Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ramping Up for Spring

We've been doing quite a bit around the homestead, including baking, yogurt-making, some guerrilla gardening, planting and flood irrigation. Sadly, time for me is quite precious these days, so blogging has fallen by the wayside.

I went from only 3 hours of graduate classes/week to 18, plus my part time job, which is requiring more outside-of-the-work-day work. It's a bit overwhelming and once I get into my groove, I'll try to resume posting more regularly.

I'll sign off today with the promise of spring.
Peach blossoms

I really hope we don't have a late frost!

The apple is starting to leaf as well.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Until Later

Our working staycation has come to an end and my vacation has just begun. As I type this my lovely sister is en route from Virginia for a short visit to the lean-to. We've gotten the house about as ready as it's going to get and it looks a heck of a lot better than when my parents visited this same time last year.


Of course the house isn't finished but what house truly is? In fact, I think our last house was only "finished" right when we sold it. I hear that rings true for many a do-it-yourself-er.

You might be asking yourself, "What projects still remain? A jacuzzi? A three car garage? Sorry to disappoint, but those things will most likely never be on our agenda. We think a bit smaller here, some due to land restraints but mostly due to our desire to live simply. If we had a three car garage, we'd probably fill it with stuff we really don't need or more bikes. There is a reason that pictures of our storage room don't make it on this blog.

Full disclosure: this is the best this storage room has ever looked. Honestly.

So, the projects we have left are those which we have already started but will not be finished Until Later. Until Later can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing because we give ourselves time to finish these projects, rather than a hurry up and get it done stress inducer. A curse because we give ourselves so much time that when we really need one of the projects done, we end up having to hurry up and get it done.

I fear that our porch project may be heading toward the cursed side of things. We've poured the concrete pilings and installed one of the posts. It has so much promise and I can imagine midday lunches in the shade.
The post to nowhere

The state of this porch, however, will probably remain in this condition until June when the searing summer sun will finally be too much to bear. Then we'll throw up some sort of ramshackle structure that will be beautiful in its own funky, rustic way, which is fine, but a little forethought, planning and execution of a plan goes a long way, too.

At least we'll have these burly chairs to sit on in the sun, and eventual shade:

The barnwood comes through again!

The "yard" is another project. I had big plans for an edible, native, pollinator-luring, wildlife-habitat-creating landscape. What we have instead is a swath of clay interrupted by a few fruit trees and some holes I call our garden. The first garden bed is finally sprouting, so there's a sign of hope with that project. The rest of the yard, however, will not be this lush landscape (in the desert sense) that hip gardening magazines will beg to have on their cover. No, instead, we've decided to seed the yard with meadow grasses from our local nursery. If all goes well, we'll have a yard full of a variety of grasses which will include some fodder for the chickens and Indian Ricegrass that I can actually harvest and grind into flour. That doesn't sound so bad, but my vision was altogether different. I guess my vision will wait Until Later.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Over this past summer we attempted to ride from our house to the La Luz trailhead. The total elevation gain is 1,100 vertical feet in 11 miles and the last 2 miles has a gain of ~950 vertical feet. When we tried to do it before, we were besought with a headwind gusting at about 45-50 mph. This time we had a lovely tailwind that propelled us up and that same tailwind became a headwind alleviating the need for brakes on the descent. Here were the views as we got closer to the top.

Look at that New Mexico sky.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lean-to Projects

In a few days' time we will have a house guest. She would probably be perfectly fine with the  state of our house being constantly in-project-mode, but we thought we'd try to tidy things up a bit. Lane and I took some time off work last week with the original intention of taking a little vacation. Instead, the last 4 days have been more of a working staycation. I don't have photos of all of the finished products, but here's what we've been accomplishing:

  • We sealed the brick floors in the livingroom and bedroom. The storage room will get sealed sometime in the future. This is going to help tremendously with dust issues and the constant sand in every nook and cranny. The sealant really brought out the color in the brick, which is an added bonus.
  • The kitchen/dining area was resealed. When we originally stained the concrete in that part of the house, we used a "green" soy sealant. It sadly didn't actually seal and we have the beet juice stains to prove it. After 4-5 coats it is sealed and looks fabulous. It unintentionally matches the brick, too.
  • The veneer on the beams has been secured and it looks great, too. I'll take some pics and post them soon. 
  • The woodstove pipe, box and chimney was re-installed, just in time for spring. We're working on the trim around the hole cut in the ceiling. Is there anything barnwood won't fix?
  • I've been diligently watering the hole on the right. That's our intended veggie garden. The chickens made some great humus this fall and then I added some compost and aged manure/straw. Sunken beds do well in this climate as they don't dry out as fast as their raised bed counterparts. I'm concerned, however, that something has gone wrong. I've planted several seeds that should have germinated and sprouted by now but I see nothing. Perhaps I let them dry out too much or our heavy clay is too much for the little seedlings. The bed on the left will be filled with delicious, healthy, local soil and eventually be home to our tomatoes and peppers. The hole in the top left corner is where the water from the acequia flows in. It should be functioning soon!
  • The tomato seeds have sprouted. Huzzah! 
  • We got organized--getting bins for all of the loose things like tools, chicken feed and that 50 lb bag of flour I've been meaning to store. At least there is a sense of order for now.
  • Lane built a picnic table for the....
  • covered porch/patio which was started today. We poured the supports for the 6x6 posts. Our yard is in desperate need of shade and this little patio will provide it. The hope is that the fruit trees will grow such that they shade the patio as well as the grapes that we'll eventually plant and train up the support posts. Doesn't it sound romantic to pluck grapes right from the vine whilst dining al fresco in the shadow of a 10,000 foot mountain? We can dream, can't we?
  • In the kitchen I've baked more muffins, bread, and borscht as well as trying to make yogurt in a slow cooker. That should be ready tomorrow and I'll let you know how it turned out.
  • I can't forget that we've also taken a few bike rides, had friends over for lunch, eaten at some of our favorite restaurants and enjoyed long mornings with tea and the warm New Mexico sun. That's dreamy for sure.
We've had a fruitful week and enjoyed each others company tremendously. The house also feels more ready for friends and family to pay a visit. We're looking forward to your upcoming trip to ABQ, Sarah! :) 

First Blooms of the Season

The apricot has begun to bloom indicating Spring is on its way. My hope is that these blooms have not come too early--we have another 4 weeks before the typical date of the last frost. Keep your fingers crossed that we won't have a hard freeze but will instead have delicious apricots!

Bring on the pollinators!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday Baking

Between planting the first seeds of the season (hooray!) and house projects, I managed to get some cooking and baking in. Mark Bittman has some pretty swell soup recipes in the Sunday Magazine of the NYT. Here is the link if you're so inclined to try them.

I gave the Curried cauliflower and Tomato and Garlic a try. The cauliflower was good, but needed something. Maybe I should have used full fat coconut milk and added a potato to thicken it a bit.

The tomato and garlic, however was far better than the simple ingredients implied. I used home-canned tomatoes and I think that's why it was so superb. This soup really tasted like summer and went well with garlicky mustard greens and roasted red potatoes with garlic vegannaise aioli.

This morning I whipped up some very hearty Rye and Cornmeal Muffins with Caraway, also from the Times. With whole wheat, rye and cornmeal flours they were dense and went well with some brie for a snack to power us through gardening and floor finishing. In the oven is a take on tamale pie with faux beef and green chile. It smells so good, I hope I can wait for the crust to brown!

What culinary delights did you enjoy this weekend?

And if you're wondering, I started three varieties of tomatoes indoors (purple calabash, yellow taxi and glacier) and planted tatsoi, several varieties of beets (including bull's blood), Danver's carrots, purple-top turnips and a mesculin salad mix. In a few days we'll see just how ready the beds were (and how diligent my watering).

Urban Homesteading on Bikes

Yes, that is Lane strapping a 50 pound bag of chicken feed to the rear rack of his bike. That's how we roll here in the North Valley.

In our part of Albuquerque we have at least 4 feed stores within a 5 mile radius and this one is about a mile away. Isn't that horse fabulous?

There is also a veterinary supply store down the street should your horse or other four-legged friend require diy medical attention. Sadly, they do not carry any poultry-specific supplies.

Picking up chicken essentials such as feed, scratch and straw was something I used to do by car. With strong bike racks, however, driving is now a thing of the past. We just pack enough compression straps and a sense of humor. It also helps to have a partner.

That seemingly giant bale of straw was what I carried. We tied it down a bit off-kilter and had to stop a few times on the way home to straighten it out as best we could. And to control our laughter. I'm still finding bits of straw in the pockets of my jeans.