Thursday, October 30, 2008

oil refinery field trip

I have been homeschooling for two decades. The best part of homeschooling is the field trips. Recently we took a field trip to the oil refinery. I felt like I was on another planet. The planet had white steam whooshing from long rusty pipes and flames spurting from long tubes. This planet was constructed of concrete and metal. This planet had intertwining layers of pipes stretching and bending past my view. It had tall towers surrounding squat towers. It did not feel like the earth I know. I spend so much effort digging in the soil, watering plants, feeding the chickens, making compost, harvesting vegetables, cooking food; doing things that feel like they are connected with the earth. The oil refinery was a different earth, one of pipes and flames and steam and towers. Yet I use gasoline. We were guided around that alien planet by two wonderful (and recognizably human) tour guides and it was a fascinating, if disturbing, field trip.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

first frost

Well, it's overdue, but had to show up sometime. The first frost. I keep forgetting 35 degrees can still mean frost. Microclimates are fully functional in my garden. And, no, I didn't cover anything. I haven't surveyed the damage yet, but the garden was awfully tired no matter how you looked at it. I'll look around and see if I can salvage any of the beans and tomatoes, but it's time for the garden to go to bed for the winter.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


One last Halloween picture and then I promise I'm done. Daughter #4 going to the Fall Festival.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

graveyard cake

This was a totally edible cake. Isn't it fun? The skeleton is royal icing, the tombstones are candy dipped graham crackers and the tree is chocolate. OK, there is a lollipop stick to hold up the tree, but other than that the entire cake is edible.

Friday, October 24, 2008

halloween dance

My daughters and their friends going to a Halloween dance. I know I've got family looking at this blog and they would enjoy seeing some pictures of something other than my chickens now and then.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

eagle cake

Three of our scouts at church earned their eagle scout award. This is the cake I made for the celebration.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

fall beans and garlic

These are my fall green beans. It'll be a miracle if I actually get any beans before the first frost, but they are a gorgeous green and look healthy. The onion-looking plants are garlic. First attempt for me. I planted them in the fall at the end of September and they won't be harvested until June 09. I bought some planting bulbs from a gardening catalog and they cost five dollars a bulb. After I planted all the cloves I still needed more so I bought a few bulbs at the grocery store for one dollar each. Both the planting bulbs and the grocery bulbs are doing equally as well (at this stage of growing). I was warned grocery bulbs wouldn't sprout, but they obviously did.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

city chickens

My chickens the day I brought them home AND me and the girls hanging out (last spring). If you treat farm animals like pets they act like..... pets. I have the friendliest chickens I've ever met. They came in the mail the day after they hatched and I've been holding them and feeding them and enjoying them ever since (and cleaning up after them). They are also the happiest bunch of chickens I know of because they spend most of the day running around our yard. They catch bugs, eat grass, scratch for seeds and root through the compost pile for treats. They also lay eggs. Their eggs are fabulous. Very yellow, almost orange, yolks. Most days all of the girls lay, so I have such a surplus of eggs. We're getting creative about using a lot of eggs in our cooking.

Monday, October 20, 2008

fall gardening

I tried. Is that enough for this year? I tried to extend the garden well into the fall. Overall gardening was lousy this year. Most years I assume I did something wrong but since all the gardeners say it was a bad year I assume it was the weather. I'm still getting a few tomatoes and peppers, but they are about done. I tried planting peas for a fall harvest and while I have eaten a few off the vine (yummy) there weren't enough to feed them to the family. I have a very late crop of beans blossoming, so I might get a few beans before we get our first frost. This is the first year I actually tried to plant for a fall garden. Oh well, there's always next year. As Thomas Jefferson said, "I am a very old man, but a very young gardener."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

sweet potato harvest

My first ever attempt at growing sweet potatoes and today was harvest day. I started these sweet potatoes last February by buying two big ones from Whole Foods market, burying them in moist dirt and letting them sprout. Only one of the potatoes sprouted, but it did it vigorously. In May, when the ground was quite warm I stuck the slips in the dirt and proceeded to ignore the patch for the rest of the summer. I had no idea if they were growing anything, except leaves. Plenty leaves were being produced! Our average first frost day has past and the weather has been getting quite cool. Sweet potatoes should be harvested before the first frost so I decided to uncover my buried treasure today. I got 23 lbs out of 16 sq feet of garden. The pictures were taken a minute apart. Before-- leaves After--sweet potatoes

Friday, October 17, 2008

Under the sea cake

What does cake decorating have to do with urban homesteading? Well, this is my blog and I do cake decorating. I do my thing, I take a picture, it gets a place of honor at a wedding (or shower or whatever), it is eaten and it's gone. I do not have to find wall space to display it. I'm not doing this as a business but I get enough paying jobs that this craft pays for itself.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

car-lite living

I live in the most car-centric city I know of. My street doesn't even have a sidewalk! A year ago our family had three cars. Today we have one. I like it better this way. We have made very few sacrifices other than sacrificing constant car repair bills, regular insurance payments, and high gasoline prices. My husband and I share the one car we have. I use it twice a week and he has the rest of the time. When I have the car he takes the bus to work. When he has the car I ride my bike. I know which days I have the car so I can arrange doctor visits and "big" errands around those days. The only place we go regularly that doesn't fit into our bus/bike arrangement is church. Someday we'll move closer to church and solve that problem. If you are interested in learning more about living car-free or car-lite read "How to Live Well Without Owning a Car" by Chris Balish. He not only writes well, he writes something worth reading.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

milk jug raft

I have been homeschooling for two decades. The best part of homeschooling is field trips. A really fun activity we had recently was to build a milk jug raft and no one drown! See our you tube video:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My chickens

These are my "girls." The blonde is a Buff Orpington, the red is a Production Red and the black and white striped is a Barred Rock. They are so much fun! I have nine, three of each, and they are all laying. Most days we get nine eggs. My daughter is getting really creative with using large amounts of eggs in her cooking. The lemon chiffon cake was heavenly! A couple of months back we made a you tube video about the girls.


I grew up wanting to be a pioneer. I am, but I never thought I'd be doing it in the city. My family and I live in a small house on a tenth of an acre and I am learning to be an urban pioneer. I hope this blog will a be a chance to discuss urban homesteading. Please share what you are doing!