Growth is a double edged sword. Unchecked, growth can be cancerous and destructive. It is this type of ceaseless expansion that has put our society into the precarious environmental and financial positions in which we currently find ourselves. On the other hand, growth can be regenerative and life-giving. Following a forest fire or a bitter winter, the first green shoots to emerge from the earth bear witness to the earth's ability to restore life in the wake of disaster.

My goal for this blog is pretty simple and open-ended: I want to document and share with family and friends my efforts to incorporate an ever increasing degree of self sufficiency, voluntary simplicity, and environmentally-conscious design into my life as a would be urban homesteader.

Monday, April 26, 2010


I thought that I had gotten an early start on planting this year, but it doesn't seem like it's translated into much by way of early eating. I finally harvested some radishes this past week, Cherry Belle's and French Breakfast. I had a bed of Winter Density Lettuce that looked pretty nice, and a nasty thunder storm with spotty hail tore it up pretty good.

A pretty bunch of French Breakfast radishes

My Sugar Snap Peas are climbing their trellises nicely. If they're played out by time the Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans are up and running, I might repurpose them there. Tomatoes and Eggplants are in the ground underneath cold frames or low tunnels. That's a solid 2 1/2 weeks earlier than last year. If I can get those two working together ala Eliot Coleman, I'm going to shoot for a full month early next year. The weather has been pretty soggy for the past weekend, and the rest of the week looks like more of the same. I might try starting Cukes and Squash indoors this year, as opposed to direct seeding them. We'll see how that goes.

Home made Peas Trellis. I think it looks nicer than the chicken wire I've used in the past.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mending Fence pt.2

The new fence from our front yard. All of the white slats were salvaged from the original fence.

Way back in March, I undertook what I anticipated to be a weekend-sized job: replacing the worn out and collapsing fence on the South side of our back yard. The actual demolition only took a couple of hours. The rebuilding, on the other hand, took a bit longer. As per usual, conflicting schedules caused the process to stop and start multiple times. It proceeded very slowly. I finally finished building it within the past week or so. It still needs to be painted white, and I'll have to play with the grade at the gate so that it opens smoothly; but other than that I'm pretty happy with it. Pushing it forward to the front edge of our house has added about 30'x23' of space to our back yard.

Right now it's a great space for the kids and chickens to rummage, and will hopefully have raised beds going around the edges in the near future. Down the line, I'd like to put a trellis or arbor over the gate and some fruiting bushes on the front side of it. For now, though, I need to dig up some exterior paint and let the twins get their inner Tom Sawyer on. At the current rate of progress, that'll happen sometime at the end of summer. We'll see...

Inside the fence, I've got eight 2'x3' pop-up raised beds that are going to be filled and planted .

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Flashback: Hog Butchering 2009

The Crew: Buster, Jon, Uncle Rick, Me, Tater Tot, Dad, Uncle Dean, Wingnut, Alex, Jackson, Erik, Rob *DT is missing

Last Fall, on the day after Thanksgiving, while most Americans were participating in the vulgar ritual of conspicuous consumption known as "Black Friday", I had the pleasure of helping my family to butcher 3 hogs that my dad had been fattening up since the previous Spring. It was a lot of work, but it didn't seem hard working with brothers and cousins and uncles. I vaguely remembered butchering from when I was little, but that was almost 25 years ago. It was fun and gratifying to be involved in the process as an adult.

By the end of the second day, we had 6 hams, slabs of bacon, ribs, shoulders, a tub of chops, mountains of sausage, gritswurst, sackwurst, and a bucket of rendered lard. Everyone got to take some home, and there was a ton in my parents chest freezer. My uncle Dean smoked one of the shoulders for our Christmas get together. It was phenomenal. We've have the bacon a few times. It was good, fattier than most store bacon, but good none-the-less. My mom baked one of the hams for Easter. It was awesome. The sausage has made its way into breakfast and pizzas on multiple occasions. The lard makes the most amazing (if dietarily incorrect) fried chicken and pie crust. Theribs are going to be barbequed when school is over. As for Gritswurst, if you don't know what it is, then you haven't lived a full life.

All of the delicious food pales in comparison, though, to the great memories and sense of accomplishment that came from doing honest, meaningful work with friends and relatives. My children, who witnessed the entire process from start to finish, now have an understanding and appreciation for where their food comes from that virtually none of their peers do. Our culture's disconnect from the source of our sustenance is one of a handful of issues that form the root of most of the problems we face as a society. Giving my kids the chance to experience this sort of thing connects them to our family's history, and gives them the grounding they will need to thrive in a future where we will have a much more visceral connection to our food. I sincerely hope that butcher day (and things like it) be come a more regular feature of our family's life.

One last treat before the excitement begins...

The kettles were cooking early in the morning

The hogs were hung from a tree for skinning

Rob is trimming out a slab of ribs

The cuts of meat awaiting packaging

DT prepping a ham for wrapping

Yours truly sewing up a ham so it can hang and cure

Some of the fruits of our labor