Virtual Homestead Tour

Welcome to the Schell Urban Homestead’s end of July virtual garden tour!  I was really excited when Erica at Northwest Edible Life invited me to participate in letting all you Nosy Neighbors peek over our garden fence!

Here’s how the Lazy Homesteader does the Nosy Neighbor Virtual Homestead & Garden Tour:

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The first part of this tour that makes me really excited is that I’m actually documenting what the whole garden is doing at a given point in the summer.  I never remember when we get the first tomato (this week!  A Silver Fir Tree Russian heirloom).  The kohlrabi is a giant variety that Rick’s grandpa brought us from Slovakia.  It will get to be over 8 pounds and will not be woody.  It also keeps great all winter, and it’s starting to bulb up to about baseball size in the last few days of July.  Rick’s parents shared cucumbers with us last week and the week before, but ours have only just begun to flower.

The unexpected thing that I am loving about this tour is the truth of it.  In the pictures of the onions and watermelons, you can see both the weeds I’ve neglected to pull, and the light-colored, hard clay that we grow in here in Colorado.  Normally, I’d make an effort to hide both the weeds and the soil, because the shiny-happy blogger in me wants you to think that my garden is perfectly groomed and full of rich, dark, beautiful loamy soil.  In fact, some people do think that.  Rick’s grandparents even commented this week on how they couldn’t grow something that we could because their soil (about 25 miles from us) is hard clay.  Rick and I burst out laughing.  So here’s the proof.  We don’t have perfect soil.  This is how it looks after eight years of work amending it.  And I’m glad I let it show.

Some of my other favorite highlights from the slideshow (the shiny-happy stuff):

Corn from our neighbor’s garden, actually.  His corn is peeking over our front yard fence.  Well, not peeking, so much as towering.  We are actually sharing our harvests this year, so that is how I’m justifying including crops that belong to someone else in my garden tour.  😉

The hundreds of tiny cherry tomatoes on H’s plants make me giddy.  And I can’t believe how big those two plants are.  Over six feet high!

The garlic I harvested in the week before C was born is drying in the garage, and the beets I pulled a few days ago are beautiful, although we might have pulled them about a week earlier if we weren’t in new baby mode.

We’re still waiting on the first eggs from the pullets, but we are getting two or three a day still from the older hens.

I was really hoping to include a picture of our raspberries this year, but they suddenly quit producing just last week.  Luckily I found something in the strawberry bed to show you instead!

Be sure to check out the other homesteads and gardens in Erica’s Nosy Neighbor Tour.  Thanks for stopping by!

Categories: Beekeeping, Chickens, Community, Food, Garden, Hugelkultur, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Weekend Update: Memorial Day Madness?

This past weekend, we tackled more items from the seemingly endless to-do list around here.  The weather was nice for most of the weekend and we were able to get a lot done.

Friday afternoon my mom came over to help me get a few things organized for the baby’s room and the basement spare room.  We sorted through some of our food preservation items and then I realized that using that spare room as a place to store all our outdoor gear and Rick’s tools and workbench wasn’t really working anymore.

So Saturday, the first thing we did was move his work bench, cabinets and tools out of the basement and into the garage.  Rick had surgery the previous weekend and was on weight restrictions for a week, so he, of course jumped into lifting heavy objects again the moment the restriction was up.  He’s getting a pretty cool workspace set up in there, and that made a lot more room to convert the room in the basement into something useful.

We did various projects around the homestead.  I’ve lost count, but no less than five were worked on, and some even got completed.  Some of the projects turned out good enough to warrant their own future posts.  😉  Rick spent more time cutting down the tree and we cleaned out the chicken coop since the weather was finally cooperative.  We replanted the cukes, since none had come up and it had been about two weeks since the seeds went into the ground.  I picked so many greens for every meal this weekend, and we grilled four times in two days.

I went ahead and put shingles on the roof of the beehive.  Rick’s parents gave us some spare shingles they had up in their garage rafters, and it was enough to cover the hive.  A good thing too, since the naked plywood was not loving our rainy spring.  Then, to be honest we were wiped out.

By Sunday evening, we were both pretty tired.  Monday we did a few projects (a very few) before I looked at Rick and said that I was spent.  Rick was tired too, probably from doing too much too soon.  Did I mention I’m 8 months pregnant?  Yeah.  And Rick just had surgery?  Oh.  Right.  That’s why were were tired.

Rick put the bike rack on the 4Runner and we cleaned up all our tools.  And then we went inside, made some pad Thai and watched a movie in the basement.  I’m pretty sure we’re mad.  Maybe we’ll try to rest next weekend a bit?  Maybe.  Only eight more weeks until baby (plus or minus a couple, of course).  We’re feeling the last…erm… push, if you know what I mean.  😉

Categories: Beekeeping, Garden | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Photo Friday: Putting in the Bees

Because I just can’t get over how much fun it was.  Sorry about the quality of some of the pics – we were facing into the sun.  😉

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Categories: Beekeeping | 5 Comments

Mother’s Day Big Brag

Wow!  Happy belated Mother’s Day!  Here’s my official brag about how great my family is and what a great weekend we had on the homestead.  This weekend I had requested to get the garden planted.  The plan was for me to spend Saturday with my mom and sister while Rick and the boys went with his mom to the botanic gardens, and for us to plant the garden on Friday after Rick was home from work and on Sunday.

On Friday, we planted corn, onions, and carrots with the neighbor and put in our tomatoes.  But Friday night, we got a call that our friend, Chris, had caught a swarm of bees for us, and another call that the CSA asparagus was ready to pick.

Some things just don’t wait.  So on Saturday morning, while the guys were at the botanic gardens with Grandma, my mom and sister came over here for bunch, and Chris brought us the swarm.

The bees we had last year left in the fall, we’re not sure why.  We think either the queen died or left since there were bees milling around aimlessly for a week or two before they were all gone.  There were no dead bees, just gone.  Last year’s swarm was also much smaller and our friend caught it later in the season while we were out of town.  He had installed them for us then, so this was the first time I got to experience putting bees into the hive, and Chris walked me through it.  My mom got to watch ME put the bees into the hive (and took pictures for us!).

These new bees were pretty cranky, they had been in the box for a couple days and were hungry and thirsty.  It took me three good tries to get the majority of them in the hive and get the bars on the top.  My initial trial of things, they sort of swarmed around my head and clung to the gloves I was wearing.  But they seemed to calm down significantly in a few minutes and I was able to knock the majority of the rest of them into the hive and get the bars on top without any trouble.  I was really surprised at how they clung to the box, and also how quickly they just took to the hive.

We put them in with the old comb that last year’s bees had left behind (we’re pretty certain there were no mites or diseases), and they settled down fairly quickly.  Many bees zoomed off to the water and sugar-water we had out for them, but others went to the entrance of the hive and started fanning their wings to spread the queen’s pheromones so the remaining bees in the box and the air (there were still quite a few) would come on in and start making the new hive their home.  It was really exciting and I’m sad Rick missed it again.

Then, it was back to brunch with the girls for me.  It was a really nice time (I made lavender pound cake and my sister made yummy pecan-dark chocolate scones).  When Rick and the boys got home, we headed up to the farm to pick asparagus.  It took us less than forty-five minutes to pick a good 25 pounds before we trimmed it all up.  It came out to about 14 pounds of asparagus, processed and frozen, plus some to eat fresh this week.

Sunday, for some unknown reason I woke up super early, before any of the guys rolled out of bed.  When they got up around 6:45, they gave me some sweet cards and kisses, and promised to build me a picnic table next week!  We got dressed and they took me out to Snooze (one of my favorite places) for breakfast.  Afterward, we came home and started up more planting work.

We did the boys’ hugelkultur bed first.  H planted watermelon, carrots (two kinds) and tomatoes (an heirloom red cherry and a “white” cherry that will actually be yellow).  The boys got a new real shovel and special, colored tomato cages.  My mom always said she wouldn’t be a mother without me, and I sort of feel the same about my boys, so they get treats on mother’s day too).  E ran around the hugelkultur while Rick scrambled to make barriers to keep him from trampling the seeds.

It was nap time before we knew it, and Rick and I spent the afternoon putting up asparagus (Rick did most the work), and planting out the rest of the main garden bed.  By the evening I had gotten plans for my new picnic table, an order placed for the grub hoe I’ve been lusting over, a [nearly] fully planted garden bed, four kinds of basil in my flower beds, a delicious sunburn on my shoulders, a home-made dinner with fresh asparagus, and a perfect day with my guys.  Lucky me!

I hope your Mother’s Day weekend was just as special as mine was!  What did you do?

Categories: Beekeeping, Food, Garden, Hugelkultur | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Why I Blog and How I Became an Urban Homesteader

Four years ago, at the beginning of March, I started this blog.  At first I began tentatively, not sure who would ever read what I had to say, unsure of if I even had anything to say at all.  Unsure of what my blog was about (I hadn’t even really read other blogs), I titled it “Journeys and Adventures” and just sort of typed whatever came to mind, the latest happenings in our lives, reviews of articles I read or documentaries I watched.

I quickly noticed a theme.  I wanted to be a farmer.  But I lived (live!) in a city.  During my first month of writing I covered the garden or buying our first chicks in at least every-other post.  I did not know anything about “urban homesteading” or that people called themselves this or that other people we like me at all – playing farmer on little patches of earth, where ever their feet had landed them in life.

There were lots of Monday morning posts chronicling the progress of our garden over the weekend or the construction of our chicken coop.  And I began to understand that this was therapy – the gardening, the chickens, and the writing about it.  I took more pictures, I squeezed more into the dirt we had.  I found more dirt and eeked out more spaces to grow things.  I dreamed of a bee hive.  But this space remained a sort or personal journal.

One day, as Rick was reading, he asked why I didn’t make the blog public, since only friends and family had access to it at this point.  I thought about it for a while and decided I was afraid to put myself out in the open to any and everyone.  But he encouraged me to do it, convinced that people would like what I had to say, and enjoy reading about our crazy adventures in playing at urban farming.  So I did, and I decided to change the name of the blog too, so that it would reflect more of what it was now about.

I thought about the name change for a long time, mulling over terms like green, dirt, crunchy, city, suburbs, farming, etc.  Through lots of reading, I discovered the term urban homesteading and found it described what we were doing.  I still thought we virtually were alone in doing it, but I knew the phrase was the right one for our family and our journey.

A search engine led a writer for the Denver Post to my blog, and he contacted me, wanting an interview for a story he was doing on urban homesteaders.  Because I was skeptical (hey! I didn’t know this guy), I refused to be interviewed without Rick home, so I missed my chance.  Timing was off and he couldn’t come on the day Rick could be here.  But I was so excited when the article came out.  I discovered we were NOT alone.  There were people in my own neighborhood doing this.  People all over Denver!

Now look:

There is a reason I’m taking the time to write this trip down memory lane.  It’s not because it was my blog-iversary. It’s because today is the third Day of Action for Urban Homesteaders across the internet.

Back in February of this year the Dervaes family of Pasadena, CA trademarked the terms “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading.”  I am not linking to who the Dervaes family is, but in short, they are a father and three grown children growing lots of food in a small area in California.  They are a family church, with the father being the pastor and to my knowledge, the children are the members.  A church of what is pretty unclear.  From what little I know of them, they’ve done a lot with their space and many in the urban homesteading community admired them.  I never really read much about them until now.

So the big deal?  They sent out cease and desist letters to bloggers, businesses and organizations (even a library) who were using the two trademarked terms.  They want credit with links every time the phrases are typed.  I’ve seen the letters.  They sent one to Denver Urban Homesteading, our local indoor farmers market, and had their Facebook page (and main marketing tool) shut down.  Problem is they don’t have the legal grounds to do this.  They didn’t invent the phrases, nor were they the first to use them.  And their trademark does not give them the right to restrict the use of the English language in the way they claim.  I know this because I know the owner of Denver Urban Homesteading.  James, the person I worked with on Denver’s inaugural chicken coop tour (with the Denver Botanic Garden’s) last year, and the one I helped to make the Free the Chickens video with, also just happens to be a lawyer.  Apparently the Derveas picked on the wrong homesteader.

Bloggers and urban homesteaders across the country have been outraged by the actions of people who were supposed to be leaders within our community.  A Facebook page was created and quickly grew to over 6000 fans supporting the canceling of the trademarks and begging the Dervaes family to, at the very least, help us understand.  There have even been claims that the Dervaes’ are plagiarizing others‘ work (some of it used to support their claim to the trademarked phrases?).  But the D-family closed all the comments on their many blogs.  They temporarily took down their facebook page.  They refused to answer email and letters.  The only communication was denial of any wrong doing and to claim they were being persecuted, they were under attack.  They did not (and still don’t) approve of the fact their letters were put out in the open.  A quick Google search will lead you to the letter if you want to read it.

Through all of this, over the last month-plus, I’ve stayed silent.  All this uproar literally struck fear into my heart.  I called my mom, nearly in tears.  I told my BFF.  I temporarily changed my blog name.  I followed fellow bloggers as they posted and united in two previous Days of Action (read my favorite post on all of this here, from Northwest Edible Life).  But I was afraid.  This blog holds my heart.  Like I said it is my therapy.  And it’s my personal journal.  And it holds videos of my boys’ first steps and first words.  I don’t want to loose any of it.  Not over words.

But I’ve collected my thoughts.  I’ve decided I can’t be silent because all of this is too important to me.

So, today, on this Urban Homesteader’s third Day of Action, I’m asking for your help.  Please go to and sign the online petition to Cancel Trademarks on Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading.

This petition is addressed to Jules Dervaes, and despite fears that he won’t listen to this community, the petition can be used to help support our cause in other ways.  It is a petition, a protest, and a plea to the Dervaes family.  Whether or not they listen, legal actions are also being taken.  Because like all the others, I too, am an Urban Homesteader.  Thanks.

Categories: Beekeeping, Chickens, Community, Food, Garden, Independence Days, Simple Living, Sustainability, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Inaugural Chicken Coop Tour

This weekend is a kick-off for the first annual Denver Botanic Gardens/Denver Urban Homesteading Chicken Coop Tour.  Think Parade of Homes, but for chicken coops.  There are 15 coops throughout Denver and the metro area participating in the tour.  We are coop number seven.

We are so excited to be participating.  By “we” of course I mean me and the chickens, since Rick is not really excited about 100 + people tromping through our yard and garden to see the digs.  😉  But it’s all in the name of raising awareness about urban agriculture.  And besides that, they wrote some nice stuff about us on the tour map…

“A coop from original design by Anisa, five chickens, bees, and a gorgeous front yard garden that the family has had for the last seven years is what makes this site a perfect example of backyard agriculture and livestock keeping.  Little Henry will show with pride his tomato plants, chickens and eggs.”

Seriously!?!?  How cool is that!  There has been a bit of media promoting the tour in the last few days.  Check out the piece FOX 31 did about the tour.  James Bertini with Denver Urban Homesteading is featured in the story.

ABC 7 News also reported on the tour, as well as making it into the Denver Post’s September 29th Food Calendar.  The WestWord comic section even poked a bit of fun at us.

Tho tour is tomorrow, October 2nd, from 11am to 4pm.  Maps can be purchased in person at the Botanic Gardens for $20 per group of four.  There is still time to purchase a map for the tour.  Contact Denver Botanic Gardens or Denver Urban Homesteading for details!

Categories: Beekeeping, Chickens, Community, Food, Sustainability | 6 Comments

Independence Days: Weeks 20 through 22

We’ve been busy this summer and I’ve not had much time to write about it!

I was privileged to go to a friend’s birth at the very end of July – it turned out to be a long birth and it took me a couple days to recover.  I don’t know how those midwives do it!  Also, we’ve been getting lots of yummy produce from the farm and we’ve been trying not to let any go to waste.

Also we have a lot of veggies coming on from the garden.  Pictured are onions, beets, cucumbers and turnips.

I did make cherry preserves a couple weeks ago with the cherries I got to pick.  Unfortunately I didn’t cook it quite long enough, so it was very thin.  We’ve been using it anyway – we just pretend it’s cherry syrup.  😉

H was getting worn out from going to the farm on Tuesday and then school on Wednesdays, making Thursday really hard every week, so we switched his school day to Tuesday while E and I are at the farm.  He seems to be doing much better with that schedule, which we are all happy about.

Last weekend we went to the Adams County Fair.  Our friend, Richard, got us tickets to the truck pull and a parking pass, and my mom and Manuel had food coupons and a parking pass as well, so they joined us.  We had a GREAT time.  H loved the truck pull with all the noise and the big trucks (though I was cringing terribly from all the black diesel exhaust I was watching needlessly billow into the air – oy!), and we had a blast riding carnival rides, eating yummy carnival food (like the giant brat Rick got) and playing games.  We stayed until past midnight!  It was a fun treat for everyone.

This weekend I gave the bees their second jar of sugar water.  Originally I wasn’t going to supplement our bees at all, but we started getting a little concerned that they might not get enough honey built up for the winter after their late start this spring.  Not sure if we’ll give them more, but hopefully that will help them get a little extra stored for the winter.

We picked a lot of green grapes from the neighbor this weekend, but I’m not sure what to do with them?  Anyone know of a way to preserve green grapes?  Maybe make raisins?

At any rate, here’s the update:

Plant something – Rick planted beets and spinach in the strip by the driveway.

Harvest something – eggs, turnips, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, beets, tomatoes, green seedless grapes from the neighbor across the alley from us!

Preserve something – cherries into cherry preserves; onions hung up in the crawl space; 4 gallon size bags of corn on the cob and nearly two gallons of beans in the freezer; shredded 35 cups of zucchini: froze 30 cups and made five loaves zucchini bread; dried corn husks for making tamales this fall; made and froze double batches of pizza dough, doughnut dough, potato soup (1.5 gallons).

Waste Not – compost and recycling, scraps to chickens, etc.

Want Not – nothing.

Build Community Food Systems – nothing.

Eat the Food – we’ve been grilling pizzas using farm tomatoes, the last of our sausage, and farm basil.  Otherwise, just been enjoying all the yummy summer bounty!

Categories: Beekeeping, Canning and Food Preservation, Childbirth, Food, Garden, Independence Days | 2 Comments

Independence Days Week 13-14: Bees, Weeds and Survival

Well this post is a bit tardy, but I wanted to share some exciting things from the last couple of weeks.  At first I wasn’t going to post anything from the week we were on vacation, because, obviously, we didn’t harvest or plant anything.  But then I realized that even though we were across the country, we still made baby steps.  So there are a couple of things there from our trip – woohoo!

The first Sunday of the trip, our friends called saying they had a swarm of bees for us!  They were so kind and put them into our hive while we were gone.  We were sad to miss that, but we are so excited to have bees!  And we’re glad we had the hive all set up and waiting!

After we arrived home, we had a TON of weeds to pull.  It had rained a few times and we  didn’t realize how much weeding we do on the fly.  Just everyday picking a few here and there really keeps us on top of them.  But when we got back, Rick filled a five gallon bucket at least six times with weeds!

Also, after we arrived home, I was having a discussion with a friend who had recently watched “Escaping Suburbia” and was talking about Peak Oil, becoming self sufficient and all of that.  Later that afternoon, as I was walking to the post office, I passed a store called Farris Survival, which up until then, I thought was a camping store.  But since I was walking past (instead of driving) I could see that they had rain barrels in there.  So I decided to look around.

It is not a camping store.  They sell water barrels and water filters and books and bulk beans and grains and grain mills and freeze dried bulk foods, and buckets and Mylar bags and basically everything you would need to survive in the event of apocalypse, government take over, or peak oil except guns.  They didn’t have a wooden barrel (I’ve been looking for one to turn into a smoker), but he did have a lot on information.  All his grains and beans are organic and sold in 25 plus pound bags.  He let H try using the grain mill and sent us home with a big ziplock back full of heirloom red quinoa to try.

Plant something – nothing

Harvest something – eggs, spinach, radishes, weeds galore.  Richard was house/dog/chicken/BEE sitting for us, so he did all the egg harvesting.  There were two full dozen in the fridge when we got home.  And he told us he had made several quiches to take to work and had been eating eggs galore the whole time we were gone.

Preserve something – nothing, however, I bought a few more glass jars (big ones) for the pantry.

Waste Not – compost and recycling, of course, scraps to chickens, etc.

Want Not – bought 6 five pound bags of flour in Tennessee.  The price of organic flour there was INSANE!  $2.50-$3.50 per bag, while here it can get as high as $7.50.  Also, when we got back, the neighbors across the street were having a garage sale, so I bought a big play pen thing with a shade cover – it will be perfect for working at the farm.

Build Community Food Systems – Bob Farris gave us a mess of quinoa.  Most of which we’ll eat, but we’re going to plant some as well.  And now we know of a good resource for lots of other things!

Eat the Food – tomatoes and corn (Rick found more in the freezer), pork, spinach and radishes, eggs.  Peaches in Nashville from the Nashville Farmer’s market.  More to write here next week!  😉

Categories: Beekeeping, Chickens, Food, Garden, Independence Days | Leave a comment

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