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...

Jul 31, 2018

Hot And Smoky, Peach Fail, Independence Days Challenge

Hot And Smoky-
Like the rest of the West it's been very hot, with triple digits and smoke from various wildfires. We're fortunate that the smoke isn't any worse. The sunsets have been really spectacular, but I've been sneezing a lot more, congested, with all of the crud in the air. There's no relief in sight for the heat right now but the good news the vegetables are going great! I mostly just trying to keep the chickens cool and we're trying to stay on top of the watering. This is the time of year I'm really grateful for air conditioning in our home, my car, and my job. Could be much much worse. I feel really sad with people losing their homes, businesses and the forests. It's a terrible sight to see the Shasta area fire, huge and such a gorgeous area. I visited there a long time ago and Mt. Shasta was breaktaking.

 Morning commute 2 days ago, much worse today

Yep, that's it

Peach Fail-

This is our second year to have peaches off our little peach tree and it was doing great this spring. We had lots of fruit and then a few storms blew through. I had noticed that there weren't a whole lot of peaches on the side facing the street, but didn't think much of it until this weekend. Dave told me that a lot of the peaches were ripe and he was going to pick them. I asked him how much he thought there was on the tree and he thought a couple of crates. In reality we had a pretty tiny harvest as you can see from the photo. Pretty sad, but I guess it's better than nothing. We had lots of one gallon bags in the freezer from last year's harvest in comparison. I took the worst of the peaches that were bruised and have some bruises,  sliced those up and made a peach and blueberry cobbler. I saved the better more perfect peaches for us to just eat fresh. We gave a small bag to our two daughters last night and her one grand baby was asking for more peaches! Glad that he likes them. So unlike last winter we won't have lots of frozen peaches. Oh well, what can you do?

Independence Days Challenge-
Here's a rundown of what we've been up to lately...

1. Plant Something- 
I was able to find some half price Italian parsley since mine died and planted some fresh. This is not the time of year for planting for us since it's so hot and we don't do a fall garden due to the climate.

2. Harvest Something-
Right now we're harvesting the start of our tomatoes, lemon/slicing cucumbers, blackberries, and sweet Gypsy peppers. We got about 1 cup of Choke Cherries, that's it. I'll make some syrup for breakfast and stick it in the fridge. Our two older hens are still laying about 1 egg every day or so probably due to the excessive heat. We're doing a lot to keep them cool, but I think that their production will pick up a little bit as it cools down some over time. Interestingly enough the three half-size hens seem to tolerate the heat better probably because they're smaller.

3. Preserve/Store Something- 
We harvested our neighbor's rhubarb (she doesn't use it) and we got about four 1-gallon bags in the freezer. I also made a huge strawberry rhubarb apple cobbler last weekend! Yummy. No peaches this year, read below. Looking forward to harvesting apples and pears, the trees are loaded! I think we'll have enough tomatoes to freeze as well.

4. Manage Reserves- Get a Good Deal/Barter/Stock Up/Prep- 
Bought grilling chicken on sale for roasting. Going to Costco soon for some supplements, cat litter etc. We get lots of great deals there, but we're careful what we buy.

5. Eat the Food- Try New Foods/Recipe- 
After I read a little article on how the English royal family stays healthy I discovered barley water! I never heard of it before and did a little research. It's made out of water left over from cooking with barley and added fruit juices for flavoring. And guess what I stumbled upon at a local grocery store? Yes lemon flavored barley water. Always ready for a culinary adventure I decided to buy a bottle. It was $7 for the concentrate of 28 Oz. Basically you use about 80% water in about 20% of the concentrate, so it makes a lot of glasses. I tried it and really liked it since it was tart and didn't have much sugar compared to other drinks. Dave even liked it! I bought Robinson's brand lemon flavor and may try some other flavors if I can find them. While this isn't something I would have ordered online, I did find it locally. I may buy some more or make my own. There are tons of recipes online. You basically cook barley, reserve the water and then add your own fruit flavorings. Fascinating stuff!

6. Build Community Food Systems-
Rhubarb from her neighbor, Dave nicely sliced it up in cubes, froze it bagged. We gave her a dozen of our fresh eggs which she greatly appreciated.

7. Recycle/Re-Use-
Mostly doing more donations and I have bought a few used things recently. I picked up a few inexpensive summer clothes for work and some bamboo silicone utensils for pots.

In a recent order from Amazon I received a $50 off coupon for Hellofresh, a new meal delivery system. After going online and doing a little research I went ahead and ordered two two-person dinners. The total will be $15 which would certainly be less than the two of us eating out. All the ingredients are provided except for simple additions like oil, butter or something else that you would usually have on hand. We should be receiving the order this weekend and I will do a review. I ordered a Hawaiian Poke Bowl meal and Pork Tacos. I will certainly let you know what I think after we try this if anyone is interested. While I think they target affluent families that don't know how to cook, maybe they'll learn something! I guess no one buys cook books any more.

8. Skill Up-
I did learn recently how to air out a perfume a smelly used leather purse. My one main leather purse that I use mostly for work was partially broken. It was a used leather Fossil bag that I bought on eBay a few years ago. I wasn't able to fix part of the metal that broke. I found another good deal on eBay for another Fossil bag that was basically brand-new, much cheaper than retail. I was really excited then I opened up the box and about fell over from the perfume odor. Since I am sensitive to odors it might not have been as bad for somebody else, but it was bad enough for me. The bag came in a cloth storage bag which I immediately threw out since I really didn't want it. I was happy to see that simply airing out the purse in another bedroom by hanging it on a closet knob seems to have fixed the problem. Interestingly enough there are tons of DIY ideas online on how to do this.

9. Regenerate What is Lost/Salvage Something-
I can't really think of something that we salvaged recently although we do little things all the time. Dave did pull out the dishwasher arm and I cleaned it out so maybe that qualifies? As much as we scrape dishes it seems like little bits of food are always getting clogged in the spinning wands. I told Dave if he dies first I'm having the dishwasher removed, recycled, then I will have someone build some nice shelving there and fill it with baskets. With two of us (unless we have company) we really only run the dishwasher every two days. 

Jul 20, 2018

DIY Upcycled Thrifted Camping & Summer Decor

DIY Upcycled  Thrifted Camping & Summer Decor-
Lately I had been seeing a ton of camping related decor on Pinterest. Some were decked out trailers, tents or porches. I also spotted a few inside home camping decor ideas (see my Pinterest folder). We haven't had a real vacation for a few years and I remembered how much we used to love tents camping with the girls. I took some items I already had (except the sign) and decked out my dining room shelf! I started with the Thermos which previously had flags for 4th of July. I went around the house and gathered the other things- 
A mini red oil lantern (that works!), a small white enameled basin with a blue edge, a blue coffee kettle (added fake flowers), a Brownie camera, a fish print from one of our girls (turned side ways), a tree branch I collected from McCall with moss, and an old camping mug that had a candle inside. I thought about aading a compass, but it's buried in the garage. I've also seen a string of wood fake fish, you could do all kinds of things! I liked it! I did splurge and spend about $6.00 on the Relax You're At The Lake sign from Hobby Lobby (with coupon). I felt it tied it together and here's a closer look-

Reminiscing Dave and I decided to go to the lake area we love outside Bend, Oregon next summer and stay at the lodge. Looking forward to it, and a bed and a shower sounds great!

For the main part of the house I always put out some season decor, now it's beach and summer items. Many of these items are thrifted or handmade!

Entertainment center, made the moss ball, green candle holder a gift from my girls

Beach table 

Free online vintage print, thrifted frame
Thrifted power line insulators, dollar store birdhouses I painted

Vintage thrifted Ball jar with our sea shells

Thrifted candle holder and lighthouse

Kinetic dolphins "swim"!

Thrifted seagull, shells, fake netting 

Polished up the sun catchers from last weekends yard sale, will hang outside

Kitchen window

Thrifted frame, you can rotate and it changes the shells!

Jul 18, 2018

A Man's Life Saved & His Yard Sale, My Own Close Call, It Pays To Call City Hall, Blackberry Cake

 A Man's Life Saved & His Yard Sale-
This is a pretty unusual story, so bear with me because there's a good payoff at the end! Dave came home late Saturday morning and yelled at me in the kitchen I have something that you've always wanted that I found, but don't look yet. I was scratching my head wondering what he could possibly be talking about? I closed my eyes and he came around the corner with a wind vane. I looked at it, looked at him, and said okay? He said well this is the one that you've driven by for years that you always wanted. Still scratching my head, trying to figure out what he was talking about he then described the house where he found it. It turned out there was a large yard sale at the house of an elderly gentleman in our neighborhood that was there for years. I explained which house had the wind vane that I had always admired. Then I remembered.

He told me quite a story that he had heard from the elderly man's neighbor. His wife died years ago and he was left alone, but his sweet neighbors helped take care of him. He was diabetic, had terrible cataracts, was basically blind and wasn't doing very well in general. It really broke my heart to hear this man suffered for so long by himself after his neighbors moved away. We had seen the house deteriorate terribly over the 10 plus years we lived in the neighborhood. The yard was getting overgrown, and it looked like they used to have a nice yard. Health and Welfare got involved and deemed the house uninhabitable and the man was moved to Assisted Living. He got cataract surgery and now can see! He had been looking terribly with a cane and everyone thought he needed a hip replacement. He did some physical therapy and came back really well and now is walking without a cane!!!

All in all a good outcome since he is 81 years old and now has a chance to live some years where he is being helped, treated and is not alone.  It's a good reminder that sometimes little things we do for each other in our community can be huge. It could be the difference between life and death for someone else. We went back to the yard sale later that afternoon. I just wanted to look and see if there was any little things there that I might want. It was really hard to believe, until you saw it, that the man may have had psychiatric issues, and was potentially a hoarder. He had boxes and boxes and boxes of new items still in the box scattered throughout his house and garage. He had multiple hand tools, power tools, all kinds of things, all brand new in the box piled everywhere. I found a couple small items that I liked and for a whopping $5 we bought a cute little cow creamer, a couple of metal sun catchers, and a new still in the box wind-up clock-

 Info here on these

For when the zombies come

Dave wound up paying $5 for the wind vane and mounted it on top of the coop where we can see it and enjoy it. In the spring I will repaint the deer which should be dark brown. I was actually able to find the same wind vane online and it's made in America in Michigan! Dave leveled it and balanced it and it moves freely.

I would like to think that the elderly gentleman would appreciate the fact we're renewing some old things that he had and enjoying them. God bless him.

My Own Close Call-
Monday night we had a terrible thunderstorm with very, very high winds blowing through. I was watching the radar because I wasn't sure if I needed to take the half-hens and two large hens into the coop or not. I realized when the wind finally kicked up really hard and I went outside. I heard a loud crack when I stepped out. I thought it was a neighbor's tree? I didn't see anything. My best guess as to the wind speed (been through these before) was about 65 miles an hour. I went out into the veggie garden area and was able to get the three small chicks in the coop. I was going to get the two large hens inside and close the door. At that point a very large branch came crashing down on top of me somehow missing my head-

It was wide and long. Yesterday we looked and we still can't tell where it came from but apparently was very, very high up in the tree. We love our huge maple tree in the backyard giving us shade but sometimes it does occasionally lose a branch. When the branch hit the ground somehow it did not actually hit me except for a light bump on the top of my head. The main branch was medium sized and you can see it in the picture with Dave above. When it first came crashing down my automatic instinct was to duck and cover my head. Dave had seen the branch come down through the living room picture window. He thought it had knocked me down and came running out of the house. I stood up and yelled at him to help me get the two chickens in their coop, which we did. At that point I had had enough and went inside and Dave started to get the branch out of the vegetable area and into the main yard-

It took me quite a while to calm down. He came back in a few minutes later. The miracle is I literally did not have a scratch on me. I think it would have been different if this it happened in the winter with no leaves on the tree. I probably would have gotten pretty scraped up. It's also a miracle it didn't take out the fence, the coop, or our newly-installed wind vane. The vegetables actually survived pretty well too! So this is why you buy life insurance, as I later reminded Dave, ha ha. It could have been much worse, so I am grateful!

Ready for the compost bin

It Pays To Call City Hall-
Sometimes you drive by something every day and don't notice when things go bad. There are two really long traffic islands I drive by every day on the way to work going down a long hill. I can't really tell you how long they are. The islands had been a nice touch of green in the road with trees, shrubs and flowers. It was obvious that they had a drip irrigation system built in and everything look good. Early this summer I noticed that there were weeds in the beds that we're getting pretty tall. At one point, with the heat, I realized that all the trees had turned brown. I drove by a few more days and realized that things looked pretty bad. I called the Ada County Highway District to let them know what I was seeing, only to be told to call the Parks and Recreation District. I called them and was told to call another agency. I laughed at that point and told a woman well I guess I'm going to have to call someone else. She kindly told me that she would take care of that. I didn't think much more about it until later that week. I noticed that several of the dead trees have been cut down and the weeds were being removed. Within about one week we had brand new healthy trees, shrubs, and bark dust. I took a photo as safe as I could do while driving. Nice improvement, a little bit of green to drive by and just shows that it does sometimes pay to call City Hall! So much nicer of you than dead trees and weeds. Adds a little urban habitat for birds, etc., too.

Recipe and photo from

Blackberry Cake-
We've been slowly eating the blackberries that we have been harvesting instead of freezing them. I've made this recipe before and it's just so delicious that I decided to buy some blackberries. I found this recipe in a magazine several years ago and it migrated online. I found a good deal locall- three containers for $5, perfect for my recipe. This is really simple and you do not need a food processor to make the batter! I simply cut the butter, added all the dry ingredients and cut cut cut cut. Added the rest of the wet ingredients, etc. and put it in the pan. We did add a few of our own blackberries and raspberries period on the top, then add the crumble and into the oven it went. This is such a great recipe because it's not too sweet and it's really super moist. Try it you'll like it!

Jul 14, 2018

Independence Days Challenge

Here's a snapshot of what we've been up to lately! It's still hot, around high 90's/100 degrees, just more summer!

1. Plant Something-
Recently I planted some mint for tea and cool salads. I bought some Italian Parsley seeds (mine died) and Calendula seeds. I also bought a perennial for an empty spot in the backyard- 

Sweet Mint

Little Cutie Blondie Coral Bells, good for shady spot, Poesy eating in back

Water Lettuce pond plants multiplying

We are done planting for the year, unless I find more random veggies on sale 75% off!

2. Harvest Something-
Our vegetable garden is looking really good, we have tons of green tomatoes, peppers, etc. We have harvested our first sweet Gypsy peppers, blackberries, raspberries and some of the first ripening Marion berries. From the chickens we are also harvesting eggs! Here's a snap shot of the backyard-

Gypsy peppers



Tons of lemon cukes blossoms

Nasturtiums I planted from seed

Potatoes almost ready

2 volunteer tomatoes in the cold frame

Fail- No radishes, but edible greens, not enough sun sadly, no carrots  lesson learned

Monster Italian Kale

The three new chicks are doing really well and getting bigger by the day. I watched a snippet of Lord of the Rings the other day and thought of the and heard the phrase halflings, I think I'll call them half-hens!

They're getting along with the two older hens and are sharing the coop really well. They found out how to get up to the very top roost in the coop. The other night they were all on the top and weren't bothering each other. They took a little while to realize that there was more to the chicken run that just a little square area, so they are exploring more. I let them out today into the main backyard with Dave's help-

babies first field trip

looking at Dave pruning raspberries, whatcha doing?

The other 2 came out to play as well-


Ellie and Rosie

I've trained all of our hens three basic commands of let's go outside, let's go inside, and do you want some food? Going outside means going out in the yard, going inside means going back into the coop or run, and are you hungry means I have a snack! 

My wintered-over geraniums are blooming great-

3. Preserve/Store Something-
Will be harvesting some rhubarb former neighbors Garden that she likes to give us so I'll be freezing all of that. Too early for anything else. Canning will proceed when the peaches, apples and pears ripen. My Curtido is ready, I pulled out and re-jarred and into the fridge it went-

Homemade goodness

When I find some pickling cukes I'll ferment some of those too!

4. Manage Reserves- Get a Good Deal/Barter/Stock Up/Prep-
Got a great deal on some work dress slacks at the Eddie Bauer outlet with a $10 off coupon, for a total of $5.00!  I got a nice work blouse on eBay, clearance one on LL Bean, bought a pair of heavy leather sandals from Skechers for everyday use. My last pair lasted 3 years so that worked out pretty well, much cheaper than Birks-

I found this cute garden stake at Hobby Lobby clearance priced, $6.00, will go with the new plant, sort of a faux mini gazing ball with a chicken on top!

My $7.00 mister finally died, so we found this to replace it, has 2 misters instead of one, $12.00-

The mister is outside, hens are loving it since it's 95 degrees.

5. Eat the Food- Try New Foods/Recipe-
I've made this recipe for years and made some last weekend, Spicy Fried Chicken It's a pretty simple recipe and the buttermilk is key! I served it with homemade corn relish, salad w/homemade buttermilk dressing, green onions, and red pickled onions. I found this new free recipe from, looks good and love all the lime juice-

Spicy Ranch Sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 green onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeno pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

6. Build Community Food Systems-
Will be harvesting some rhubarb from our neighbor's garden that she gives us every year, will be selling eggs once the three half-hens start laying. Most hens start laying around 5 to 6 months old which should put our girls into October or so. I should have plenty to sell!

7. Recycle/Re-Use-
I filled up both our hummingbird feeders are they getting used! Dave got some old cedar boards from one of our girls a while back. They had some really tall planters they inherited when they bought their house that they didn't like, so Dave salvaged them. I'll have him build a small planter box for me this/next weekend so I can plant my new seeds. We took donations to the thrift store, shoes, clothes and household items. I bought some used baseballs for $2.00 for a craft project but wound up liking them as-is in my basin!

Summer decor!

I found another booster chair for one of the grand kids, since they're too big for a high chair, $5.00. I will sell the high chair on Craigslist. Thrifting seems to come in waves and I haven't been buying much lately, and that's ok.  I'm currently re-purposing some things for a new display, will post soon!

8. Skill Up-
I learned about how the Juror calling system works in Boise since I was on jury duty for the week of July 4th. You just call in every night the night before and listen to see if they pull your number. I didn't get called since they didn't call any jurors at all for 3 days. Then on the other my number wasn't called. I wouldn't have minded doing it since I believe that's a part of being a citizen.

9. Regenerate What is Lost/Salvage Something-
Ditto the cedar boards. 
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