Monday

Chickens

Try as I might, living here in town just isn't the same as living in the country. I can't have chickens here because my property isn't big enough. Even if it was big enough, the number allowed is very limited.

I'm griping today about this because I really like chickens. I love hearing roosters early in the morning and I love hearing a hen squawk when she lays an egg and cluck when she's content. And baby chicks? Oh, don't get me started!

One time I raised 200 chicks to butcher. ONE TIME, I said. I raised chicks many times, but never that many at one time. That was a job and so was the butchering. A couple of dozen at a time was enough after that.

I used to go out to the chicken house just to watch them. When my son was little, he loved chickens, too. We had a nice chicken house with a fenced in yard and he would go out there to play. One time he asked me to lock him in with the chickens so he could see them closer. I did and he stayed out there for a very long time, just enjoying their company.

I think every kid deserves to be friends with a few chickens.

Saturday

Solar Energy That I Can Afford

I can't put solar panels on the roof because the house is situated wrong for them. There's no room for them in the yard and I couldn't afford them anyway. I'm not sure they would pay off fast enough for me.

What I can do isn't exactly off the grid, but why not do what we can?

Here's what I can do:

1. Solar battery charger. There are all kinds out there, but there are some simple ones that work any time the sun is shining. You can get them that will charge anything from a hearing aid battery to a laptop battery and they can be found a whole lot cheaper than buying batteries over even a short period of time. You can use the same batteries over and over and over and it won't cost you a penny to recharge them. I can afford that.

2. Solar oven. On a hot summer day, I don't want to turn on the stove or do anything at all to increase the heat in the house! I bought a solar oven for less than $150 and it will last years and years - far longer than it takes to pay for itself in electricity (or gas, if that's the kind of cookstove you have). Besides that, it's fun. AND it's convenient. Put your food into it and forget about it. It won't burn even if you're late. I like that and I can afford it, too.

3. Solar clothes dryer. Hang your clothes on a line outside in the sunshine and let the sun do the work. It works even in the winter and any time it isn't raining or snowing (or hailing or sleeting). The cost of setting up a solar clothes dryer isn't much, and the cost of a few clothespins is even less. As a matter of fact, the whole set up can pay for itself in less than a month. I can afford that!

4. Do-it-yourself solar heat booster. You can help warm your home by opening the window covers during sunny weather, of course, but you can take that another step and line your windowsill with cans painted black and filled with water. If you can put lids on the cans, so much the better. Put the cans in the windows then close the drapery or curtains. The water will heat up in the sun and give up its heat when the air around it is cooler. You can move the cans back into the room to get the most use of the heat when you need it.

5. Solar water heater. No fancy setup needed. Just put out a jar of water on a sunny day and wait for it to heat up. Want it hotter than that? Use the solar oven concept and put a dark or black container under or inside a glass container. Or just run a little water through a garden hose and leave it in the sun. Hot water from a garden hose may not be safe enough to make tea,, but you can wash dishes or clothes in it or do other cleaning that needs hot water.

Yep... that's solar power that I can afford!

Friday

My Own Socks

Yes, there's more to life than food! It's not all about growing it and using it. Right now there's a pair of socks on my knitting needles. I started them before Easter! I had to stop and knit for a new grandbaby on the way, so I put them down and I'll tell you, remembering exactly what I did on the first one isn't easy.

I usually write things down as I go, but I'm not sure the notes I found are the right ones. Keeps things interesting, anyway.

My goal is to knit enough socks to never have to buy them from the store again. In the summer I don't wear socks much, but there is a time both in the spring and fall when I need socks but not heavy socks.

I've never knitted socks with laceweight yarn and I have a feeling it would take forever, but I guess it's time to try. After I get this pair done. And the pillow cases embroidered. And the bedside rug made. Oh, heavens, after I get the sewing/mending caught up! Maybe next year.

Wednesday

Broccoli Bonsai

It's so nice to get up in the mornings, get a cup of tea and go out to the "patio" while it's still cool. The garden is doing well, despite some strange weather this year. I can't quit planting, though. It didn't look like there was enough beets among the lambsquarter, so I planted another couple of short rows behind the broccoli - which is another story.

I bought broccoli from a local nursery and planted it within a few days, so it isn't my fault (this time!). Anyway, they're about 6 - 8 inches tall and beginning head out. After some research I discovered that happens when broccoli is left in small pots too long. Sort of like broccoli bonsai?

The only thing to do is to buy broccoli seed and start my own and hope the weather holds long enough to get a decent crop. Any plants I'd buy now, if any are still available, will likely have been in their small pots too long, too.

Live and learn. It's always best to do it yourself. Remind me of that.

Monday

Weeding "Greens"



Last year, I let an enormous lambsquarter plant grow in the back raised bed so it would go to seed. I picked quite a bit of seed from it, then it fell over of old age (I guess - or maybe it wasn't well rooted in the soft soil). This year, of course, the entire bed would be filled with baby lambsquarter plants.

I like lambsquarter, but that was a lot of it! We (my daughter and I) planted turnips and beets in the bed, then I "weeded" out the lambsquarter as it came up. Most of it was frozen for later use. I usually freeze greens, but this year I want to can them. I'm still picking... er, weeding them from the garden and letting some of them outside the bed grow. Those big leaves make excellent sandwich "lettuce."

This batch is growing alongside the raised bed where it warmed up the quickest this spring.

Lambsquarter, called wild spinach by some, is more nutritious than spinach and can be used the same way, raw or cooked. It is "good source of Niacin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese" according to Nutrition Data.

It's kinda cool to harvest a crop that I didn't have to plant, don't have to water or baby along.

Saturday

How Not to Plant Lima Beans


I knew better, I really did. I'm still disengaging my brain from trying to do everything the cheapest way possible. That's not always the best way.

My daughter is helping me with the gardens this year because she only has a balcony to garden in and can't get her fill there. She wanted to plant lima beans, so decided to plant some leftovers from the bag I had bought to eat instead of buying seed.

Now, there's nothing wrong with planting beans that come in a package to eat, but when they're... maybe three years old?

We waited and hoped for them to grow, but only one did and it was from the last few beans that wouldn't fit in the row so I'd tossed out on the edge of the garden.

So... I went and bought lima bean seeds yesterday and planted them this morning. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping the season is long enough to get a harvest. If it isn't, I owe her a few pounds of choice, organically grown lima beans.

So far, I'm not making a very good homesteader in the garden. Other beans are not doing well this year either, so maybe (a tiny part, maybe?) it's not all me...

Thursday

Horseradish Flowers!

One of the country mindsets that is too often missing in the city mindset is that of "using it all up."

In that spirit, I took to the internet to find out what to do with horseradish flowers. It turned out that horseradish flowers can be eaten or used to make tea. Horseradish flower tea is used to treat colds and respiratory problems. I can understand why that would work!

The flowers are milder than the root, they say. I haven't tried them yet, but I will, since mine is flowering right now. Some people eat them with beans or meat.

You can eat the leaves, too, and they're a mild version of the root also. Use the young tender leaves and cut them up to put a little bite in your salad or on a sandwich.

Since horseradish roots are not at their best during warm growing weather, the flowers and leaves make a great substitute!

Tuesday

Homemade Butter

I'm blessed to have a source of whole raw milk. I put it in the refrigerator to set for two or three days then I skim the cream into a jar. Since I only buy a half gallon a week it takes a couple of weeks to get enough cream to make churning worthwhile.

Never fill a churning jar (a quart canning jar in my case) over half full of cream and you'll have a much easier time of churning. The cream needs room to slosh around. If the jar is too full, it won't "turn" at all.

I put the cream on the counter until it's at room temperature (or a little warmer in the winter), then I put the lid on it tight and get comfortable. I like both sweet cream and sour cream butter, so if the cream sets out a little longer, it's fine. Raw cream just sours; it doesn't rot like cooked (pasteurized) cream does.

Anyway, to churn, one must bounce the jar on the knees or leg or shake it or roll vigorously. I usually wind up trying all those options before it's over. If everything works perfectly, I'll have butter within 10 to 15 minutes. If it doesn't, it could take a half hour, so I do it when I want an excuse to sit for awhile.

I keep churning the cream until I see flecks of butter, then churn some more until the flecks gather together in one clump. It's time to stop at this point and pour off the buttermilk.

If I've churned sweet cream butter, the buttermilk will taste just like cream, except it won't have as many calories in it, so I indulge a little. I sometimes drink it as is, or put it over fruit or a pie. Both sweet and sour cream buttermilk can be used to bake or cook with, so I never throw it out. If I can't use it right away, it freezes very well.

Once I've drained the buttermilk it's time to wash the butter. I put in enough water to cover that's close to the same temperature as the butter and work it with a wooden spoon. (I wet the spoon thoroughly first to keep the butter from sticking to it.) I drain the water and repeat until it's almost clear, then set the jar at an angle or push the butter to one side. You may be able to contrive another way to allow the butter to drain on its own for a few minutes.

Then I take the butter out of the jar and put it into a bowl and add salt to taste.

Now, to bake some bread to use it on!

Sunday

Learning to live in the country in the city

When it first began to dawn on me that I could still incorporate my country ways, I'd been living in this city home unhappily for about five years. I'd sold the old place and moved into town due to health and other reasons as it seemed the most sensible thing to do.

Now the most sensible thing to do is to incorporate those things I love into the right now of living. It's satisfying to "go back" to where I once was and find that I can still do things to make life happier, save money and even get a little more real exercise. I am living a country life in a city home.

And that's my introduction to this blog.

Just how I am learning to live "country" again is a process of relaxing, of letting myself let go of working and trying to keep up - not with the Joneses, they never impressed me - but with the status quo, with what the neighbors expect, with what others do. With the background roar of city living and the almost enforced waste and the quick shopping trips and the forgetting that I can make my own just about anything.

It's a journey. Come with me.