...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.


Early Summer Report

Our weekend camping trip was fairly successful; we had phenomenal weather up until pack-up time, of course.  Vera enjoyed the beach and running around with the other kiddos and the adults had fun cooking outdoors and chatting around the campfire with S'mores.  Good thing I had a satisfying weekend because it helped lift my spirits upon re-entry as I found all the potential cherries stripped from both my trees, the remaining red currants nabbed by some clever critter, and a couple of my fledgling corn stalks gnawed down to the ground.  Now I'm keeping an extremely close eye on my strawberries, which remain mostly safe under some onion bag "netting" and my thriving gooseberry bush, which is filled with unripe berries.  At least I can probably count on the wild grape vine this year for an above average harvest.  So far there are dozens of little clusters of pre-grapes--or as Vera likes to call them "baby grapes and mommy grapes."  Otherwise the garden is flourishing. Especially with the steady amount of rain we've had this spring--perhaps too much for some of you, but we're managing alright: the pole beans are climbing, the cucumbers are bushing out, the Swiss Chard is growing like a weed, the cilantro and dill are doubling in size by the day, and the radish leaves are busting out of the raised bed (w/o many radishes thus far, but I'm utilizing all the greens--practically every night they go into some dish for dinner.)

After settling in from our weekend away, I presented Ben with his Father's Day gift.  He wanted a "chimney" for his charcoal grill.  He was using a successful technique he learned while living in Chile--twist long pieces of newspaper into "ropes" and wrap them around an empty beer bottle.  Set it in the middle of the grill bottom and mound up the charcoal around it, remove the bottle, light the paper, et voila.  This method worked extremely well and I remain very impressed by and excited about it, but Ben wanted something faster.  We just returned a gas grill/smoker that was on loan from my parents so, of course, he got used to the ease of heat-up.  We didn't have room for both grills in our yard and we both like the idea of using a charcoal grill so the other had to go.  As Father's Day approached he dropped some hints as to what tools and equipment might make his life easier.  The grill chimney was at the top of his list.  Trying to stick to my most-of-the-time D.I.Y., plan I thought I'd find a schematic online and replicate the function (though not the aesthetics) of the chimney he'd eyed at our local co-op.  This was the best tutorial I could find.  So one day last week during V's naptime I crept down to the basement, located Ben's drill, tin snips, a couple of wire hangers, and I was off (wearing a dress even).  I brought home a #5 can from work though I could have (and maybe should have based on the volume of the finished product) used a #10 can, but I'll try that for my next attempt.  It took some searching and experimenting to find the right drill bit for the project, but it all came together in the end without any tears, cuts (though that might have made it more sentimental), or need for safety goggles (though they were within arms reach if needed.)  I think Ben was impressed by my efforts, but we'll see how it works once we get some more charcoal for the weekend.

I went to see my doctor last week for a regular physical and we discussed my food allergy situation.  As my nutritionist had hinted, the gluten intolerance was likely what caused me not to process dairy, egg, and soy very well either and suggested that I might get retested this summer to see if those other offenders had been put in check.  My doctor advised me to forgo the retesting and just gradually try to add these foods back, but still stay gluten-free, of course.  It's like I'm an infant as I tried a little dairy last week, and have sampled a small amount of eggs this week to see if anything causes a reaction.  So far I am doing okay.  I think I will stick to organic and fermented soy products if any because highly processed, genetically modified soy is in so many foods (though so many of those foods we do not buy), plus the fermented products are good for my digestion.  We'll see what happens.  I do like the idea of being able to have a little cheese on our weekly pizza or a bit of feta or goat cheese on a summer salad.  And of course, ICE CREAM would be really wonderful to taste again.  If this doesn't work out, I know I can always go back to gluten-free, vegan (baking anyway), but for a little while I'll put that card back in my bag of tricks.  So expect to see a change in my recipes again soon.

Even though I'm not eating gluten I still enjoy baking wheat breads for my family.  And I've actually had some great success lately.  I seen to do well with the food processor breads (preparing the dough in the food processor), which purist bread bakers might look down upon, but at least it's still from scratch ingredients.  These are both from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger, my favorite bread baking book that I own.  Admittedly, I tasted a little end piece to see if it was fit to serve to the rest of the crew, but that was it.  I don't think any more would be worth the upset later.

Sour Cream Braid
Four Seed Whole Wheat Bread


  1. That chimney is very clever, and so are you for making it! I would like to stop using lighter fluid infused charcoal, and this looks like a great way to do it.

    Too bad about the critters getting so much of your garden, especially the cherries. I almost bought some at the grocery store, but they are just too expensive for me. Love 'em, though.

    I really enjoy your posts. I used to live in Racine, and I miss seeing the big lake, and the people I know there.

  2. Thank you for posting a link to my tutorial! I love it when I see others making things, and being self sufficient. Your site is pretty cool. I just started learning about permaculture this year. I love the idea of homesteading. I just need to get off my lazy butt and start doing more of it. Thanks again!