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.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I'm super excited.

A year or so ago I decided that along with chickens and veggies, our little urban homestead needed a source of milk! Raw milk is nigh impossible to access here. My little scrap of land couldn't accommodate even a mini cow, so I started looking into dairy goats.

I learned all about breeds that would be suitable and basic care and maintenance. The last thing I want to do is get these wonderful animals and not give them the care they deserve. My final step in accessing feasibility was to check with our Urban County government to see if I would need to licence them like I do my dog. I was SHOCKED that because I wasn't zoned AG, I could not have a goat. Surely, a goat is not as much of a nuisance as the 150 pound Mastiff that leaves Prius sized piles in my front yard (That neighbor does not get any bounty from my garden, FYI).

Apparently there is a $5/ DAY(!) fine for having an goat in Lexington on land that is not zoned for agricultural use. This concerned me greatly because our community is very supportive of urban gardening and has already ensured the right to bees, chickens and has provided support for several community garden initiatives.

I tweeted my frustration and was urged to contact the mayor and several council members. Why the heck not? I also sent a mass email to my farmer/gardener buddies.

So here we are. I don't have that go ahead yet, but the proper authorities have been contacted and I have mobilized our local urban farmers/gardeners. I have received word that at least one council member supports what we want to do and has assigned an aide to look into it. We will keep the pressure on and I hope things move quickly.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dirty and Thankful

Yesterday was my first opportunity this year to get into a greenhouse. I am thankful that I have a friend that is willing to share some of her space with me. This time last year I was working on someone else's farm. I'm really behind  on getting permadirt stains on my hands. 

Without this connection to others who farm/garden I would be at a serious disadvantage when getting my transplants started. I don't have the funding to buy or build a greenhouse. I don't know that I ever will. I do know that I have many opportunities to share my resources and knowledge and also benefit from the resources and knowledge of others.

A small group of us were planting and sharing. There was talk of parenting philosophy and childhood experiences as we tucked seeds into flats. There was an abundance of seed swapping and tip giving. In just a few hours those of us who gathered were more invested in each others success. It was wonderful.

So today I am thankful. I am thankful for the wonderful community that I am a part of. I am thankful for the abundance that I get to share with others and that which others share with me. 

Shared Salad Greens 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What Are You Growing?

I  started to get the seeds organized Sunday. I love when the seed orders arrive. It seems like the first bright point heralding the arrival of spring. Today I am sharing with you what we plan to grow this season. 

What do you plan to grow this season?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chickens And The Neighbors Who Hate Them

I love chickens. They are easier to deal with than dogs or cats. All of my dogs and cats have had emotional issues that I do not have the patience to deal with. Chickens on the other hand are wonderful in their simplicity. I do not doubt that they are just as capable of being emotional, they just aren't the attention whores that dogs and cats are.

My favorite chicken in the world was a Golden Laced Polish Hen named Tina. Tina came to us as a foster bird. She had been so terribly pecked by the other chickens where she lived that she had to be separated. She was very social and loved to be held. She knew when I returned from the farm that I would have greens for her. She loved kale. It was by far her favorite treat.

Tina was a hit with the neighborhood children. They would come to our house to play with my kids just so they could pet her. The neighborhood children were curious and Tina was a great ambassador for her species.   She never acted aggressively and was rewarded for that with lots of treats.

One of the children was so excited by this wonderful bird that she asked her grandfather, who lives about three blocks away if she could have a chicken like we did. The next day he walked his dog using a special route that brought him right to my doorstep. I was pulling weeds harvesting dinner (yummy dandelions) in the front when he passed by.

He informed me that this was a residential neighborhood, not a farm.
I told him I was quite aware of that.
He told me he didn't think farm animals needed to wander around the neighborhood.
I assured him that the chicken coop was completely enclosed and that would not be a problem.
He told me he would call the city and complain.
I cited the ordinance that allowed me to keep the bird in my backyard.
He told me he heard her crowing early in the morning all the way at his house and he would find some way to ensure that damn nuisance of a bird would be taken off to a farm where it belonged.
I know that dominant hens have been known to crow, but my poor pecked up barely laying hen didn't give off more than a cluck at a time even when she seemed happy. He was lying because he didn't like the idea of an animal "out of its proper place."
I said good day to the unfriendly neighbor and told him to do as he wished, but if she went by order of the city, 10 more would replace her and his granddaughter would have the best birthday of her life.

It is my hope the each one of us that participates in some level of urban homesteading can open the dialog with those that disapprove. I think that a gift of a few fresh eggs and some herbs or veggies straight from our gardens will soften their hearts if not inspire them to scratch in the dirt some themselves.  That gentleman that complained to me had me angry for days. When I finally (at the behest of my incredibly patient husband) calmed down about my encounter with my neighbor, I sent a box of veggies to him through his granddaughter.

Again this comes back to building community. We will not always agree with those around us, but that diversity of opinion could eventually make us stronger. We must be ambassadors in our communities and bring  what were doing into the mainstream. We do have an advantage...Everyone likes to eat and what we are growing will taste better than its grocery store counterpart.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Scavenging and Garbage Picking

I was originally going to post on this subject yesterday, but I had a lecture series to go to and the networking that sprung out of that ate up what little free time I had. It also gave me more to share about.

I am a scavenger. I troll the curbs on the night before garbage pick up to see if there is anything that I can use. Since I don't have much space, I see far too many things that could be useful to others that I can not save. I try to give a curb alerts to a friends if I see something that fits their needs.

This past week I found a plastic storage bin/bench that was in good condition. The only issue it had was a little bit of scuff markings. It had obviously been kept in a garage. I can always use storage, so it is going to live on the back porch to hold the outdoor toys. This will really help free up some space on the inside of the house.

I also scavenge recyclables. Anytime I pass a paper recycling bin I grab a large stack. My oldest son loves origami and paper airplanes so even if the paper has print on both sides, it will find another use before it hits the recycling bin. The paper that has a blank side is our drawing paper.

I am only going to speak from my experience here, so instead of picking on developed nations I will single out the US and instead of picking on rural folks, I am going to shoot straight about my urban/ suburban peeps. If you disagree with anything I say, PLEASE comment. I am excited to have respectful, yet lively, debate! 

We (urban/suburban dwellers) throw out tons of useful stuff. It is shocking! We replace things with shinier things even when that which we are disposing is still useful. Our culture values convenience and what is more convenient than easy disposal of that which we no longer desire?  We throw away FOOD! 

I scavenge for two reasons: thrift and indignation. Why do we act this way? 

 I have been shouted at for loading up curbside items. This person thought I "had no right" to take what they desired to get rid of. Why? The result is the same...It is gone. 

The lecture I went to yesterday was titled "FEEDING THE WORLD: Dinner for 9.3 billion people in 2050." It was a giant pep rally for Alltech. I expected that. I stayed after talking to a local community activist that also attended. We were discussing the vision for poverty relief  and community building here in Lexington. The exhibit was taken down around us as we sat for over an hour sharing ideas. It was a great experience and  made attending the lectures worth the time spent. 

And then...

That is REAL FOOD! They had potatoes, oranges, apples, onions and sweet potatoes as props and when they were done they tossed them in the TRASH!!!

Yes I did ask them for a box. Yes I did pick every last bit of that food out of that trash can. 

How are we going to feed the world? Let's start by not throwing away food!  More on that later.