Garden has been started!

These pictures are from a few weeks ago.  My intention is to update every couple weeks with new and excited photos of plants growing, that’s a step above grass growing folks!

This year we decided to be ambitious (slightly stupid) and quadruple the size of our garden to 10,000 square feet!  If things go as planned we should have over 700 pounds of potatoes, over 1000 onions, endless tomatoes, and much more.  Needless to say the next project is building a root cellar.

Here’s the plot.  Not much to see yet.

I was unaware that planting blue potatoes would produce blue leaves.

And here is a row if teeny corn.

Lettuce.  My favorite thing about lettuce is they seem to sprout overnight.

One of FIFTY SIX tomato plants.

This is not in the garden.  Last year I grew about 75 sunflowers and in the fall much of the seeds fell and scattered and now we have sunflowers popping up all over the yard in any bare patch of dirt available.

So that’s the beginning.  I took these on the first of June, so much has changed.  Maybe by August I’ll get to part two 😉

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This blog still exists!  I have only chosen to ignore it for two months.

Today, we purchased birds.  Look close and you will find three different kinds of birds; two types of laying hens and bronze turkeys.  I really love turkeys when they are chicks.  I really hate them when they are adults.  I think I might have to film our ornery tom when I feed him some day and you can be a witness to his need to bite human flesh.  However, when he was a chick he was just as adorable as these little puff balls.

Next week we buy meat birds.  I protested against Cornish cross chicks this year and won.  Last year we had our own personal Food Inc. in the back yard with gluttonous birds who could literally not life their butts off the ground when they poo-pooed because they were genetically designed to eat themselves to obesity.

Stick around, I have more farm stuff to show you…and…homemade hummus!

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Indoor Clotheslines Are Not Illegal

There’s a bizarre debate happening these days revolving around the legality of clothesline bans in private communities.  This article shows that certain people don’t want to look at your panties out of their dining room window while they are eating caviar out of gold bowls.

While I don’t want to look at your panties while I am eating either, I sure wouldn’t create a ban of the activity or report you to an association so you’ll get a fine.  But it is happening.

Rejoice, my friends!  For this ban does not include winter drying inside!   I have read different statistics on how much money the electricity costs per load of laundry dried.  The answer is somewhere between $1.08 and $2.25 per load.  When you live in a frigid climate, as I do, you cannot dry outside for many months a year.  You can still dry without a dryer.

Hanging your clothes on hangers is just one way.  There’s plenty of drying racks available that work better clothing items that would misshape terribly on a hanger.  And, if your climate is as dry in the winter as mine, it really doesn’t take a whole lot of time.  You can usually hang it at night and it’s dry by morning.

Save money, make the environment happy, and until you have to roll your sleeves up and fight the crazy clothesline banners this spring, hang your clothes to dry inside!

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Dear Neglected Blog,

Oh, I had such high hopes for you on the first day of this year.  I was going to write to you every day and I even had a schedule of topics to cover.  I failed.  I have been extremely busy though I feel as though I have accomplished little.  First of all, I cheated.  A relative gifted our family a Wal-Mart gift card for Christmas, and wouldn’t you know it, the gift was lost in the mail until the second week of January.  So, we went to the retail giant and bought orange juice, foam insulation and a curling iron among other things.  But the rest of the month was chain free, and easy.  I don’t feel rich yet, but I do have more money in my checking account that I typically would.

The tomatoes are growing fast, almost too fast.

They are now neighbors to a flat of onions as well.  Spring must come soon, or I will be forced to lay a few feet of soil on the loft floor and harvest them right here in the house.

IN addition to not buying things, we are practicing purging the house of unneeded items as well.  Though a discussion did occur when I brought home the greatest table ever made (given to me for free).

Mr. Pilver wondered why it was we could keep this piece of furniture when I wanted to get rid of his couch which he felt would match the table’s style and era.

The answer is simple, because the orange vinyl couch has tears and it’s pillows have to be turned sideways so you don’t see the foam stuffing coming out of said tears and because, it’s orange vinyl.

So, that is what I have been doing while I have not been writing.  February will be better.

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Giant Winter Carrots

You know those people who always mention how their fresh veggies out of their garden are superior in taste to anything you can find at the grocery store?  It’s as though there is a magical force field around their plot which creates vegetation better than any you have ever experienced.  I am now one of those people.  My grape tomatoes last year were eaten like candy.  My potatoes mashed fantastically. And my carrots were sweet, crisp and better the longer they were allowed to grow in the ground.

Much of those carrots are still in the ground.  With carrots you can leave them to grow and use them as you need them.  Even through a few feet of snow and temperatures below zero, they are thriving.  Today, we dug some up for dinner.  Here, let me show you!  *imagine me giving a large sweeping motion with my arm as to invite you into my superior magical garden, and listen carefully as I sweep my arm through the air so you can hear the mystical sounding chime rings…or don’t.*

We pushed away some snow and could already see the tops of the carrots.  Digging the veggies can be difficult if the ground is really hard, luckily we’ve had a little thaw.

I always wonder if we are going to be able to eat all the carrots we dig before they spoil.  And we always do.

I found a couple crazy huge carrots in the bunch.  That’s a AA sized battery to show scale.  Dang.

I am only learning how to make the gardening season last beyond the first and last frosts of the year, but this is one very easy way to eat out of your garden long after the snow falls.

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Early Tomatoes and Hell’s Kitchen Ketchup

There’s a strange feeling growing inside me, I cannot hardly wait for spring.  Last February when I arrived in Washington it was fifty-three degrees outside and I couldn’t see any snow.  I know we’re only in the early days of January, but the anticipation of green grass and  rain showers has erupted inside me to a point that I have begun seedlings for my garden.

One week before Christmas Day, to be exact, I planted a flat of tomato seeds.  These were last years seeds, so I expected a few duds.  Also, finding a warm sunny spot in the house is quite a chore.  However, a few have sprouted.

This is a baby roma.  With the fruits it grows I will make sauces, salads, and ketchup!  Today, I took some of our tomatoes from last year and made ketchup, with a recipe out of the cookbook written by my old boss at Hell’s Kitchen (has nothing to do with the show) in Minneapolis, Damn Good Food.

I worked at Hell’s for a few years before moving to Washington.  When I started there I was hesitant to try the ketchup.  I not so fondly remembered the ketchup my mother made when I was a kid.  This was different, better.  After becoming a believer in the red condiment, I could no longer eat the grocery store variety, it all tasted like goopy vinegar.  I became a ketchup snob, to the point that I don’t eat it any longer now that I do not have access to the good stuff.  Also, there is something about homegrown tomatoes that beat out those found in any store.  The flavor difference is remarkable.

I am not sure I am allowed to share the ketchup recipe, so go to Hell’s Kitchen’s website and buy it yourself.  Then also, make the lemon ricotta hotcakes.  (yum)  Happy Cooking!

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Home Made Laundry Detergent

Yesterday, aka Day One of our experiment was a success.  It’s easy not to shop when it’s a holiday.  Still, we did need to stop for some items to make it through the next few days.  I had to pick my son up from a town about an hour north of here as he was with his father for the last few days of Winter Break.  The town we meet in has a privately owned grocery store and we headed there for some produce and the like.

The Max knows all about the resolution and has agreed to cooperate with our scaled back way of buying.  Of course, when faced with all the impulse items a grocery store offers, he had a little trouble.  The town we were in has a large Native American population so when he mistakenly exclaimed, “I want a Lunchable!   I hate the reservation!!!!”  my face did turn all sorts of red while I tried to shush him and let him know it was a resolution, not a reservation.

Max calmed down, we finished shopping, and our total bill ended up under thirty dollars.  It is amazing how little you spend when you don’t buy what you don’t need.  Though understand we have saved in the freezer a good amount of meat which helped as well.

Now let’s talk about laundry, nothing could be more fun.  I don’t mind doing laundry, I only have an issue with it when I haven’t kept up on laundry and I know I must do twelve loads to catch up.  For two years while I was living in an apartment building without a laundry room, I washed my loads by hand in a bucket and dried them on a makeshift line in my bathroom.  Ewwww.

Now I have a washer and dryer in my house and it feels luxurious.  Mr Pilver loves the non-scented detergent made by companies who don’t use yucky toxins, but I stopped buying those to save money.  We were using whatever was the cheapest on the shelf any given week.  So, I decided to see if I could make some.  Turns out it is crazy easy and enormously economical.  Here’s a diagram:

I tried this last week with skeptical predictions.  The idea that I could use inexpensive commonly found items and create detergent that would save me a bundle seemed as possible as getting a free ipod if I clicked on the pop up ads on my computer screen.  But, it works.  It works well.  Considering how elementary it is, I wondered how we became to be a nation of convenience to the point we waist THAT much money on something we use so often.  And considering the extra toxic ingredients your national brands provide you with and I am convinced aliens are controlling the laundry detergent market and eventually, will add nasal probes to the mix which will suck out our brains.

You just want the recipe, so I will get to that.   But not before I mention that I posted that I made laundry detergent on facebook via my all-important-status-update feature.  I cannot believe the amount of people that responded.

OK, here we go.   You need:

1/2 bar of laundry soap grated with a cheese grater (roughly 1-1 1/2 cups)  I used Fels-Napthia

1 cup of Borax

I cup of Washing Soda

Clean Empty Jugs (Old milk jugs, old detergent jugs, 2 liter soda bottles etc)

a one gallon pot for the stove

a 3-5 gallon bucket, very clean

Step 1:  Boil 4 cups of water on your stove, turn heat to low and add all the grated soap.   Stir until soap dissolves.

Step 2: Pour hot soapy water into bucket.  Add Borax and washing soda and stir until they have dissolved.

Step 3:  Add one gallon hot tap water and stir.

Step 4:  Funnel your hot and sexy detergent into your clean jugs and containers.  Fill only 3/4 full, you will want to be able to shake jug before each use.

This recipe makes about 1 1/2 gallons.  Use 1/4 cup per load.

I have been using this for about a week now.  Haven’t had any troubles, I love it.  If you’d like, add essential oils to the mix to make it smellerific. Without oils, it has a faint soapy smell which you cannot really notice.  So, if you like a fragrant load of wash, you might want to pick up some lavender oil or something similar.

After talking about this old school laundry phenomenon with a few folks, I found out I was not alone in my thrifty laundry soap adventure.  If this one is not your bag, search online for more recipes.  There’s plenty out there!

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And here we go…

2010 was an epic

A year ago I was living in the city,
working in the city, shopping in the…yes, city. I resided
in a smart apartment with only The Max (my now nine year old son)
and I had recently begun dating my now husband, then long distance
(I was in MN he in WA) boyfriend. My days consisted of waking
up at 5:30am, dressing in the dark and somehow getting my son to
daycare by 6:00am. From there I would drive through heavy
traffic downtown Minneapolis and begin my workday at a busy
restaurant, Hell’s Kitchen. After work I would pick up The
Max, run some errands, and settle into our nights. We’d cook
supper, bathe, I’d put my son to bed and finish the evening with a
Skype call to my boyfriend. Sleep, Rinse, Repeat. My
life was predictable, comfortable and fairly typical.

All that changed January 14th
of last year. I had always planned to move to Washington to
be nearer to my boyfriend and my son’s father. But that day,
plans were put into motion when my boyfriend flew into town and
showed up on my doorstep on his knees with a ring. I moved in
less than a month.

New home, new fiance’, new life was
all waiting for me when I arrived. I left city living and
headed straight onto a twenty acre hobby farm with no phone
service, miles and miles from the nearest town. I left a
decent job and was unemployed. I left friends and was a bit
lonely. I gained much more.

Everything was a novelty. I
had chickens. I had a garden. I had a freakin’ mountain
in my backyard. It was like being on vacation every
day. With the wedding only months off, myself and Mr. Pilver
had much to do. We desired to finish the home he had begun
building as well as grow all the produce and raise all the meat for
the reception on our wedding day. I was exhausted thinking
about it back then, and when I think about it now, I don’t know how
we pulled it off. (Help from generous worker-bees in our family did
make a huge difference).

So here we are now, married and a
now functioning family of three. I never thought I’d be in
this place. I never thought I’d remarry. I never
thought I would have this whole American Dream swirling around my
head. 2010 was about as perfect as they come it seems, but
maybe because I have not yet lived through 2011.

small idea snowballed.

During our pre-wedding mania, we
would adventure on once weekly shopping trips. First to
Wal-Mart to pick up the cheapest essentials money can buy;
toothpaste, milk, etc. Our second stop would be Safeway where
we could buy the items we could not stomach to purchase at
Wal-Mart, mostly meat and produce. Before I was part of a
couple I would shop solo. I never went to Wal-Mart. In my
previous dozen or so adult years I could honestly say I’d made
trips to the store only a few times. I hated the place, I
loathed even the logo. To me Wal-Mart hatred was not a
statement of politics or of social status, but because it seemed
every person I knew who went there ended up with two things they
intended to buy and seven bags of plastic crap no one ever needs in
life. Also, I have heard many MANY
ladies give arguments like, “We NEED Wal-Mart to
survive. We CANNOT afford to live without it.” Wal-mart
has not been around THAT long, so I figured one could live without
it and still pay all their bills. So, last summer, I vowed
that 2011 would be a Wal-Mart free year.

As time went on and I began to look
forward to my resolution, I wondered why only Wal-Mart? I
grew up in a family of small business entrepreneurs. My
grandpa owned a few grocery stores which my uncle bought from him
when he retired. My dad owned a grocery store, my aunt a hair
salon, my sister a flower shop and myself, I owned a coffee shop
for a few short years. There is something fantastic about
small businesses that I love that I cannot love about chain
stores. I wondered if I could ONLY shop at small
locally owned businesses and still pay the bills.

Of course, this idea of small time
shopping comes with a price, a hefty price. Just take a look
at your local mercantile and check the cost of common items and you
will see what I mean. In order to spend what we can afford,
we were going to have to make some changes as to what we
bought. *light bulb*
What if we buy ONLY what we need? Luxury items
MUSt be made…grown…whathaveyou. So, a new
resolution was born. These are the loose rules:

Grow, hunt, fish, build, make, etc.
everything we can.

Buy locally what we cannot do in the
above rule.

And to
finish it off become as self sufficient in earth friendly ways as
possible. (car-pool, buy used when possible, survive with as
little garbage production as we can)

That’s a hefty goal, I

I am a hypocryte.

Green living, resoursfullness,
and all the earth day festivities are things I have half-heartedly
practiced in years past. But I want you to know, I do not
judge others for their ways nor do I expect ot be a perfectionist
in this area. I have spent thirty-two years not really
putting effort into conservationism, and I do want anyone to think
that my sudden desire makes me holier than thou. But, I am
going to try to change.

Ever since knowing Mr Pilver, he has
expressed his desire to pack up and head into the wilderness and
never look back, surviving soilely on the land and muscle. If
we took off today I would be dead in a year from starvation, some
crazy bug bite, or a predator that I do not know how to defend
myself from. But, I love his idea. To live out of
civilization is a bizairre dream I now have. If I am going to
ever achieve it, I better start practicing now, and this is a baby
step to that.

in our home, we have electricity, satellite TV, internet access,
running water and so on. We aren’t living as hippies of
yore. We are a modern family with almost all of the modern
conveniences available. We are just going to see what
we can do to reduce waste, shop locally, and save some

My Goals with this

First off, I suck at meeting goals I
specifically set out when I blog. So, expect I will break
them. What I want is to create a log of what we are doing,
things we are making, and the production of our property.
Expect me to show off what I grown in the garden and catch in the
river. I may add some how-tos of what item’s I make in leiu
of purchasing common household items. If nobody reads this, I
will still be glad that at the end of the year I will (hopefully)
have logged a year of recipes, tips and ideas that I myself can
resort back to in the future. I do plan on updating
both this site and The Pilver, and I may end up changing the name
of this because I wasn’t really creative in choosing the title.
Check back and forth between the two for new things.

Happy New

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