Saturday, October 18, 2014

Moving to Restore a Homestead???

So, last night I had a dream.  I dreamt Hubby walked in and told me we were moving.  The truck was on it’s way and we were getting out of this place!!!

Wooo Hooo….????? 

We were moving to Santa Cruz.  I should say, back to Santa Cruz.  Actually, back to Soquel.  Where I was being put in charge of the task of restoring my great grandmothers homestead that she had once fed and supported her family on.
Nanny and Me, oh I love that kitchen!!!
As I was taking down the curtain rods over the window I felt excitement for this adventure that we were embarking on.   To restore this homestead would take time and hard labor and I was totally up for the challenge! 

Bring it on I kept saying to myself. 

Then it hit me.  I would have to move back to California and back to Santa Cruz County where rules and laws are strict and half of what I owned in fun toys would not be allowed to come with me.  And would I really be allowed to take my chickens with me? 

My great grandmother raised chickens back then, over 70 years ago!  But would they let me reestablish the chicken coop and everything that entailed? 

Yea, I'm betting they wouldn't let me have cows, sheep, or goats now either.
Suddenly I was faced with multiple battles and hearings at the county level all in fighting for the right to keep my girls. 

I was sitting on the front porch, eating a banana, twirling the empty peel around in my fingers and thinking about the fights I would have ahead of me. 

What an honor to be chosen to move back and restore this wonderful 2 acres.  With the chinchilla house, guest house insulated with cardboard, falling down garage with no doors, green house, garden shed, lathe house, and the main house. 

The garage door.. always open and always dark!!!!
Wait, is the coffin freezer still in the back of the garage?  Cause that right there could be a deal breaker!!!!  That thing was scary as a kid!!!

What room would we pick to make the master bedroom?  And again… 1 bathroom????  Will I ever get to live in a 2 bathroom house? 

I get up; walk over to the compost pile.  Or, what was once the compost pile and would be, yet again, the compost pile, and think.  “How many pear trees did she have?”  “I wonder how much the plastic to re-cover the greenhouse is going to cost.” 
Nanny, between the guest house and garage

I toss the peel in the soon to be pile and survey the dilapidated buildings.  I was ready for the restoring task.  But, sadly, I was not ready for the moving back to California task. 

Santa Cruz weather… YES!!!!!!  Capitola Beach…. Totally!!!!  The Famous Pineapple Bran muffins on 41st….. I am there already!!!!  (Note to self: Research that recipe again!!!)  But the rules and laws of the area…..????  And the traffic???  And hustle and bustle???

I stopped taking down the curtain rods and looked at Hubby.  “Are we up for this?  Really, I will do it if you really want this?”  That is my way of giving him the out, while trying not to crush his dream.  Which he never takes, whether in real life or my dreams, he never tells me NO he doesn’t want to…. Because he doesn’t want to crush my dreams! 

I wonder how many things we have done for the other… that neither of us have really wanted to do????

I finally stop, get off the ladder, holding the curtain rod in my hand, put it down so he doesn’t think I would use it as a weapon, and exclaim “I don’t think…”

This is when I woke up.  Realizing…  1. I wouldn’t have to squash anyone’s dream and 2. The homestead is now a parking lot and an AutoZone store.  It only exists in our dreams now! 

But what did exist was the cup of coffee by my bedside that my hubby left for me!  Time to start my day!  On my homestead!!!  All built to honor my Great Grandmother. 
The family on the homestead.

Here’s to you Lillian Butcher!  Time to feed my man, and then the animals! 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Lessons Learned During Harvest Season! (My 4th year at Gardening in the PNW)

Maggie and I (Just before the harvest season began!)
I am canning.  I have been canning for about 3 weeks… Non-stop….

Ok, the non-stop is a lie.  I have been harvesting and canning and sleeping.  Everything else has been put on hold.  Because, well, this food is free…  and I don’t want to waste anything.  

Ok, the free part is also a lie.  This food is from 10 months of hard work and planning on my part in an effort to see if I could grow everything my family needs to eat and survive in the realm of Fruits and Veg. 

Hubby smiles when I call it Fruits and Veg.  He says I have been watching too many British gardening shows.  

And this would be the point where I would smile.  Point out that I probably have, watched a tad to many, and point to the garden.  

I win!!! 

Strawberry Jalapeno Jam!

But I am tired now.  I have canned well over 20+ cases of fruits and veg and I am not even close to being done.  And I can’t help but to think.  Not stop and think, because I cannot stop.  But to think.

My friends are out enjoying life right now.  Some, as I type, are at a group called ‘stiches’.  Some are on awesome vacations or teaching their kids a cool science project.  And the special group that I love are saving lives, all while I am stuffing apples into pint size jars in a rush to process them before they turn dark.  (Dark from the air…  not a metaphor as in going to the evil dark side). 

Awe, Apples!!!!

I often hear the words of ‘you should slow down’, or ‘You really should take a break’ and I cringe.  Because for the last year I have been on a challenge, albeit a self-challenge.  I have challenged myself to see if I could in fact grow everything that was needed to live on in the fruits and veg area.  

How well did I do?  Well, if you don’t count the 2 watermelons we bought for the special watermelon, black bean, corn salsa we wanted to serve for a family dinner… and the corn.. we did awesome!  
We actually grew black beans!!!  We are just saving the seeds for now. 
We tried growing corn.  We have 2 ears actually, still in the garden.  But the rest didn’t get enough water.  So they didn’t grow.  They also probably didn’t get enough sun either.  But I’m sticking with the water philosophy for now.     But, I should add that we can in fact grow awesome corn.  Last year we grew the most beautiful sweet corn ever.  This year, however, God held back on the early water that it needed and well, I, didn’t have the time.  

Watering the corn consisted of dipping watering cans in the barrel 200 feet away and carrying them down to cliff to where the corn was planting.  On a hillside.  With a steep slope.  

We didn’t think that one through very well.  Did we?  

So, knowing that we could in deed grow corn and that this crop would not be coming out as we planned, I took it upon myself to drive in land a bit and buy corn from a local grower.  Enough that I could freeze some, and can up the rest and make a few awesome Salsa’s with them.  

We did grow watermelon also actually.  Currently there are 9 melons on the vine trying their hardest to ripen.  We would have gotten them ripe already but a rabbit was mowing the plants down as soon as the leaves would grow.  Our wonderful Boxer garden dog took care of the rabbit for us, and the watermelon plants took off and well, they were late, but the weather is just changing, so there is hope… hopefully!  For a bite! 
Awe thank you Maggie!!!!

We grew Cantaloupe also!

The rest of our fruits and veg have come from our garden.   Along with peppers, onions, garlic, shallots and lettuces.  The Strawberries, and tomatoes and tomatillo’s, all came from our garden.  And the apple’s that are sitting in the bottom crisper drawer of the fridge came from our tree.  Picked in perfect timing, because the deer broke into the 9 foot garden fence the very next day and ate the apple tree. 

Garlic!!!!!!!  The shop smelt soooo good!!!
The apples that I am canning right now are from a farm that is in land.  My trees are young and well, for .35 a pound I bought 18.00 worth.  Huge, Jonagold apples are being canned up into Pie filling and Candy Spiced Apple’s.  The neighbors shared apples with us earlier and we made Apple Butter with those. 

Pressure Canners are your best friend when it comes to canning Veg!
This leads me to thinking, as I stand over the water bath canner.  I can’t stop.  Everyone tells me to take a break, and I dream of taking a break.  But I can’t stop.  This challenge I gave myself has turned in to a huge lesson.  I stand here with 2 more buckets of apples sitting next to me and I cannot stop processing them.  For if I do, they will for sure spoil.  And I will be left with nothing to feed my husband for the winter.  Which in today’s world, wouldn’t be the death of us.  But a mere 100 years earlier, it would have! 

How spoiled I have become in my thinking.  It was 5 years ago that I would have so willingly wasted this food and let it spoil and thrown it away for the chance to go hang out with a friend at a local Starbucks.  Without even batting an eye to the waste.  I would open the fridge every 2 weeks and throw stuff away that had rotted.  Hauling it out to the trash can.  The only thought in my mind at the time would be, eeeeewwweee ggaawwwdd this smells!! 
The Cherry Tomatoes we don't eat, get oven dried-roasted!

There was no thought to the waste of money.  Or the waste of resources.  Or a thought to the farmer that grew the onion that rotted in the bottom drawer of my fridge while I chose to eat takeout instead of using the onion I bought for the stir-fry I was going to make 3 weeks ago!!!  I might even still have that recipe I tore out of that magazine around here somewhere.

No onion goes to waste now!
But 100 years ago, this thinking would have been the death of me and my family!  And as I continue to process the food that is coming out of the garden I have to remind myself of this.  And often!  Because I am tired and there is no help, and I want to eat!  

Yes, this is watermelon rind-pickled!

Note to self:  Don’t forget to label the potatoes in the shop before you forget which variety is which.  And finish cleaning up the onions for long term storage.

I know, I look odd on the outside to most people in my town.  And even the city I came from.  I know that.  I am often asked, ‘why don’t you just pick some up at the grocery store?’ or my favorite when I am talking about not being able to make a certain dish till next month (when the produce for it will be ripe) ‘Oh Safeway sells those!’

Yes, Safeway does sell ‘those’.  But that would defeat my challenge here!  

I would say we are 90% self-sufficient on Fruits and Veg.  And with that percentage came the following lessons:

It is harder than it looks.
There is always someone trying to eat your crops!!!

It takes a few years to get there.  Don’t expect to ‘grow’ everything you need to eat in the first, second, or even third year.  It takes time to learn and add.

It takes thought and research.

You will come to hate chipmunks, slugs and squirrels!  And I mean HATE!!!

You will have to readjust your recipes.  Cilantro bolts when it gets hot and wants to die and tomatoes don’t start to ripen till it’s hot!  Getting the produce to ripen all at the same time is an art form that takes practice.  Something the grocery store shelves don’t tell you.

If someone tells you, ‘you can’t grow that here’ research and research and try till you do it!!  I mean really… I grew sweet potatoes on the northern Oregon Coast!!!!  

Always make sure you tell your spouse just how much you HATE zucchini.  Because you will have to eat it if they plant it.  (I am sorry honey, saying ‘it’s not my favorite’ just wasn’t clear enough for me!)

When you plant sugar peas, plant twice as many.  And don’t expect any to make it into the house.  Trust me on that one.  

It is really, really hard work.  But, as you sit and eat the salad you grew from seed, you will know why you will be planting more in the coming spring.  

Quitting is not an option.  

Ok, quitting is an option.  For most of us!  But it wasn’t an option for our ancestors.  And while I am standing over the canner, getting a facial over the boiling water and sweating up a storm here, I want to quit.  Really I do.  But at what cost?  Today I can run to the store.  Granted the cost in gas for the tomatoes I would be buying would be more expensive than the actual tomatoes, what happens if I can’t get to the store in the future?  This took me 4 years of work to get to this point.  I might not have 4 years to start this all over again!!  

And it’s with this mindset that I will do it all over again next year.  But this time, I won’t be planting corn on a hillside!  

Joey, Helping me plant the lettuce he later pulled out!
And I will still plant zucchini.  For that off chance that it is the only thing that produces and we have to depend on it to survive!  The good news is… Zucchini is edible with bacon!  Bacon and cheese make everything taste better right?  The bad news… For all those months that Deer was living in our garden.. it never once ate the Zucchini!!!!  
Add caption
 So, when Deer don't eat zucchini, you can always can it to look and taste like pineapple!!!

Don't tell hubby the 'Faux Pineapple' is actually Zucchini!

My sidekick!

Even the compost bin produces!!!  Blackberries!!

One guess what this is????

Friday, June 27, 2014

Strawberry-Jalepeno Jam = Best Wife Ever!!!!!

I am pretty sure I raised my status as the best wife ever yesterday!

If that was even possible!!!!

Mexican Joe (That's the title he calls himself!)  From NE Texas Preppers sent me the recipe for his Strawberry-Jalepeno Jam several months back and I finally got around to trying it. (If you want to try it, you will have to ask him for the recipe!)

Ok, lets be real here.... It is raining and I want to be outside digging and moving dirt and I can not.  So I am cleaning out the freezer and canning everything up that can be canned!  Or I am making meals out of it.

I need to make room for more stuff!!!!

Back to the Jam.......

You know a jam is good when I not only am licking the spoon and pot but getting a piece of bread to get every last drop from the pot!!!!

It was that good!!!!

Now, people are probably turning up their nose and getting a weird look on their faces as they are trying to figure out if it would taste good.  Or even what it would possibly taste like??

Let me just tell you, it is strawberry jam with a tiny kick to it... just enough spice that it takes the jam to an entirely different level of - Oh this is good...... all the way to - Oh my goodness this is awesome!!!

And with that note, I am pretty sure Hubby will not allow any of these jars to leave the house.  So if you want to try it... you will have to come to the door with a piece of toast in hand and I will sneak you a slather of the jam.

It is that good!!!!

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go, the cat just stopped in front of the office door to throw up.  Time for a clean up!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014



I'm low on product for some time.  And I don't want to spend the money.... I mean, it's extensive stuff.  But for my skin... it's priceless when I want a light tinted coating of protection. 

So as I'm morning the last day of use on this tube.... I take it to the kitchen and cut it open, for hopes of just one more day!!!

What I find.. . Not only enough for today, and an entire small bottle......

But enough for three bottles!!!!

And I'm once again sickened by the thought of how many of these I threw away when I lived in Fresno!!! 

Hundreds of dollars worth of products in the landfill. Wasted money!!!

Not any more!!!

I'm on to you now Mr container!!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Someone stole Spring!

I want to make a report!!!

Seriously!  I want to know where Spring went.  First it was cold then it was not and then we were smack dab in the middle of a heat/dry wave that I have never seen living on the coast in Oregon... Ever!!!  Not complaining here.. I loved it and was getting a ton of stuff done here!!!!! 

We just got rain for the first time this month.  Which is like..... Totally unheard of here!  Well, at least since we moved here in 2010 that is.  And from the talk in the stores... it's totally unusual.

So, last month I woke up and planted all the plants in the garden.  Tomatoes, Peppers, Onions (only about 1,000).

No seriously, about a 1,000 onions!!!

What was I thinking!!!!!??

I have 52 Pepper plants that are in the greenhouse waiting for their next pots and to grow up a bit.  I have others that we bought from a store (5) that are producing.  But that was cheating. So I am waiting for the babies to grow up.

I just discovered on my walk through the garden that the rabbit I saw yesterday is probably the culprit that is eating my husbands watermelon plants.

The rabbit should pretty much hop on the next greyhound that passes by here.

Oh, we don't have greyhound out here..... Hmmmmm.. Dinner?????

I have chicks on order coming next week I believe and through all of this... I did not plan on having to water the garden every few days.

That is something God usually does for me.

Hmmm... God?  How come you aren't watering the garden for us?  I mean, no problem really.  I can do it.  But I liked when you helped out.

So I start the process of using the drip system that I installed earlier this spring.

Thank goodness I installed the system, It saves so much time!!!  I spent one day watering half the garden and then the next day watering the other half!

The garden is about 6,000 sqft.  Not big at all.  Just about 3 times the size of an average American home is all!!!!!!!!

I used to worry about the well, well, all the time.  And Hubby would laugh at me and tell me "we have an excellent well, don't worry about it.  Just use the water!  We live in Oregon".

So I no longer worried about the well.

You are beginning to see where this is going right?????

So Hubby starts to notice that our water is cloudy.  And he doesn't want to worry me (He knows how much I love to flush the toilet!) so he starts researching why that would happen.  And we start asking around.  Because the dog won't drink out of her water bowl anymore because she can't see the bottom!

Special dog!  We move on.... ;-)

So, I am sitting in church.  And now I am praying, please don't let me worry about this God....

Ok, that didn't go so well.... But here is what God did during the greeting time at church.  The farmer in front of us turned around and we asked him the question about why it would do that.  And he said we probably got down to the bottom of the water and it started pulling in from it source for more and it all got stirred up.

We heard that from several people.  Also that it would clear back up in a few days.

Of which it did.  And what happened next, during the service, is what I want to share.

We all know that I am to grow a garden.  That is clear to me as being my job.  Well I am sitting there going back and fourth in my brain.  God, why would you want me to grow a garden, a large one that isn't even as large as you want... and not give me enough water to water it all?  And if the well wasn't going to be enough then why aren't you bringing me enough rain?  I need help here. We could lose it all!  I'm not understanding!

Then it hit me.  Yes, in the middle of service.  Please don't rat me out to the guest speaker we had.

I am given enough water!  I am given enough, But I am not using it wisely!

And that is when He proceeded to show me every single instance of where I am wasting the water He gave me!  And I feel so tall that if I was to sit on a dime.. my feet would dangle!!! 

By the time church was over, I had formulated idea's and plans in my brain on how we would get water to the garden.  And more exercise, which isn't a bad thing.  It would add more time to my day.  And create more work for us... But God never told me my life would be easy.

In fact, I think we all know, my life is not easy!  But I love every moment of it.  Even the snakes and chipmunk parts!

We get out of church and Hubby mentions the well again and I just start spitting all the ideas and plans I have... and he adds more... and we are both on board with the plan.. and we go home refreshed and renewed and very happy our church records the sermon so I can go back and listen to it to hear what it's about.

So what is changing?  Well,

1.  We put a large pot in the sink.  My Nanny had one of these in her sink.  She would collect her water from the sink and take it out to water the garden.  We now do the same.  We end up taking it out about 5-6 times a day to water plants.  We mark where we last watered and the next trip takes it from there.

It has showed me how much water we actually waste down the drain!!!! 

2.  The gutters we took down from above the front door (we are building a patio cover and they had to come down), have been rerouted to the other side of the shop.  20ft of gutters that will collect water.

3.  I researched and believe I figured out how to fix the leaking 55 gallon plastic drums that were leaking in front of the cottage.  They would never hold a full load of water.  So after reading up on it.. I went out and cleaned them up and slowly worked on each one.  It appears to have worked... If it does I will let you know how I did it.  I have a video of the first part here....

It's not a pretty edited video.. but it will have to do for now... Remember, I lost Spring!!!!!!

4.  I have reinstalled and set up the water barrels on this new side of the shop and connected them to the new gutters.  A totally separate line.  Not tied in to the 400 gallons on the other side of the shop.  I don't want to risk losing all of that water! 

That was last night that I finally finished it.  And this morning.... I woke up to rain! 

Can you just say praise God!!! Thank you!!!!!! 

I have been saying it all day!  I ran up in my PJ's and opened up all the cloche's so they could get watered and came inside to finally clean the house a bit. 

In the summer.... this house is not fit for anyone!  Not even us!  I spend every moment in the garden. 

5.  We are talking about reclaiming the grey water from the washing machine.  That is a total possibility.  Especially since I read that it uses 35-55 gallons of water per load!!!!  Yikes that's a lot of water!!!!

6.  There is a spring that was disrupted and relocated, via pipe under the driveway when we started construction here, that I am going to take a free barrel and dig a space to catch the run off that comes out of the pipe.  This way, we can hear the trickle like a stream out our bedroom window... and I can walk over and dip the watering can in to get water when I need it.  I just have to clear the weeds to find the outflow of the pipe that I know is there.... somewhere!  

You can see the grey pipe here.....

But the actual end of it is somewhere down here.....

Did I mention I saw a snake there on Monday?

I can do it! 

7.  I only do full loads of laundry and if I need to wash something separately I do it by hand.  I needed to wash a fleece jacket I love and recently it got this old dirty musty smell to it.  I couldn't stand to wear it.  So instead of throwing it in by its self.. I soaked it for a few hours in a gallon of water with some baking soda, then added soap and agitated it myself for a bit and rinsed it in a new gallon of fresh water.  Then rinsed it.  I used 3 gallons as opposed to the 35 gallons the washer would have taken.  And it didn't take any extra effort.  I let it sit and when I walked by it, I stirred it.

And can I tell you the smell is GONE!!!!!!  And it smells better then anything I could have washed in the washer!!!

8.  We water the garden by hand with watering cans.  Using the stored water as long as we have it.  This is a back up to the water that comes out of the kitchen.  

I don't recommend green watering cans.... they disappear in the garden! 

 Bottom line, I can look back at my childhood, what I was doing in church this last Sunday, and I can see how God was literally preparing me for this moment.  When I was young I lived through several water shortages in California.  We couldn't flush the toilets unless it followed certain guidelines because the price per gallon was so expensive during one crisis.  My great grandmother, who could literally get blood out of a screaming turnip, showed me without me knowing it, how to save every drop of water.  And I actually read all the pamphlets that came with our water bills on how to conserve.  It was all flooding back in to my memory while I was sitting there....

And I came home without a worry in the world.  We have enough water.  We just need to use it all wisely!  And catch as much as we possibly can when it rains! 

And I still have more barrels to catch more water!  Just waiting to be hooked up!!!!!