The Joys of Less and More

Wow – I sure have neglected this space, haven’t I?  I can almost see the virtual cobwebs.

I want to tell you about where I’ve been and why it hasn’t been here.

We are renting a home here in Texas now, and the back yard is fully shaded, and there is really nowhere to garden.   My gardening commitments have been reduced to our 4×8 foot plot in the community garden a few blocks away.  There are no chickens here for us to care for.  Our compost has been moved to tumblers which are easily maintained.  We use the city trash and recycling.  I have no clothes line.  I have no bee hive.  We get food seasonally from a local CSA and we shop at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.  Yes, I use the refrigerator, but no, still no microwave.  My canning supplies – all of them – have been packed away in a box in the garage, since I have no room for them in this house.  They’ve been there almost a year; no pickles, no jam.  The single freezer we brought with us from Colorado is in the garage, unplugged.  The dehydrator is in its dusty box.  A homesteader, I am no longer.

Since moving to Texas I’ve experienced an incredible amount of free time, what with buying jam instead of making it and drying all my clothes in a dryer.  You’d think that would leave a lot of time for blogging, but it really hasn’t.

Instead of blogging, instead of Facebook, I’ve been playing with my kids.  I’ve been homeschooling.  We’ve been exploring the hill country and visited the beach.  I’ve been (albeit slowly) meeting my neighbors… and, well, that’s pretty much it.

I really, really miss homesteady things.  I miss fresh eggs and the bees, and I miss my garden most of all. But less of all of that has left room for more joy within our family.  Less DIY projects every weekend, less taking pictures of every. single. step of every meal, planting or project has left more room to enjoy what we are doing when we are doing it.

A year (and even two years) ago, I felt very much obligated to the blog.  I felt obligated to come up with ideas, and to take better pictures and to write about every little thing my family did.  But seeing my husband and kids sigh as I had to stop projects at every single step for another picture, began to wear on me as much as it did them.

And then we moved, and the to-do list evaporated.

Because of being displaced, I suddenly didn’t have much to write about.  I took pictures of the black soldier fly larvae in our compost tumblers, who could amazingly consume our kitchen scraps overnight, and I took pictures of the bat house Rick made me for Mother’s Day.  I took photos last January of a friend’s bug-out bag contents to share in this space.  But I just didn’t have the words anymore.

After my social media fast in May, I never went back to Facebook.  I was happier, my kids were happier.  I was freer and more tuned in to my family.  But the fast had another effect, and that was I really didn’t know what to write anymore.

Creativity is like that sometimes.  Like inertia in a way… if you’re writing, you can write, but if you’re not… well then you’re not.

I thought the urge to write the post I started about the evils of BPA would kick in eventually, or that I’d get those bug-out bag pictures edited and put up.  But I haven’t.  I had hoped by just writing something the muse would visit me again and I’d be inspired to create something worth posting.   Alas, the posts I was able to turn out last year (and there weren’t many) felt very forced, unnatural and were, frankly, not very good.

I have very much loved writing in this space for the last seven years.  But I think, for now, I’m done.

I’m still trying to live with a minimal footprint, and plan on packing as much as I can into our garden plot.  We’re thinking of getting bees again.  But I’m not planning to blog about it.  I’ve found joy in less blogging and more living.

I hope you continue to enjoy my archives here and that they continue to help people.  I still read all the comments I get and I still respond to them.

Who knows what the future holds… I may write again here.  I am very, very grateful for all the relationships, both virtual and real, that have formed through my blogging journey.  Thank you, friends.

Now go live life!

Categories: Simple Living | 19 Comments

Bacon Dove Poppers and an Update

As you can tell, I’ve had a hard time keeping the blog updated lately.  I have really been enjoying Texas.  We’ve taken a few trips to the beach and we have a camping trip or two in our future as well.

Homesteading wise things have been going slow.  Very slow.  Thank goodness for the CSA shares.

The garlic I smuggled down here to S.A. with me from Denver did not make it.  I thought I would cry over it, but instead I just bitterly yanked out the plants from their pots.  Our compost bins (a tumbler set-up we bought when we got here) is awesome, though.  Full of black fly larva (!!) and cooks in just days.  It’s truly amazing.

We finally got a plot in the community garden in our neighborhood.  Its a 4’x8′ bed.  So far we have tomatoes, chard and kale planted.  It feels strange to be planting things now, but we are happy to have our hands in the dirt.

I began work on organizing a chicken coop tour here.  There was a lot of excitement generated at the beginning but it has fizzled out a bit.  The interest is really strong, but the city ordinances restrict the number of allowed chickens to three without a permit, and I had quite a few coop owners back out for fear of getting caught with too many birds.  Sound familiar Denver?  We’ll try again soon and hopefully the tour will actually happen.

Otherwise I’ve been busy with schooling the kiddos and trying to meet people, as well as checking in with friends and family to see that they are safe in all the flooding back home in Colorado (so far they all are).

Rick had a work sponsored dove hunt a couple of weeks ago.  He took H with him and they had a grand time.  H got to have is first (and second and third) soda pop.  He had two Sprites and a Coke, plus a Gatorade.  He filled up on chips and beef jerky, came home with a pocket knife (the prize for being the youngest “hunter”), a rubber copperhead snake which he found near a truck tire, a $20 bill for retrieving the birds, and a bag of spent shotgun shells, which Rick promised to pay him a nickel a shell.  He had over 200 shells.  He was the youngest of only a handful of kids there, was newly missing his front teeth, and Rick’s boss and co-workers completely spoiled him.

They brought home 8 doves and a pigeon.  Rick froze the pigeon whole and kept the wings to train our dog with later (I did tell you we got a dog, right?), and breasted out the doves.

We had a nice heap of jalapenos from the CSA, so of course we made poppers.  They are simple to make, and as with all things made with bacon, delicious.  We tried some with and some without cream cheese.  I preferred them with and Rick preferred them without.  But they were good both ways.  Also in our pictures you can see a couple of bell pepper pieces in there which we used to make a mild popper for the wee kids.

Grilled Bacon Dove Jalapeno Poppers

Breasts from 8 doves (16 pieces)
8 jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise and seeds removed
Cream Cheese (optional)
8 slices of bacon, halved
16 toothpicks

After slicing and scraping out your jalapenos, schmear each pepper with some cream cheese.  Lay one dove breast half on each pepper.  Wrap each pepper half with a half-a-slice of bacon and skewer closed with a tooth pick.  Place poppers into a grill basket, and grill over a hot fire until the bacon is done, turning often.  Keep an eye on them as the bacon fat can easily light up the coals.  Remove toothpicks and enjoy.

Categories: Hunting, Recipes | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Squash Fritters with Parsley & Garlic Chives

Tuesday I tried a recipe for the first time that I just had to share.  Squash fritters.  I have never made squash fritters before this week, but they were surprisingly easy, and everyone loved them.  Even my anti-squash eaters.

This recipe is based on the zucchini fritter recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  I took her recipe and substituted what I had on hand from the CSA share this week.

Squash fritters

Squash Fritters with Parsley & Garlic Chives

1 pound summer squash (I used two small yellow squash and a white saucer squash)
1 teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus extra to taste
1/3 cup +/- fresh parsley, chopped fine
1/4 – 1/3 cup garlic chives, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Olive oil for frying

Trim the ends off your squashes and then use a food processor or the large holes on a box grater to shred your squash.  Toss the squash with 1 tsp salt and place in a colander to drain for ten minutes.  Use your hands or a spoon to squeeze the liquid out of your squash.  Then place the squash in a clean kitchen towel or cheese cloth and really wring out the squash.  A lot of water will come out.  This extra step is worthwhile.

Place your squeezed and wrung out squash in a large bowl.  Add in the parsley, chives, and black pepper.  Taste for salt and add any if needed.  Mix in the egg.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder.  Add to your squash mixture and mix all thoroughly.

Heat oil in a cast iron pan over medium to medium-high.  Once hot, place the fritter batter, one spoonful at a time in the pan.  Flatten each fritter out into a little patty.  Work in batches, making sure not to crowd them.  Let fry 2-3 minutes per side.  Flip when they are golden brown.  If they are browning too quickly, adjust the heat on your pan.

Drain the fritters briefly on paper towels before transferring them to a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven for 10 minutes to finish setting and keep them crisp until serving.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream (or plain yogurt) and lemon juice if you like.

Lamb, fritters, okra

Categories: CSA, Recipes | 8 Comments

Rebuilding Our Food System

We spent HOW MUCH on groceries last month?!? 

Since our big move to Texas from Colorado, I have truly felt the pain of losing an established food system.  The pain of having food that doesn’t taste as fresh, the pain of less healthy food, and most of all, the financial pain.

In Colorado we had a large garden, a CSA farm share and a freezer full of meat and fruit that we harvested ourselves.  Oh yeah, and eggs and honey from the back yard.  We basically had the freshest, healthiest food possible, at a really low cost.

This is what our grocery budget looked like:

Meat (hunting licenses, fuel, ammo, misc. expenses for trip): $250/year average
Vegetables from CSA: $520/year average
Garden, bees and chickens: $400/year average
Fruit from Western Slope (including gas for trip):  $400/year average

Total yearly expenses: $1570/year or $131/month

Everything else from grocery store: $600/month average
This includes grains, dairy, beans, nuts, occasional imported fruits like oranges, limes, avocados, occasional meats like chicken, fish or bacon, canning ingredients like sugar and vinegar, misc. ingredients like soy sauce, salt, spices, etc., plus laundry detergent, shampoo, toilet paper, etc. because I’m too lazy to separate those things out.

Total average grocery spending: $731/per month for a family of five eating mainly organic, local and sustainable food.

*These averages were calculated from our actual spending totals in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  I rounded up to the nearest ten dollars.  In 2010 we only had two kids, so that year’s grocery totals were lower by about $50-100 per month than 2011 and 2012 bring the average down a bit. 

When we found out we were moving, we had 8 weeks to empty that freezer full of meat and western slope peaches, eat through all our canned goods, and generally try to get through our pantry of stocked up food.  Luckily it was January when we got the news and not September.  Whatever we couldn’t eat, we gave away.

After the move, our grocery budget literally doubled…  without the quality or quantity.

No more eggs that were just laid that morning.  No more freezer stocked with meat.  Telling the kids that no, they couldn’t have a peach smoothie because we don’t have frozen peaches.

We expected the jump in price the first month or two, but we really started to feel the pinch as time went on.  The loss of the CSA and the garden hurt the most.  I feel starved for a real tomato.  I missed the asparagus harvest.  And the pale grocery store eggs…  sigh.

Plus we just didn’t have enough… I realized my menu planning revolved around my CSA share and that I was struggling with what veggies to even buy at the store.  I’d get there and see the choices: conventionally grown with pesticides or organic but from across the globe.  All of it over-priced and lacking flavor.  I felt paralyzed, and often left the store with a big bill and too little veggies for my family who was used to a seemingly unending supply during the summer.

It wasn’t just the veggies.  All the stores here carry different brands of food than I usually bought in Denver.  I found myself reading labels again where I had been used to being able to just pick up what I knew.  This made grocery trips much longer (with three kiddos in tow) and often discouraging.

Dinner time came around and I had no plan for what to make.  We had chicken and frozen broccoli so many times the kids and Rick protested.  We went out to eat way too many times.  I gained almost fifteen pounds from the eating out, and sitting around not gardening.

Finally, I got my wits about me.

I made a giant run to Costco and bought the pantry items we needed to start rebuilding.  Lots of canned tomatoes, pasta, chicken stock, brown rice, nuts, flour and sugar, frozen berries.  I made a big trip to the bulk section of the grocery store and restocked on beans, rice, oats, quinoa and lentils.

I looked up the CSA’s I had researched before we moved.  I called them and I signed up, even though we were halfway through their seasons.  That’s right, them, their seasonsI signed us up for shares from TWO different CSA farms.  One is an all vegetable share from a farm northeast of us, and the other is a mixed share of vegetables and grass-fed meat from a ranch to the southwest of us.

I picked-up up our first ranch share from the the farmers market Sunday.  Wednesday I will get our first share from the farm.

Kids with Koch Week 1

It feels good.  Good to have fresh, organic, locally grown veggies in the house.  To know what to make for dinner.  To have in-season food with actual flavor.

So starting with an empty pantry, no freezer (it sits unplugged in the garage), and no garden, building our food system here will take time.  Restocking will take time.  But it is time well spent, so here’s to a fresh start.

Categories: CSA, Food | 5 Comments

Well Hello There Again…

Compost bins

So it’s been almost a month and my blog edits and updates are almost done.  I know that WordPress has been sending notifications every time I update an old post, and for this I’m sorry.  I haven’t been able to figure out how to turn those notifications off.  Some of the updates have been very minor, and it is annoying me that the updates are getting shown.  Hopefully you have enjoyed some of my old posts.

The main thing I was doing was taking some of my more personal posts down.  I was beginning to feel that my family, my kids in particular, were too exposed here on this blog.  There are still pictures and some anecdotes about them here on, because I feel that us being a family with young children is an important thing to show and a part of our story.  But the posts of their first steps, birthdays and other non-homestead related milestones have been removed.  Over 150 posts.

I started this blog six years ago, shortly after our oldest was born.  I had no idea at that time what our “little chicken experiment” would morph into.

I’m excited to share with you what has been going on with us here in Texas.  We have met some new people and our neighborhood actually has quite a few other chicken keepers.  Exciting!

With the move, however, I find myself going back to some basics when it comes to food.  Reading labels, menu planning, finding ways to reduce energy bills (oh how that A/C runs the bill up!).  I’m looking forward to catching up with you!

Categories: Community | 3 Comments

Pardon the Dust

My bathroom cleaners

I’m going to be doing a bit of blog-keeping over the next week or two.  Suddenly I find myself ready to write, so hopefully I can have some new posts after I do a little clean-up.

I plan to separate out pieces of the blog – some of which are quite old and just don’t apply to the majority of The Lazy Homesteader content anymore.  I started this blog as a journal over seven years ago!

The clean-up  does involve moving some things around in the background, so I’m giving a heads up in case there is some weird down-time or something as it happens.

Stay tuned friends, and thanks for sticking with me through the move and adjustment period here.

Categories: Urban Homesteading | 1 Comment

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.

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

Adapting in Place… Somewhere Else

Last year in March, Rick’s company offered him a promotion which we initially turned down.  It involved a move across the country and we weren’t really interested in relocating at that time.  They begged him to reconsider and flew the both of us in to check out the area.  I have to admit, visiting the farmers market in the first week of June to find these…  well, let’s just say Adam’s fruit wasn’t nearly so tempting.

Texas Toms in June!

Some of you might know of Sharon Astyk and have read her concept of Adapting in Place.  It’s a concept that we’ve been working toward achieving for a long time here.  All last summer we confronted the question of how to adapt in place when you don’t know where that place is/will be next year.  And really, is it wise to give up all the work we’ve done here and move to a completely new climate?  Questioning, questioning, questioning.

Rick liked the job and we both thought we could like the area, but we were also fearful of such a large change and leaving “our tribe.”  Rick put together a proposal detailing what we would need to move out there; he aimed high figuring that if he got it, it would be worth it.  We spent the summer doing projects around the house preparing to move, preparing not to move, on pins and needles, only to have them turn him down in August.

Serious peaches in June

When we were turned down we were disappointed, but also relieved.  Both of us were born and raised here in Colorado.  All of our families are here (well, most of mine, I have a few scattered about).  And I have finally been feeling connected to my community here.  So many good friends have been made in the last year.

Fast forward to last week.  They called Rick back, and after some negotiating offered him more than he originally asked for last year.  The first guy they hired instead of Rick had to quit for health reasons, and the next guy has not been able to do the job.  All of this is to say we are going to be packing up the homestead and moving to San Antonio, Texas.

In less than six weeks.

Pearl Farmer's Market

It feels silly to say that this is really unexpected for us.  Last year, we spent a lot of time getting our heads and hearts prepared for a potential move across the country (not to mention the house).  We knew all along that Rick was right for the position and we knew his bosses knew it too.  We actually were surprised when he didn’t get the job after everything.

But now…  now… well now we are packing up everything we own and trying to find a place to rent in a city we’ve visited one time.

Everything we’ve heard about San Antonio has been a mixed bag.  Some love and others hate it.  I feel a bit like Rapunzel in the movie Tangled.  You know… filled with glee one moment and sobbing the next.  But a good friend reminded me that there are good things everywhere.  Thankfully, we’ve heard more good things than bad, and I know this is going to be a big adventure for our family. Ultimately, we are very excited.

Puffy Taco from Taco Taco

We are sad about leaving behind our friends and families and neighbors.  Of course, the beautiful Rockies.  We’re a bit fearful about starting over with gardening and homesteading and community.  I am sad to be leaving my new friends in my homeschooling group and all the friends we’ve made doing the potlucks.  However, I’m finding that I’m sad about leaving behind some things that I did not expect to feel so attached to.

My beautiful garlic that I’ve been saving and growing for the last three years.  It’s already starting to come up in it’s bed full of lovely soil that we’ve built up over nine years here.  The soil.  So much work has gone into building it up.  My compost bins, both full of nearly finished compost.  Just a little TLC when the warm weather hits and it will become black gold.

Our next door neighbor who dug up half his lawn to let us plant potatoes and carrots and onions.  He doesn’t even eat them.  The two cherry trees we discovered half a block from our house on city property… right when I was this close to planting my own.  The pick-your-own peach orchard on the Western slope.  All the digging and tilling and hoeing and digging.  This is the place I first felt that real connection to my food and the earth and, well, everything.  Everything!

Texan tree

On the flip side, there are things that we are really looking forward to.  A fresh start, a new neighborhood (maybe one with lots of families or at least a park).  Maybe a second bathroom and a guest room.  Picking a new house with a bigger yard and the potential to grow more food, year-round.  Did you guys see that there were tomatoes AND peaches in JUNE!?!?!?

So what does this mean for the blog?  Well, I’ve had a long list of topics that are half written about.  Some will need a bit of revision to fit our new situation.  Expect to see them pop up here and there in the next two months.  But I make no promises.

Us.  In Texas.

We’re pretty much scrambling to pull off a cross-country move with five people in less than six weeks.  We have found a home for our bees and potential home(s) for the chickens.  We will rent in San Antonio for at least a year, so we will not be taking them with us.  We think we’re going to sell the house.  If we can.  Oh, and did I mention that Rick will be flying back and forth between Texas and Denver and will be gone for 2.5 of those six weeks?  Yeah.

So if it’s quiet for a while, please understand why.  And if you live in South Texas and have any tips for a gardener moving from zone 5a to zone 8b…. please share them.  I’m going to need all the help I can get.  It’s snowing in Denver while it’s a sunny 81° in January there.  Yee-Haw!

Categories: Community, Urban Homesteading | 18 Comments

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