Friday, March 27, 2009

Fixing the Car

I drive a regular ol' Hyundai. I've had it for several years, and it's always been good to me. I think that it's of a certain age now, and things may start to degrade, slowly but surely. A few weeks ago the car started to overheat. I don't know anything about cars, but my next door neighbor, who drives taxis, said that it sounded like the thermostat. We took his word for it and bought the $14 part. Now, to install it...The internet told me the thermostat was located to the right of the engine block. With that our only clue, we set about searching for it. To make a long story short, we were able to replace the thermostat, which did end up being the problem. It took us probably 3 hours (we had to do it twice because the first time we installed it we did something wrong and had a leak at the installation point).

Moral of the story? Most people won't dare attempt repairs on their car, instead spending tons of money to have a mechanic do it. If you know what the problem is, and the part is reasonably accessible, it's really not that hard to do it yourself. It'll save you hundreds of dollars, and you might even have a little fun tinkering around in there.

Well Crap

We got a snowstorm last night. Looks like 4 inches or so...

I think most of the perennials will be ok, but we'll have to see about the cold crops. It's supposed to be REALLY cold tonight (below 20) so we're going to have to try to cover up some of our plants.

The chickens are pissed. They are just hanging out in the coop. Not interested in building snowchickens.

Dumpster Flowers

We went to TJ's two days ago (yes, into the actual store) and they were selling these sorry looking bunches of daffodils for $1.29. I bought one, and said to Tristan, "I bet these will all be in the dumpster tomorrow). Sure enough, we found them there last night, along with 6 orchid plants, a bunch of naan, strawberries, and vegetable broth. They're starting to open this morning.

We scored literally hundreds of flowers, and we even gave most of them to a fellow dumpster diver who was there looking for flowers to sell at the local bars.

This brings us to a good dumpster diving lesson: sometimes it pays to shop INSIDE the store as well. You can keep an eye out for things that look like they'll be in the dumpster after hours. More than once, I've gone into the store to find the frozen food section empty due to a freezer malfunction. Then in the evening, all you have to do is go scoop up your slightly thawed treats, for free.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Today I noticed some volunteer lettuce coming up in the garden from last year. It must have reseeded itself. It looks really healthy and happy!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Chicken Tractor

Our chickens have been showing a lot of interest in the green stuff growing outside their pen. During the winter months, we let them roam around the yard regularly, but now that there are vegetables coming up in the garden, we can't do that. So we built a rudimentary chicken tractor to give them access to forage without giving them access to our lettuce.

The tractor was built entirely out of used materials, with the exception of the bolts.


6 cedar slats salvaged from broken bed frame
4 2x4s, pre-cut, found neglected on the side of the house
random scrap of plywood
brackets found in dumpster of Southwestern interior decor store
chicken wire from our housemate's 2008 vegetable garden (from previous house)
staple gun, bolts, hinges, and hangers

We bolted the frame together in an hour or less. The chicken wire installation was a more laborious process. We stapled it to the 2x4s, but couldn't get staples into the cedar slats, so we had to wrap the chicken wire around and then weave the wire into itself. Because the salvaged chicken wire was narrow, it took 2 lengths to cover the sides. To attach the two lengths to each other, we used yet more of the hangers (of the box o' hangers from previous posts). We cut off the hooks, straightened them out, and used them to "sew" the chicken wire together.

The chickens seem to really dig their new playpen. We hope it will help keep our "lawn" of weeds mowed and help supplement the chickens' diet.

Cold Frame Update

This is what the stuff we planted in our coldframe back in...December looks like. We've taken the cold frame off and are letting the plants fend for themselves now. Everything is still pretty small...maybe not enough light, or maybe struggling to put roots down in the clay soil. We didn't amend this soil before planting. I'll be curious to see whether our spring plantings catch up to these guys at some point.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sharing Space

We have invited a few yardless friends to participate in gardening at our house. We're doing this in good faith that the landlord would dig the idea. First to take us up on the offer were Stuart and Whitny, who live around the corner and rent a place with a typical Santa Fe gravel and pine tree yard. They broke ground on their plot a few days ago, and planted cold crops yesterday.

It seems to me that two major roadblocks for would-be gardeners are lack of space and fear of the unknown. We hope that inviting people to garden with us will address both issues--we have loaned them some space and we'll be gardening just feet away, always available to help. We're pretty psyched to have Whitny and Stuart growing food with us, and we hope a few more friends will join us in a miniature community garden.

The most exciting thing about this project is its simplicity and its organic conception. This is a small-scale community garden with no overhead and few logistics. If you're one of the lucky few in your circle of friends who has space, consider sharing it. You'll benefit from the company, the view, and the harvest of an expanded garden.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Arrivals

We brought home four new chickens from the feed store today. It was quite the affair, with several friends joining us to help us pick out our new birdies. We chose 2 barred rocks, 1 rhode island red, and 1 black sex linked (Yes, that's the breed name. No, I have no idea). We're hoping to start selling eggs once we've got 9 layers.

For those of you interested in the specifics, we co-own our chickens with 2 friends. We take care of the chickens and they buy the feed, and we split the eggs 50/50. This arrangement has been working great, drama free, for almost a year now. The idea with the new chickens is that selling the eggs will pay for all the feed they need, and the eggs that we eat ourselves will essentially be free.

Meat Market

We're not vegetarians. We realize that eating meat increases your carbon footprint by A LOT, but what can we say. It's a big ol' hypocrisy of ours, I guess. In an attempt to make our meat-eating slightly more ethical, we are taking a small step in what we think is the right direction. We already buy only organic, grass fed meat, but we also ate meat when we went out to eat, and God only knows where that stuff comes from. So, here's our new set of guidelines regarding meat:

1. No meat at restaurants.

2. Only buy meat from the farmer's market. Benefits of this are two-fold: meat is local, and so damn expensive that we can't afford a lot of it.

We are still mulling our guidelines regarding fish and shellfish. We're actually hoping to set up an aquaculture system to grow our own fish in the near future.

So, the goal is to reduce the overall amount of meat we eat and ensure that all the meat we by is local and humanely grown. This is just a first step. Eventually, we're either going to have to give meat up altogether or start butchering our own.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pea Teepee

We planted peas today, and Tristan built a beautiful little teepee for them to climb on. He used cedar slats from our old bedframe. And remember the box of rusty hangers that Tristan brought home? In addition to making irrigation stakes out of them, Tristan used them to stabilize the teepee.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Inspiration: The Dacha Project

Winter Palace Pt 4- Frame by Frame from Lea LSF on Vimeo.

When I met two of the six folks from The Dacha Project, we were all living in Philadelphia, dreaming of a sustainable existence in the countryside. Now Lea and Danila (and the rest of the Dacha group) are making it happen. They've relocated to Upstate NY and are entering their second season on the 16 acres they purchased last year. So many of the blogs I read and projects I happen upon are the work of experienced homesteaders, sharing the wisdom of many years of hard work towards a sustainable existence. I find it inspiring and hopeful to see these folks just starting out on this adventure, and kicking ass, by the way. For me, owning land still is still a dream just out of reach. But now I know it's possible, because The Dacha Project are young and poor like me--they have no secret trust fund or other unfair advantages (right, guys?) It's amazing what a small group of hard-working, thoughtful lovelies can do. I can't wait to see their homestead grow and bloom in the coming years!

So! Check out their site and their blog: and

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Back on the Bike

This winter I was only sporadically successful at riding my bike to work, despite the trip's length of a mere 2 miles. I am a wuss when it comes to exercising in the cold, mostly because my lungs fill with cold air and I start to wheeze. Anyway, I would say I managed to ride my bike to work 1/4 of the time this winter. Maybe less. Definitely not what I was hoping for.

Now that we've been in the 50s and 60s for over a week, I'm back on my bicycle, and boy does it feel great! I even left my car at the office this weekend so I wouldn't be tempted to use it. I am required to use my car at work sometimes, so I try to leave the car there and ride my bike back and forth. It seems to really help me avoid using the car.