Sunday, August 29, 2010

Yesterday's project

A friend of mine just had a baby and I decided it was high time I got back into making baby quilts. The last one I made was in 2005! Life intervened, as it is wont to do, and I've missed making quilts for quite a few folks.

No time like the present to get started again. I whipped this up yesterday:

I decided on black & white because supposedly that's all a baby can see for the first while anyway. Maybe it's too stark though. I'm going to add a splash of color to it, just have to make another run to the quilt shop.

I wanted to make a quilt with the cirle motif and I saw a couple like this online. Most of them, however, do it differently than I did this one. They cut out a circle and, through different methods, sew it down on top of a square of fabric. I didn't want to do a ziz-zag stitch and I didn't want to mess with folding under the edges of the cirle (what a pain!). So I cut the circle out of the square fabric, placed a square piece of fabric under the hole, and folded under that circle. Does that make any sense at all? If anyone is interested I guess I can post more detailed pictures. In any case, it seemed to me to be way easier.

I think I'm going to take the plunge and do some machine "quilting" on this one. I use quotes because I just think using a machine to quilt is cheating! (And yet I am jealous about how much faster machine quilters can get their quilts done!)

I'll post a pic when it's all done.

(p.s. oops - I forgot that I have made two baby quilts since 2005 - both for my niece!)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Visitors & Visiting

This summer has been overwhelmingly busy, and I know it's not just me. I've heard from other overwhelmed folks too. I'm falling behind in my blogging, and sometimes I feel like we're falling behind in house and garden work!

Leaving house/garden work aside, this post is about visitors and visiting. The visitors came last week in the form of Thea the cat and 4 chicks, ranging from baby to adolescent. Jeremy's sister's family went out of town and needed to farm out their menagerie of animals (there is a dog too, but we draw the line at dogs!).

Due to loss of one chick and some replacements, they have two older birds and two younger. But they seem to get along just fine. One of them is very large and very obviously a rooster. We heard his funny attempts at crowing a couple times while watching him. The family can't have a rooster where they live so we get to keep him. However, we'll only be keeping him till he makes a decent sized meal, another month or two I'd say.

Here they are running around outside in a pen we put up for them. I love that they're small enough to hide under the violets! Though this smallness will work against us in future days... (cue the ominous foreshadow-y type music...)

Last Friday I took Jeremy out of town on a little visit down south to a goat farm, Dancing Winds Farm. It's not really a working dairy farm any more, but Mairi still has some goats, a cute farm cat or two, and some great neighbors. In fact, it turns out her newest neighbor is someone Jeremy has known for 20 years! We had a great time relaxing, exploring the farm, chatting with Mairi, petting goats, going to a farm celebration at the neighbors, and then Mairi arranged for us to go milk some goats at a neighboring farm. Morgan and her husband have lots of goats and are milking almost 40 right now, twice a day. They sell to another local place that makes cheese which you can buy at the co-op.

Jeremy ended up milking three goats. Morgan made it look so easy it was amazing. It's definitely part science, part art, and a lot of practice! Here are some images from our trip:

Look at that milking action!

Back to that little rooster now. We returned home on Sunday and made a little isolation pen for the rooster inside our chicken coop. A guy that little would definitely be harassed by any group of chickens. So we made him a little spot with food, water, grit, a roost, and a little box to hide in (he certainly doesn't need it for eggs!).

That day we cleared out an area next to the run and fenced it in. We've been talking about expanding the run since last year, but there has been a rotating mountain of stuff stopping us from doing that, not to mention the fence there. We finally decided we might as well do with the space we had - especially since we'd just carved out 1/4 of the run for the rooster. Those girls needed more space! We secured the fence and put bird netting over the top, then Jeremy cut a hole in the hardware cloth creating a little doorway for the girls to exit the coop in the "extra run" as we're calling it. They are loving the new space.

Monday night we went for a walk around the neighborhood. We came back and Jeremy went out to close the door to the extra run. He came back inside and informed me that he could not find the rooster. He was not in his enclosure.

We both went out to look, me with a flashlight and Jeremy with his headlamp. I checked his enclosure and sure enough: no rooster. I looked all around the coop, no rooster. The girls were all innocently perched in the hen house ("what rooster? we don't know anything about any rooster"). No rooster in the hen house or the nest boxes or the extra run.

Ack! Where was the poor little guy and how did he disappear!? We were both afraid he would get eaten by some neighborhood cat or dog or racoon or who knows what. Jeremy went out the back gate looking in the alley. I started looking all around the coop amongst the piles of bricks, pavers, tall weeds, etc. Then I flashed my light over by the fence and caught sight of a fluffy whiteish bundle: our little baby rooster! He was snuggled up by the fence, his chosen sleeping spot for the night. Jeremy went around behind and caught him. We returned him safely to his enclosure where he promptly showed us how he had escaped. He jumped up and climed through a large hole in the fencing we'd used for his enclosure! Our fat girls couldn't fit through that gap, but he could. Then he simply ran through to the extra run and crawled under the fencing or found a big enough hole to jump through - again, something we don't have to worry about with our big fat girls. =)

We put some more fencing up with smaller holes so the rooster can't escape now. I sure hope we can integrate him with our girls eventually. I think he would be much happier hanging out with other chickens and not being confined to his own pen.

Okay, okay, more cute goats! Some videos I took:

Friday, August 20, 2010

My, that's a tall garden you have...

I think it must be the vast quantities of compost and manure we put on the garden, but it seems outrageously tall. We’re growing the biggest marigolds I’ve ever seen and I’m almost sure tomatillos don’t usually get to 7 feet tall. Our tomato plants are pretty big, but still smaller than our neighbors. Our beans are trying to take over everything.

It's hard to see but the beans are trying to use the enormous tomatillos as more climbing support:

A couple of our raspberries have shot out new growth and are going for a second round of berries.

Unfortunately, our broccoli are mostly leaves and not much broccoli! We did harvest some earlier and it was tasty. We’ve also harvested some fennel. Our sage has turned into a jungle:

There is something wrong with the peppers and they’re turning to mush on the plant. The same is happening with our neighbor and some other folks. The diagnosis (we don’t know if we’re right) is that we've just had too much rain . It seems to be affecting the raspberries and melons too. Beautiful fruit but not much flavor. Maybe the culprit is just too much water.

What does one make with all this garden produce? A fabulous tomato-based sauce of course!

Jeremy made this with about 7 tomatoes, sage, rosemary, lemon thyme, garlic, green peppers, and mushrooms all from our yard; and local celery, onion, leeks, scallions, and ground pork (the local stuff came from our CSA and the co-op). My goodness this was a tasty, tasty sauce!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Light at the end of the tunnel

It's hard to believe I've only posted about the upstairs twice in the last month and a half when so much has been going on. Well... maybe not so much, but toward the end it feels bigger because every piece you put up finishes something and you don't have to deal with it again.

After the floor there was a long list of all the final trim things that needed to be done:

The transom over the door:

(still need to sand off the wood filler from the nail holes...)

The window trim and window seat:

(Can't wait to put some books in there!)

More window trim:

(The cute little window that will one day look down into the kitchen...)

(trim done in the front window - cannot wait to tear those stickers off!)

Trim around the closet door:

And then these stairs, which we're in the midst of fixing up. Jeremy put in some new nails because some of the old ones kept coming up. I stepped on one a couple weeks ago and boy did that hurt! The stairs are so old it seems like the nail holes are stripped (if you will) so a couple bigger, longer nails did the trick.

You can see the paint job is also horrific. I'm guessing a UM fan lived here - aren't these the colors? Anyway, not only are the steps multi-colored, there are paint drips all over. The plan is to paint the whole thing one color, including the bit of trim on the sides. I think it will look fabulous.

For those wondering about the final inspection, it was actually supposed to happen last week. We were all set to do it, with a plan for getting the desk, more trim, and the railing in on time - and then we discovered the railing didn't comply with code! Grr - stupid code. So Jeremy is just going to build his own now. We delayed the inspection by a month and I'm hoping everything will get done by then! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

300 Posts (and I'm not talking about fence posts)

300. It seems like an awfully large number. It feels like a milestone or a landmark. It's probably nothing compared to some folks' blogs. But I thought I'd call it out anyway.

I polled several people at my Meeting for an article about blogging and asked them why they blogged, why it was important to them, etc. There are as many answers as there are people I think.

This blog has come in handy in more ways than I ever thought would be possible.

- It was how we met some cool neighbors just down the street who had recently moved here.

- I've used it to find recipes I blogged about (but never wrote down anywhere else for myself)

- I've used it to remember when something happened, or when someone visited, or to identify plants

- Recently we've used the photos to figure out where the studs were in parts of our house that are now covered up (where on earth can we pound this nail in??)

- And of course we've used it to share about events, progress, new projects, problems with the city, and so forth

- And it has been a great place to keep my family and friends back home updated with what we're up to .

This is actually my third blog. My first one, which I still use very infrequently, is the Vicarious Travelblog (yes, I did think I was very witty with that title). I basically use that one when I'm off on some big trip. I kept the Atomic Antelope when I was in grad school. Perhaps a more boring one than this, but it was a good outlet for talking about my experiences of grad school. I'm glad I have that now - it's fun to read back through it and remember the things I learned and the projects I did. But I quit that at the end of grad school and started this one (which many of you know used to be Northwest Meets Midwest).

And so, Adventures in Urban Homesteading continues on, hopefully with more interesting homesteady things....or really, just whatever I feel like posting about! =)

Thanks to all my loyal readers, lurkers and followers alike.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

First Melon

Jeremy grew a short-season melon called Minnesota Midget. I guess it has an 85 day growing period or something. We have probably a dozen or so melons from two plants (these are the ones we planted over the catfish).
Jeremy went to check on them the other day and found one was ripe. It smelled so good even before we cut into it. It ended up having a very subtle flavor, not as sweet as we would like, but not bad.

(Yes, that baby is over a pound!)

Is it weird that we ate our first melon before our first tomato? We picked this and a second tomato the day after the melon:

We’ve been keeping an eye on a few tomatoes that have been looking red and finally these two were ready. But I know people here who were picking tomatoes weeks ago! Obviously we need a sunnier spot for them. Next year…

Wenesday morning Jeremy went out and discovered half a dozen or so of our melons were ripe and ready to pick! Anyone want a melon??

Friday, August 6, 2010

The election is coming! The election is coming!

I wrote this for our local paper, the Southside Pride, but they didn't have space for it in the edition that comes out for our neighborhood. It will be published next week in another neighborhood's paper. I'm kind of bummed it didn't make it in our neighborhood's edition because I want us to all get out and vote. Oh well. This is geared toward Minnesota, but I suppose it could be helpful for anyone out there.

It’s that time of year again. Political lawn signs are popping up like dandelions, our mailboxes are filling with flyers and brochures, the door-knockers are out, and the media is full of stories of who to vote for and who not to vote for. Since the “vote for me!” and “vote for him/her!” stories abound, this article isn’t about any particular candidate, but about the act of voting itself.

With the primary fast approaching (August 10) I want to share with you a list of reasons not to vote (and why I think those reasons are ridiculous).

One reason is: “I don’t have time to vote!” Yes, Election Day is only one day, but the polls are open all day, from 7am to 8pm. Also, every eligible citizen has the right to vote (see the eligibility disqualifications listed on the Minneapolis Elections website) which means your employer has to give you the opportunity to go and vote. “What if I’m going to be out of town on Election Day?” That’s no excuse either. Minneapolis provides absentee voting for just such a reason (and several other reasons). You can absentee vote in person at City Hall starting 46 days prior to any election. That means you can go and vote right now. You can also register to vote and vote absentee through the mail – without ever having to leave your home. So you see, you have plenty of time to vote!

Another reason is: “But I’m not registered to vote” or “It’s too hard to register.” That is ridiculous. Minneapolis makes it incredibly easy to register to vote and you can even register on Election Day at your polling place. Just ask the over 50,000 people who registered to vote on Election Day in 2008.

How do you register on Election Day? First, find out where your polling place is. You can find this on the City of Minneapolis elections website. If you don’t have access to that, stop in at any polling place you see and ask. The Election Judges can help you find your polling place. When you find the right place, bring a current Minnesota photo ID: driver’s license, permit, ID card, tribal ID. There are a couple other things you can bring – check the Elections website for the list. If you don’t have a current MN ID, you can bring in an expired ID and a current utility bill (as usual, see the Elections website for details). The list of approved documents and options for registering is so long, it’s almost impossible not to register! It may take a little work on your part, but it’s certainly not “too hard” to register to vote.

Another reason not to vote may be: “It’s too hard to vote.” By that I mean there are so many candidates, so many options, which do you choose!? Yes, there can be a lot of candidates to choose from and it takes some time to research all the options. If you decide to take the plunge there is help. The League of Women Voters and the League of Young Voters often publish voting guides, as do newspapers and other sources. Do a search online for voting guides and see what turns up. Think about your values and beliefs and vote for the candidates who match those (and please don’t vote for a candidate just because they’re a particular party!).

Some of you may be saying: “The elections are all rigged anyway, so why vote?” Ah the conspiracy theorists. Sometimes the evidence seems overwhelming, but I’m not going to let that stop me from voting. If we all stop voting then there will be no elections and where does that leave us? There are arguments for different kinds of government, but I’ll let someone else write that article. This is the government we have and voting is one of the ways we can participate. Until we have a different government I am going to keep voting. If you want to keep an eye on things, become an Election Judge. All those people in the polling places that help you register and vote are your neighbors.

And by the way, some of you may be thinking of skipping the Primary on August 10 because it’s “not as important” as the general election in November. Think again! The Primary will be nominating the candidates that you’ll see in the general election. If the candidate you like loses in the Primary, you won’t be able to vote for them in November!

I know some of you are using these excuses, or others, because voter turnout isn’t so good around here. Actually, Minnesota in general has some of the highest voter turnout percentages in the nation. But still, we haven’t reached 80% voter turnout in over 50 years. That means every year there are almost one million eligible voters who don’t vote (and that’s just in Minnesota!).

That’s pretty embarrassing for a country that considers our selves the “guardians of democracy.”

I admit to having a higher sense of our voting responsibilities since I became an election judge two years ago. Every election, primary and general, I sit in my assigned polling place ready to help people in my ward register and vote.

And every election I am stunned by the lack of voter turnout. People forget, they don’t care, they don’t have time, they think it’s too difficult, or doesn’t matter. Shame on us who have become so indifferent and complacent that we don’t care about voting anymore. We need a reminder of our history. It was less than 250 years ago that we were fighting to be our own nation, fighting for the right to vote, decide on our own representatives and our own laws. You women out there, we only gained the right to vote 90 years ago. Women in the suffrage movement were jailed (and worse) as they fought for the right to vote. Do we now take voting for granted?

Your excuses have been laid to rest. I hope you will join me on August 10th and November 2nd as we vote for Minneapolis School Board members, Minnesota governor, and new Representatives. (And if you want to be an election judge, check out the Elections website for details on how to apply.) See you at the polls!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What to do with ground cherries

Jeremy grew ground cherries and tomatillo this year. Don’t ask me what the difference is, they look the same to me! The ground cherries have been ripening for weeks and we just have piles and piles of them lying around. Sometimes I catch the squirrels up on the terrace munching on them. (Stupid squirrels.)

I picked several containers of them last week and Jeremy convinced me to make some Ground Cherry Bars, a recipe from Simply in Season cookbook.

You need 3 cups of ground cherries with the papery husk removed.

After hours of processing (or what felt like it) I finally had the required three cups:

You mix this in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of brown sugar and 3 tablespoons of water. Bring it to a boil then reduce heat. Mix up 3 tablespoons each water and cornstarch, add to the saucepan, and heat slowly, stirring constantly. After what seems like forever, it will thicken up nicely. Just don't overcook it - the ground cherries should still be whole.

Then cream together 1 cup butter, 1 1/4 cups sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract. Add 4 eggs and 2 cups of flour to this. Pour it in a greased 10x15 jelly roll pan. I used a glass baking dish (all I've got) that's more like 9x12 so I think the bars turned out differently than they might have if they were shallower.

The directions said to score the surface of the batter into 30 squares and spoon a little of the ground cherries onto each square. I ended up just pouring the ground cherries all over the top. Same thing.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, then cool and cut into squares.

Personally, I liked the fluffy, lemony batter better than the ground cherries. They're not bad though, but an interesting taste/texture to get used to. And we'd better get used to it because we've got another 3 or 4 cups of ground cherries waiting to be eaten!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sewing, sewing, sewing

You may (or may not) have noticed things are sometimes quiet around here. It's not just that I have a part-time job now, it's that I have a full-time sewing job!
I continue to do sewing projects for friends, family, strangers, etc but I've also have a tent at our local Midtown Farmers Market.

I decided to have really low expectations (that I wouldn't sell anything) just so I wouldn't be disappointed. So I've been pleasantly surprised that I've been doing well. And by doing well, I mean I've at least paid for my fee each week. =)

I've been enjoying myself though, and getting to know some of my fellow vendors. I applied for and got accepted into the Powderhorn Art Fair this coming weekend (August 7-8). I'm trying not to have any expectations again, but it would be cool if I sold everything! Of course - then I'd have to sew like crazy to make it to the farmers market two weeks later. So maybe... 2/3 of everything? =)

Anyway, here are a few examples of things I've been making (and sometimes even selling!):

Tea cozies (they're for tea pots)

Pot holders:

Wristlets (generally fits a cell phone, keys, and your ID - for people who don't like to carry around a lot of baggage. =)

Lots of cloth shopping bags (I'm particularly fond of this one I just made this week out of a curtain or something)

Jeremy picked out the fabric for this one:

And if you remember the bag I made for my sister, I'm making those too. This is a variation in corduroy:

I quite like the little reveal pocket on the front

And of course it's got the little pocket inside.

I've also got some quilts, like the ones I posted about in March, and a few other various things. My 10-foot square tent is packed out and it looks rather like I've been quite busy. I have been! And I've mostly enjoyed it too.

I hope some of you local folks will come by this weekend to check out the fair.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Growing terrace

I am so far behind on blogging I wonder if I’ll ever catch up (or what I’ll decide never to blog about anyway!). The last pictures you saw of the terrace were just after we’d planted the strawberries so it looked pretty much naked and bare.

It is looking great now. Here is what we have in there: strawberries, lingonberries, and cranberries in the terraces; rhubarb, asparagus, strawberries, cranberries, parsley, bee balm, ground cherries on the top. There are also some black-eyed susans and milkweed growing here and there.

As you know we had to dig out the back side of the terrace because of city codes. The plants seem to have survived so far and the one spreading ground cover is starting to come back.

I'm afraid the pictures really don't do it justice - or maybe I just took these on a day that was too bright. I'll keep trying and eventually you'll get to see a really good picture of it (or you'll just have to come over and visit!).

Monday, August 2, 2010

Furry visitor

Last week a friend of ours rescued a bunny in the park. She and her dog were out walking early in the morning, and the tiny little black and white bundle ran (hopped?) up to her. Definitely not a wild park bunny. She took it home, put it in a box, and gave it carrots and sprouts to munch on. She hasn’t had any luck finding the owners. (I’m guessing someone got a rabbit for their kid for Easter and they finally got tired of taking care of it and dumped it in the park to fend for itself. Don’t get your kids chicks and bunnies for Easter unless you intend to take care of them for a long time!)

Anyway, our friend had to go out of town for the weekend so she asked us to bunny-sit. How could we say no to that cute little face?

We thought this would be a good trial run since Jeremy wants to get rabbits someday. It was very cute, and liked to eat all the time, but I think it had been neglected (really long nails) and maybe even abused. It was not the friendliest rabbit (at least to me!) and preferred to hide out in its box. I did enjoy setting up a comfy space for it. Our friend (who lives in a condo and doesn't have piles of wood chips and hay lying around, like us homesteaders) didn’t have any bedding in the box at all. I added a pile of hay and a little cardboard box for the bunny to rest in. She really seemed to enjoy this.

(Of course I only got a shot of her when I had the wood chips in, before I put in the hay. But you get the point.)

We thought briefly about keeping the bunny as a pet, since no owner has come forward, but we decided not to in the end. Our friend collected the bunny on Sunday night, and it still needs a home!