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 29, 2022

The Giant Tree Trim! Success Wintering Over Veggies w/Row Covers, Seafood Lowland Boil Recipe, Mason Brand = Pur Brand

The Giant Tree Trim!
Spring is here! While I have been feeling the blogger blahs, I am ready to start planting seeds! We'll set up our seed starter stand and get things going under the grow lights. Last fall we decided to get more sun on our backyard vegetable garden area. I could see the writing on the wall with potential food shortages and other issues at that time. We have a huge maple tree that we absolutely love! Gives us tons of much-needed shade on the hot west side of the house. One of the challenges though has been getting enough sun over the garden. Quite a few years ago we used a really great tree service (Wolff) and they trimmed the south side of the tree enough to open up the garden and keep the tree healthy. Tree preservation here is key. They've also done some other trimmings of the tree, taking down some dangerous huge branches. We called them again this winter and got a bid on thinning the south side  again. I had them leave enough branches, however, over the coop to give the hens some shade. Our huge tree you can see from the front yard-

I left the chickens in the coop in the early morning with snacks. I went over with the tree crew to try to keep the chicken's sunroom intact. They did a great job! Sometimes you have to make these tough decisions for food production. We also had them trim back our apple tree in the front, so that we can reach it for better harvesting. When a fruit tree gets too tall it gets to be impossible to harvest the fruit at the top. We had them trim it a few years ago and this year just had them shorten the top a bit. Problem solved. 

Tree over the coop, left some for shade

Much more sun on the right! 

Tree all trimmed! 

Success Wintering Over Veggies w/Row Covers-
In the photo above you can see the white row covers covering some of our winter veggies. Usually in the fall I have always ripped out our collard greens, etc. and gave them to the chickens. This year I decided to cover them with row cover and see if they would survive the winter or not. They are collard greens and kale. I cover them really well with a double layer of  row cover and secured them with some heavy rocks. Other than that I didn't really do anything else. Dave and I uncovered them a few days ago and they look great! If some of the leaves are bitter we can give them to the chickens for feed otherwise we will be eating them. Row cover is so cheap here, about $10 for a long packaged piece it's worth the investment. Just another way to increase food production! I expect they will really take off with the warmer weather now with some water and a little bit of manure.

Seafood Lowland Boil Recipe-
Last week I saw an old PBS episode of Emeril the Chef, and it reminded me of an old recipe I used to do. Years ago I saw some travel show where they did a lowland boil. It's traditionally done with a spicy broth with crawfish, beer, vegetables and sausage. One of the secrets was putting in a can of beer. Old Bay Seasoning is used, easily found at all grocery stores. I used this recipe as a base  To do it economically I bought a bag of frozen seafood mix. It has shrimp, scallops, squid, and muscles. I bought an extra bag of medium-sized frozen shrimp. I went ahead and bought some fresh Old Bay seasoning. I followed the basic recipe here but cut it in half. I also eliminated the sausage, trying to be a little bit healthier. I did about 2 to 3 quarts of water with almost a half a container of Old Bay seasoning, onions quartered, Yukon Gold potatoes chopped, six large chopped carrots. At add one can of plain beer, don't use a lager or anything dark! Adjust water as needed. After the vegetables were fairly well cooked through I added the seafood for about 15 to 20 minutes. I served this with cornbread and it was great! Keep well in the fridge. 

Mason Brand = Pur Brand-
Last year I noticed Pur brand lids showed up in stores. Now I'm seeing jars with both brands listed. Looks like a merger or something similar. Luckily I am seeing canning lids in grocery stores! Nice to be able to stock up. 

Mar 17, 2022

Preparedness 21.0, Crazy Spring Weather, Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Photo from Wheat Rises to14 Year High

Preparedness 21.0/ Wheat Shortages-
If you've been watching the news you may have started seeing some pretty major shortages of wheat (and other grains) coming up. Fertilizer for farmers too. If you stop to think about how many products are made of wheat it gets pretty mind-boggling. It's not just bread/baked goods but things like pasta, cooking grains, etc. I decided to buy some extra wheat berries while the price was still pretty low and I encourage you to do the same. Manual grinders are not that expensive to grind your own flour and you can also grind other grains.  I should add that you can also freeze flour, if you see a good deal (and have freezer space) put in a well sealed plastic bag to keep the moisture out. You can use a vacuum sealer bags too and freeze for longer storage. I think right getting more prepared is really really urgent. I don't want to be gloom and doom, but the flip side is I don't want to be just another blog about arts & crafts saying how wonderful things are. I have some co-workers who were really concerned about being able to afford gas to get to their jobs. There's also massive droughts, predictions of more on the horizon and the climate issues will affect this as well. There are so many pieces of this puzzle that I've lost a little bit of sleep over it, but I'm getting past that now. Just do whatever you can NOW, buy extra canned goods, fuel, water filters and plant some food that you can eat. And don't let other people dissuade you from doing this because they will be the ones asking you later for help. Stand firm. Read this-  UN Says Food Prices Jump to Hit Record High in Feb  Walmart has recently put limits on how may items you can buy, with the registers stopping when you check out. I really think it's good to get news from various sources, and expand your knowledge base. 
My Nebraska grandparents and family during the depression

I think about what my grandparents in the depression, how they survived in a rural area being pretty self-sufficient, but also community sufficient. It does rather boggle the mind that a couple of generations from the 1930's that there are people who think that cooking is sticking something in a microwave. The good news on the flip side was the whole movement of people who started baking bread during lockdowns. People also planted gardens and tried things, hopefully that will not fade. I hope everyone is doing well out there and situated. Things going on here, and in other parts of the world, maybe much worse than being portrayed. Time will tell. 

Crazy Spring Weather-
We've gone from the twenties to the sixties and back again, sometimes I feel like I have whiplash! But the great news is the grass is starting to green up, flowers have come up, like our crocuses. Nice to have some days where it's actually warmer and we can open the windows! We had some much-needed rain with more on the way this weekend. Truly great in the high desert to get any kind of rain especially in the springtime, help sings green up.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
We celebrated early, as I love corned beef and veggies! I wasn't going to buy any beef, then found a great deal on corned beef at Costco. I simmered it for hours and made an apple pie for dessert-

cabbage and carrotts

The apples came from our tree last fall, just thawed. I made a "Stephenson's Kansas City " apple pie, just add the juice of one orange and 1 tsp. lemon zest to a standard recipe, delish! 

Trader Joe's also has amazing Irish Soda bread this time of year. Has raisins, buttermilk and caraway seeds. I bought a couple extra loaves to freeze. It tender and most, great for a snack and you can toast as well. 

Mar 2, 2022

Increasing Food Production/Garden Project for Resiliency

Increasing Food Production/Garden Project for Resiliency-
I found over the years that gardening is definitely a learning experience. With spring around the corner, and some temperatures in the 60's, we're looking ahead. Last fall I started thinking with the state of the world. I felt we really needed to increase our food production on our Little Homestead. Because we have a really large maple tree in our backyard we have very limited sunlight. When we first bought the house we laid out the back yard garden logically because that's where the sun was. Later we put up the coop which fit in that area well-

Sunroom will come down next month

Last fall I was looking critically at how, and why, we use the space we have. I love having the chickens in the garden because they pull the weeds and eat the bugs, but you do have to protect your plants. Protecting the plants eats up space and requires monitoring-

lots of useable space!

more protection

I finally came to the conclusion what we needed to do was extend the run that goes along our fence line further down about another eight or ten feet-

current run in the shade area

During planting season we will cut off the coop access to the main garden. We will close the main door and they can use the sunroom entrance. We can plant more intensively and the chickens would have a larger run to hang out in. I can do some supervised free-ranging in the garden. Late in the fall when we put the garden to bed we can open up that area again to the chickens. They will have lots of space over the winter and into spring. We need to feed ourselves more as a priority. Dave and I went out in the fall and bought another set of panels to match the existing ones we added last year-

With the matching panels it will look nice and fit in with the landscaping. Here's the extension area we will use-

you can see the arrows

This will create a longer run in a dead space, the hens can rototill the area, has more nice shade in the summer and the rest of the garden will be more protected. All in all I think it's a good compromise! We will also have the south side of our maple tree trimmed back soon. It's expensive but you need a pro with a huge bucket truck-

Tree hanging over garden

The trimming will remove some of the branches to open up more light, but still give shade to the coop. I will schedule when I'm home to supervise. Looking forward to gardening season!!!!

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