2 close to summer, so I figured they might not lay much til after winter.

 Pagan Christmas Origins-                                                                                          
Anthropology has always fascinated me, and here's a good book that will spin your head around, in a good way- Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide                   Available at-  Really fascinating info on the very ancient, pre-Christian origins of most of the Christmas traditions. Who knew??? 

Get Out the Hankies, What a Miraculous Ending!
These beagles, who spent their lives in metal boxes in a medical research lab, see sunlight and feel grass under their paws for the first time-

More information of these wonderful dogs and their rescue workers here-

Dec 3, 2011

Tiny Houses and Free Techy Fun!


Tiny House Film- While it's not for everyone, I find the tiny house movement really interesting. Amidst the materialism and McMansions, it's great to see people willing to push the boundaries of what makes a "home". Tiny, The Story of a Small House is a short documentary about Christopher Smith’s process of building a tiny house from scratch with no building experience in the mountains of Colorado. The film also follows the lives of other families around the country who have downsized their lives to less than 400 square feet. This is from

What are your necessities for a home? How much do you need? I think I could do 500 feet maybe. I also love home made out of alternative, recycled materials, like these-

grain silo

Shipping container or "ISBU’s" inter-modal steel building units 

Techy Free Fun-                                                   
Want to watch the sunny tropics at home while you look at the snow flying in your yard? Or see what's going on all over the world? Try

Dec 2, 2011

Animal Helpers


This article was so touching I had to post it-

Lean: Seeing-Eye-Goose Befriends Blind Dog

Take a gander at this animal odd couple!
A blind Boxer named Baks has gotten a whole new lease on life thanks to a good samaritan goose named Buttons. Yes, you read that right. This is not a joke. 

Baks has been taken under the 'wing' of Buttons, a four-year-old goose who now leads her vision-impaired pal around everywhere either by hanging onto him with her neck, or by honking to tell him which way to go. How hilarious is that?!

Owner Renata Kursa of Lublin, Poland, was heartbroken when poor lil' Bak was left blind after an accident last year. But gradually Buttons got him up on his feet and starting walking him around. They're inseparable now - they even chase the postman together,' Kursa tells the Telegraph UK. Go Buttons! What's good for the goose is also apparently good for...the...boxer.


Make me wonder sometimes if humanity doesn't have an awful lot to learn from the earth's creatures???

Nov 30, 2011

My Middle Decade Saturday and Winter Blowing In

It's one of those interesting mini-transitions: I'm turning 55 this Saturday. Kinda makes you reflective, but not TOO much. One of our school foster Grandma volunteers is turning 90 on my birthday! I asked her today what's she's doing on her special day? She told me about her family coming in from out of town for a big dinner and visit. I thought to myself- they probably think she won't be around much longer. She's so "spry", active and funny! I told her today that I hope when I turn 90 I'm in good shape like her! She's so tiny, about 5' tall, 80 lbs. dripping wet. Last winter when the parking lot was icy or snowy, I'd walk her from her car across the parking lot to the front covered sidewalk. She told me how scared she was of falling and getting hurt. I told her, no problem, I'm out here on morning bus duty anyway. I'd see her pull into the parking lot and meet her. She really appreciated that. It's those little things that make you bond with someone. For me- out for dinner Sat. night with the kids for Japanese food.

Winter Blowing In- The wind is really howling now: 40mph+ and cold. Supposed to about 17 tomorrow morning. I always feel like an animal burrowing in for winter- putting on the flannel sheets, putting the garden to bed. Then, I have to go OUT- get out the warm coats, hats, mittens, etc. Last year it was close to 0 degrees for a week. During my morning bus duty at school I had polar fleece gloves inside my heavy duty mittens, a heavy coat, polar fleece socks inside snow boots. Standing on concrete that cold stinks, BUT I'm grateful I have the those warm items. My heavy duty winter coat is about 9 years old, but looks, and works, great! I have to rave about it, if anyone wants to get one (off season is great time for much cheaper price) - it's the "Insulated Squall Parka" from Land's End. Just throw in the washer and dryer! Lots of pockets, and very wind proof. When I see some people who won't dress for the weather, then complain about being cold, I just smile... and hope for snow!!!

Mine's red

Samantha loves snow too!

Nov 27, 2011

Celebrating the Coming of the Light Soon

I read a post today on and I posted this response, on the need to slow down and reflect during this stressful, busy time of year-

I always slow myself down and reflect on the past year on Dec. 21st, the solstice, the shortest day of year. And remember that in the darkness the light always returns, and hope prevails...

After posting my recent blog on Materialism in America, it fits right in. I always enjoy going to a local Unitarian church for their annual Solstice gathering, every December 21st. All the lights are off going in, everything lit by candle, and silent. After a short invocation on reflection in the darkest time of the year, it's silent for several minutes. It's such a wonderful way, as a group, to reflect on your challenges of the last year. Everyone has their own history. Each person is given a candle to put in a large sand table. Each has the option to verbally share (or not) what they wish to release, and their hopes for next year. Each person can go up, one at a time, and light their candle, and speak their peace quietly. It's so lovely. Hearing some of the stories of profound loss, and joy, is truly a thing of grace. And then it spoken about the coming of the light, the days lengthening, and it truly is a magical moment. It hearkens back to ancient times of northern European people celebrating return of the light. It reminds me of the Scandinavian holiday of St. Lucia-

December 13th is the celebration of St Lucia, a festival widely celebrated across Scandinavia. The eldest girl in each family wears white robes, wear a crown of candles, carry candles, and sing the hymn about St. Lucia. The candles symbolise the fire that couldn't take St. Lucia's life when she was sentenced to be burned.  A Catholic festival now, most think this tradition survived in Scandinavia as it is celebrated during the very darkest days of winter.
Back in the days when Yule was celebrated at Winter Solstice, it was both a season of giving, kindness and celebration. For some it was also a season of fear of the earth's dark forces. The scariest night  was called the Night of Lussi, Lussinatta.  Some felt that the festival of light is from this time to fend off the evil forces. I find it's a lovely tradition and serve some Scandinavian food during the December holiday season to take part in my own way, welcoming the light...

Nov 26, 2011

Double Cranberry Delight!

Crustless Cranberry Pie

Cranberry Cornmeal Torte

Two of my favorite cranberry recipes are the two I decided to make today. I had three cups of fresh cranberries leftover from making my homemade sauce for Thanksgiving. I didn't want to make more sauce, so I pulled out my trusty cranberry dessert recipes.

#1 Cranberry Cornmeal Torte.  I love it because it has a little cornmeal, and gives it a tiny bit of crunchy texture. Recipe  It's also very fast, with simple ingredients. This was ready to go in the oven in 10 minutes-

#2 Crustless Cranberry Pie- Fast, simple. I do add about 1/2 teaspoon orange extract, and leave out the nuts. It's good both ways!  Recipe here-

It's amazing how many excellent recipes I have found online. I can smell the cranberries in the oven!

Materialism In America

maria bamford target commercial

This might seems like a weird topic for this time of year, but I am so sick of all the black Friday ads on tv. Thankfully it's over. Until next year. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday- no gifts, just share a meal, feel gratitude and relax. Then there's the ugly side- it's seen by retailers as an open door to ka-ching, that's right- big sales. A free for all. Since I consider myself a smart shopper, and more voluntary simplicity-oriented than most I know, I never do B.F. shopping anyway. I also worked in retail, and it's a sham. I did B.F. once, at 9 a.m. years ago. Never did it again. I luxuriate in sleeping in and relaxing. We got a couple small items last night, down the street, just to get out of the house.

It's really a sad state of affairs, sheeple do what they're supposed to do- mindlessly spend money. Knock other people down for something that will make them feel better, look better, and seem better to others. Gotta have that new.... It makes me sad. Than I really get frustrated- don't people see what's going on here? Come on America, wake up! You have a brain, use it. It's not just about the money though- it's about the lack some feel inside. Not good enough, not pretty enough, not economically superior enough. "Gotta build that yacht 10' longer than the Jones". Ugh. It's really about the vacant soul of America. We're missing something here:

a connection to people- in person
a connection to nature- outside
a connection to your soul and creator (if you believe in one)- in silence

Sorry, looking at pictures of nature on your iPad doesn't count. Texting doesn't count. Do the real thing- get connected. Take the time, it's more important than stuff...

Nov 22, 2011

Solar Powered Coop Article

Great info here on DIY building of a solar powered system for a small coop- 
The only thing I beg to differ with the article- with a city lot and urban coop, as we have, if you can't walk out that far to check on your birds, you must have broken legs, IMO. For their health and safety, everyone should check their coop daily. That's how you can keep an eye out for ill or injured birds, and predators. I found a loosened area of our hardware cloth, and realized a cat was out there at night, head butting it to get in. I tightened it up, all fixed.

I read the free, online version of the magazine every month for all kinds of tips, and new ideas. Great site!

Hen's Sun Room Rocks!

We found that the sun room, even on a cloudy day, is about 10 degrees warmer than the outside temp! Here's the girls today taking a communal dust bath in the sunroom-

Nov 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Prep, Whole Wheat Banana Bread

Thanksgiving Prep- Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, no gifts, just relax and enjoy each other. Hold hands and talk about what we're most grateful for. This year we received another 25 pound bird from my hubby's boss, always makes me smile. Then I have to find fridge space, not so fun, sigh. Shopping at the local grocery store reminded me of when I was much younger and so stressed about getting the big meal right. Now it's kind of a no-brainer: prep whatever you can the two days before. Then on T day- relax, do things one at a time, take breaks. AND get the bird in on time. My kids marvel, now that they're older, on how I used to do it all alone? All those dishes coming out at the same time! And how it all came out so delish! I had some help, on occasion, but I found it better if I had the kitchen all to myself. Master of my ship- get out of my way or get out on the plank! I'd have the kids mash the taters, or help pour the pies, but I liked doing it all. Except the one year I almost had to go to the hospital from severe asthma/bronchitis. No fun then. Now the three adult girls all bring something to share and it takes the load off. I appreciate that! I envision me, decades from now, hanging onto my walker and telling them to get out of the kitchen, or I'll mash those taters on their heads! I can hear the young kids- "man, Grandma's mean sometimes, but man can she cook!" Ha!

Banana Bread- One of my favorite breakfasts (and snack) on a cold winters day was a slice of banana bread and a cup of hot cocoa. Yum. I hadn't made banana bread in years (don't buy bananas much), but I found a new w.w. recipe and had 2 dead naners, so I made a loaf! Looks good! Here's the recipe, and I used pecans, instead of walnuts-

Have a peaceful day...

Nov 20, 2011

Ice Skate Decor & Jan Brett Book Signing

Ice Skate Decor on the Cheap-

I found this last year, from and decided to make my own!

Last summer I found 2 old skates for $3.00 and last week bought some picks from Michael's craft store. It was about $7.00 for those. Here's the first finished one for our front door, and I'll have a 2nd one too, for work maybe-

Jan Brett Book Signing- I was able to go to a book signing today at a local store, for acclaimed children's author and illustratortor Jan Brett. I LOVE her Scandinavian inspired art. When the Fred Meyer salesperson asked why I had a poster for her to sign, and not a book, I explained my library hadn't had a book budget for 3 years. She was kind enough to donate a book! I happily recieved a copy that she signed of her new Home For Christmas-

Great website, with a huge amount of free things for kids, printables, games and more-

Nov 19, 2011

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

And I thought only kids liked playing in leaf piles!

Dude, Where's My Lawn?

Fall Yard- Mr. bushytail had the same question this morning. After a lot of high winds the last 2 days, and frigid temps, the leaves came down. About 1/2 the maple leaves will get raked up today. The birds and squirrels were out looking for birdseed and food on the ground. The chickens also had fun digging thru the garden area leaves. They had a little treat of some bread slices too!

Bread Pudding- I love bread pudding , it's great comfort food. Here's the slightly modified version I did from a magazine article years ago. Great if you have lots of eggs! It's really good to use chopped up, bittersweet chocolate too.

Recipe- Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

1 loaf white bread or Challah egg bread, cut into 1" cubes, about 8 cups
10 eggs
2 cups 1/2 and 1/2
2 cups milk
1/2 sugar plus 2 TBS
1/2- 1 cup cup semi sweet choc chips chopped
1/2- 1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch salt

Butter 2 qt. baking dish, fill with bread cubes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large bowl beat eggs, salt, liquids, 1/2 cup sugar. Mix in choc chips and nuts into bread cubes- I put about 1/2 in the middle and 1/2 on top. Slowly our egg mixture over bread. Let sit overnight (for best results). Sometimes I bake right away, if so, push liquids into the bread gently. Sprinkle bread with remaining sugar and put in oven. Bake 1 hour, remove and cover with foil, bake an additional 25 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Cool and enjoy! If you're a real chocoholic, add coarsely chopped gourmet dark chocolate! And double the nuts! Enjoy!

Samantha- She decided the bed is much more cozy on a cold night than her bed, or the floor-

Nov 13, 2011

Early Winter Chickens and Thrifting

All three of the girls enjoyed a rest in the morning sun, while Dave worked on the coop. The electrical system had a problem, all fixed now. Ellie (now recovered from worms) on the left- a Barred Rock, then Buffy- the Orpington, then Rosie- the Rhode Island Red. You haven't lived til you've had to worm a seriously ill chicken, and see the outcome, shall we say. Disgusting, but at least the wormer worked. Did all 3, no eggs for a while. One of them had 1 small egg, but with the short days, only Rosie is a regular layer. She laid most of last winter, with no extra lighting. What a good girl!

Thrifting-  I really scored today! Dropped off a small donation at our daughters thrift store where she works. Found a like-new zip up, cable hoodie sweater $3.00, 2 perfect onion soup bowls with lids- 2 for $1.50 (1/2 off today), and a brand new mezzaluna blade with chopping board from Alaska, $3.50. I had been looking at a french onion soup recipe recently, and though- dang if I only had the bowls! I oiled the chopping board, not a mark on it.

Do you like my snowflakes I add to the blog? I tried to increase the snowfall from the directions I had on, but couldn't figure out where in the code to put the other section. I emailed for directions.

The code for the snow-

script type="text/javascript" src="" />

then I'm supposed to add- 

snowStorm.flakesMaxActive = 96;

to show more snow, but couldn't figure out the location. Any ideas out there?

Nov 12, 2011

My Favorite Early American Holiday Recipes

My Fave Unusual Holiday Recipes- As I got older, and became a better cook, I started adding some old early American recipes I stumbled on. These three I use every year. I found the first two in magazine articles years ago. The third online.  I serve the Queen's cake every Christmas morning, with eggs, juice hot drinks, for a simple, but tasty breakfast. I LOVE the citrusy flavor!!! Bake the cake the day before, however, as it's better after it cools. I make the Indian Pudding for Thanksgiving, but I cut the recipe in half, as it's rich, but yummy! I make the Marlborough pie for Christmas, along with my mince pie. Here's the recipes, with links-

1 cup unsalted butter- room temp
1 cup sugar
5 eggs
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 teaspoons orange extract
2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cup currants

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. add lemon and orange extracts; mix well. Sift flour, baking powder, and cinnamon together. Gradually add to the batter, stirring well after each addition. Toss the currants with 1 Tablespoon additional flour; add to the batter. Bake in greased and floured loaf pan at 325
° F for 1 hour, 20 minutes or until done. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before turning onto a rack.

Marlborough  Pie-

·                        Juice 1 lemon
·                        2 large fresh apples
·                        ¾ cup sugar
·                        ¾ cup sherry
·                        6 TBL. melted butter
·                        4 eggs well beaten
·                        1/2 cup heavy cream
·                        2 teas. Nutmeg- I use fresh
·                        Pinch salt

Squeeze lemon. Chop apples, add lemon juice, stew and mix. Puree, rice or mash apples Add sugar,  sherry, eggs, cream, nutmeg, butter. Pour into 8” pie pan and use 1 pie crust or puff pastry. Bake at 350 about 1 hour until set. Cool before serving. Looks similar to pumpkin pie.

Indian Pudding-

  • 6 cups of milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1 cup golden raisins (optional)
  • Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream
1 Scald the milk and butter in a large double boiler. Or heat the milk and butter for 5 or 6 minutes on high heat in the microwave, until it is boiling, then transfer it to a pot on the stove. Keep hot on medium heat.
2 Preheat oven to 250°F.
3 In a separate bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, and salt; stir in molasses. Thin the mixture with about 1/2 cup of scalded milk, a few tablespoons at a time, then gradually add the mixture back to the large pot of scalded milk. Cook, stirring until thickened.
4 Temper the eggs by slowly adding a half cup of the hot milk cornmeal mixture to the beaten eggs, whisking constantly. Add the egg mixture back in with the hot milk cornmeal mixture, stir to combine. Stir in the sugar and spices, until smooth. At this point, if the mixture is clumpy, you can run it through a blender to smooth it out. Stir in the raisins (optional). Pour into a 2 1/2 quart shallow casserole dish. Bake for 2 hours at 250°F.
5 Allow the pudding to cool about an hour to be at its best. It should be reheated to warm temperature if it has been chilled. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Yield: Serves 8-10.

Nov 9, 2011

Early American Cookery

Early American Cookery- Here's a few fun freebies I got on my "Dover" samplers email, from a book vendor, on early American cookery, and includes the illustration above and below at the bottom. It's a fascinating look at what our ancestors ate, cooked, and recycled! Talk about frugal!!!

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