Sunday, April 26, 2009

I'm about to go hippy on you

Which isn't that odd considering I rarely get a chance to shower. Many people probably think I am a hippy with my Unitarian Universalist bumperstickers, lack of showering and at the best of times at least one mismatched and/or dirty kid. But here I delve into another concept other than personal hygine and car decor, the topic of Homesteading.

Homesteading, what's that? Isn't that the credit I get on my taxes or something?? Well, at least in Florida it is but it's also a movement towards going backwards. How's that for confusing! In our search to find alternative (and inexpensive yet reliable) construction options I stumbled upon this fabulous concept called Homesteading. Homesteaders come in a whole kelidescope of depths. You can even be an Urban Homesteader!

Many Homesteaders I've come across are mild to spicy Christians. So if you're not so inclined in beliefs, try and sift out the pertinent information. Another word for Homesteading might be Sustaining. Sustainability is a word getting thrown around a whole lot by some pretty big wig non-sustainable Corps. It's almost ironic if it wasn't so sad really because their misuse of the word and concept is getting marred by their dependence on providing non-sustainable goods.

It really gets me that they give out reuseable GROCERY/SHOPPING bags. Yes, I too am moving away from plastic bags BUT the point would be to NOT keep shopping!!!!

Enter in Homesteading.

This brilliant little idea gives power back to people. Imagine not having to run to the store every time you needed something. Imagine knowing HOW to make your own consumable products, like soap, candles and cleaners and knowing WHAT is in each and every product! Forget highpriced organic veggies, grow your own! There is an abundance of information out there just waiting to be snatched up and put to good use.

Can't make/grow your own? Look into a community garden or find other local homesteaders. Put your money into the hands of others that share these foundations of freedom.

Some of my favorite homesteading sites are

Wow, building debt free, living off the land, leaving stressful jobs to be with your family, homeschooling, limited/no TV, living with less and so many other ideas verging on hippy. It's almost like the natural, granola movement but set about 100 years before that...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Urban Gardening

One of my goals is to produce enough of our own fruits and veggies (and possibly nuts) to feed us each year. Lofty goal I know, especially considering we enjoy lots of food not native to Florida. We may have to suppliment with bought foods but hopefully we can stick with farmers markets or other local growers.

Around September I started a few Earth Box type container gardens made from 2 plastic storage totes and a pvc pipe. While not completely thrifty it was still more economical than buying the Earth Box brand and much more feasable than creating an in ground garden.

I planted 3 boxes each with 2-4 types of seeds. Went inside to wash my hands and my proactive husband moved them around and I was unable to label them because I couldn't remember what was where!!! So, the boxes got left unlabeled to "see what grows where". Now we're about 7 months later and here are the results...

One box with about 5ft tall stalks for cherry tomatoes with two lovely little beauties growing.
There are also a few other green thin sprouts about 3" long that i have no idea what they are.

The second box has about six pounds of dill growing with nice, thick stalks. I just harvested a bunch before taking this photo, enough to give my neighbor a nice fresh handful and at least another good handful for me to use and hang to dry. We won't be short of dill anytime soon.
Also in this box is one lone plant that's coming right along....and I have NO idea what it is!!! Any ideas??

The third box was succumb to the elements and lost all the original sprouts. Thinking nothing would come of it I dumped a bunch of lettuce seeds in there from a package my daughter opened. Well, I now have a tiny forest of lettuce sprouts. I have some pots to replant some but will have to thin them out. I also threw some spare chive seeds and those have sprouted as well.

Seeing the issues with initially planting a million seeds in an earthbox I decided our next round would be with some smaller greenhouses where we could control the number of plants. The kids each got a flat and we spent the morning planting seeds in them. We have pumpkin, lavender, watermellon, carrots, yellow and red peppers, cucumbers, bunching white onions, tomatoes and about 40 corn seeds. If these seeds take we'll be in seventh vegetable heven by the fall. These were all very well labeled too. We used organic soil and organic seeds from Peaceful Valley (

Right now we'll continue with container gardening until we are established up on our 5 acres. Then I hope to have had lots of experience with farming and be able to plot some large areas. If we dont' get anything more to grow we'll have 1/4 of a salad and enough dill to last until retirement. Hopefully, more will come! We are having some issues with aphids and I found a fat caterpillar in the tomatoes. I need to research how to dry herbs and prune back tomato plants before I end up with a porch full of those!

Here is Olivia with her pot she painted herself and the teeny sunflower sprout residing in it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The start of a dream

For over 8 years we've been itching to build our own house. We start out planning what we'd do and then it fizzles out as doubt and speculation emerge. Bringing our dream to a negative halt. A few years later we pick it up again and the cycle continued. This year we decided to take a step towards this dream. We decided to purchase some land.

We found this great company with some really great people. Our realtor Doug was such a great guy. Non-pressuring and helpful, with lots of other characteristics not usually seen in real estate guys (I know I worked for some). Jim Jean realty is a family owned business run by Jim and some of his six kids. Our brood of 5 and I were warmly welcomed into their offices.

I made the 2 hr hike up to Gainesville to check out some land I found on their site in an area called Beville Estates. 5.3 acres to be exact. It's set out in the country but not too far from the city and all the regular amenities of urban life. The land was a sod farm that was broken up into twenty 5-acre lots. Each lot only allows for 1 single family home more than 1000 sq. feet. Which was wonderful because we knew that no developer was going to come in and stick 200 homes next to ours.

With Rob in Iraq, the second part is probably being more difficult which is choosing and laying out a floorplan. Although, with him so far away it's probably better since we can't get into arguments over details quite so easily.

Here's a shot of our land...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Simple Squares Baby or Lap Quilt Tutorial

I had a lot of fun figuring this out. While I'm sure it's something that has been done before, I wanted to give you a simple, quick beginners quilt guide based on the quilt I made. I used 1 charm pack and supplimented with my own fabrics to extend the pack to 2 quilts. This is my first time doing a quilt tutorial so if I erred please post a comment! finished dimensions are approx 40x45".

Here are the supplies needed:

1 charm pack of fabric

1 yard coordinating

1/2 yard coordinating

1/2 yard coordinating

1/3 yard for binding

40x50 piece of batting

44x50 piece for backing

Part of the fun of working with a charm pack is that most of the work is already done for you. The fabrics are all coordinating saving time trying to match and using solid coordinates helps to focus on the fabrics in the pack. You will need to have 42- 5" x 5" squares for the center of the quilt. I supplimented some in the charm pack for the coordinating fabrics I used around the edges. I felt this gave it a more cohesive feel.