Saturday, December 31, 2011

Our New Year's Tradition

My mother's people are from the South. They founded Walden's Ridge, Tennessee, which is part of the Cumberland Mountains. (Insert snickers here as well as your visions of John Boy and voices bidding goodnight as our lights go out). It's no surprise that I am a fan of the Waltons and that when I am a little spirited, the southern accent comes out. And yes, you did see pictures of my eldest son's homemade egg nog in mason jars on facebook. But I digress. We have a family tradition of eating black-eyed peas for good luck on New Year's Day. They have been served many ways over the years, even straight from the can if necessary. I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes with black-eyed peas and we will be having it tomorrow for supper.

Hoppin' John

1 1/2 cups dry black-eyed peas
4 cups water
1/2 cups chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper
1 bay leaf
8 ounces ham hocks
salt and pepper

Bring peas and water to a boil in a large saucepan. Boil two minutes and remove from heat. Let stand 1 hour. Add remaining ingredients, return to heat, cover, and simmer for two hours, stirring frquently. Add more water if necessary. Remove ham hocks and bay leaf, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice. Serves 4.
(Recipe courtesy of 365 Simple Pleasures collected by Susannah Seton)

I will be using diced, cooked ham instead of ham hocks, since I am having difficulty finding unsmoked ham hocks. If using cooked ham, add when 15 minutes are left.

I will be serving a side of spinach and a skillet of homemade cornbread as well. My sister is bringing sweet potato pie.

Here's to a new year filled with health and happiness! Happy New Year's to you and yours from all of us at Melia's Urban Farm!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Way of Baking Bread at Home

I love to bake bread. However, I use a bread maker. I know, I know, I can hear you scoffing as I type. I dislike actual baking. I just don't have time for it. I dislike being trapped by the time it takes to bake. Cookies, they are my nemesis. Raising a family with 5 children, required the baking of no less than 6 doz at a time. I felt trapped by having to wait and wait and wait, between each sheet. Bread requires more time than I am willing to give up. I taught my daughters (and willing sons) to bake as soon as safely possible and they love to bake cookies, cakes, pies, scones and yes, bread. I fell in love with bread machines when they came up with one that makes a 2 lb loaf. I can put in the ingredients and go on about my day. Oh, we still make Irish Brown Bread in a conventional oven, and I bake cakes for birthdays and special occasions, but for the bread we eat for daily consumption, it's the bread maker for me! Why bake when I can knit? I perused many bread machine cookbooks for recipes that were simple, yet delicious. They proved harder that necessary. So, I came up with my own.

White Bread

1 1/3 cup of water microwaved for 1 minute
2 tablespoons of butter, cubed up
4 cups of unbleached flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of yeast

Place first 5 ingredients in bread maker in order as listed on recipe. Make well in center and add yeast. Select white bread and your preferred crust. Start bread maker and leave! Yields a 2 lb loaf. It takes my bread maker 3 hours and 10 minutes to complete a loaf.

This girl is moving on to other things! I can hear the needles clicking now!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Christmas - Ten Fold!

It is often said when you do something good it will come back to you ten fold. We have lived it this Christmas. Behold, the Giving Garland aka Helping Hands! But first, I must submit a back story....Our family has played a blind $5.00 gift game on Christmas Eve at my mother's house, that frankly, some of us did not like. It involved stealing gifts from the recipients and gifts that, how shall we say, were less than stellar. Now, don't say "Well, what do you expect for $5 bucks?" I have always shopped all year for these gifts and purchased something that I would like to get if that's was how the game turned and I ended up with it. That cannot be said of every player and feelings were hurt and children disappointed, but still we played the game for many years. Since I have inherited hosting Christmas Eve from my mom this holiday season, I abolished "the Game". Instead, I asked everyone to bring the money they would have spent on the gift and we would choose a charity to donate the lump sum to. I saw a knitting pattern to make a mitten garland to count down to Christmas, and from that, the Giving Garland was born. I have knitted a mitten for each family member to put their donation in. I used leftover yarn from various projects and was given great joy while knitting each little creation. This year we chose Samaritan's Purse. We collected enough money to purchase a goat and two flocks of chicks! Everyone loves our new family tradition! You may be asking, where does the "tenfold" part come in? I have made no secret of our current financial challenges while posting frugal recipes. However, it was never my intention to garner sympathy, just to let people know they are not alone with their financial struggles and that I could share money saving recipes and ideas. Well, yesterday an "Angel" came to our door to wish us a Merry Christmas and gave us a $100 gift card to a local grocery store. Bless you, Christmas Angel! Your generosity is touching and will be put to good use! All of God's promises are true! Happy Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

This Soup's for You!

I had a request for another frugal recipe and this is one of my favorites! One of my friends who lost their job in the various rounds of layoffs executed by Borders is feeling the same pinch in the pocket book that we are. In fact, many of us who lost our jobs, or who have spouses that lost their jobs, or have just had a bad run of luck are feeling the same way. I am happy to share my recipes and help stretch the food budget. It's my version of Yankee Bean Soup. The ingredients, if you had nothing on hand, are under $5 dollars at Aldi and are actually a fraction of that if you have some of the items on hand. You can get 2 batches of this recipe if you had to buy the all of the ingredients and still have onions, carrots and celery left for other recipes.

Julie's Yankee Bean Soup

One medium onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 rib of celery, diced
1 lb of dried navy beans, rinsed

Place all ingredient in slow cooker and add enough water to an inch from the top of the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours. Add salt to taste, usually about 1 tsp, an hour before serving. Add pepper to taste.

If you have any left over ham, dice it up and add it instead of the salt, about one hour before serving. I have also added a ham hock to the slow cooker in the beginning, but it seems harder and harder to find a ham hock that is not smoked. Most of the time, I just make it without the meat. This soup also freezes well and rewarms nicely for leftovers.

So, this soup is for you! I hope you like it as much as we do!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Our Mitford Snowman

The kids decided to build a snowman today. They were clearly inspired by my Mitford Snowmen collection I have acquired over the years when Hallmark made various snowmen based on Jan Karon's At Home in Mitford series. I loved those books! I was drawn to the spiritual and community message contained in those books! I was moved to tears by the fact that the kids constructed their snowman facing our bay window so I could enjoy him from the warmth of our dining room. Over the next few days, the weather will be growing warmer and the weatherman is calling for rain. I am thankful that our snowman will be immortalized here and in our minds and hearts on their playful and joy filled day. To Anthony and Chelsea: Thank you for such a wonderful gift! I love you both dearly!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

More Repurposing: Things with a Purpose

I just love making something out of what most people would toss in the trash. The two Strategy bags were ordered, the chicken bag is also sold, so all that's left is the rabbit food bag. I also love that Purina Mills donates a portion of the proceeds of each pink bag of feed sold to breast cancer research! So, when livestock owners bought the pink bags, they purchased with a purpose! Kudos Purina! Shoot me a message here or on fb if you are interested in the pink bunny bag. The price is $15.00 (includes shipping and handling).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Girl, you got skills!

I enjoy knitting! I am self taught. I've been told I don't hold my needles correctly or weave the yarn through my fingers to obtain proper tension, but I still manage to produce knitted objects that people love to wear, make things for their pets wear, or I make toys to play with. Sometimes, I use patterns and sometimes, I create my own. I sell some of my work and give many things as gifts. I also teach others to knit, but upfront, warn them of my non-traditional methods. It is very soothing to knit and I can knit while I work at Gallup. Today, I wore the shawl you see pictured. I received many compliments, but my favorite was from a co-worker who, when he realized I had knit it, said "Girl, you got skills!" I thanked him. Little did he know how his words sustained me through the day! Skills, no. Doing something I enjoy, yes. But, I'll take the compliment.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

First Infusion

Today marks my first Remicade infusion. When we first arrived, my blood pressure was through the roof, due to nerves. The flash drive brochure they sent in the mail to prepare me for this day was, not unlike pharmaceutical commercials, chock full of side effect warnings. Pretty scary stuff, indeed. Forewarned is forearmed I suppose. So far, so good. I have run the gamut of emotions: anxiety, depression, full out crying, and of course anger (not directed at anyone, just at the idea of me of all people having Crohn's). The nurses are nice and quite attentive. Charlie is worried. That's his job, the worrier. He is good at it, as my glass is always full and he usually can't find his. We are ever hopeful that the infusions will begin the healing necessary to halt the progression of my Crohn's disease. A day without pain would be joyful! A day without pain killers would be even better! The thing I keep in my heart and mind is that so many people have to endure so many things much worse than I. I put them in my God box.
I included a picture of myself, which I may delete later. My hair is falling out due to 4 bouts of anesthesia and steroids. Vanity will surely play it's part in the deletion. Oh and, the "round face" is a side effect of the steroids (joy)! I am not normally a vain woman, heck, many days I don't wear makeup, but I do love my hair! So, if missing my once luxurious mane is being vain, then I whole heartedly admit it! Maybe I'll cut it off. I've always loved Judy Dench's haircut!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Taco Chili

I've always been one to love a frugal recipe, but I didn't always shop that way. Needless to say, with the advent of my husband taking a substantial pay cut after his company being bought out, my being laid off, then finding a new job at less pay than before, and then falling ill, missing work, and now incurring mounting medical expenses, our finances have taken a huge hit. Now, more than ever, we need to cut our expenses wherever we can. This is one of my favorite, frugal, crock pot recipes. Currently, I am unable to afford organic ingredients, unless I can find them on sale. For this batch, I purchased all my ingredients from Aldi. The recipe serves six. The total cost was less than $5.00. Making it less than $o.84 a serving. We serve it with blue corn chips, shredded cheddar, and a dollop of greek yogurt, all of which we always have on hand, but you get the general idea of a thrifty meal.


Serves 6

1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
1 15 oz can kidney beans
1 15 oz can whole kernel corn
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 package taco seasoning

Brown ground beef with diced onion in a skillet on medium high heat. Drain fat. In a 3 1/2 to 4 quart slow cooker, combine browned ground beef and all other ingredients in crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours or high for 2 to 3 hours.

This recipe is adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes. I added the onion and saved money by purchasing the 28 oz can of tomatoes instead of 2 15oz cans as their recipe call for. I have used ground turkey instead of ground beef and frozen corn instead of canned. All in all, this recipe is delicious!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Free For the Taking

I enjoy looking on craigslist. Admittedly, I was a voyeur, always looking, never taking part. Sometimes dreaming of partaking, but never doing so. I'm always curious as to what people are giving away for free. Sometimes, to me, it is truly junk, other times, I am amazed at the quality. It brings to mind the old adage: "One man's trash is another man's treasure." Yesterday, I was wondering how I could factor in purchasing bales of straw to winterize the chicken coop and freshen their yard. Money has been extremely unsteady, as I was laid off June 2010, found a part time job, and then once employed full time a year later, have missed significant days from work being hospitalized twice and taking time off for extensive testing. Every penny is counted, weighed and measures, testing our skills to stretch every dollar. I decided to put straw in the for sale search of craigslist, and came up with prices cheaper than our local feed store, but with the drive to the small towns where they were listed, one would have to factor the cost of gas in the overall purchase price. I was saddened, but moved on. Once again, for fun, I decided to look at the free items. The posting at the top of the list was 5 free bales of straw! I called immediately, as the poster did not want to be emailed, and left a message. After nearly an agonizing hour, she called back and they were mine! She had used them as yard decorations for Halloween and wanted them gone. Talk about divine intervention! So, now when I view items on craigslist, I will reserve my judgement on what I think is trash, because like for me, the item maybe a treasure!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Last of The Bounty = Piccalilly!

After much deliberation, this year we planted a small garden. While the small garden was less work, it also would mean less production. Our middle son was married this summer and we held the reception in our yard. It was a beautiful family event! I fell ill shortly afterwards with two hospitalizations, so the small garden turned out to be a blessing. We had enough tomatoes to eat, share, and dehydrate. Plenty of cayenne to keep us in crushed red pepper for the winter, herbs to dry, and the hungarian hot wax yielded a couple of quart jars of hot pepper rings. Plenty to enjoy, but not too much work. Before the freeze last night, the kids picked the last of the bounty from the garden. Much to my surprise, there are enough green tomatoes to make a family favorite! Piccalilly! The perfect relish! This recipe was given to me by my mother who got it from a farmwives journal canning brochure long ago. We have altered it slightly, adding a whole cayenne pepper straight down the middle of the jar before they are sealed. The idea came from a mennonite woman we met at Carston Farm Days a few years back. It adds the perfect amount of kick! Each year, when we make this, the memories of my mother's kitchen comes flooding back with the heady scent of overnight cabbage melding with tomatoes and the wonderful aroma of vinegar and pickling spice when cooking down the next day. So, if you have green tomatoes left, here is the recipe from my family to yours. It is a recipe that was and is to be handed down for generations! Enjoy!


1 quart green tomatoes, chopped
1 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cup onion, chopped
5 cups cabbage, chopped
1/3 cup salt
3 cups vinegar
2 cups brown sugar
2 tbls whole mixed pickling spice
Combine vegetables. Mix with salt. Let stand overnight. Next day, drain and press in colander to remove liquid.
Combine vinegar and sugar. Place spice in cloth and tie. Place in vinegar mixture. Bring to boil. Add vegetables and bring to boil. Simmer 30 minutes to reduce liquid. Remove bag. Pack in clean, hot jars. 1/2 inch to top. adjust lids, Process 5 minutes in water bath. If you want to add a little heat, place 1 cayenne pepper straight down the center of each jar before sealing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Preserving an Icon

A couple of days ago, I was reading the Omaha World Herald and came across this letter to the editor. It moved me enough to clip it out and carry it around. I even made mention of it to the postal worker when I shipped my latest order for my re-purposed chicken tote. I can't imagine a world without mail carriers. I can't imagine a world without letters, postcards, packages. I can't imagine not viewing the stamps from my birth year at Boystown and realizing that there may not be stamps for my grandchildren's birth years. My grandmother loved to go to the mailbox each day and even though she lived a few blocks from my home, I regularly sent cards to her because it gave her joy. I too, love letters and cards! I love watching for the mailman to come up my walk, anticipating his delivery of a letter, a postcard, a magazine, and to my delight, a package! To my friends from the book industry who are currently out of work, we cannot let what happened to us happen to the postal service. So, write that friend, send that postcard, mail that card that made you laugh out loud in Hallmark. Share this with everyone you know. Save the Postal Service and while we're at it, let's make Ruth Wise's day!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Rescuing Rosemary

As I lay in bed, drifting off to the news, the weather report came on and called for freezing temps. I remembered the fern, aloe and spider plants hanging on the patio and the rosemary in the hedge. Donning a hoodie over my gown and wellies over my bare feet, I ran out to rescue the plants. The rosemary is my favorite. It was left over last year's herb garden. I stuck it and other herb cuttings in an old hen and chicks pot, hoping for some fresh herbs for use during the winter. By spring, the rosemary was down to about 5 inches of woody stump. My mother has a theory for tired and ailing house plants...she "gives them over to God" and sticks them outside. So die or thrive, it's completely up to nature. Normally, I replant and nurture, but this time, I stuck the pot in the hedge around the patio and frankly forgot about it. I even planted a new herb garden complete with new rosemary. We used the rosemary from the herb garden all summer. Lo and behold...look at the rosemary from the hens and chicks pot! What a boon for fall and winter dishes. If the freeze missed the others in the herb garden, I shall bring them in for the winter. The money saved on the rosemary alone is reason enough to give it a go!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Once upon a time, feed sacks were made of cloth. When we started raising chickens, feed came in paper sacks. We would use them to recycle papers, line the rabbit hutch or mulch the garden. Then came the nylon bags. I didn't know what to do with them and piled them up in the shed, never wanting to add them to the trash, yet another landfill victim. Sometime later, I saw feed bag totes for sale at the feed store made by the 4H kids. I started making them for our groceries, then as gifts and recently, I have begun filling orders for them. Nothing like making a little extra cash while recycling! Shoot me a line if you'd like to place an order.

An Apple...An Idea

Behold the apple. In it's current state, a possible danger to my digestive system. More test will perhaps lead to a diagnosis and meds to alleviate the symptoms. But, that is not what the apple means to me today. It is what the apple may become. With the right ingredients and know how, it can be be transformed. Today, the simple visual of the apple means a beginning, an idea, a spark of things it can become. A neighborhood icon, The Benson Bakery has become available for rent. It has not been run as the bakery for a few years now, but the space and most of the equipment is there. Usually, I do not long for money, but today, if I had the finances, I would restore this community favorite to it's former self. Not an upscale bakery with $4.00 cupcakes and artisan breads, but a neighborhood bakery with the baked goods we grew up with. Breads in sacks, doughnuts, kringles, kolaches carried away in those cardboard boxes back to coffee and orange juice waiting at home. It wouldn't take much money to get it back off the ground, and I am on the hunt to find the finances. This is just the business our whole family could be involved in...with a little hard work and elbow grease, this apple could become a pie!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Our Little Soul in Seoul: Arm Scripture

What a beautiful idea! Blessings to Katie on her journey!

Our Little Soul in Seoul: Arm Scripture: So many of you know how I have had some tough days in this wait for Zinny. After the emotional roller coaster this summer with Korea putting...

Monday, September 19, 2011

End of Summer Soup

From Real Simple:

End of Summer Soup

4 cups low sodium chicken broth
(We use veg broth)
1 15 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 large zucchini, cut into bite sized pieces
1 large yellow squash, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 pound green beans, cut into bite sized pieces
2 cup corn kernels, cut from 2 ears or frozen
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/4 cup fresh dill sprigs

In a large saucepan over medium high heat, bring to boil. Add the beans, zucchini. Squash, green beans, corn, onion, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. Stir in dill.

Honestly, I have one child who is a vegetarian, and with all due repect to her life choice, I think the chicken broth would have been better. Maybe a little shredded chicken to boot!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Gadget Guru

I think that my sister held me in higher esteem for my ability to try new things than I held myself.  But look at me now, blogging from my phone.  This will surely inspire me to post more often.  So, here goes! This is the beautiful floor we found after removing the carpet.  Wish it hadn't taken 15 years to convince my husband we should do it!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Yogurt & Quark

Trying my hand at making yogurt and then quark. If all turns out well, it should yield a surplus of yogurt and quark at a fraction of the cost. Thank you Robin Mather for the inspiration. I am loving your book The Feast Nearby! Meanwhile.....Thunder, our exchange chicken, was supposed to be the bold one of the flock she came from (insert aggressive)but has yet to fight her way into the group. And yes, I tried all the tricks suggested for introducing a new chicken to the flock. It will boil down to a battle royale or death. Such is the life of a chicken on an urban farm.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Months later......

I really should do a better job of posting. You'd think nothing happens here, but, that is further from the truth. Knitted, and sold several mascot hats. Went full time a Gallup. Chickie Bock Bock passed over after 12 years of dutiful service. Acquired a new hen, a Dominique, but sadly, the flock is rejecting her. My kitchen garden is in and is determined to grow despite the influx of rain. Most importantly, Daniel and Lacey's wedding is a week from today and the reception is in our back yard. I can hardly wait!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Wonderful Dinner

We enjoyed the food at the "Real Food" dinner and learned more about our hosts. I hope I didn't pressure her too much about the chickens. They are young and so nice. I should have socialized more, but sometimes I am shackled by my own shyness and feel Charlie is not comfortable in new social situations. I really wanted to talk to Amy. When she came to my house for the "chicken tour", she was reluctant to leave saying "I love the energy of this house." By far the best compliment my home has ever received. I hope we are included in more invitations. I would love to host one of these events myself.

New Friends

It's been a while since I've been here. Wallowing in self pity, which is never a good thing. Then, by noticing a post on Facebook, about urban chickens, I left a comment. This led to a request to "tour" our urban hen set up. This in turn led to meeting 3 people I wantd to know more. After the "tour" came the "friending" on Facebook which led to an invitation to attend a "Real Food Dinner". The meal is comprised of real foods, "knowing exactly what's in your food". That is what we believe here at the "farm", but frankly, I am excited just to get the chance to learn more about these new friends!