The Homestead

Can you still say “Gypsy”?

I want to live in a gypsy caravan.  Little sleeping nook, some comfortable seating, a tiny kitchen and a dirty-hippie composting toilet.  Weather permitting I’d cook outside, poop outside, and even shower outside.  I’d keep some chickens, a little garden, and an apiary for honey.  I’d forage and fish.  In crappy weather we’d hunker down inside, playing games, reading, knitting, writing, making art, etc.

I would need some modern conveniences.  Internet and running water access are mandatory.  A small amount of electricity would be required.  Gotta update my Facebook status.

I’d need some groceries.  Salt, whole wheat flour, milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, and olive oil.

This is what I’m practicing for.

http://tinyhouseblog.com/tiny-house-concept/wandering-book-artists-gypsy-wagon/

I suck at blogging.  That should have been a link.

Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Fabulous Foraging, Green Goddess Garden, Just For Fun, Possum Living, Telling Stories, The Homestead, Unschooling | Leave a comment

White Trash Gardening

People think gardening has to be expensive and lots of hard work.  Those people are woefully, ignorantly, wrong.  Poor, deluded fools.

Not pictured: Working hard.

Actually, I can’t blame people for believing this.  Research gardening online and you will be inundated with advertisements for products, projects that cost thousands of dollars, and articles with a long shopping list of stuff to buy.  Go to the local garden shop and get dizzy trying to figure out what all that expensive crap is for.  Mulch, topsoil, potting soil, cactus mix, roundup, plant food, fertilizer, weed killer, bug spray, hoses and the billions of attachments and convenience gadgets.

Not pictured: Anything expensive.

Well forget all that.  Pretty much anything you need for gardening you can find free or disgustingly cheap.  And you don’t have to work long and hard at it.  Most of the labor is done here and there, as weather and time permit.  You can go at your own pace, and make easy choices.

Here’s all you need to start a garden for literally a few dollars.  These are plans for one small raised bed, sized anywhere from 2′ x 4′ to 4′ x 6′ or whatever size you end up making.  Just make sure you can reach the middle of the bed for planting, weeding, watering and harvesting.

It doesn’t matter what season you start in, there’s almost always something you can plant right now (especially down here in south Georgia), and there’s always the next season to be anticipating, too.  And you don’t have to be an expert!  Go to the library.  Troll YouTube.  There’s so much to know so just get started reading.  I’m always reading new books on gardening and botany, even if it’s just to skim it for tips and ideas (yay for the library!)

Assuming you’ve chosen a sunny spot, follow me….

TOOLS:  You really don’t need many.  A flat spade, a leveling rake, a bucket or two, a hand trowel (the little hand shovel thingy).  That’s about it.   You can get these cheap enough at a regular store, or you can find them at yard sales, second hand shops, and even dollar stores.  Freecycle is another of my favorite places to keep an eye out for garden needs.  You can even borrow from friends or neighbors, as long as you take responsibility for the maintenance and cleanliness of other people stuff..  Most people are happy to lend tools, especially if they’re returned with homemade cookies.

More than you need for a small yard and garden.

RAISED BED:  You’ll want your veggies to have a well drained spot, so make them a raised bed.  Some of our beds were made from wood we reclaimed from old fence pieces a neighbor gave us.  Cinder blocks found at the local dump make the border of another.  You can bury bottles halfway into the dirt to make the border, or you can use big rocks, bricks — get creative.  You can make a border out of anything, as long as it holds its shape in the weather.  I’ve seen people use half-buried coffee cans, which I thought looked kind of awesome.  Make sure everything is able to drain, otherwise you’ll have a mosquito resort hotel on your hands after the first rain.  My favorite raised beds are old tires.  I plant tomatoes in mine.  I’m currently looking for more.  I search the back lanes by trash cans for these.

Raised beds: one made from old tires, one from discarded cinder blocks, and a bunch made from old fence pieces.

SOIL:  This is just dirt.  Don’t overthink it.  Find somewhere you can dig some up.  A friend’s house, an empty lot, another part of your own yard, just get some.  You’ll need your shovel and at least one bucket.  Fill up your raised bed with this. (You can break up the soil first with your spade if you want.  It will help drainage, but if you’re feeling lazy, skip it.)

Make a border. Fill it with dirt. This is not rocket science.

COMPOST:  If you have compost, put a nice fat layer on top of your dirt.  If you don’t have compost, relax.  Plant your garden anyway, but start a pile now.  Just pile up all your leaves, lawn waste, fruit and veggie scraps in a pile.  Keep the pile topped with a layer of dry leaves or pine straw to keep flies and smell away.  Compost is just rotting stuff.  When it rots down do a nice, black, crumbly consistency, it’s ready to add to the garden.  Depending on the materials and your weather conditions, this can take a few months to a few years.  So get started on your pile.

Compost. It's a pile of rotting stuff. Doesn't get much more low-tech than that.

MULCH:  I use the pine straw that collects on my roof.  You can also use dried leaves, hay, wood chips, cardboard, newspapers, carpet scraps, or tin foil.  Light mulch like tin foil and cardboard need to be anchored with rocks or something to keep them from blowing away.

The witch in her garden.

At this point, you should have a raised bed full of dirt, compost and covered with mulch.  This is where your groceries will live.  Love it.  Water it down with the hose.  Really soak it good.

Now you’re ready to start adding food.  There are two ways to do this:  seeds and plants.

SEEDS:  This is the cheapest.  You can find seeds online or at local stores:  hardware, garden, dollar tree, big box, farmers’ market.  Plant seeds directly in your bed by making a little hole in the mulch layer.  Plant the seeds, leaving the hole for the seedlings to sprout through.  Keep them moist until they germinate, then keep them watered until they get a few inches high.  You can also germinate seeds in little containers of dirt, transplanting them into the bed when they’re a few weeks old.

YOUNG PLANTS:  It costs a bit more to buy plants, but sometimes it’s worth the tradeoff in babysitting seedlings.  Some sources for veggie plants to transplant into your new incredible, amazing garden bed:  hardware and home improvement stores, local feed & seed, freecycle, garden stores, Facebook groups, grocery stores (sometimes have fresh herb plants in the produce section).  Friends who garden often have stem or root cuttings, extra seeds, or volunteer plants to give away.

Once you’ve got your veggies planted in the beds and they’re a few inches high, water them deeply every other day or so.  Don’t let them stay wet, but don’t let them die of thirst either.  Check them every few days for weed or insect infestation.  In just a month or so, you should have something to eat that you grew in your backyard.

So, so yummy.

It’s easier and cheaper than you think.  Go ahead and try something.  One bed.  One plant.  Start from there.

SOURCES:  My two favorite gardening books are White Trash Gardening by Rufus T. Firefly (as told to Mike Benton) and Possum Living by Dolly Freed.  These are worth purchasing to have as reference.  Everything else I check out from the library as needed.

Categories: Green Goddess Garden, Possum Living, The Homestead, To DIY For | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Solar Power

Mavis and Hazel roll around and kick up the dirt. My dirty little yard birds.

I’m out in the garden, sitting on the glider bench, sweating and typing on the Herban Cowboy’s notebook.  It’s 85 degrees and sunny.  There are shiny red strawberries fattening in the strawberry patch.  The chickens just took an ecstatic dust bath in the dirt behind me.  And we’re finally finishing the solar energy experiment we started last week.

In this experiment, Little Boy thinks light colors will absorb more solar energy.  We painted one bottle white and one bottle black, put a corresponding color balloon on top of each, and have set them in the sun.  The idea is, the color bottle whose balloon expands first is the one that absorbs the most solar energy (the heated air having expanded into the balloon).

Mavis, Hazel, Daphne and Gloria, pictured here weeding the garden, removing insect pests, and fertilizing all at the same time.

So now, while we’re waiting for the sun’s sciency goodness to manifest itself, Little Boy is learning how to herd chickens out of the garden beds, and the Herban Cowboy is moving a bit of chicken wire fencing, expanding the yard our girls have to scratch around in.

As for the rest of the Green Goddess Gardens, the kitchen garden has been mulched, the nasty garden fence taken down, peas growing, sprouts (green beans, radishes, broccoli, lettuce).  There’s a lemon cucumber plant and some kind of tomato that the Husband brought home from work, seeds are planted (yellow squash, zucchini, cucumber, basil, parsley).

Wood sorrel. The Irish shamrock. Little Boy eats them right out of the ground. I prefer them in egg salad.

Spring is so busy.  It’s too much work for me.  I prefer the forced laziness that the heat of summer brings.  But at least the work is fun.  And it goes with beer or wine.

And gardening is not all hard work.  We forage for wild food and encourage it in our yard.  We’ve got yellow dock for soups, chickweed and wood sorrel for salads, and Little Boy and I are both watching the wild blackberry flowers with mouth watering impatience.  This year I am resolved to make wild fruit jam.  Either blackberry or mulberry.  I vow this every spring.  I hope this is the year I really do it.

UPDATE:  Our solar energy experiment was a dud.  Neither balloon expanded.  Not sure if bottles were not painted enough, or if we’re just crappy scientists.  Either way, I think we’ll just move on to the next one in the book.

Wild blackberry. We're gonna eat it.

Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Fabulous Foraging, Green Goddess Garden, Possum Living, The Homestead, Unschooling | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Supermom in Sweatpants

My mom raked my entire front yard yesterday.  It had been bothering her.

Go Mom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First you should know that my mother keeps an immaculate house and yard.  I do not.  I tried for years to be as clean as my mother, but I just couldn’t do it.  So now instead I just live with the shame.  It’s easier.

I’m a basically lazy person, and am happiest when I don’t have a lot of shit to do.  If I have to choose between maintaining my front yard, or watching Invader Zim with the Little Boy while I knit and drink coffee, guess what I’m going to pick EVERY TIME?  What I’m saying is, in the almost 3 years we have lived in this house, the front yard has NOT been my priority.  Ever.

Rockin' the sweatpants all DAY.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So my 60-something year old mother spent HOURS yesterday raking up more than a decade’s worth of leaf litter from the darkest corners of my ratty front yard.  Little Boy ran circles around her playing, and the Herban Cowboy was turning and raking compost, putting in the border to the kitchen garden, and helping me in the kitchen.

The cement border is salvaged from the cement pile at the dump. Compost that's been "stewing" for two years is spread on top. Time to plant some flowers and herbs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent the time playing country housewife, cooking up a “mess of vittles” for the all the folks.  I made a double batch of chicken soup with two whole chickens in it, steamed broccoli, baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, sausage, and some coconut-chocolate-chip-oatmeal cookies.  The Husband made a loaf of wheat bread to go with it all.

Picnic lunch in the backyard garden. Baked potatoes with butter, bacon bits, cheddar cheese and plain yogurt. Fried sausage and steamed broccoli. Oatstraw infusion to wash it all down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a busier day than I like to have, and I was tired and stressed by the end of it all (I also had to break away for an hour to do a birthday party puppet show!), but I’m glad we did it.  Now we’ve got a cleaned up front yard, chicken soup in the freezer, leftovers for lunch, and enough bread dough to make a pizza for dinner tonight.  We even sent my mom home with soup, bread, sweet potato, and greens.

Wining and reclining after a long, long day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope she can move today.  Maybe I should call her.

 

Next on Mom's list: "Cut back those dang azaleas!"

Categories: Kitchen Witchery, Possum Living, The Homestead | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Georgia Crackers

I hate to cook, but I love, love, LOVE homemade food.  Getting my guys to help in the kitchen makes everything take longer and the scope of the mess so much more epic, but it’s WAY more fun than cooking alone.  So yesterday I coaxed them into helping me make crackers.  Because rolling dough annoys the crap out of me.

This was only our second batch ever.  It’s not very difficult.  Mix up some dough, roll it, cut it, bake it.  But it does end up taking forever and making a huge mess.  The recipe is from “Diet for a New America” by John Robbins.  I’m not vegan, but I used to be, and this cookbook has survived 20 years with me for the cornbread recipe alone.  But I’ve always wanted to try the cracker recipe.  The ones we make turn out pretty crunchy, not light and crispy like a store bought cracker.  But the flavor is wonderful and they are hearty and satisfying.  I’m already hooked.

My Herban Cowboy and the Little Boy cut some shapes with a cookie cutter at first, but quickly figured out that’s a pain in the ass.  So the rest were cut with a pizza roller.  Easy peasy.

 

WHOLE WHEAT SESAME CRACKERS (we double the recipe)

6 Tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sesame seeds

1 cup water

3 Tablespoons canola (or other) oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (we used half white and half wheat yesterday)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Position 2 racks in the center and the bottom third of the oven.  Heat to 350 degrees.  Spread 2 Tablespoons sesame seeds on each of three unoiled baking sheets (we worked 2 sheets at a time).

Put oil, water, and salt in a small bowl and stir together.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder.  Stir in sesame seeds.  Add water/oil mixture and combine to form dough.  Shape dough into a ball.  Roll out onto floured surface until 1/16″ — very thin.  Use a fork and prick the dough all over to prevent puffing up.  Cut into rectangles with a pizza wheel.  Transfer to cookie sheets and bake 15-25 minutes, switching the positions of the cookie sheets on the racks halfway through baking.  Crackers are done when they are firm and light brown.

They’re good plain, or smeared with cream cheese.  I also like them with some sharp cheddar and a glass of white wine.

Little Boy helping Daddy cut cracker shapes.

The cookie cutter shapes are fun to eat, but the pizza wheel ZIPS through this step. SO much easier.

Cracka-lackin'!

He will be furious to discover I posted the duckface picture. Muahahaha....

Categories: Kitchen Witchery, Possum Living, The Homestead, Unschooling | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

A Lazy (Crazy) Sunday Morning

Savannah is quiet on Sunday mornings.  I don’t sleep in, because The Boy gets up at the crack of dawn.  Every.  Single.  Morning.  And he must come snuggle with me, which means singing little songs and pretending to be various animals and superheroes and aliens while somehow managing to kick me in the stomach and smash my boobs.  Every.  Single.  Morning.

I’m pretty fucking cranky this morning.  It rained all night long (I mean ALL NIGHT LONG) and now it’s cold.  The kitchen was left a mess, which seemed okay last night, but now is incredibly wrong.  Everything The Husband says this morning is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.  Every noise my child makes gives me the urge to scream.  I just want to be left alone.  And there are tiny red pimples on my forehead like I’m 13.  According to my internal calendar, I should start some time tomorrow.

Fortunately, my Herban Cowboy is not an actual idiot, no matter what my hormones are telling me today.  He leapt into action quickly, cleaning the kitchen, taking out the trash and recycling, and making a giant pot of coffee.  THEN he made scrambled eggs and toast.

He has now escaped back to the Boy’s room, where they are watching something with Wolverine and drawing pictures of robots.

I feel like some sort of volcano goddess, who has spent the morning with the natives tossing virgins at me to appease my angry fire.  But now I’m left alone with a full belly and a fresh cup of coffee.  I am so, so spoiled.

Now that I have my brain for a minute I’m working out a plan for the day.  The yard is wet from last night’s rains, and it will be chilly today, but the clouds are already clearing up and it should be beautiful by afternoon.  There are some chores to catch up on:  laundry & dishes, sweep & vacuum.  Other than that it’s all fun stuff.  Plant seeds.  Pull weeds to feed to the chickens.  Rake pine straw for mulch and the chicken yard.  Pick chickweed to add to salad for lunch.

The thunderstorms started yesterday after we’d finished mulching all the veggie beds.  I took a few pics…

Pine straw raked from the roof of our house. We use it to mulch our veggie beds. Old mulch gets thrown into the chicken yard for them to scratch around in and compost for us.

Sprouting pea plant. The "container" is a square cinder block I found at the dump. The stake is an old curtain rod. Plant marker is a craft stick from the dollar store.

Freshly mulched veggie beds. Little Boy is making mud pie soup in a bucket. Such a helper.

It's too cool to plant tomatoes yet, but when we do, they'll go in these tire beds. Tomato cages were second hand from my mom.

Where we have our picnic lunches.

The first early bearing strawberries. We better put netting over that bed before the birds beat us to them.

Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Green Goddess Garden, Possum Living, Telling Stories, The Homestead, Wise Woman Way | Leave a comment

A Big To-Do

Every day there are lists.  Today’s lists include such tasks as:

1.  Make French Toast

2.  Clean syrup and egg off of entire kitchen

3.  Wash dishes

4.  Lure escaped chickens back into pen with table scraps

5.  Find where the chickens got out and plug the hole in the fence.  Again.

6.  Rake pine straw off roof of house.  Free mulch!

7.  Start blog

8.  Mulch veggie beds.

9.  Plant seeds that should have been planted 3 weeks ago.

10. Discover camera battery has 7 minutes left.

11. Charge camera.

12. Keep Facebook open in another tab like an obsessive freak.  Tell yourself everyone does it.

13.  Heat leftover veggie pies for lunch.

14.  Glad you made extra salad yesterday, aren’t you?

15.  Take out kitchen compost.  The tiny fruit flies should not have had time to breed.

16.  Miss picture of husband on roof because camera is charging.

17.  Shower.  Put on a bra and makeup and try to look pretty.

18.  Go do a puppet show.  The 3 Pigs.  For some kid’s birthday party.

19.  Wash more dishes.

20.  Dinner?  I don’t even know.  This will eventually have to be dealt with.

21.  Isn’t it time to start on the wine?

22.  Bathtime, storytime, kid into bed.

23.  How is it only 7:30?  I feel like it’s midnight.

 

Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Green Goddess Garden, Kitchen Witchery, Telling Stories, The Homestead, Unschooling | Leave a comment

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