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 27, 2020

Garden Veggies Progress and Cold Frame Fail / Reboot, Chicks Coming!

Cold frame

Garden Veggies Progress and Cold Frame Fail / Reboot-
Summer is in the air! It's been milder here, low 70's, then rained this morning, sun's out now. We're headed for 80+ degrees for Wednesday, then cooler the next day by 15 degrees. We took off our row cover on the cold frame Saturday and added elevated bird netting. We found three of my butter lettuces were gone, one cabbage and most of the seedlings either died or were eaten by bugs. Bummer. That's a huge Comfrey in back, will divide and make some Comfrey tea for fertilizer!

Mixed lettuce survivor, Mizuna, Japanese Mustard Greens

Luckily I had leftover seeds so we replanted most of it. Fingers crossed!

David ripped out the dying shrub for me and so I planted a patch of Borage, and herb that is very medicinal, edible, a pollinator, leaves taste like cucumber and it's a great food for chickens! It has pretty blue flowers, tough and drought resistant. I couldn't figure out what to plant in that spot and then Borage came to mind when I saw some seeds. It's really a good fit, pretty flowers, also called Star Flower-

They'll fill in the space nicely and we can use for edibles ourselves or for the chickens. If you've never heard of it read up, it's amazing! I made a big sign so I won't forget to water it-

Grow babies!

Our other area where Dave removed the non-productive raspberries got planted. I composted and planted two kinds of radishes, small carrots, bunching green onions and collard greens. I decided not to plant Collards any until I saw the new Somewhere South show on PBS with chef Vivian Howard. After seeing some of her recipes, as well as other people's recipes, I decided to grow some again. I see Collard Kraut in my future! Clean slate after pulling raspberries-

Get mostly sun in the summer, with some after noon shade-

I thought about moving our lovely bamboo but was afraid I'd kill it, so it's staying. Adds some nice winter interest.

Seeds planted 

On the other side of the Bamboo I planted some Kale starts. We put bird netting over them as well. At this point we're out of bird netting so we'll have to buy some more if needed. It's funny that the birds will eat the small leafy vegetables but pretty much leave them alone when they get big-

Our biggest challenge is working around our huge Maple tree we love! It's on the West side of the house and gives us tons of shade in the summer! We had it trimmed a few times and thinned more on the side over the veggie bad. It's just one of those things! 

Love our tree!!!

I let the hens out to free range our side yard, after Dave and I moved the tomato cages and extra chicken wire. Late yesterday Dave deep cleaned and weeded. We'll be planting Blue Lake bush beans again there, they did great last year! Had our last bag of frozen home grown beans last night-

Field trip!

Chicks Coming!
Speaking of chickens.... Locally all of the chicks for sale have been flying out of the stores, so to speak! I couldn't quite decide if I wanted to buy more chicks or not since our two older ones (6 years old) are laying pretty productively right now. We lost two of our new pullets last fall that we had a dog get in our yard. Given the current state of world affairs I decided to buy three more to boost the flock numbers. I called a hatchery that we usually buy from, Dunlap's in Caldwell, and they were selling out really fast and kind of unpredictably. After I called them I found out that I could place an order a month out, which would be great! Since you can't just put baby chicks outside it would be great to have them inside as little as possible, since the weather will be warmer in June. After looking at their stock here is what I ordered...

I one Golden Sex Link, a hybrid, had one before, nice birds-

and one Brown Leghorn, great layers-

and one Silver Laced Wyandotte, gorgeous birds! 

I like to get a mix of breeds so I can tell the hens apart in case of injury or disease. I'll pick up the end of May. They'll be inside until they mature and feather out, then transition to outdoor and integrate to the flock. More eggs will be good to share with our kids, or barter, depending on how life goes.  

Apr 24, 2020

Growing A Huge Amount of Food In A Backyard, Building a Coop/Chicken Run

Growing A Huge Amount of Food In A Backyard-
I found that the Gardening Australia group and Happen Films on Youtube has some great videos! I love these two as they're short and packed with ideas! This one is called Inspiring Woman Growing a Huge Amount of Food in a Tiny Backyard in the City!  I love her cute little quails!

This is like part 2, as it was filmed a little later, called A Highly Productive Small-Scale Urban Garden-

During one the films I noticed she recycled an old barbecue into a mini seed sprouting and planting station, here's some screen shots, great idea!

Aerial shot of her long narrow lot-

Building a Coop/Chicken Run-
Another fun video-

I will say I was shocked how much chickens cost in Australia!! You can buy grown hens here for under $10.00 or less, depending on where you live. In the U.S. they always suggest quarantining your birds for a few weeks, unless she bought them all from the same breeder. Loved her reinforcing job on the fence line.

Apr 22, 2020

Happy Earth Day! Investing Money For Homesteading/Life

Happy Earth Day! 

Investing Money For Homesteading/Life-
Dave and I are blessed to be working (from home) and I get paid on the low work days when I'm not needed. With our "stimulus money" I had been thinking ahead to some home/homestead investments we might do. I'll add here, I don't get any kickbacks from these company's, just sharing where I bought them.

First- I was lucky to be able to do an out of state library loan of the Retrosuburbia book last year. I could only keep it for two weeks, way too short!  At $85.00 I couldn't justify buying it at the time. Recently I found out they have a U.S. distributor and the author lowered the price during Covid times for more access. I ordered a copy today for $62.00 as a "investment". It's worth every penny in my opinion. The author David Holmgren is a very well-versed Permaculture teacher and innovator. The book is filled with amazing color photos, diagrams and info for the beginner and more! They have a great Facebook page under the same name, great before and after projects, lots of new members, great advice, all free. Check out the great book trailer here-

Description from where you can buy the book- This 592 page manual shows how people can downshift and retrofit their homes, gardens, communities and, above all, themselves to be more self-organized, sustainable and resilient into an uncertain future. It promises a challenging but exciting mix of satisfying work, a more meaningful way of living and hope for the next generation. Holmgren has written the book deliberately with an southern Australian focus, drawing heavily on his own direct experience. The concepts and actions can be applied in most suburban environments. RetroSuburbia is divided into three main sections: the Built, the Biological and the Behavioral along with the introductory section ‘Setting the scene’.

Next on the list- I been wanting a garden hod (basket)  for washing our home grown produce outside. Keeps the soil out of the kitchen! I'd seen some wood ones, most very expensive. Making one wasn't in the cards right now, time constraints. I found this one, which is collapsible, and love the design! $30.00 for the medium size. I bought at, I've bought a few odd things over the years with good quality. Three colors to choose from-

Next on the list- Our one bedroom is the last one to not have insulated curtains. We have wide, heavy plastic blinds that came with the house. I added a soft sheer curtain as a swag to soften it-

After spending about 3 hours online I decided to get these insulated curtains. This is the same company that we've bought all our other curtains from. They last for years, wash well, hang to dry on the rod. They have a great bonded lining, unlike cheaper ones. I found this pattern, to soften up the room. It'll will be much shorter to fit the window. With light sage green walls, ditto sage carpeting, and white trim, I wanted something light with a floral pattern. I found cream with blue flowers, a nice design.  It will keep the room much cooler in the summer, and warmer in the winter. The room faces East and South, on a corner. After pictures coming soon!

We'd already bought two more grow lights, to add to our bedroom mini greenhouse, which has been great. Seeds started on the top shelf with old lights doing well- 

These peppers took 5 weeks to sprout!!! 

Knowing there might be a run on some veggie starts later I found some various tomatoes, peppers and Nasturtiums today.  I bought these from a local feed supply store D and B Supply  I even found a pony pack with four tall tomatoes for $3.00!

Since it's too cold to put plant I added them to the mini greenhouse, tucked in warm and cozy, under the two new lights. We'll wait a few more weeks til it warms up to move outside-

I planted my slicing cucumber seeds and added those, using a recycled milk jug bottom-

There's a few other random things I'm thinking of to "invest" in. Still adding more dry goods, like beans, which have been hard to find. I FINALLY found yeast last week! Score! I can finally make some yeast breads. I'll be stocking up on canning supplies as well, who knows how the food chain will go out a ways?

Apr 21, 2020

Jamie Oliver's Egg Mango Chutney Flatbreads, Easy Berry Smoothie, Garden Cleanup/ Barkdust

Jamie Oliver's Egg Mango Chutney Flatbreads-
It's going to be 70 today! I took off our heavy comforter a few days ago and switched to a blanket and quilt. The pollen count is horrendous, itchy eyes and sneezing time, but it will pass. I love being home and listening to the birds and the sound of the pond (Dave filled) gurgling. I'm off work today, but yesterday worked with my window open, had fresh air, so nice. A while back this recipe jumped out at me when I watched Jamie Oliver's show on PBS. This show has only 5 Ingredients Recipes Having our own eggs again, finally, I decided to make it Egg Mango Chutney Flatbreads, I used Trader Joe's mango chutney and subbed red pepper flakes for the sliced red peppers. For some reason they're heard to find except in the summer. The dough was really easy, but I did add a TBL of water as I only had Greek yogurt which was thick. They fried up great, were soft and fluffy! I poached/fried my eggs, since fresh ones can be tough to peel. Smeared the flatbread with chutney, dotted with yogurt, topped with eggs, red pepper flakes, a little salt and pepper. We had this for dinner and was perfect!!! I could see making the flatbread and using different toppings- beans, leftover meats, etc. I may try making some of my own peach chutney when the peaches get ripe. June's coming! I love having an early ripening variety...

Easy Berry Smoothie-
Today with my breakfast poached eggs and whole grain toast I made this Berry Smoothie  I missed the ones they sold at Costco, so I looked for a knockoff. This is it! Basically 1 cup frozen mixed berries and 1/2 cup apple juice. That's all. I used a little extra juice as our frozen strawberries were huge and tough to blend. Sorry I didn't have a clear glass (no straws) but these summer glasses do! It was nice and not too sweet. I could see adding in some pineapple or protein powder for something different. Enjoy!

Garden Cleanup/Barkdust-
We've added lots of homemade compost over the 14 years or so we've lived here. Living in a very hot/very cold climate mulching is a must. It protects your plants, holds in moisture, protects from freezing weather and keeps down the weeds. We buy bark dust every few years, spreading over weed guard fabric. After removing the debris from winter storms it was obvious it was time-

Exposed landscape fabric, yuck


Dave was able to borrow a pickup truck from a friend and bought 2 yards of local bark dust. He had weeded the front yard, I did most of the back. He spread the front and I did the back. Looks great!

Center flower bed

Mulched the 3 fruit trees too

I spent an almost hour just weeding this one bed! Added manure, compost, then the barkdust 

Ditto the blackberry bed, well fed and mulched!

Next on the list! South side yard when we grow beans, storage for winter. I came up with the idea to store the extra chicken wire rolls in the empty compost bin. We stopped composting yearly as the soil level is getting too high. We'll empty the area and I can put the two hens in there for a few hours and let them go to town! Next we'll weed and get ready to plant beans and squash, maybe pumpkins.  

Chicken food!

I had Dave dig up a very sick shrub I'd tried to nurse back to health for several years. It's in the chicken shade area. It's new space to plant, to the left of the shovels-

After we reorganized and build shelves in the our spare bedroom closet we didn't need this indoor/outdoor wire rack-

I brought it outside and put in an area that I can't seem to grow anything. Not sure if it's the soil but everything I've planted there has died since we've lived here. I'll fill the pots with herbs, maybe some small veggies, we'll see! Moving forward with planting more foods! Hopefully the local store will have some veggies in stock, otherwise we'll see how it goes...

Apr 19, 2020

Summery Corn Relish, Vivian Howard's Somewhere South

Summery Corn Relish-
With the warmer weather it was tome for some summery foods! It's been yard work weekend, but I wanted to squeeze in some homemade foods. This is my own recipe I came up with after reading many online, feel free to modify! Many people also can this. Keeps quite a while in the fridge, if it lasts that long! I love the stuff, has a nice crunch.

5 cans corn and the juice, (best using fresh, but not in season) 
1 each, diced/chopped Red bell pepper and Green bell pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup white sugar
1 Tsp Celery seed
1 Tsp Mustard seed
1 Tsp Turmeric
1 large diced red onion (you cold use white or yellow)
2 cups Apple Cider vinegar
1 Tsp Red Pepper flakes (or you could use diced Jalapenos)

Put everything into a non-reactive large pot, still well, bring to a boil. Next lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Transfer to jars, let cool and refrigerate. This recipe made 4 Qt. jars. Some recipes have added cucumber, hot peppers, or tomato. Play with it and make it your own! I served tonight with beer battered fish, homemade tartar sauce, and veggies. Put on top hot dogs, bean whatever!

Vivian Howard's Somewhere South-
I always loved PBS's A Chef's Life show with Vivian Howard, leader in the farm to table restaurant movement. She's very honest, funny and charming. I stumbled onto her new show last week and love it!!! Here's the description of her show from her website-

"After five seasons of “A Chef’s Life,” chef and author Vivian Howard serves as both student and guide in “Somewhere South.” Exploring cross-cultural dishes through the professional and personal relationships she has with southerners of many backgrounds, “Somewhere South” lets viewers meet their neighbors while exploring the foods that bind and define the American South — one dish at a time ". 

Her new website has recipes and other things from the show Somewhere South  A link for her full episode of What A Pickle is here What A Pickle, great ideas and looks at various foods!!! This episode really got me thinking about new kinds of fermenting I could do, very inspiring ideas. She has a great Facebook page with lots of fun posts, recipes and behind the scenes info.
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