Posts Tagged With: Top 5

Tips for Using Your Push Mower

I realize that in some parts of the country, there is still snow on the ground.  Down here in central Texas, though, I just finished mowing the lawn for the second time.  Whew!  I’m grateful that our backyard here is modest, since even this “mild” spring weather is hot to me.

Here are some tips in case you are new to using a push-reel mower and finding it difficult.

Push mower

1. Clean the yard first.  Our power mower could chop up sticks, but twigs will get caught in the reel of the push mower, bringing you to a stop and you’ll have to reverse the blades to get it out before you continue mowing.  Frequent starts and stops require a lot more energy than maintaining momentum.  A few minutes spent looking for sticks and rocks and small kids’ toys, anything that might get caught in the mower’s blades, and removing them from the grass before you get started is time well spent.

2.  Set your blades higher.  Longer grass uses less water, and higher blades will promote that, taking just a little off the top.  If you cut the grass shorter, it might need more passes of the mower, which can double (or more) the time you spend mowing.

3.  Mow more often.  While longer grass is good for water conservation, let it get too long and you’ll have trouble getting the push mower through it at all.  This is especially true of thick lawns or lawns with hills.  Our new lawn has a bit of a rise in one area and that grass is harder to mow.  If we were to “let it go” it would be very difficult to cut with the push mower.

4.  Use a trimmer for the edges.  I’ve had a  hard time getting the push mower to do a good job cutting the grass at the edges of the lawn where it meets with the fence or the patio.  Instead of struggling over those areas over and over, I just mow as close as I can and then clean up the edges with the trimmer.

5.  Mow in sections.  Our front yard here is about the same size as it was in Colorado, but the grass here is thick and harder to get the mower through.  It makes the job tough for me in the heat (I know!  Wimpy Colorado girl in Texas!).  Instead of sweating my way through the whole job at once, I break it into two or three more manageable chunks.  The mower is lightweight so it’s no big deal to walk it back to the backyard while I take a break, get a drink or water my garlic.  Then after I’m refreshed, I take on the next section of lawn.  I can still get the job done, both front and back yards, in under an hour including the breaks.

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Categories: Simple Living, Sustainability, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What to Expect from the Lazy Homesteader in 2013

I’ve thought pretty hard about the “resolutions” I want to share on the blog for this year.  I’ve had a hard time thinking of specific goals, and I’m not really into the “lose twenty pounds” type of resolutions.  I’ve decided that instead of goals I wanted to focus on some themes that are both personal to me and yet very applicable to the homesteading way of life.

This year, you can expect to see posts (hopefully weekly, realistically a couple of times a month) having to do with one or two of the following themes.

Rick hikng with C on his backCommunity – In 2012, I established a monthly potluck to help build community.  I made some new friends and built connections.  In 2013 I want to do this more.  I want more connection, more real relationships.  I have realized that no one can live this life alone.  We need each other and I want more of it.  I have a challenge in mind for this theme this year.  I’m excited about it, though it’s going to be a tough one.

Preparedness – Colorado had the worst wild-fire of all time in 2012.  There were hurricanes on the East coast.  For much of the country, there were record heat waves and drought.  Across the country there were poor harvest and food prices are on the rise.  I’m not a panicky or prepper or anything like that, but I have started thinking about the benefits of being prepared in a real emergency.

Thrift – Expect to see more DIY posts this year.  From homemade to making-do to doing without, I plan to share more thrifty ideas this year.

Food Connections – This is the thing that sent me down the homesteading path all those years ago; being connected to our food.  I have plans to share about sustainable food sources, processing your own meat (including wild game and hunting), and of course the garden.  This year I am going to explore as many aspects of food connection as I can.  I hope to close some of the gaps we’ve had in our own food sources as well.

Grace – This year I plan to go easier on myself.  You guys know I love a crazy goal.  But I also need a little more balance, and my kids certainly need a sane mommy.  So I plan to cut myself a little slack this year.  I’ve realized that this journey to being green and crunchy and self-sufficient is just that, a journey.  I don’t have to do it all at once.  It’s ok to take small steps and find what is feasible for our family.  I’m not throwing the baby out with the grey water or anything, but I am going to focus more on things like simplicity, peace, and well, the categories mentioned above.  :)

I’m really looking forward to 2013 and what it will bring.  And I’m excited to share our homestead with you as always.

Categories: Community, DIY, Simple Living, Thrift, Top 5, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Top Seven Posts of 2012

Here we are, the last day of the year.  I don’t know about you, but I am ready to welcome 2013.  Before we get there, I thought I’d recap some of my 2012 posts for you.  I published 80 posts this year (this post makes 81).

This year, pinterest came on the scene for my blog, and I had to start upping the ante on my photos.   I also started getting some movement on reddit.  It has been a fun year of writing for me, and I hope to do even more in 2013.

Below are the top posts in seven different categories.  Some of them are the most popular and some are posts that I thought were a bit overlooked.  Almost all of them have to do with food.

Most commented on post: Homestead Failures: Confessions of What I Didn’t Do.  Seems like you guys could relate!

Best food post of 2012Garlic Scapes Two Ways.  It’s hard to go wrong with garlic scapes, and they are pretty too.

The most overlooked food post of 2012:  Despite having quite a few comments, there were not very many hits on my Spicy Hot Lava Cakes recipe.  It’s a quick and easy dessert, and very tasty.  Check it out!

Most overlooked how-to post:  When to Harvest Garlic.  Was this old news?  Or not many people growing garlic?  Just bad timing?  I’m not sure why the hits here were low here.

The most popular post of 2012: Practical Ways to Store Food without a Fridge which, thanks to pinterest, surpassed my previous all-time most popular post: 2010’s Handmade Halloween – Garden Gnome Tutorial.

Most “controversial” post of the year: Five Things No One Tells You about Keeping Chickens.  I got some heat on reddit, where this post ruffled the feathers of the chicken huggers there.  Despite that, it has stayed in the all time top twelve of /r/homestead.  It was actually in the top ten until the middle of November.  So yay for that!

The 2012 post I’m most proud ofThe Gamey Taste of Game Meat, Part I.  I really love how this post turned out.  I worked hard on putting it together and it was well received.  I hope to do a few more hunting/game meat posts int he coming year.

If you enjoyed this recap, make sure to check out my top posts of 2011 as well.

I would personally like to thank you, my readers, for visiting my blog, especially those of you who take the time to comment.  Many of you are regulars and I appreciate your frequent comments:  Annie at Learning As We Go, Cynthia in Denver, Jessie: Improved, Robin at Seventh Acre Heaven, Laura H., City Sister, John (aka El Goucho), Alice, Roxanne, dixiebelle, and so many others (I’m sorry I can’t list you all!).  Seeing that people are interested in what I have to say keeps the blog fun and exciting for me.  All of you who comment add so much to the information here.  Thank you!  I hope all of you have a safe and happy new year.  See you in 2013!

Categories: Recommended Reading, Top 5, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

2012 Resolutions Revisited

It’s the winter solstice.  The days are going to get longer and spring is on the way.  2012, you have gone by so quickly.

Around this time last year I set out a few resolutions for 2012.  Here’s a recap of what those were:

  1. Grow a giant pumpkin. 
  2. Grow enough in our own neighborhood gardens to feed ourselves for the summer.
  3. Process chickens.  
  4. Harvest Honey. 
  5. Start a monthly potluck circle.

So how did we do with those?  Well, we tried to grow the pumpkin.  We planted it, we watered it, we fed it compost tea.  But it only got to about the size of a volley ball.  So next year, we will have to try again.

Number two, well… not quite yet.  We’ll keep on that road.  We did process chickens this year, as well as harvest our own honey, though.

HHarvest10

The potluck.  We started the monthly potluck in February.  We have hosted one every month since then except in June (kids were all sick) and November (we were out of town, hunting).  And this is one resolution we are definitely keeping up with.

I’m still thinking over what my resolutions for the new year will be.  Do you have any resolutions for yourself yet?  How about ideas for me?  Something you want to see me try?

Categories: Community, Garden, Sustainability, Top 5, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Homestead Failures: Confessions of What I Didn’t Do

Every once in a while I come across someone who describes me in the most peculiar way.  There’s a great homesteading blog that says something like “the most organized homesteader I know.”  Or, one that shocks me even more, “This woman can do it all!”  Yeah.  Not so much.

I’m a bit bothered by these statements actually.  I try to be pretty honest on my blog – not just all shiny-happy all the time.  I’m not joking when I call myself the LAZY homesteader. I’m really, really great at coming up with an idea, gathering all the materials, and not following it through to completion.  Rick often plays clean-up to my projects.

I’m not sure if I’m more bothered by the fact that I’m somehow failing to communicate the realism of my life ( I have THREE kids that sometimes drive me to drink, people), or if it’s the imagined (implied?) pedestal that someone thinks I’m on that gets to me.

There are a lot of Judgey-Judgertons out there ready to tell you you’re not doing enough, you’re doing too much, you’re doing it wrong, or what you’re doing isn’t as important as what they’re doing.  I’m so not that.  I don’t ever want to communicate that.

I’m not sure exactly what the communication break down is, but I wanted to pause a moment to illustrate for you just how imperfect my life really is.

Please, come with me into the urban homestead confessional.  Forgive me Followers, for I have sinned.  It’s been 11 months since my last confession:

  • This year I planted beets that I failed to harvest until they were good for nothing besides pig food.
  • I’ve completely lost track of my Independence Days challenge this year.  I still have an egg count going though.
  • I never made pickles this year.  And I ignored the fact that my melons and cukes didn’t germinate, I didn’t replant them.
  • I decided to take on the Riot for Austerity.  And then I didn’t.
  • Last summer, I over-bought peaches.  I feel like I still have as many peaches in the freezer this year as I did last year.
  • This spring I used not-quite-finished compost in the garden and then grew lots and lots of weeds.  I generously gave some of this same compost to the neighbor.  I send H to pull weeds for him.
  • In 2011, I gave myself a 20 week organizing challenge: twenty weeks to organize twenty things.  I stayed on track for 8 weeks, went all sporadic, took a five month break, did three more posts on it at the beginning of the year, and then completely blew the project off.  I still have four items to go.
  • I collected too many chickens.  I was like the crazy cat lady of chickens.  We had 14 and they were all stressed and dirty and it stank.  We butchered three and are holding steady at 11 right now.  They are much happier and we’re loving the eggs.  But really I need to find a home for 4 more of them; I’m putting it off because I’m all attached or something.
  • I bought a grow light to start seeds with.  I sat it on the dryer and never opened it.  After four months, I dusted it off and returned it to Lowes for store credit.
  • I drove two hours, round trip, to pick three boxes of tomatoes from my CSA.  I let the husband wash them and then left them on the counter for 19 days until all but 22 were rotten.  At that point, I divided the remainder between the chickens and the compost bin.

What are some things you had the best intentions for but didn’t pan out as planned?  Have anything to confess?

Categories: Top 5, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , | 33 Comments

Five Last-Minute Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

As we all know, time flies and I’m sure for some,  Mother’s Day has crept up on us this year.  Since we are down to the wire (Mom’s Day is THIS SUNDAY), here is my wishlist of readily available gift ideas that would make any Lazy Homesteader, this one in particular, pretty happy!

  1. Pressure canner such as the Presto 23 quart Deluxe Pressure Canner that is available at the local hardware store.  Yep, Ace at University Hills has one in stock for $119, Rick.  So does the Ace at Cherry Hills Marketplace.   Plus, I have a $5 off coupon in the Chinook book.  ;)  Then I could can up all that broth instead of freezing it; it’d be ready to use in a snap.
  2. Gift card to the local garden center.  Plus watching the kids while I go shop there.  I can use it to buy the frivolous plants you never want me to get when we’re planting out the veggie beds.  And if you do the laundry or the dishes while I’m gone, you might get some sort of husband of the year award.
  3. A gardening/homesteading/foodie/self-sufficiency book.  I have a few titles on my list… A Householder’s Guide to the Universe by Harriet Fasenfest, Kristen Kimball’s The Dirty Life, anything Sharon Astyk has written (her latest, Making Home, is available for pre-order), Coyne and Knutzen’s Making It, one or all of Jennifer McLagan’s books: Bones, Fat, or Odd Bits, Rosalind Creasy’s Edible Landscaping, the new Free-Range Chicken Gardens by Bloom and Baldwin, or The Non-Toxic Avenger by Deanna Duke.
  4. Rubber boots.  Okay, so I just bought a pair for myself, but I figured that I’m not the only gardener/homestead type who wants a pair of these.  I love them.  They will run in the $20-35 dollar range.  I was lucky and got these on sale for $18.  Note to my hubby: This does not get you off the hook for Sunday.  :)
  5. New pruners.  Good, sharp ones that will last.  Something in the $30 plus dollar range that can cut through 1″ thick branches.  At this point, I feel like I’ve outgrown the $9.99-special pruners.  They just don’t hold up to the rigors we put them through.  Think of them as an investment.  FELCO is notoriously good, and you can even buy replacement parts.  Hey, show me the order confirmation number and all will be forgiven if they arrive late. ;)

Of course, spending time with the man and the kids is the best part of the day for us moms (as long as there is no laundry and no dishes involved).  And I especially love it when my man cooks for the family.

What is on your Mother’s Day wishlist?

Categories: Top 5, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

Pros and Cons of a Push-Reel Mower

Like many people around the country last week, we mowed our lawn for the first time this season.  The difference between us and our neighbors, however, is I talked on the phone while I did it.

We have a push-reel mower.

Last summer, I sold my husband’s shiny, red, super-charged, front-wheel-drive, 9 billion horsepower, mulching power mower for this little green machine powered by ye ole chevrolegs.

Now I love this thing, and truth be told, Rick hates it.  He teases me all the time about how I’m saving approximately 6 gallons of gas a year.  If that.  And, pretty much, he leaves the mowing to me now, where before it used to be solely his domain.  I think he’s embarrassed.  But I like it anyway.

In case you have been considering getting one yourself, here are the pros and cons (yes, there are some) of a push-reel mower…

The top five things I love about the push-reel mower:

  1. It’s quiet.  I really did talk on the phone while I was mowing the lawn last week.  My mom asked me, what that sound was, and I said, “Oh, I’m mowing the lawn.”  Then we both laughed.  I was talking on the phone while mowing the lawn.  Preposterous!  I could mow at six in the morning or ten at night and the neighbors would never know.  It’s the stealth mower.  I actually like the sound it makes.
  2. It uses no fuel or oil and takes little to no maintenance.  By the time my neighbor is done checking his oil and fuel and pumping and priming, reconnecting the spark plug and whatever else, I’m ¾ the way done mowing my lawn.  One time, no joke, with the old power mower I stood outside for like 15 minutes trying to start the thing before I realized the spark plug was disconnected (hubby did this for safety’s sake).  The neighbor had to come over and point it out. 
  3. It’s lightweight.  All the power it uses comes from your legs and arms pushing this machine; it’s easy to maneuver and I can easily lift it up the couple of steps to our front yard and takes up very little space in the garage.  With the old machine, I could barely get it up the steps, and had to go up all backwards and strategic.  It was super heavy and could chop off my arm – the little label on the side said so.
  4. There is NO string pulling to start it up.
  5. There is no exhaust.  No stinky fumes makes me feel all green and hip and environmentally conscious.  And also the lack of fumes keeps me from feeling sick.  I know six gallons (or whatever) of gas per year is not much, but I don’t mind mowing the lawn now, because I don’t get a headache from the noise/fume combo.

Five things I don’t love:

  1. You can’t mow over sticks.  The power mower mulched and could chop up a stick or a twig that had fallen from the tree in the front yard, but the push mower can’t.  I send the boys out in the yard before I mow with the mission to pick up all the sticks.  If I accidentally mow over a stick, I have to stop to get it out of the mower, because it will jam the blades.
  2. Sharpening the blades will be a challenge.  Not many places know how to sharpen the blades of a push-reel mower anymore, and those who do charge a lot for it – almost as much as the mower cost.  Since the blades will stay sharp a long time though, we at least have a while to learn how to do it ourselves.
  3. It doesn’t always get every piece of grass in one pass.  Because of this, it is really important to overlap or mow two ways.  Otherwise your lawn looks like it’s received a haircut from a barber half in the bag.
  4. The neighbors look at us funny.  When I first bought the mower, I thought people would think we were so cool – all hip and eco-friendly.  Turns out, they either think we are crazy or too poor for a “real” mower.  Hmm… this must be why Rick is embarrassed to use it.
  5. You can’t be a lazy lawn keeper.  If your grass gets too long, the push mower is a real bear to use.  In fact, there was a time last summer, when we first got the mower, that we had to borrow our neighbor’s power mower because we had waited a couple of weeks too long to mow and the push mower, literally, couldn’t cut it.  Lesson learned.

I feel like the push mower and the power mower take about the same amount of physical effort to use.  The push mower is all pushing, which isn’t that much work (hey if I can handle that giant cart thingy at Target I can handle the mower).  The power mower took more effort for me in the starting, holding down the lever thing, and then holding it back from running my flowers down (since it pulled itself).  I think the trade-off of putting the kids on stick patrol and enduring funny looks is a pretty good one.  Plus, I can catch up with my mom on the phone while I’m at it.  ;)

Categories: Simple Living, Sustainability, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Practical Ways to Store Food without a Fridge

Over the last couple of weeks there has been an article from treehugger.com floating around Facebook, Reddit, and Pinterest highlighting Korean designer, Jihyun Ryou’s five creative ways to store food without a fridge.  The designer’s goal was “re-introducing and re-evaluating traditional oral knowledge of food, which is closer to nature,” by using objects to make this knowledge visible.  The designs are super modern looking with clean lines and things like sand and water mounted to your wall.  And, I have to admit, they do look cool, despite being kind of impractical.

In light of their impracticality, and because we’ve lived without a fridge for the last 9 months, I’m offering up some practical answers to Ryou’s modern artworks; while less artistic, everyday homesteaders can apply them to their own kitchens.

Symbiosis of apple and potato:

Most fruits don’t need to be stored in the refrigerator.  The taste of tomatoes will rapidly deteriorate in the fridge.  The fridge stops the process of ripening fruits, which if you are buying them from the store is the opposite of what you want.  Potatoes don’t need refrigeration either.  As Ryou points out, potatoes can be kept from sprouting if stored underneath apples, since apples, like many fruits, emit ethylene gas.  Ryou’s design offers a wall mounted box to store your potatoes underneath a shelf to set your apples on.

My mom had one of these hanging produce baskets.  You could do a quick search on Amazon and find a multitude of both hanging and counter-top baskets, and even some bins in which you could keep your potatoes stored beneath your apples. Some of them are pretty cool looking.

Verticality of Root Vegetables:

Ryou’s design is quite beautiful with carrots and green onions sticking out of wet sand (again wall mounted; I’m wondering how heavy these things are).  Here is my solution for keeping vegetables both vertical and moist:

We used this clever design for carrots, onions and celery from the CSA last summer.  Turnips, beets and radishes could go in a bowl.  And a sink filled with cold water will revive a head of lettuce that you thought was a goner too.

Breathing of Eggs:

Many people know that eggs don’t need to be refrigerated.  In Europe, eggs are purchased from a plain old unrefrigerated shelf in the grocery.  Without a fridge, eggs from the grocery store will last about three weeks.  Because egg shells are porous, Ryou offers another reason to keep them from the fridge:

An egg has millions of holes in its shell. It absorbs the odour and substance around itself very easily. This creates a bad taste if it’s kept in the fridge with other food ingredients. This shelf provides a place for eggs outside of the fridge. Also the freshness of eggs can be tested in the water. The fresher they are, the further they sink.

We use this to keep our eggs on the counter.

I’ve been told the eggs at the store can be up to 30 days old already when you buy them, so imagine how long fresh eggs from the back yard would last.  Of course, our eggs rarely make it more than a few days before they are eaten, so we don’t worry about testing their freshness, but I could easily get a glass of water to test them in if needed.

The Dryness of Spices:

Ryou’s design for  a spice bottle is really very clever.  It takes the grandmother’s tradition of keeping some grains of rice in your spices to absorb moisture to keep it from clumping one step further by keeping the rice in its own compartment within the jar.  We don’t really have this problem in Colorado, it is not ever humid enough to make our spices clump.  The only fault I find with this design is that it is once again on a wall mounted shelf.  Spices actually lose flavor when exposed to the light.  It is better to keep them in a cabinet behind closed doors where they can stay in the dark.

Note that this is not my spice cabinet (though I might wish it was).  Thanks to Louise at My Food Voice  for sharing.  My spice cabinet is a jumbled mess, not fit for photography.  ;)

Now, of course, I know that Ryou’s designs are meant to be art, not necessarily practical.  But the purpose of this art besides being beautiful, and the purpose of Ryou’s project, is to get people to see (and therefore think about and use) their food and to think outside of the ice box when it comes to storing it.

What are some other ways to keep food fresh without of the fridge?

Categories: Simple Living, Top 5, Unplugging the Fridge, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , | 15 Comments

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