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...

Aug 27, 2011

Salsa, Chickens and PC's, Oh My!

I made some salsa today with my new handy-dandy food chopped! So much EASIER! Did the onions and jalapenos first, only 5 pulls. Then did the beautiful tomatoes from the garden, then the cilantro. Worked great, except for a few of the tiny round tomatoes didn't quite cut. I think it's the shape. Here's my recipe, you can modify for the heat and size of batch-

Nancy's Salsa-
tomatoes- 4 cups, chopped
cilantro- 1 bunch  chopped (I like a lot!)
purple onion-1 diced
jalapeno peppers- 2 or more diced
(with or without seeds, depending
on how much heat you like)
red wine vinegar- 1/4 cup or more (or fresh lime juice)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt to taste

Chopper worked great!!!

All mixed up

Lunch! I ate 3 little bowls it was so good!

I came home today and 2 of the girls Ellie and Buffy were snuggling the tomotoes. It was cloudy and much cooler today. Nice for them!

I finally upgrade my PC! I added 2 1/2 gig chips to my hard drive. Sounds hard, but has excellent, easy directions for each model. For $50.00 it easily doubled the speed. It was getting so slow........

Aug 26, 2011

Too Hot, Great Site

It's been in the 100's this week and it's just too hot. BUT I appreciate my A/C as well, and that I can water my garden without having to stay in the heat afterwards. The dog and hens are so hot. I give the "girls" a pan of ice chips in the late afternoon once I get home from work, and on the weekend. The older one loves them, the 2 younger can't figure out what it's for! I dont' leave the dog out too much, as she's getting a bit older and takes her longer to recover from the heat. Poor Sam.... I also appreciate being out of the way of major storms and hurricanes... and a lot of fires in the area around us in the mountains and rural hills.

Blackberries are really coming in, so I'm freezing some. Once they're all in I'll make some organic blackberry jam. I found one recipe with lime juice, sounds tangy! I'm getting a good, steady supply of tomatoes too. I bought some gourmet pizza dough on the way home tonite, a lb. for $2.00. Made a whole layer of garden tomatoes sliced thin, with lots of herbs, covered with mozzarella, purple onions, kalamata olives, and goat cheese blobs. Topped with fresh basil after it was baked. Amazing! I'm going to use my baby tomatoes, and my new chopper to make some fresh salsa tomorrow. Simple recipe I created, will post with photos...

Apples are getting close too. I decided (for now) I'm going to pick them all, even if they're a bit green, so I can process them over Labor Day weekend. It's a lot of apples. Glad I bought my food strainer- just cook, dump em in, and it sorts out the skins and seeds. A few different screen sizes for variety. It's a Roma brand I think, similar to the big one they sell on Lehman's. I'll post pics when I get into the processing. Will mostly do applesauce, apple butter (love the stuff), and some slices for pies. I decided to do my plain, as I like the option of doing pies, tarts, and apple cakes. Nectarines will be a bit behind, luckily, so will do those when they're ripe. Three weeks maybe??? I don't think I'll have enough jars, ah well... back to the store...

I found this great blog! Mennonite Girls Can Cook  Great recipes and photos. I love their group photo at the top of the page with matching aprons, cute!

And yes, I want this sink! Maybe the kitchen too!!!

Aug 21, 2011

Very Funny Perspective On Tech/Books, New Pie from 1915

"It's a Book" Trailer 
I love Lane Smith's books! Funny! And some adults could learn from this too!

I decided to try this as my first recipe from The Lost Art of Pie Making Made Easy-

I used the top recipe, and didn't want to have to write it down, sorry!
I did also add 1 teaspoon of pure orange extract, and a pinch of salt. Anything I bake that calls for sugar gets a pinch of salt if there's none in the recipe. Grandma taught me that.

Thin milk mixture on left, egg whites on right

in the crust ready to bake, kind of a fluffy mixture, not like a custard

Photo of finished pie-
Will let you know how it tastes later, but smells very citrusy...

The pie "done"- a layer of custard about 2/3 the way up, then very moist cake:

 Flavor's very good, maybe a tad too sweet, glad I added the orange extract. My pie pan was 10", so I might do the recipe 1 1/2 xs to top it off. Will make again, very easy! Might do orange juice too...

Aug 18, 2011

For My Sister

I lost my sister, Laurie, when she was 19. We recently found this photo, of the little homemaker, about age 3, about 1952. How cute! Thanks Sis...

A Slice of Life

Ah, summer- the blackberries are ripening fast, picking ripe tomatoes everyday, and the apples are about 3/4 the way ripe, OMG, how am I going to process all those! Lots of nectarines starting to turn color. Atleast they won't ripen at the same time as the apples, I hope! I see LOTS of applesauce, apple butter, apple slices for pies, yum. Right next to the pickles I made.

Hot- It's been hot lately, 100 a few days ago, too hot. Water, water, water, but 0 weeds in the veggie garden! The hens are doing an amazing job at weed control. I had to tie up the tomatoes again, since they're so full of fruit. I love sauteed tomatoes with herbs on top of pasta, or homemade pizza crust, perfect for a summer meal.

Day Tripping- We went to McCall yesterday, hubby, I and grown daughter, had a blast! Up in the mountains about 2 hours from here. We stopped on the way up at a farmers market, and got 2 baskets of  gorgeous local strawberries (amazing flavor) and a bag of fresh corn. I made a strawberry pie today, and one mixed with blackberries. They came out perfect!

Payette Lake is so beautiful up there in McCall. Much cooler, about 72. We had lunch, did some thrift store shopping (of course) and I found two amazingly beautiful pillow shams for $1.50 (yes, 75 cents each). Velvet, quilted and really beautiful. Will use in the fall/winter when it gets cold. I'm hoping for a normal fall, not in the 90's in October like last year. Too hot, way too long.

We went swimming in Cascade Lake, heading back out of McCall, as there's a great little-used state park there with nice beaches. It was so cool and windy had to keep it short, only about 72. I got a little sunburn, but hey, it was fun! Nice to have a really relaxing day before going back to work Friday. We did run into the tail-end of a fire in the hills, delayed us a bit, but could have been much worse. The fire expanded after we went through and they closed the highway. Good timing for us, as I needed a potty break!

Edging color is really more navy blue, I love the embroidery over the velvet, they're like new!

My new favorite book- got it today off Amazon- The Lost Art of Pie Making, Made Easy by Barbara Swell. Excellent recipes, many of them very old. And it's updated for current use, with many vintage photos inside too. Lots of used copies, very cheap!

Image from the book- Salvation Army girls making free pies each day for soldiers in WW1, 26th division, Ansonville, France, 1918. The bags around their necks are gas masks and they have on steel combat helmets. I LOVE this photo! Gives you a sense of the book. Amazon Link-Lost Art of Pie Making

Bread!- I FINALLY mastered the whole wheat sandwich loaf, from Oklahoma Pastry Cloth's website. With Mary Beth's (the site owner) help! It didn't fall in the middle, rose nicely, great crumb. Onto the next version, with lots of nuts and seeds. Once I go back to work I'll start my Saturdays making bread...

Samantha cooling off- her favorite spot on the couch for her aging bones...

That's all for now...

Aug 12, 2011

1st Canning Time- Picklings!

Oh boy, I did my first batch of canning and did pickles today! I did a lot of research for months, and since all of the foods I'm going to can are acid, I bought a steam canner. Before anyone started telling me why they are BAD, I did my research, and I don't always go with what the Feds choose to spend money on researching.  I have been down that road before with supplements :) So please no comments on that, unless you've tried it and have some positive comments! I'd love to hear what you've made!

I used the Ball "Blue Book" recipe, with the "kosher style" variation, since I like spicier pickles. Added red hot pepper slices, red bell pepper slices, bay leaves, mustard seeds. I followed the Ball directions precisely, did all the sterilizing. I have to can outside, since we have a glass top range, no canning there. Our camp stove worked great, brought it to a boil, added hot pack jars, brought to 8" steam and started the timer. 15 minutes per batch.

The 1st batch came out with the pickles floating a little, I assuming I didn't pack tight enough. So I packed them tighter by adding some spears on the 2nd batch. Looked better now that they are done too. I did some small jars, because I wanted them for gifts or giveaways. NEVER again, too hard to pack, live and learn. Luckily I had more quart jars than I thought. The Ball recipe called for 8 lbs. cukes, way too much for the amount of brine. I had to make a 2nd batch of brine, which was okay, since I had enough ingredients. My total was 4 qts. jars and 7 pint jars. Took me about 2 1/2 hours total, not bad for a newbie.

Here's the before-


and the after, 1st batch-

Man the whole house smells like pickles! I'm cooling off now... and the lids are starting to ping! More later!

And the "girls" got the leftover cuke chunks for a cool down treat, in the 90's again today, ugh. They LOVED them!

Aug 11, 2011

New "Unplugged" Kitchen Goody

Oh boy, what excitement! I got my new chopper in the mail today (couldn't find one locally). It's a 3-cup manual chopper, I got the "arugula", but it also comes in red. I saw one on another blog, but after doing research (I love RESEARCH!) abandoned that model. Then I found this one-
Works great after my first use! Nice heavy plastic, easy to use, and clean. Also comes with a lid, for leftovers. I did a crumb topping for my blackberry crumb cake. Only took a few pulls once I got the hang of it! There's a ring on the top that comes up and pulls a heavy cable.          
                                     All the pieces- 

Crumb topping "before"-


Easy peasy!

What can you do to unplug your kitchen?

Aug 10, 2011

Small Quilt To Try?

I found this today and I LOVE it! BUT, I don't want to start my first quilt big, so I might downsize it. I could find some similar fabrics locally, and I love the prim look!
Website- Lecien Website 
Free pattern for the above- Free Pattern PDF

I've always want to go to Scandinavia, and here's a good blog to puruse, I love the photos, homesteading in Norway! She does amazing needlework!

Aug 9, 2011

Sewing Again! And Yes, It's Burlap!

Sewing!!! My Montgomery Ward sewing machine finally died this last year after many decades of minor repairs, etc. I hadn't really made any clothing since the 80's. Yes, that's dating me, but who cares! I finally broke down and bought a new one after two used ones, in a row, pooped out. I researched in, and read a lot before I chose this one. I got it on Amazon, with free shipping. It's a Singer Heavy Duty 4411.

I got the machine yesterday, took the time to read all the directions. Put in fresh needle, aan a couple of sample passes to check stitch length. Worked great! Not sure yet on the "heavy duty" aspect, but I assume it'll be ok. I just do mostly straight stitching.  Just wanted to be able to do some heavier fabrics on occasion. The cheaper Singer/Brothers I looked into had lousy reviews. Only complaint so far- lousy lighting! Singer, needs to get some LED lighting on these things! I will have to get a lamp next to it, for evening sewing. In daylight, with overhead on and machine light, not much lighting.

I did my first full project today, a summer cotton batik blouse. Worked great, even over areas with 6 layers of fabric and fusible stuff. Nice and even never had to adjust anything! I did a simple v-neck so I didn't have to deal with buttons right off. The pattern has 3 different necklines, so I'm going to make a sleeveless version next, with a keyhole neck. I sewed the whole shirt in about 2 hours, not bad! Back to school next week, good thing I got the machine now, as I will be in a sewing frenzy!  And I can finally tailor some things that are a little too big...

Yes, It's Burlap- Years and years ago I started using burlap for table runners, mantle covers, etc. It's all the rage now, apparently :)  I liked it for the texture and low cost. It does require a wash, because it has a distinctive SMELL!  Washed in the gentle cycle, with some softener, threw in the dryer. Nice and soft, and raggedy edge. Just clean out that lint trap, wow it was FULL! It will be off a bit straightness wise, beware. But, hey, it's burlap! $3.00 a yard here.

Today I washed my burlap bean bag I emptied, and stuffed it! New pillow!

I also added a few new burlap "ribbons" I made, to some things I already had to add some texture. I just used a little "Liquid Nails" glue on the back to hold it up, and keep them from sliding down-

a little hanging basket I got at the grocery store:

 and a french country topiary I made years ago, changed the paint, added the bow!

I'm going to re-use some stuffing from some worn pillows I have and make a new, larger burlap pillow. I will post pics soon...

Aug 7, 2011

Amazing Blackberry Crumb Cake & What I'm Reading

I made this recipe last summer with my home-grown, organic blackberries. I googled blackberry recipes last year, and found this- amazing! Works well for frozen blueberries too! Good for breakfast, a snack, or dessert with ice cream! Will make a batch tomorrow if I have enough berries!

Sandi Rose’s Blackberry Crumb Cake


  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pound fresh blackberries (about 3 1/2 cups), cleaned


  1. Heat oven to 350ยบ F.
  2. Make the crumb topping: In a food processor, (or by hand, I use a pastry cutter) pulse the pecans, brown sugar, flour, and butter until crumbly; transfer to a bowl and set aside. Wipe out the food processor.
  3. Make the cake: Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. In the food processor, (I mix by hand) pulse the butter, flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon until crumbly. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and mix just until combined.
  4. Transfer the cake batter to the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the blackberries and crumb topping. (I press the berries in slightly). Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan before serving.
From- Recipe from

A few books I'm reading from the Library-

Made from Scratch by Jenna Woginrich: excllent beginner's homesteading experiences book, funny and charming!

My Walden- Tales from Dead Cow Gulch by Susan Baumgartner: not sure if I'll finish, kind of slow, more of a hermit than a homesteader IMO

Food Rules- An Eater's Manual, by Michale Pollan: I like a lot of his rules like-
eat all the junk you want as long as you make it from scratch yourself, amen! Great ideas...

Foxfire #4 :What more can I say? I love ALL these books...

Our yard looked beautiful today after all the hard work yesterday!

Aug 6, 2011

Little Visitor Today, Yardwork, Animals as Teachers...

I had a little visitor today. It flew into the sliding glass door going out to our deck. I left it alone for a few minutes, but I was afraid the chickens, or a local cat, might go after it. So, I picked it up. We had quite a conversation! It stayed on my fingers for several minutes, very calm and curious. It must be a "local", since we have feeders and waterers out, thinks I'm ok! Then it flew away a minute after Dave took the pics-

That was after Dave and I cleaned up the front yard big time (in 90 degree heat)- did some weeding, pruning, deadheading, removed some old spent sections of  plants, and then- td da, put down new barkdust! Really needed it after 3 or 4 years. Looks great, keeps the moisture in, and keeps em happy during the winter!

Here's Ellie, who decided- if you can't jump over a temporary fence, perch on it! Ha!

I was trying to keep her out of the little side yard, since I thought she might get thru the front gate to the street. So much for that idea! Plus she's finally growing! Time to take the "fence" down...

And Ellie perching on top of one of the solar lights, fits her bottom well, I guess... she ate all my basil in the pot next to her, naughty girl!!! If I ate her, would she taste like pesto? Just kidding, she's my baby!

Samantha cooling off in the tub, also her "cave" during thunderstorms! She knows what feels good!

Sam in her most favorite summer spot: in front of the sliding glass doors looking out on the backyard, by the A/C/ vent, and fan (only one vent in the kitchen) and her water bowl

Sam said "stop taking my picture!" and stuck her tongue out at me

It's HOT, I'm done for now, but I have to pick some of the first BLACKBERRIES getting ripe-

Today's harvest, a couple of cups of (all organic) berries and some tiny tomatoes! The bigger tomatoes are green, but should be ready soon with the heat, and all the watering we're doing. We have lots of herbs, squash blossoms, lots of chilies and asian eggplants... someday when I have more room, watch out!

Apple and nectarine trees are LOADED. I'm ready to CAN. Will post pics of my first attempts. I may do some pickles while I'm waiting for the big stuff to ripen. Local stores have lots of pickling cukes, just can't decide if it's worth the effort, since not too many folks in our family eat them. But the kids might like them, we'll see...

Aug 5, 2011

My Musings on "Homesteading" Types

I started following quite a few blogs I discovered this summer, on "homesteading". Many of them really inspired me to make good changes in my life! But that can be a broad term, and can mean different thing to different people, so here's a few things I thought of today, the "types" of homesteaders I discovered. This is my opinion, so there ya go....

* Urban Homesteaders- People like me, who live in the city, and are trying, to varying degrees, to live more- naturally, more mentally/emotionally/spiritually healthier. Use a smaller footprint. We have a relatively small home,  have updated all the insulation, etc. Still using the 30 year old furnace- hey it works! I do have a dishwasher (came with the house), I'm toying with the idea of removing it, and storing it (in case we ever sell the house), and adding some needed shelving under the counter for cookbooks, etc. There's two of us, do we really need a dishwasher? I have A/C, but we have a "saver" program from the city attached to it, use ceiling fans in every room, and keep it turned up. We have an urban chicken coop (made from mostly free, recycled materials), organic gardens, use a push mower, try to limit use of our cars, I'll be canning soon, get a lot of my clothes from thrift stores, eBay, and just bought a sewing machine to start making more of my own stuff. I'm starting to embroider, something my Grandma taught me as a kid. Haven't done it in decades, but it's coming back to me. We buy used home improvement items: my kitchen's cast iron sink, (from the SHIP/Habitat building supply thrift store), ditto our front door. We try to be good neighbors, encourage others to be more mindful of their choices, but tolerate it when they don't. We don't expect others to follow our path. I want to move to a rural area and have an acre or two, and be more self sufficient. And we don't sue people when they use the phrase "urban homesteaders". You know who you are...

*Ruppie Homesteaders- They drive big suv's, go "antiquing" on a regular basis, spend, spend, spend. They plant a "lawn" on their farms (really?), buy "designer" homesteading clothes (really??), obsessively decorate their homes, barns, etc. They drive great distances, burning up huge amounts of gas, to go find that special item. They fly to overpriced, upscale "junk" sales. They overly partake of various websites, where others like them go, and "join". They earn badges. When I found myself starting to get sucked in, I stopped and "unliked" their blogs and websites. They talk about simple living and frugality, but seem to be emotionally invested in decorating their homes to the nth degree and spending. What's BEHIND this? A feeling of a need for approval, to be special, to fill the emotional gaps with stuff or? I find it, frankly, bizarre in a certain way. One person (don't ask me cause I aint telling) has a blog using the name of a textile. At first I thought her blog/home was cute, but the more I looked, the more uneasy I felt, as it was wound up a little too tight. I thought, put her in a room and tell her to meditate, sit down and do nothing. Or go outside and watch the trees. She probably couldn't do it. Reminded me of the "Stepford Wives", and of certain groups of religious folks who take high amounts of anti-depressants: "smile, be happy 24/7, you know you want to.... you supposed to..."

*Simple, Rural Homesteaders- I love these folks! I get great recipes on their blogs, drool over their photos, huge gardens, livestock, and want want to move NOW! I see all the work they do and emotionally support all them, thru their struggles and exhaustion. I daily check some of their blogs, because we're on the same page. Most of them don't blog however, but I know they're out there. These people love their kids, animals and try to be kind to the earth. They practice, and teach, old time skills. They home school, due to remote locations, or other reasons. They help their neighbors and communities. They don't do $200.00 embroidery items from Europe, but needlework on their everyday items. They willingly share knowledge, and they love the support! I salute them! My favorite one right now is-   
She's awesome! I feel transported when I read her blog...

So here's to the homesteaders who are trying to lead authentic lives out there, even when we don't know who you are! Go for it!!!

Aug 4, 2011

A Triple Kitchen Play!

In the summer, when I'm off "work" (school librarian) I play with a lot of new recipes and make my old faves. School's starting in a few weeks, so it's time to keep playing! Here's two new recipes I tried today, and I made my w.w. sandwich bread (which fell in the top, twice in a row, err) 

I found this on another site, very moist and delish! Worth the time in my opinion!

Citrus Angel Cake

Makes: 12 servings
Prep: 30 minutes
Bake: 40 minutes 


Nancy Note- I added 1/2 teasoon pure orange extract, since I like it stronger! And I only sifted the flour and sugar once, since it's pre-sifted. Came out great!

  • 1 1/2  cups egg whites (10 to 12)
  • 1 1/2  cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1  cup sifted cake flour or sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3  tablespoons frozen juice concentrate (limeade, lemonade, or orange juice), thawed
  • 3/4  cupgranulated sugar

Directions- In a covered large bowl, let egg whites stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Sift the powdered sugar and flour together three times; set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Add cream of tartar to egg whites in bowl; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Add juice concentrate. Gradually add granulated sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight).

Sift about one-fourth of the flour mixture over beaten egg white mixture; fold in gently. (If the bowl is too full, transfer mixture to a larger bowl.) Repeat, folding in the remaining flour mixture by fourths.
Pour batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan; spread evenly. Bake on the lowest oven rack for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert cake (leave in pan); cool thoroughly. (If the cake has risen higher than the pan, invert it over a jar or bottle so the top of the cake does not touch the countertop.) To serve, loosen side and center from pan with a narrow spatula; remove cake. Using a serrated knife, cut into wedges.

Pinto Beans and Cornbread- For Dinner!


4 cups dried Pinto Beans, 4 slices thick sliced Bacon, salt, pepper

Nancy Note- This is a very flexible recipe. I added 1/2 a chopped onion, paprika, chili powder, onion powder cayenne, a little fresh chopped cilantro, to taste. A little spicy, but good! Topped with some more cilantro and sour cream. I served with my own buttermilk cornbread and sald, with homegrown tomatoes, yum!

Directions: Rinse beans in cool water; pour into a pot, cover with water by 2 to 3 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer 2-3 hours, or until beans are tender. Add water to pot as needed. Beans should have a thick broth. Toward end of cooking time, add salt and pepper and season to taste. Don’t over-salt. For a variety try adding chili powder, garlic or Tabasco.

Pics of angel food cake and w.w. bread. Didn't take pic of beans, sorry!

Aug 2, 2011

Time Flies...

Well time flies as they say- chickens are getter bigger, garden is growing fast now, harvesting our first tomatoes, baking, trying new recipes, prepping for canning. Busy, busy, busy, BUT... I try to remember the benefits of NOT keeping a schedule. I believe in the old adage- when you're dying you won't look back and say "gee, think of the work I could have gotten done!" Instead it's about enjoying the time, and doing some "stuff". I do plenty of that. And I'm getting a new sewing machine, after two in a row pooped out. So much for used !

Having the summers off, I do lots of things I never have time to do otherwise- sit out on the deck with the chickens in my pj's, watch the wid blow thru the trees, watch my dog sleep (again), sleep in, stay up late, read, read, read. And catch on on all the great blogs I discovered this summer! Back to work in three weeks, sigh...

And it's about the time to look at/explore my relationships, especially the one with myself. Since it all starts there, you have no where to go, but out. If you can't find peace inside, what's the point?

Buffy and Ellie- BIG girls!

I had browsed thru Ree Drummond's cookbook, then found her website- lots of free recipes!

AND she's getting her own show-

I have to say when I saw something about a "Pioneer Woman" cooking show, I got REALLY excited, thinking it would be some kind of authentic, historical show, well obviously, not quite. I'd LOVE to see something on some kind of homesteading, historical, Foxfire-ish based show someday, but probably not exactly "mainstream"...
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