Tuesday, February 28, 2012

25 Years .......

25 years.... where has the time gone?  

I recently celebrated my 25th Anniversary, working for the same company and received this lovely bouquet of flowers from my work place.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Becoming an Urban Homesteader #5 : This Week's Happenings in my Little Suburban Homestead ....

Amarillys is getting ready to bloom
First cutting of pea sprouts & celery is growing
Pea sprouts went into a fresh salad
Orchid has been blooming since Christmas
Fresh snow .... We've had more snow this month than all winter

Planted more peas for sprouts
Sunflower sprouts
Quinoa, brocholi and alfapha sprouts
Big ivy plant got a hair cut.  Clippings are in water rooting to start another plant.  The spider mites have made a home on the ivy - and struggling to keep them at bay.

Knitting / crochet projects... hmmm.... sorry can't share all just yet .... don't want to spoil the surprise(s)!   BUT, this is harder than I thought .... soooo hard.  LOL..stay tuned my friends !

Friday, February 24, 2012

Frugal Find

I love blue..... my recent frugal finds at the thrift store...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What do you Save ? Re-use ?

I hate throwing out anything that can either be re-used or recycled for another use.

For instance I re-use elastics and bread tabs as well as plastic bags.   I think I've only ever bought elastics once in my life. 

Now that I make a lot of my own bread I'm re-using the bread tabs for my own bread bags, and for any bag that I want to keep closed.    I also saw another purpose for bread tabs in a recent blog post - they make great tags for labeling all those wires behind your computer and TV. 

I also have a stash of empty plastic gum containers which I'm trying to figure out a use for before they go into the recycle bin.

Any suggestions?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Becoming an Urban Homesteader Series - #4

What Urban Homesteaders Do..... 

I have learned many things over the years, which has become the norm for me, but is now considered the new fashionable term “Urban Homesteading”.    See my earlier posts on urban homesteading series. I’m always learning new things and will continue to share and post the things I learn.

A few things homesteaders do:  checkout the links on each :


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Happenings at my Little Homestead in the Suburbs

A few happenings at my little homestead this week....

  • Trying the celery experiment - by cutting off the end, placing in water to see if I'll get some more celery growing.  The end would otherwise have ended up in the compost bin.
  • Amaryllis is starting bloom for the 4th year in a row.
  • Planted kale for early outdoor spring plant and pea/sun flower sprouts in my kitchen window

  • Sprouts are growing - broccoli, kale, mung and adzuki bean, along with lentils that are soaking - soon to go into a fresh bean salad.
  • Working on a couple of knitting projects....but can't share yet as will spoil the surprise.   :)
  • Started a garden planner to better organize planting this year.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Becoming an Urban Homesteader Series #3

Urban Homesteading Series #3
HOW  to become an Urban Homesteader?

Listen, learn, read, practice.

Join your local horticultural society you’ll learn a wealth of knowledge from many master gardeners, and the guest speakers that often present at the meetings.    

There are many very good blogs you can follow and learn from.  I follow a number and have learned so much !   I’m always learning and getting lots of new ideas to try out in my own little "backyard homestead".

Visit your local library.    There are many books, DVDs and magazines to choose from on gardening and sustainable living.

Anyone can do it … no matter how big or small your yard, whether you have just a window sill, live in an apartment, townhouse or house with a small yard.   Be sure to check which growing zone you live in so that you’re not disappointed when something that can grow in California or the UK, but doesn’t in the region you live, for me that is Canada, where the growing season is much shorter.  Also check your town by-laws to find out whether you are allowed chickens, bees or goats.  It would be very disappointing to set up a chicken coup, only to have to take it down again.   My town prohibits any kind of livestock, so am sticking to vegetables for now.   Who knows, with the growing popularity of self-sustaining living, the by-laws may change.

My next post will be more details on How to's.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Garden Planning

Every year around this time I start to plan for the upcoming gardening season.  Every year I pour over books, magazines for inspirational ideas and it seems I look and read the same stuff every year.  Every year I re-look at when to plant my seeds indoors, what to plant, what not to plant.  Life gets busy, and I've forgotten what I did the previous year.   It all takes up precious time.

I recently found a Canadian vegetable gardening book, with information on the same planting zone I am in, which has answered so many of my questions.   So much web information and books are written for completely different growing zones.  For instance, the average last danger of frost week here in my planting zone in Canada is end May - in California it's mid February.  Our outdoor vegetable growing season is also a lot shorter.

This year I'm getting organized !    I've created my own personal gardening calendar on when and which seeds to start indoors, and what I can sow directly outdoors.

I created a simple spreadsheet on the computer where I can check off when to start seeds indoors, outdoors, when to harvest, when to reseed to maximize my growing season.  I can easily change my chart based on what I decide I want to grow.  I can print it off and have it handy when I need it.   Now everything I need is simple and all in one spot.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash baked just out of oven
Spaghette squash is different from other squash.  Once its boiled or baked the insides become like strands much like spaghetti, but with a slightly crunchy texture.  The flavour is slightly sweet and buttery and is not starchy.    Those with a wheat/gluten intollerance, this wonderful vegetable is a great substitute for any recipe calling for spaghetti noodles.

Spaghetti squash is expensive in the stores and is usually sold by the pound, so am going go try to grown in my own garden this year.   Last year one grew out of my compost which was an un-planted gift.  I made the casserole below out of it which lasted us a couple of meals.

Spaghetti Squash Casserole
1 8-inch spaghetti squash
1 cup chopped onion
2 medium cloves of garlic crushed
2 fresh tomatoes
1/2 lb of fresh mushrooms sliced
1/2 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella
1/4 cup parsley chopped
1 tsp basil
dash of thyme
1 cup bread crumbs (or gluten free substitute - crushed rice crackers work well too)
grated parmesan cheese

Slice squash length-wise and scoop out seeds.  Bake face down on an greased tray in 375F degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork.  When cool enough to handle, scoop out insides.

Saute onions, garlic, mushrooms and herbs.  When onions are soft add tomatoes.  Cook until most of moisture evaporates.

Combine all ingredients .  Pour into greased casserole dish.  Top with bread crumbs and grated parmesan.  Bake uncovered at 375F for about 40 minutes or until heated through.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Becoming an Urban Homesteader Series - #2

Urban Homesteading Series #2 the 2nd post in a series.  If you missed my first post and some inspiring video clips click HERE. 

Why be an Urban Homesteader?
With the economy being so volatile and unpredictable, learning to be self-sufficient has become fashionable again (during War time it was the Victory Garden) and in a lot of situations has become a necessity.  Being an urban homesteader will increase your self-sufficiency, reduce your carbon foot print, increase your food security, save money and you will become healthier in the process.  AND, it can be fun !

There has been a growing popularity in books published in the last few years on “being green”, “natural living”, “sustainable living”, “suburban survivalists”, "urban homesteading".   Our ancestors would chuckle as people try to learn the long forgotten skills that our grandparents had and practiced on a daily basis, such as cooking from scratch, baking, preserving, sewing, knitting, growing vegetables, “do-it-yourself”.  For them it was a way life - and didn't carry a label such as "natural living, being green, sustainable living, simple living", etc. 

You don't have to have alot of land to be an urban homesteader.   I live in a suburb where lots sizes are not very big.  I started out with a small vegetable raised bed and have learned to incorporate vegetables in amongst the perennial beds too.   When I lived in a town house - my back yard was even smaller, but grew vegetables in pots on my deck and in my kitchen window.   If you live in an apartment you can still grow some vegetables on window ledges, kitchen counter tops, balconies, fire escapes, roof tops, etc.   It's all within your imagination.

Make it a family project, teach your children – skills they will have for a lifetime and future generations.

As the saying goes… “What is old is new again”.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Saving Coffee Grounds for my Garden

I've been doing so more research on frugal ideas for my garden.  I learned that egg shells provide calcium to the garden, while coffee grounds provide a nitrogen, as well as magnesium, calcium, potassium and other trace minerals.  Nitrogen and calcium help keep garden soil and plants healthy.   Acid loving plants respond well to coffee grounds and coffee.
  • Coffee grounds provide a good mulch for fast growing vegetables and will also help reduce slugs and snails.  Using coffee grounds and crushed egg shells around those plants that slugs love such as hostas and lillies, will keep them at bay.  
  • Coffee grounds help keep kitties from using the garden as a litter box. Spread grounds and orange peels around your beds.
  • Coffee grounds are said to repel ants.  
  • Diluted coffee grounds in water is good  instant fertilizer for houseplants.  You can also sprinkle grounds around the base of plants before watering for a slow release of nitrogen.  But like any fertilizer - don't overdo it, as coffee/grounds can be acidic.
  • Throw your coffee grounds into the compost bin.  When they are mixed with other organic materials you will have a rich compost.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup

Since joining the CSA (Community supported Agriculture) program at a local farm, we have learned to eat "in-season".   

Various types of squash have been a regular item at farm pick-up days.  Squash is another healthy versatile vegetable.  We use it in a variety of ways;  stuffed , baked, and in soup.

Here's an easy delicious recipe for  
Roasted Squash & Fennel  Soup. 

1 Fennel bulb
Saving seeds for growing my own squash - or you can toast and eat
1 onion
1 large celery stalk
1 small squash (I used butternut)
1 tbsp butter
2 cans of chicken broth and 2 cups water  
or 4 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable bouillon
1/2 tsp salt (optional)

Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and place cut side down on oiled cookie sheet and roast in oven at 325F until tender.

Cut fronds (feathery leaves) from fennel and save for garnish.  Remove core from bulb.  Thickly slice bulb and white parts of fronds.  Coarsely chop onion and celery.

Heat butter in large saucepan and set over medium heat.  Add onions and celery.  Cook until onion has softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in fennel, cooked squash scooped from skin (discard skin) and enough broth and water to cover vegetables.  Bring to a boil.  Then redce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender - about 15 to 30 minutes.

Puree vegetables in several batches in a food processor.  Return to saucepan.  Stir in remaining liquid.  Heat, stirring often, until hot.  Add salt if needed.  Ladle soup into bowls, then float a small piece of  frond on top.  Soup will keep well, covered and refrigerated for 3 days.   Freezes well.

Enjoy !

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Becoming an Urban Homesteader Series

Urban Homesteading Series #1

What is an urban homesteader?

The Dervaes family in California – home of the “” defines it as “Pioneering a journey towards self-sufficiency – one step at a time”.   The Dervaes have “transformed an ordinary city home into a productive city farm that produces over 6,000 pounds of organic food annually on 1/10 of an acre (66 x 132 foot lot) and provides other subsistence needs – with the goal of reducing their family’s environmental impact and returning to a home-based, family-centered and self-sufficient way of life”.  They also run a daily blog called “Little Homestead in the City”.   You can also find them on Youtube.   They are truly inspiring ! 

New trends shown in gardening magazines for 2012 include "urban homesteading".    For those who have been growing their vegetables in an urban setting, this will be old hat to you, but now has become “fashionable”.   Maybe now my neighbours won’t complain if I turn my front yard into a vegetable garden too.  There has been much media hype about the 100-mile diet and now it’s trendy to have your own 100-meter diet.   A couple years ago I started my own 100-foot diet – see my post on “Simple Gardening”.  

So what is an urban homestead?  It’s a home where self-sufficiency is practiced through growing their own food and storage, reducing their environmental impact, increase their self-sufficiency and living simply.   

In posts to come I will share my journey in becoming an urban homesteader.  But in the meantime, here's another short clip on backyard farming  which is also very inspiring and will get your ideas flowing on how you can city farm in your own urban backyard.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Homemade Gift Series #7 : Fingerless Mitts

I have made a couple of pairs of these fingerless mitts for family in different colours.   I learned how to do the entrelac pattern (the basket weave look) - which was tricky at first until I understood the pattern.   This pattern is by Isabeau Knits.  I used one 50g ball of very soft double knit weight yarn - 60% NZ Merino/40% possum.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Healthy Chocolate Cake in time for Valentines Day

Last fall I had an abundance of beets and needed to do something with them before they spoiled.   I pickled them, made soup, grated raw into salads, boiled them for dinner, sprucing them up various ways, ie making harvard beets, or just with a bit of butter and herbs.   I still had lots of beets, so cooked them all up, and pureed them and froze in 1 cup portions, perfect for a delicious and moist healthier chocolate Beet Bundt Cake  from    This is a delicious, moist chocolate cake and no icing is needed.  I just used a flour sifter to give a light dusting of icing sugar.   Its a great cake recipe in time for Valentines Day, or anytime you want a healthier dessert.

There are lots of health benefits of beets.  It has known properties to help with anemia, circulation, skin care, kidney disorders, dandruff, cancer and heart disease.  Beets are rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals.  They are a source of Vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus.   They are low in calories, but have the high levels of sugar of all vegetables, which makes them perfect for adding into cakes and muffins and reduce the added sugar.  

Pin it