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Denver Botanic Gardens Urban Homestead Tour

I’m excited to announce the first (and hopefully, annual) Denver Botanic Gardens Urban Homestead Tour.  Check out the tour photo (featuring Rick in the bee suit and E with one of our hens) along with the official press release below.

DENVER – Denver Botanic Gardens will host its 2012 Urban Homestead Tour of Denver and surrounding communities. The tour aims to inform, educate and inspire the community by featuring a variety of traditional and innovative efforts in the urban homesteading movement.

Local homesteaders all throughout the Denver metro area will open the doors of their homes to provide guests with an opportunity to see what urban homesteading is all about. Come prepared to be surprised because “urban homesteading is not only growing vegetables in your yard and raising chickens. It also includes activities like canning, making soap and using alternative energy sources in your home,” says Sundari Kraft, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban Homesteading” and founder of EatWhereULive, one of the community supporters of the tour.

CALL FOR ENTRIES: Urban homesteaders who want to participate as a tour stop, share their efforts, their joys and their experiences with the public can find information and applications at www.botanicgardens.org

The tour, which counts with the support of community partners like Anisa Schell, author of the LazyHomesteader.com, and Lisa Rogers, founder and director of Feed Denver, is completely self-guided.  Participants are encouraged to drop-by whatever locations they see fit from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tour map sales will begin Aug. 22nd and tour participants will receive them starting on Sept. 19th.

Date and Time:
Saturday, September 22
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Admission:
$5 per person
Ticket sales start August 22
For more information and to register visit www.botanicgardens.org

About Denver Botanic Gardens:
Green inside and out, the Gardens is considered one of the top botanical gardens in the United States and a pioneer in water conservation. Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Gardens’ living collections encompass specimens from the tropics to the tundra, showcasing a plant palette chosen to thrive in Colorado’s semi-arid climate. The Gardens’ dynamic, 23-acre urban oasis in the heart of the city is now in its 52nd year, offering unforgettable opportunities to flourish with unique garden experiences for the whole family – as well as world-class education and plant conservation research programs. Additional sites at Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield, a 750-acre wildlife and native plant refuge in Jefferson County; and Mount Goliath, a high-altitude trail and interpretive site on the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, extend this experience throughout the Front Range. For more information, visit us online at http://www.botanicgardens.org.

I’m really excited to be working with Denver Botanic Gardens to bring more awareness about urban homesteading to the community through this event.  We all hope it’s a huge success.  If you’re a local, this is your chance to see other urban homesteads up close.  Mark your calendar!

Make sure to click through to the other community supporter links:

EatWhereULive
Feed Denver

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Categories: Community, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

Dried Sour Cherries

Last weekend while at my in-laws’ house, I noticed that my mother in-law’s very ripe cherry trees had not been picked.  Lucky me, she told me to have at it!

Rick’s younger brother, was there and he helped us pick.  The cherries were so ripe that some were almost sweet.  As we all picked, the adults all remembered being kids, waiting for the cherry trees to ripen (we had cherries at the house I grew up in too), thinking that this year, this year, the cherries would be sweet.  I always expected them to taste like a maraschino cherry.  Of course, they never, ever did. They were always sour and I was always disappointed.

As a child, I assumed that these small, sour fruits were not real cherries.  That they were just for birds and to look pretty.  I didn’t know how good they really were. Rick, on the other hand, had some home-made pies and jams made from his backyard trees, but still most years the harvest went to the birds and squirrels, and his largest memory of the trees was putting the pits to use in his sling shot.

Maybe that’s why he never thought to mention to me that his parents still had the cherry trees.  Most years, my mother in-law said, they let a passing neighbor pick the trees.  (!)  I had been considering going to a pick-your-own orchard this year to buy some, when I noticed her trees.

We didn’t even pick half of the two trees, yet we came home with an incredible haul of gorgeous sour cherries.

My younger self would be so jealous of me now.  Now, I know how to turn these babies into the sweet, delicious fruit that I always hoped they’d be.  See sour cherries (sometimes called tart cherries) are also know as PIE cherries.  (Once I tried making a pie from bing cherries.  Yeah…. horrible).  Sour cherries will give you a pie to die for.  We ended up with eight pounds – PITTED.

After washing and pitting them, I immediately put six cups in the freezer for a pie.  The rest I divided between the jamming pot and the dehydrator.

Dried sour cherries are pretty expensive to buy in the store.  But they are delicious in baked goods, rice, salads, sauces, over pork, granola and trail mix, or just plain as a snack.  We hope to dip some in chocolate for Scott as a thank you for helping us pick.

Drying the cherries was incredibly simple.  Just wash and pit the cherries, and then spread them on the rack of your dehydrator.  make sure they each have a little room so they don’t end up stuck together.  I tried to pick the best, most perfect cherries to dry.  Any squashed or under ripe ones, I tossed back into the bowl to be made into jam.  Our food dehydrator puts out quite a bit of heat, and since it has been so hot here, I set it up on an old plywood table on the back porch to do its thing.  I set the dehydrator for 135° and let them dry for about 24 hours.

We dried about three pounds of pitted cherries and ended up with just about a pint after they were dry.  You have to watch them towards the end of the drying; you don’t want them to get crunchy.  They should still be soft, kind of like a raisin.  Yum.

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation | Tags: , , , , | 17 Comments

Honey Harvest, Not Yet

Last week, our friend came over to mentor me with harvesting honey from our top bar hive.  I mentioned before that I suspected that it was full, and I was hoping to do this.

Chris showed me how to use the hive tool to get individual bars out of the hive.  I opened it up to check on how our bees were doing in there.

There was good news…

Lots of comb, filled with honey!

This comb is full of honey, but it is not yet capped, so it can’t be harvested.  Capped honey will stay fresh for a very long time, but uncapped honey is not ready to harvest yet and will go bad if not eaten right away.

But there was also some not so good news; quite a few (lots maybe) of the comb was built across more than one bar.  This is called cross comb and it makes it really difficult to harvest honey.  Chris suspected that it might be because our the sizing of our top bars was off.  You can see in the below picture that I’m actually holding two bars because of this.

It was a bit hot when we were checking all of this out, and some of the comb fell off because of heat made the wax soft.  Combined with that and the cross comb problem, we decided not to harvest anything just yet.

We are coming up with a solution to correcting the cross combing problem, and we wanted to give the bees another couple of weeks to get all that lovely honey capped.

Still, it was exciting to get into the hive and see everything.  We’ll try to document everything as we go along with the bees.

Categories: Beekeeping, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

What I Made This Week: Turnip, Pea & Kohlrabi Stir-Fry

I published a post today on our CSA’s blog, Monroe Organic Farms.  Just a quick one with a stir-fry recipe at the end.

If you’re here from the Monroe blog for the first time, feel free to look around and see what crazy farm-style hijinks we are up to here in the city… bees and chickens and garden, and a few other odd projects.  Plus green cleaning, clothes lines and other green-style stuff.  Welcome.

Also – there are a couple of days left to vote on this… Pick me!

Categories: Community, CSA, Food, Recipes | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

The Buzz on Bearding

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you might have noticed Rick posting that our bees were swarming.  However, I am happy to report, the bees weren’t swarming after all.  They were bearding.

Honey bees regulate the temperature of their hive pretty well.  In the winter they use their wings and bodies to keep the hive warm and in the summer they keep it cool by fanning their wings.  If it is really hot, they cool the hive by fanning their wings to create air currents that evaporate water droplets.  And if it’s just burning up, the adult bees go outside to cool themselves and get the hive temp to drop so the brood (the baby bees) don’t end up honey roasted.

Bearding happens when the bee hive is either too full or too hot, or sometimes both.  It is typical bee behavior in the last summer.  But I know for a fact that our hive is full, and this weekend was pretty hot, so the bees spent a few evenings on the outside of the hive cooling down.

Here they are at 8:00 pm last night.  See them all around the entrance:

And here is the hive at 8:00ish this morning.

Last night I took a video.  Video is not my forte, but I thought it was really cool.  Bear with the shakiness of the camera.  I just got back from a three day road trip to help my sister move and C didn’t sleep the entire trip, so neither did I.  In other words, look past the crappy film job.  😉

Again, we are bee amateurs…  very much beginners.  But I wanted to share as we learn too.  I’m excited that on Wednesday, a friend is coming to help me harvest honey.  It will be our first time; I hope to get lots of pictures of that process!  And I actually think the bees will be happy to have a little more wiggle room in the hive.

In the mean time, here is some good info about bee bearding and bee swarming.

Categories: Beekeeping | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

Garlic Scapes Two Ways

Last spring we harvested our first crop of garlic.  At that time I knew that we should cut the scapes, the flowering shoots that hard-neck garlic sends up in the spring, off of the plants so that my bulbs would reach a good size.  Once I cut them though, I didn’t quite know what to do with them.  I had heard that they were edible, but I was really uncertain on how to use them, so I ended up putting them in a vase to let them keep curling and eventually open up.  They were striking, my sister even asked to take some home.  But this year, none will be in vases.  My pallet is no longer a garlic scape virgin, and there is no going back.

I did a quick search and decided t try a couple of simple garlic scape recipes.  They are, honestly, amazing.  Checking in my cupboard, I realized that I had all the making of pesto.  I was inspired by this recipe, but used 12 scapes and added a bit of lemon juice and ground black pepper to mine.

It is honestly the best pesto I’ve ever tasted in my life.  I used my food processor, and chopped it pretty fine.  H helped me add ingredients to the food processor.  I also have to add that the olive oil we recently bought (3 gallons of it) is very fruity and I think it made a big difference in the quality of our pesto.

We used some of the pesto last night to make pasta.  I ran to the store to buy these curly-cue noodles in honor of the scapes, specifically for this.  For the sauce, I whisked together a good, large dollop of the pesto with about 1/3 cup crumbled feta and half a cup of the hot pasta water until it was fairly smooth.  Then I just tossed it over the pasta.

It had an initial garlicky bite that quickly mellowed and was quite delicious.  Even C loved it.  Tonight, I plan to use the pesto as a base for some homemade pizza.

Since I already had the food processor out, I decided to whip together a quick hummus.  I didn’t even clean it out, I just added more scapes, a can of rinsed chick peas, salt, juice from the other half of the lemon, and a bit more olive oil.

It is insanely good.  I don’t know if it really qualifies as hummus, it doesn’t have tahini (which I don’t care for much), but it is so good.  I hope I can make some for a party or, crossing my finger here that I still have scapes, our next potluck.

The garlic flavor is such a highlight.  It is much more mellow than using a garlic clove, but still strong, and the color is so beautiful.

I really think garlic scapes would make an awesome addition to guacamole.  Today, I think I’ll try making a batch of garlic scape pickles.  Just the thought has me salivating.

Garlic Scapes Two Ways on Punk DomesticsGarlic Scape Hummus:

In a food processor blend:

12 garlic scapes, roughly chopped
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
juice from 1/2 a lemon
salt to taste

When everything is well combined, add 1/3 – 1/2 cup olive oil in a thin stream while the food processor is running.

Pasta with Feta-Garlic Scape Pesto Sauce:

1 lb of pasta
1/3 to 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 – 1/3 cup garlic scape pesto (link above, made with lemon juice)
salt

Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining.  In a bowl, whisk together the hot pasta water with the feta and pesto until smooth.  Toss over drained pasta and serve.

*Any leftover pesto or hummus (yeah, right) can be frozen.  Simply put pesto in ice cube trays or a freezer bag (flat).  Defrost hummus in fridge overnight and stir in a little olive oil to bring back the creamy consistency.

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Food, Garden, Recipes | Tags: , , , | 25 Comments

Thinking Outside the [Ice] Box

Someone recently asked me how the fridge experiment was going, and I realized that I missed the anniversary of when we first unplugged!  To me, that’s a pretty good sign that the project is going well.  The anniversary came and went totally unnoticed.  I imagined (a year ago) that I’d want some sort of fanfare or some official celebration, but I realize that it is better this way.

Running our home without a fridge has become so much a part of our lives that it’s almost mundane to us.  I forget about it completely until someone asks.

Changing ice jugs is routine.  Although we eat mainly fresh food, I don’t shop daily as many people have asked (I have three kids, people, are you nuts!??!), we love dairy (we regularly have milk, yogurt, cheese, half and half and butter in there), and none of us have suffered from Listeria.

Is it for everyone?  Well… I think that if we can do it with three children, probably most other families could too, certainly most single people.  But I realize that living without a fridge in 2012 is pretty far on the other side of the extreme line for many people.  It hasn’t really been an inconvenience for us at all.

I think the key to making it successful for us has been thinking outside of the box.  Many people we’ve talked to about it say they like the idea, but they could never do it because they prefer fresh food too much or that it’s not possible in an urban environment.  We are doing it in Denver and eating fresh foods (including meat and dairy)!  It is basically like using a cooler when camping. We’ve even gone out of town and left it.

Of course it would not be practical for us at all if we did not have the freezer in the garage where we could regularly get ice jugs.  But we run the freezer regardless.

So how long will we keep going?  Right now, we don’t see a reason to stop.  The only question now is what to do with the refrigerator?  Use it for storage for things prone to pests, like flour?  Make a pantry out of it?  A china cupboard? Long-term food storage area for the zombie apocalypse?  Fireproof safe?

We’re currently taking suggestions on that one.

Categories: Food, Sustainability, Unplugging the Fridge | Tags: , , , , , , | 19 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

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