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...

Mar 31, 2012

Thrifting, Food Price Book Template, Sour Tomatoes Recipe, Irish Cookbooks, Pallet Chicken Coop, Deck Rehab

Thrifting- Today I got a brand-new polar fleece jacket, a sweater, some canning jars and my little spring sign (above), all less than $20., what a deal!!! Part of Independence Days!

Food Price Book Template- What a great idea! I got this thru my Spring Food Prep/Storage class- Here's another nice link too for: Organized Pantry: Beginner Guide to Pantry Pride Part of Independence Days!

Sour Tomatoes Recipe-  I had never heard of these before but, come summer, I will make some from my home-grown ones. From: I love their free, online magazine!

"This is an old Pennsylvania Dutch recipe and is not at all complicated. Basically the principle is much the same of that of sauerkraut. There are only five items needed for these fermented tomatoes: tomatoes, grape leaves, salt, alum, and water.

The tomatoes must be ripe but firm. Our preference has been Early Girl, but last year by chance we discovered Mortgage Lifter and this year Amish Paste, either of which would work equally well. Last year, my son and daughter-in-law used Romas and produced some of the best we have ever had. The choice is yours, but remember the tomatoes need to be ripe and firm.

To begin, choose a container suitable in size to your intentions. I use either a crock or plastic bucket. My wife always uses her "sour tomato crock." I have always avoided metal for fear of a chemical reaction to the salt.

Begin with a cushion layer of grape leaves which will compact to at least 1/8 inch. Next, a single layer of tomatoes. Continue with this procedure — tomatoes. grape leaves, tomatoes. grape leaves — until your container is full, leaving room for something to hold your tomatoes down in the brine.

Now for the brine. Mix 1¼ cups salt to 10 quarts of water. Do not use an iodized salt. I get an 80 lb. bag from the farm supply store and we use this for all our salt needs: table, cooking, and all our pickling, including our pork. To each 10 quarts of water also add 1 tablespoon of alum. Completely cover your tomatoes with brine and put a weight on top.

Let them pickle for 6 to 8 weeks. If you find a mold forming over the top, don't panic! Remember, they are fermenting! Dig them out, rinse them in cold water, and have at 'em!" 
By Richard Miller

Irish Cookbooks- I got these 3 used cookbooks from Amazon, filled with lots of very old, traditional, simple recipes. I wanted to find some recipes with more simple, nourishing ingredients, and something more unusual. Being part Scotch/Irish I'll give these a try! I will post some recipes soon...Part of Independence Days!

I made this Irish Soda Bread tonite, it was wonderful!

Chicken Coop Made From Pallets-

from-  Lots of photos and info. I love their blog, very inspiring ideas!!!

Deck Re-Hab- Our 4 year old Trex deck gets pretty dirty over the winter, but I didn't want to spend the money for a pressure washer. I remembered we had a old boat brush (from when we had an old sailboat in Portland, sigh) and so I used that with some Mr. Clean and wa la, all clean!!! Part of my Independence Days!
Here's the before-

The after
Most of the staining, dirt, and mildew just scrubber right off. Sometimes elbow grease is all that's required. It actually took me less time to clean it this way, than to drive to a rental place, pay, clean, and drive back. And it was free  :)

Mar 29, 2012

Independence Days Challenge

Independence Days This Week-

1. Plant Something- I planted herbs, flowers and some veggies.
2. Harvest Something- More eggs
3. Preserve Something- Made pickled eggs from another homesteading blog.
4. Store Something- I stocked up on more canned and frozen foods, salt, sugar, more basics. Also bought canning vinegar. Looking at better places to store little used (but needed) items, and store more food.
5. Manage Reserves- Get A Good Deal/Barter/Stock Up/Prep- Reorganizing pantry, and pricing bigger sized bulk items. Inventoried seeds from last year. Getting 2 new chicks soon.
6. Eat the Food- Try New Foods/Recipes- Working of freezer items, and new egg recipe.
7. Build Community Food Systems- still working on that, it's spring.
8. Recycle/Re-Use- More scraps to the chickens, still using the composting bin. Re-used several containers for my seed starting- milk cartons, honey cartons, old pots. I'm taking in more clothing for spring/summer as I'm shrinking! Down almost 35 lbs!
9. Skill Up- Still doing my spring food preservation/storage class. Getting better at sewing and tailoring my old clothing. I'm reading more Mother Earth News articles, and going to order a few more homesteading books, like Storey's guide to keeping chickens.
10. Regenerate What is Lost/Salvage Something- We installed new/better attic fan to keep the house cooler in the summer and save energy. Getting bids for huge maple tree thinning for more food production, and to keep tree healthy. Ouch, that's spendy!

Plants, Starting Seeds, Pickled Eggs, Thrifting & Mason Jar Meals

Plants- Every spring I have a ritual and plant some pansies in my north-facing kitchen window box. I can see them, they make me smile, and sometimes birds land there and check things out. With lots of water they last all summer into fall-

A visitor last year, he pecked on the window for several days in a row, cute little guy!

Chives are up too!

Violas under the window

Starting Seeds-  I gathered up all my seed-starting stuff a couple of nights ago, and a bucket of potting mix. With the rain this week, I decided to do this inside. I started: a whole BIG tray of basil, smaller pots of calendulas, nasturtiums, lemon cukes, and Swiss chard. They're under the under counter lights for now.

Pickled Eggs- I saw a recipe and decided to try some. I made a 1/2 batch, since Dave's not a fan of hard boiled eggs. Thanks to Rose Prairie Quilt Farms for the recipe . I made some today!

6 hard boiled eggs, peeled
1 Qt. sterilized canning jar (perfect size)
2 cups white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion
1/2 TBL. pickling spice
1/4 tsp. mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. celery seeds
1 clove garlic

Combine all ingredients in pot, except eggs. Boil for 5 minutes. Then put eggs in jar (I put some onion in the bottom first), pour hot liquid over eggs, seal. Let stand overnight, then refrigerate. Will keep a couple of weeks, in theory. There are lots of other recipes out there online, some with peppers, etc. My Grandma used to pickle eggs and beets together, yum! Here's my batch, and I'll let you know how they taste! I see some hot peppers in there next time :)

Thrifting- I scored 3 new summer shorts/capris, 2 with the new tags still on them! I love Eddie Bauer and Columbia Sportswear stuff, so well made. I also got two enameled cups for fun.I may plant one with a plant, the other is up on my shelf in the kitchen with my other old speckle ware.

My new dishwasher cover installed, I LOVE it! All magnetic, just roll out, smooth on and you're good! $15 on eBay. Just look around as there are lots of designs if you're interested, and measure carefully.

Mason Jar Meals- What a great idea!


Mar 27, 2012

Amazing Dog Rescue & Blueberry Cream Biscuits

Amazing Dog Rescue- What a wonderful story, get out your hanky. People can be so kind, and WHAT a TRANSFORMATION!!!

Blueberry Cream Biscuits With Blueberry Sauce-
I had some blueberries and I kept waiting for the right recipe to materialize. Oh yes, it did! Recipe below. It was really fast getting it into the oven. The sauce was good, but I did add some nutmeg, a squirt of lemon juice, and a pinch of salt.
I had already cut into it before the photo!

Recipe, since link didn't work-

Blueberry Cream Biscuits with Blueberry Sauce-

Yield: 12 biscuits
Prep: 20 mins Bake: 425°F 17 mins to 20 mins

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup blueberries
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F In a large bowl thoroughly mix flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and nutmeg. Toss blueberries with the flour mixture. Stir whipping cream into the flour mixture until just moistened.
2. Turn out dough on a floured work surface. Gently lift and fold dough four or five, making a quarter turn between each fold. Place dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Form dough in a 7- to 8-inch square, approximately 1 inch thick. Using a floured pizza cutter or knife, cut 12 to 16 squares in dough, leaving biscuits intact. Bake in upper half of oven for 17 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cut through or pull apart biscuits. Serve warm with Blueberry Sauce.

Blueberry Sauce
Cook: 1 min to 2 mins or till just softened
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
In a medium saucepan combine 1 cup of the blueberries, the sugar, and water. Bring to simmering; cook and stir until blueberries pop and sauce has thickened. Remove from heat, then stir in the vanilla and remaining blueberries. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition Facts (Blueberry Cream Biscuits with Blueberry Sauce)
  • Calories 231,
  • Protein (gm) 3,
  • Carbohydrate (gm) 30,
  • Fat, total (gm) 11,
  • Cholesterol (mg) 41,

Reorganizing Food Pantry, The Stump That Keeps On Giving, Cute Goat Blog

Reorganizing Food Pantry- As part of my Independence Days Challenge I'm getting busy! My food pantry closet is a bedroom closet we added sturdy shelves to last year, after trying a plastic shelving unit (bad idea!). It became a food storage area, and also a catch-all for extra small appliances like bread machine, mixer, crock pot, etc. We have a small kitchen and not a lot of storage there. The garage is very hot/cold, so not a good idea either. I'm starting the reorganization process to try and move towards just food. I'm a visual person, and always looking for new ideas, if you have any to share? Last night I moved most of the small appliances out and put all my used canning jars in a clear tote. They were falling out of their box before.

Ditto the food canning processor/strainer- got rid of the box, stored the strainers. More room!

My main goal is to separate the foods more, by category, and keep them easy to see. I also have some Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers, to re-package things like the sugar, and dry beans I will buy. I know some people invest in the cute chalk board tags at office supply stores, but I got sticker shock when I looked the rices up. I'd rather spend that money on something else, and I'm sure Martha Stewart (one of my least favorite ex-felons) will survive. My eyesight would be pretty bad if I don't know what rolled oats look like! My various flours are labelled with a marker on top of scotch tape, I can remove easily if needed. I'm glad I invested in some 1/2 gallon canning jars thru Ace hardware last summer. A special order item, but great for food storage! I have a lot of large misc. glass jars from family, thrift stores, but I decided to just buy bigger ones.  Six for $12.00 I think... I also realized today that I can move the bathroom dry goods to the cabinet in main bathroom under the counter, duh...

The Stump That Keeps On Giving- Poor Dave. What could have been an easy job, cutting a stump down to the ground, became a nightmare. We had the tree removed about 5 years ago, a catalpa, with nasty seed pods. We kept the stump for a birdbath base. We decided to add another veggie bed in the triangular area. So we rented a chainsaw and Dave got to work. Let's just say the home improvement store guy forgot to tell him to tighten the chain every few cuts :(  The first cut was good, partially rotted wood. After that, not so much.

We decided to quit with impending rain, and the high rental fee. Oh well. The good news- I'm having 2 tree guys give us a bid for removing the last foot, as long as we're getting a bid for the maple tree thinning. Getting that tree thinned will get much better results in our existing veggie bed, with much-needed sunshine!

Independence Days Challenge- I put some dollar store crates in my freezer so I can see what's there, and start from scratch in an organized mode. Before:


I sorted things by fruits, veggies, meat, seafood etc. Lots of room to still fill it up, as you can see. The great thing- now that I have a freezer I can stock up, part of Independence Days, when I see a good deal...

Cute Goat Blog- I discovered this thru my Mother Earth News magazine, and I love the photos!

Mar 25, 2012

Natural Egg Dyes, Victory Garden Art Work, 75 Degrees Today- What the Heck?

Natural Egg Dyes-   If you're getting ready for Easter soon, and like the more natural look for your eggs, here's a fun, free guide-  I like the idea of home dyes, instead of the store bought tablets. Of course I love the natural colors of my eggs anyway!

Victory Garden Art Work-
I love this guy's vintagey Victory Garden Art work! A very similar visual style of the post-WW1 government posters! He sells posters, tee shirts, postcards and floursack towels. Cool!

It was 75 Today-
A hmmm, what month is this? I don't like the idea of putting my pasty arms into a teeshirt yet, ew. It was way too warm today. BUT, I did break out some of my summer clothes. They hide under the bed in one of those under-the-bed plastic totes during the winter. The good news- none of them fit! I'm down almost 35 pounds! Luckily some of my favorite shirts will be taken in this week, since I'm on spring break. That way I can still wear them and show off my smaller, pasty arms! I'm so glad I bought a decent sewing machine last summer, a real good investment. Little did I know at the time what I'd be using it for. It was just the right time to lose the weight. My energy is up, and we are certainly saving money on groceries and eating better...

New Chicks!
I will be shopping for chick this week, wish me luck! Two new babies will come home to add to the flock. I'll be setting up the "nursery" in a couple of days. The big girls loved getting out today, with the warm weather. It's raining tonite, and cooling off (thankfully) so all their coop shavings will get watered into the garden, and settle the dust. We're talking about a fall re-design of the coop. While I love the basic use of space, it's tough to clean, awkward for people. We may, basically, raise-the-roof and make it tall enough to put in a full size "people" door. Easy for cleaning, etc. Probably in the fall though. Dave can get lots of free scrap lumber at work, so that really helps with the recycling of building materials. We bought very little new for the coop and "sun room."

Last Year- Buffy (rip) and Ellie, our Barred Rock

Mar 24, 2012

Stocking Up, Chickens,Thrifting, Independence Day Challenge, and Food Storage Questions

Rosie on patrol

Stocking Up-
2 Bags Of Pine, 2 Bags of Feed and Some Chickies Coming Home Soon- Just sing it to the 12 Days Of Christmas! I went shopping yesterday and got the first two items at our local feed/garden place. I stocked up on extra feed and pine shavings, since fuel is getting so high. I also bought organic veggie seeds to start, oh boy!

Today was coop cleaning day, oh joy!!! I deep cleaned the coop and sun room, all clean and tidy now. Spring break just started today for me, and I knew it would be mild- 62 degrees. The deep litter method works so well, no odor, I just deep clean it every 3 months or so. I do, however, clean the "condo" and nest boxes daily. All the pine shavings went out into the veggie garden and the girls are tilling it in already!

Ellie looking up- "what do you want now!"

Lots of good stuff for the berry vines-

They has some new little chicks for sale, but I like to go to the big local hatchery, Dunlap's, outside town, as they have such a huge selection of pullet chicks for sale. I will probably pick up 2 new babies this week, just trying to decide on which breed- something I don't have. Rosie is a Rhode Island Red, and Ellie is a barred rock. Rosie is such a trouper though, I may get another R.I.R., but I also like these as a possibility-

Brown Leghorns-

New Hampshire Reds-
Since we lost Buffy, our Orpington, recently, and I'm not ready for another one, and she was almost too big for our space.

Thrifting- Last night I bought some jeans, shorts and a summer blouse. On eBay I bought some Dansko like clogs, used Irish Cooking cookbooks (dang missed St. Pat's Day!), a like-new parka from a big name American company (think Maine) for 25% of the full retail. Another homestead blog showed a similar one of these, so I bought one!

It's a magnetic dishwasher cover that I thought would go well with our color scheme and protect the front, cute! And kind of camouflages the occasional drips, etc :)

Independence Days- See some of the above: stocking up on feed, clothing/shoes, getting more chicks. We bought some small crates last night for me to organize our new freezer. Our attic fan died last summer (unknown to us then), so Dave installed a new, bigger/better one today. It will keep the house much cooler in the summer, and cut down on the AC, which we're lucky to have. We did join a voluntary AC program that reduces the  use during peak time and saves us some $$$. we'll be expanding our veggie area soon, and I hope we can afford a tree person to come in and create more sunny area for us to grow in. I'm looking for another food dehydrator, to dry more.

Food Storage Questions- I thought these were excellent questions out of my spring Foods Preservation and Storage class I'm taking:

What am I storing food for? 
What are my concerns? 
What kinds of situations are likely in my region? 
How much food do I want to store? 
For how many people/pets? 
How much water do I want to store? 
Am I likely to have people outside my immediate household who are with us in a crisis? 
Are there other things I want to store – clothing, medical supplies, tools?  What are they?
How much time and energy do I have to devote to this? 
How much space do I realistically think I have to devote to this?
How much money can I spend each week/month on this project. 
Where will my stored food come from? 
How much of it will I grow/produce? 
What are my goals for food preservation? 
How much of my food will I buy, and from where? 
What can I get locally, and what do I have to get through the industrial food system? 
What’s the best and most ethical source for my food? 
What do I imagine doing with my food storage? 
Do I want it mostly to provide a hedge against a crisis, or for day to day use? 
Do I imagine myself eating regularly out of it and replacing it? 
Do I want to be able to share with others, or is my first priority protecting my own? 
How will I prevent loss of food to age, insects, mold?

Very thought-provoking, and better to answer now, than later. I'm feeling a real need to stock up now, with fuel prices being uncertain in the future, than kick myself later. I am able to purchase things easily, and who knows what the next few months/Fall could look like? What if our fruit trees fail this year, etc.? (sorry for the font change, sometimes blogger drives me up a tree!!!)

Mar 22, 2012

The "Modern" Life: Some Pros and Cons

After I read Sue's blog Thestuffthatkeepsmeawake I found myself asking the same questions. Here's the part of her list that I found common ground on. Her words are italicized, mine are not-


Internet-what a great way to meet like-minded people- Indeed! That's how I would up blogging!

Internet-for people that HATE shopping-what a great way to get that chore out of the way- I have never loved shopping, I do it guerrilla style- get in, get out

Internet-what a great source of information for those with an insatiable curiosity. YES! I do research of some kind almost daily

Internet-all the garden seeds you could ever possibly want! Yes, a great way to find out what you can plant where you are

Internet-able to order ANY book and get it sent to my local library. AMEN sister! I LOVE putting "holds" on stuff!

Digital Cameras, Yes, so easy to point, shoot, delete what doesn't work and post online quickly.

Energy Star appliances. Despite having way more electronics than 20 years ago, my electric bill is under $40 in the summer/$50 in the winter Yes, me too

Low-water usage washing machines. I swapped this to "pro" because mine works great!

Cellphones--And you'll see this one in my "cons" list too! Yes, I love the easy use and portability

Corporations running our country. Buy a congressman--get what you want! Yes can you spell GREED? I would add- corporate political groups too

Shoddy products / poor workmanship I'm shopping smarter because of that. I buy a lot of quality items on eBay and at thrift stores.

Low moral values That's a personal perspective, but I find much of the "youth" of America overly self-involved, lazy and not a lot of critical thinking going on for the media-ed majority. BUT I am hopeful they will wake up some day, but maybe not. Parents sometimes just don't care...

Drugs...EVERYWHERE!. Schools in particular are full of kids "trading" prescription drugs. We are an addicted society. Anyone who thinks we aren't should think about this- IT HAS BEEN ESTIMATED THAT 80% OF ALL ADULTS IN THE U.S. ARE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF DRUGS, ALCOHOL, OR PRESCRIPTION MOOD ALTERING DRUGS AT ANY GIVEN TIME. 80%.

Death of the family. Amen, but I am hopeful that we will figure that out. I think "family" is also perspective based. I think many parents are to blame for this, viewing their children as property and not people.

High crime rates and a shortage of police to deal with it. Our prison system is broken, period. It just doesn't work.

High Fructose Corn Syrup What more can I say :)

Food with ingredients you need a degree in Chemistry to decipher AMEN!

Round-Up ready crops- Plants that can be sprayed with a herbicide that KILLS everything. Us too? What is the point here? More corporate greed.

Cell phones ---in restaurants/theaters/libraries People are losing their people skills, and losing their in-person relationship skills.

Big Brother--he's watching you and every day you lose more and more freedoms. SOPA/PIPA  How much freedom are you willing to give up to be "safe"? I'd rather have a little less safety than know my rights are being eroded by the people who are supposed to be protecting them.

Mar 21, 2012

Spring Colors, Food Preservation, 65 Degrees & Snowing

Spring Colors

Lots of colors are sprouting up in our yard!

Food Preservation- we bought a new 7 cubic foot chest freezer at Costco, oh boy! I have already started stocking it, and will buy some baskets next week (spring break) to reorganize it better. We will be expanding our veggie growing area by adding a new bed in another part of the backyard. It's a sunny area that should work well. I'm trying to come up with an indoor seed starting spot. I have a small wire bookcase I may add lights to. I'll have to play with that idea. The Spring Food Preservation and Storage Class has been really informative! I will add some information and questions that I found really helpful, in the next week or so...

65 today, Snowing Yesterday-

It was snowing really hard at one point, blowing sideways at a 45 degree angle and COLD!

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