Independence Days

May, June, July 2012 Independence Update

So, I’ve fallen so far off the Independence Days record keeping wagon, that to do an update is almost laughable.  ;)  Just going off of the egg counts I’ve kept, and memory, here is what our summer has looked like.  But keep in mind, I’ve not kept track the way I intended to this year at all.  I’m not sure if I’ll keep record for the rest of the summer or not.  I will for the eggs… I’ve really enjoyed watching that tally.  But the rest?  I’m not sure.

Plant:  In May it was tomatoes, onions, basil, habanero peppers, chives, strawberries, beets, carrots, beans, cucumbers, zucchini, watermelon, sunflowers, Mexican sour gherkins, GIANT pumpkins, rhubarb, and lavender.  I transplanted a few things in July, but otherwise there was no planting after May.  Also – our strawberry plants all died.  :(

Harvest:

Eggs: 617, plus or minus.  There were about five days in July where we missed counting.
Spinach, chard, arugula, peas, mint, beets, garlic scapes, zucchini and summer squash, kale, cherry tomatoes, beets
Strawberries: 7 quarts
Asparagus: 12 lbs (approx.)
Sour cherries: 8 lbs after pitting
Garlic: 9.75 lbs
2 old hens and a cockerel

Preserve:

Frozen: 9.5 quarts chicken stock, 2 quarts turkey stock, 2# pizza dough, 5 quarts strawberries, 2.5 lbs cherries
Canned: 3 pints peach ginger preserves, 8 half-pints cherry jam, 7.5 half-pints strawberry preserves, 3.5 pints garlic scape pickles
Dried: 3 lbs sour cherries

Waste Not: Scraps given to chickens and/or compost pile

Want Not: 6 gallons of white vinegar, 10lbs baking soda, bulk baking powder, bulk pasta.  Got a few huge bins of clothes for C from friends (she’s covered until 3T!).

Eat the Food:  yes.

Build Community:

Neighbor shared rhubarb with us, hosted the May and July potlucks

Skill Up:

May: started on the flagstone patio
June: learned more about harvesting our honey (though still have not), and tending our top bar hive
July: learned to grout and repair tile

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Categories: Chickens, Garden, Independence Days, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

April Independence Update

April seemed to fly by, didn’t it?  I’m really pleased with my spring garden so far.  There are a few things that didn’t come up as well as I had hoped (my beets had a lot of skips to replant, had some dud onions), but all in all, I managed to get everything in on time AND I’m on track for May.  A first!

If you’ve been following along with the Independence posts, you’ll know I keep a running total on my right sidebar over there. → →

Here is my summary for April.

Plant: onions, spinach, Boston lettuce, red romaine, Tom Thumb lettuce, Little Gem lettuce, lilac pom pom poppies, winter thyme, basil, oregano, radishes, sage, chives.  Not everything came up though.  I think some of my lettuce seeds were old and they didn’t germinate well.  Same story with some of the herbs.

Harvest:

Eggs: 125 in April.  It’s been fun keeping track of this everyday.  And I’m also surprised that we’re eating this much – it’s between two to two-and-a-half dozen eggs per week!
Spinach: 1.5 pounds plus whatever Emmett’s eaten next to the spinach patch.
Mint

Preserve: added 3 pints of peach-ginger preserves to the pantry from peaches that we froze last summer.

Waste Not: Scraps given to chickens and/or compost pile, gave the old chain link fencing to the neighbor’s friend who will use it for a baseball field.  Also, been hanging nearly all the laundry on the clothesline.  Donated old stuff to the Goodwill.  Used the push-reel mower to mow.

Want Not: bought a picnic table on CL (my Mother’s Day 2011 present), bought some books at a garage sale, added the 3 gallons of olive oil that we ordered in March to the pantry.

Eat the Food: mainly we’ve been emptying things out… from the pantry: peach preserves, peanut butter, pasta, nuts, pickles, etc..  The freezer: tomatoes, corn, bell peppers, peaches (many), elk meat (lots), chicken, berries (I still have berries?!?!), peas, green chiles.

Build Community: The April potluck was a huge success.  We had more people there than ever.  It kind of spurred us on to hurry up on that picnic table so we could have enough seating for everyone.  We built a raised bed in the neighbor’s yard and helped him plant it with lettuces, carrots and onions so far, and we introduced a friend to our CSA farm (they should pay me).

Skill Up: We replaced a chain-link fence with a cedar one, built our first lasagna bed, and divided and transplanted some day lilies that we along the old fence line.  Also learned that “nearly done” compost, is not “good enough.”  I hadn’t gotten the pile hot enough to kill weed seeds and now I’ve spread it in a lasagna bed and in my neighbors bed.  And grown lots of weeds.  :(

Also, I’ve been having a hard time remembering everything for the once a month updates, so I’m thinking I might do twice a month for a while to see how it goes.  I have things I want to talk about for May, and I’m afraid I’ll forget by the end of the month!

Have you been participating in the Independence Days Challenge?

Categories: Independence Days | Tags: | 2 Comments

March Independence Days Update

Wow – here it is the middle of April, and I’m just now getting to the March update.  Yikes!

March was a great month, garden speaking.  I actually got my spring garden in on time!  I planted a lot really, and am happy to report that potatoes, peas, beets, kale, spinach and arugula are all up already.  Some of my lettuce didn’t come up so I’m thinking I’ll have to replant it.

A switch must have flipped for the chickens, since March 1st, we’ve collected 99 eggs.  Ninety-nine!

Plant Something:  Potatoes, Alaskan sugar peas, blue curled kale and red Russian kale, yellow cylindrical beets, Ringmaster onions, spinach, arugula, Boston lettuce, red romaine, Tom Thumb lettuce, Little Gem lettuce, peas and oats cover crop blend in the chicken area.

Harvest Something: Eggs: 99!!  Enough spinach for a pizza and for Emmett to graze on.

Preserve Something:  Froze 1# pizza dough.


Waste Not: Scraps given to chickens and/or compost pile.

Want Not: At the beginning of March, we bought a case of pasta, and at the end of the month we ordered some olive oil in bulk.  Also, the neighbor gave us steel posts so we could get started on the last run of the fence, and two old rusty iron tractor seats that we plan to turn into a garden bench.

Eat the Food:  From the Pantry we’ve eaten peach preserves, peanut butter, strawberry jam, pasta, nuts, plum lavender jam, the last of the dried tomatoes and  pickles, pickles, pickles.  From the freezer: elk flat steak, bell peppers, tomatoes, corn, black bean burgers, peaches, elk back strap, turkey stock, and pizza dough.

Build Community:  In March, we hosted our second potluck and a seed swap.  It was great to get to know friends a bit better and I got some new seeds (peas, cilantro and hollyhocks).  We helped the neighbor get started on a new raised bed in his front yard.

Skill Up: Our neighbor showed Rick how to properly sand and paint steel posts.  

We are headed into one of the busiest times of the year for homesteaders.  The planting season is in full swing.  We had the warmest March I can remember, not one drop of precipitation in what is normally Colorado’s snowiest month, and it is being followed by a chilly April so far.  But everything seems to be growing well, and I’ve certainly gotten the planting itch!

How are things coming along at your homestead?

Categories: Independence Days, Sustainability, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

February Independence Update

I have to admit that my urban homestead boot camp has been a bit of a blogging boot camp for me as well.  I’ve written more in the last two months than I have pretty much ever, and it’s been a great outlet that I’ve really enjoyed.  And my readership is up as well, which is always fun for me and also amazing, since I am always surprised that people want to read what I’m saying.  So welcome to all of you new readers!  Also, I plan on doing a bit of blog maintenance this week, so if you see anything weird, mid change, please bear with me.

I wanted to do an update on my progress with the Independence Days challenge.  I’ve kept pretty good track on my sidebar, but sometimes I forget a few things here or there.  So for the last month, this is where we’re at:

Plant Something: Planting is on the horizon here for us.  We have seeds and I’m planning on starting some inside (perhaps this week?) but now we’re just waiting on the weather.

Harvest Something: One whole egg.  I’m pretty sure we have more than one egg eater, and I know one hen is in full molt right now.  And one is five years old.  So the lack of eggs, while not totally surprising, is completely frustrating.  I’ve heard from a few people on Facebook that we’re not the only ones in Colorado experiencing this, that it has something to do with our whacked out weather, but in five years of raising chickens, this is the first time we’ve been completely dry.  Especially this late in the winter.  So we have some culling to do in the near future and some replacements waiting in the wings:

Preserve Something: While we were all sick a couple weeks back, Rick dug the Thanksgiving turkey carcass out of the freezer and made up some stock (and some soup).  8 cups went into the freezer.  Other than that though, we’ve mainly been depleting it, and not adding to it.  ;)

Waste Not:  Scraps given to the chickens and compost pile.  Also, a few months back I salvaged a small nightstand /dresser thingy and a book shelf that was going into the local preschool’s dumpster (why???).  Rick has been refinishing them.  The nightstand is solid wood and is cleaning up beautifully.  I wish I had done before/after pictures.  The book-case is both wood and wood-veneer.  It’ll probably end up getting painted.

Want Not: I bought a couple of pairs of pants from the thrift shop, as well as a hurricane for my oil lamp.  We have a case of pasta on order that I should be getting this week or next.  Also, some angel friends dropped by some clothes for C last night, unexpectedly.  I’m so grateful for gifts like that, out of thin air.  I’m glad we found out that other friends of ours are having a baby girl, so we can pay that blessing forward.

Eat the Food: Due to some payroll mix ups, we got to take full advantage of our freezer and pantry this month.  Rick got what we thought was some extra bonus money at the beginning of the month.  It turns out that payroll had made a mistake and then just took the difference out of his check two weeks later… after we had already used it to pay off some debt.  So we had two very lean weeks, income wise.  Thankfully we really didn’t feel much of a pinch, since we had the food stored.  We ate a bit more meat than we usually do, and a few less fresh vegetables.  But we by no means suffered through it.   From the pantry we had spaghetti squash, pickles, strawberry jam, peach-plum ginger jam, white pumpkin, dried tomatoes, peach preserves, plum noir jam, red beans and chick peas, rice, more pickles, pasta, popcorn, nuts….  and from the freezer, we enjoyed elk chili, elk steak, green chiles, elk stew meat, asparagus, the turkey bones for soup, elk for stir fry, green peppers, elk chili again, ground elk, elk steaks, more tomatoes, lots of peaches for tarts and cobblers and smoothies, frozen corn… and I’m sure more.

Build Community Food Systems: At the beginning of the month we hosted our first monthly potluck.  My hope in doing this monthly is to, number one, build community, and number two, share resources.  The first one had a small crowd, but we enjoyed it a lot and are looking forward to the next one on the 9th with, hopefully, more people.  ;)

Skill Up: We’ve been chomping at the bit for spring to get here.  In the mean time, I’ve read up on fan training fruit trees, and I bought a grow light, since I’ve determined that the natural light we get in the house has been insufficient for starting seeds.  Now I have to figure out how to build some adjustable height stand thingy for the light.  Heh.  And, Rick has been doing the aforementioned refinishing, which is new to him.

So that is the summary for the month.  If you’ve been doing the Independence Days challenge this year, what have you been accomplishing?

Categories: Independence Days, Sustainability, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

2012 Independence Days Challenge

Last week, Sharon Astyk announced that she’d be bringing back her Independence Days Challenge.  Whew!  I was excited about it!  If you’ve read my blog for more than a year, you know, I’ve participated in her challenge since 2010.

The challenge is to make small steps, every week, every day if you can, towards food independence.  And then record them.  There is no lamenting what you haven’t done, and in contrast to challenges where doing as much as you can takes the stage, the Independence Days challenge shows that small things do add up and everyone can do something.

The steps are recorded in several categories…

Plant Something: Planting isn’t done just once a year when you are looking to be independent.  Sharon tries to plant everyday from February to October.  Think seed starting, cold frames, season extension if you can.  February is a bit early for us, but we already have potatoes chitting so we can be ready to go in just a few weeks.

Harvest Something: From your garden, your nest boxes, the finished compost, foraging.  It all counts.

Preserve Something: In lots of parts of the country you can’t plant and harvest year round, including here in Colorado.  So you better put up what you can for the dark days of winter!  Canning and jamming, yes, but also drying, smoking, freezing, etc.

Waste Not:  Scraps given to the animals and/or compost pile fit here.  Also mending things instead of throwing them out.  Creating less garbage, making sure things don’t go to waste.

Want Not: Building up your long and short-term food storage falls into this category.  We bought a case of peanut butter, for example, or buying bulk grains goes here.  Also, I’ve put things like cloth diapers or second-hand clothes in this category.  Things that last and will need our needs over time.

Eat the Food: It’s tough to break the habit of buying a full menu’s worth of meals at the grocery store.  You have to think and make an effort to use up the book you have stored.  Eating from your pantry and your freezer, making full use of what you have.  Trying new recipes falls here too.  Eat what you’ve worked hard to grow and save!

Build Community Food Systems: Sharon sums it up like this: “What have you done to help other people have better food access or to make your local food system more resilient?”  I include things here like gardening with the neighbors, giving talks about gardening, CSAs, farmer’s markets, sharing food with people in an effort to get them to take their own steps towards self-reliance.

And a new category (I’m so excited about this one) -

Skill Up: from big things like building a beehive or cold frame, to smaller things like starting seeds or researching new ideas.  Record in this category what you’ve done to add to your own arsenal of skills.

Over the last two years, I have recorded our steps in a weekly blog post (see them all here).  But this year, I’m thinking of recording them a little differently.  Look to the right, over there in my side bar.  I’ve decided to keep a running total over there.  I’ll still post Independence Days updates, but probably less regularly than weekly.  We’ll see how it goes.  I’m flexible.  But I like the idea of watching it all add up in one place.

I’d love it if you decide to join the challenge too.  I really like seeing the small things add up.

For more info on the Independence Days Challenge, make sure to read Sharon’s post.

Categories: Food, Independence Days | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

Winding Down for the Season

We’re playing catch up here as the harvest season comes to a close.  This is my favorite time of year, but it is one that works us the hardest.  As the weather cools off we find ourselves wanting to move inside.  We want to settle down with a cuppa and a warm blanket or cozy up to a nice bowl of hot soup.  Unfortunately, all that coziness will have to wait just a few more weeks.  Winter is the true sleepy season.  Fall is the season of work.

We have most of the harvest put away finally.  Sunflowers and corn are hanging to dry, onions and potatoes are stored, canning is finished, summer produce is put up in its various forms.  We have garlic to plant this week.  I am actually doing a little garden redesign as we are pulling plants when the freezes hit and kills them off one by one.  The tomatoes are still, unbelievably, hanging on.

I am hoping to get some of our kohlrabi to over-winter so I can get seed from it next fall.  The plants are from seed from Slovakia that was smuggled through the mail to my in-laws.  The variety is very large – 8 pounds or more without any woodiness.  Our plants are bulbing up nicely, and they might just be one of the few big successes this season, but the seed is hard to come by.

An Independence Days update is in order, I think.  I last did one in August.

Plant something – Planted a few hardy mums.  Garlic will hit the dirt this week – nothing else is on the docket though.

Harvest something – eggs, tomatoes, peppers, kale, chard, kohlrabi, over 60 gallons (maybe even 80) of compost.

Preserve something – tomatoes and corn frozen, a couple of ducks in the freezer (thanks to Rick!!), the above mentioned canning, drying, dehydrating and such.

Waste Not – compost and recycling, scraps to chickens, etc.  Reused old t-shirts for a Halloween costume.  Working on other sewing projects from the scrap box – including some napkins and even two quilts!  Been mending things, not throwing them out.

Want Not – My friend Annie gave us some cloth diapers, and I used an old flannel baby blanket to make some extra wipes.  Got some great hand-me-downs from some friends for the baby girl.

Build Community Food Systems – Participated in both the Denver Botanic Gardens and the Denver Urban Homesteading chicken coop tours.  Baby sat for some friends in exchange for a couple of pullets (we got the great end of that deal)!

Eat the Food – yes.  :)

Although my summer garden was a huge flop this year, I am happy that I put down some bok choy seeds and some late season peas this summer.  I might get one more harvest before we put the garden to bed completely.  I actually planted some other things too, but the second round of kale, spinach and beets never came up and I didn’t get any replacements in the ground in time.  I feared for the bok choy after the chicken coop tour – it got somewhat trampled since a few people didn’t seem to realize they were standing in my garden on my baby brassicas.  But it has survived, and even if it doesn’t get huge, I might get some baby heads out of it yet.

Still, I find myself drawn indoors.  Completing sewing projects (mostly mending) that I’ve put off for months.  Starting other projects.  Getting my craft on.  A few moments of inspiration have led to some things getting done in the handiwork department.  Halloween is coming and costumes need making.

We had a family dinner last week.  I’ve been spending more time with my sister lately and I am enjoying this time with her.  We decorated sugar skulls for the Mexican Day of the Dead.  The holiday begins on November 1st, which is Henry’s birthday, and we are big Halloween fans around here, so we did our Dia de los Muertos early this year.  (More on this later, I promise).

Life these days is transitioning from the mad rush of summer to the slower pace of fall.  Rick’s big-game hunting will mark the last of the harvest here, and that is coming in the next few weeks.  In the mean time, we are quieting down.  The canning pot is back in it’s spot in the basement.  H is focusing more on indoor play and learning.  It’s funny how we naturally move in these rhythms.  From outside in the sun and mud to inside quiet games at the table.

Categories: Food, Garden, Independence Days, Simple Living, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Late Summer Snapshot

It’s been almost three weeks since I’ve made it onto the computer.  I’m sure you were wondering if I had some sort of mysterious injury related to a grub hoe and a compost bin.  But I assure you, everything is fine.  The sun has been out, and things have been growing like mad, including both boys and C.  So the blog has been collecting dust!  In the mean time, I’ve been able to get a few things done around here.

We picked cucumbers up at our CSA and put up 48 quarts of pickles.

We got the tree trunk and stump hauled away to a mill.

And we put some 7 pounds of elk meat into the dehydrator to become jerky.

We harvested corn and our first potatoes with the neighbor.

I have to say that harvesting potatoes is one of the funnest things ever – it’s like a treasure hunt!

We ended up with 40 pounds of fingerlings and 50 pounds of Desirre red potatoes!  We will have plenty for seed next year and hopefully enough to store through the winter.

We also have a neighborhood BBQ in the works and have been spreading the hens’ good will via eggs and some extra garden onions.

We are getting ready for some berry picking and peach picking in the next week or two.  I am excited to get some preserves into the pantry as well.  We are going to take a walk tomorrow to the house with the concord grape vine and see if the new family there will share some grapes with us this year like the last tenants there did.  We are bringing some 2010 jam with us to give them as an incentive!

The late summer/early fall is one of the busiest times around our homestead.  Harvests are coming in, the dehydrator is running, and we are trying to see if we can manage to get the yard back in shape in time to participate in the second annual Denver Botanic Gardens chicken coop tour.  If you remember, I made some improvements on the coop this spring with the tour in mind, and last year was a lot of fun, so it’d be really great if we can pull it together in time.   More updated posts in the coming days – I am finally getting back on the ball around here, I think.  ;)

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Chickens, Community, DIY, Garden, Independence Days, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Slow Harvest

It’s been a month since I did an Independence Days update.  I really like this method of keeping track of what we’re doing on the homestead to work towards our own independence.  The end of July and into August seems like a time we should be pulling a lot from the garden.  We were really on the ball this year with our spring and fall plantings, but our summer crops went in extra late (except the tomatoes), so our harvest has been slower than I was hoping it would be this year.  Of course we’ve had our hands full with family matters too. ;)  I’m really wishing the carrots, beans and watermelon would kick into gear.

Plant something – fall crops of beets, peas, beans, kale, turnips, and bok choy went into the ground.  After the virtual homestead tour last week, I had someone ask for a picture of the whole garden.  After we did some weeding and put in the fall seeds this weekend, I took a couple of pictures.  It looks so empty without the big squash plants of summer that we usually have, but here is what our main garden currently looks like.

  

Left picture:  clockwise from top left, Kohlrabi, newly planted peas onions still growing from seed, onions and beets we picked, newly planted spinach, late zucchinis still growing, just planted bush beans.  you can see some tomato plant tops there at the bottom left corner of the pic. 
Right picture:  from top left, tomatoes, cukes and pole beans on the trellis, peppers in front of the trellis, bee hive in the back and kohlrabi on the far right.  In the row with the peppers is bok choy, kale and the bush beans. 
 

Harvest something –  eggs, onions, beets, peppers, tomatoes, kale, chard.  We have tiny little cucumbers on the vines and could probably pick some kohlrabi this week too.  Otherwise I feel like things have been slow.  I and just waiting for all the tomatoes to really come on… then I’ll be wishing things would slow down just a bit, I’m sure.

Preserve something – nothing since the baby was born… no wait, I take it back, I cut the necks off the garlic bulbs and sorted the ones we’re saving for seed and the ones we plan to eat.  Yum yum!

Waste Not – compost, scraps to chickens, recycling, etc.  We’ve done quite a bit of eating from the freezer – all the things I saved up for C’s arrival.

Want Not – We found out about a co-op here that sells grains and chicken feed for a great price.  We got 65 pounds of organic layer feed (whole grains and seeds!) for less than $27!

Build Community Food Systems – Our neighbor, Doug, harvested some carrots and onions.  His carrots look like they belong in a story book or on a seed packet!  He shared the first ones with our boys.  And I actually got a picture of him!  His corn is getting close to harvest too – I bet he’ll get some ears this week.

I really wanted to participate in the first ever Denver County Fair this year (Rick makes some amazing zucchini bread), but the fair dates fell about 10 days after we had C, and it was a little early to be walking around the fair just yet.  But we did get a call about joining the Denver Botanic Gardens chicken coop tour this year.  The tour is in October, but we’re on the fence still, since with all our projects this year, we’re not sure the yard will be in any sort of shape to have people touring it.

Eat the Food – We’ve been eating a lot from the garden.  This is my favorite time of year – when we make whole meals from food we grew ourselves.  We’re also on our last jar of grape jam, and only have a few packages of peaches left – perfect timing since we should be picking more by the end of the month.

Categories: Food, Garden, Independence Days | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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