Monday, December 19, 2011

The gardening year

This gardening year went on and on and on. I wasn't exhausted like some years in August. I had done some very good work neglecting it so I just wasn't hating my garden. Still the week before Thanksgiving when I still was ripening and processing tomatoes I decided it was time. With the twins birthdays and then Thanksgiving and then Christmas around the corner I just really needed to shift gears mentally. Feeding the last of the tomatoes to the compost bin was just the thing. Every year I vow to document my garden harvest. Next year will be the year!! Here is the pic of the tomato sauce I preserved several times this year. My own garlic, basil, oregano, peppers and a few batches with only my own tomatoes.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

What is wrong with all these garden haters!?

Got a minute? Go and try to support this lady and her garden.

Here is what I wrote.
I am writing regarding a garden at Hamlin MHC in Webberville. I have no idea what your position is on this issue but am aware that representatives will be meeting with the tenant to discuss her garden. All I want to say is this. There are a lot of horrible things going on in the world today. Everything from crime to the economy to serious health issues across our nation. People treating each other horribly for no other reason than that they can or that they are stressed and looking to take it out on one another. Please let's not be petty. Let a person have a little joy by having a garden, feeding themselves wholesome food that nurtures their body and their soul. Is it so much to ask?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Garlic braids

Dan and I used to live in Korea where we could buy garlic braids that looked just like this. Just looking at this picture makes me happy for that reason and to know that I have a year's worth of garlic that I grew! No irradiated garlic from China for me. And it was super easy. It might become my top crop recommendation!

What's growing in the garden

Raising veggies at the neighbor's
Raising kids in our back yard. Lettuce and spinach nearing its end for the season.
The other kids in my backyard!
The wild animals in our backyard! HA!

Growing food in the front yard

Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan is in trouble. For growing veggies in her front yard of all things! I have equated boobs to lawns now thanks to this issue. I know it is a leap for some but it just came to me so hear me out. They are both designed to feed us. Neither are meant to be augmented and boosted by additives and chemicals. They are not meant to be purely decorative. Our soil has a purpose; to grow food. Our bodies and minds have a purpose to nourish each other literally and figuratively. If there is enjoyment and things are pleasing to the eye then that is nice but not the sole purpose of either. Some may say we need to hide veggies in the back yard like hiding breastfeeding in the bathroom but that is not the way the world was meant to be. God didn't know we were going to all go and get all twisted, over-sexualized,and control freakish! OK enough wierd ranting that doesn't make sense to anyone who doesn't get my logic or humor/irony. Before you think I am totally wackadoodle, here is a more coherant piece I wrote.

Kate B. 1 week ago

Oak Park government is not living in our current reality. People need to be able to feed themselves and should be encouraged to do so. Here are a few ways she is helping herself and the world around her.
1. Doing what she can to feed her family rather than depending on government assistance to include subsidies. (You know much of the food we buy is subsidized via ag subsidies and oil company subsidies right?)
2. Not polluting her property and adjacent areas with herbicides or fertilizers needed to maintain a lush green grass.
3. Since she mentioned that it is organic she is also not killing off pollinators such as honey bees by using pesticides.
3. Not wasting water to maintain plant material that has minimal value such as grass.
4. Reducing her carbon footprint by sourcing her food from her front yard rather than the average 1500 miles. (It doesn't get any more local than your front yard!)
5. Reducing waste by not buying the equivalent produce at the store thus not wasting produce bags, cellophane, and styrofoam packaging etc.
7. Providing revenue to local businesses through the purchase of mulch and plant material.
8. Teaching her children to fight for things they believe in. (Government is suppposed to be for the people by the people.)
9. Decreasing her stress and improving her health through garden maintenance related exercise. (That is until the city decided to criminalize feeding oneself!)
10.Possibly most importantly she is providing an educational opportunity for young and old alike to learn about food production. There may come a time when those skills are needed given our country's penchant for war and oil.

Monday, July 11, 2011

52 weeks of Garlic

After years of wanting to start garlic I finally got it accomplished last fall. Planting garlic is like planting peas for me. Getting it done is a sign of success because there is a one-time window to make it happen. If you plant beans a month late you have less beans but still you do have beans. Around here garlic a month late would mean digging in the snow. For peas it is the opposite although the weather has definitely changing so I should plant it even if I think it is too late. Heck we still have beautiful lettuce so peas would have been fine. But I digress.. So after a bit of faith last fall and a bit of uncertainty this spring.... 55 heads of garlic from my one raised bed is my reward. So happy. They were at risk for a bit because the day I harvested ended up in a downpour while I was trapped under babies (read:nursing). But I brought them in on our bread loaf rack and put a box fan under them and they are gorgeous. I will have to take garlic braid pictures another day. Softnecks don't make beautiful, yummy scapes but they do braid. :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

June, at least I know where you went, I think

What happened in June? 10 day vacation with family at a rental house in the Outer Banks started the month off. It was fun, fun, fun. Well worth the effort and expense of travelling with 3 kiddos. Wish we could see Dan's family more. And so begins our recruiting efforts to convince them all to move! :)

We came home and played catch up. Had to dispatch a chicken who was laying internally. Easier than I thought it would be. GIANT hard boiled-ish yolk is about all the details some of you likely want.

I also started night weaning Flower to get more milk from Iris. Started harvesting spring crops like lettuce and spinach and rhubarb and radishes. Giant phallic French breakfast radishes that I was tempted to take a pic of to share. We went on two strawberry farm picking trips and picked sugar snap peas as well. 30 some jars of strawberry syrup and some frozen peas were the first things put up for the year.

We started toying with cordials. Brandy infused with cherries from our little neighborhood farmer's market. Elderflower/lemon balm/lemon peel infused vodka. Hoping to try get some green plums to make umeshu.

We also got our first taker on us harvesting fruit trees for free. We took home 20lbs of tart cherries after 3 hrs of picking that took me 3 nights to pit and freeze. We used some to make Vitamix "ice cream" and dehydrated some as well. My niece Sarah came to spend a few days so that was a whirlwind of picnics and local attractions.

At the end of the month Dan brought home a first bit of honey and comb that was being built where it shouldn't have been.

I hope to add a few more pics to this later.

And now it is July.

May sailed away too

May was full of planting, taking care of animals, worrying that my hubby might lose his job, and us preparing to take all 3 kiddos on a vacation to the Outer Banks over Memorial Day weekend. I'll have to do a whole post about our vacation another time. We also got to spend sometime with Grandpa Dan on his yearly trek through.

Planting raised beds, herb planters, and tilling up a new area to plant were the main gardening activities at home. At home we planted our many herbs, onions, shallots, lettuce mix, chard, spinach, beets, carrots, radish, peppers, and tomatoes. We tended our garlic and are so happy to have that for the first time in our garden.
We also took over a neighbor's backyard and had to clear the jungle and set up 7 raised beds and bring in soil/compost mix to get those started. We planted an herb garden, potatoes, cucumbers, beans, onions, radishes, carrots, turnips, cabbage, peppers, corn, several varieties of squash and tomatoes. We hope that it will be a successful garden and worth the time, money and effort.

March and April went to the bees and goats

How could it be that my last post was in March? Too busy I guess to document here as I'd like to. But here is the recap...

March and April were full of preparing for goats and bees. For us that meant partitioning our shed aka garage and converting half of the space into a goat pen. We also created an outdoor area in front of that for them to frolick if they desire. If you had asked me in February when we would be getting the goats, I don't know what I would have said if I was being honest with myself. It was really all up in the air until our local health dept called to say I could try goats. We actually ended up getting the goats first due to this unexpected turn. "Go while the getting is good" I think is the proper cliche. I think the last weekend in March is when we took the 2 hr drive to pick them up. We got them settled in and started milking Iris.

This necessitated a quick milk stand project that my hubby worked on in the wee hours of the night shortly after Iris and Flower arrived. Iris was too difficult to milk without it. Within 48 hours of giving hubby the plans I had a beautiful, well built milk stand in the goat pen. We'll call the milk stand my birthday present as we were so busy that my birthday was mostly uncelebrated and forgotten about. My poor wrist was taking a beating and I was grateful for the effort hubby put into it late into the night after work. There is not a thing I would change about it. I love it. Another trick I learned is to whistle while you milk. Iris calms down immediately. It is a beautiful milk stand that we got the plans for from

Anyway the bees were supposed to arrive the 2nd weekend in April. But thanks to a lucky delay in the arrival of the bees and hubby's hard work we managed to to get the two top bar hives built just in the nick of time.

The bees arrived the last weekend in April. Hubby installed them with a friend from work while the kids and I watched on. Other than knocking one plug in on one of the queens the installation went off without a hitch or even a sting.

Oh and I about forgot. We also received our shipment of apple trees x3, peach, plum, and mini-peach and mini-nectarine plus blackberry bushes. It came a bit earlier than I expected and helped make early April extra crazy for us trying to get them all into the ground. Throw in Mama getting sick in the mix, saying goodbye to a mama friend moving to Houston, Easter, Mom Prom. Yep now I know why I didn't get anything posted in April!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The first 'Land of Milk & Honey' girls

Looks like a couple of kids looking for trouble. ;)

Pics of the girls at 1 day old

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My future endeavors?

Hubby wants the front yard gone and my lovely Honey Locust to go with it. Edible fruit trees out front would be nice but what about the privacy from the street and the shaded picnics with the kiddos! "Not yet anyway" I tell him. But if picks me for the giveaway for the book The Edible Front Yard maybe I will let him toy with the project a bit. :) Of course, he already has 10 trees or so he needs to plant for me this April plus two bee hives to make plus retrofitting our garage for my goats and the fencing they need. I am guessing I will get to keep my Honey Locust for awhile! ;)

My urban homesteading endeavors

Recently there has been much talk of urban homesteading and what it means. "To each their own" is definitely the correct phrase to use here.

So as a followup to my post about the "who" of our homestead here is the "what" of our urban homestead.

Several years ago I caught the urban farm bug. We don't have a lot of land. 50 feet x 128 feet to be exact! I started out with a vegetable garden. Growing more than I cared to eat. I love to grow but didn't know how to use nor did I desire to use much of it frankly! I love heirlooms and unique items. Some of the fun things I have grown are cotton, purple potatoes, fish peppers, dozens of varieties of tomatoes, beautiful eggplants. They were beautiful enough that consumption was just a bonus. I have flirted with the idea of being a small-scale seed grower or farmer but now am more family oriented and looking to be more self-sufficient.

When we bought our house I loved the raised sunny area calling for a garden (which the chickens now occupy) and the secluded bit of a hillside and envisioned a secret garden there. I started a veggie garden and finally was able to plant perennials like asparagus, rhubarb and chives.

For a while I got a bit off track and had a brief but intense affair with hostas. At one point I had somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 varieties. Boy those things can get expensive and while beautiful I have grown past them and envision one day they might share their space with bees.

From veggies I next endeavored to grow a bit of fruit. I started several Asian pears (remember I like different things!) to have all but one mowed over. Amazingly last year it fruited despite its bad location thanks to me. I had a small strawberry patch and rhubarb as no garden is complete without them according to my genetics I believe. For a few years this was enough for me. I was devoting a lot of gardening related energy to the youth garden program I started. After that it was devoting time to my first baby.

We have slowly evolved though in our life aspirations and quickly wanted to really kick it up a notch. I suppose a farm just isn't a farm without animals so in spring of 2010 despite having brand-new twins we got chicks. From there I started scheming for goats and bought 2 Nigerian Dwarf goats in the fall of 2010. We were a bit off track in getting them home for a while but now in 2011 seem to be on track thanks to my city councilman! 2011 has barely begun and we have ordered a fair amount of fruit trees and fruiting bushes this spring. Apples, and peaches, and plums, oh my! We have also added golden currants and grapes in the last couple of years. I hope to try out espaliering the apple trees this year. This should handle my preserves needs in a few years. Nothing like your own preserves mixed into fresh yogurt. :) The little things that make me smile. I also hope to really kick up our veggies this year. With the babies a bit older we'll see. We have a few hundred starts in the basement growing as I hope to cover the coop roof with an herb garden. Soon I will start peppers and tomatoes and the rest of the veggies. We have a lot of new things going on in the kitchen too. Hubby has started making bread regularly and I have made a decent stash of preserves all thanks to some great books for Christmas. We have a few things growing in the kitchen, too. Yogurt, kefir, kombucha to name a few. Soon we will have goats milk to play with making more cheese and soap. Iris just kidded and should be here within weeks. I really look forward to that new learning experience. The bees are in route and hives to be built this month in anticipation of their installation on a nearby property. And the chickens have just layed their first 8 egg day including a robin's egg blue that just started being layed this week. Eight eggs from eight hens, what more can you ask for! Things are looking up and spring is in the air!

Added characters!! Pics soon!

Iris kidded with twin does ealier this week!! Squee!!! I am so excited and can't wait to get/share pictures. The plan for now is that Iris' former owner will retain one of the girls and the other will go to the woman who is boarding Angelina for me (as payment for Angelina's boarding), or I will sell her, or might have to keep her if I fall in love...wait I can't do that!! ;)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Urban homesteaders; the characters

I would wager that anyone who calls themselves an urban homesteader is a character. I also imagine there are several supporting characters. So here is an introduction to ours.

The hard working man behind all our endeavors. Builder, planner, prepper, soon-to-be beekeeper.

Big sister who is growing up with a different life experience than most kids her age in this city. We hope to further her "real" education by homeschooling her.


The twins that contribute to the chaos. Gigglers, mess makers, garden helpers.

Nadia, the first non-human addition to our lives before we even envisioned our current lifestyle. Defender of the chickens and guardian of the humans.

The nameless girls and their beautiful petticoats. Entertainers , bug hunters, orb makers.

Coming soon:

Sisters in Milk
Iris, soon-to-be mama of twins or more??

Angelina, soon-to-be first time mama.

Me, the mama who wrangles this bunch. Gardener, schemer, soon-to be-milker.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Raising Chickens in Omaha - Fun, Rewarding, AND Legal |

Raising Chickens in Omaha - Fun, Rewarding, AND Legal |

Fellow Chicken Mamas

Today I invited a new soon-to-be chicken mama over to talk chickens and such. I enjoy meeting people who are on the same path as me or some variation of it. I get out of it as much as I give, if not more. So last year I started hosting Chicken Mama get-togethers at my house. I can't say I came up with the name or the idea of getting together but luckily I don't think anyone has trademarked "Chicken Mama" yet. (HA! Sorry I couldn't help myself Dervaes! Jokes at your expense, you poor things!)

Anway we are mostly youngish mothers with small children. We join together to give each other support in our endeavors to eat and live sustainably. It is a safe place where no one will roll their eyes when you spend 5 minutes talking about the coolest chicken breed you are just dying to get your hands on. It is also an environment where knowledge sharing just pours forth. Over the course of our time together we might jump from talking about coop plans, to where to get organic feed, to where to buy sustainably raised beef, to what cool new site we found online, to agreeing to co-op on an order of herbs, to talking about a new recipe we tried, infinite and beyond.

We are having fun building community and making new friends.

Together our brains are the equivalent of a super-computer, a full-time paid lobbyist, and a small research firm.

Together we will change our lives, our communities, our world!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Stepping on my path to freedom

With the Path to Freedom folks trying to steal my path to freedom or at least my ability to speak about it using a universal language I am compelled to forego my much needed sleep to write a new blog entry. (Anyone who knows the extent of my lack of sleep given my sleep challenged twins knows this must be serious!) ;) Does my blog entry do anything to take back my right to use the phrase "urban homestead"? No! But as an urban homesteader I am defiant and will not be told what words I can and can not use nor what I can and can not do. Defiance! It is one of the urban homestead core principles I feel. Urban homesteaders are much like the settlers that homesteaded our country in some ways I imagine. Many would say it can't be done. It is impossible to do this thing you desire! But we know with patience and fortitude we will prevail. And once I have a certain little Health Dept permit in my grubby little hands and I know I'm not going to jinx it by proclaiming victory in a public domain I will share a little story about perserverance and what it can yield. But for now I have an aching back from typing one-handed while NAK so I will sign off with a simple statement. Piss-off Dervaes!