Saturday, January 31, 2009

Free Chipper

I have been wanting a chipper for many years. Yet, the price is just too exorbitant to justify my desire. In the city I live, I have to pay to drop off my yard waste, they turn it in to compost and then I have to pay to buy the compost. Seems like the city is making out on that one. Personally, I would like my own yard waste to stay in my yard and feed my plants.

While talking to my neighbor about pruning and waste, he mentioned he had a chipper that he hasn't used for several years. Last month I became the lucky recipient of a free chipper! He said it had been sitting in the rain for a while and was all locked up.

On Christmas, my dad, my brother and his dad all gathered around the chipper in my garage and tried to figure out what was wrong. First thing they found was a large metal padlocked jammed in the blades...go figure. Once that was taken care of, they got the engine started but only if they continuously poured gas directly in the carburetor. Realizing that this would not be a good, long term solution and $111 later, the chipper runs beautifully - except it wont chip anything.

Explaining this to Darrin just brought confusion:
"Did you get it running?"
"Yes, but it's not chipping."
"But, it's running?"
"Then how's it not chipping?"
"You'll just have too look for yourself to understand."

After he tried chipping and realized what I had been trying to say, we took it apart and found that the blades were so dull as to not be considered blades anymore. After much struggling to get the blades off, we decided to try to have them sharpened instead of spending $65 on new ones and just adding more stuff the landfill...

So, I now have freshly sharpened blades and a chipper that was taken apart several weeks ago, ready to be reassembled this afternoon and finally chip and the trimmings I have been pruning for the past several months!

Happy Birthday Ryan!

I can't believe that you are 7 years old! How did that happen so fast?

I made chocolate chip pancakes and bacon for breakfast - and I got an "This is awesome mom, you nailed this one!" That's always good to hear from your 7 year old. It makes my mom heart feel good. However, one word of advice - candles in hot pancakes melt...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My future garden...

My seeds are up! The heating pad trick worked like a charm. In fact, most of the seeds sprouted within 3 days! 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I feel like I spend most of my time needing to take care of stuff. Putting stuff away, sorting stuff, cleaning stuff, finding a place for stuff - how did stuff start to rule my life? And a good follow up question is why do I always seem to want more stuff?

I feel like I pare down a lot and frequently, yet it never seems to really cut that much stuff from my life. I have several garage sales every year, much to the chagrin of my neighbors. But somehow I still have too much stuff. I can't even park my car in the garage because of it all!

I guess that part of my desire to live more simply and not consume is to not bring as much stuff in my house to begin with. Of course, the money savings is nice too...

One of the things I have been thinking about recently are my priorities. What do I actually want to spend my life doing and how do I want to spend my days. One answer is not taking care of stuff and working to accumulate more stuff. I want to spend my time with my kids, my family, my friends, cooking (when I want to), and spending time in my garden. Working to pay for my house might be a necessary evil, since I don't have an acceptable cheaper option right now.


So, I've already mentioned that re-using and recycling things takes more effort and work. Is it worth it? I have wanted a greenhouse for many years, in fact, probably since I was 15 years old. But, why spend the money? Because a really good greenhouse is an investment - a serious investment.

Yet, the dream remained. I have spent many nights laying awake thinking about how I could fashion one out of recycled things. But, no recycled things have shown up - until now.

On my way to work on Monday, I spotted a huge pile of trash outside a house - and there was an old french door laying right on top! I was so excited! As Darrin works right around the corner, I called him and asked him to bring his truck around before someone else snapped them up. Very dubiously he agreed and even more exciting for me was there were four doors! Some of the panes were broken, but that is easily (and cheaply fixed). I spent the rest of day, dreaming about how I could assemble my new creation...Darrin, on the other hand spent the rest of day wondering what he was doing with such a nut with a ton of projects constantly going on.

My plan is an 8' x 8' structure with the doors horizontal for the top half of the walls and shingles for the bottom half. Sounds great, but where am I going to get the rest of the materials? When I dropped my niece off at her apartment complex today, I noticed that they are re-doing all of the roofs. And guess what - they are taking down and throwing away cedar shingles. A little dumpster diving and I will have almost all the materials I need to build my little dream greenhouse!

Here are a few pictures just for inspiration:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Feeding the Soul

I know that this most likely falls under the column of procrastination, but I have been cooking. A lot. Not just your average everyday, cooking for my family to survive cooking, but COOKING. I have been baking bread from scratch. (A wonderful, rustic, no-knead bread that is awesome with soup!) I have been making soup, making my own cheese, preserving things (my very generous mother, got us a Food Saver), and generally feeding my family really well. But more than that, I have been feeding my soul. There is something about cooking for me that makes me feel connected to what I'm eating and feel that is more nourishing to me than just opening up a package or stopping on the way home for take out. 

Since I am on a month of no buying, both of those options are severely limited for me. However, this whole cooking thing has been going on for a couple of months now. There is something about it that is self care and makes me happy.

I currently have bread rising in the oven (because with the heater turned down, it is too cold in my house) of a new recipe that I hope will be awesome! I have been looking for a great sandwhich loaf of bread. If you haven't noticed, bread is really expensive, especially semi-good bread. And then, it's really not that great. So, I would like to find a recipe that gives me really good, homemade bread that you just want to slather with butter and eat straight, or will make just about any sandwhich wonderful... Is that too much to ask? I hope not! 

Unexpected Blessings

Life is sometimes bittersweet. However, God is good. I have been really, really missing my kids when they are at their dad's. This morning after church, their stepmom invited me to go to the park with them after we searched my garage for the missing skateboard. It was really nice to get to play with my kids even though I had planned an afternoon to work on my thesis. Thanks Shelly! I did get some awesome photos of the kids and some great ones with their sister as well... 

And it is sunny today! This may sound funny to people who live in parts of the country where it actually rains, but I live in the Central Valley of California. And it's foggy. For months. Starting around Thanksgiving and ending sometime around Easter, we are constantly fogged in. The fog makes everything wet, drippy and moldy and for people like me who were raised in Southern California, depressed. So when the sun manages to burn off the fog - I'm outside! and it's amazing how much my spirits brighten up just with a little sunshine!

Friday, January 9, 2009


I know this is an obvious one, but re-using stuff takes more work and is more time consuming than just buying new. As we are on our second month of not buying anything except food (and this month food only consists of fresh fruits and veggies from the farmer's market and milk and eggs from the store), I had extra incentive to re-use the cute little picket fence that used to enclose my garden. We have started clearing the side yard and are getting ready to dig out the new beds, but the picket fence cut the yard in two and shaded too much of the garden. Therefore, it had to come out. I was going to reinstall it to keep out the chickens, cats, dogs and children from my new garden.

However, there are a few problems. The first is that whoever installed it to begin with, set the posts in cement (which is good, but heavy) however, they buried the fence posts too deep and have since rotted...So, I ended up digging up cement and have a fence that is only semi-useable. 

So here is my question - do I really need to enclose my garden with a fence? Although the chickens are currently free range, it cannot continue. They poop on the patio - A LOT. The dog will not be staying here that much longer and I think I can convince the kids to stay out of the garden...So, maybe I can get away with making a bigger run for the chickens and the garden wont need one?

I am amazed at how much space I now have for my veggies! I am getting so excited that I am allowing myself an hour a day to work on it (no more than two hours) so I can get in ready in time for planting and still work on my homework!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Photo(s) of the day

Enjoying space to run and roam...

Papa pushing Max on the tire swing, while Ryan is climbing the tree!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New things

I have never been big on making new year's resolutions. I think that they are generally setting myself up for failure and I think that I have enough of a head start on that all by myself, thank you. However, as this is the new year, I have been reading other people's resolutions and things they have done over the past year. I have been thinking a lot about my life - where I want it to go, what I want out of it, what I can do... I have been well trained in American consumerism and that has not been a very satisfying life. Over the past several years, I have been trying to pare down. I have been growing a little garden, shopping at Farmer's Markets and make a lot of my own stuff.

Yet, now that I am approaching the end of grad school I am starting to wonder why I just took out so much money in student loans so I can work more and spend less time with my kids. How does all this come together living in California where houses cost a bundle and you are not allowed to grow anything that makes noise?

Speaking of that I do have chickens...illegal chickens. In fact, over the holidays, my mother brought me 4 more chickens. From a neighbor who doesn't want any more chickens but continues to let her hens sit on her eggs? Go figure... I locked them up in the coop for a few days thinking they had the roosting thing down and knew where home was before I let them out in the back yard with the 3 older ones. However, they have decided to start roosting on top of the wall behind the chicken coop. This probably wouldn't be such a big deal except this wall backs up to a very busy 4-lane street and again, they are illegal... So tonight I went out again with a flash light at dusk and put them back in the coop.

And I'm fairly certain the one with the hair is a rooster...

So, on to my garden for the year. We have some fairly ambitious plans for expanding our garden. Ambitious, especially when I think about my thesis and spending any time with my family!

This was what the side yard looked like in it's pretty days:

Behind the little picket fence, I had some raised beds that have variously held carrots, spinach, radishes, tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupe, eggplant and honeydew melon. We added a few new wine barrels outside the fence and planted a fall garden but the chickens decimated it and thought I had planted it just for them! I do have a few broccoli plants left and have planted garlic, yellow and white onions (with extra chicken wire until my new fence is completed!)

This is what my side yard looks like now that I have taken down the table and little patio I built. Hopefully, we can get the soil in some kind of condition to plant soon because I have quite a list!

Garden plans:
Potatoes - Purple Peruvian, fingerlings and Yukon Gold
Summer Squash
Winter Squash

I do have other spaces in my garden that some of this is planned for. By my shed I have a nice sunny patch for the Asparagus. And across the yard a new bed for the melons. Now I have to build a bigger run to keep the chickens in to protect my produce!

Photo(s) of the day

This is what happens when bored teenage girls watch little boys...

Monday, January 5, 2009


I think I might have too much technology in my life. Between reading blogs (which is strangely addicting - reading about people's lives that you have never met), flickr (which I have just discovered), and facebook (which Darrin has just discovered), I am conveniently not getting any work done on my thesis. Add to that, I am dreaming and planning my new expanded garden for the spring. 

Darrin convinced me to expand my garden to take over my side yard, which is going to take a lot of back labor. However, I have very heavy, terrible clay soil that takes a pick axe to get a planting hole. I will post pictures later because I am having terrible issues with my computer and viruses....