Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Eggs, Eggs and More Eggs!

The girls are all finally laying now, so we have eggs coming out our ears, but we seem to have no problem eating them all at this point.  They're laying 4-5 per day now and many of them are double yolkers.  The two on the far right, both top and bottom, in the picture below are double yolks.  I wonder if they hurt a bit coming out?!  The Cocoo Marans lay the most beautiful dark chocolate eggs.  One chicken in particular lays a darker speckled brown beauties, so pretty.

We had issues with the chickens eating their eggs at first, yikes!  I asked folks over on TBUH and decided to take the advice of putting fake eggs in the nesting boxes, and it worked thank goodness.

Nice family shot I took the other day of the girls.  Rarely are they all facing the same direction!  They're hanging out on the cool little outdoor roost Ron built them. 

Today for the first time our Ameraucana laid this green beauty!  

How are the eggs going over on your homestead?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The "I Am An Urban Homesteader" t-shirts have arrived!

Months ago some of the urban homesteaders asked me for an urban homesteader t-shirt, and I finally got around to doing it!  I created this cute design and the American Apparel shirts are made in the USA by a small California company called Fibers.com.  They come in 100% cotton and organic and many styles and colors.  I make a small profit off of each t-shirt sold and will be donating a percentage of my sales to urban homesteading causes as the need arises.  The back of the shirt has the Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) fb page address on it.  So show your urban homesteading pride and buy an urban homesteading t-shirt!  I'll be adding designs as time goes on, so keep checking back and feel free to add suggestions for designs.  

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cooked Zucchini Blossoms

I decided to be adventurous today and cook up some zucchini blossoms.  I've been hearing how delicious and gourmet they are for a long time, and now I know firsthand.  Thanks to all of the kind folks on Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) fb page for the advice on how to cook these. They're very easy to make:

First, pick male zucchini blossoms.  These will be the blossoms growing highest on the plant on the longer stems.  Be sure to leave one or two near a female blossom so they will continue to pollinate and produce zucchini.  Remove the stamen from the blossom, (it's bitter), and rinse.

Next brush egg on blossoms and roll in corn meal.  The first time I did this I brushed a bit too much egg on the blossoms and it drowned out the flavor, so be sure not to over do it with the egg.

Add a dash of salt, pepper and fresh garlic. 

Fry them with olive oil on medium heat for around five minutes, turning when one side is crispy brown.

The finished product!  The blossoms have a very delicate spicy taste and are so good!  I hear they can also be stuffed and fried which is my next cooking experiment. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Summer Harvest

It seems like we're finally harvesting most of the summer crops we planted months ago!  I'm enjoying my daily lunch garden salad and dinners with fresh veggies from the garden.  There are still a few crops we're waiting on:  tomatoes, brussels sprouts, crooked neck squash and broccoli.  Other than that our little garden is producing loads of fresh veggies!

Thanks to the greenhouse we have cucumbers this year!!  So far we've harvested five, and I see more growing.  Cukes are my all time favorite veggie, and I noticed that home grown ones are much sweeter than store bought.  Ron explained to me that the sugars begin to break down once they're cut from the vine, so if you buy them at the store the sugar is minimal by the time you get it.  Another great reason for growing your own veggies!

Here is the first zucchini we harvested and promptly gave to one of our garden visitors.  More are coming and it looks like we have a great crop this year!  The crooked neck squash are well on their way as well.  

We put green bell peppers in the greenhouse and were elated when we saw them pop up.  They're just about ready to harvest now, yum!

We got quite the crop of red and white bulb onions this year.  We're letting them dry out, and when the top bits are brown we'll cut off the excess and store them in our root cellar, aka outside shed.  

Our proudest harvest by far is our garlic.  We harvested 25 of these sweet lovelies, but have given 5 away because our garden guests rave about them.  I think I need to tuck this basket away so we will actually get to eat some!

My favorite besides the cucumbers is my sugar snap peas.  We've been harvesting these daily now for about two months and they're just about done for the season.  I put them in salads or dip them in ranch dressing, so good!

We planted twice the amount of carrots as last year because we love carrots and eat them on a daily basis.  They're great in soups, salads, or just plain.  So far the potato harvest seems to have done well.  These purple potatoes are so yummy! 

My typical lunch salad:  lettuce, carrots, peas, green onions, basil, cilantro, and cucumber.

Our cilantro is doing quite well this summer.  We use it almost daily for salads, tacos, Thai dishes and more.

We planted two huge bins of basil in the greenhouse and both were destroyed by an evil worm.  This pot was left alone for some reason.  You can't ever have enough basil!

Our five blueberry bushes are actually producing berries in their first year.  We got these plants small to cut costs and didn't expect for them to start producing this quickly, so it's been a pleasant surprise. 

The only edible we have growing in our front yard is strawberries.  These never make it into the house, and our little guy generally gets all of them.  Next year we hope to devote a raised bed to them. 

The green onions are doing well this season.  I love the pretty little seed pods.  We're also growing shallots which I didn't get a pic of, but they are so good, especially cooked. 

The tomatoes are growing like weeds in our greenhouse and are just about ready to harvest.  

See what I mean? 

So what are you harvesting how?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The New Sustainable Lifestyle

I've been pondering this urban homesteading lifestyle lately and have come to the conclusion that once you plant veggies in your yard you begin re-thinking different aspects of your life.  Well, that's been my experience anyway!  I think I came to some sort of a cathartic moment the other day when I was doing planning for the fall when the kids go back to school.  I had been working out at a gym in the spring before the kids got out of school and during the three hours or so while my little guy was in pre-school I would dash off to my gym, get my work out in, eat lunch and pick him up.  So I was pondering which gym I should join this fall, since I wasn't super happy with the last one I had a membership with honestly.  Then it hit me - why should I be paying a company for my work out?  I mean seriously, how ridiculous is it that I should have to pay someone for exercise?  Yeah, I know it's convenient and makes the work out fun, but why spend fifty bucks per month, (at least), to work out?  I mean there are plenty of other ways I can exercise this body than working out at a gym.  I have a Wii fit, I can walk, I can get some weights and use them at home, I can get a work out video, and the list goes on.

Then that train of thought led me to thinking further about this consumerism society and all of the "must haves" we have been brainwashed into.  Society tells us what to eat:  processed foods, junk food, and sugar.  Society tells us what we should buy:  that new car, the dream home, the gym membership, designer clothing and the list goes on.  I'm not saying that all of these things are bad; I'm simply making the point that this lifestyle we're being sold, this "American Dream" is making us sick, burning us out, and making us broke in the process.  Drying clothes on the line until recently would have been considered "back woods", at least in California anyway.  But now, there is a huge growing movement that is working hard to lower energy and live a sustainable lifestyle.

I've been scrutinizing my own lifestyle and have come up with some big changes recently.  I have a long ways to go to reach what I feel is a fully sustainable green lifestyle, but each small change will get me closer to my goal.  I'm not going to become a hippy living up in the hills off the grid, but I am going to do my best to live a sustainable lifestyle and respect the planet and my body.  I'm amazed how many activities in my life cost, and how I can save money by doing them myself, or coming up with creative solutions.  Here are some of the changes I'm making in my life and the reasons I've made these decisions:

Growing a garden:  Sustainable living, cheap pesticide free veggies, health reasons

Cutting out sugars and processed foods:  They make me sick, they will shorten my life span, they will ultimately kill me.

Cooking from scratch:  I can control the ingredients that go into my food, it's easier on the budget, it's healthier.

Working out on my own:  It saves money, it saves gas because I'll be working out at home.

Buying clothing and goods second hand:  It's cheaper, I don't want to put my money toward companies that aren't fair trade, it's recycling at its best.  This can be challenging with kids, since they always want the new name brand clothes.  I'm still trying to figure out the balance on this one.

Buying Fair Trade:  Chocolate companies are mostly non fair trade and many of the cocoa plantations use children as slaves.  This is a fact, and the only way you can be sure your chocolate is fair trade is to buy chocolate with the fair trade label.  There are many other goods such as clothing that aren't fair trade.  I plan to do a post on this issue, so be keeping an eye out for it.

Recycling:  We recycle all plastics, glass, and paper products.  I'm trying to reduce the amount of plastics we use, since they are full of toxins that cause diseases.

Car Pooling & Taking Public Transit:  We're reducing the amount of gas we use by taking the bus and car pooling.  Our gas bill a few months back was $500 per month, now it's down to about $200.

Trading services or getting recycled items free:  You would be amazed how many people are willing to trade services.  We've gotten our cars fixed in trade for garden advise and work, I've traded my art for art or other services, and most of the structures on our homestead, (i.e. greenhouse, chicken coop, etc.) were re-purposed from friends.

Limiting TV and computer time:  This is by far our biggest challenge.  I have the good excuse of researching how to live a sustainable life via the computer, but eventually I hope to limit my time once I have this whole thing a bit more figured out!  I'm working on keeping the kids active outside and in the garden instead of watching TV and playing computer games.  I have them involved in sports which helps a lot, but I've had to set limits for screen time.  The American Society of Pediatrics says no more than 2 hours per day, which I feel is still too much!  (Again, I'm questioning everything the medical system tells me.)

Natural Cleaners and Make-Up Products:  I just recently realized that we aren't as green in this department as we should be.  I switched over to natural cleaning products and detergents a while back which surprisingly aren't more expensive than the conventional kind.

Cloth napkins and towels:  We used to use a boat load of paper towels and napkins.  I did some second hand shopping and found some cute vintage napkins, and we requested kitchen towels for Christmas one year so we've got a great supply.

Energy conservation:  We had the PG&E folks come out for an energy audit of our home and we scored high, so there's not much more we can do to cut back on our energy bill.  We use the compact fluorescent bulbs and restrict our furnace use in the winter.  We'd love to get a wood burning stove eventually.  This summer one of our projects is to put in a clothes line.

So what are you doing to live a more sustainable affordable eco friendly lifestyle?  If you have more to add to my list I'd appreciate the tips!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Julie Bass aka "Veggie Criminal" now "Bad Dog Owner"

In case you haven't heard the story, a woman named Julie Bass was given a misdemeanor for growing vegetables in her front yard in Oak Park Michigan.  Yes, you heard that right - growing vegetables in this town is a crime.  It's a long story, and Julie tells it quite well here in her blog Oak Park Hates Veggies.  Her story went viral on the internet and she was on MSN, CNN, and other news stations across the country.  She was also written up in Treehugger, Grist, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and her article was front page on the Drudge Report.  My Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) fb page did a massive letter writing campaign to the city of Oak Park, and spread the word around fb about Oak Park's actions.  I honestly believe we made a difference in this case, and I'm proud of us as a community for taking action and effecting change.

A day or so ago Oak Park dropped the charges against her, which is good news, but her battle isn't over officially yet.  The city can pick up the charges against her at any time because the case wasn't legally settled.  So, they have her on a string still and they aren't letting the poor woman rest which is just wrong on so many levels.  The word tyrannical comes to mind, among others not suited for a polite audience.  The city didn't officially inform her that they had dropped the charges about the veggie garden by the way, which is very weird.  She found out in a round about way, and then they brought up an old issue - licencing her dogs.  Apparently the licenses had lapsed, so she had to go in and pay for them for her two dogs, plus the late fee which she did a while ago.  She thought the issue had been settled, and even double checked about it, but no. Now she's being asked to appear in court for dog licences, (on the same day she would have showed up for the veggie charges),which she ALREADY PAID.  I don't usually use caps, but this is outrageous!!!  I feel the city is now harassing her because of the bad press they got over the veggie issue.  I sure as heck hope she brings her lawyer with her to court because I wouldn't be one bit surprised if the city tries to pull something.  Luckily the mayoral elections are coming up soon, and the person running against the current mayor is totally in support of Julie, and I SO hope she wins!!

So, that's the update on Julie Bass.  I spoke to her on the phone this past week and I was so very impressed with the woman.  She is just down to earth and real as I mentioned in my last post.  The woman wants to live her life in peace with her husband and 6 kids, 2 dogs and front yard veggie garden.  Aren't there real criminals out there the city should be spending their time on?  Seriously!!!

It appears Julie isn't the only one out there being harassed by the city for vegetables.  The same week her story came out another one from Canada emerged.  Dirk Becker of Lantzville B.C. is facing 6 months in jail for guess what?  You got it, growing veggies!  He turned a gravel pit into a veggie farm and sells his produce at a local farmer's market, but laws in this town don't allow for veggie growing, no siree.  A petition has been started for him, and people are spreading the word on fb and the net about his plight.  I fear more stories like Julie and Dirk's are going to be emerging in the future, and I'm working on several fronts lately to raise awareness and make the government aware of this issue.  I have a feeling it's going to be a long term fight, with no short term solutions unfortunately.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I have 200 followers!

I just had to do a celebratory post because I now have 200 blog followers!  Thanks so much to all of my faithful readers.  I'm working on a cool crafty garden item handmade by yours truly I can post here for a free drawing.  So be looking for it, and until then happy urban homesteading!

(Image from Treehugger.com)