Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Treasure Hunting

I love hunting for old stuff that is FUNCTIONAL. You won't find a lot antique knick knacks in my house since I don't like to dust! LOL I found most of these at antique stores in Eastern Kansas (I travel for my job and when I have the time, I hit up the antique/junk stores.) We've also discovered that some old things do a much better job than their modern couterparts. Jerry is the king of mashed potatoes. I mean, that is one "meal" I'll always come home for :) Yet, he has destroyed several mashers (could be that he's crushing the mashers, but we disagree on this). I had a 1950's masher for years until it couldn't take any more mashing and completely broke. I bought a new one at Tarjay, only he broke it the first use. Same thing on multiple other new ones. So now, when I find good ones at the treasure stores, I buy them up. You just can't have too many mashers hidden in the cupboards. LOL

I adore these aluminum cookie cutters. I have a set from my childhood. And, now I have Chicken & Bunny!! Plus, I bought a star & 2 tin men for the kids. The colandar was just $4 ~ and what a buy! It's super large and pretty too. The egg basket was just $6 and I love the green wooden handles. If I spot another one, I'm getting it for Patrice ~ reading about her carrying eggs in her pockets, only to have them break over her cell phone convinced me we need egg baskets!!

Over at Suzanne's I learned another bread recipe and her love of glass baking pans. I snagged these for $2 each. And, on someone else's blog, I read about putting leftovers in glass dishware instead of plasticware since glass is see-thru and chemical free. The small box in the middle is part of a set. And, again with the green theme in the pickle dish. I LOVE green!!

I started reading gardening blogs this fall and was amazed at the totals posted. So, we needed a scale. I totally splurged on this one ($24) but it is a Hanson and it is in great condition. Oh, and the pie book ~ yep, had to have that now that I can make a great crust!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Theme of my current life

In an effort to decrease stress and increase joy, I've been hunting for the simple life. I discovered a series of books by Elaine St James that really hit home to me that life should be easy, not hard, if I make a few changes.

Her Simplify Christmas book had several great ideas. I used a variation of one tip and created a survey for my brood to give me their top 5 things they love about Christmas and top 5 things they didn't like so much.

So, the tallies are in. We have our top 5 loves:
  1. Christmas Music ~ local radio station plays just that from Thanksgiving til Dec 26th.
  2. Food ~ dinners, cookies, candies etc. Making it, gifting it and eating it.
  3. Fire in the fireplace ~ well it didn't happen this year. Our fireplace was determined to have a major safety flaw that could potential catch on fire ~ so we've ordered the new parts but they didn't make it in time for Christmas. We are so grateful to an HONEST chimney sweep that explained the problem and didn't charge us for his time so far. But he'll be back to clean it and repair the problems when parts arrive.
  4. Seeing the looks on people's faces when they open their gifts.
  5. Getting exactly what you want for Christmas and nothing else.

Okay, number 5 was the top choice for all 4 guys, which I found very interesting. Seems in years past, they got various gifts that were "fillers" and didn't get the one thing they wanted. The point of the survey was to simplify. To honor them and the new spirit, I vowed to only get them exactly what they had asked for. Nothing more, nothing less.

Look what I found on the tree

Dalton, age 15 asked for several things. But his top items were some new clothes and cologne. He got to go on a shopping spree (how I HATE shopping) but he chose wisely and picked things that were on super discount. He was happy even though he didn't get that thrill of being surprised, he said it was better to have exactly what he wanted then to have to return things or pretend to be happy.

Braden, age 12, asked for 2 video games and a bible. Luckily we live in an area where used video games are plentiful so by buying used, we got both for him. The bible he asked for is one of those huge, leather bound, heirloom type of bible. I'm certainly not opposed to him having one, but the budget didn't allow for it. He did get cash from grandparents and also a neighbor so he will be spending his money on it.

Cole, age 10, asked for 3 things. A pocket knife for whittling, money to buy books and a puzzle.

Aubrey, age 6, asked for a Princess Barbie, clothes and anything I liked to buy for her.

Emma, age 2, saw a baby doll in the store a while back that she asked for. It looks just like her ~ brown hair and blue eyes. She also needed new clothes and she got a new board book that I couldn't resist.

Emma and Baby Emma

Jerry didn't ask for anything, but Dalton and I saw the Discovery channel's Planet Earth DVD game and knew he'd like it.

All in all, the gift shopping was super easy, but I found myself fighting the impulse to buy other things. And, when I was wrapping gifts, it felt weird to be wrapping so few things. I was worried that on Christmas morning they'd be sad or disappointed. I was so wrong.

Christmas morning I was so excited I had to wake the kids up at 7:30 just to open their gifts. Sorry Braden, I know that was on your "what I don't like" list ~ but honestly, who sleeps in on Christmas?!

It was a wonderful Christmas. Everybody was happy with their gifts and what they had made/gotten for each other. Not one person said, "Is that IT?" or "Please tell me there's something else" or "I didn't want THIS". (All have been uttered before.) I was delighted and felt a real sense of peace. It was what I secretly put at the top of my list: to ENJOY the day together. And, that's just what we did.

PS the Top 5 List of what we didn't like:

  1. Feeling rushed
  2. People being crabby or fighting with each other
  3. Useless gifts
  4. Faking being happy
  5. Shopping

My personal don't-like-list includes decorating the tree. This year, I told the kids to have at it. They had a blast. They used colored lights (never before seen in my house!) and only a handful of ornaments that they each liked best (usually we try to cram them all on.) Oh, and tons of candy canes. I vote they take over all the decorating from now on.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

R.I.P. Lucy

Last week, we had snow. And, temps that were just short of bone chilling. I decided to keep the chickens in the coop - not that they would have gone out anyway!

Jerry had to replace the heat lamp bulb and he made sure to do a head count before shutting them in on Monday night. Tuesday they stayed inside.

Wednesday morning, Cole comes shrieking in the house while I was in the shower saying that Lucy was under the coop (it's built 2' off the ground - for shade in the summer time.) I told him to grab a broom handle and see if he could scoot her out. A few minutes later, he's back screaming and crying hysterically.

I tell him to come into the bathroom because I can't understand him thru the door. He rushes in, holding Lucy. She has congealed blood all down the side of her head and body. She is blinking but it didn't look good.

I told him to put her in his bath tub because it has glass doors we can shut. I was afraid the dogs or cats would try to get at her.

At this point, I'm freaking out. I don't do well at the sight of blood. At. All. In case of emergency, I am NOT the one to call. I witnessed violence in my family as a tiny child and even though the adults say it was nothing, it really made a horrible impression on me. To this day, I feel very helpless and scared at the sight of blood. Even minor injuries flood me with overwhelming emotions.

I did marry someone who is calm, rational and rock steady thru any bloody crisis. So, I called him (he goes to work early). And, I called and called and called. All the while just freaking out. I mean, she was a white Leghorn and now is obviously in major distress, because you couldn't see any white - only red.

He finally calls me back and I'm beyond control. All he understood was "blood" and "get home NOW". So he does. Meanwhile, Cole is unconsolable. I ask him gently if he knew what happended. If he knew how Lucy got out. Our coop is like fort knox - you just can't get out. A human would have to open the door. He said that he opened the door for just a minute then shut it again. He didn't see her come out. (It was pitch black and he doesn't carry a flashlight.)

His eyes and sobbing tell me that he feels very responsible.

Jerry gets home and checks on Lucy. He says it doesn't look good. He asks the neighbor to come take a look. The neighbor, in my opinon, is more of a rancher than farmer. I don't think he ever had chickens, but he is older and wiser and we value his opinion.

He says it doesn't look good.

By the scene in the coop, it looks like Lucy got trapped outside in the dark and snow. She tried to get out of the run thru the lattice holes. Somehow, she tore her comb in the process. She lost a lot of blood and was barely breathing. Her comb was almost 100% torn off.

Jerry and neighbor decide it best to end the suffering.

I cried like a baby for my chicken. All my life, I've always wanted chickens. I've always lived in a city environment (but longing for the country). City people just don't understand having a chicken for a pet. I've gotten a lot of grief over the years for this little dream, but finally, this year, for my birthday, I bought myself something that has just meant so much to me. I can't even put into words how much healing took place in the last 4 months that I've spent with these silly birds. I never do anything for myself and this was a huge step in the right direction. I, too, suffer from depression. There are times when it comes up on me with a vengenace and this fall it returned, deeper and blacker than anything I've ever experienced before. Yet, I could get up, go out and sit in the yard on a sunny day and just watch the chickens be chickens. And, now Lucy is gone. Yes, she was a rooster and I knew I'd have to give her away, so I was prepared for the letting go... just not this way.

Ah Internet, How I've Missed You!

After 9 days of no internet at home (No thanks AT&T, we cancel you!) thankfully, Cox Communications to the rescue.

For the record, AT&T, my network interface card IS fine & dandy. So is my whole computer and all it's other parts. So, please, remove those canned lines from your "help desk" scripts.

Oh, and thanks so much for shutting off my cell phone just because we switched internet providers. That was nice of you. Where's my $$ for the interruption of service and the 42 minutes we spent on the phone with you before Charmaine finally understood that WE DIDNT CAUSE THE SERVICE INTERRUPTION and had the intellegence to turn the cell phones back on! Seriously, the 4th phone on this plan is the only source of communication I have with 1 person ~ don't mess with that!

Okay, while I've been stuck in the real world, wondering and thinking about all my virtual/real friends, I've composed a few posts. I hope to get them copied and pasted in between the baking and nursing (Emma is sick ~ day 4 of yuckfest and now Jerry has it ~ but like all tough guys ~ he went to work and is now wishing he was home, close to a bathroom.)

Anyway, I hope you are doing well, these last few days before Christmas. Don't worry about what didn't get done, because it doesn't matter. Family matters. Spending time together is what it's all about. Hugs to all of you!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Recycling Pays Off

Our trash company, Waste Connections, has partnered with Recycle Bank to offer a rewards program for those that choose to recycle. I am SO EXCITED! I have been an avid recycler for years. We have a sorting station in the garage and every so often, we take a few hours and go drop stuff off at the various places. Not anymore ~ we're going curb side baby! (Even though we participate in the current program, WC doesn't pick up everything ~ but they will starting in Jan.)

The biggest plus to this program is: NO MORE SORTING! Woo HOO!! Just dump it all together and away it goes to the MRF. (We also will get a rebate (based on pounds of materials) to spend at various places online, including some green stores.)

Our new bin hasn't arrived yet, so in the mean time, we are using our old laundry hampers and just dumping everything in them. We now have a trash can, compost bucket and the recycling bin in our kitchen. LOL Our recycle bin fills up daily while the trash bin takes three days to fill, so there's progress.

J is trying to find out if we can get more than 1 bin ~ they pick up every other week and 1 bin just won't be enough.

Although, now that I see the materials on a daily basis, I may want to rethink what we are recycling. It appears that we have lots of newspapers ( I still read the daily paper) as well as magazines and junk mail. Maybe we should try to stop it from coming into the house, so we don't have to recycle it. Food for thought anyway.

Last I heard, there are only 3,000 households going to participate. Come on Wichita, this is a no-brainer. I have non-recyling friends who are now on the band wagon. Once they see how easy it is and that they'll get a cash reward (avg family earns $20 a month) they are excited.

Now, off to convert my office to this program and maybe even the kid's schools....

Food Co-ops

In the last week, I've been asked several times about the different food co-ops that my family buys from. So, I thought it might be helpful to others to share the info.

Years ago, we belonged to Heartland Shares, which had a basic food package plus add ons. The caveat to join was that you needed to do at least 2 hours of community service a week.

Now, we rotate thru 3 different ones. None of them have income guidelines, and only one has the volunteer requirement. My favorite one lets us buy a "pantry box" that is perfect for donating to food drives (seems like between Scouts, 4H and school, somebody is pilfering the pantry for a donation.) They all have a basic box plus add ons. Angel Food now has a Senior box which has fully cooked meal, nutrionally balanced that is just heat and serve. Our neighbor get this for his MIL and she has been really pleased with the variety.

We participate in Angel Food Ministries at Tyler Road Baptist Church, Prairie Land Food in Goddard and Share Colorado with a pick up at Salvation Army.

We have enjoyed everything (especially the fresh fruit and veggies in the winter). Our only complaint is that they all tend to deliver on the same day of the month, which can be pretty hectic! (It used to be that it was an every other week thing.) As one who dislikes shopping, I certainly appreciate having our groceries already boxed and ready to go. And, often times, there is some kind of extra treat on pick up day for the kids. Now, if I could find a local CSA to join....

If you have other programs that you know about, please share.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

1st time Pie Maker

I've never made a pie crust ~ EVER! In fact, I don't even remember ever trying to bake a pie. I bake lots of other things, but pie has never been on the to-do list. We have a wonderful family owned restaurant here in town that makes the best pies ever ~ Strawberry Rhubarb is my fave. So, I never felt the need... until I read the easiest pie crust recipe ever by Tomato Lady. Thanks TL!!

For 16 years, my husband has pined for a home made pot pie. Since the first crust went together so nicely, I whipped up a turkey pot pie for him.

I think the proof is in the photos! I should've taken pix of the empty pie plates. This was truly an easy-to-make pie crust and just delish!

Oh, and the unique design on the top of the pot pie is compliements of the kids. For some reason, I couldn't roll a circular shape crust and I gave up. The left over, trimmed off dough was plopped on top for dad to enjoy ~ he said it was the best crust he's ever had. And, I got to finally use the pie pans I bought years ago.

Homemade Christmas Gifts

We are a crafty family and usually make several Christmas Gifts. Here's a list of past gifts:

  • Baked goods ~ Cookies, breads & candies

  • Canned goods

  • Frozen meals ~ for families with new babies & older relatives that live alone

  • Paint by number kits - then we framed them - choose the pattern wisely - ours took 5 weeks!

  • Rice trivets with cinnamon & cloves - makes your table smell yummy!

  • Cookie of the Month Subscriptions ~ Which could be expanded to anything

  • Mini scrapbooks

  • Pictures of our family

  • Lap quilts

  • Light up pot pourri jars

  • Layered ingredients in a jar - cookies and also soup mix

  • Themed Kits ~ movie night, art, office, new cook ~ endless possiblities here

  • Personalized stationary & note pads

  • Dress up trunk ~ mostly old prom dressers & costume jewelry found at thrift shops

  • Packets of greeting cards with perpetual calendars

  • Tons of stuff we found on Family Fun site

  • Dog biscuts

  • Suet cakes for birds

Okay, so we are running out of ideas and went to the library to find books. We found a kid's wood working book that inspired Cole. He is going to be making a rope ladder for the girls, a CD holder for a brother and he even found a wooden cat toy that I'm hoping he makes because it's so darned cute! We got a kid's soapmaking book and have found several recipes that we'll try

So, last night, I was surfing around, trying to find more ideas and I wanted to share a few websites I found. Some are blogs I follow daily ~ I'm totally making a spa kit for a friend from all the cool stuff on Little House in the Suburbs. Aubrey wants to make lip balm and also a loofah soap for her teacher. (Instead of pouring soap into molds, you pour it into the end of a loofah. A variation would be to take a bath puff, put it into a cup or bowl and pour soap on it ~ kind of like soap-on-a-rope but with a bath puff inside.)

Okay, off to craft & bake.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chix On Thanksgiving

Okay, first of all, I'm not the world's steadiest camera gal... so apologies for that. And, when my son dubbed over the video with my life's theme song, you don't get to hear me begging the chickens to come out from under the coop!! Only Lucy/Larry ventured out ~ until about the 2:10 ish point in the video. If you can stand to watch it that long, you will see the flock on the run... but honestly, this post is all about the song!! It's called "Simple Ways" and it's by a good friend's son, Matt. He goes by the name Human and he's with the Human Revolution. I enjoy his music, but for some reason, this is the song that says it all for me!!

Oh, and the girls had fresh cranberries, cabbage & spinach for Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Gonna Get me a Flour Sack Dress

Does anyone else remember reading Lois Lenski books like Judy's Journey, Cotton in My Sack or Strawberry Girl? In Judy's Journey, she had a goat and she begged her father to stop at a feed store to buy goat chow. As they were very poor, he wasn't often able to do it. They did stop once and spent a quarter (wow, cheap chow!) The clerk told Judy to come back in a few days and he'd give her a flour sack to make a dress. They were migrant farm workers, so she wasn't able to go back to get it, but she always dreamed of having one. Every time I visit my local feed- n- seed store, I'm reminded of that story ~ and I wish I could have a flour sack ~ for my girls, to make them dresses.

Valley has feed for all our critters - hamster, guiena pig, rabbits, chickens, dogs and wild birds. We've even bought fish food for the pond dwellers. This time of year, they have bulk nuts available which is great for fall baking.
I've been trying to find a local source for Mortgage Lifter tomato seeds, and was delighted to discover them here and at the bargain price of 40 seeds for $1.50. I also picked up a package of Roma seeds ~ 500 for $.99!! I also bought Beefsteak & Arkansas Traveler. Closer to spring, we'll go back for some of their many lettuces, potatoes and onion sets.
If you're in the Wichita area, check out Valley Feed & Seed at 1903 S Meridian. They are open Mon - Sat. And, feel free to ask questions. They are a weath of info. I inquired about finding a processor for my roos, and they had a source in Yoder. I don't think they'll process just 3, but they also have a poultry auction the last Saturday of each month, so we might consider putting the roos in the auction or trading for some hens.

Viewed from Another Angle

I asked Jerry to take some photos while he was roofing the coop... just to see the yard from another angle. Right now, I'm trying to figure out where/how to plan the new square foot beds. On paper, it all looks like it will fit, but when I walk in the yard, it's a head scratcher. Honestly, we have a 1 acre yard, albeit a little oddly shaped. We should have plenty of room for everything, I think!

This is the space between the coop and the shed. At the top of the photo, we have 3 strawberry beds, asparagus, boysenberry, rhubarb and several smaller 3' x 3' beds that the kids have claimed. Next is the extra large compost bin, open space for potatoes (can't bear to grow them in the square foot method - we aim for at least 300 lbs of potatoes). In the middle of the picture, the fuzzy green stuff is the other asparagus bed, 2 more small square foot beds and the very long bed is slated for corn. Hopefully, it's far enough away from the fence that the lovely horses do not eat the stalks like they did this year.
Oh, the "ghost" is our attempt at wrapping one of the 4' x4' squares in plastic to extend the growing cycle. Even with our whipping winds in Kansas, the plastic was holding up okay. What has been a major pain is the temp fluctuation... from lows in the 20's to highs in the upper 70's. We have to put it on and take it off so, for now, it's off. All I have in there is spinach, carrots, greens and radishes.

So, this is the view from the rabbit hutch towards the coop. See the tiny little Jerry in the pix on top of the coop? I dare say, we have PLENTY of room to grow a lot more...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Speaking of Confetti Flocks

Today, J finished putting the shingles on the coop. YEAH!! While he was banging away, I let the chicks run around outside the coop. This is what a confetti flock looks like... That's farmer Cole in the background. Or Chick Wrangler.

To the left in the photo is the horse fencing. We are incredibly lucky that our backyard neighbors are 4 horses, on 7 acres. So, we get a sense of wide open space and all the horse love we want without the work. *grin* And, whenever the girls ask for ponies, we just point over the fence and say, "There ya go!"

My Favorite Red Head ~ Lucy

When we ordered our chickens from My Pet Chicken, I couldn't really decide what kind to get. I'd promised the youngest son that we were only going to get hens ~ egg consumption is okay with him, but NOT eating pets. His therory is that if you name it, you can't eat it.

After much debate, we settled on a confetti flock of White Leghorn, Buff Orpingtons, Easter Eggers, Barred Plymouth Rocks and New Hampshire Reds.

When they arrived, I was beside myself ~ giddy beyond belief. The were so sweet, fuzzy and just C*U*T*E. I was in love, with all of them. But something funny happened, once they started growing, one in particular just endeared herself to me. She was sassy, bossy and noisy. She was the biggest and the first to get her comb ~ which came in bright red... hence her name.... Lucy. She is still the biggest, sassiest and one with the most personality... but now we wonder, is our Lucy really a Larry? And, if she is a he, what the heck are we gonna do? Roosters are NOT allowed within the city limits... and apparently, if we try to eat him, our youngest son is going to run away and take Lucy/Larry with him. *Sigh* Anybody know for sure if this is a boy or girl? She/he is about 2 months old now.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Book Review: The Organic Food Shopper's Guide

I checked out the book from our library. I rarely buy books - I wouldn't have room to keep all the ones I read!

I was looking for a field guide to buying veggies. I just grabbed this off the shelf, not realizing that it was going to be a gem!

Okay, it's organized alphabetically. For each item, it lists when it's in season, varieties, how to select it, how to store & prepare it, nutritional highlights and what it goes good with, organic advantages and uses (ah! not just for cooking/eating!!) As a bonus, there are recipes galore!!

This book is going on the shopping list. I think it's something I'd love to have on hand while planning my garden as well as shopping. It's a smaller size so it'll tuck into a basket or purse.

For example, I'm on a quest to grow my own garlic after I tried my hand at making roasted garlic (super easy) for homemade hummus (also, super easy.) We hit the Farmer's Market and found the Garlic Lady (I wish I knew everyone's name, but I just call them by what they sell...) We bought 30 cloves of garlic. Some got roasted ~ YUM! Others went into the spaghetti sauce that I canned. The rest will be planted. I've got the spot ready, even have a ton of shredded paper.

So, that brings me to the book. I have no idea what kind of garlic I had. Until I read the book, I didn't recognize that there are 2 main types: hard-neck and soft-neck. Now, I know that I have white skinned, soft-neck garlic. So, I can check into other varieties next year.

What is even more amazing is to find out that once you find a type/kind of garlic you like, you can grow it from the original clove until you have the abundant bumper crop you need for eating and planting. (That I learned in another book ~ stay tuned.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bad Seed Farm Bee Class

The boys and I motored up to KC this past weekend to attend a Bee Keeping Class at Bad Seed Farm Market. Chris, the bee keeper, brought a lot of things to see and a wealth of info.

We've been thinking about adding bees to our little homestead, but DH has been concerned that bees and little people/dogs/chicks/horses aren't a good match. Well, it seems that others have blended the bees right into their suburban backyards with much success.

We had researched hive box building and found severl great online references to the Emile Warre method, but no place to buy them. Sooo, DH has offered to assist us in making our set up. We have plenty of time, bees don't arrive until April.

One class member (sorry, I didn't catch your name) gave info as to building a house for Mason Bees. Apparently, they are just as good or even better pollenators as Honey bees, and they don't need a hive. So, after hunting thru some library books, we found a simple design for a bundle of bamboo that will be easy to construct.

Really, all we want is to add bees to our homestead, whether they are honey bees or mason bees, either way is just fine.

By the way, the above photo is one box from Chris's hive. It contains about 25 pounds of unprocessed honey and honey comb. It even had a stowaway bee that zipped out during class.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thanks K's Dad

We have a wonderful family friend, K, who's dad is a fabulous gardener. Someday, I'm gonna grow up and be just like him. So when dad of K called her to offer her a bushel of apples, slightly spotty, she declined. Then dad & mom went on vacation.

She relayed the info to me and I immediately begged for the apples, spots and all. My garden produced, but not enough for me to be tired of canning, and I haven't done apples yet. So, she calls her folks on vacation and inquires if I may have the apples. Yes!

Now, we got the spotted orbs of goodness several weeks after picking, so some were a bit mushy, but we processed all we could, nibbling as we went. We fed the chicks some peelings, fed the worms some mush, fed the horses some cores and the rest we dumped into the compost bin.

I found a great recipe for cinnamon apple sauce and we made 7 quarts.

Does anyone else have kids who insist on eating what you just canned?! It doesn't matter if we have fresh stuff, they just want what's canned. It's like they cannot believe what we just made. So, we ended up eating 2 jars already. Sigh. At this rate, we will be staring at empty cupboards in November, except for salsa, which they do not eat with gusto.

My birthday wish came true

I've always had a fierce love for laundry hanging on a line, snapping in the breeze. My great grandma used to babysit us and she actually let us play in the laundry. Well, not the just washed stuff, but she would hang up sheets and blankets and we'd play for hours.

Fast forward to my newlywed years. My DH and I rented our first "house" that came complete with a laundry line in the yard. It was a square affair and dippy and crooked and it was just mostly a pain, but I did use it. Then, we moved into our next house that was built in the '50s and it had the more traditional T-posts with lines strung between. That house saw plenty of cloth diapers and baby stuff added to the usual 2 loads a week. Our next house also had a laundry line, but it ran in the midst of cedar trees. I'm sure when they were planted, no one ever thought they'd grow so wide. I implored my DH to dig them up and move the posts, but alas, he wasn't ever able to do that. He did put up some new wire between trees which worked nicely.

After 13 years of marriage, we finally bought our first house. It had everything on my list of wants/needs except the clothes line. DH promised he'd put one in for me. Every year for any gift giving holiday, I asked for a clothes line. Dozens of holidays have come and gone and this year, in honor of my birthday, I bought myself the cadillac of clothes lines, the Breeze Catcher 140.

It has all the best features: tons of hanging space (holds 3 full loads of clothes), spins with the minimum of breeze (we have plenty of that), folds down like an umbrella and if need be, can be removed from the ground and stored during the winter. OH, and it's rust proof.

The only trouble we had is that it's so windy here, that we ended up cementing it into the ground (after we had it inside the recommended cement block). And, that's really no trouble at all. They even sell the pipe that goes into the cement, in case you ever want to move the system and re-install it somewhere else.

All in all, truly one of the best gifts ever!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


We've always had a garden. Some more successful than others. Some years it's just a few tomatoes, others, it's a sprawling tangle mess of weeds and struggling veggies.

When we moved into our current home, we were extremely blessed to inherit a wonderful garden spot that still had growing produce in it. I'm sure the former gardeners must have spend a lot more time than we do, because in just a few months, we had transformed that beautiful plot into a weed infested wasteland. Sigh.

Every fall, we'd vow to do better next year. We'd burn off the stubble and plow it under. Spring would come and we'd begin planting with hopes and visions of bumper crops of glorious veggies. But, when the heat of summer hit, we'd abandon the mess and just wait til fall to burn and turn it under.

Until this year. We got smart and decided to have our soil tested. Yes, I realize it wouldn't help with the weeds, but it surely would address why we had such spindly plants and little yields. DH dug up several spots and mixed the soil together. Then took a sample to our local Extension office, paid the $ and we waited.

A few weeks later, we got the results back. While we had a wonderful mix of soil and compost, we were severely lacking in nitrogen. We also had a pH of 7.2 while most vegetables prefer 6.3-6.8, so sulfur was recommended to drop the pH.

We had very high levels of phosphorus and potassium and organic matter.

I highly recommend if your garden is struggling, get the soil tested. You will receive a summary report as well as detailed report on what you have and what you lack. Based on their advice, we added nitrogen fertilizer found at local garden centers. And, it worked! This year, we had a much better crop.

It all started with a bag...

This past spring, I saw a few earth friendly (i.e. re-usable) bags in various stores, so I started collecting them. At first, it was just the utlitarian ones from Walmart and Dillons. Then, I found artsy ones at Pier 1 and super huge ones at Aldis and pink ones at the Komen race and well, now I'm hooked. I seriously have a bag addiction. I have fold up ones, zippered ones, water proof ones and ones for frozen items. I keep them in my car, but I have noticed that nearly every member of my family has at least one bag in use in their rooms. My youngest, Miss Em is a lover of bags too. She is always filling them up and dragging them around the house. Right now, she is grooving on the Paris bag from Pier 1.

Anybag, this obsession quickly gave way to other earth friendly ideas and fast forward 5 months and we now have chickens, in a coop, in the yard!! Yes, friends, I have fallen hard for urban homesteading. I'll post several blogs about how I got here and what we're doing.