Tuesday, December 20, 2016

1st snow

Path to the coop
The hens refused to go outside today.

Well, one of the California whites ran down the path Chris shoveled, and promptly ran back in under the light, but their snow covered yard stayed free of poultry prints for 2 days.

In the rabbit hutch is another surprise rooster, he received a stay of execution (and another last meal) due to weather.

Breakfast is served
On a positive note, the girls are FINALLY done molting.  Egg laying has started again, slowly.  Indica has refused to eat the store bought eggs for the last couple months (although in cookies she thought they were just fine).  She celebrated with a fried egg sandwich (3 days in a row)

'Kay ready for spring now.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Where we are now

We have the 7 year itch.

I have noticed a trend in our marriage that about every 7 years or so our eyes start straying.  We start thinking that maybe the grass really is greener on the other side.  It's furtive at first - in early mornings before he is up, or late at night after I am asleep each of us cruise the internet, looking.  But we've been together a long time and we know the signs, we hear the hasty trill signaling the monitor has been turned off just as we enter a room.  Our browser history says it all.

And Zillow does not help.

We look at the rolling hills in Ohio, the forested properties in Montana, the hazy Ozarks in Missouri.  We look at property prices, annual precipitation, first and last frost dates.  Is there a wood lot?  A natural spring?  How far to the nearest Costco?  How close is the nearest neighbor?

Then we look at schools.  Is there orchestra?  Color Guard?  What is the scores in math and science?  Is there a Junior Roller Derby team close by?  

And we know we are where we are supposed to be.

Plus seed catalogs are arriving.  Soon we are distracted from what could have been by our life, this life we have built together.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Apples Apples Apples pt 2

Cider gurgling away in the pantry

Most are pie filling, some frozen apples
There are 2 boxes in the freezer

There is also a layer next shelf up and
in the deep freezer

Pantry shelf

Apples Apples Apples pt 1

The goal this year was to double the amount of apples we picked 2 years ago.

In 2014 we picked from 3 trees all different.

We made:
6 batches of hard cider,
10 frozen pie fillings,
3 gallons of dried apple chips,
12 pints of applesauce
12 quarts canned spiced cider and
4 gallons frozen cider.
Chris and the girls picking one of the last trees

In 2015 there were no apples.

Buckets of apples were lowered from the roof
at 3 buckets per Rubbermaid bin.
This year we picked from 9 trees

We currently have:
8 batches of hard cider bubbling
18 or so frozen pie fillings,
10 gallons of dried apple chips,
14 quarts + 23 pints of applesauce
24 quarts canned spiced cider
27 gallons frozen cider


4 - 5 gallon buckets of cider hanging out in friends' garage refrigerators that are awaiting a way to store them.

I am confident that we surpassed our goal.

 I think the entire month of October Chris spent 12 hr days picking and processing.  He ate his meals at the cider press.  He even pulled a couple all nighters when the press we rented from the local brew at home store was due back the next morning.

The girls would fill the dehydrator every day.  Between the 3 of us we kept up on housework, garden chores, schoolwork and tried to help him out sorting and crushing.  But mostly it was just Chris and apples.

Now we are trying to finish other projects before the cold weather comes and hopefully make it back to finish the 2 - 55 gallon barrels of apples still waiting to be processed.

Monday, October 31, 2016

All Hallows Eve

Halloween used to be my favorite holiday.  Gathering a costume, going to a party & general shenanigans.

Then with children it became all about the trick or treating.  Watching the initial hesitant "trick or treat" with downcast eyes that morphed over the years into a fearless bravado of being allowed to get candy from strangers.

But the girls are older now, off to a party with friends, the costumes mostly created from her closet (In this case casual Widowmaker with clothes she has worn to school and a cosplay wig.  Rhiannon purchased a witch hat to wear with 3 year old dress she uses for RenFaire and her favorite combat boots)

Chris and I, also older, used this year's holiday as a break between the work of harvest and the rush of the winter celebrations.  We gave out candy from the side gate, sharing a pizza and a couple hard ciders.  We listened to the Rocky Horror Picture Show after, of course, Everyday is Halloween by Ministry  (released in 1984 - we are aging punk/goth after all.)  We built a fire in the firepit and talked, enjoying the relatively few trick or treaters.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


I have been cooking a lot with lard lately.

I am very interested in not using shortening these days and butter does not always translate well.  I have been making hashbrowns, frying eggs, and sauteing vegetables.  But this has not been the hydrogenated store bought lard, but some I made myself.

A month or so ago I purchased 3 lbs of leaf fat from Jodar Farms at the Boulder County Farmers Market.  I quick search on Google gave directions for using a crock pot to render it.

Now I have rendered lard in the past, but both times I cooked it a little too long on the stove - not only smelling up the house, but creating a light brown product that was only fit for the birds.  (Literally - I made "suet" cakes to hang outside/give to the chickens in the winter

This in mind I ground the fat with the meat grinder then filled the crockpot and turned it on low.  I plugged it in outside, but it turned out to be unnecessary - in an hour the lard was done, no smell.

After straining the cracklins, I poured the lard into a container to cool in the fridge.  The cracklins were placed in a cast iron skillet on the stove.  (2 birds, 1 stone - the pan needed to be seasoned)  Once drained again on paper towels I froze them, for a use as of yet unknown.

Today I am baking my Grandma Lundborg's raw apple cake, using lard in place of the shortening the recipe calls for.

Update 10/7 - cake is gone and a request has been put in for more, so success

Friday, September 30, 2016

Fodder System - up and running

As I mentioned in February, we have been on a quest to cut ties with pellet feed.

Hours were spent reading message boards and watching how to videos

Different areas of the house were tried (an small unused shower in the basement won)

Hand watering vs automatic (the answer is automatic)

3 types of containers (heavy duty grow trays worked best for us) and drainage options (angle trays and 1 row of drilled holes)

So far we use 2 cups organic barley soaked for 2 days on a 10 tray rotation.

Unfortunately the hens went into molt soon after so we don't know how well it is working, (production or dollar analysis) but they seem happy with their 2 1/2 lbs of fodder plus 2- 4 cups fermented organic feed they get daily with garden and table scraps.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hail protection?

Our own tent city
 The forecast says heavy hail so I spent a couple hours this morning preparing.  I already lost 10 tomato and all the basil I had planted earlier this week.  The rhubarb also looks worse for wear (surprisingly the peas and strawberries faired okay)

Sheets on one side, 1/4 inch hardware cloth on the other (Peas)
I used an entire bucket of clothespins and all the spare wood in the garden + hardware cloth and wire semicircles from the damaged row cover to try to save as much as possible.  I bought all the double, queen and king flat sheets at the thrift store in addition to what we already had on hand.

So far nothing.

Since I am prepared, we won't need it.
Hoops over the strawberries

Monday, May 2, 2016


Hopefully spring is here to stay this time.

It has been snowing and raining for the last 3 days with temperatures hovering around freezing at night.  Happily none of the flowers, including the ones on our neighbor's apple tree, have been affected.  

My favorite of our clematis started blooming before the snowfall, and it was not slowed down in the least.  

Chris and I spent a couple hours this afternoon adding cattle panels to the north fence.  He received to hop vines from the Easter Bunny and they are reputed to grow 20 feet or more. 

tulips that just got planted a nice day in January are blooming also!
While working I tripped over dill starts.  (Yea!)  Last fall I got tired of looking at the stems from the garden sitting on the table outside and tossed them into the landscape.  It spreads terribly in the garden, but on the side yard it will have to fight with vinca, lemon balm, lilies and weed trees.
That is my kind of landscape gardening.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


I really resent bagged feed.

Buying those convenient pellets is just irritating.  But since my friends stopped buying whole grain feed in bulk I have been at a loss for what to do.

Fodder is all over blogs and livestock forums.  Basically it is growing grass from purchased grains.  I read about it here and here and here.

But the local feed store didn't carry grains for sprouting.  (rolled oats and cracked barley were not going to work)

I ended up driving 25 minutes to a small feed store up north and buying 3lb bags of wheat and oats to try.

Following the directions from the above websites I soaked a 1/2 cup of seed and ended up with 4 containers growing.  I read later that oats take forever to sprout compared to other grains - the wheat took 10 days to reach 6 inches and in that time the oats had barely sprouted.

Wheat ready to feed the hens this morning
I fed the girls with the first container this morning.  They went for the leftover cornbread muffin first, not sure what to do with the grass and seeds.  But it was gone in 10 minutes.

They will get their regular layer pellets in the afternoon.

root mat
Early numbers:
3lb wheat seed was $5
1/2 cup of wheat = 3.5 oz = 38¢
3.5oz dry seed = 10.3 oz fodder
Fodder is 3¢ an oz

50 lbs layer pellets is $15
2 cups of pellets = 12.6 oz = 23¢
Pellets are not quite 2¢ an oz

Wheat on the left, oats on the right.  
 You can really see the difference between the 10 day old wheat (above) and the 10 day old oats (bottom right in the blue bin)

Since the fodder does not need light for awhile, I cover the bins with tomato and cabbage starts.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The dark days before spring


That title sounds so ominous.

It's not ominous here, just, well, slow.

The garden is planned for the most part.  (there will always be a few last minute "Where the hell do I put these collard greens?"  That we did not specifically plan for.

It is truly to early to plant seeds, even under lights (spoiler alert - we did it anyway, like the aforementioned collard greens.)

The new Seed Savers Exchange yearbook was delivered yesterday (680 pages with no pictures)  I plan to order a few seeds from that, but mostly I am reading it.  (Introduction of Thumbs Heath was inspiring)  In fact we have all the seeds we need this year so I am not quite as excited as usual by the catalogs that have arrived.

But March is just around the corner.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

(Early) spring cleaning

Being an urban farm has quite a few difference from your average hobby farm.  Many are obvious (lack of a tractor for one)

To thrive in a community that does not necessarily encourage such behavior, the look of your property is very important.

We are not there yet.

We, as usual, have many 1/2 done projects around the 'ole homestead.

Today, Chris did one of them.

I wish there was a before picture.  There was about 3 wheelbarrows full of detritus - some from the surrounding plants and some from passerbys.
view from our driveway to the neighbors.  
The sad Charlie Brown thuja

And he discovered a thuja.

If you look closely at the above picture you can see it behind the large bare shrub.

We have lived here for 6 years and have never seen it before.

The green on the soil is vinca major and by summer it will have completely filled in the bare spots.  But first I will be able to dig up the dark double lilac and the white lilac to transplant into the backyard.  The black locust above them allows very little light or water to penetrate the soil, so here they are small and stunted.  In the backyard, by the deck they should do much better.

Now onto the berm in the front yard.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Winter reading

Add another must have book to my list:
One of our fellow gardeners gave us this book for Christmas.  After I started reading, I found a highlighter to use.  There are already notes in the margin.  I can tell that our copy will be dog eared before the holidays roll around next year.

Eliot Coleman has been around a long time in the organic world. He started market farming in the 70's and has been experimenting with expanding the harvest season ever since.  He relates these experiments in this book, explaining what they have tried and why they decide for or against any one trial (well, multiple trials)  The book contains charts from decades of trial and error that can be applied in any area.

I have picked up his previous books in past years, flipped through them and returned them to the library.   I continued this personal trend in the later days of December, quickly setting it aside for other books the holidays brought me.  But the enthusiasm with which the book was gifted made me look a second time.  Our friend, in his excitement, called Chris and stopped by work to see me - well, to see if we had started reading it yet.  After that I have yet to put it - or my highlighter - down.  It has been the topic at the dinner table.  Chris plans add his own colour after I finish.

We all have the ability to garden year around in our Ppatch, and our friend has already set up a cold frame this last fall to follow Mr. Coleman's advice.  He has spinach, chard and kale to harvest from now and is eager to have us join in the endeavor and compare notes.

This video from PBS is a good overview.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

How much to grow?

Also in the photo is no knead anadama bread for dinner tomorrow.
So I spent an hour or so between these books and the Google trying to figure out just how many plants we need in our garden this year.  Chris has decided to make this year's garden the most productive.  The plan is no running out of salsa in January.  No buying frozen peas in December. No buying onions or potatoes period.

Great theory.

But it is hard to figure out how much we need.  There are a few charts online - but I don't think we need 20 bush bean AND 20 pole bean plants per person.  The same chart says 12 broccoli plants for a family of four,  I don't think that is enough.

Other advice is to keep track of what you buy the previous year.

The only thing I know I purchase once a month is 10-20# of potatoes 5-10# of yellow onions and 5# of carrots.  Everything else is fluid.  Broccoli, green beans, snap peas and asparagus depending on time of year and price.

And then there is tomato sauce, pasta sauce, vegetable soup, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto .  I make them from scratch if I can, purchase if I don't.  How many plants = ingredients?

But I believe I have come up with a simple plan.  We will just plant all the seeds we have.

Great theory.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Goals

Since we did nothing on our 2015 goal list, it transferred quite nicely to 2016.

With changes, however.

 I removed getting 2 cords of wood - until we have a fireplace insert for actual heat having wood to heat the house this goal is pointless.  But I would like to have good storage for the wood we do have.  The free racks made with 1x1's we have are breaking and we have tied them to the deck to keep them from leaning.

I also removed 1/2 of a local pig & making ham and bacon.  We still want to do both of these things, but it is not really a focus.

I also would like a proper garden shed.  We are thinking build on the east wall of Chris's blacksmith and tool shop.  Right now we are using the old playhouse chicken coop - needless to say the lawnmower does not fit.  Heck - I barely fit, so tools do not often get put away.

Plant a hedgerow.  We wish to separate our upper yard into a traditional suburban oasis from our lower yard (urban farm)  A hedgerow of various flowering shrubs could give us a physical barrier that we need.

The last thing added to the list, building a garage, is a long shot.  But, to get a couple of mini dairy goats (notice they are not even on the goal list) We need to move the tools and the smithy somewhere.  Our parking area could fit 3 bays.  We could even plan it for solar power.  But unless a bag of cash falls from the sky . . .

Friday, January 1, 2016

Welcome New Year

By the time Christmas rolled around, I was ready for a new beginning.  The family seemed to feel the same so on December 26 we all worked together to take the tree and all decorations down (except the Christmas cards - we (well, I) love to see our friends and family a little longer.  I never did transition the burlap wreath on the front door to Christmas from Thanksgiving theme, but it too came down.

Today we had brunch about noon.  Leftover prime rib slices from Christmas with eggs and homefries.  We let the girls have one last sleep in for the winter break from school.  (Tomorrow they will  be woken up at 7ish)

I, as usual wrote my to do list on the chalkboard - and surprisingly did quite a lot on it.  Including walking Riley about 3 1/2 miles around Ketring Lake (I think that was a surprise to both of us!) while Chris was prepping the potatoes.

After eating, Chris and I worked on our garden plan for this year.  We did not get our fall planting (except for garlic) done, but we will plant kale, swiss chard etc as soon as we have a nice day without snow on the ground.  
 My only serious goal this year is to stay on top of the garden for a REAL harvest that we can eat throughout the winter

In other news, this hens got a mirror today.

With the rooster (sadly) at his new home irritating other people's neighbors, I felt they needed something to combat winter boredom.  I had read about using a mirror and Chris has been moving this one in its gilded plastic frame from house to house for at least 25 years.  So instead of donating it (it had not been hung yet in the nearly six years we have been here)

Speaking of the hens, we are getting 6-8 eggs a day from our 8 girls.  Not bad for winter.  The light has been on near constant the last few weeks as it has been cloudy during the day and in the single digits at night.  I hung an egg count list on the fridge to track the eggs and see what they are costing us after feed and straw costs.  The electricity has been lumped into the house expense for now.