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, 2018

Rain And A Touch Of Autumn!

Rain And A Touch Of Autumn!
It finally rained today! Not a torrential downpour, but enough to need wipers driving and to wet our windows at work. BLUE skies, sun and clouds. Forecast 47 tonight, yes! Happy dance!!!!

Aug 26, 2018

Blue Skies & Garden Update, Chicken Escapades, New Muffuletta Sandwich Recipe, Mini Kitchen Update

Blue Skies & Garden Update-
Friday a nice low front blew through and brought some wind to stir up the air. Friday afternoon the smoke started to clear a bit and that was a real blessing. Saturday morning brought cooler temperatures, almost a little bit of Autumn, and bluer skies. What a relief! I'd love to see some rain, but for now it's still dry. The smoke did come back a little bit later in the day. This morning the skies are still blue with a little bit of clouds, but not bad at all.  With 50's last night, and 48 forecast for tomorrow night, Autumn is in the air! I read about this app last week that measures how smoky skies change your breathing in relation to how many cigarettes you might have smoked. Friday I smoked 2.2 cigarettes, yesterday it was 1.1. Here's an interesting article on a App That Measures Air Pollution in Cigarettes  It's free and an interesting little tool.
  As far as the garden update our apple tree has fruit way up, almost impossible to harvest. We are going to have a tree trimmer come in in October to work on her massive maple tree, as well as the apple tree, to trim it to a more manageable size. As far as the veggie garden production we're doing really well! Lots of tomatoes are ripening, herbs, green beans, Italian peppers, Gypsy Peppers, 2 kinds of cucumbers, and zucchini. I'm making our first salsa today since we have enough tomatoes and may start freezing some as well. There's nothing better than homegrown organic tomatoes in the middle of winter to make into soups, pasta sauce, etc. Our only fail seems to have hit everybody locally from what we have heard. With the intense heat in the 100's for a while we had very little in the way of jalapeno or bell peppers. Interestingly enough now that it has cooled down (80's) we have several small bell peppers growing, as well as jalapenos. It's pretty common knowledge that when you reach a certain temperature some vegetables will not set fruits. Tomatoes, for instance, won't set fruit if it's above 85 degrees, if I remember correctly. We have lots of pears that should be ripen in about the next month so we will harvest those. We have a small second harvest of raspberries that is trickling in which is nice. Many of our blackberries we were waiting for simply withered up in the intense heat sadly. There's always next year...

Chicken Escapades-
It's the case of the escaping chickens! For a while now I have found 1-3 of our new chickens out in the main part of the back yard. Annie, the white young hen, seems to be the ring leader. Sure, she’s cute but don’t let that chick fool you! I suspect after the hawk attacked, then dropped her in the boxwood shrub, she realized she could climb up it. It’s in the shade area and I’m pretty sure that’s their escape route-

I have lost track of how many times Dave or I have come home from work, or looked outside, to see her/them out. Sometimes, like this week, it was all 3 birds. I trimmed all their flight feathers a bit more recently, no help. I can herd them into the coop pretty easily, but it’s a safety issue having them out. There's also potential damage to our perennial beds. The neighbor's have an aggressive dog, which made them get rid of their ducks. Safety for sure! Here's what I saw yesterday-

Pru jumped up on the fence top

Short jump to the compost pile and over the fence to the dog

It suddenly dawned on me two nights ago that I could but some bird netting and basically cover the shade area pretty easily. Only a $10.00 fix! We could just staple to the top of the 6’ fence, go over the Red Twig dogwood and attach to the lower fence. After I mentioned the idea to Dave he decided to reuse some of our used cedar fence boards and create a little bit of structure for that area. He pointed out that we may occasionally need to get back there and it would be easier to have something taller that we could walk under. He added strategic boards into the existing fence, and we both covered all that with bird netting and stapled it down-

I'm hoping this won't have to be up there permanently. I observed this morning that one of the larger chickens lunged at one of the smaller hens and she tried to climb up the boxwood as an escape measure. She realized there was netting there and went back around behind the coop. I hope the flock dynamics will settle down over time. I don't think the older hens are actually trying to attack the little ones, it's just they're very nervous. If not it’s back to square one. Have any of you dealt with this? And poor Rosie is in a full blown molt! Lost all her tail feathers, so embarrassing! Normally you can't see where I trim their flight feathers, oh well. They'll grow back and I'm giving her extra protein treats.

New Muffuletta Sandwich Recipe
I was channel surfing one night and ran across a new muffuletta sandwich recipe on Cook's Country on PBS. I was used to do a lot of hand chopping lots of different ingredients to make the olive salad. This recipe uses food processor and Italian Giardiniera as the base. It also uses store-bought pizza dough to make the sandwich bread. I decided to skip that part in the interest of time with a busy weekend. I made the olive salad as directed and it came out great!

It was much faster using a food processor but was still nice and chunky. You can add whatever kind of Italian meats you like and I followed their recipe but substituted Chorizo. Trader Joe's had the perfect combo for $5.00. I also added thin sliced Italian salami. Plenty of meat for 2 dinners. Here's the recipe- New Orleans Muffulettas

Mini Kitchen Update-
With all of our garden harvesting my kitchen has been full of mixing bowls of vegetables. I realized the other day I needed to just also remove some decorative items along the kitchen counter as it was getting just too cluttered. So I pulled a few things out and moved a few things. I moved my favorite lemon topiary that I made away from the sink area over to another part of the counter,  I then replaced it with just a small Mason jar full of faux lemons and my tea sign-

  I also moved our phone charger to another area-

Over in my kitchen desk area I moved my other favorite topiary that I made. It's in a flour sifter and I put it on our dining table where it can be seen. That help me clear off my desk -

So sometimes it only takes a few minutes to pull some things, move them, or set them aside for another part of the house. There's also also the donation box! It gives you a chance to wipe everything down and declutter, killed two birds with one stone kinds thing! I like the result and it only took me about 30 minutes!

Aug 20, 2018

Smoky Summers- The New Normal? Fermented Pickle Results, Movie Star Maureen O'Hara's Estate Sale

Today in Boise

Smoky Summers- The New Normal?-
We first moved to Boise in 1996, when our children were in elementary school, and they're all grown now. That gives us some perspective on what used to be normal weather here. We used to get occasional thunderstorms coming through in the summer with torrential downpours or hail. The thunderstorms that pretty much stopped except for very rare circumstances. We never had smoky skies here in the city until a few years back. The worst we had was 3 years ago when it was so smoky you could see the smoke looking down the streets. Seattle is really smoky, as are parts of Oregon, and meteorologists and scientists are saying this may be the new norm. When you have environmental issues, droughts, stupid people who light fires intentionally/accidentally, a combined with other events and fires rage. Ironically there have been very few fires in the Boise foothills this summer. Most of the fires in Californian and British Columbia are large enough that all the smoke comes into our valley. When it's nice outside and 80° you want to do something outside. All you have to do is look at the foothills, or where the foothills used to be, and say I don't think so. When you have respiratory issues and allergies it just exacerbates them even more. I've had to break down and use steroid nasal sprays because I've been so congested from this. I avoid that when possible, but wind up using them several times a week. We use a good furnace filter and we have a HEPA filter that I run all hours in our bedroom except when we sleep. You do what you can to keep the contaminants out but it always comes in anyway. I started thinking if I want to keep living in Boise long term is every summer going to look like this? Time will tell, but it's sad. I'm very grateful that we don't have any risk of fire in our city, like people in other areas.

Fermented Pickle Results-
Last weekend I made my first batch of Armenian fermented pickles! I checked them after 3 or 4 days, but they weren't very sour at all so I waited until today. Fermented pickles are one of those personal preference, taste choice things. The longer they ferment the more sour they will get. It's all about what tastes good to you. When I tested one this morning I was happy to see that they were crunchy! I had added a black tea tea bag in the bottom of the jar as I had read that helps with keeping the pickles from getting soggy or mushy. The flavor was good, but I think next time though I would add more garlic and more pickling spice. I strained the liquid and then put the pickles back into the fridge. It's very normal for the liquid to be murky and a lot of that will normalize after it gets cold.

My fermenting kit comes with a regular plastic jar lid and so you just take the fermenting lid off and use it on top. Into the fridge they went. They will still ferment a bit more slowly and get more sour and that's fine.

From The Quiet Man

Movie Star Maureen O'Hara's Estate Sale-
My daughter dropped by yesterday and told me a fascinating story. One of my favorite actresses from older movies, some made before I was born, was Maureen O'Hara. I didn't but about 3 years ago she moved to Boise to live with her grandson. She passed away a few years ago and she used to frequent a store called Ricochet. It's a re-sale store that specializes in furniture and home furnishings. Apparently said she and her grandson used to shop there, so her estate sale went to that store. Some of her belongings went to museums in Ireland where she was born. The sale started Friday, ran Saturday and finished yesterday. Here's the local news story-  My daughter bought a pair of long leather gloves that went to her upper arms, and a leather ethnic belt that look like it was from the 70's. I dropped by the store yesterday for a few minutes and the only thing left for shoes and clothes, but lots of great photos of her. I thought it might be nice to buy a teacup and saucer, but sadly all gone. I looked at some low cut riding boots and she had very petite feet! She really had a fascinating life story and I always loved the spunky women that she portrayed. She had a interesting personal life as well and there's lots online. She is buried in Arlington National Cemetery with her 1st husband who was in the military. Loved her movies!!!!

Aug 12, 2018

Veggie Pruning and Making Fermented Armenian Cucumber Pickles

Veggie Pruning & Making Fermented Armenian Cucumber Pickles-
It was 103 yesterday, but woke up to 65 degrees this morning, what a relief! It's 12:30 p.m. and only 73 degrees, so much cooler. Dave did a marathon in the heat yesterday. I told him to wait til this morning when it would be cooler, but he was a man on a mission! He did a heavy pruning of the tomatoes vines with no fruit and tied them up more-

Yesterday you couldn't see the soil it was so overgrown!

Cuke vines tied up on the fence now, were all over the ground before 

Ditto our HUGE Italian peppers bending over to the ground, he had to stake them up again. It's always good to cut any non-productive vines out, to let the existing fruit have more sun to ripen, and let more water in. We watered heavily last night and the garden looks so much better! We'll be fertilizing the tomatoes today as well. Fast growers need lots of food...

Last weekend I ran across some small Armenian Cucumbers. I thought they would be great, but wasn't that familiar with them. I googled them and there are tons of recipes out there. I always have trouble finding nice pickling cukes here locally. They're either bad, bruised, slimy or just none to buy. Maybe next year I will grow my own. I bought a bag and today started making some fermented pickles. I combined the two recipes below to see how they would come out. I put in small, fresh dill since I couldn't find any heads to buy locally. It smells great, so it should work well for the pickles and I've used that before instead of the heads. For some reason dill is something I can never grow here and I have no idea why, must be the soil? So I basically added a small package of organic fresh dill, 3 large cloves fresh garlic, 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon of celery seed, 1 teaspoon of mustard seed, and 1 black tea bag in the bottom (for tannins/crunch)-

The rest is just 2 sliced up yellow Gypsy peppers from the garden, and the sea salt and water-

I was disappointed when I opened up the bag of cucumbers that they were getting a little slimy so I scrubbed them really well and cut off any bad spots. It was my own fault that I didn't process them last weekend since I forgot to buy the dill! I'm sure they'll be fine and fermented pickles tend to be a little softer anyway. My fermenting jar with weights works great on anything with the water lock-

I have used this fermenting jars for several years and LOVE IT! It's a half gallon w/ceramic weights-


A water lock lets the gasses escape but keeps the bad bacteria out. I put the crock on my kitchen counter, covered, and will keep an eye on them-

Soon to be pickles!!!

I wanted to add- this is so much FASTER than canning (unless you eat gallons per year) AND you get the healthy probiotics. Once you get the flavor you want, you just put them in a jar and refrigerate, they'll keep a long time. Recipes here and you can certainly modify as needed. The salt/water ratio is KEY. and Fermented Pickles w/Tea

Aug 11, 2018

110 Record High and Still Harvesting, Review Hello Fresh Meals

110 Record High & Still Harvesting-
Yesterday was an all-time record high of 110! It's just SO HOT there's no way around that. I'm working every day on keeping the chickens cooler by giving them cool snacks and treats, running the mister, watering the coop/run area well. We're both watering the gardens, trees and grass. We're still harvesting as things are picking up production in the garden. We got a couple of really big zucchinis, more tomatoes, 2 kinds of peppers. We're getting more cucumbers as well, slicing and Lemon-

Almost Pesto time!

Herbs growing like crazy!

The chickens are still laying, but not that much. We get one egg every day or two. The smoke from the forest fires combined, with the heat, that is a bit much. My allergies are crazy! Today I woke up and there was a little bit of clouds in the sky, hoping that would move some of the smoke out. It's 10 degrees cooler today, only 98! Terrible smoke still. I'm ready for Autumn!

Hawaiian Poke Bowl

Review Hello Fresh Meals
Last week I showed some photos of the Hello Fresh two dinners/for two people package that I got.
Hello Fresh Delivery They did a great job packaging everything and here's my review of the actual meals themselves.

With the Hawaiian Poke Bowl there was a little bit of dishonest advertising on their photo. It showed shaved coconut but in reality the coconut I received was almost like a granular coconut. Very small.

One thing about these meal, you use a lot of bowls to prep! Maybe it's just the way I cook, but I don't usually use 5 bowls to make one meal. The directions were pretty clear and instructions definitely made for novices. After I put all of the ingredients together, cooked the chicken and assemble the meal here's my verdict. I'm not that familiar with traditional Hawaiian foods and so maybe it's supposed to be pretty bland, but it was. I think I would have added a lot more ginger and maybe even some garlic? I don't know if that's traditional would have given it a lot more flavor. It looked better than it tasted, although the lime rice was great! I can see doing this homemade, basically making a large batch of rice, meat, nuts, and seasoned raw vegetables and then assembling for several meals. It is definitely not something I would make again as far as their recipe.

The second recipe was the Pork Poblano Tacos which I made last night. Sorry no photos. The ingredients were fine, everything all listed, but they forgot the poblano pepper! Pretty funny since it's supposed to be a poblano tacos. Since that was missing I used one large Italian pepper, wasn't quite the same. I also added a sweet Gypsy pepper. I had a feeling it was going to be really bland so I added maybe half a teaspoon, or less, of Chipotle powder. I was kind of surprised that the kiwi salsa recipe did not include a jalapeno pepper? Since I had our own home-grown right tomato I did use ours instead of theirs. One of the other things I noticed was that the kiwi they shipped was definitely not ripe. Probably shipping some of these kinds of produce you're going to have under ripe fruits or vegetables. Again the directions were clear, but the meal was basically pretty bland. Considering how many ingredients were in it, it didn't have much flavor. I did email Hello Fresh right away and said- "Hey, no poblano pepper, really?" They emailed me back within an hour and said they would give me $1.35 credit. Since I've already closed my account it can just sit there.

So my review is- Overall very well organized, well marked and shipped well. Lot's of menus to choose from. Maybe their general menu mode is to go for blander/middle of road flavors,without the punch. The addition of something with more flavor to the Poke Bowl would have made a huge difference, and the tacos as well. So if shopping is an issues, you're learning to cook, or you're experimenting, you could give it a try it. For me, I'll pass. I'll keep the menus and make again, with more flavorful ingredients, and save a lot by shopping locally. And less bowls too!

Aug 4, 2018

Blue Skies & Cooler, Homemade Chokecherry Syrup, 1st Home Grown Salad, Hello Fresh Delivery, New Chickens Update

Squirrel cooling off near mister in 100+ degree weather

Blue Skies and Cooler! 
Weather that was forecast a day or two ago turned out to be right! We had a nice cool front that came in off the Pacific Ocean and seem to move almost all the smoke out of the area and cool us down. Whenever I hear low pressure this time of year I do a happy dance. Low means cooler and sometimes wind which can be great in this kind of situation. We've been watering and watering to keep everything alive and the triple temperatures. Anya still loves laying in the sun, even with the heat, the weirdo-

It was a really nice to be in, and out, of the house and do little projects. Here's some random projects I tackled....

Dave and I wound up having the same identical eyeglasses cases from Costco, which caused some confusion. I started thinking of a way I could put something colorful on mine. I decided not to buy anything, but instead pulled out some nice blue and white French plaid ribbon. A few cuts, a little liquid nails and I can certainly tell now which one is mine!

I also made some chokecherry jelly today syrup, see below.  Hard boiled some fresh eggs in my little Egglette cups, works brilliant! Time for deviled eggs, yum. We went out to a late lunch at Kilted Kod, a food truck that has the best fish and chips I've ever had anywhere. They use big, juicy chunks of Cod, handmade and cooked to order. Very light and crunchy batter, just incredible. According to local people from the U.K. it's very authentic. After lunch we stopped at Goodwill and found an amazing gift for one of our grandchildren. While I don't think my kids usually read this blog I'm not going to post what it is until after we give it to him. But it was an amazing score!

Tonight we sat on the back porch and just enjoyed the cooler weather. We have a couple of hummingbirds that come to our feeders on a regular basis. We have two and every three to four days I mix up new hummingbird food. Basically it's three parts water and one part sugar dissolved well and cooled. We have lots of plants that are blooming now to also provide natural food. The smoke started rolling in a bit this afternoon, but at least it's cooler, breezy and the smoke is much less than it was. Forecast for some possible rain tonight! Praying for NO lightning! We have enough fires as it is.

Homemade Chokecherry Syrup-
I was thinking we would have a really nice harvest of Chokecherries this year to make more jelly with. In the past we've had a Qt or more. I have made some jelly before and it has a wonderful citrus type flavor and beautiful color. Dave picked everything off the shrub and sadly there was only about one cup total of chokecherries.

With that small amount I decided to just make a very small batch of syrup for pancakes and waffles. Basically you clean the choke cherries, cover with a little bit of water and bring to a boil and simmer until they're soft. I was lucky these chokecherries were actually very juicy!

After you boil them you pour the liquid and chokecherries through a sieve. I took a big, flat metal spoon and pushed the chokecherries and the juice through the strainer into a bowl-

I worked on that for about a good 5 to 10 minutes until there was some juice in the bottom along with some pulp. I had a little trouble deciphering how much sugar to put into such a small amount of juice. I wound up with it a little bit too sweet so I added some store-bought boysenberry syrup. I brought that to a boil as well with the sugar. Then I poured that back through the strainer another time and was able to get more chokecherry juice out of the mix. I wound up with a half small jelly batch-

It's a tart version of boysenberry syrup, but hey it does have a lot of vitamin C! We'll hope for a better harvest next year. I'm really happy at least we have lots and lots of apples and pears on the trees.
Recipe here Mennonitegirlscancook

1st Home Grown Salad- 
We had our first nice summer garden salad with homegrown tomatoes, Lemon and slicing cukes and basil, added some chunks of avocado, red wine vinegar and olive oil, above. Our daughter Angie stopped by, gifting us with three HUG yellow squash and one big cuke. We'll be eating those!

We have some small zuccini almost ready. Looking forward to more fresh tomatoes to make some salsa.

Hello Fresh Delivery-
Today I got the test order from Hello Fresh in the mail. I haven't cooked the two meals yet but here's a preview of what I got and how they shipped it-

The box came very well insulated with cellulose packing material as well as two small and two very large ice bags-

The upper two bags of food whole nice and cold-

The two meat packages were down in the bottom next to a frozen ice bag also very very cold.

There were materials inside on how to cook each of the meals as well as photos of the finished product-

Great directions if you don't know how to cook 

I'm cooking this first!

I bought these with a $50 off coupon so the total for two meals for two people was $15. $15.00 for four meals, not bad! I can cook from scratch cheaper, but this was a treat/experiement. We will definitely reuse the four ice bags, especially the two really large ones. We're going on a road trip soon and those will be great to put in the cooler since they are huge. As soon as I cook those meals I will post a review, but the ingredients look really great! Watch for more updates!

New Chickens Update-
The three new chickens are working out really. They got to free-range with the 2 big hens tonight and they all had a great time. All very healthy and curious and the flock pecking order seems to be settled in. While they do tend to run away from the two big hens, for no particular reason, probably just from sheer size. Annie, the white hen is definitely the braver of the three and seems to be the natural leader. It will be interesting over time to see if she butts heads with Rosie, the big Red Rhode Island Red. She's been the dominant hen for quite a while now, so time will tell.

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