...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.


Kitchen Remodel

The makeshift kitchen in our front entryway--not exactly roughing it.
The day has come.  We've been dreaming of this since the LeFort Urban Homestead began in 2006 and have been making serious plans for well over a year.  We're excited to work once again with a contractor who has basically become our go-to guy for all house projects.  I think this is the fifth or sixth time he's worked with us and I highly recommend his company if you're in the Milwaukee area.  (Coincidentally, I connected with him after working with his father at our CSA farm a few years back...it all goes back to those wonderful farmers!)

We decided to forego the designer after we began working with one last year when we thought this project was going to take flight.  I'm no interior designer (though I've wanted to be one since I was six), but I've designed (or at least initially sketched out) many of our home's built-ins, updates, nooks, crannies.  I can certainly appreciate what these designers do after the additional legwork it took, but will say that the moment the plan clicked for us--me and our contractor--we all felt like geniuses.  It remains to be seen, of course, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be fantastic.  The demolition began this morning and is progressing quickly and will hopefully continue to do so if we can keep the inspectors on schedule.

We set up a temporary kitchenette in our front entryway.  We don't own a microwave and haven't depended on one for a decade or so, but have a slow cooker and toaster oven.  I borrowed a rice cooker from a friend and a portable 3-burner electric stovetop from work.  Good things we're at least familiar with camp cooking because we may need to institute a few of those recipes or techniques before it's all said and done.  I've never used a rice cooker before and am excited to see what healthy foods are possible.  Last night we began cooking "off-site" with a whole chicken in the slow cooker on a bed of root vegetables--carrots, celeriac, turnips, rutabaga, and onions.  After eating our portions of chicken and refrigerating the rest, I blended the remaining veggies, herbs, and chicken stock in the blender and--et voila!--we have dinner for tonight all lined up.  For a minute I thought this might be the bloggable challenge I've been waiting for.  But I don't know that I should commit myself to that.  Besides, it's likely that we'll be dining out plenty during the process--I have quite a few gift certificates in queue after pillaging restaurant.com a few weeks ago.  But it would be nice if we could save those funds for kitchen accessories--a kitchen cart, new dish drying rack, perhaps some new-to-us plates--after the remodel is complete.

I probably won't be posting many recipes for a while--though if I do, they will be for preparation in a slow cooker/rice cooker.  I see myself posting lots of "Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned During our Kitchen Remodel" kinds of lists as well as before/after photos.  Here's what I've come up with so far:

1.  When we reduce our kitchen to just the essentials we'll need for the next month, it sort of makes me wonder why in the world we keep all the rest of that "stuff."

2.  When I don't have control over the remodeling-related messes in my kitchen/basement/dining room, I'm going to be very controlling--perhaps obsessively trying to control--the dust, dirt, and grime in other spaces.  (This could be a positive thing!)

3.  If my child can sleep through demolition--and go out like a light in fact--she can probably sleep through anything.

4.  Sometimes to make things more efficient--energy or otherwise--one has to tear out and upgrade.  I was fairly conflicted about this project for that reason.  The old kitchen was workable, but if we wish to stay in a small house and maximize the space, we need to tailor it to fit those needs and goals.  The main goal for this kitchen project is to get more working space.  We did our best to consciously choose new materials for construction--beeswax sealant for the butcher block countertops, No-VOC paints, energy-efficient hood system--and to reuse when possible--keeping the fridge, dishwasher, reusing the sink, repurposing old cabinets between our basement and my parents' garage.

5.  We currently don't have enough wine in the house to get us--well, me--through this project for the next 4-6 weeks.

Aside from the final product, of course, I'm excited to see how this slows us down as a family.  Between finding where everything is in our makeshift kitchen, learning a new rhythm as we prepare food in the front hallway, and realize that we can't use certain parts of the house b/c of temporary lack of heat, electricity, or water we have no other choice, but to kick back and read a book.  Sigh.  Let the fun begin!

There will be a doorway on this wall very soon
(view from hallway into dining room)
Back "pantry" and Ben's desk will be demolished and soon
have opening shelving and a "family media and
communication center."
Sink will soon be in front of the window
Bringing in a 36" 6-burner commercial-quality stove I can
beat up with all my preserving/cooking
Shifting it all to the left and the doorway will disappear
No more angled corner, will have hardwood floors
Good bye doorway and traffic pattern cutting
diagonally through the kitchen
Woodwork will finally match original woodwork in
lower level


  1. WOW! I'm most jealous of your 6 burner range... and accompanying hood. It will feel so good to have a new space, I'm excited for you!

  2. Hello! I want you to know that I love your blog and have nominated it for a Versatile Blogger Award. I always enjoy reading your posts and take inspiration from each one. The nomination can be seen here: http://tinyurl.com/7455xhs

    Best of luck with your renovations!

    1. Jenny: How do I contact you via e-mail to fulfill the VBA rules? Thank you so much, you're very kind. How did you find my blog?

  3. I also do a lot of canning and thought hardwood floors might not be able to handle the acidic spills (tomatoes, berries, etc) that inevitably happen in my kitchen. Why did you pick wood flooring? Could you tell me more about the hardwood floors you are having installed? What type of wood and what type of finish? Thank you! Happy Remodeling!

    1. We picked hardwood b/c then the whole lower floor would finally be the same. After nearly a year of use they've been great. Easy to clean, durable (a few dings here and there, but it gives it character). The splatters for heavy cooking and canning have not been a problem. We chose maple.

  4. I think you did an impressive job on your kitchen! Are you sure you’re not a designer? Well, I think you ought to consider taking that route. Your designing skills are quite remarkable!

    1. Thank you. I've enjoyed decorating since I was 6 years old and wanted to be an interior designer. I've thought about going back to school to do it, but then it may not be as much fun if it's my job. I just designed a built-in armoire and bookcase for our front entryway and will put up photos in my next post.

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