Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Where Did I Go?

Things are CRAZY at home these days! The tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are going wild and I have already canned 38 quarts of tomatoes, made salsa and pickles and tried ketchup making. The ketchup failed miserably. I'm going to blame the internet for giving me a lousy recipe. My dad sent me a pressure canner for my birthday, I'm super stoked to see what I can do with that!

A large chunk of my time this summer was spent at the baseball field. My youngest played all-stars and the team was amazing! I even like the other parents! The parents really make or break the all star experience, and everyone was great.

For three magical days we were cat owners. Maggie's coach rescued a kitten which had been abandoned by its mother. We took it home, bottle fed it and loved it. He died, but his life was full of love. It convinced the children we need a cat. Our hearts just need time to heal first. Maybe the city will let us have a couple of goats in the meantime...

Goat lobbying has been neglected. Time has been limited, but I plan to bring it back up after the weather turns cold and things slow down.

A great deal of my time this summer went to working with Faith Feeds. KY farmers really helped us out and we have collected 25,537 pounds of fresh produce for the hungry so far. Because I also work for a church who receives donations from faith feeds, I get to see the excitement of those who benefit from the hard work of the farmers and gleaners.

I've also been to the beach, played at the pool, ignored cleaning responsibilities and everything else you'd expect of someone enjoying their final summer before having to get a real job. It has been wonderful, but way too short. The kids are back in school. I start school tomorrow.

I am entering my senior year. I will be graduating from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Sustainable Agriculture in which my curriculum focused on urban ag as a means to alleviate food access inequalities. The next several months will be focused on finding employment. If you know of anything in the central KY area, let me know. Ideally, I don't want to uproot my children. That being said, I am open to whatever comes our way. I have learned my plans are rarely what is best for my family and I am open to serving wherever God sends us.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Moving Right Along

Summer is going by so fast! I didn't realize how hard it would be to make time to blog. When morning glory vine and crab grass try to take over your garden, fighting it becomes more of a priority than sitting at the computer.

Many of my grand summer plans have fallen by the wayside. There will be no outdoor kitchen. The chickens didn't happen. I needed to build a new coop, but no time or materials killed that project. What has happened though is the ripping out of my backyard. The area where my dad parks his camper is still in turf, but the rest of the back yard has been made into beds and are currently in production. I have allowed my blackberries to spread in the back half of our lot so I hope to have a good harvest next year as long as we don't get a citation and have to clear it all out.

The other night Tom and I were working on dinner and it just hit us how amazing it was that what we were preparing came from our yard. I needed another pepper and so I just ran out back. There was no abandoned recipe or quick trip to the grocery. The fruits of one's own labor do indeed taste sweet. There is no describing the sense of freedom that comes from having what you need just outside the door.

At home we currently have beans, squash, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, and pumpkin growing. We are going to be starting kale, more beans, more carrots, kohlrabi, cauliflower, peas, spinach and more cabbage when we get back from our beach vacation. I am nervous about being gone a whole week, but I have a friend who is willing to tend the garden while I'm away.

Also when we get back the tap and meter should be installed at the church farm. This process has gone much slower than I could have ever imagined, but we will have time to get in our fall crops and be able to hit the ground running in the spring.

I am already making my plans for next year. The chickens will happen. I just need to work out the logistics. Maybe I can get someone else to build the coop in exchange for food??? The outdoor kitchen might be a bit pie in the sky, but I think we can at least do the rocket stove. I'll have plenty of time to plot over the winter. Right now I have to go attack some morning glory that wants to take over my peppers.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Together We Can End Hunger

Tuesday was an amazing day. I got a call from a local farmer telling me to come get 12 bushels of greens for Faith Feeds. I got word from another gleaner that together at all the sites we visited,  approximately 275 pounds of foodwere collected on Tuesday! That's ONE DAY of donations of fresh wonderful food given by Kentucky farmers to help feed the hungry.

The week ending June 26th, Faith Feeds collected 1,000 pounds of food! Kentucky farmers are really bringing it. I am so thankful.

Hunger is a problem we must tackle together. The farmers can't do it all. So next time you are at the Lexington Farmer's Market, the Bluegrass Farmer's Market, local you-pick or talking to your CSA farmer, Thank them. Thank them for working as hard as they do to provide you the food that you are purchasing. Thank them for donating to Faith Feeds. Make sure you thank them with your wallet. They have families to provide for.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer is in Full Swing Part 2

The kids have fully embraced the freedom of summer. Bedtimes are merely a suggestion as long as they can function and get chores done. Sometimes that means that the dishes get done at midnight after catching thirty billion fireflies and roasting marshmallows in the weber grill. So be it. 

Sunday my eleven year old decided to stay awake for twenty four hours straight. Do I need to tell you it didn't work? Yesterday afternoon he was passed out  face-down on the kitchen table with absolute bedlam surrounding him. The other children were "helping" him stay awake by shouting in his ear and banging on pots and pans.

My daughter is taking over the kitchen. As I am trying to prepare the kitchen for my work she shoos me out because she is baking something. It seems each day there is a new recipe to try. I think I'm going to slip a recipe for sourdough into her recipe box with a dollar and see if she makes it for me. Do any of you dear readers have a good recipe for starter? 

Monk, my youngest, is in jock heaven. All star baseball has begun and he has practice everyday and games every weekend. He spent all day Sunday after church at the ball field with Tom. After seven hours I went back to retrieve them and still had to push. Seriously, I don't get it but I love that he's active and has a bunch of friends with shared interests other than TV and video games. 

The days are a flurry of activities between the sports and the community gardens and our little urban homestead. Some days I get overwhelmed and I wish that we could move off to some rural nook where I could homestead in peace, but no one else would be happy. My children and my husband would not thrive in isolation. That isn't the path we are meant to be on. 

We are Urban Homesteaders.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Summer is in Full Swing

Wow. It's a good thing the days are longer in the summer, I wouldn't get anything done otherwise. This morning I spent three hours doing garden work that should have taken less than one because I had to keep running for cover from the lightning. I can work in the rain, but even I'm not crazy enough to be outside during the light show we had this morning. I've been in Kentucky for fourteen years and I've never seen a summer like this before.

Today I was clearing out the lettuce beds. The unseasonable weather had the benefit of keeping the lettuce around longer. Yum! However, it is past its prime and must make way for other wonderful veggies. I'm going to put buckwheat in that area as a cover crop to encourage pollinators and put in some more summer squash in the adjacent bed that is currently in clover. I want to keep my bees happy!

The kitchen is full of jars as I am trying my hand at several new skills this year. I have always been interested in food preservation, but I am fearful of putting all my faith into my chest freezer. We lost power for a few days in the winter due to storms and I lost a huge amount of food. All I had left were the tomatoes I had canned. This year I plan on drying quite a bit. I wanted to make a solar food dehydrator, but since it seems THE SUN NEVER SHINES to rain frequently, I don't think that is where I should start this year.

I received a book for Christmas full of food preservation recipes that do not involve canning or freezing, so I am reading about traditional/ old fashioned/ whatever you want to call 'em  preservation techniques. I made my first foray into the world of lacto fermentation yesterday. I have a excess of kohlrabi and dill, so it seemed  natural to make lacto fermented kohlrabi spears with dill. Although they could be called pickles, I refuse to call them such because of a family curse. I may elaborate some day, but for now just go with it.

I'll leave you with a picture and an empty promise to post more frequently:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

So Crazy It Just Might Work...

Lexington has seen a spike in violent crime in recent weeks. Mostly gun related, but other stuff too. Gangs are out openly recruiting kids.The policy makers are freaking out and forming commissions and wringing their hands.

Many times when this happens people get so fixated on the symptom: violence, not the underlying problem: poverty. Incarcerating people won't work. Extra cops on the street won't work. We need to provide a means to lift people put of poverty. Desperate communities resort to violence. Empowered communities have better things to do.

I love the opportunity that I have had through urban farming. Things are getting ready to expand yet again. Water at the big field is going to help the hunger ministries a great deal, but how can we save these kids from the gangs?  How can working with a couple of kids for a couple of hours a day counter the other twenty two they have mostly unsupervised? What about all the other kids?

I have an idea. It is big and crazy and expensive and there is no way I can see how to make it happen.

This thought came to me when I was driving the support car for the bike ride. We passed a farm for sale really close to the neighborhood we serve. 

What if we could get a small farm near by...

We could have animals.

We could grow even more veggies.

We could host kids like a camp to get them off the street during the summer. They could grow food to bring back to their community. They could get experience that will help them get into college or get a good job. 

I know it is crazy. I think it's so crazy it just might work. Just got to figure out how to come up with $

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bike to Battle Hunger Video

The music isn't great. I need to learn to edit sound files. However, this isn't about my abilities. These riders kicked serious butt to ensure people can get access to fresh healthy food!

Sunday, June 12, 2011


So, we have a hydrant at the big field at the church. There is no water hook up yet, but progress is progress. Here are some photos of the installation.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cultivating So Much More

Yesterday I was blessed with a most wonderful experience. A local farmer I know had an abundance of kale, rainbow chard, turnip greens and lettuce. 38 bushels to be exact. She knew that I worked with Faith Feeds and could get it to those who needed it. This food would spoil before her next CSA distribution.

It was hard work. It was super hot yesterday and that is a huge amount of greens to harvest and pack. She and her crew worked for hours to GIVE IT AWAY FREE. I met them at the farm at two.

This is my van fully packed. It was a sight to behold. 

I was able to deliver these glorious organic greens to FOUR emergency food agencies here in Lexington. We have each one as much as they could handle. This one donation is going to feed HUNDREDS of people.

At each stop people marveled at this beautiful, fresh from the field, nutritious food.  They were overwhelmed by the quality and quantity of the donation.

 At my last stop, there were several men who receive services from the EFA helping me unload. One was crying. He was a big guy, bald and was covered in tattoos. Not a likely candidate for waterworks. He hadn't had fresh greens for years. He told me about how his grandmother used to have a small garden and those were the best greens he ever had. He offered to help the kitchen manager prepare them the way his grandmother did. The reaction of everyone who received this donation was awe and thankfulness. They could not believe that a farmer would give away that much food. 

 I kept being asked "Why didn't the farmer sell this?"

My answer was "Because it is for you." 

I can not put into words how blessed I was by being able to deliver this harvest to those who needed it most. All I did was drive it from the farm to the EFAs, but I was able to meet wonderful people and experience their joy. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Busy Busy Busy

The rain stopped!

Kentucky didn't have a spring. We had monsoon season and then it got HOT!

Planting is going like crazy, so I have had no time to post.

Here is what we've been up to:

We've set sweet potatoes, onions, and more greens, planted okra, carrots and are receiving more transplants for the community garden today thanks to our wonderful KY farmers. Faith Feeds has been instrumental in getting the word out to farmers and making it possible to get plants and food that would otherwise be wasted into the hands of those who need it.

A plumber is coming today to set the frost free hydrant that is needed for irrigation of the big field. I will post pictures of the Bike to Battle Hunger event later, if it storms. I can't make any promises about today.

On the home front, we have put in cilantro, basil, peppers, tomatoes, carrots and pumpkins! The kids are really excited about the pumpkins. To be honest, I am too. I think it is my favorite plant this year because its potential for family fun.

The front yard is going to get some new beds this year. The landscaping close to the house has blackberry brambles that volunteered last year that I didn't have a chance to clear out, so I'm not going to clear them now. They are setting fruit! That area is such a mess right now, but I can't justify wasting food. I was going to replace the landscape plants with herbs, but I have transplants now and they can't wait. I have created a small circular bed in the front lawn for my basil and surrounded it with German Chamomile. They are both quite happy. I plan on creating more of these small beds for my herbs.

I have already been able to harvest basil and cilantro and today will be the first day for sugar snap peas. The rain really slowed them down. I hope to be able to get a few good harvests from them, but I am not optimistic. It is super hot here. I really wish we'd had a spring this year.

Speaking of hot, I must get to work now. It will be oppressively hot by 11am today. Chores beckon. I love my life! Next post will have pictures. Promise!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bringing it in the 05!

Yesterday the weather was absolutely gorgeous! We had planned a work day at the church and the focus was the grounds and the garden. I was afraid not many volunteers would show up. It was a perfect day to goof off! It has been so long since we had good weather.

We did end up having a great turn out. We cleared trash, down branches and weeds and also planted more greens, okra and squash.  We also planted several landscape plants that a friend had passed along. The new minister was there for a short while before he and his team departed for Ethiopia. I met some members of his leadership team and he had me explain aquaponics to them. They all seemed jazzed and ready to make it happen.

Good things are happening. It's about to bust lose in the '05! We are going City Farm scale and everyone will eat like kings!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

All it takes is some salad and chard

Monday there was only a light mist. I had a meeting scheduled out at the church farm and noticed that the salad greens were ready for harvest. I wish I had taken a picture, they were beautiful!

I don't have any harvest baskets, I usually use empty baseball buckets that I steal from my husband my husband gives me. Monday I had not expected a harvest and did not come prepared. My daughter had left her sewing basket in my van so I used it. She was not pleased later when she found her sewing supplies stuffed in her brothers old backpack, but if t is left in my van I view it as community property.

The chard also was ready for a second cutting. I was so excited. I had checked everything on Saturday and I thought it wouldn't be ready for the Monday night meal that is served at the church. I love surprises and so do the kitchen workers!

When the kitchen workers arrived to prepare the meal Monday afternoon, they were greeted by a kitchen full of fresh from the garden produce. One of the ladies started to tear up at the sight of the greens.

She hadn't had fresh greens  in so long. The people who serve at the church are from the community. They face the same hardships as the people they serve. They truly demonstrate how to love one's neighbor, even if that neighbor threw a concrete block through their car window or stole their son's bike.

The woman told me as she was preparing the chard that it is good for people with diabetes. Her doctor had told her that in some animal studies that it was shown to help regulate sugar. I don't know if there really is science to back that claim up, but I know that good fresh veggies are good for everyone!

It truly is an honor to work in this community.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Feeding people and riding bicycles

My husband published the letter we are sending out to raise support for our community garden fundraiser on his blog a few days ago. I'm way behind with this blog, but I wanted to share with my readers as well so I am going to post his letter here too. I will be driving the support car for this ride. I am so proud of how hard all of our riders have been training! 

Dear friends, family, and partners in ministry,

I am writing to you because I am involved in an exciting ministry with 
The Rock / La Roca’s Community Garden and Hunger Ministries and it
needs your help.

The Rock / La Roca’s Community Garden is in its fifth year and is in the
process of growing. In fact, it has seen growth in each year of its
existence. This growth has enabled us to produce larger and larger 
quantities of fresh produce that feeds the hungry in our community. 
Within the next year we have the opportunity to quadruple the amount
of food that we are able to produce.  

The Rock / La Roca’s Community Garden and Hunger Ministries currently
serves over two hundred families in the community. This is done through
the Monday night dinner that is offered, our summer feeding program
for children, and the baskets of fresh food we send home with Monday 
night diners and deliver to shut ins and others in need. This year we also 
have the opportunity to partner with Arlington Elementary School and help
them establish  their own garden.

The Rock / La Roca’s Community Garden and Hunger Ministries also partners
with gardeners, local farmers, and the Lexington Farmer's Market in order to 
provide huge amounts of fresh food to the hungry. These partnerships include 
organizations like Faith Feeds (http://faithfeedslex.org/about/), a local
gleaning group that collects donations from local farmers and distributes them
to emergency food agencies; InFeed (http://infeed.wordpress.com/about/), a 
group whose mission is to use vacant urban land to grow food for the hungry; 
and Seadleaf (http://seedleaf.typepad.com/), a group whose mission is to give 
people a chance to grow food, to cultivate an appreciation for healthy, local, 
nutritious food, and to promote availability of such food by installing and 
maintaining gardens in and around Lexington.

As The Rock / La Roca’s Community Garden has grown over the years so have the 
costs of operating it. The greatest current needs are money for equipment and 
infrastructure. The biggest obstacle in the production of food in the garden is 
water. We simply do not have adequate access to water nor do we have 
adequate irrigation equipment. This limits what can be grown, when it can be 
grown, and where it can be grown.

We are looking to add a water line, tap and meter, and a drip irrigation 
system to the lot that we use. This will allow us to maximize our yield 
of fresh healthy fruits and vegetables for the community while responsibly 
using water, our most precious resource on the planet. The cost of adding 
this will be approximately $4000. We also have other equipment and 
infrastructure costs that we need to raise money for, including tools 
(rakes, hoes, shovels, etc.) for site preparation, seeding and harvest; harvest 
bins for carrying produce from the field; stakes and twine for supporting 
pepper and tomato plants; and canning equipment for processing surplus 
harvest for use after the growing season.

Finally, we would like to be able to hire some teenagers from the 
community to help with the garden this summer. This will allow for them 
to earn some pocket money, stay out of trouble and gain some work 
experience that will aid them in the future.

As a ministry that works primarily with the urban poor we do not have 
the financial resources at present to fulfill our vision for this ministry 
and to accomplish what we believe that God is calling us to do. This is 
where you come in.

In order to raise money and awareness for this cause some of us who 
work with the garden and feeding ministries have decided to ride our 
bicycles to this year’s Kentucky United Methodist Annual Conference. 
On Tuesday, June 7 we will gather at The Rock / La Roca United Methodist 
Church in North Lexington and mount our bicycles. We will ride from there 
to the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, Kentucky. That’s 
over 80 miles of riding.

I ask that you partner with us to achieve our goals. Whether through prayer 
or financial support as a sponsor, I would like you to please join us. If you 
would like to be a prayer partner by all means do so. You can start praying 
right now! All of riders, including myself are currently training and covet 
your prayers for our safety and a successful ride. If you would like to make 
a donation to this ministry, please send your check (made payable to 
The Rock / La Roca UMC and designated “Community Garden Fund”) to:

The Rock / La Roca United Methodist Church
1015 North Limestone
Lexington, KY 40505

I thank you for prayerful consideration and for your support.


Tom Baker

Friday, May 13, 2011

I'm Back!!

After a month of record breaking rains, the sun came out just as finals ended. I hit the ground running and have had no time to blog. It looks like the weather is turning again and I will make an effort to catch everyone up on what has been going on.

The basic bullet version:

Almost killed 500 tomato plants and 200 pepper plants due to an irrigation failure.

Had a workday with the majority of allotment holders in one of the gardens I manage.

Distributed seeds to many friends, neighbors and strangers.

Worked with the local water company on the irrigation project at the church.

Wrote a fundraising letter with my husband/partner in ministry for the bike ride next month that will benefit the garden at the church.

Aced all of my courses for the semester!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Check in

Posting is way down on my priority list right now. What little time that I have that is not being used to finish up assignments and study I am spending with my family.

The rain has not stopped for what seems like forever. My backyard homestead looks more like a waterpark! I have about 2 inches of standing water. Nothing has been done! I feel like I am so behind.

See you all in about two weeks. Hopefully stress and water levels will be down by then.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Growing Communities

I have the honor of managing a community garden at an apartment complex this season. It amazes me how desperately people want to grow their own food. There was so much competition for garden spaces that the area of the gardens had to double this year.

Each family that has a plot has 100 sq ft. That it! I am so blessed for what I have and I resolve not to take it for granted. So many times when it is too hot (or too cold) I grumble and grump about how much I have to weed or water or...whatever.  This experience is really going to help me grow personally.

I like that.

Today it was nice enough that we were able to divide the new fields into individual plots. It was hard work. The ground in one of the areas was still rather wet, so making the paths was difficult. I got my boot stuck and everyone watched me fall on my butt in the mud! A few people were concerned, but when I started laughing everyone joined in.

Overall it was a great time. This community is very diverse, so there were some language barriers that needed to be overcome. There were also some cultural issues too. Some of the older gentlemen didn't care too much for a young woman telling them what they needed to be doing. I respectfully stood my ground (when I wasn't falling on my butt) and everything worked out well.

I had been very worried about this job because I have no experience with managing allotments. I knew this morning that I would mess up paperwork or make people angry for not putting them in this plot versus that. It wasn't like that at all. I can't wait to really get to know everyone and watch the relationships grow along with the food. I love that community gardens are about more than just growing food.

Tomorrow I have to pick up some plants from a friend to bring to the church garden. The city wants to hold a press conference there to award a grant. This is the same grant we received last year. I have a lot of work to do there before that happens. I want them to see how hard the community has worked and encourage them to continue to empower urban gardeners.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cheap and Easy Plant Trellis

Spring has sprung and it's kicking my tail. The semester is winding down and I am swamped with end of term work. The fields for the allotments have all been tilled and we've got to set the fence. That is my big project for this month. Postings here are going to be sparse.

I also am going to be making about several more feet of trellis like I did  for my peas. Like this:

I have a ton of down limbs that I have collected this year and I am going upscale this to work in my new field. We had over three inches of rain yesterday, so I might have to construct parts of it and then lash the pieces to the stakes in the field in a few days. 

Construction is quite easy. 

I cut downed limbs to approximately 12 inches in length to use as stakes.

These are staked at four foot intervals. Four inches should remain above ground. 

I then lash together two six foot limbs in a V. 

I use a third limb to stabilize the trellis. This limb must form a Y on one end. I lash that to the same spot the other two limbs are connected. 
Using jute twine (it can be thrown in compost at the end of the season) I create a grid for the plant to climb. I do the horizontal lengths first and then weave the vertical through. The vertical lengths are tied to the top and bottom horizontal lengths. 

The only item that needs to be purchased for this project is the twine. So I have less than $2 in this project!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Sun. Life-giver and Flaming Ball of Death

Yesterday I received word that a family member still has melanoma. After treatment almost killed her, she is right back at the beginning. I could spend an eternity cursing the Creator and the conditions that brought this about, but there is no solace in that. What comfort does raging bring?

Instead I turn my attention to ways I can limit my family's exposure.

On our little homestead we try to be outside as much as possible. There are days we don't come in until well after the sun has set. Field work is a big concern because there are some crops that shouldn't be harvested in the cool dewy morning because it increases the likelihood of spreading diseases through the field. Also, some days are just hard work and it takes the whole day just to cross everything off the list. After the cold gray winter we had I am ready to be out in the air doing just about anything. Fire up the grill for lunch and dinner! I don't want to be inside!

Sports are a big part of our lives too. There are days that we arrive at the baseball field at eight in the morning and don't arrive home until dark. Unfortunately, our park does not have many mature trees. We also love to bike and swim. There is a pool in our neighborhood and the children and I are looking forward to light chore days that allow us hours of time with our friends there.

We spend our days in the sun.

The children have bathing suits designed to limit their exposure to the sun. I just wear a tee shirt. I don't spend much time swimming. I never learned. I find a small scrap of shade and catch up on reading or knit while we are at the pool. When we are out doing field work, long sleeve button ups that I found at Goodwill are my uniform. They are big and comfy and the wind flows through enough to keep me cool. As long as I have plenty of water working in sleeves is fine. I wear long pants too. I have these wonderful hand me down Army surplus cargo pants. The rip-stop material they are made of is super lightweight and comfortable.  I also have a dorky visor. I must be a sight when I head out, but I lost all concern about that years ago.

I like clothes over sunscreens because some sunscreens are downright toxic. Why would I slather my skin with layers of carcinogens to keep myself from getting skin cancer? There are good sunscreens out there. I even wear it and make my family wear it. Read the ingredients, do some research and figure out what's best.

Don't get me wrong I love the sun. It is a life sustaining gift. The sun gives us power and food and light. We joke about our family being solar powered because gray days make us grumpy and tired.

 I don't wrap myself from head to toe every time I walk out the door.  When I am going to be out for prolonged periods and/or I know the sun is at its strongest I take precautions. I have been burned several times. These burns happened when I was being careless. The sun is a powerful thing.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Four Wheels to Two Wheels

I was so excited a couple of months ago when I finally paid off my van. We did it 18 months early. It didn't save us very much, but the freedom from the crushing car payment every month is wonderful. To be honest I was afraid that the loan would out live then van. I treat that thing like a truck. It hauls kids, animals, tools and loads of dirt.

Saturday it crapped out on me. $800+ to fix a broken shifter and the water pump. Gas is close to $4 /gallon. I can't afford to have the damn thing. It's a good thing Tom bought me a bike for my last birthday.

This is how we will be getting around for the next week while my children are vacationing with their grandparents. Yesterday we had an awesome ride to lunch after church. We cruised around a little bit after lunch and it made me realize how out of shape I have become over the winter. Today we are expecting severe weather, so we rode in Tom's car, but starting tomorrow I will be a bike commuter like Tom. Let me apologize in advance if I ride through your neighborhood. My language gets colorful on difficult hills.

We are getting the van fixed because, while the kids have bikes, Lexington is not bike friendly. Being in the suburbs mandates a car. To get the kids to sports we drive an average of 65-75 miles per week in town. The bus routes do not cover where we need to go, so incorporating public transportation is almost impossible.

What I can do is commute to school each day. That saves 6 miles round trip. I'm totally stoked for summer. The children and I will have fewer obligations and will be working around our little homestead and biking back and forth to the pool.  

I long for the day we have a more sustainable community that is more bike and public transportation friendly. Lexington's day will come. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011


So I have a friend with a BCS. It is totally bad ass. She helped me plow two new allotments for one of the community gardens I am working with this year.

 Have you ever had gear envy? It is silly for me to be lusting after this tractor because people with gear are obviously willing to help me out. However, I am in love.

Here it is. Isn't it lovely? This one is a BCS 853 with the Berta rotary plow attachment. It went through really established turf like butta.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rambling Update Post

 This past weekend I joined with the community for a work day at the church. Volunteers came and scrubbed the church inside and out. We also used a fair amount of wood chips from a tree that had been taken out as mulch in the flower and herb beds. We also added fallen leaves to our compost bins.  I was the only woman that worked outside. I could go deep in that, but I don't have the energy. We will have a work day in a few weeks to prepare more beds and set some more plants in the garden. 

The kale and collards that we overwintered in the low tunnel are ready to harvest. I look forward to tweaking the design and adding more this winter. There is a suburban farmer that specializes in tunnel production that I am going to visit with a professor in early April. I can't wait to see her designs and see how her system can be adapted to work downtown at the church. 

I also worked on getting a new chicken coop made this weekend. I am trolling craigslist, ebay and our local chicken keepers co op to see if I can gather materials. I would like a ready made one or someone to make one for me because I just don't have any time to do it myself. School is winding down, so my workload there is insane.

Also, I have hit the motherload of free inputs. I have been given a truckloads worth of leaves from a woman who failed to get her yard cleaned up this past fall. She doesn't use any chemicals so I know they will be great for my compost.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Foot In Two Worlds

One of the problems with trying to keep a record of our journey is having the time to post. We very much have a foot in each world right now.

Attempting to be more self-sufficient is a very time intensive prospect. Making sure plans are made, the beds are prepped, planting is done and the animals are housed and cared for takes a great deal of effort.

We also have our suburban obligations. This weekend was full of baseball and gymnastics and church. It feels sometimes like our schedule dictates our life instead of us dictating our schedule. It is frustrating, but I can not tell my children not to follow their passions so I can follow mine.

We have drawn lines that I refuse to cross. We do not have any child in more than one sport. It would put undue pressure on all of us. With multiple sports, there would be no time for us to gather as a family. I also don't want to spend anymore time in my car than I already do. At this point I already need a hack licence.

I love my life. It is full. It has frustrations and the clock never seems to slow down, but my family is healthy and we are finding our stride. It is hard to live in two worlds. It takes adjustment and I couldn't do it without my family being committed to the journey we are on. There are some friends and acquaintances in each world that do not understand the demands of the other and offer advice that includes going all in for the one they are a part of. I can't do that. Not yet.

I dream of a day that I can be free of a car. I would love to have days working in the garden and preserving the harvest with no reason to be concerned with what the clock and calendar are screaming at me to do.  It will come, too soon I'm afraid. My children are growing. I need not wish those demands away.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Itchy Feet

I have what has been referred to as itchy feet. No, I don't have fungus issues. I just don't stay in one place too long.

I left home when I was sixteen. I threw a dart at a US map and since it landed in Arizona, that's where I went. I convinced a friend to go with me and it lasted six months. It was time to go again. Short term leases were made for me.

After a brief stop back home in New York, I was on the road again. This time I landed in Kentucky. I met a guy and that was the end of my travelling ways. I tried my best to convince him to move, but his feet are just fine. We had kids and I felt it would be unfair to drag them around. In hindsight I should have pushed then if I wanted to leave because we were broke and had nothing to lose.

Over the last eleven years I have had the itch to leave, but "good sense" won out. We have a great house on a decent size lot. We are close to my husband's family and never want for childcare. I am going to school and I have connections in the community that enable me to follow my passion of empowering people towards food security.

The itch is back. I can't shake it. I also don't know if I can describe it. It isn't actually in my feet. My heart aches. It is pulling me somewhere. It manifested itself yesterday as a huge wash of homesickness for New York. I'm originally from West Oneonta.  I spent most of the day looking at real estate listings. I found a 3 bedroom house on 7 acres for less than $60000. No I did not omit a zero. I  have to keep telling myself that there is a reason real estate is so cheap. If I move on something like that it is a decision to be a full time farmer. That is not where we need to be right now.

We will move in due time. Or not. I will grow food and build community here or anywhere we might go. I need to step back, relax and not listen to my feet right now. I've got seeds in the ground right here. I need to take care of them for now.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) Day of Action Petition. Sign it!

As I have mentioned here, here and here, the Derveas family trademarked the terms "Urban Homestead" and "Urban Homesteading." The use of these terms is prohibited on blogs, facebook page names/ titles, print (book or article) or any other form that can be used for profit. If you use the term you must use the TM symbol and "specifically identify products or services from the Dervaes Institute." The Dervaes family have had facebook pages with the terms Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading in the name shut down without first notifying the owners of the pages.

As a community, we are petitioning the Derveas family to cancel these trademarks. We do not recognize the legitimacy of these trademarks and are boycotting all Derveas products and digital properties until they decide to play nice. These terms are not their invention and as a community we are fighting  to take them back! 

Please go here and sign the petition:


Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring Break

This was the post I was working on yesterday...

The first part of this week I fell seriously ill. I had to go to the hospital due to asthma issues. I'm quite fond of breathing so I put aside my plans and made self care a priority. It was raining anyway, so my plans for clearing brush wouldn't have worked out anyway.

Today I was breathing much better. The sun was shining. It was absolutely GORGEOUS out! After three days on steroids I could clear out brush in no time, right?  No.

I was given some transplants for the church so I had to get them in the ground first. They were looking a little droopy so they got top billing. I went over to the church property and put them in. While I was doing that my spade broke. That  slowed down the process considerably. Have you ever tried to dig with a handle-less spade? Not fun. Very slow. After I got everything in the ground  I turned on the irrigation to give everything a good soaking. Nothing happened. The hose was attached to the spigot, but it was shot. Someone had used the hose for something plumbing related in a nearby house and had left the hose out all winter. The hose was full of holes. It fell apart in my hands. I grabbed a new hose and tried to hook it up. The old one wouldn't come off.  I had no way to get water to my pathetic looking transplants. I will be going back later  with a bucket and a prayer to see if I can get them enough water to keep them alive. 

Then my 11 year old got hit in the face with a baseball bat.

 I did not go back to water. We spent the next several hours in the Emergency Room. Today  we're sicking close to home. So hopefully we'll have some divine intervention with the transplants.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

We Are Obstacles of Our Own Self-Sufficiency

Two years ago I purchased a front loading washer & dryer set. I was quite pleased with myself because I had saved for a very long time.

Unfortunately, in my eagerness to acquire a front loading set I did not thoroughly check out the machine. I looked in the sales ads. I found a machine at a big box store that was the amount I had in my savings account. The machines at the local place cost more than I was able to pay.

 The strike on the machine I purchased was made of plastic and after two years of use by both adults and children, it broke.  At the time of purchase I knew that on such a big expenditure it was worthwhile to get the extended care plan. I purchased five years of peace of mind. I knew that if anything went wrong with my machine, it would be fixed for free.

Nothing is that simple when you purchase at a big box store. I called the store asking if I was able to get the part. I was not. I was quite aware that such a simple fix would not be worth the hassle and wait of a repair person. If I got the part I would be able to take out the two phillips head screws, place the new part and then reinsert the screws. I then called the warranty service and they informed me that they would have to send one of their repair professionals out to service the machine. They would not provide the part for me. I was given the phone number of the repair service that contracted with the warranty service and called with the part number. I wanted to be sure that the part was available when my appointment day finally arrived.

Today was the day. I waited around until the repair person called. Although I was told my appointment was at 8am, the repair person had me down for 11am and was calling to see if it was okay if he came a bit early. I was quite happy to have my machine fixed and I had already been waiting so I told him to come on. I then asked if he had the part. He said he was required to check the machine for any problems and couldn't speak of it over the phone. I was filled with a sense of dread...surely after repeated calls and even a part number and description the repair person would have all that was needed to fix my machine.

The repair person was in my house for less than a minute. He looked at the broken door strike and and said, "Yup. It's broke. I'll need to order that part. We'll call when it's in." 

The piece that needs to be replaced on my machine is a $4 part! They were given the information. I can fix it my damn self! Why couldn't I be allowed to do this?  

I am angry. I am not angry with the customer service person at the big box store. Nor am I angry with the warranty lady or the service professional. I am mad at myself. In my haste to acquire the machine I spent too little. What comes from spending a few hundred dollars more at the family own appliance store is the ability to pick up a part for my machine if I need it, or an extended service contract that gets one of their people to come out to my house and fix it.

Because the chain of responsibility is so dilute at this point, I cannot contact any one corporate office and get resolution to my satisfaction.

Often we are faced with the choice between cheap and seemingly easy or being more deliberate. In my experiences, when I choose immediate gratification or saving a buck I pay in the long term. We are one of our own biggest obstacles in our journey to self-sufficiency.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Making Do With Less

We live paycheck to paycheck. I'm in school full time and my husband works his butt off.  During the summer months food is plentiful, but about this time of year the shelves are close to bare. My husband's paycheck comes on Thursday and we don't have enough to mention in the checking account. Going to the grocery store is not an option today.

We are not going to starve. We have one final can of tomatoes, plenty of dried beans, lots of cheese, six eggs ... I'm not gong to bore you with the contents of my pantry.

I realized that I cook the best when I am forced out of my routine. Last night I made a casserole of left over boiled potatoes, cream sauce, bacon, and cheese. Everyone loved it. It was simple, hardy and very tasty. I can't wait to add some green stuff to that ingredients list. I almost put some wild garlic in, but it was so rainy I didn't go outside to grab some. My kale is almost ready, I overwintered it in a low tunnel to get a head start on spring,

Tonight I am going to cook beans and maybe add some of the leftover bacon and whatever else catches my fancy while I'm cooking. The process is more fun when I'm doing it on the fly. I don't use recipes for anything other than inspiration.

So are your shelves getting bare? What do you do when your reserves run low? Do you like to make each meal an adventure, or do you have neighbors you can barter with when things get tight?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) Day of Action 3

So by now my readers know that The Derveas family trademarked the terms "Urban Homestead" and "Urban Homesteading." The use of these terms is prohibited on blogs, facebook page names/ titles, print (book or article) or any other form that can be used for profit. If you use the term you must use the TM symbol and "specifically identify products or services from the Dervaes Institute." The Dervaes family have had facebook pages with the terms Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading in the name shut down without first notifying the owners of the pages.

We in the Urban Homesteading (there will be no regard to their improperly awarded trademark here) community have come together to fight the injustice of the actions taken against those who use those words. 

Today it is our goal to help Denver Urban Homesteading by spreading the word  about donating to help them file a petition to remove the trademark on the words urban homestead and urban homesteading! Thanks for your support. Click on the link below to donate:

If you want to join the wonderful community of Urban Homesteaders that have connected through facebook go here.