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 25, 2019

Thrifting Scores! DIY Lawn Thatching, Ski Soup for A Wet Day, Dark Chocolate Steel Cut Oatmeal Biscuits

Thrifting Scores!
I hit two thrift stores and a clearance store this weekend. I hadn't been out thrifting for a while and got some great deals! Here's the first thing, a solar garden lamp jar, added new re-chargeable battery, will see if it works, $3.00-

Next two brand new spring work blouses, a new athletic jacket for spring walks, total $15.00. I found an old silver plated (?) teapot, $2.00. Top photo, was filthy inside, but two efferdent took care most of that. Then I scrubbed with a soapy bottle brush. It's a bit rusty, so I don't know that I will use it for brewing. Probably holds about 3 cups of tea. Next, I found this pretty glazed egg, $1.50, lovely crazing on the finish-

A book/photo holder, $1.50, great for my smaller cookbooks-

For spring, a bunny spoon rest $2.00-

Bought two new bath hand towels/wash clothes, $5.00 total, new shower curtain liner, $3.00, shower mat $3.00.  Sorry no photos. I bought a nice sized, cheap plastic faux terracotta pot for the back deck, $5. I will probably plant some extra herbs in it since they usually do better in pots. Scored a cute little mini camping-style candle holder, $1.50. Overfilled with wax, but lots of hot water cleaned it up. Perfect for my summer camping vignette-

Bought 2 heavy, recycled tire rubber mats for deck pots.  $2.00 each. I will probably hang them on the fence for yard art! 

All in all, great deals!!!

DIY Lawn Thatching-
After looking at rentals to thatch our lawn Dave and I decided we might as well buy our own thatching rake. They are a really great tool when you have a relatively small area of turf. Thatch is basically the dried bits of turf/ dead leaves//debris that falls down into your lawn. It can interfere with the absorption of water and fertilizers. In a really hot, dry climate like ours it's good that thatch it periodically. It has a nice wooden handle and very sharp blades. Stores easily, a lot easier than trying to rent a big machine and get it to and from the rental place. For $35 it will certainly pay for itself in  a few years. More to come, got rained out Sunday!

Ski Soup for A Wet Day-
I was in the mood for some soup this weekend. I made this before, very nice! It's  E-i-e-i-omg Blog  I did modify a bit.  I don't use "condensed soups", too much sodium and fillers. I used about 7 cups of organic beef broth, an onion, thyme, garlic powder, some Worcestershire and a bay leaf.  I browned the beef in a little oil, then tossed in the tomato paste. Once coated I put the browned beef in the crock pot. I added the rest of the ingredients and put on high for about 3 hours. Last time I made this I served it with Easy Beer Bread Great stuff, so I made a loaf, beer bread came out super moist-

When I was making the soup I got out my homemade clotted cream. Smeared a little on couple of lemon shortbread cookies. OMG, so good!

Dark Chocolate Steel Cut Oatmeal Biscuits-
I made a double batch of these this weekend and they are wonderful! Not very sweet, chewy with the steel cut oats and moist. Make a double batch because they don't last! Recipe here Dark Chocolate Steel Cut Oatmeal Biscuits. These are great for anytime and keep well. Enjoy!

Mar 18, 2019

DIY Large Fruit Tree Pruning, Homemade Clotted Cream, Shepherd's Pie/Lamb Smell

DIY Large Fruit Tree Pruning-
Last year when we had our huge maple tree pruned in the backyard, we decided on having the front large apple tree pruned this spring. After looking at it, and seeing what was available locally for rental, Dave and I decided to rent a really tall aluminum orchard ladder. It was 16' high. It's much much taller than our wooden one. We decided to go ahead and take the plunge to have Dave bring the tree height down. He wanted to rent a chainsaw on a long handle. I vetoed that I thought it was just too simply too dangerous to be on a super tall ladder, leaning way out with a motorized saw! We did have a buck saw a couple of different lopping shears and a Sawzall. I reviewed some articles about how to prune fruit trees to refresh my brain cells. Dave watched a few YouTube videos to help him also. So Saturday morning he went and picked up the ladder , I helped him unload it and set it up.

Dave bought a hard hat, which was an excellent idea, since he got whacked in the head more than a few times by branches. Good $10 investment! Basically he started on the south side of the tree, which is around this side of our cedar fence in our easement. We both decided about one-third of the tree height would be about good. It is so much easier to do this before the tree leafs out! This is definitely not something for you if you are afraid of heights. I was concerned about Dave being up so close to the top of the ladder, if he fell it would be a long... way... down...

I did not leave him alone while he was up there in case he had an accident. I also was able to describe to him what needed to be cut, since a second pair of eyes is always helpful. As the branches started coming down he would either throw them over the fence or they would fall down on their own. I stayed far enough out of the way to not get hit by any falling debris, always a good thing.

North side of tree

It took several hours but all in all it came out really well and we saved $250. We also feel educated on how to do this now! Good when you're trying to be more self sufficient. There was the $25 for the rental and the rest were tools we already had. Everything will be cut up and go to the city composting program and they will grind it up for bark dust. We were going to trim the peach tree but really didn't need that big of a ladder, so we were able to get it back under the time frame for the rental easily. Dave and I did trimming of the peach tree later in the afternoon, which went really well.

After picture

Since there's an easement to the left we have to keep it cutback more. Sadly county trucks have broken off many branches. 

Peach tree (with maple tree in back) nicely trimmed. 

Homemade Clotted Cream-
I had plans on making some homemade British Cream Scones for St. Patrick's Day, but came down with a bit of a bug, so I put that on hold. I've been reading a clotted cream for quite a while, never tried any, so I decided to make some! I stumbled on a couple of simple recipes for home making- Theviewfromgreatisland   Basically clotted cream is a British food that is used a lot on scones and other baked goods. Basically you take cream, not ultra pasteurized or it won't clot, and bake it in the oven at a very low temperature for 10-12 hours. Basically sounds like a cultured cream. I set my oven at 170 on Saturday night, took it out of the oven Sunday morning to cool for about an hour. It went in the refrigerator for about 3 hours. At that point it had thickened quite a bit and I was able to scrape off the top. There's some  watery cream mixture left below that can be used as milk in baked goods, etc-

Basically the clots that I had were very, very dense and stiff. I had to re-add some of the milk liquid into it, which was messy, but easy. After you mix it together the brown film on the top disappears.

I read the flavor really varies on the type of cows that create the cream.  I used organic, free-range whipping cream. One pint made about 1 1/2 cups. Mine has the taste of whipping cream, with a little subtle bit of a different flavor it's hard to describe. It didn't taste sweet, or nutty, but very neutral. It is definitely pure fat! So if you're itching for something really British it's really easy to make! According to what I read it should last several months in the fridge.

Shepherd's Pie/Lamb Smell-
For St. Pat's Day I decided to make my first lamb Sheperd's pie. I always like to make corned beef and cabbage, but Dave's not a fan. I'll probably make some next weekend after they go on sale. He can have nachos! He he. I couldn't find any ground lamb (waited too long to shop)  so we bought 2 lamb chops. I noticed this odd smell when I opened the package but didn't think much of it. Sadly no one warmed me in the recipes ,about prepping the lamb ahead of time, to avoid the gamey smell! Lesson learned. I've never had that problem with ground lamb. Luckily it was mild outside and I opened the windows. Tons of good info online though to easily avoid this problem in the future. I used a basic recipe, with chopped lamb, onions, peas, carrots and mushrooms. Mashed potatoes go on top. I used a bit too much beef broth in the next photo, so I removed about 1 cup. 

I topped with unpeeled russet mashed taters. They did sink a bit, but the flavor was wonderful! Broth was amazing with some tomato paste for thickening. I skipped some non-traditional ingredients, like red wine and garlic. Wanted it more simple and traditional. Many use flour for thickening, but I opted for paste. You can really customize this too, some added parsnips, which I would do next time. We have plenty of leftovers and the house smells normal again! Lamb buyer beware!

Mar 11, 2019

Independence Days Challenge

Independence Days Challenge-
We've been having getting a little taste of spring the last week. Days are getting longer, now the time change is here. I've seen people out walking their dogs in the evening and I heard lawn mowers roaring. We had some snowflakes on the weekend, but that was okay. So here's the recent rundown-

1. Plant Something- 
Dave and I set up the indoor greenhouse in a spare bedroom this weekend. I'll be planting veggie, flower and herbs this weekend to get a head start. We'll added out new light to our existing mini greenhouse-

First I moved all this out, and moved to a closet

Nice open wall

After we set up the greenhouse Dave found a scrap piece of conduit and drilled it to attach the light to the greenhouse frame

The conduit fit perfect and popped into he greenhouse frame, with the light screwed onto it
I moved our geranium from the garage into it! Added a timer for 12 hours a day

I wasn't going to bother putting the plastic cover on. Then I saw Anya eyeing the shelves! Better safe than sorry. I also had Dave cut some clear, plastic tarp on top of the carpet, just in case there's leaks. 

Anya was exhausted from watching!

2. Harvest Something-
Eggs, lots of them! Chives are up too.

3. Preserve/Store Something-
Need to make some fermented veggies. This will fix some stomach issues I've had lately, hopefully.

4. Manage Reserves- Get a Good Deal/Barter/Stock Up/Prep-
Bought some artisan breads 80% off and froze. Stocked up on our regular things at Costco.

5. Eat the Food- Try New Foods/Recipe-
I made some wonderful French baked eggs with our own eggs. I am so loving having 4 hens laying! I gave one of my daughters a dozen fresh eggs last weekend since we had plenty. I don't add extra light (except heat on occasion) during the winter, since I decided to let their production drop naturally. They eat local feed, with lots of extra greens during the winter. I added some dried meal worms recently, since one of the girls is molting. I'll going to thaw out some of our peaches and make a cobbler next weekend. Summer will be here soon, with hopefully more peaches! We sprayed our tree last year with a copper spray to save the tree from peach rust. It should keep it healthy. 

6. Build Community Food Systems- 
Nothing yet, may start selling excess eggs soon. No farmer's markets yet. 

7. Recycle/Re-Use- 
Cleaned out kitchen cupboard and donated a box of misc. mugs, cups, etc. Also cleaned out some crafting supplies. Got a great linen blouse off eBay for $10.00 for summer. Found some craft items that I will sell on eBay as well. I will re-used some potting soil from the potato bins last summer for the seed trays for the inside inside greenhouse. Got some more DVD sets from the library, all free! Dave cleaned out the coop, we sent all the pine shavings to the city for composting-

8. Skill Up- 
Learned about some retirement strategies from a show on PBS. I didn't know about the new HUD program for reverse mortgages. Fascinating. I didn't know there's a lot of flexibility with those programs. I'm not recommending it, just learning. I need to boost my retirement so I don't have to work til I'm 90! I've been re-reading the best way to prune our apple tree, really needs it-

Nice article here

9. Regenerate What is Lost/Salvage Something-
Dave repaired the roosting bar in the coop after it came undone. Glad he's handy! He also is looking at re-habbing his bicycle so he can start riding again. Not sure if mine is salvageable, pretty heavy for me. We decided to prune the apple tree ourselves and save some $$$. 

Mar 3, 2019

Not Quite Spring- Chickens, Decor and More, Setting Up An Indoor Greenhouse

Not Quite Spring- Chickens, Decor and More-
We have had one snowstorm after another. After another. We had 4" of snow early last week overnight. It rained the next morning, making for a sloppy commute. Rained the next two days. We finally had some SUN yesterday, with gorgeous deep blue skies and a few puffy clouds-

We ran errands, washed our cars, bought some stuff. With the dry weather I was finally able to clean my car windows really well. I can see! With a break in the weather we had planned on Dave cleaning out the coop (I can't clean it with my allergies/asthma). We use the deep litter method so we deep clean the coop once every 3 months. I clean the roosting areas about every day or so. We used to compost all the pine shavings from the deep litter, but our soil level has been raised up so much over the years that we now send it to the city's compost program. We had a coupon for a local feed store and bought two bales of pine shavings so we would have an extra one on hand, as well as a few other things.

First we let the chickens out and I let them free range in the backyard while I watched them. It was 45 degrees and nippy but at least the sun was out! They really had a blast getting out into the fresh, wet soil and found tons of worms-




 bottoms up!

 Sarah on the right

First Dave used a snow shovel to remove most of the litter and put into our large city compost tote on wheels. Then he went through with a shovel to get the rest, next used a shop vac to get all the shelves and the corners. He started from the top and went down-

Hole in the middle goes to the attached sun room

He did the floor last. He used our mini leaf blower to blast out all the rest. In the warmer weather I would usually put down Diatomaceous Earth at this point. Since it is still so cold it's not really needed. It was 22 this morning! I use that during warmer weather to keep the bugs down. Next he put in all the fresh pine shavings, I deep cleaned the water fount and put the chickens back into the chicken yard. It was a great day to do it! Next month we'll take down the sun room and that will open more space for them outside in the warmer weather.

All clean!

After I put away my Valentine's Day decor I wasn't quite ready to put out spring items with all the snow on the ground. I don't like to decorate too early. I kind of laugh when I see people who put their Christmas trees up after Halloween or the day after Thanksgiving. I did put our Christmas tree up years ago, the day after Thanksgiving, because I worked full time, had 3 kiddos and we had a four day weekend. Now I like to wait till things are closer. I did have to laugh when I went to Trader Joe's last week and saw Irish soda bread out for St. Patrick's Day. Now that it's March I kind of understand! I bought a loaf to try, delicious, with buttermilk, raisins, and caraway seeds. So here's some of my not quite spring decor that I have out right now-

Front entry with some blue

Fern plaques front entry

Homemade lemon topiary on a wood slice are my coffee table

 Top of my bookcase with some branches with moss

Small entertainment center top

My favorite chicken my daughter gave me!

Small live lavender for inside, will plant it outside when it warms up

My dining room shelf with my freshly chalk painted clock and lemons

Setting Up An Indoor Greenhouse-
"Spring" here can be tough. It can be unusually cold, warm, sleeting, snowing, or dry. We bought a little outdoor greenhouse to start seeds in a couple years ago. We tried it outdoors and it was just too unstable and cold. My plan was to start more from seeds and save money. You can also buy more of a variety of seed to start that you will typically see in nurseries. Boise doesn't have that many nurseries to choose from, so that doesn't help. This winter I thought we could just set it up inside a spare bedroom! I knew we'd need a grow light. We bought this yesterday with our coupon, $15.00-

Under counter grow light

We can attach it with tie wraps to the frame. We'll set it up this week and I'll start planting seeds. I have a nice collection of flowers, herbs, pumpkins and veggies. We're having some family over for a birthday today, so not enough time this weekend. I'll post photos when it's up! Are you ready for Spring? I am!!!

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