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...

May 31, 2013

These Things I Like....

Dogwood blossoms

These Things I Like....

* I'm off work for the summer, thank the gods and goddesses!

* I'm having foot surgery in a week and a 1/2, after limping around in severe pain for several months. I just couldn't do the surgery and work. BIG bone spur wrapping around heel. Really wreaked havoc with my back. While not one to post medical issues here, I'm looking forward to being pain-free.

*New couch to lay on with foot propped up post-surgery, much more firm and comfy

*Got most of the veggie garden planted, on a nice cool/cloudy day, will fill the rest in soon-

3 kinds of peppers 
  10 tomatoes
           raspberries getting blossoms
cheap, easy plant tag- on top of conduit tomato stake, with duct tape (of course!) 
                                a little chicken protection- chicken wire, nice and pretty invisible

*Found a good spot to plant more raspberries!

*The apple tree is LOADED, finally!

*The Service berry bush is loaded!

*Baby basil finally sprouted after our cold, wet weather 

*The Choke Cherry bush is loaded times 5! It made amazing jelly last year, really tasty

*Our new pear tree has 1 little pear. I'll save it for Dave

*We've been getting rain! It's so green!!!

*First rose

*We got the pond up and running, with our 2 new $10.00 Lilly pads with new pumps, still in the boxes. What a deal! From the Habitat for Humanity store. Got them off-season in the winter and stashed.

*I love Anya, she's so funny and sweet

May 26, 2013

Planting Day, Too Much Tech For Kids

Butterfly Heaven

Planting Day-
With the 3 day weekend and finally some warm weather, we decided to plant the warm weather veggies. We actually had a frost warning 3 days ago! Really? It's almost June!!! Anyway, we went shopping yesterday. My kids gave me a Home Depot gift card for garden supplies and plants for Mom's Day. You can tell you're an urban homesteader by what your kids give you! I got some tomatoes and veggies there, and got the rest at a couple of other places. I bought 5 Red Russian kales for $2.50 at a little local garden center. He said he just wanted to get rid of them! Works for me!!! Nice color below-

We also bought a few shrubs to fill in some holes and for a spot in the front yard. We ripped out a really ugly, old viney shrub there and are planting a really pretty butterfly bush. They're great at attracting pollinators, good for when you're growing your own food! Since we already had 2 Black Knight varieties (dark blue/purple) we bought 1 Butterfly Heaven, smaller bluish flowers (on the top of this post). I bought a few other perennials to fill in where some died over our brutal cold spell this last winter. 0 degrees for 3 weeks wrecks havoc on fairly tough plants. I saw this cute flower box yesterday, made out of cedar boards, sheet rocks edges and rope-

These would be really EASY to build! And much cheaper :)

Tomatoes, peppers and more, oh my

Mugo Pine

Tick seed plant

Blue Flax, I love these! Hard to find sometimes

Purple Fountain grass

Cold frame ready for kale, the rest is rhubarb, collard greens, lettuce, radishes & Italian parsley

veggie area ready to plant! After photos soon....

Too Much Technology For Kids-
I read a post on on a new book called Goodnight iPad. It got me thinking. Here's my response:

As a school librarian I love the book It’s A Book by Lane Smith. The short version in on YouTube. I read the book to my 6th graders to remind them that there’s no electricity involved and that it actually has many more advantages. For kids there may be some future problems with using tech at a young age too- what will they do if they don’t have access to that later? Public schools can’t afford to buy kids iPads just because they want to use one in school. How many parents are going to trust a elementary kid to take theirs to school? Who will pay for it if it gets broken/stolen/damaged?

I can’t afford an iPad, and if I did, I wouldn’t buy one. I have 2 computers at home and 2 at work. It’s just too much.  I have lost count how many times I have almost been hit by cars whose drivers are texting. There’s also such a disparity between people who just assume all families can even AFFORD these. I work with 85 % high poverty kids. Only about 30% of them even have the internet at home. $500.00 for an iPad is groceries and rent for them. There’s a huge disconnect (excuse the pun) in tech where wealthier folks just assume everyone else has one. Or wants one, in my case. I love the convenience of tech, but it’s too much- $, maintenance, wear and tear, storage. I don’t have to worry about dropping a book, getting it a little wet (assuming I own it), highlighting it, tearing out a page, my software crashing (a friend lost his entire kindle off his iPad), re-charging, or worry about theft. I could go on. It just needs to be put into perspective sometimes. ***Remember- with no electricity, it’s just an expensive piece of plastic.

Ellie enjoying the sun

May 23, 2013

Fairy Garden Box, New Furnace/AC, Independence Days Challenge

Fairy Garden Box-
For Mother's Day I had requested some fairy garden components. My daughter Tami got me started with the wheel barrow and table set. I bought the little fairy and now I'm all set!

I put it in my herb pot since it will get trimmed on a regular basis. I out the butterfly over her head for a break from the rain and sun :) I already bought some new components, including the  round solar light.

Thyme, rosemary and oregano on the deck box, basil seeds started in the 2 pots

New Furnace/AC-
After our AC pooped out recently we knew we had to bite the bullet and get a new furnace too, as you ideally want to do both together. We knew the furnace was also pretty old, about 35 years, and somewhat inefficient. I love doing research before a big investment and gathering data so I subscribed (by the month) to Consumer Reports. I like looking at their reliability reports, always an eye-opener. We wound up getting several bids and asking around. The biggest warning I read was to make sure it's installed correctly or it can void out your warranty. We went with an established company and got 2 Trane units. Much more efficient, and should save us on our monthly energy bill. Nice and quiet and MUCH better air quality too. We're all set.

Independence Days Challenge-

1. Plant Something- 
Planning on planting our summer veggies starting this weekend. There was a frost warning last night, go figure! It's been a regular roller coaster temp-wise. Started basil seeds in 2 pots for lots this summer.

2. Harvest Something-
Eggs, compost, chives, cool weather crops growing nicely. Did a massive pruning on the blackberries, raspberries and marionberries. Lots of dead vines.

3. Preserve/Store Something-
Made my elderberry syrup, Dave's taking some for a cough. Still freezing things- got a great deal at the Grocery Outlet on local/gourmet bread and froze 2 loaves. Also got some various bathroom supplies, and quick lunch stuff (Annie's Organic) there too.

4. Manage Reserves- Get a Good Deal/Barter/Stock Up/Prep-
Got a good deal on the furnace/AC unit, prepping the garden for planting.

5. Eat the Food- Try New Foods/Recipe-
Got a new Thai cooking book to play with, still working on my homemade pesto from last summer's abundant basil! Man that tastes good! Found a new cornbread recipe to try.

6. Build Community Food Systems-
Still selling eggs.

7. Recycle/Re-Use-
Used leftover metal roofing for cedar box, leftover rocks from AC installation will go into the garden for more borders. Dave got the pond set up with our 2 cheap, thrift store pumps and Lilly pads. (pictures coming)

8. Skill Up-
Reading Making Home and getting lots of ideas from that. We're starting to wash our sheets and towels every other week and just do the pillow cases/hand towels and wash cloths weekly. Saves time, money and wear. An online university hired me to be their once a weekend a month tech support for a bunch of $. I figured out what they needed and it will be minimal, so I'm learning! That $$$ will go to some special projects :)  I love it when something just comes your way, when you're open.

9. Regenerate What is Lost/Salvage Something-
Having a plumber come over to do some small jobs and someone to stretch our bedroom carpet. It pays to maintain things instead of waiting til there's a crisis.

Comfrey blossoms

May 18, 2013

Great Book! "Making Home, Adapting Our Homes & Our Lives To Settle In Place"

Great Book!- "Making Home, Adapting Our Homes & Lives"-
I started this book last week: Making Home-Adapting Our Homes and Our Lives To Settle in Place and am really loving it. It really comes from a different angle about issues of living more self sufficient, as well as building communities, living green in a way that would work if things change. And they will, it's a matter of how, where and when. Sharon lays out very thoughtful ideas about not going green to save the planet (since we're screwed IMO) but to be able to live well by using what we already have, and/or modifying our lives and attitudes. This is a positive message about thinking outside the box and prepping (of sorts). 

One of my favorite lines so far is a quote by James H. Kunstler, on page 11- "... we become so attached to the things we have invested ourselves in that we go on preserving them long after such preservation has become destructive." She gives lots of great ideas on "planning for a future and failure". examples about things like: transportation, growing food, heating/cooling, creatures, skills, work and $, and security. After our A/C died a week ago it got me thinking. We didn't do too bad, while in the 90's. We already had installed ceiling fans, insulated drapes and kept the house closed during the day. You never know when something will happen or change. We would have suffered if we hadn't thought ahead!

Great book! Go read it!!!

May 11, 2013

Shabby Chic Metal Roofing in The Flower Garden, Easy Homemade Elderberry Syrup, New Couch!

Shabby Chic Metal Roofing in The Flower Garden-
After building our cedar flower box (below) for our deck we had 1/2 a sheet of galvanized roofing left over. I knew I could do something with it, of course!

We had removed an old cold frame and I knew I wanted to plant some perennials there. I stood it up against the fence and had an "ah ha" moment.  A little shine and reflection for the flowers!!! It's screwed to the fencing and I have my flowers ready to plant. Cool huh? I'll probably hand a few goodies up above the metal- an old vintage shovel and some other goodies I have around...

Easy Homemade Elderberry Syrup:
After posting this Homemade Elderberry Syrup, I made some! Easy and boy does it have a strong aroma!!! WOW. Anyway, I made some using the dried berries I bought online. The supplier I used is I bought 2 lbs. for about $7.00 each, with shipping. MUCH cheaper than buying the extract.

 I used the sugar preservative recipe and it really was simple. I doubled the recipe and used 1/2 cup berries to 4 cups of water. When I was done it was exactly 2 cups-

Kept it the fridge, it's nice and thick.

Very deep red/brown color, with a distinctive taste. I'll try some on waffles soon!

My New Couch!-
We were really needing a new couch and a couple of chairs for the living room. We decided to take the plunge this spring and get a nicer, really heavy duty couch. She was delivered today, what a beauty! Nice sage green and it's Anya approved. We chose the colors for the pillows (there's 2) and I went with something fun and summery, since I already have wintery pillows-

It's a bit brighter, and a little shiny, in real life- orange, green and blue/grays, cute!

May 8, 2013

Rest In Peace Rosie

My Rosie passed on peacefully last night in her sleep. I could tell she probably wouldn't last the night, after I had her in inside for a while. Goodbye my sweet friend...

May 5, 2013

Happy Cinco de Mayo, Our Etsy On The Cheap Cedar & Tin Planter, Rosie's On The Mend!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!-
We celebrated Cinco de Mayo at home, with a wonderful dinner. I made this salad dressing and used on roasted chicken breasts (with ribs), along with some chipotle chili powder- Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette  Note- I did cut the salt WAY back. I used some on the chicken and the rest on a avocado and greens salad, along with some corn chips. Excellent! I would add more adobo next time for more heat, or cayenne.

$175.00 Etsy Version

Our Etsy On The Cheap Cedar & Tin Planter-
I asked Dave to build a cedar deck box so we could get rid of the various beat up plastic tubs we had. I googled cedar deck boxes and saw this- Cedar & Tin Planter Then I saw the price- $175.00, OMG! So I showed it to Dave and we decided to build our own! For about $35.00 Dave built this-
Our $35.00 version, built in 3 hours

We looked at the photos off Etsy, and he came up with this. It's nailed together rather than stapled, more durable. He used fir 2x4's underneath, since we couldn't find cedar. He used 2x2's on the inside. He made cedar feet for it as well. He accidentally bought the wider cedar for the sides, but I actually like it better. There's less metal visible. He also raised the floor, using leftover plywood, which uses a lot less potting soil. He drilled holes for drainage. We only used 1/2 of the 2' x 2' x 8' metal roofing, so I'm going to do a fencing decoration with the rest of it. I'll post a pic when it's done. I'm going to take an old shovel, add hooks and mount it near the top, and attach to the fence. A little rustic embellishment. Here are the steps he used to build it-

Basic box with the floor

Adding metal roofing, he used a jigsaw to cut it. I had to hold it and that was fun! 
We both got sliced a bit...

bottom view

Metal roofing screws on the inside

Holes for drainage, Dave did a smiling face :)

Rosie's On The Mend!
Rosie seems to be doing much better! Her coloring was much better tonite, comb is nice and pick. She's still a bit droopy (butt bath tomorrow) but she's much more active. I think the worst is past. Here's hoping....

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