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Monday, May 18, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Hope you had a lovely weekend!  The last few days have been beautiful and it looks like today is going to be another perfect spring day.  I'm overjoyed because it means that we can take down the plant light system and reclaim our dining room.  Which means, today I will be cleaning and rearranging.  But before I start on that, I'd like to take you on a small tour of our urban homestead, or farmette, as I like to call it, so many people have asked about it in the past.

We start at the front door.  As you can see leaves are just beginning to sprout on the bushes here, everything is so late because of the brutal winter we had.  Trying to get anything to grow here is a challenge because this side of the house receives the full brunt of the wind directly off of the lake.  This is just a humble little house, less than 1000 square feet.

The south facing side is in another climate altogether.  Protected from the wind, the flowers bloom several weeks ahead of other areas in our yard.  Unfortunately, there isn't much yard on this side, or my vegetable garden would be planted here.

Through the arbor to the back yard.  This arbor is planted with New Dawn roses.  Unfortunately between this year's winter and last year's even harsher one,  the roses have died back to almost the ground and need to be pruned back.  I'm through with roses!  Even the hearty rugosa roses are struggling after the last two winters.  You have to be tough to survive in the north, and that applies to people as well as plants!

Here is an overview of the garden plots.  We have an herb garden, a strawberry plot, a blueberry plot (that's the ugly fencing to the left. The deer love tender blueberry shoots!), a fenced in garden to foil the groundhogs, another plot that isn't fenced, an asparagus patch, grapes and blackberries growing along the fence, and a potato/corn plot. Oh!  and a small orchard with apple, apricot, pear and peach trees.  Our beehive is operable, but the village doesn't allow bees, so for now, it is just a garden accent.
Here's the garden from another angle.  As you can see, the tomatoes are growing out of their cold frame and the onions  and garlic are coming up.  That's my favorite pie apple, Rhode Island Greening, in the foreground.  Along with a meddlar and a Smokehouse  (good keepers) apple tree, these trees have a place of honor in our garden.  The others grow here:
In the orchard!  Altogether, we have about fifteen fruit trees and a hazelnut bush.  When we bought this property eight years ago, there was nothing here, just an vacant lot and a ratty old house (it had been on the market for years).  By working slowly but steadily, we have changed this property into a productive piece of land.  And my husband commuted  here every other weekend for most of those years, so if we can do it, so can you!

A Nice Spring Meal

Strawberries have been inexpensive and plentiful this spring, so we had one of our favorite springtime meals.  Balsamic Strawberry pizza.  I know it sounds strange, but it is really good! (And it uses up some of that jam that you preserved, too!)
Balsamic Strawberry Pizza

1/2 C. strawberry jam
1/4 C. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 prepared pizza dough
a few rashers of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 med. red onion (or any sweet onion)
1 C. cooked chicken breast (diced)
1 C. strawberries, sliced
1 -1 1/2 C. mozzarella cheese

Spread your dough out onto a pizza pan.
Combine the jam, vinegar, and brown sugar in a saucepan and cook until thickened.  Spread on the dough.
Top with half of the cheese, then the bacon, chicken, and onions.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese  and top with the strawberries.  Bake at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the bottom of the pizza crust starts to brown.

Makes a wonderful meal if you serve it with a nice spinach salad or go totally springtime and forage some dandelions and make a salad from them.

 We always keep some fried crumbled bacon and prepared chicken breast in the freezer.  It's a quick and easy way to prepare a meal when you are in a hurry.  Just take out and heat in the microwave or toaster oven (we don't own a microwave), add it to a salad to make it a main dish salad,  or use them in casseroles or to top a potato.

Don't Buy It, Make It

Pizza Dough

1 C. semolina flour
2 C. flour
1 pkt. dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 C. olive oil
3/4 C. warm water (approximately)

Proof the yeast with 1/4 warm water and the sugar.
In  a large bowl combine the semolina flour, 1/4 C. water, 1/4 C. olive oil and the salt.   Add the yeast mixture and 1 C. flour. Stir. Add the remaining flour and add enough water to make a soft dough.  Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until it starts to fight back (anyone who has made bread knows what I'm talking about).  Cover and let rise until dough is doubled in size.  Punch down and  spread dough into pizza pan.  (makes 2 pizzas) Semolina is the secret to a good crust.


Besides gardening, we painted our garden chairs with a mixture of paints that we had in the basement. 
Use it up and make do!  Love those old-timey chairs.  My grandparents had some on the farm, and I remember many a warm summer afternoon  sitting in them under an ancient willow tree.  A few years back, we drove past the old farmstead and the willow was gone.  Everything was gone, except an old chicken coop that my grandfather had built out of stone found on the property and some Model-T car windows that my great uncle had left there during the depression.  Now there's a big grand house on the land and it isn't a farm any longer.  Such a shame,  it was a wonderful farm!

I realized that we are almost half way through the year (can you believe it?), and I haven't finished any of my Christmas knitting projects yet this year!   So I locked myself in my room and didn't come out until I finished this sweater:
Ragg wool doesn't photograph very well.  You'll just have to take my word for it when I say it's adorable. You can't even see the two little pockets that are just the right size  for little toys.  The pattern is from one of those vintage knitting pamphlets and the buttons were salvaged from a blazer that I used for my woolen quilt.  It's a sweater for grandson, Ezekiel. Only took two skeins of wool. If anyone wants the pattern, just let me know, and I'll e-mail it to you.  Haven't figured out to attach the instructions to this post.


I know, I know, you are getting tired of my rhubarb recipes, but we eat what is in the garden here, so that is what I have.  So here is one last and my favorite recipe for rhubarb.  You can use other fruits, if you wish and I think peaches would be wonderful.

Rhubarb Flip

5 C. diced rhubarb
1 1/2 C. sugar
1/4 C. cornstarch
5 tbsp. water
2-4 drops red food coloring (optional)
1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1/2 C. coconut
1/2 C. nuts, chopped
1/2 C (1 stick) butter, melted

Place rhubarb in a greased  13X 9" pan.
In a small saucepan combine the cornstarch, sugar and water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir until thickened.  Stir in food coloring.  Pour over rhubarb.
Sprinkle cake mix over the rhubarb. Top with the coconut and nuts.  Drizzle the melted butter over top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.
I added strawberries left over from the pizza to mine.  And don't forget the whipped cream!

Also eating lots of this:
Harvested six pounds today!  Yes, you can get sick of asparagus! But we are thankful for it, all the same.  Sure beats starving!  I will be glad, though, when the lettuce gets big enough to pick


.We received our electricity bill and it was $20 less (usually $60) since we began turning off all the cable boxes, computers, dvd players, etc. at night.  So we will definitely continue to do that! Just plug them into a surge protector with a on/off switch, then you only need to flip one switch to cut the electricity for all.  We've noticed how little we use the TV, because some days we forget to turn it back on.

Thrifty Things We Did This Week

Attended an estate sale and bought 3 dozen canning jars for $4.
Cut Jamie's hair.
Painted the lawn chairs with a mixture of paint we had on hand.
Finished knitting a sweater for a Christmas present.
Harvested and ate rhubarb and asparagus
Transplanted herbs from the garden.
Started some free Chinese cabbage seeds.
Hung the laundry outside.
Started cross stitching a baby gift from materials I had on hand.
My husband got his cholesterol  checked for free at a medical fair.
Sent away for the parts to repair our car's gas latch.
Since the weather has been nice, we've used a lot more leg power and a lot less gas.

By the way, I got the idea to list my thrifty things list from Brandy at The Prudent Homemaker .  She has a beautiful and inspiring blog.  If you haven't already, you should check it out.


  1. hello jane,
    you have a wonderful garden.i love your small house. your food looks wonderful...the recipe for the pizza sounds interesting.the little cardi is the wool and the did a great job on your knitting.
    we have rhubarb compote again today.
    thanks for all the wonderful tips and recipes!!!
    wish you a wonderful week,

    1. Thanks Regina! Gotta love rhubarb, it's so dependable. Have a lovely week, also!


  2. Very nice update Jane! Your yard has really progressed this past week. I would love to sit in your orchard. Your gardens look very neat. It will be nice to see how much everything has grown next week. Andrea

    1. Amazing what a little warm weather can do, Andrea! I'd love to visit with you in our orchard. It's very serene, especially when the church bells are ringing.


  3. I LOVE your red door! So cute, and the red arbor is, too. What a fun tour of your place. I enjoyed all the photos, clicked on every one of them to see it all well. Your grandson is going to love the sweater. You did a great job on it. Btw, being new here I didn't know you were a knitter - if you want to knit some hair curlers there's a link to a free knitted curler pattern at the end of my latest post. Thanks for visiting.
    Have a wonderful week!

    1. Thank you! I'll look into that link. I think the curlers might be a fun beginner's project for crochet. More interesting than a dishcloth. I do know how to do single and double crochet, just not well enough to actually make anything, though. Always looking for a way to curl my hair that is comfortable. Have a nice week, also!


  4. Dear Jane,

    I love your homestead with the red arbor, and your red door. It looks just like what I would do if we weren't renting. I'm sorry about your roses, though. I love New Dawns and want to have some when we move (hopefully they do better in Missouri!).

    Congratulations on finishing the sweater; it looks so cozy! Did you know that you can re-stretch a shrunken sweater by soaking it in a whole bottle of conditioner? I just learned it, but haven't had a chance to try it out yet.



    1. I'm sure New Dawns will survive Missouri, Marqueta. They survived our winters up until the last two, which have been horrific. I think it is the wind more than anything that does them in. I tell you what, there's a little offshoot of one of the roses that is alive. If I can manage to dig it out and keep it alive until fall, I will send it to you and let you care for it until you get your own little homestead.

      I didn't know that about re-stretching sweaters. I'll have to give it a try with some that I have on hand. Usually once they shrink, I just continue to shrink them and use 'em for felted pieces. Thanks for the information! Wish I had known about it months ago when my husband shrunk my favorite sweater. Been searching Ebay and Etsy for a replacement for it, to no avail.


  5. Replies
    1. It's kind of a quirky pizza, but tastes wonderful. We make pizza once a week, so we are always on the lookout for unusual ones.


  6. I can't imagine getting tired of eating asparagus, but perhaps its similar to our current feeling about the strawberries--still delicious, but not quite as exciting as when the first ones ripened two weeks ago.
    I am impressed with the way you have reclaimed your yard--it is rewarding to renovate a house and grounds, but surely laborious and time consuming. I constantly tell myself to be realistic about our renovation time frame here.

    1. It's very satisfying to take a piece of barren land and turn it into a fruitful plot. But if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't have planted such complicated flower gardens. Just big groupings of hearty flowers like daylilies instead. The vegetable garden is and will always be the main focus and there are only so many hours in the day!

  7. Your asparagus looks yummy, I love the purple spears, how pretty! Your knitted sweater project looks great, I am always amazed when people can knit clothing, what a wonderful gift! :)

    1. I think the purple ones are sweeter, April. I'm always amazed at other's knitting. Some people are very prolific. For me, it's just plodding along!