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 29, 2019

Independence Days Challenge

Independence Days Challenge-
We have finally hit a wonderful stretch of dry weather! Blue skies and milder, but still cold at night. 33 degrees is forecast for tonight, with more of the same the next four days. We covered our newly planted herb box with row cover for protection. Local folks are planting tomatoes, I hope they're covering those! The fruit trees are gorgeous, with tons of blossoms. So here's a look at what we've been up to!

1. Plant Something-
Filled up my herb box, all but one of my plants died over the winter. Lost my rosemary and thyme. Re-planted those, plus cilantro and Italian parsley. Need to buy thyme as the store was out. It was nice to see the big box store selling organic herbs plants! 

Dave also planted the cold frame, with Collard greens, Curly kale and Rainbow Swiss chard. We covered it with bird netting, otherwise the birds will eat them. The mixed lettuce is doing well, nice and green. 

I bought a nice Spanish Lavender topiary that I transplanted into larger pot, love the flowers!


I added some sparkly broken flagstone

2. Harvest Something-
Lots of eggs, sometimes 4 per day! Hopefully we will have lots of fruit this year, based on the look of the fruit trees! We have an apple, pear and peach tree-

Apple blossoms

3. Preserve/Store Something-
Freezing extra foods. Fruit canning will come soon!

4. Manage Reserves- Get a Good Deal/Barter/Stock Up/Prep-
Did a major clean out of  kitchen cupboards and fridge. Bought a lot of bulk grains, nuts and seeds. Luckily we have a Grocery Outlet and Natural Grocer's close by, good deals there! We found out a new Trader Joe's will be built closer to out house, nice! There's one downtown near where I work but traffic is crazy sometimes, and I'd like to go on the weekends when I have more time. 

5. Eat the Food- Try New Foods/Recipe-
Getting lots of new plant based recipe ideas, great source here Forksoverknives Recipes . The class we're taking has a recipe book as well, and we always ate some vegetarian foods before. As you know we'll keep eating eggs! Having your own chickens clinches the deal for us. Last week I made  whole grain pasta with homemade pesto, asparagus, with 2 eggs on top, a little Parmesan cheese. Delish! I learned about Jack Fruit as well, a good meat substitute with huge health benefits. This weekend we tried Trader Joe's veggie burgers, with avocado, salsa, a little Cojito cheese on whole wheat buns-

Very nutritious!

I made my Greek chicken salad with garbanzo beans instead, pretty good-

I saw this recipe, good since we have lots of eggs. I thought I'd try these-

6. Build Community Food Systems-
No farmer's market trips yet here, too early for the good stuff! I like to buy local apples, taters and other summer crops I don't/can't grow. 

7. Recycle/Re-Use-
Filled up one of my old pots with nasturtium seeds on the deck. I will some other old ones with our indoor Basil starts, too cold right now. I'll fill the rest with some Calendula seeds. All the weeds, grasses, etc. went into the compost bin.

8. Skill Up-
Learning a lot about plant-based eating and the huge heath benefits. I'll be off some long term meds soon, from what I can tell. Losing weight, and my tummy is getting flatter! More info later as time goes on.

9. Regenerate What is Lost/Salvage Something- 
Our front center flow bed in the front yard was pretty overgrown with grasses after 10 years. I thought it was too green and we needed more colors. I bought three new perennial plants, pollinators too! Dave cleared out the invasive stuff, composted, planted, and bark dusted. Looks so much better! Under $25.00 investment for the whole thing. Just a lot of digging, used our own compost, and all the grassed went into the compost bin-

Heavy clay soil around flower bed, Dave added compost

Overgrown with grasses

Added blue Salvia, tall pink Thrift, and Red Twig Dogwood in the middle has room!

Multi colored pink daisies in front

Apr 27, 2019

Bless This Mess Comedy Farming TV Show

Bless This Mess Comedy Farming TV Show-
I'd heard about this show coming up a while back, and watched episode two, hysterical!!! Lots of info here From there- Young couple Mike and Rio leave their home in New York to move to a Nebraska farm Mike inherited from his great-aunt, only to find it badly neglected and occupied by a senile old man named Rudy. Then there's the screaming goat and it's chicken friend, and it only gets better from there! From ABC it airs on Tuesdays at 8:30 pm central. You can watch the first 2 episodes online if you missed them at  Six more to come (I think) as it's a mid-season replacement. I 'm happy the ratings are looking great! Enjoy!!!

Apr 22, 2019

Easy, Fun Vegetarian Dish Recipes!

Easy, Fun Vegetarian Dish Recipes-
Our more plant-based switch is doing well! Feeling better, losing some weight and am hopeful this will be easier to sustain than I originally thought. We're doing a class, but more about that later... So...

I had to add this first! These spicy black bean cakes, from an early Katie Brown Entertains cook book, are an all time fave here! Everyone who's tried them loved them! Couldn't find it online, so I copied off my cook book page. The Tabasco is a must or you'd have bland beans. Here you go...

Spicy Black Bean Cakes

You'll need:
4 cups canned black beans well drained and rinsed, or start with dried black beans if you like. 
Half a cup of thinly sliced green onions or scallions. 
Half a cup of chopped roasted red bell peppers. 
6 TBL of flour, more for dusting
Two teaspoons of Tabasco sauce, this makes the recipe!!! 
Two teaspoons of salt, yes you need that much!
One teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons vegetable oil, 
1 cup sour cream (optional) and   2 tablespoons of chopped chives.

First- in a bowl lightly mash the beans, keeping some large pieces intact but creating some paste. Mix the beans together with the green onions, roasted red peppers, flour, Tabasco sauce and pepper. Form patties in your hand about half the size of a hamburger. Dust both size of the patties with flour. Heat oil in the pan over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until the oil is very hot. Fry cakes for about 5 minutes on each side, until the outside is crispy and fried. You can put in the oven to keep warm if you are making more. Top of sour cream mixed with chives, but this is optional if you're not doing dairy. Keeps well in the fridge!

Amish Baked Oatmeal

Another fave, and easy to substitute nut milk for dairy, and use an egg substitute. I made the original for Easter breakfast, it was all gone fast! Recipe here- Amish Baked Oatmeal  You could also use other kinds of fruits, like blueberries and other stone fruits. It's great because you add simple ingredients, put in the oven and walk away. Keeps well in the fridge as well. 

Apr 18, 2019

Moving To A More Plant Based Diet, New Flowers!

Moving To A More Plant Based Diet-
Dave and I started recently moving to more of a plant-based diet. Basically eating a lot more whole foods, fruits and vegetables, less meat and dairy. We actually never ate a ton of meat anyway, maybe a couple times a week. There's tons of information online, but one of the tools I found really helpful was this one 5-to-1 Rule For Fiber In Packaged Foods  Basically you want to really increase your fiber to keep you feeling fuller longer and to be healthier. The 5 to 1 rule is you divide the total number of carbs by the total number of fiber grams. For instance if you have something that has 30 grams of carbs, and only 3 grams of fiber, that's 10, which is not good. If you have 30 grams of carbohydrates, with 6 grams of fiber, that's a 5 which is acceptable. Under 5 is even better! Basically the more fiber the better. It's always better to eat food as grown, which is basically the less processing/cooking the better. I'll post more information over time about what we're doing and we'll see how it goes. We're not giving up our eggs since we have our own chickens! What was really sad was learning that one of of three children in the U.S. will become DIABETIC! ONE OUT OF THREE! For parents this is going to come down to being diligent, reading labels of everything you feed your kids and making better choices. More whole grains, less sugar, no soda, no high sugar foods like the popular Gogurts and cereals. Luckily there are lots of options now.

Bowl of Beauty Japanese Peony

New Flowers!
One of the realities of gardening is that you plant things and sometimes they die. Sometimes it's years later. Or sometimes you just want something different! We had two plants that finally had to be composted. I started doing some research about what to replace them with and found an interesting info. Since one of the areas was in shade and sun it was a little bit more tricky. It's right by our front entryway and front door and so I wanted something that would have nice foliage, possibly flowers, that would do well there. I found this nice article Shade Gardening Top 10 Shrubs For Shade  I stumbled on the Oakleaf Hydrangea. I did some research and thought it would be a good fit for there. We went to two nurseries today and I found the one in the Ruby color in stock!

Another flowering shrub we bought was a butterfly bush, a Blue Knight-

We got a lighter color of butterfly bush since the one in the front yard is called Black Knight. We looked at several peonies for sale the nursery and we chose that one. We planted those on the weekend with a cool rainy week ahead. All three are also pollinators, which is something important to us.

We also planted some mixed Mesclun lettuce mix today in a cold frame. The seeds are only a few years old so I'm hoping they're still viable? Time will tell. I store my seeds inside in a cool dark area. If they don't germinate I may buy some more and try again!

Apr 8, 2019

Seeds Planted! Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble, Pasta Salad With Salami, Being Sick Sucks, But....

Seeds Planted!
It has really been raining, a very soggy yard we have! After being sick twice in a month we finally got everything together to plant! Bought potting soil, more trays and more seeds. Dave and I worked together in the garage and got everything planted and labelled. I had the idea to set up a work station with the saw horses and plywood. It was raining outside, again, so it worked great! The white bucket had potting soil and a scoop.

Here's the haul:

Herbs- Italian Parsley, Cilantro, Dill, Basil

Veggies- Melrose Italian Peppers, Red Marconi Italian Peppers, Lemon Cukes, Rainbow Swiss Chard, Creole Collard Greens, Yellow Crookneck squash, Picklebush cukes, Zucchini.

Flowers- Nasturtiums, Calendulas, Cornflowers and giant Marigolds.

Ornamental pumpkins- Howden Jack O'Lanterns, orange Jack B Little, White Baby Boo.

The rest will be planted out side- 2 kinds of poppies, corn, carrots, radishes and beans.

Trays went into the bedroom rack and we will rotate trays with the grow light-

Shelves pretty full

After seeing some old photos on my blog, I decided to move some perennials out of the backyard garden and use for more veggies. I'll move them to another area in the back or front yard. Better use of space. Starting seeds will save a lot of money. Since we couldn't use the greenhouse frame outside, with the crazy weather, inside was a better choice. With the grow light we'll rotate the trays, and move things outside when it warms up. We'll be about 6-8 weeks ahead of time, and save lots of $$$. It's a win win!

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble-

Seeing our rhubarb growing, but not ready, reminded me I had some in the freezer from last year! I thawed some, along with organic strawberries, and made some dessert. I used this  minus the vanilla and nuts. Came out great with a little whipping cream.

Photo from Allrecipes
Pasta Salad With Salami-
I wanted something easy for the weekend, and this was it! I added about 1/2 cup diced celery, and only used 1 packet of dressing mix, too salty otherwise. Keeps great!

Being Sick Sucks, But....
Last week I woke up at 1 a.m. on a work night with horrible cramps and diarrhea. The worst. I was up and down all night thinking it would stop, but no. At 5 a.m. I asked Dave to get me something from our hall closet. We keep our OTC meds there. I took something, then called in sick. Had to take a few more doses. I got up at 1.p.m., and made myself drink water, and eat some watery oatmeal. Late some soft fruit. I slept better that night, then got up to go to work. Then the weakness hit me, called in sick again. I went to work the next day, still a bit out of it. Friday felt quite a bit better. Luckily I had- PTO to cover the time loss More importantly, we had remedies on hand! I ALWAYS have Homeopathic cold, cough and flu remedies on hand. I also keep more "modern" drugs as well. It really pays to keep things on hand, so they're there when you need them! Be prepared!

Apr 3, 2019

Free Water, Spring Gardening Clean Up Starts, Steel Cut Oats w/Fruit and Nuts, Aluminum Cans = Art

Free Water-
With so many people going out and buying water, and having a home water bill, it might be odd to see something that says free water. That's where rain barrels come into play! At our last house when we had a 1/3 of an acre lot with high city water bills, our rain barrels were really helpful! One (or more) 55 gallon rain barrel is a great addition to any yard or garden. You can use it to water all kinds of things. Most rain barrels are elevated on a wooden frame or concrete blocks so that it is gravity-fed through a hose, making sure it's level. You can also use for watering cans for smaller jobs. We have ours elevated for that reason, easier to water larger sections. One of the other more important reasons would be if you had a water outage. Depending on the circumstances if your water was cut off  due to a local emergency, (fed through a pumping system that failed or from contamination) you would have still access to water. You would first have to filter your water into a safe drinkable water. This is where you would buy a really good quality camping or backpacking water filter to remove any bacteria, etc . We have one on hand that we could use worse case scenario.  If you needed water to simply flush your toilets you could use the water as-is.  Most garden stores and big box gardening departments have rain barrels ready made, ours was about $35 several years ago-

Screen on lid for filtering out debris, diverter off of downspout

You can also make your own barrel which we did previously, but is a little trickier. You basically buy a 55 gallon barrel, drill a hole in the bottom and buy the plumbing hardware. I do not advise this, as it's hard to get a good fit. Once you have your rain barrel you need to decide where to put it and it's easy enough to find drop-down diverters to add your gutter downspout. They are paintable to match your house or trim. We have this design-


We added ours during our new gutter installation, a perfect time. You can add them later though, just needs different planning. You basically cut a gap in the downspout to be above your barrel. Screw on the diverter, that's it. We bought a small section of screen to attach with the ring on the barrel. In a freezing climate in the winter it's a good idea to always empty your rain barrel for the winter. We had ours sitting out empty, then last week I adjusted the diverter into the down position to fill up the barrel. After one good rain storm in one day the barrel was 3/4 of the way full! So there is free water out there, some people who set up multiple rain barrels and even very large water catchment systems. Some have above ground, or below-ground, depending on your budget, your needs and preferences. Depends on your climate as well. You may need to check with local ordinances as well, as it varies in some states if you can collect water. I personally believe if water falls on your property you should be able to collect it, but that's another story...

Gardening bench ready!

Spring Gardening Clean Up Starts-
Everything has really started greening up here! Work-wise fruit trees have been pruned, shrubs have been trimmed, mowing has started, and a few things have been rearranged. We had two shrubs that we finally dug up and put in our city compost bin. One was a very large butterfly bush that we loved but about 90% of the shrub was dead, had a very woody base with hardly any live branches left. It was time to simply replace it. Another was a ornamental cherry shrub that was planted near our front door, that just didn't do very well there. When a plant is stressed repeatedly it has a tendency to have bugs/diseases, and the shrub had both consistently. Not enough light in that spot. Ditto it went to the compost tote. I'm a big believer that your front yard, driveway and entryway says a lot about you. You want it clean, tidy, neat, attractive and nicely planted. If your back yard is a pit, at least not one can see it from the street! This doesn't always apply to rural areas where you have much larger acreage to have all your heavy equipment and vehicles out. It's sad for me to see homes becoming an eyesore from lack of care.  We have a large three-story Victorian home in our neighborhood. It's used to be gorgeous, a real gem! Tons of gingerbread, had pretty landscaping-

"before" photo

After 10+ years, the paint is peeling off, the house is sinking in spots, and it's just falling apart. I wish someone with a lot of money would buy it and bring it back. It's just sad that people let their homes go for some reason. Sometimes the owners die, become disabled, who knows.

Dave and I both take a lot of pride in how our home looks, so a minor re-do of the front yard will fix that! I'm doing some research on what kind of medium sized shrub I can plant in mostly shade near the front door. I think a boxwood may fit the area, maybe.  Dave has added compost to the raised veggie bed in back, with more ready to spread. We bought a new pair of clippers for pruning, our old ones were toast. I scrubbed all of our outside windows last weekend with my handy Windex kit, works great!


You can reach hard to clean areas. I've had mine for years, just buy new pads every year or so. I can see out my windows now! Winter always blows dust and rain, makes a real mess of the windows. Also works great on our backyard glass-topped table. I cleaned/set up, our garden work bench. Great to have everything back in place. We always cover the top in plastic for winter-

Next projects are-
Taking down the "sun room" for the hens, and remove storm window from the bottom. A big screen goes in there. It's been good we've had the sun room up with all the rain! Trimming all the canes of our berries, cleaning out any debris from our perennial beds, fertilizing, and more pruning to come. I'll be starting seeds soon, just hasn't happened yet. Too much weekend time sucked with car repairs, misc stuff. Luckily it's barely April!

Steel Cut Oats w/Fruit and Nuts-
I've been using some of my steel cuts oats recently. I read about using toppings on the oats and thought why not just mix them in? I decided to soak some oats overnight Saturday night. I used (check online for more info) boiled, hot water, a pinch of salt and the oats. I think I did a 3 to 1 ration, but don't remember where I saw that online, sorry. Just stir in the oats, cover, let sit out overnight. Next morning cook with a little milk added, 1 cup raisins, 1 cup chopped pecans, 1 cup rough chopped home-canned apple slices, and a dash of cinnamon. I cooked about 20 minutes until hot and cooked through. It was wonderful, filling, frugal, healthy and will keep for about 1 week in the fridge. The nice thing is you could really vary this a lot. You could change the nuts, add berries, etc.

Aluminum Cans = Art
I snapped this shot at a local grocery store. It was part of a beer display, pretty cute! Some gloves, tin snips and you too can make yard art! I personally love the ball with petals on the top right! Love the recycling!!! 

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