Friday, October 26, 2012

Going Out in a Glorious Gif-straviganza

I've put some though into how to deal with my blogging predicament and you may all be wondering if I'm going to take that next step to becoming legitimate.

That's right.  I purchased a doman name a few days ago and I am taking yet another small step toward making this whole homesteading/CSA/Education center a reality.

After doing some research I decided that I'm going to move my materials over to Wordpress, where I was told there is a steep learning curve but the ability to customized is greater than here at Blogger.  My initial examination of Wordpress and it's dashboard left me enthralled, especially the tool that allows me to use previous posts as templates (meaning all of my vacation posts or recipe posts or garden posts can follow their own individual formats without me having to remember how I formatted everything).  

But on further examination and getting themes, posts, and pages around...I've found I'm at the very base of that learning curve.

I've spent six hours over the last two days trying to get a look going, an "About" page with pictures in the right places, and my first content filled post.  At this rate I will have to quit school to get anything good to happen over there.

However, those two days are over and I have things the way I want them for now, though there will be changes throughout the next few months.  Some of the posts from this blog will be reincarnated over there from time to time - mostly the archival garden updates and recipes.  This current blog will remain in existence for some time.   So now I will share with you, for the first time: 

I would love it if you joined me over there.  You can follow me on Wordpress, add me to your reader, like Om-Nom Acres on facebook, or just check in from time to time.  Yeah?

Go ahead, do it right now, I'll wait.

For those of you coming with me, thank you!

For those of you thinking you'll pass, I'll miss you.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Blogging Predicament: Branding

To my six or so lovely readers out there and those who straggle in from facebook on occasion to see if I've changed my template lately, first of all.... how you doin'?

No, sorry - anyway, thank you for being here.  I have a blogging predicament: the split personality.  I have two blogging motivations.  The first is to document my life for me and anyone who cares to tag along.  The second it to be a resource and information center for small scale agriculture and sustainable food systems.  Right now with school taking up obscene amounts of my time I'm not really very committed to either, but that rises and falls with my reading load.

I am not skilled or disciplined at crafting relevant blog posts (but I would like to be).  I was recently asked to write a guest post on Detroit's local food initiatives for the University of Vermont's food blog and while I feel like I know a lot of what is going on around here, I feel woefully inadequately prepared to write such a post or to have a post link back to my blog, where I'm not really doing much of anything.  But how can I let such an awesome opportunity escape!?

I want to rebrand a little, especially now that I'm taking more serious steps toward getting my suburban homestead in place.  Om-Nom Acres now has a facebook page with 10 likes! We are also holding a community event on November 3rd.  We have a dozen people coming by the house to help us relocate and critter proof our compost bin, close our our current beds, build several more huge beds with decorated concrete bricks, fill everything with compost, and plant garlic, cover crops, and spring bulbs. In exchange for their work they will be fed breakfast (mini omelets), lunch (sandwiches and sides), and dinner (tacos!) and they each get a portion of our harvest next summer.  Kind of like a mini-CSA.  We are also holding a raffle where in order to enter you need to submit a proposed logo and slogan for Om-Nom Acres - no money exchanges, only brilliant creativity.  I'm hoping to have actual shares for sale in the 2014 season and would like to add canning workshops to the calendar next summer.

I'm wondering if I should take the steps to shift my blogging over to an Om-Nom Acres blog.  I already have the url for blogger in place, but I might be ready to rent a domain name in which case I will need to figure out who will host it and how to build it!  I don't know what to do with this blog, or how to combine posts about my personal life, community food organizing, agricultural awesomeness, Om-Nom Acres goings-on, and whatever hell else I post about without boring some readers or looking incredibly unfocused, but I know I won't be able to keep up with two blogs.  And can I be a professional blog with gifs!? Because seriously, that's a monkey on my back that I'm not ready to let go of just yet.  I just don't know what to do with myself.

Those of you who have blogs or have ever had to "brand" yourself professionally, how do you deal with it?  Those of you who read here, what are your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sick sick sick

I'm sorry for the lack of posting.  I spent an awesome weekend in Chicago followed by a slew of midterms followed by a gross cold.

Most people lose weight when they're sick, but not me:

I'm trying to get homework done:

And I get kind of grumpy when I'm sick:

 But tomorrow needs to be a serious cleaning & work day:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A peek at some house changes

Right off the bat I need to admit that I am absolutely terrible at before, after, or progress pictures.  Its probably because I'm not a real blogger.  I'm a journaler and an erratic one at that.  Moving on: this summer Sammit and I redid our dining room from a pale icicle blue to a jewel navy tone on top with white wainscoting on the bottom.  The wainscoting was a pain-in-the-butt to install but I love it and am incredibly proud of it.  

But that isn't what this sneak peek is about - this post is about my dining room chairs.  My yellow oak dining room set was a hand-me-down from my parents-in-law and both Sammit and I are very thankful for it.  I wanted to do something to make it ours though.  At first I was nervous about making changes so I did a really basic upholstery change.  

Using about $30 in fabric and an industrial staple gun I went from gray diamonds to navy and white awesomeness (Devin is modeling).

When I decided to redo the dining room, I wanted something less WASP-y and a little more funky.  After a few trips to Jo-Anns, a few sample swaps, and a consultation by my mother, I decided to go diamonds again.  I also decided to paint the yellow oak white.  I think it looks awesome.
Jewel Blue walls, White Wainscoting, White Funky chairs.
Sammit convinced me to keep the table its natural oak color, not white like our chairs and our old china cabinet-turned-buffet.  At first I thought it was silly but it meant less work and after a few days I fell in love with it.
Oddly Cat Camouflaging Rug
The biggest problem was finding a rug that wasn't boring but didn't clash with the chairs.  Oh yeah, and one that wasn't $1000!  I was lucky enough to find a showroom display at Ikea for 50% off the original $500.  It is plush, well made, and hides my black cat like he's the ninja he's always wanted to be.

I'm playing around with some fabric for curtains.  I'm also trying to figure out walls.  There are a few definites like my giraffe watercolor and the "my home is clean enough to be healthy but dirty enough to be happy" tile, and a shelf holding some of my wedding china, but the rest is kind of up in the air.  I'm also piecing together storage after turning our big china cabinet into a buffet.  I'll try to post some more updates soon, probably around Midterms when I'll be avoiding anything that is school related.

 FYI: I learned everything I needed to know about painting furniture from All Things Thrifty and Young House Love.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Garden Update - September 2012

I've harvested a total of 23.61 pounds of produce, herbs, and flowers from the garden this year.  I haven't yet harvested cabbage or carrots and there are plenty of green tomatoes and peppers left ripening.

I haven't been able to keep up with the herb production!  I've been making a lot of pesto to use up a plethora of herbs.  I've been drying lavender for baths and mint for tea.  I've also been unintentionally rooting basil on my kitchen windowsill; I'm going to try to plant it in pots soon.
 I've been picking zinnias like crazy and they keep making more!  They're a great combination of pink and orange.  My sunflowers have all been hacked down by creatures of some kind: birds, squirrels, chipmunks.  I have one tiny teddy-bear sunflower plant left hiding between some tomatoes.

Zinnias, Marigolds, Pole Beans, and Beefsteaks
This morning I picked a few more tomatoes out and 1.25 pounds of green/purple beans for dinner tonight.  I lost most of my cucumbers to beetles though one plant has managed to stay healthy and is producing a few more fruit for me.  I lost the powdery mildew battle with my zucchini and tore most of them out.  I left two plants in the ground and they've regrown as healthy plants but I don't think I'll get any fruit out of them for the rest of the year.  Fingers crossed.

In terms of preserving: I have 3 pints of green beans canned and a quart of diced tomatoes and a 1/2 pint of tomato paste.  (Along with my pinto and black beans, though those didn't come from the garden).  I also have around a dozen Serrano peppers frozen.  No jam, lemonade, or fruit this year.  It actually has been a rather underwhelming canning season for me.  We definitely won't have packed cupboards this winter.

I ordered my cover crop and garlic along with hundreds of flowering bulbs (hyacinth, daffodils, allium, and anemone).  I hope to get everything in the ground before halloween - wish me luck on that one!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Back to school

Me, leading up to September 5th
During the second half of July and the entire month of August I was dreading going back to school this fall.  The night before classes started I didn't have my backpack or notebooks ready.  The morning of I had no idea where my classes were going to be.  It isn't like it is in elementary school with new clothes and new pens; instead its monthly tuition bills for $2500 and 15 hours a week of commuter stress.  While all of this whining was going on, my incredibly supportive partner let it all roll off his back. "I will love you no matter what you decide," he would say, as if my life is somehow in my hands.  To make matters more frustrating, my sister, who has been my I-hate-school-and-I-want-to-do-something-different-with-my-life buddy, made the decision to take a year off from her program.  I was jealous and depressed.  And then I went to classes.  I have some amazing instructors this semester who are teaching really great topics (Death, Loss & Grief, Treatments for Sexual Dysfunctions, Grant Writing & Fundraising, Environmental Psychology)!  My internship has restaffed and they are giving me new projects (social media campaign, local foods initiative, community outreach, program development)!  It hit me right over the head: I am falling in love with school again.  I'm talking about my future as a social worker again after spending the whole summer describing that time after graduation as some kind of mysterious cracker jack prize.

My professional confidence is returning; I felt like such a badass running a summer camp but have felt really displaced as a student.  My internship supervisor hit the nail on the head yesterday when she explained that I was project oriented not task oriented.  I have a hard time working when I don't feel ownership in what I'm doing and she is giving me ownership.  I'm even working on a proposal with a colleague of mine to start teaching a mini-course at the university on food systems as social justice.  (Fingers crossed).  Life is happening.
Thank you Ryan Gosling, I'm pretty impressed too.
And please don't infantilize me, I am a woman.
Now that I'm back on the social work path...I'll get in line for the "crap I can't find a job in my field"fork in the road.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Canning beans & some thoughts on my kitchen

This is my view right now.  This has been my view for 30 minutes and will continue to be for another 45 minutes.  I'm canning pinto and black beans, 3 pints of each, and it isn't a good idea to leave the pressure cooker unattended.  I'm never worried about an explosion but I use a dial gauge and have to make sure I stay above 11 pounds of pressure.  So I'll sit here for 75 minutes, peeking at the dial and the timer, making sure I'm staying on track.  It's not too bad though; between my laptop, wifi, and an extremely comfortable hammock chair that fits perfectly into the middle of the kitchen, I'm in pretty good shape.

This season my beans are organic and come from a michigan farm.  Fun fact: Did you know that Michigan is a HUGE producer of black beans?  I had no idea.  The farm sells all sorts of beans and lentils at Eastern Market in Detroit and just down the street at the Royal Oak farmer's market.  They also have reasonable cow shares and I've been thinking about signing up.  I miss the milk we used to get from the old farm before it started pasteurizing but I've also been thinking about going dairy-free (since I do have that pesky casein intolerance).  But milk or no milk, their beans and lentils are fabulous!

My bean confinement has given me time to catch up on my emails, google reader, write a blog post, and think about my kitchen.  I've never liked my kitchen.  Don't get me wrong, it is a beautiful kitchen! It was redone just before we moved into the house; it has all new stainless steel appliances, new cupboards, tile floor, and granite countertops.  It is an extremely nice kitchen and many people would be thrilled to have it! But this isn't my house and I didn't design the kitchen or get to pick out anything that's in it and because everything is so shiny and new the idea of replacing anything is absolutely absurd.  So I'm stuck using a boxy kitchen with appliances that are gorgeous but too big for the room and very difficult to clean.  The cupboards are dark and run from floor to ceiling so the already small room seems to be closing in on me yet ironically provides relatively little storage space.  Two people in the kitchen at once is a nightmare which means I get really lonely when I cook and there's no one to help me with dishes or clean while I'm in here.  The tile floor has poorly done grout that makes it very difficult to clean (dirt gets trapped in the lip of the grout and won't wipe away without special attention), an absolute death trap when wet, and extremely hard on my knees if I'm in here all day.  Urgh.

But there are some things I like about my kitchen and best of all, most of those things will come with me when we eventually move.
  • My spatula holder.  A grey crock glazed with a beautiful blue design that includes the words, "Dillon & Sammit October 2, 2010".  Given to us on our wedding day by one of the most influential teachers I have ever had and her wonderful husband.
  • My Golden Girls magnetic photos.  I keep them on my microwave (you can kind of see them in the picture above) and they keep me company while I cook.  My sister made them for me for Christmas.
  • My green Le Creuset dutch oven.  A gift from some of the best coworkers in the world for my wedding.  I use either the dutch oven, drying pan, or pot every single day.  I would say that these pots are one of the few things I would grab from my house if there was a fire but they would actually survive the fire and still be useable.
  • The "bliss" sculpture over my door frame.  I received it as a gift when I graduated high school; it's from the same teacher who gave me the crock I mentioned earlier.  It has been placed above the doorframe in ever dwelling I have lived in since (12 places - 14 moves since 2005).
  • The half door featured under the "bliss" doorframe.  I have a love-hate relationship with the half door.  It is a clutter magnet - a temporarily permanent living space for things in flux between the main floor and either outside or the basement.  However, it has a little cat door cut out of the bottom so Zim and Gir can get downstairs to their litter boxes when it is closed.  Also, Zim likes to sit on the ledge of it, making him one of my only visitors while I'm cooking.  He likes to watch everything that's going on at the stove.
  • My fridge magnets.  Poetry word tiles, skulls, polaroid photos, travel magnets rock.  I remember where I was and what I was doing with each one.
  • The fat cow, angel and Darth Vader.  These are my kitchen mascots.  The fat cow is an adorable figurine that sits on my window sill; I cannot help but smile when I see him.  The angel and Darth Vader were gifts from my mother.  They sit on top of the fridge.  Darth dispenses mini gum balls or, as I hope to try in the near future, peanut butter M&Ms.
PS: I get my canning times and info from Pick Your Own.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Garden Planner

I have stumbled upon the greatest invention since stripped screw extractors.  Mother Earth News links to a Garden Planner - check it out HERE.  You get a free 30 day trial and then it is only $25 for a year's subscription (which is actually 13 months because it is added onto the free month you have already) OR $40 for two years.  I am having an outrageous amount of fun playing with this and planning our big bump in production next summer.

While I highly recommend checking it out (seriously - a free month without having to do anything shady like take a survey or enter your credit card information) I will still tell you about my favorite features:

  1. The images.  I'm a very visual person so having little tomato or cucumber or basil pictures to represent each plant makes the whole page beautiful and easy to comprehend.
  2. The spacing.  You can choose standard or Square Food Gardening spacing - but once you put a plant into your virtual garden you can multiply it or drag it along the edge of your garden and it will space the plants automatically.  This makes it easy to see how many plants I can fit into a given space and it even tells me (in the case of carrots for example) how many plants I will need to fill that space.
  3. The timing.  I can arrange my garden according to seasons - so it will look different in May when I put out Broccoli or Baby Pak Choy than it will in July when I replace them with late lettuce or peas.  Even better: It will email me to remind me when to start seeds, when to transplant, and when I should expect a harvest.
  4. The notes.  I can change the variety name...or not.  This means I can fill a garden with "carrots" or I can change each section and fill the garden with "cosmic purples" and "atomic yellows" and "dragons".  Additionally, I can keep notes on what I liked or didn't like about those varieties or how well they grew in a particular area.
  5. The connections.  After planting my entire virtual garden, I can generate a list that contains every plant and variety I have selected for the season.  This list will tell me how many plants I need, when to start seeds, when to put outdoors, when to harvest.  It also will let me link to my favorite seed company (which happens to be High Mowing, but other companies are available as options) to buy the seeds I need.
  6. The information.  In addition to automatic spacing, I can select any plant's information icon and a panel will pop up that contains a picture of the plant, its sunlight requirements, its soil preferences, companion plants, and other information.  Its all right there at my fingertips.  This helps me immensely in deciding where to plant.  It also remembers perennials and automatically plants them in next year's plan.
  7. The crop rotation.  Each plant has a beautiful background color - at first I thought this was somehow related to the color of the produce but after some poking around I discovered that it is related to the plant family.  And here comes my favorite part: this program does crop rotation for you.  When you copy your bed to next year's garden (so you don't have to recreate it) - it will remember what you planted last season.  If you try to plant the same family in the same location, it will flash red, indicating that you have not rotated your crops (which can cause soil depletion and increased risk for disease).  Each year the red flash becomes lighter and lighter, indicating that the risk is reduced, until 5 years have passed and the soil is safe to host the same plant family.
  8. All the other little things.  I can post my garden plan on social media sights.  It adjusts to my agricultural zone and frost dates.  I can ask it to only show me easy to grow plants or shade loving plants.  I can use a Square Foot Gardening mode.  I can visualize and get excited about my garden space.  I can virtually plant things without annoying all my facebook friends (death to Farmville).  It costs less per year than my cover crops.

While I don't think I'm an important enough blogger to have to say this, I guess it should still be said: I am in no way affiliated or compensated by Mother Earth News or  I just think their product is really really awesome and should be experienced by everyone (for at least 30 days).

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A multi-purpose cleaning recipe

Devin and I spent the entire day cleaning the kitchen.  I don't think it has actually been cleaned from top to bottom ever in the two years we've lived here.  I wanted to share because 1) I'm proud of our immensely clean room and B) I found a multi-purpose cleaner that I really enjoy and I wanted to share:

Multi-purpose cleaner

  • 1/2 cup water (distilled, boiled, or oh heck get wild and crazy straight from the tap)
  • 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/2 teaspoon castile soap (I loved the smell of Dr. Bronner's citrus soap)
Combine in a spray bottle and use on counters, windows, cupboards, etc.  Test on fabrics before using as peroxide can sometimes discolor fabrics.  I found a lot of success using my cleaner with a microfiber cloth.

I forgot that there was peroxide in my cleaner until I sprayed a section along the counter behind our sink faucet and - foooooom - a huge puff of white foam!  Good thing I had that disinfecting power.  And kinda gross.

While I finished the kitchen, Devin cleaned out our spare bathroom.  Didn't know we had a spare bathroom?  Well if you've been over in the last 12 months you wouldn't have because it was filled with gardening supplies and recycling.  

With two rooms down, I'll leave you now....the dining room is calling.

Pics or it didn't happen

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A month gone by...

What have I been doing!? Not writing, that's for sure.

I've been working on our home and it has been both lovely and exhausting.  We have some new furniture, warmer walls, and curtains!  I've collected a respectable 15 pounds of produce from the garden and am working on a late summer planting for cool fall crops (broccoli, peas, lettuce, carrots, pak choy, and garlic)!  Deciding not to purchase a home this summer was probably the best decision we've made in a while.  I've really needed to settle in somewhere.

I've also been organizing a lot of my digital crap - hundreds of starred blog posts on my google reader and an overflowing "to be sorted" file on my desktop.  I'm putting together a household binder with contact information, recipes, giftcards/tickets, and all sorts of other useful information - most of which has been snagged from the internet.

Finally, I've been dealing with some family events.  I have an uncle, a man who in my life has always represented the epitome of a good man, who is nearing the end of his life.  He has had MS for several years now and has had very little desire to live for the last several months.  He is in and out of the hospital and my aunt has recently made the decision to bring in hospice.  We've all known this would come someday but it has been hitting me harder than I had anticipated.

One of the starred posts I came across recently has helped me reframe a little.  It's a post called "5 ways to breathe in a breathless world."  It's worth reading but here's the gist of it:

1. remember that productivity is not your god

2. don’t confuse the urgent with the important 

3. move toward community, not away

4. learn how to close the day

5. lift up your eyes

Monday, July 23, 2012

Garden Update - July 2012

Stage 1: March
Stage 2: April
Stage 3: May
Stage 4: May
Stage 5: June
Stage 6: July
Ready for a few close-ups?
Beefsteaks growing nice and large
Cherry Tomatoes in the evening sun
Sunflower head forming
Cucumber-lettes and some red cabbage 
Herb section with soaker hose
Our first zucchini of the year and
some more summer squash
I also have more basil than I know what to do with right now.  I have several bunches in small jelly jars of water around the house - they smell great! and are starting to root.  I might have to share my favorite pesto recipe with the next basil trimmings.