Sunday, September 21, 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014

Urban foraging

For the past four years I have been riding by this tree on my way to and from work along the South Platte River Trail.  This is the first year I have seen apples.  I saw it yesterday, covered with red fruit - well the bottom was picked clean to about 6 feet up - but Chris and I went Friday morning and filled a wagon full.  The next day, while I made pickles, he took Rhiannon.  Between our fruit picker and Rhiannon in the tree they filled another wagon.  They gave fruit to everyone that passes and Chris was interviewed by a man doing an article on urban foraging.  They came home for lunch and then the 3 off us went back out with a sign saying "Free Apples" to lean up against the wagon as we filled it.  Most people let their kids have one, but did not take any themselves.  A few people just looked at us funny, but 2 women were thrilled.  They filled their t-shirts and their empty Starbucks coffee cups and posted their excitement on Facebook.

And in the end we have yet another bathtub of  apples.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

An unwelcome guest


Well not yet.  The forecast for the over night low has been fluctuating between 32° and 38°F.  The meteorologists have agreed on 70% chance of precipitation, but not on what form.

Prepare for the worst, right?

We picked all tomatoes that looked 1/2 way ripe.  All the green bell peppers.  A dozen medium sized Trombetta Squash.  All the cucumbers.

The popcorn is not ready, nor is the Golden Bantam sweet corn.  Nothing we can do about that.  If we lose those crops it will be silage for the hens.  The pole beans are going to seed, but they will have the same fate if they are not fully formed.

But the purple tomatillos (I am dying to make purple salsa with them and the similarly colored bell peppers) and the chilies.  The other non bell peppers.  The melons.  These we covered.

Savers yielded us 7 flat sheets to make tents of sorts for these plants.  Also the cucumbers and a volunteer winter squash (a hubbard type I think) that sprouted in the Blue Jade corn patch.

But still I am thrilled with this year's garden.  Chris and I have have been more serious about growing than any other year.  Even if the bush beans I planted as part of a fall garden die, this is the first year we have planted a fall garden (also carrots, turnips, cabbage and spinach which may do fine)

Our pantry will be filled with homemade pasta sauce and tomato soup.  Applesauce and apple rings.  Apple cider.  There is tomato paste in the freezer along with bell peppers and corn.  And we have pickles of cucumber, bean and cauliflower.

In fact, I will use the last of my canning jars this weekend.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fall approaches

French Charentais Cantaloupe under row covers.
It is predicted to hit a low of 50° tonight.  We just got our first rope cantaloupe yesterday with a dozen or so still on the vine.  So from today forward all the melons will get tucked in for the night.
I am not ready for fall.  With all the rain we have gotten this summer the temperatures have rarely gone above the mid 80's.  I have been thrilled with the rain, but everything is growing so slowly.  Only two bel peppers have turned red and none of the tomatillos are even close to ready.   I figure that we will have every horizontal surface of the studio covered with slowly ripening tomatoes.
But this year I pickled both cucumbers and beans.  And enough corn and beans to freeze.  We got heads of red iceberg lettuce.  All of these are firsts, so I can't really complain.
Rhiannon next to the covered "Honey Do" melon and
Icebox Watermelon.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Making cider

My husband knows me well.

For an early anniversary present he purchased a small (4 gallon) cider press.  With the bathtub of apples we needed it.

The crusher to go with it was currently out of stock, so in a great blend of old and new technology we used a food processor to chop the fruit up.

It did not, however, work very well.

The apples are dry, picked a little early at the behest of two of our neighbors.  A five gallon bucket of whole apples yielded less than a gallon of juice.

Well, at least the hens were happy when I brought out the leftovers.  They were barely crushed.

So the Cuisinart was washed and put away and the juicer brought out in its place.  After juicing, the mash was placed in the press.  This came close to doubling the cider extracted.  4 five gallon buckets yielded 5 gallons of cider.

One carboy is full, bubbling away in the downstairs shower (in case of minor eruptions)  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Apples Apples Apples

Chris and I spent the day picking apples from 2 different neighbors.  3/4 is a Delicious of some sort and the remainder are Jongold.  There is applesauce in our future.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday harvest

Beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, kale & squash

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

But wait - there's more

So Chris bought more cucumbers and a bulb of garlic (that's practically a bouquet of flowers and box of chocolates 'round here)  I put all the cucumbers in ice water and biked down to the Ppatch to get a few heads of dill seed.  
R - dill & onion, M - dill & garlic, L - dill, garlic & Thai dragon chili
And found more cucumbers.

So we have 8 more pints of pickles in the cupboard.  I followed this recipe on the Woodridge Homestead blog.  I will let you know in a week or so if it is as good as advertised.

A year of garden firsts

This year has had its oops moments (forgot to plant carrots)  But there has been so many successes.

Yesterday while trying to find the tomatillos that are buried under bindweed, morning glories and other weeds I found these lovely white eggplant.  The plant itself was so small I had forgotten it was there.

Then we have the corn

Here in our backyard we have Ruby Queen, a red hybrid sweet corn.  It is in the raised bed and grew between 4-5 ft high.  The bees have been all over it.

We have grown corn in the past, of course, but it was always starchy, chewy and generally unappetizing.

Ruby Queen, even not quite ripe (it is supposed to be full red) was very good.  I picked some larger ones on a whim (something ate the silks, but did not eat the corn itself) and boiled them with the water leftover from blanching pole beans (another first) to freeze.  Only a couple of them were reddish and Rhiannon and I ate them slathered in butter.

Not pictured is the cantaloupe we ate while still in the garden.  The potatoes that are putting out beautiful purple blooms and the fall garden beans, carrots, and cabbage I think I got in early enough.

Now back to the kitchen.  Chris just brought in today's picking of cucumbers along with a request for garlic chili dills.

Friday, August 8, 2014

I think we will have to eat this one in the garden

We grew our watermelon on old bed springs this year to keep them off the ground

Update 8/17:  We picked this and one other watermelon.  The vine off both stems had turned brown and they had the hollow sound when slapped.

Both were not yet ripe.  Only the chickens enjoyed them.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Making pickles

This year we are getting enough cucumbers to actually can pickles.  Will last year's dill spear debacle (soggy soft and overly salty) I decided to try a bread and butter recipe that I made while at he history museum last year.

I have never liked sweet pickles.

Except these.

It was an all day project including soaking the cucumber and onion slices in salt for 3 hours.

In the end I had 6 pints canned, plus a quart of refrigerator style using the extra brine.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Seed organization

Up until today our seeds lived mostly piled in a small under the bookshelf in our living room.  I say mostly because I regularly found them in random drawers, on top of the refrigerator and once in the crate that holds unmatched socks.

I tried using a small photo album, an idea I saw on Pintrest, but I could not close the album after sliding less than 1/2 of our packets in it.  It would have worked great, had the packets been empty.

Then I saw this vintage plastic seeing box at Goodwill.  With cardboard dividers out is perfect.  The seeds are separated into herbs/flowers, short season (lettuce, peas, bush beans) and long season (tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, squash).  Then in alphabetical order by year.(ie 2013 peas followed by 2015 peas then 2014 radish).
Best of all it will fit in the extra fridge we use as a cold cellar.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

You gonna eat that?

It still works.
10+ pounds of sour (pie) cherries.  Perreon and Rhiannon helped pick them.  The trees are less than two blocks from our house, and I don't remember seeing them so full before.  And the owners had already picked as much as they wanted to deal with.

This summer has been near perfect so far.  We have had regular rain (although you wouldn't know it by the state of our lawn) and it has yet to reach higher than 95°, with most days in the mid 80's.

The Ruby Queen sweet corn at home and the Blue Jade at the Ppatch are putting up tassels.  The potatoes at home have burned (again), but the ones at the Ppatch are ready to flower.  The snow peas are done, but the shelling peas are still going.

And through the wonders of technology, I write this on my smart phone in the side yard, drinking a local beer & listening to the water feature.  The bugs are nearly non existent the air warm with a light breeze. 

Urban farming is good.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Solar Oven

Perreon made this during her visit with stuff we had around the house.

Cardboard box
Black paint
Aluminum foil
Saran wrap
old window

The cookies were pre-made dough from the store.

They were baking just fine, until the sun went behind a cloud for an extended period and the dough just melted.

We will try it again later.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Snow Pea Pickles

They are on the vinegary side, but addicting.  I used the recipe at

I plan to eat a lot with salami and fresh mozzarella.

There is another jar with cucumbers and fresh purple beans with dill also.  Will try it in a few days

Friday, July 11, 2014

Beginning of the summer Harvest

Homemade Pickle Cucumbers.  Indigo Tomatoes (not yet ripe I discovered, they should be purple and red) & yellow pear tomatoes

Blue Jade corn and first row of pole beans (yellow wax)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Finally, success with peas

You have read before about my difficulty with zucchini.

I have always had the same trouble with peas.  Every year I plant a packet, they germinate sporadically and I end up with enough for a meal or two.  This year I decided to do the gardening equivalent of carpet bombing.  

With so much room (sooo much room!) at the Ppatch I planted a row of Wando shelling peas with the potatoes, gave a pack of snow peas to each of the girls for their gardens(thanx mom!) and made space for an additional 2 packs of in the common area.  Five packets total.  And I bought innoculant.  And used it.  Even so the pea plants were still spotty, like 33-50% germination.  And the vines seemed stunted.  The pack that advertised 5' vines, topped out at 3.  The snow peas, who had promised to be 18" (no trellising required!) came in barely to 8"

But those 8" are more than adequate!

In the last week nearly 2lbs have been harvested from those miniature marvels.  Enough that we have eaten them most every night and I am planning to try a pickle tomorrow.

The shelling peas, alas, have been immaturely picked by some industrious field hands (read: the children) and mixed in with the edible pods.  I am hoping the vinegar will make them as palatable.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Good bug, bad bug

I have seen more ladybugs than aphids this year.
The Ppatch is again invested with squash bugs.  One of our neighboring plots pulled up all their squash in frustration.  Sprays of  Neem oil and Dr Bronners soap are being used daily.

I squashed a dozen or so of these ugly buggers today, but as far as I can tell they are not such a problem for us.  This is the cantaloupe, but there is nothing on our cucumbers.  Blind luck?

But after squashing the bugs.  (They crunch and squish, it is gross, the only time I wear gloves in the garden) my gloves smelled like the artificially flavored watermelon bubble gum.  Weird.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Adjusting the pecking order

The girls are in transitional housing in the old duck pen while we clean and ready the coop and their new yard.  Six of the older hens were sold at the poultry swap, and there are 2 new young ones.

Let the jockeying begin.

I went to check on them all after the hail storm (and bring them a couple hard and broken cookies) and got sidetracked watching them.  There are two roosting ladders and it was quite the game of musical "chairs" as they all tried to figure out their place in the smaller flock of 15.  Always there would be one more chicken trying to fit on the ring than there was room for, knocking them all off to start again.  A few opted out entirely, opting for a spot on the ground.  A few others tried to fly up to the roof joists, only to encounter the chicken wire top and fall back down.  Eventually they all found their place and slept.

Dinner Tonight

BBQ Rabbit Pizza w/ smoked Gouda & pineapple

Aww Hail!

The ice started steaming as soon as the storm was done
Averaged golf ball size hail
Greenhouse had the only real damage
 Chris and I were digging a trench to sink the new chicken fence when it started to rain.  Soon pea sized ice followed.  And it got bigger.  And more of it.  We made the run for it to the shed area when it looked like a snow storm.

Our neighbor, who has been here since the 70's said she had never seen anything like it.  The water feed for the swamp cooler was severed into multiple little pieces.  The girls shoveled locust leaves from the driveway.  The emerging buds on my echinacea were shredded.  However, the Canadian Thistle in the alley behind the vacant house looks strong and healthy.  Figures.

Other than the greenhouse, the girls' tent they have been sleeping in is now full of tiny holes, their blankets and pillows inside "either soaking wet or perfectly dry" according to Indica.

The livestock, even the hens with their limited cover were fine.

Chris and I rushed to the Ppatch.

It was better than expected.  A couple melons were lost, and a few tomatoes.  The strawberries took a beating and 1/2 the leaves on the cauliflowers were shredded, but except for one of the Trombetta squash being severed at ground level, I think all will bounce back.

We are not worried about the greenhouse, the panels are replaceable, and we were done with it for the season.  The tomatoes inside were mostly unharmed.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Moving the Coop

Thank you to all who helped, without any one of you it would not have gotten done.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Poultry swap

After Chris's intervention a couple months back, most of the pullets and a few hens found new homes.  But we could not leave the Denver poultry swap empty handed.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Not all of our energy has gone to prepping new garden beds. 

We have long felt that having a farm, of sorts, in the city puts more pressure on us to have a socially acceptable landscape.  Our neighbors may not care how self sufficient we are if our yard and home are an eyesore. 

This water feature has been in the planning stages for awhile, but it took time to acquire the necessary pieces.  We spent no money on the actual pond or the rocks.  The plants, bark, & statue are from a locally owned garden center.  

Next project is the small side yard off the kitchen.
The Plan is for it be a lovely patio with a bistro table and chairs for morning coffee.  
But we are not yet sure where the wood will go.

Monday, April 28, 2014


Last week I was asked if I was willing take 9 four week old pullets.  I thought about the 11 laying hens & the 15 young pullets we already have while listening to the story behind the soon to be homeless chicks. 

Of course I said yes.

On Saturday we prepared our yard for the new arrivals.  A vintage single bed spring frame divided the 100+ square foot chicken yard. With a travel dog kennel and some straw in the smaller of the  divided areas it was ready for the older pullets.  

Rhiannon cleaned the brooder cottage so we were ready.

Sunday afternoon, as I walked my bike up the back porch after work Chris watched me intently.

"What's up?" I asked.

"We need to talk," he said seriously.  I looked at him in confusion as he took my hand in his after I parked the bike.  "You know I love you, and I only want what's best for you . . ."

I sat down even more confused.

"But you now have 40 chickens.  I think you may have OCD."  He paused. "Obsessive Chicken Disorder."  He grinned at me.

I shook my head.  "I can stop anytime I want.  .  .and we only have 35"