Friday, February 29, 2008

Hopeful Homesteader

I am on a journey that I hope will someday take me to a more simple life, living on a few acres (or more!) in the country, living off my land in a sustainable way, getting back to my roots...

For now, I'm practicing on almost an acre of land, complete with old barn and chicken coop. The problem is, I'm smack dab in the middle of town. It's a small town, but big enough where the Village Clerk looks at you funny when you ask exactly how many chickens you are allowed to have in town.

I would really like to have a few chickens, we used to raise them growing up, and I miss the fresh eggs and knowing where my food came from. I have been looking into 'Chicken Tractors', cages or pens that are open on the bottom and moveable so the chickens can scratch to their hearts content. This should not only mow the grass, reduce weeds and bugs, but also provide natural fertilizer.

It looks like I will have plenty of time to research and plan my poultry project, because of our ambitious plans for the garden this year. One thing at a time, like I said, it's a journey...

Links for more info:

Lots of books out there on the subject:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Handmade Greeting Cards

More cold winter weather made for a weekend full of projects- baking bread, making soup, checking things off the house to-do list, and of course some crafty stuff.

See the silly greeting cards I made that are newly listed in my Etsy shop:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Connect the Dots...

As I peruse the NY Times (online of course, it saves money and paper, especially now that it is completely free access) I sometimes notice the various blogs on the sides. I have been intrigued by the title of one blog in the Dining Section called 'Bitten', and today I finally decided to check out an interesting looking post on Kitchen Myths.

I discovered the reason for the name- author Mark Bittman. He not only writes the 'Minimalist' column in the Dining & Wine Section (right up my alley!) but also happens to be the author of my new kitchen 'bible'. Maybe everyone already knows this, but I had an 'Aha!' moment as I connected all the dots.

I 'inherited' his cookbook How To Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food when combining households, and it has become my textbook. It is an amazing book, I was just remarking the other day how much I like the way it is laid out. It is a great way to learn because it teaches the basics in an easy to understand way, and then offers variations. This is how he fits so much information into one book, he doesn't repeat the basics for every recipe. It is very well organized, at least for how I like to learn and work in the kitchen. He also has How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food .

Monday, February 18, 2008

Get Out There!

In Americans Spending Less Time in Nature a biologist at University of Illinois releases trends from data gathered on outdoor activities. He found that over the last decade, the percentage of Americans that fish, camp, visit parks, or take part in other nature-based activities has declined at a little over 1% each year (With the exception of hunting which has stayed the same, and backpacking which has risen slightly).

While people who do participate in those outdoor activities may say 'Good, more peace and quiet for me out there', it can have an affect on the future of our natural spaces. People who do not visit the parks or other natural places might be less likely to protect or support them. Without funding and support, our public natural spaces may cease to be.

So what are you waiting for? There are probably many natural areas near you that you don't even realize are there. Check out your state's DNR website and explore the possibilities.

Maybe you would really love to do more outdoor activities, but don't have anyone to do them with and don't want to go alone. I was feeling the same way, until I met someone who loves the outdoors as much if not more than I do, who was also member of a local camping/hiking group through This is a great place to find people in your area with your interests.

Now you have no more excuses (cold doesn't count either, see Winter Camping), so Get Out There!

FYI- The USDA Forest Service's national campaign “Get Outdoors” (launched this February) is trying to encourage children to explore our national forests, learn about healthy outdoor exercise, and learn more about the natural world.

Garden Journal

I have dabbled in vegetable gardening in the past, a pot of tomatoes here, a couple pepper plants in a corner there, some lettuce in the kitchen window. This year however, I'm jumping headfirst into gardening!

Last fall, we tilled up a corner of the yard, about 12'x25', formed beds, piled mushroom compost on top, and fenced it in. All winter we've been staring out at the mounds of snow, and dreaming and preparing. We planned the layout, ordered seeds, and stocked up on canning supplies.

As the piles of paper grew, we decided to organize it all in a garden journal. I used a 3 ring binder so that I could add as I go, use sheet protectors, dividers, and folders. It will be pretty heavy duty and hopefully last a while. I started looking online for templates for pages to put in the Garden Journal. The best one I found, with the most useful pages for what I want to do is at and also the Automatic Seed Starting Chart from 'You Grow Girl'.

Here are some others:
The Gardener's Five Year Journal
The New Three-Year Garden Journal: With Regional Planning Guides

Homestead Harvest also has a Canning and Preserving E-book that has some great information.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Day

I just finished my photoshoot with my new orchid that appeared on Valentine's Day. It is a beautiful deep pink Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis) with five big blooms on a graceful arching stem. Multiple buds promise a long beautiful display.

What a perfect present! I hinted that I didn't want anything expensive or commercial, and a live plant is a gift that keeps giving for years. I am not big on this holiday, but something like this is simple, sweet, and I will enjoy it for a really long time.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

How to Recycle CFLs

We recently replaced most of the light bulbs in the house with Compact Fluorescents. I'm looking forward to the energy savings (up to 75% less energy!) and not replacing bulbs as often (last up to 10 times longer!), because my high ceilings require ladders to get to the ceiling lights.

They don't light up quite as quick as conventional bulbs, but you get used to it. I like the quality of the light too, it's good for reading and I swear the plants in the 'Jungle' (aka dining room) look extra vibrant green. (It could also be the worm compost I've been feeding them, more on that later!)

I had heard most people don't realize that the CFLs contain mercury and should be recycled. I had also heard that it was difficult to find a place to recycle them, but no longer, now there is a website where you can find a recycling location. is a network of over 550 locations where you can return your bulbs. I found that my local ACE hardware store (ACE is one of the sponsors of the program) will take them, no charge!

UPDATE: 3/27/08
My CFLs are still going strong, looking good, and my electric bill has gone down. Coincidence? Maybe, but I'm not complaining.
I found some more information on CFLs at Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs – A Tale From Dust to Dust
If you're still not convinced, see this data from the article:
"If a CFL bulb lasts for longer than 50hrs, then the total life cycle energy consumption of the CFL will be lower than that of an incandescent bulb even though they are more complicated to make."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Trip to Glacier Park- MT

I know, it took me a while to put this together! In August of 2007 I was fortunate to go on a trip to Montana and see and hike the amazing trails at Glacier National Park in Montana. Here is my photojournal from this amazing trip. (Click below and then hit Full Screen to see it a little closer up)

Click here to view this photo book.

Good Reads- Woodswoman

Woodswoman is a great book I found at my favorite used book store. I recently finished this wonderful book by Ecologist Anne LaBastille about her adventures in the Adirondack Mountains. She takes you with her on a journey of self discovery and wilderness survival with accounts of great beauty, harsh reality, and some humorous events. The author builds her own log cabin in the wilderness, survives winter alone, lives simply and frugally, bonds with the mountains, trees, and wildlife (a pet fox!), and explores the wilderness on foot and by canoe with her dog Pitzi. A great read in the winter, it made me appreciate the conveniences of my furnace and indoor plumbing, while at the same time inspired daydreams about adventures of my own in the quiet of the woods.

"The glow is stronger now and a pearly pink light tinges the hills around Black Bear Lake. Three days of spring sun and the trees will leaf right out, practically bypassing that lovely, innocent period of frothy, pastel, baby-tender foliage. Instead they will turn quickly into a serious, deep green, adult covering. There is very little time for immaturity in the North Country. Life is hard, rough, and sober."
LaBastille, Anne. Woodswoman- A Young Ecologist Meets The Challenge of Living Alone in the Adirondack Wilderness. New York: Penguin Books, 1976

Safe home air fresheners

I have long been searching for a safer alternative to chemical air fresheners (Most contain phthalates, which are linked to birth defects and hormonal imbalances) and scented candles (can release black carbon that can accumulate in your home and even damage the ventilation system, some candle emissions can also be hazardous to your health)

With the recently popular reed oil diffusers I suspected I had found a solution, but (surprise, surprise) they are way overpriced in the stores. I finally spotted one for a couple bucks at my local Goodwill store last week, and took it home to try out. I really liked how it worked, easy, safe, and with a light steady fragrance. Ever crafty and thrifty, I decided to experiment with making a version of the diffuser for another room with things I have around the house.

Make your own oil diffuser:
  1. Small jar, vase, or other non-porous container with a narrow neck to hold the oil
  2. Natural fragrance oils, or mix your own oil- baby oil plus essential oils or even perfume
  3. Porous wood to use for the reeds- bamboo, skewers, dowels, even interesting twigs or branches from your garden (I plan to try this later this year!)
  4. Put it all together, flip the sticks over for more fragrance

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Why I don't do 'Diet'

More evidence that 'Diet' foods and drinks are not so good for you

Symptoms: Metabolic Syndrome Is Tied to Diet Soda
Published New York Times: February 5, 2008

Researchers have found a correlation between drinking diet soda and risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes (obesity, high cholesterol, blood glucose levels and high blood pressure).
  • Drinking one can of diet soda a day= 34% higher risk (compared with drinking none)
Scientists still wonder: “Why is it happening? Is it some kind of chemical in the diet soda, or something about the behavior of diet soda drinkers?”

I don't know, but I'm glad I don't drink diet soda! It goes back to putting 'real' food and beverages into your body, not manufactured 'foods'.

A diet high in refined grains, fried foods and red meat = 18% increased risk
A diet of fruits, vegetables, fish and poultry = no increase of decrease in risk
Diets with the highest amount of fried food = 25% increased (compared to the lower end of fried food eaters)