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...

Apr 30, 2015

Happy May Day! Excellent Article- What I Wish Everyone Knew About Working In A High-Needs School

Happy May Day!

Excellent Article- What I Wish Everyone Knew About Working In A High-Needs School-
I stumbled onto this article earlier this week. As I read it I said to myself, "yes, yes, yes, yes". Been there done that, as a librarian. Working in an elementary, high poverty "Title One" school is quite an experience. While the system is not perfect by any means, there are still exceptionally hard-working, bright, creative teachers out there. It's good to get a look inside their jobs for some perspective. Here's the article in total, please read it-

Apr 26, 2015

Pacific Ocean "Blob" Changing Weather Patterns, Independence Days, Slow Clothing Movement, Master Bedroom Makeover

Pacific Ocean "Blob" Changing Weather Patterns-
I knew some of the ocean water off the west coast was too warm, but I didn't realize it was so MASSIVE. I read this- New Warm Phase & Consequences Dramatic? and watched this Pacific Oceans Blob Concerns Scientists Video. Some animals and fish going too far north will really mess with the food chain/web. With continued weather issues & climate change that may really contribute to even more devastating issues like drought, fires and the ability to grow food. Glad I don't live in affected areas, but it may trickle down to the rest of us with food prices, etc....

Independence Days-
Here's a round up of what we've been up to...

1. Plant Something- Starting seeds today in mini greenhouse, as the weather has been really up and down. Today it's 56 and REALLY windy! Supposed to be 85 Tues./Wed.!!! CRAZY! Veggies, herbs and flowers. Planted 4 new thorn less blackberries. Hens picked off some leaves, will move fencing back a bit so they can't reach the plants. Lesson learned.  

2. Harvest Something- Eggs and tons of compost. We've been having too much compost with the deep litter method so may start having to give some away, soil level is getting too high.

3. Preserve/Store Something- Made brined Meyer lemons. Let the freezer run low for the new fridge switch and defrosting. I will work on filling it up again. Just in time for sales on BBQ meats, like chicken and ribs :)

4. Manage Reserves- Get a Good Deal/Barter/Stock Up/Prep- Got a great deal on some new art for the house, cool weather veggies and perennials, organic toasted coconut chips for smoothies. Bought a mandolin for slicing veggies thin for fermenting, etc.

5. Eat the Food- Try New Foods/Recipe- Made some lamb burgers with tzatziki sauce, hadn't had for years, awesome! Saw some new recipes here, Ian after I saw his show on PBS last night, looks good! Lots of great veggie recipes :)

6. Build Community Food Systems- Still selling eggs weekly to a co-worker.

7. Recycle/Re-Use- Donated old Venetian blinds to the Habitat Store yesterday, spread tons of compost last 2 weeks. Loaned tools to friend. Going to sell my bike, too heavy, may buy new/used one. I need something lighter for my aging bones.

8. Skill Up- Learned hot to use a mandolin without slicing my fingers off :)

9. Regenerate What is Lost/Salvage Something- Will buy some new blades for our Sazall tool. Bark dust for yard, seed some grassy areas that are worn. Lots of little jobs.

Both photos from

Slow Clothing Movement-
Like a lot of people I know a bit about sustainability, but when it comes to clothes, not so much. While I do lots of thrifting and shop on eBay for used items, I still buy some things new. I was listening to this and I totally get it-  For some people the reality right now is they won't buy $35.00 tee shirts because that might be food on the table, but you have to start somewhere. I like the idea of "chain" stores that would market these kinds of things, to bring the prices down. Or make your own clothes! Thrifting is still a big part of the equation with TONS of clothing out there, literally, that can be re-used, including vintage clothes that are very well made. It's good to think about. I just got a new work blouse from Goodwill yesterday for $4.00, like new!

Master Bedroom Makeover-
I'm slowly starting to re-do our master bedroom.  I'll also do a much-needed repaint of the kitchen and possibly the living room. Paint is really worn after 10+ years. After summer break starts I'm going to paint the bedroom a very white gray. I liked the way it came out on our master bath remodel. Now it's a peach, a bit too dark. We had old, cheap blinds that came with the house-

I started with our new curtains from Ikea, replacing them for $14.99 (for 2) and I LOVE the birds! I stumbled onto them and bought a cafe rod for $5.00 to go inside the insulated curtains. We have privacy now and lets in more light. I washed them and now just need to hem them a bit. With 5+ more weeks of school I'm letting it go for now. I am SO READY for summer. Too much turmoil at work...

Love the birds!

I also bought a set of 5"tile prints" on stretched canvas for above the bed, from Tile Prints  5 for $39.00, a pretty good deal! Since I'm going for white with blue accents I thought this would be a nice shot of color! I may re-position them a bit, the grid might need to be a little wider? I have a few more blue things I'll add soon...

Neighbor Posey making friends with Anya thru the screen! Really nice kitty...

Apr 18, 2015

Hail and 75 Degrees, Cool Weather Crops, New Fridge, Homesteading Kitchen Gadgets

Hail and 75 Degrees-
We've had really unstable weather this last week. We had hail/corn snow Tuesday night and really gusty winds, 55 mph maybe? The hail was blowing at a 45 degree angle it was so windy! Luckily the hens all knew to go into the coop, where they were well protected. Good girls! The garden seemed ok thru it all. I'm pretty good at judging wind. Forecast was 45+ so we got it. It scared Anya, and I took some photos. Boy the clouds were black! 70's today and up to 77 next week. It was really windy all day, and Dave did a marathon of yard work. With the heavy rain last Sat. we skipped the work Sunday, just too wet. He also took off the bottom window on the lower part of the coop, and swapped their screen on. More fresh air with the warmer days. Sping is really here!

Cool Weather Crops-
I found some nice packs of curly kale, red Russian kale (yummy) and collard greens Thursday so I bought some. Last year they were hard to find as I waited too long. Ready to plant tomorrow. I already planted something else kid of fun-

Wind spinner from Target

New Fridge-
I LOVE our new fridge!!! By most accounts if the most exciting thing in your life recently is a appliance purchase I guess I do lead a rather boring life! After doing a lot of research (found out later it's recommended at Consumer Report)  we had it delivered. Here's what we did to prep-

Two nights before delivery we loaded all our freezer items into our chest freezer. I had been emptying it since we had to defrost it. First times in 3 years! Same night we put all the non-critical fridge items in coolers (without ice) since it was 30 at night and they were in the garage. Mostly condiments, fruits, and veggies.

One night before we loaded critical items, meats, dairy, etc., into our mini fridge in the garage, the old college one from the girls. That system worked great!

The delivery went smooth, it fit, and it's SO BRIGHT! Two LED lights on top and bottom. Really spacious, and nice little ice maker. Next a new counter and then the kitchen is basically done. I'll be painting the kitchen this summer, since it needs it after 10 years. I hope we can demo the counter, then I can paint, then a new counter, and I'll do the back splash. Like many people we try to do things as we can. If we'd had tons of money we could have done it all the first year. Instead we paid as we went, got a used sink from Habitat, etc., etc...

Bright and lots of adjustable shelving!

Tons of door storage

Nice ice maker

We'll move some of our frozen goods in tomorrow from the chest freezer

Homesteading Kitchen Gadgets-
I have been making lots of foods with very thinly sliced cabbage. I realized how long it was taking me to slice things, and I couldn't get them very consistent. I want to start making sauerkraut and more Curtido, so I thought MANDOLIN! I did some research and found a nice, adjustable mandolin at Target today. It holds the vegetable very safely and you can hook it over a bowl or use flat.Very sharp and a good $20.00 investment-

 Later I found a Ball Mason jar infuser-

I can make teas, tinctures, etc. I foresee lots of cool, refreshing fruit drink/tea combos this summer. $5.99. 

Oh, free recipes!

Apr 12, 2015

More Wacky Weather, Sunday Stuff

Sunny skies today

More Wacky Weather-
I've always found April weather to be much more unstable than March, especially this year. It's like a constant battle between winter and spring. It was almost 70 Friday, but in the 40's/50's yesterday and rainy. Today blue skies, and 60-ish, maybe. Tomorrow 75! Then back down 30 degrees, then back to the 40's. Wacky. We have really needed the rain. The air is really fresh and everything is soaked. No sprinklers needed yet! I've been holding off on starting seeds outside with 30's at night. My seed starting trays are ready to go though. I might start some in the next week, just the cool weather veggies. 

Our new baby :)
Sunday Stuff-
We're saying good bye to our faithful fridge that was here when we bought the house 10+ years ago. Bye! It's been making random noises, and the water coming out smelled like sulfur lately. We found out the water holding tank is probably contaminated, and we could replace it for $50. We thought about it and decided to just get a new fridge. The new one has the freezer on the bottom, pulls open, with an ice maker (hot here!). It's nice and REALLY bright inside and I have come to HATE side by sides. A real waste of space in my opinion. This has more cubic ft. for less than a side by side, and cheaper. It's coming Wed. Oh boy! I've been cleaning out the fridge and freezer. Here's our new baby from, where we also got an extra 10% off that day. It was the best deal in town for us.

Garden and chicken-wise, Dave pulled down the coop sun room today, stored it for next year, and the girls are loving having more open space. The sun room is great in the winter with the cold and rain. Yesterday they loved the nice dry extra interior space. Now today, more room! Within and hour or so they had tilled the pine shavings in already, good girls. We also replaced the heated winter waterer with the summer one.

I need to prune my blackberries as they had a really hard, tough winter-

My new neighbor, Posey! Looking in my kitchen sliding door-

I'd seen her in the backyard a few times. I found out today she belongs to the renter behind us. She's a big love button when I go outside, so I gave her a few kitty treats. Shhh, don't tell :)

We're replacing our damaged laminate counter in the kitchen soon and upgrading to a solid surface. I'm not a fan of granite, but I like quartz but Dave doesn't like stone. I don't know why, sigh. I just want something low maintenance and durable. So I'm looking at Corian or something similar, in a light gray. Something like this-

A bit darker than our cabinets, we have a lighter cherry. I will do the back splash, and we may be able to do our last small bathroom counter too. I LOVE the idea of under counter sinks. stays clean and looks great! Just wipe down.

I love our silver leaf maple, but what a mess EVERY spring. This stuff falls everywhere!

My Russian sage survived behind the coop all winter :)

Apr 5, 2015

Spring Has Sprung! Food Storage Re-Do, Preserving Meyer Lemons In Brine

Spring Has Sprung!
Things have really taken off here! Apples, pears, and nectarine blossoms, berry bushes, perennials, herbs and flowers are all coming up-

Apple blossoms

Apple tree 



Our new berry row has really taken off, Raspberries and Marionberries

girls loved finding worms after the rain!

lemon balm


Dave did a huge amount of yard work (again!) yesterday while I was laid up with a painful lower back. After resting it was much better last night and today. While I was looking at all the fruit tree blossoms this week I thought one things- canning!!! I really missed having zero apples last year, no pies, no applesauce, etc. Our little pear tree has really done well. Last year, it's first full season, we had about 8 or 10 pears. Dave's Mom canned tons of pears when he was a kid, so I look forward to do that too. And pear crisps, and pear butter, and... :) Tons of nectarines too, again. The blackberries need a good pruning next weekend, lots of dead branches as usual. We woke up to a drenched yard and wet fences, got some much-needed rain last night. All day today was sunny, rainy and cold. More on the way, yeah!!! It was odd to see most of the foothills covered in snow today, a welcome sight. More on the way, snow/rain tomorrow morning and the next day. In the next week or 2 I will start some seeds, depending on the weather-

New seed starting shelves ready to fill, bolted to fence

My only hope with this early spring has been I hope the fruit tree ripen BEFORE I go back to school. Every year a week or 2 AFTER school starts canning starts. I hope this time it'd a bit earlier by a few weeks...

The new!

Food Storage Re-Do-
I had an area in our spare bedroom for canned food storage, canning supplies and odd kitchen appliances. We used these, both thrifted-

the old

After doing a lot of research from Craigslist, to thrifted, to new wood hutches we finally came up with this, a chrome shelving unit from Homedepot for $99.00 -

Dave and I put it together pretty easily, and he secured it to the wall. It's nice that the shelves are adjustable, so if needs change it can change too. It's 48" wide, 72" high and 18" deep. Lots of room! I will play with adding some more baskets maybe, but the main things is for a lot of canned goods. I dumped a lot of the old jams we never used, etc. The dresser was demo'd as it was broken, and the smaller cart will go to one of our girls or donation.

Anya got exhausted watching and had to take a break :)

Preserving Meyer Lemons In Brine-
After seeing some organic Meyer lemons in the store today I bought five. I had seen some recipes for preserving them ranging from salty to salt w/oil. I wanted some with a sugar/salt type brine and found this recipe- Preserved Lemons It was pretty simple, I followed the brine recipe, but skipped the turmeric and coriander seeds and did 3 cloves, and added a bit of allspice. I was looking for something more tangy, less Mediterranean or Middle Eastern. The kitchen smells divine! BE WARNED- when you slice into hot lemons hold them over the pot, or keep them in the pot, as they will expel lots of boiling juice! Don't burn yourself.

lemons simmering

Ready for the fridge, after I topped off the brine

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