...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.


Finishing Projects

Alley score BEFORE
It's felt like this remodel's put me at a standstill with any homesteading projects, but I realized I've managed to put the finishing touches on a few items on my list lately.  Vera received a play kitchen--complete with accessories--for her birthday.  As we were setting it up I remembered that I'd been squirreling away a few bits and pieces in her closet--empty spice shakers, some random pieces of play food, miniature cooking tools I'd pulled off of a cooking themed Christmas tree my mom gave us.  Then at her party, she received more cool play food.  All of this resulted in an explosion of plastic, wood, and felt from this otherwise compact play set.  (For a minute it looked like our fridge's current state of disarray.  I promise I'll really clean it once this central project is done!)  So this vintage style bookshelf, which I scored for free from our alley last summer finally found a purpose.  At first glance, I plucked it from the back slab of a neighbor's garage (which is garbage territory on our block) knowing it could easily be repaired (it had a small spot that needed to be glued) and repainted.  Thought I might use it for books because it has these wonderful tilting shelves and space at the bottom for larger volumes.  It sat in our basement for months, still covered in the original dust and cobwebs from its former home, until a light went on that I should rehab it for storage in Vera's room--more specifically to accent her new kitchen.  I cleaned, glued, clamped, and painted it and now it's serving a few very important purposes--giving her space on the counter and floor around her kitchen to encourage her to play (I think the mess of aforementioned accessories was overwhelming and discouraging her from playing with it for the first week); providing a space to sort kitchen items--hard (wooden) foods, soft (felt) foods, tools/equipment; giving her a place to put things in order as she gets better at cleaning up; and helping mom and dad stay sane by having a place to organize the mess.  Plus I think the robin's egg blue color goes well with the bright kitschy green on the stovetop.  At a later time this could still be repurposed for books, but for now she's feeling like she has a new little corner in which she can make-believe.

One little piece to glue and clamp together.  Not a problem!
Alley score AFTER!
I love it!
One kitchen is complete...now to finish the other one.
I also started creating a "reading nook" for Vera thanks to an idea from a friend.  The space was originally a linen closet with louvered doors, but when we moved in, we removed the doors and I crafted a roller shade that could hide my "stuff " on the top two shelves, while displaying (or hiding as needed) my "desk" area.  It was a bar height desk housing my laptop, some in/out piles, pencils and other necessities.  The space served me well for a few years, but now Ben and I will have slightly more space at a double "desk" area in the back of our new kitchen.  I had planned to turn my former desk into a space for Vera's new kitchen (and use the upper shelves for our family games/puzzles), but that walkway quickly transformed into the only hallway in our house and if she was to have enough space to make a [temporary] mess, I didn't want anyone to be tripping over all these bits and pieces.  Enter reading nook idea.  I decided to stick with my original idea to house the games/puzzles above, but I lowered one of the shelves to bench level, placed a "cubby" underneath, and found some baskets to fit.  I also found a book holder for the bench, dressed a pillow with a vintage case, hung a secondhand reading light (luckily we'd previously installed an outlet in the closet for my desk), and threw a few more pillows in for comfort.  She seems to love it.  I hope to find some kind of artwork to hang on the back wall to make it more cozy.  Maybe V could create a picture to frame and hang.  Using every inch of this house is our goal and this was a perfect idea.  (Thanks K.R.!)

Reading reading reading in the new nook
Book nook and resident bookworm
We had an opportunity to get away to a waterpark just an hour north of Milwaukee over the weekend.  We were on the beach in Sheboygan at dusk on St. Patrick's Day.  That's unheard of!

Beach on St. Patty's Day.  What!
And I attended a Maple Sugaring class at the Urban Ecology Center when we returned on Sunday.  Normally they might just be tapping the sugar maples this time of year, but instead they've already collected and boiled the sap to make maple syrup for the year.  I'm hoping to identify the maple trees that line our parkway and possibly tap them in the next year.  I wanted to take a class to learn more.

Leader David shows us the kettle where they boil the
maple sap into syrup
Tapped trees on our hike through Riverside Park
Tapped trees
Drilling a demo tap on a downed maple tree
Letting the kiddos practice
My goal for the week is to get a few seeds in the ground.  Although there is lots of clean up to do before that...and compost to lay...and yard waste to haul away...I'm feeling confident that I can at least get a row or two of spinach, lettuce, or radishes planted by Sunday.  So far I've taken a seed inventory.  Next I will sketch my garden plan, then hit the backyard.  I'm hoping the weather will allow for a load of laundry to be hung outside this week too.

The kitchen should be finished by week's end, if not tomorrow.  The range is being delivered and the work crew is well into dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's.  If completed by Sat. it will be just a month, which apparently is unheard of for a project like this.  Okay, I'll stop now before I seriously jinx something.  Just take a gander at the updates below:

Butcher block countertops
Fine craftsmanship
Faux cabinet--on rollers so it can be moved to meet
code.  This houses the recycling bins.
Faux cabinet top
Appliance garage
Our only hallway.  Looking forward to "decorating" it.
Under cabinet lighting, backsplash, sink and dishwasher
Track lighting in the "desk" area
I'm loving the warm glow
In the Night Kitchen


  1. This looks fantastic! You must be so excited. Your friend RK sent me to your blog ages ago when you did a post on canning, and I've been dropping in ever since. Watching your kitchen re-do was one of our inspirations for buying a house in Riverwest that needs a little love. Thanks for being!

    1. Thanks for following! Glad we could inspire.

  2. Did you know that the Dervaes family seems think they own exclusive right to the term "urban homestead"? Check out this article: http://www.mysuburbanhomestead.com/writers-targeted-common-phrases-devraes-familytake-action/

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