Monday, August 31, 2009

cubed, hacked caprese

I tried this Smitten Kitchen twist on caprese, and it's an excellent seasonal recipe that transforms your guilty desire to turn eat nothing but caprese for dinner into a perfectly reasonable choice. I made it with fresh basil rather than the pesto and ate it plain and on sliced french bread. OUTSTANDING!

cubed, hacked caprese: "

cubed, hacked caprese

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Enjoy Homemade Butter in Less Than Five Minutes [DIY]

Enjoy Homemade Butter in Less Than Five Minutes [DIY]: "

Homemade butter is vastly superior to its store-bought equivalent, but nobody wants to pull out or buy a butter churn. This churn-free method makes it worthwhile, producing the kitchen staple (and some bonus buttermilk, too) in under five minutes.

Danny at the Over The Hill And On A Roll blog has the instructions on making butter with just two ingredients:

  • 16 ounces of heavy cream, chilled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Basically, you're just beating the cream until it 'start to look like scrambled eggs' and separates into butter and buttermilk. After that happens, you'll remove the butter from the remainders and squeeze it into a 'ball-o-butter'. Quick, simple, and it'll make your cookies better.

Are there other groceries you make at home? Do you think they're better than the store-bought equivalents? Share your recipes, and their custom-crafted components, in the comments.

How To Make Butter In Under 5 Minutes! [Over The Hill And On A Roll]


Monday, August 17, 2009

Family farmers: No NAIS in our name

Family farmers: No NAIS in our name: "

NPPC doesn’t speak for me: Rhonda Perry, a Missouri farmer and director of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, is tired of Big Meat purporting to represent her interests in Washington. NAIS, a controversial animal tracking program [that we've covered numerous times], is just the newest example of the “farm lobby” abandoning the interests of actual farmers. But for once, family farmers had the opportunity to tell the USDA just how much they disagree with industry overlords: In listening sessions across the country, a vast majority of producers spoke out against the program, which is being pushed by the likes of the National Pork Producers Council and the National Milk Producers Federation.

Says Perry, “Given the shocking chasm between our corporate farm groups and real family farmers, NAIS is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bad farm policy that emanates from of Washington. So the next time you hear that ‘farm groups’ oppose cracking down on antibiotics, or that they want to water down environmental regulations over factory farms or that we need another free trade agreement the likes of the one with Colombia, just remember whose interests these folks really represent–and it’s not rural America.” (Minuteman Media)

This isn’t exactly new news, but Perry says it better than many others we’ve seen. Read her op-ed, raise a fist, and hope the USDA and Congress are listening up.


Recycle Wine Bottles into Stylish Outdoor Torches [DIY]

Recycle Wine Bottles into Stylish Outdoor Torches [DIY]: "

Think cheap Tiki torches are tacky? Want something a bit sturdier and with more refined looks? Use this simple tutorial to turn recycled wine bottles into swanky bug-repelling outdoor lighting.

Gerardot&Co., a design and marketing agency, put together a tutorial on recycling wine bottles into mounted torches. The design is ingeniously simple, and requires only a few bucks worth of parts from your local hardware store. You'll need a few copper fittings, a bolt, a few nuts, and a mounting plate, along with a standard torch wick and some oil.

Assuming you've got the bottles on hand, or some friends willing to down a few for a good cause, for under $50 you could outfit a sizable yard with wine-torches. Torches, we might add, that have a sizable 750ml reservoir to them burning bright, no matter how late your dinner parties last.


Keep Your Plants Pampered with a Wine Bottle Plant Nanny [Outdoors]

Keep Your Plants Pampered with a Wine Bottle Plant Nanny [Outdoors]: "

You can keep your plants well-watered by arranging for Twitter alerts when they're thirsty, but using a wine bottle as a 'plant nanny' to maintain consistent levels of moisture seems more efficient. Plus you can sate your own thirst, too.

The Early Show has a neat way of saving $5-$50 by using empty wine bottles instead of store-bought 'plant nannies.' It's as simple as filling up the wine bottle with water, putting a spike on the end, and sticking the entire contraption upside down into a planter. Water will seep into the dirt gradually and keep your plants sated without drowning them.

It's a great, simple solution for keeping your plants watered without much work on your part (though you could also just choose more low-maintenance plants). Have your own neat use for empty wine bottles? Or do you have a particularly sneaky way of making your plants not even notice that you're gone? Tell us all about your tricks in the comments.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday, August 9, 2009

my Iowa roses are finally blooming!

2009 Colorado Springs home

Posted by ShoZu

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Baby Lemons!

My indoor dwarf citrus have been blooming for weeks now - the Meyer Lemon in profusion and the lime sparsely. But for the first time I saw tiny little citrus emerging from the blooms. Most of the branches are very thin, so I am clipping some of the buds off to improve the chances of any of them making it to maturity. I don't know if either is established enough to successfully fruit this year, but I'll give it a go!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Birthday Present

My friends have bought me a large, frost-free, upright freezer for my birthday! That means I can now buy local meat in bulk and save on cost while keeping to my values. My friends rock!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tiny little bugs destroy my herbs

So whatever these tiny little bugs are, they've completely ravaged my indoor herbs. I believe they came in on an "organic" mint plant I brought back from the grocery store. That mint paid the price for its betrayal, along with my sage, thyme, and basil. Only survivors thus far are my citrus trees and rosemary, and even they aren't certain. Dad gave the rosemary a haircut almost to the roots, and I'm spraying soap on the citrus trees every day. The little bugs come out of the soil and I zap them. I'll give it another week, and then I'll have to try something more drastic. Those trees are too expensive to just toss, like I've done with my herbs.

It's all so sad - they were glorious two weeks ago.

In other news, my dad planted/transplanted all my failed bulbs. Who knows, if I water every day, maybe a few will come up.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Almost anyone giving advice on starting an urban homestead, or even just a more sustainable lifestyle, will advise that composting is the way to start. Composting is a great way to reduce waste, get free soil amendments for any gardening project, and conduct on-site recycling.

Because I started my first urban homesteading research during the winter, an outdoor compost pile was not feasible, but I wanted to get started immediately. Worm composting was my solution.

Worm composting (vermicomposting) consists of feeding a specific kind of worm (red wriggler) organic material which they, with the help of bacteria, convert into worm castings (poop). To vermicompost, you need a worm container, a way to moderate the temperature, bedding material, worms, and organic material.

1) The container: There are many commercial worm-composting systems available, but all are expensive. I had some plastic bins that would fit under my sink from my move, so I used a method described in the book Urban Homesteading to construct my own bins with no additional purchases. I simply drilled holes into the bottoms of two containers of the same size and into one of their lids. The undrilled lid serves as a tray to catch any liquid dripping out of the holes. The drilled lid goes on top of the composter as a cover. Right now, I'm only using one of the actual bins. When it fills up, I'll stack another bin right on the surface of the soil of the first container and start feeding only the top container. The worms will migrate through the holes in the bottom of the container over a period of a few weeks. Then the top container will become the bottom container, and I'll carry off the other container of castings for use in my garden. The two containers alternate in this way.

I should note that the book orginally recommended drilling LOTS of holes, not just in the bottoms and lids. I did this (it took a long time) and then had to cover all the holes over a period of weeks when it became apparent that Colorado is way too dry for a worm composter with that many holes.

2) Temperature control: I keep my worm composter under my kitchen sink, so temperature is not a problem. Also, I enjoy people's reactions when they hear I keep worms under my sink. Outdoor bins MUST be protected part of the year in Colorado or the worms will freeze and die. The sink limits the size of my bin - it is too small for the amount of food waste I have since I cook a lot. For me the convencience is worth it. When I get my outdoor composting set up, that's where the rest of my scraps will go.

3) Bedding material: I just use shedded newspaper, soaked in water and then wrung out again. There are other options, but this is simple and I get the Sunday paper anyway. The worms need moist bedding, and I use it to bury piles of scraps for the worms. I also keep a sheet of moist newspaper on the top of the compost to keep the whole thing moist.

4) Worms: Red wrigglers are the best worms for vermicomposting because they can deal with the scraps more quickly than other breeds. I originally ordered 100 worms but they didn't seem to be eating anything. I read the wonderful book "Worms Eat My Garbage" and discovered that, for the size of bin and amount of scraps I would be putting in the bin, I needed 1000 worms. I ordered more worms from California. Since then I've discovered a man who sells these worms in Pueblo (Colorado Earth Worms - I'll go for the more local solution the next time I need worms.

5) Organic Material: Worms can "eat" pretty much all plant material and plate scrapings, but most sources don't recommend putting meat in a worm bin. Too much acidic food (citrus peals, vinegar) can cause the worms to try to abandon the bin (yipes!). Also, worms can go weeks without being fed, if there's still things left from them buried in the bin. I keep an uncovered (to avoid smells) scrap bowl on my counter, and when I have a good amount of scraps, I bury it in my bin. I bury in a zigzag pattern until all the available surface is used up, and then I add bedding and start over again. The earliest burying spots should have been turned into castings by then. You have to be careful not to bury too much at once or the worms won't be able to eat it fast enough and it will rot and smell.

Worm castings are excellent fertilizer as-is, and a worm tea can be made of of the castings for liquid fertilizer. So far, my bin has been pretty easy going. I highly recommend reading "Worms Eat My Garbage" if you want to start your own worm bin. I got a copy at the local library. It's easy reading and very informative.

Where is Spring?

Another Looooong snowstorm is in progress. I'm really glad I listened to the lady at Hillside and didn't even think about planting roses until May.

In sadder news, my herbs, which were gloriously healthy a week ago, up and 75% died. I think I have spide mites, and I don't know if they killed the herbs or if spraying them with dilluted dishwashing soap did it, but I'm totally bummed. I don't think my experiment with this (below) was very successful. At least the citrus seems unaffected.

My sister loves my Larga Vista raw milk.
On left, my herbs in happier times.