...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.


Let Nature Do Its Thing

Spring has finally sprung--I think.  This morning was the beginning of my many "therapy" sessions for the next few months--I hung the season's first load of laundry on the line.  It was such a peaceful morning: Ben had already left for work, but Vera had not yet risen and the neighborhood still seemed somewhat asleep.  It was just me meditating as I hung our clothes and the birds chirping with delight at the new day.  I can't wait for it to get lighter much earlier.  Maybe I'll even have a chance to sit down with some coffee or tea and read a chapter in a book once in while on upcoming spring/summer mornings.  To me, that's heaven!  

Natural pea trellises, potato sacks to protect the seeds
The growing season has officially started around here.  A couple of weeks ago I planted my first seeds inside and they are now thriving under the grow lights.  Mid-week I started pruning the mess of grapevines on our southern fence, but still have a lot of untangling and trimming to do.  I seeded several different varieties of tomatoes inside yesterday and also had a chance to get a couple of raised beds started in our yard.  I planted lots of greens--red and green lettuce, mesclun mix, frisee, mustard greens, and arugula in the front yard raised bed, which got a late start last year and was therefore quite unproductive.  I also intercropped peas and red beets in the backyard.  Based on what I know about the maturity of peas and beets, I figured that by the time the peas are done, the beets will be ready to grab more of the sunlight and push through the alternating rows.  I'm a big fan of using natural materials for trellises so for the pea patch I am trying dogwood branches that I rescued from my neighbors across the alley who had them in their garbage can a couple weeks ago (I think they were part of their holiday greenery.)  Afterall, according to Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen in The Urban Homestead, part of the process of urban homesteading is dumpster diving.  So between the laundry and the new seeds outside, today I thought "now it's time for nature to do it's thing."  The wind must help my laundry dry and the air, water, and soil must help my seeds germinate.  

Ben and I also transferred the winter basement compost bin outside yesterday.  It's a dreaded task, but only takes about 5 minutes of our time.  Knowing what I can comfortably press with my legs and back at the gym these days, I'm guessing the compost bin was at least 150 lbs.  Whoa!  It's very tricky to get it up the basement stairs without spilling any of the worm juice in the bottom tray in the process.  At one point I was losing my grip, which caused a laughing fit because I thought I was doomed to get coated in vermi-goop, but I kept pushing, regained composure, and eventually made it outside with just a few minor scratches and welts.  Hopefully I'll find time this week to spread the compost from the outside bin onto the remaining unseeded raised beds and transfer the basement compost into the outside bin.  It's always a tricky time of year to get the nutrients into the soil while still getting seeds in there as early as I hope.

Purple Pancakes!
Filling a squeeze bottle with "purple batter"
I realized today that this may be a challenging summer, garden-wise, because Vera is even more mobile than last year and rather fearless when it comes to trucking around the backyard.  Just this afternoon she got into some seed packets I had on my garage gardening shelf and--according to her--"planted" a whole packet of peas basically all in one pile.  Fortunately these are rather large seeds so I was somewhat easily able to pick them up by hand and return them to the packet.  But I can picture little bits of chaos like this happening in the garden this summer.  I'm wondering if giving her her own corner to plant and tend will keep her from being so interested in mine.  It will require a lot of patience, but whatever happens it's sure to be a learning experience for both of us.  In the meantime, we've spent what I'm hoping are the last few cool days inside doing art and cooking projects.  Last week we made a mid-morning snack of purple pancakes--gluten-free, vegan pancakes with a little cherry juice subbed for the almond milk.  They were more like a gray, but to V they were a fine shade of purple.  She had fun helping me--very carefully--squeeze Mickey Mouse, worm, letter, and flower shaped plops of batter onto the hot griddle.  That same morning we did some finger painting to create some spring greeting cards for our family.  It was fun to see V wearing my painting shirt as a smock--an old flannel button down from my Grampa.  

The fun lasted about 10 minutes...oh well.
Re-used takeout condiment containers,
perfect for leftover paint.
Today V and I walked to a salon in our neighborhood to participate in an event for children and women of childbearing age to get their hair tested for mercury levels.  The Sierra Club sponsored the event and Vera may just be on the news tonight.  I recently read Sandra Steingraber's story in Orion magazine; it was both depressing and terrifying and got me thinking more seriously about the issue of chemicals in our environment.  A mama friend of mine from the local chapter of the Holistic Moms Network told me about this event and invited us to give samples. We'll get the results in a few weeks.  I can't wait to learn our toxicity levels.  I'm hoping this issue gets some local media coverage and makes people question the environmental safety of our area's coal-fired power plants.    

On that note, I continue to think critically about our family's daily impact on the environment.  Right now I feel stuck between my dedication to buying local and my "needs" to use certain very un-local ingredients (like coconut oil and "exotic" flours) as substitutes in my current diet. I'm trying to at the very least purchase those items in bulk because the project at hand is to purchase fewer items with packaging--at least those that are highly non-recyclable.  I'd like to cut down on that kind of waste altogether.  Last week I took my tote of Mason jars to the co-op where they gladly gave me the tare weight of them all so that I could directly fill them in the bulk section and bypass even reused plastic bags.  It worked out well.  

And on this same note, as I previously posted, I've been trying to make more of own our body care products as well.  The mouthwash is great so last week I decided to tackle B's shave lotion, which was on the grocery list.  He'd been using a brand that I found wasn't rated very safe on the cosmeticdatabase.com site so I decided to try something homemade--also much cheaper.  We'll use the same pump container once the other stuff is gone so he can still have an easy-to-use product and I don't have to worry about whether that plastic container will actually get recycled.  

Homemade Shaving Cream
Makes about 1 pt.

Don't let this happen to you!
Adapted from a recipe from Bright Hub.  Fortunately I had all of these items on hand from various projects so I was ready to go.  I used peppermint castile soap b/c we have it in bulk amounts around here.  It adds a nice tingle, perfect for shaving.

4 T. sweet almond, jojoba, or apricot kernel oil
2 T. moisturizer such as pure cocoa butter, beeswax, or shea butter
1 3/4 c. purified water
1 t. baking soda
4 T. castile soap
1/2 c. aleo vera gel or honey
Essential oil--I suggest clove, pine, thyme, or bergamot for a "manly" scent.  

Heat the oil and moisturizer over a double boiler at a low-heat.  Stir until the mixture is clear, then pour into a large bowl and let cool.  In another pan, heat the water, then add the baking soda and castile soap, stirring until completely diluted.  Add aloe vera gel or honey to this solution then stir.  Pour soap mixture into the bowl with the now room temp. oil and moisturizer.  Add essential oils if desired.  Blend everything well in a blender or pulse on a food processor (keep an eye on it regardless of method, the soap can foam over.)  Store in an airtight container (such as a Mason jar) in a dry, cool location.  Can be stored for about three months.  


1 comment:

  1. I love that you made shaving cream!!

    Check out this blog post from Amy Karol for lots more info. on home-made health/skin care products.