Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day. Time for an update.

Earth day. Sounds like the perfect time to update my long neglected blog.

I’m not going to go into much detail, mostly letting the pictures speak for themselves.

The beautiful Max, taking a break from egg-laying to cruise the backyard for bugs…


Seedlings, most of which have lost their labels. I know there is ruby chard, some cucumbers and a couple types of summer squash. Oh well…I’ll just throw them in the ground somewhere and see what happens…


Cedar fence boards make EXCELLENT raised beds. Right now they only have decomposing straw in them that the chickens have enjoyed scratching and turning…

Cedar beds

The Freedom Rangers, which we are raising for meat, are now about eight weeks old. About two more weeks and they’ll be ready for processing. I love raising these guys…

Freedom Rangers

White potatoes growing in a cardboard box. Time for more mulch!

Potato box

Edible flowers (violas and pansies) lining the front walk. Garlic is in the bed to the left, and gladiolus and nasturtiums are coming up next to the steps.


The front beds are coming along, though I am desperate for mulch. Between a lack of time and a lack of a truck, getting it has been a challenge. Peas are up (though possibly too late), blueberries, pomegranate and crabapple are doing great, dwarf corn and squashes went in today.

Front yard

Row of red potatoes growing in leaf mold, covered with chicken wire to keep the chickens from scratching them up. I roll the wire up every evening every evening when the chickens are put to bed.

Potato row

That probably covers the garden for now. Things are looking a little ratty, but that’s because my time has been taken by many, many other projects that I need to document soon.

I hope everyone is having an amazing and productive spring – I would love to hear about your projects, too!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Life and choices.

I came back up to SW Virginia so that I could get my ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) recertification, and sure enough as always happens when I spent time around my fellow medics, I started getting that burning feeling in my gut that I want to, I need to, go to medical school.

So I am sitting here once again researching what it would take to go back to school this late in life.

But then I think about all of the things that I do, all of my hobbies, ideas, travelling, all of that. If I went back to school I would have to give all of that up. For about TEN YEARS.

Nope, sorry. Not going to happen.

I  managed to get myself totally overwhelmed this month and not only neglected  my blog, but my entire household started suffering for it. Several projects are getting put away for a while – like my mom always says, “You CAN do everything, just not all at once!”

So here’s what’s been going on since my last post…


 Oyster Mushroom harvest

The oysters have hatched! We got a  nice flush of oyster mushrooms that I unfortunately didn’t weigh. There have been some further harvests since then which is nice, especially since I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when I started that project and have pretty much neglected them the whole time.

I have a much better idea now of how to do this, and will make some major changes to the  next attempt at the project. Right now, though, its going on the back burner. The buckets of mycelium as well as my cardboard propagation project is all going to get mixed into the garden beds, and with luck we’ll get some oysters growing among the garden plants.

Easy fix for scratched floors.

I made a new discovery! Well, not really. I’d read it on some blog, somewhere, didn’t believe it, then tried it out of desperation and it worked!

While  moving furniture around in my “studio,” I scratched the heck out of our beautiful, old hardwood floors. Instead of crying, I grabbed some walnuts, crushed them in my hand, rubbed the crushed walnuts over the scratches and voila! The scratches appeared to, well, disappear!

scratched floor: beforescratched floor: duringScratched floor: FiXED!

Aside from the dogs wanting to spend the rest of the evening licking the floor (I guess they also think walnut oil is yummy), it felt like a miracle cure. Whoohoo!

Chicken update.

Several of my hens are currently laying beautiful eggs. Max was the first, and here she is sitting on her “nest box” that I made out of a Rubbermaid type of container (it was originally their brooder box).

Max getting ready to lay.

There is nothing like picking an egg out of the nest box that is still warm from the chicken’s butt. Yes, that sounds very strange, but it is truly a magical experience.

Kraut experiment.

Ooooh…I think this is going to be good.

I mixed cabbage, thinly sliced onion, sliced carrot, and beets with a basic brine and have it sitting on my counter, fermenting. One week later it is smelling amazing!

Making kraut and sprouts

Oh, and in the background you can see a cotton bag I whipped up to make some sprouts. It was an experiment, but you can bet I will never grow sprouts any other way ever again. It was incredibly easy. 

Bag sprouting

Shopping bag class.

I am super excited to be offering an intro to sewing class called “Don’t Fear the Machine!” in which we’ll be enjoying tea and cookies (gluten free, of course!) and making this wonderful shopping bag.

Don't fear the machine: shopping bag

We won’t be covering any technicalities in the class, just experiencing the act of creating with fabric on a variety of machines, from my modern computerized Husqvarna to a 100 year old Singer hand-crank. Date and time will be announced soon I hope!

So that’s about it for now. There have been tons of other activites, but I will save them for another time.

Welcome Spring!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Oyster mushrooms. New chickens. A mess.

Oyster mushrooms.

Its started! baby oyster mushrooms

One of my several containers of oyster mushroom spawn mixed with used coffee grounds has finally started pinning! This container is actually only one week old – very impressive.

At some point I will post details of this experiment.

But first, I have to figure out what’s going on with two of  my buckets:

Oyster mushrooms?

Do you see those crazy cauliflower looking growths? I was thinking that those were the beginnings of oyster mushrooms, but seeing what’s going on in the picture prior I feel pretty confident that these are *not* oyster mushrooms starting. However, I have absolutely no idea what it is!

So I’m going to let them continue, and I’m also going to post to one of the mycological forums to see if someone can identify it for me. Its certainly pretty – I just hate to think that these two buckets will be failures. We’ll see though…


Our new additions are adapting beautifully! Pete, the rooster, has developed quite a…uh…fondness for one of my barred rocks, much to her dismay. The little hens are finally starting to wander around and hang out with the other hens. Certainly not a big happy family yet, but I have hopes that they’ll get there.

city chickens

A friend of mine is starting to get eggs from her hens, so I’m hopeful that we’ll start seeing some soon, too.

A mess.

Definitely feeling a bit overwhelmed today. We have *way* too much stuff. But it is all good, usable stuff…lots of reference materials, lots of fabrics and projects-in-process. Nothing I really want to get rid of…

Storage is our biggest issue. I have no doubt that if we had proper bookshelves and a hide-a-bed or murphy bed that we would find ourselves in a great position. But as it stands right now we are covered in boxes and just general crap everywhere.

I am seriously considering converting our screen room into a real room – maybe an office for Jason. He is fairly against the idea – after all, we both enjoy sitting out there in the spring and summer. But we are definitely short one room, and that might be the way to take care of it.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snowed in. Tomato pickles. Farmcar. Oyster mushrooms. Sewing.

A view from the living room window

We're home, in the middle of Snowpocalypse 2011. The city is pretty much shut down, and the city’s 10 salt/snow trucks aren't able to keep up. The roads are treacherous and I am so glad to be in our warm, comfortable home with our animals. We are some of the lucky ones.

So while we've been snowed in, I've had the opportunity to catch up on some of the projects that have been "needin' done".

Tomato pickles.

The first week of December I had set up a batch of green, unripe cherry tomatoes to ferment. It was purely an experiment after successfully fermenting sauerkraut (YUM!).

Here’s the before, with green tomatoes, several whole cloves of garlic, lots of dill seed, five whole cayenne peppers, and a brine of 4 cups water with 3 tablespoons kosher salt. I covered it with a brine-filled ziplock bag to hold the vegetables under the brine and let it sit.

After two weeks, it looked like this:

tomato pickles

The tomatoes started turning to a duller green, but the peppers were still beautiful. It smelled strongly of garlic and dill. I tasted one tomato and thought a pepper had exploded in my mouth. It was HOT!

I was a little afraid at this point – they smelled great but were much too hot.

This past weekend, I checked them again and they were absolutely amazing. The heat had mellowed, and they now have a slightly garlic-dill tang with a bit of heat. The are luscious.

Processing fermented foods kills the wonderful microbes that are so healthy for you, as well as mushifies everything. It will keep for many months refrigerated, unprocessed, so I packed them into glass jars that’s where they went. 


Farmcar finally died. I can’t complain – she had almost 220k miles on her and had treated me exceptionally well.

It was still sad when the tow truck hauled her away for donation.

We are now a one-car household…with a little two-door Honda Civic. Another great car, but will definitely be putting a crimp on my projects. I can’t fit two full size bookcases in her like I could in Farmcar. We’ll find a way to make-do.

Goodbye, Farmcar.

Goodbye, Farmcar.

Oyster mushrooms.

On December 18th, I mixed some oyster mushroom sawdust spawn (from Fungi Perfecti) into used coffee grounds. I have four buckets of the stuff down in the basement as well as two small containers in the kitchen. Aside from a slight bloom of mycelium on the surface, they weren’ t appearing do much…

…until yesterday.

oyster mushrooms

See all that white-ish stuff? That’s oyster mushroom mycelium. That is Good Stuff.

This has been yet another of my experiments, and so far it looks like its going to work. I’m hoping to see some actual fruiting take place soon – no idea how soon, anywhere from days to another two weeks. Keep your fingers crossed!

Shower curtain.

It doesn’t take much to make a big improvement, especially in a small room.

I’d found a duvet cover at a Goodwill that I frequent and absolutely fell in love with the print. From it, I made a shower curtain for both the master and hall bathrooms. The hall bath is in sore need of repair – its going to be a massive project. But in the meantime, a pretty shower curtain made a huge difference.


 bathroom before


bathroom after

There have been some other things going on, a new crocheted hat and scarf for example, but I’ll save you from those.

Are you working on any projects? How are you spending your winter?

Love to you all!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The start of a beautiful new year…

the two of us
I made a change to my thought process regarding the oncoming new year. I decided that instead of focusing on all of the things I hope to accomplish in the new year, I will focus on all of the things I DID accomplish in the old one.  Its funny how changing ones viewpoint on something so seemingly small causes massive positive repercussions throughout my world.
No, I did not lose all my weight and get in shape.
But I did:
* become a Paramedic
* become a homeowner
* go to Italy with my mom – a dream we’ve had for 10 years.
* move to Atlanta
* get a puppy
* get egg-layer chickens
* raise, and process, meat chickens. From day old chick to the roasting pan. Delicious, and a joy.
* become a much happier, healthier, positive person
* enjoy a blossoming of my relationship with my husband. We are closer now than ever before in our 15 year history.
* meet some incredible people that I am proud to call friends, and reconnect with some friends that I hadn’t seen in well over a decade.
It would be ridiculous to look back at 2010 and not be proud of all the accomplishments. And this doesn’t even take my husband’s massive accomplishment into account; he went back to Berkeley to present his thesis, and is now a full fledged PhD. I am so incredibly proud of him.
And I didn’t completely miss my goal…my weigh in on Friday put me down almost eleven pounds, and my fitness level is much better than it was. I am doing it, and that’s what matters.
So this year I’ve decided to make one huge goal for myself, one that is shared by my husband and that will have a ripple effect thoughout our lives.
My plan is to pay off our debts…everything except the mortgage.
And I even have a plan B. If it takes two years, I will be fine with that, but we are going to do everything in our power to get it done in one.
Its going to be a wonderful year.