Compost and Food Waste

Composting is an essential part of urban gardening and homesteading.  Because our urban soils do not benefit from the nutrients of animal manure and traction or formal practices of crop rotation, it is critical to replenish soil nutrients each growing season.  Food and yard waste compost is the best way to do that.

I have attempted various systems for composting, this final elevated tumbler has proven to be the best for us. Previously I had a standing plastic bin with four sides and a lid–this was both difficult to get the completed compost out of and it attracted rats.  The tumbler does not seem to attract rats, but unfortunately requires that I dig the compost out with my hands.  If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, this is a really good option for urban settings.

If you are composting food scraps, be sure to keep out any meat, or cooked foods, and try to ensure a balance of leaves, sticks and other brown matter to balance the green matter.  Otherwise you may end up with Soldier Fly Grubs, a discussion I will save for another post.

Backyard Chickens

Ever since we moved to this property and our lovely 85 year old neighbor had free range hens and a rooster, it has been on in the back of my mind that I wanted to get our own chickens.  Our area allows for chickens so long as they are kept a certain distance from each neighbor’s dwelling.  By keeping them in our front yard we will be within regulations.   I began our process of getting chickens with the coop.  I had seen various plans to build your own DIY coop.  I spoke with the lovely folks at our local urban homesteading shop Kings Roost, and decided it would be better to buy a prefab coop and reinforce it myself with extra chicken wire to keep the critters out.  Here’s the coop we decided on:

Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I Love Ice Cream!

I’ve been experimenting with ice cream for a few months now.  I have been trying to find the perfect vanilla recipe and am hoping to use that as a base for exploring other flavors.  Over thanksgiving I think I found my perfect vanilla.  It was served alongside a pumpkin cheesecake pie and paired perfectly well.  Today I made some for our monthly queer dinner potluck.

This is not a quick recipe, it takes a bit more time than the simple ones and requires preparing the ice cream at least 24 hours in advance of serving it.  Although it is a bit more work my taste testers and I have decided that it is worth the wait!



2 cups Whole Milk

2 cups Half and Half

1 cup Sugar

1 Vanilla Bean, cut in half with seeds removed

5 Egg yolks

A pinch of Salt

Some recipes call for heavy cream–I found that this can give the ice cream a greasy texture and that the added fat is not necessary for the flavor so I have been going with a 50/50 whole milk with half and half mixture.  You can play with the balance of this for your own tastes.

IMG_1162Carefully Cut Vanilla bean and scrape out seeds.

IMG_1164Slowly heat the milk mixture and sugar with the vanilla bean, stirring and watching closely to ensure that it does not fully boil.

IMG_1165Beat the 5 egg yolks.

IMG_1167Temper the eggs by slowly adding in the hot milk.  Add about a quarter cup at a time stirring constantly with each addition of milk.  IMG_1168Make sure you dont cook the eggs, there should be no eggy chunks.

IMG_1170Reheat the mixture to nearly boiling.

IMG_1171Now strain out the bean and any seeds that got into the batter (alternatively you can just take the bean out and leave the seeds in).

Let this mixture cool in the refrigerator for as many hours as you can bear it and then pop it into your ice cream maker.  Enjoy immediately for soft serve, or freeze for at least 12 hours for harder ice cream!

Potatoes going Strong

The potatoes I planted from started potatoes about a month ago are doing really well.  I planted them in about 3 feet of good quality dirt and peat moss inside of this deep potato bed that I made myself.  I hope that the door will work to fetch the potatoes without having to dig up the plant!IMG_0798