Independence Days: Catching Up

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been playing a bit of catch up and getting a lot of chores done around the house.

On the 21st we drove over to the Western slope to go pick peaches, however our four hour (each way) drive proved to be fruitless – quite literally.  We go to the orchard and they had a sign that said they were all out of peaches.  We were pretty upset, especially since we had called ahead of time to make sure there were peaches there.  They said they should have peaches ripe again at the beginning of September, so we are hoping to get the opportunity to go again.

Since we ended up without any peaches on that Saturday, we now had a free Sunday on our hands (we had planned to be processing 150 pounds of fruit).  I scored two bookcases on freecycle that were perfect for our basement.  So we spent a good part of the weekend cleaning and rearranging and organizing.  Went sent probably four garbage bags of stuff to the Goodwill, and there is probably another bag or two to go.  The room still needs some curtains, the rope around the dart board, and a few little extras here and there, but it’s starting to shape up.

This made space in the basement’s second room to store canned goods, Rick’s tools and my craft supplies.  That room is still in progress, as it needs the door rehung, cabinets mounted to the walls, new paint and some major organization.  You can see a glimpse of it in the dartboard picture – it’s gated off and has a strip of ugly green paint on the doorway.  But we made the biggest leaps towards having a put together basement that we’ve done since we moved in seven years ago.

We decided to break down and begin our backyard fencing project as well.  I picked up the lumber on Sunday and Monday we set posts.  Then throughout the rest of the week, we finished the fence for the chickens – and finally after the last 10 months, took down the temporary chain link we borrowed from the neighbor.  We think it turned out pretty nice.

Thursday, we had someone from the botanic gardens come to look around our place so that we could be entered into Denver’s Chicken Coop Tour in October.  We spent a good chunk of time cleaning the yard and gardens this past week as well.   And we’re excited that we will be a part of the tour.

Here’s the update:

Plant something – divided my hyssop and penstemon, moved some irises and a sedum to better homes so they would no longer be choked by my geranium.

Harvest something – eggs, tomatoes, zucchini, cukes, kohlrabi,

Preserve something – Surprisingly little – only corn in the freezer last week, some peppers to the freezer this week.

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

Want Not – shelves for the basement.

Build Community Food Systems – took lots of orders for peaches from friends, registered to participate in the Denver Botanic Gardens Chicken Coop Tour to promote sustainable lifestyles in an urban setting.

Eat the Food – Lots and lots of veggies.  We are getting through nearly everything in a farm share bag.  Lots of cucumbers from the garden.  Broke into the pickled garlic but didn’t love the taste.  The recipe called for sugar but I think the sweet with the garlic is weird.  Bit disappointing, considering we made so much.

Categories: Chickens, Food, Garden, Independence Days | 1 Comment

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

Independence Days – Week 11

This week was much better than some of the previous weeks.  Turns out that getting some exercise (endorphins) and spending some time outside in the sun (vitamin D) can do wonders for the mood, body, mind and spirit.  The beginning of the week was actually a little rough (it was all cloudy and overcast) but the weekend made up for it nicely, with the sunshine and the gardening!  Also it helps that I was able to see friends more this week as well.

Here’s a picture of the bulk storage I mentioned in last week’s update.  And here’s what we were up to this week:

Plant something – watermelon, pumpkins, spinach, basil, more tomatoes, marigolds, turnips… um also some grass seed where we’re trying to patch up the damaged back lawn.  We don’t have a lot of grass back there, but what little there is has been burned by Josie over the winter.  We’re hoping it will recover a bit.

Harvest something – eggs, lettuce, spinach

Preserve something – um – nothing, and I actually have to take back last week’s asparagus (it was on Rick’s docket to-do, but we ended up eating it all instead!).

Waste Not – compost and recycling, reused some scrap boards in the garden.  Also decided that we’ve been silly not giving the grass clippings to the chickens, so they got two bags full on Sunday.  It’s been raining a lot, and the grass had grown like crazy – lucky birds loved it!

Want Not – made an impromptu garden plot in the back yard – with a raised bed.  We used our own compost – finally – in this bed, and Rick made it out of some left-over scrap lumber.  I really love how it looks.  It has tomatoes (for me and H to snack (or as Rick would say, “graze”) on, basil, and carrots.  Plus some marigolds.  This is pretty much H’s little plot.  Especially since it’s in the back yard, and he loves carrots and tomatoes.  And the raised bed is nice, so he knows where he can’t step.  Plus he picked out the marigolds all by himself.

Build Community Food Systems – gave some extra tomato plants to the neighbors, had another neighbor’s five-year old daughter help us plant in the back yard.  It was so cute and fun and I got some great snapshots of her and H. (Stay tuned for the pictures – will try to get them posted this week).

Eat the Food – mmm…. spinach and lettuce from the volunteer plants has been delish.   Opened the last jar of pumpkin butter.  Rick magically found more tomatoes (I swear I don’t know how he keeps doing this?!?!!) in the freezer so we’ve been enjoying those.  Bacon and ham steaks (ham and eggs fried rice!) and eggs, of course.  Also another batch of hummus. Finished the last of the antelope burger and some kale in some tasty Italian wedding soup (or our own rustic version at least)!  For that we used the recipe in this post, but we substituted antelope for turkey, kale for escarole and our tomatoes from the freezer for the canned (a common substitution in our house).

Categories: Chickens, Community, Food, Garden, Independence Days | 3 Comments

2010 Independence Days – Week 3

Plant something – we have volunteer spinach & lettuce!  (ok, I know that’s not planting, but yay)!  We did hit the garden center this week and came home with bucu seeds.  So far, I’m sad to say, nothing new has hit the dirt – but I’m not supposed to post what I haven’t done! 

Harvest something – eggs had a banner week for 2010 thus far: aprox 27!

Preserve something – nothing

Waste Not – compost and recycling. Rick worked on the compost bin construction this weekend.  It should be done next week! 

Want Not – so fortunate – Rick’s grandparents gave us a gift certificate to the garden center for Christmas, so we used two-thirds of it on seeds this week.  We have a little left to go towards tomato plants and any flowers I may want come April/May.  Also – we got a packet of seeds from Rick other grandpa – kholrabi from Slovakia!  These seeds are super special and we are so excited to plant them! 

Build Community Food Systems – served up all that green chili (I made aprox 3 gallons last Saturday) on Tuesday. 

Eat the Food – asparagus soup again (we had friends over),  carrots from the freezer for corned-beef & cabbage on Wednesday and pot roast on Friday (this was a beefy week – very unusual, we NEVER buy beef!),

No recipe to share this week.

Categories: Chickens, Food, Independence Days | 2 Comments

Let Them Eat Cake

When chicken food gets wet it disintegrates. H dumped the chicken water into the chicken food, making sort of a “mash” in the bottom of their round food pan. When I asked what he was doing, he said, “They’re having cake today.”

Categories: Chickens | 1 Comment

2010 Independence Days – Week 1

So – the first week has passed and I am excited that we have a few things accomplished, though not many. 

Plant something – nothing yet, but we are getting a plan together.

Harvest something – eggs – we’ve been lucky that our hens have laid through most of the winter with no heat lamp or anything. 

Preserve something – nothing – would have done the tamales, but they were too good and had to be eaten straight away!

Waste Not – compost and recycling.  We had to find a new place to take the recycling, since the local place moved away. 

Want Not – Rick started cleaning up in the yard a bit this weekend.  A bit more of this to do until the garden is ready to plant. 

Build Community Food Systems – Made a big batch of tamales with my friend Jen last Sunday.  I brought home about 25.  We were going to freeze them, but they were SOOOOOO tasty.  So we kept them in the fridge for quick lunches.  That’s good too though, since I often skip lunch if there’s nothing easy to eat. 

Also, joined the Advisory Group for the CSA.  I’ll be working on the web communications with a few other members. 

Eat the Food – We’ve enjoyed the pickled beets, canned and frozen peaches, elk sausage, bacon, basil pesto, and pablanos from the freezer this week.  Here’s the recipe for the delish tamales (from Grilled Tamales with Pablanos and Fresh Corn – Yum Yum!  Oh – and Jen rendered the lard for us!  She went to buy lard, and the butcher at the store did not have enough, so he gave her some pork fat and we rendered it ourselves.  Easy and interesting.  No – we did not eat the chicharróns however.  😉

Categories: Chickens, Food, Independence Days, Recipes | 2 Comments

Mad House and Independence Catch Up

Is that February I see?  The first month of 2010 has FLOWN by!  We’ve had a hard time catching up since the holidays (as evidenced by my absence from the blog), but we’re looking at a few clear weekends, then a trip to the Tucson area to visit friends, and then a (hopefully) nice relaxing break from the hustle and bustle!

So in the last month, I completed my student teaching for my childbirth education certification, worked on the test, nearly finished the reading, and scheduled my last required observation.  I picked a business name (stay tuned for it, complete with links), and bartered a web design.  Yay!

Additionally, E is now up to six teeth, we had several dinners with friends, a game night or two, bartered hunting for mechanical work on the truck (hallelujah!), had to post bail to get Josie out of doggie jail (she made a break for Hampden and got picked up), and held a Mad Tea Party for Rick’s and my un-birthday!  The last was so fun, and I made an amazing hat thanks to a great tutorial, and a little friendly encouragement.

It’s been 37 weeks since I started tracking our family with the Independence Days project.  I use the term ‘tracking’ loosely, however, since I have not really kept good track for the last ten or twelve weeks.  This is what I can say for sure, from my memory.  Every day we collect three eggs from our five hens.  Pretty good since it is the dead of winter and we don’t give them a heat lamp or anything.

We have not planted or harvested any veggies whatsoever, but Rick did go make hamburger and sausage with his uncle and grandpa.  We used all the lard from the hogs (this years and last years) for this.  So we added about 30 pounds of ground meat to the freezer.  We also found pints of blackberries on sale for 77 cents each once, and bought like 20 and frozen them.  We should have bought more though, since we’ve eaten them all already (Rick went on a smoothie kick last month).

As I mentioned above, we bartered hunting for mechanics – and I say this totally falls under building community food systems.  Our friend is a mechanic and replaced the belts and water pump on the 4 Runner for us, with the promise that Rick would teach him and his family to hunt this year.  He saved us over $900!  I say we really got the better end of the deal in some ways because Rick loves hunting so much, and he is very happy for another reason to spend more time outdoors doing it.

We have surely been eating the food as well around here.  Most weeks all we buy at the store is dairy, bread, rice or beans, flour and sugar, coffee, peanut butter, maple syrup, and sometimes eggs to supplement what we’ve got from the hens.  And bananas, as I think Henry is addicted.  We’ve been eating veggies and meat from the freezer, our peaches, pickles and jams, frozen fruit – delish!

We’ve been talking about the garden a lot the last week or so.  I think that the sun coming up at 7:00am again is making us think Spring is around the corner.  We received the Baker Creek heirloom seed catalog in December, and have since been lustfully drooling over every page and variety since.

Alas – my writing time is up today – E is, shall we say, requesting – my presence.

More to come soon.

Categories: Chickens, Childbirth, Community, Hunting, Independence Days | 6 Comments

Where I’ve Been and Independence Update!

Wowza!  I’ve been off the blog for over a week – it’s been a mad house around here!  What with the teething and growing and friends over for dinner and getting all set for the holidays, plus prepping to do my student teaching!  Yikes!

So a quick update…. I think I owe a few weeks of Independence days.  We’d be on week 28, but I really don’t feel like I have all that much to report for the last three weeks or so (see the mad house comment, above).  The chickens are just hanging out (or hanging in) in the snow, and we are still getting two or three eggs a day from them.  The two older hens are not laying, and I’m guessing they won’t lay through the winter.  The three little girls are busy, but they can’t keep up with Henry, the egg eating machine, so we did buy a couple dozen this week.  Yes, they are both local and humane.  😉

So there’s nothing in the Plant Something, and only eggs in the Harvest Something category.  Does any one know if it is too late to put garlic in the ground?  We’ve wanted to do this, but have kept putting it off and now it might be too late??

We did pick up our hog (well, only half a hog this fall) last week.  We split it with Dave the Dentist, and so maybe that counts as Want Not/Prep & Storage or Build Community Food Systems??  Since we didn’t harvest anything new, there was nothing to Preserve.  Wait, no, I take that back.  We did boil a turkey carcass to death, so we preserved some turkey stock (which is delicious!).

Waste Not – well, compost and recycling, of course, and we are still mucking about with the pallets Rick brought  home for the new bins we want to make.  Rick brought home a piece of drywall that was to be cast off at work (they’re remodeling his office), to replace a damaged piece in our basement junk room.  Also, found a couple of cute uses for scrap fabric that have been transformed into Christmas gifts.

Eat the Food – ah, food.  The one category that never fails me.  I always eat!  So this week, we are making green bean casserole from beans we froze, and chardonnay glazed carrots from the sweet carrots of the late summer/early fall.  And mashed potatoes from the spuds stored down in the basement.  Yum.  Yes, we are hosting Thanksgiving dinner.  I plan to break out the home-made dill pickles and watermelon rind pickles for snacks while the turkey roasts.

And I made my cranberry sauce ahead of time.  I adapted an Everyday Food recipe.  I was standing there cooking it, when suddenly the urge to add rosemary overcame me.  I put it in and I think it turned out pretty tasty.  So here’s that one for you:

2 packages fresh cranberries (24oz each)
1.5 cups sugar
4 large strips of orange peel
1/2 cup water
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish

Rinse and drain cranberries.  In a large sauce pan, add cranberries, sugar, orange peel and water.  Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer 15 minutes.  Add rosemary sprigs and simmer 5-10 minutes more.  Remove from heat, and stir in orange juice.  Let cool, cover and refrigerate for up to a week.  To serve, bring to room temperature and remove rosemary, garnish with a fresh rosemary sprig.

So that catches up the Independence Days.  Happy Thanksgiving Day to you!

Categories: Chickens, Food, Independence Days, Recipes | 1 Comment

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