...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Uprising and Upcycling

(I'm joining some of my fellow craft bloggers in getting a bit political these days...)

Wisconsin State Capitol
Photo courtesy of Colorlines.com

Wednesday evening Vera attended her first political rally--we can't compete with Daddy Ben who was at his first rally in utero, but we're still showing her how to exercise her first amendment rights from an early age.  We joined others in our neighborhood as they chanted an held up signs at a busy intersection to show support for unions in this time of conflict and uncertainty in our state.  To be honest, I think this was my first rally as well.  There was great energy among the demonstrators; I'll definitely do this again.

This recent uprising has got me thinking even more about what will happen if the economy gets worse.  We're already seeing fuel prices increase and there's word that food prices will spike again by the fall.  Certainly, our American way of life will not get any cheaper.  As we've discussed at our monthly Transition Milwaukee hub meetings, when the peak oil crisis really hits (though it's already begun) those of us who have chosen to reskill, use alternative energy and transportation, grow our own food, etc. will have a fighting chance.  I believe we will need to create alternative micro-economies that will require bartering, trading, an alternative currency, and working together with our neighbors to meet basic needs.  There won't be a place for the rampant consumption and waste of our current culture.

This week's ponderings coincided with the arrival of an intriguing article from my sister-in-law about a family in California who produces next to nothing in terms of garbage on a weekly basis.  I was inspired by their dedication to living lightly especially when it comes to food packaging, a perpetual conundrum I face at the grocery store--buy the organic cream cheese in a plastic container, which cannot be recycled by our municipality's current system or spend a little more on a block of organic Neufchatel that comes in recyclable paperboard, though it still has that non-recyclable interior silver wrapper.  The best thing to do would be to make my own cream cheese with no packaging at all.  In fact, this is what prompted me to start making homemade almond milk.  I couldn't deal with all the non-recylable Tetra-pak containers that would quickly pile up in our garbage.  We have a long way to go in eradicating excess packaging in our house, but home food preservation has helped with that a great deal.  My next step in bettering this is to call the city and have them take away one of the two garbage bins from our garage apron.  We never have more than one bag at a time.  Since we created our household chore list last fall, I've been taking out the garbage weekly.  After reading this zero-waste article I realized that as long as there's nothing stinky in the trash I really don't need to take it out but every three weeks or so.  It's hardly ever full so I'm really just wasting a bag in frequently pitching it.  We keep our potentially smelly scraps from meat, cheese, etc. in the "nasty bag" in the freezer until we're ready to empty the waste.  Otherwise we compost, recycle, or reuse/upcycle most of our by-products.  To continue on the less-waste road, I have plans to make some cloth bread bags that I can take to a local bakery to get bread (when I don't have time to bake it at home) and I'm also tackling some odds and ends of non-recyclables I've been saving for craft projects.  There is a fine line between being a pack-rat or hoarder and saving bits and pieces for upcycling.  Here are a few of my ideas.  Stay tuned for the final products, though it may take me a year to get around to all of them (do I feel a blog challenge coming on?)
NOW: Bread bag clips
LATER: "Beads" for a bracelet?
NOW:  Beer tabs
LATER:  A chain mail clutch?
NOW:  Metal Spools:
NOW: Matchboxes
LATER: Tiny gift boxes?
NOW:  Dryer lint
LATER: Homemade paper or papier mache?
NOW: Denim
LATER: Pot holders?
NOW: Caps
LATER: ABC magnets
NOW: Canning dome lids
LATER: Memory game?

NOW:  Zip tops
LATER: Snack Bag Closures?
NOW: Mesh bags
LATER: Homemade Scrubbie or
Ballerina Finger Puppets
NOW: Pull tabs from juice, etc.
LATER:  Embellished kids' rings
Add some do-dads and make a fun ring

In keeping with the idea of using the resources at hand before driving to the store to buy something new or ordering online, I've decided not to order any new vegetable seeds this year.  I will use what I have and trade with friends and neighbors at an upcoming seed swap.  The only order I'm placing is for a new pair of Arctic Beauty kiwis.  Let's just say that one of mine did not "survive" last season, but I don't know if it's the male or female so I have to order both.

I'll leave you with another recipe.  I'm still in the mode of using what I have in the pantry and freezer.

Thai Rice Noodle Salad
Serves 4

I'm really digging into the freezer these days to use what we put up last fall.  There are lots of veggies to be had.  We love one-dish meals like this one.  You can wrap your hands around the bowl on a cold night and even eat with chopsticks if you like.

3 c. (8 oz.) gluten-free fine rice noodles (vermicelli or cellophane)
1 T. coconut oil
8 scallions or small leeks (white and light green part only), thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper (I used frozen julienned peppers), sliced
4-6 oz. frozen snow peas
1/2 c. toasted peanuts
1/4 small head green cabbage, thinly shredded
Chopped cilantro (optional), torn
Mixed baby greens (available from a local source at Outpost Natural Foods)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing:

1/4 c. sesame oil
1 dried chili pepper, snipped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 t. ground ginger
1 T. white wine vinegar
2 T. gluten-free nam pla (fish sauce)
1 t. honey

Soak the rice noodles in boiling water for 4 min. or until soft.  Drain and rinse; pat dry.  Meanwhile, make the dressing.  Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake well.  Heat a large skillet over high heat and add coconut oil.  Saute scallions/leeks, peppers about 2 min.  Add peas and toss.  Turn off heat.  Add noodles and dressing, toss to coat.  Remove to a large bowl and toss cilantro, peanuts, cabbage, and mixed baby greens.  Serve at room temperature.


  1. I've been trying to reduce waste at my house for quite a long time. I usually have one bag for the garbage pick up, but know I can do better!

    I save up non-recycleable containers (dairy stuff, salads from fast food places, etc.) and take them to my church. There's a cupboard in the kitchen specifically for take out containers. (We have a lot of food-related functions at church, and there are always left-overs for people to take home).

    I can't wait for the farmer's market to start up again. I bring my own bags, all sizes (re-use!). People look startled, but always say what a good idea it is.

    Clean peanut butter jar lids make great catch-alls for small things. We used them in the office for staples that we took out of documents.

  2. That is a great idea with the mesh bags! I will have to use that idea too.

    Also, lint-- a great camping fire starter.

    And I wish I were in town for the seed swap, I bet that will be great.
    It seems like all is well on the Lefort Homestead!