March 2011 Archives

An Open Invitation

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Starting this weekend, the backyard farming activities will be in full swing and I'd like to invite any of my readers to get in touch and come lend a hand if you feel so inclined!

On April 9th, my neighbors and I will be doing a major overhaul in our backyard. Donuts and coffee will be provided and grilling will take place around lunch time. Duties will include the following:

- Building some small raised beds to replace our container herb garden.
- Tearing down one of the large raised beds and moving the soil to one of the new beds.
- Assembling our new chicken coop and run.
- Shoveling compost into bags to give to friends and adding a 2" layer to all of the beds.
- Taking apart our old chicken coop and run and moving all of the lovely compost they made to the bin
- Planting peas (a little late, but better than never), beans, lettuces, kale.
- Transplanting chard
- Breaking up "lawn" and sifting in compost. This soil is very compacted and grass has a hard time growing in it.
- Getting hives ready for the bees to arrive!

ware-chicknvilla.jpg (Our new coop, the "Chicken Villa")

It's a lot of work, but with enough hands we can make this day a breeze! Shoot me an e-mail if interested in coming to Greenpoint on your Saturday and getting really dirty!

Happy Spring!

"Butt Prombels, USA"

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Pierogi, our Polish Standard hen, has always had issues with her bum. From an early age I was cleaning pasty poo off of her tiny cloaca. Age, it seems, has not improved her.


Today I wandered outside and spied the other girls inspecting her rear and picking on her a bit. I looked, saw some blood and scooped her up quick. She had been squatting as though she were trying to pass something. I brought her inside, set her up one of those granny carts people lug groceries home in around here in NYC. Newspaper, straw, water. Ran a warm bath. Soaked her good and gently washed her little rear just like the old days. She looked as though she were feeling pretty lousy. I wrapped her up in a towel and held her for a bit. She fell asleep in my arms for a while.

She's now closed up in my bathroom, drying off, relaxing in the dark and hopefully passing whatever is giving her a hard time. Last I checked she had perked up, pooped and was scratching around a little but I am going to keep her in there for a bit longer to make sure she's ok.

I hope she pulls through because getting something jammed up in your poop chute seems like a really undignified way to die. Well wishes welcome.

Food Swaps Across America!

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BK Swappers, a food swap based in my hometown that I've had the distinct pleasure of co-organizing, has been in existence for the past year. In that time, swaps have popped up all across the country and even in the UK, recently. These events are a great way to freshen up your pantry, challenge yourself in the kitchen and make new friends. If you are interested in participating in a swap near you, you can find a list of swaps here at Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking. Kate and I started the first swap here in Brooklyn and upon her move to Austin, TX she started organizing one of her very own. Don't see your city on the list? Start your's easy!

food swap.jpg (The spread at onne of our swaps this past Autumn)

First, it helps to have a friend or two help with organizing the event. Since attendees each bring a little bit of food, it's a fairly low-maintenance affair. Having two or three folks involved in logistics, though makes it a breeze. Compile a email list of folks you know who you think might be interested, create an email address for your swap and import those to it so that all organizers can have access to the account and take turns handing the responsibility of corresponding with aspiring swappers.

Secondly, if you use social media like Twitter and Facebook, create a Fan page and hashtag that people can follow and share ideas through. We use the hashtag #BKSwappers which allows everyone to participate in the exchanges. We get a lot of questions about the swap this way. Many new folks have come on board just by seeing people tweeting about it. Facebook Fan Pages are great for posting pictures, recipes or blog posts pertaining to the swaps.

Next, find a space to hold your swap. If you are open to having strangers come to your home, you can host it there. My suggestion would be to host it at a local cafe, bar, gallery or recreational space that is willing to let you use their place in exchange for exposure or added business. Be sure that bringing outside food is allowed in the space, though. The potluck portion of the event gives attendees to sample out some of their swap offerings.

Once you have a space set up set a date, inform your mailing list, Twitter feed and Facebook Fans. Set up an Eventbrite page and get people to RSVP for the event.

On the date of the event, you will need a table for potluck offerings and a table for swap goods. each swap item should be given a ¼ sheet sized bid form that contains spaces for the following information:

- The item available for swapping.
- The name of the person who made it.
- Notes regarding the item (Vegan, Gluten-free, made with eggs, tips on serving, etc.)
- At least 5 lines where interested parties can offer an item and list their name

About an hour after attendees arrive, you'll want to encourage them to make a few offers (as a rule of thumb, I only put 2 bids down for every item I brought) and usually by hour two, the swapping is ready to commence. The bid sheets do nothing more than serve as a guide, a list of opportunities to swap for the goods offered. More often than not, a lot of the swaps are done "freestyle", but it is surprisingly free of chaos and everyone leaves happy with what they traded for and a some new friends for good measure.

haul.jpg (My haul from a recent swap, Kombucha, chicken liver pate, vegan macaroons, heirloom applesauce and goji berry bark!)

Hey y'all. I'm Kelly Harp. Me, my hubs and our two kids are living the super glamourous suburban life in Houston, Tx. Our dream is to move to the Texas Hill Country (that's around Austin for you non-Texans) and do some serious homesteading, but for now we're doing a little gardening, a little cooking, some experimental cheese-making in our smaller space. In my free time, I create and sell tees, onesies and whatever else I get inspired to do! It's fun. It's my life.
I'm glad to get to share a little with you here.

In my 30's, I've discovered there's this crunchy, granola hippie living inside of me. Who knew? She likes to whisper things to me like, "Let's grow a big veggie garden and get chickens!!". She's crazy like that. My hubs, Clint has a hippie, Ray Lamontagne-type living in him too so it works. Until we can get a bigger yard, we do little things like making our own laundry soap...


Did you know you could do this yourself?

I KNOW! So cool. We've used this recipe for more than 6 months now and it hasn't disappointed. My favorite part, apart from it being cheap, is the light, fresh scent the soap lends. Now that we use homemade, all the store bought detergents are way too over powering and give me a headache. When I used them all the time I didn't really notice, but that smell can't be so good for you.

Did i mention that making it is SO CHEAP??! I used to dread having to buy that big box of tide because it was so freaking expensive. Crunchy granola girl likes saving money.

You can find the borax & washing soap at several grocery stores, but I did have to search a bit. For example, my HEB doesn't carry washing soap, but Kroger does. Anyway, just do a little investigating.


You only need one special item, which you might already have - a microplaner. It's a grater, but makes tiny slivers and helps the soap to dissolve much better. Microplaners are great in the kitchen for things like parmesan cheese, or lemon/orange zesting as well. You're likely to get some good use out of the investment.

So here you go...

Homemade Laundry Soap

You will need:

-6 cups Arm & Hammer WASHING soda (NOT baking soda)

-6 cups Mule Team BORAX

-4 bars of unscented soap**

+ First i grate the soap using the microplaner. Now, I'm not going to lie to you - this takes awhile, BUT it makes a great activity to do while catching up on some trashy television :)

+ Add washing soda and borax to the soap shavings & mix well.

+ Voila! that's it! you only need 1/8 c. per load - amazing!! i use a 1/4c & fill it half way for each load.

finished prod.JPG

(Side note from Meg: feel free to add a few drops of an aromatic essential oil to the mix for a customized scent!)

**The original recipe recommends fels naptha soap, but I use this lavender soap from the dollar store for (you guessed it) $1 each.

I love the smell of the lavender. Ivory or Dove would work as well, I'm sure. I do think basic is best.
I ended up buying a bar of Fels Naptha soap the other day and it's amazing at removing stains - i just wet the bar, used a little elbow grease directly on the garment and out came the stain!

So there you have it, laundry soap for about 7 cents a load. Not too shabby!

My vegetable garden has, regrettably taken a back seat to the other projects I have going on: starting new hives, teaching classes on gardening and beekeeping, building a new chicken coop, and prepping for farming up at Newton Farm in West Kill this Spring have successfully taken up the majority of my headspace. I'm doing what I can to catch up. This week, I spent a bit of time trying to repair our dead lawn. I spread garden soil and compost over the surface of the ground and chopped it in with my garden hoe. Sprinkled in a mix of fescue seed and clover just in time for some rain. Hoping that we can get some grass growing before we have to tear down one of our most janky raised beds and replace it. The chickens will appreciate this. They've even done their fair share of aerating the soil.


Cindy, one of the farmers up at Newton Farm, is starting some of my White and Red Currant tomatoes in the greenhouses so I've at least got that covered. They are my favorite so I'd be bummed not to have them. I've got to start some of my greens and peppers indoors right about now, though so they are big enough to transplant in mid-April. I've got some of these leftover goofy coir tablets that I soaked in warm water to get them to expand. Threw some sweet red pepper seeds, german green tomato seeds, yellow pear tomato seeds and rainbow chard seeds in them and gently covered them over using a chopstick. MacGyvering at it's most simple. Once they sprout, I'll separate the seedlings into new pots with some compost-rich seedling mix that my pal Annie got from McEnroe Farm up in the Hudson Valley. They'll eventually get hardened-off outside for a few days before I put them in their new home in the garden.

I'll start direct seeding some radishes, lettuce and peas/beans really soon. Excited to start getting my first harvests of fresh greens. It's been too long. My body is crying out for some fresh backyard goodness.

photo (3).JPG (Handful of seed-starts next to the houseplants my cats can't resist chewing on.)

It's been a wild year since Kate and I started BK Swappers, a pot-luck style social gathering and food swap. Kate's gone off to start her own swap in Austin and Jane from Butter and Salt has taken over her duties. The swap has grown in leaps and bounds and most recently Debbie Koenig from the New York Times chronicled the event that took place at the end of February.I have to say, it's been a nice little "birthday gift" for BK Swappers. We've gotten a great response from folks from the area and we expect that our next swap on 4/10 at The Brooklyn Kitchen is going to be amazing and full of awesome food and people.

Tickets go "on sale" (It's free) this Thursday at noon, so shoot us an email if you want to be included in the mass email, or just follow our progress on Twitter....the hashtag is #BKSwappers.

In the meantime, check out our write up in the Times! It's a fun piece and boy are Jane and I PROUD!


(photo:Ruth Fremson/The New York Times)

You may have picked up on the fact that I'm a little wigged out and stressed based on a previous posting. To better articulate why I'm feeling so mentally spastic, let me make a list of the things I need to be doing over the next 6 weeks:

-Teaching two certificate courses and 2 continuing ed courses on gardening/beekeeping. (8-3 hour classes total)

-Writing a 1500 word article on beekeeping.

-Moving into a new apartment. (in the same building, but whatever! It's still uprooting all of my stuff)

-Getting rolling on my book. I've got 250 pages to write before November.

-Painting and starter stripping 4 beehives (24 supers and 240 frames)

-Hiving 4 packages of bees and photographing all of it.

-Hiving 4 more packages of bees in two locations outside of NYC (Westkill and Portchester).

-Planning my garden for this season. I've only just now ordered a few packets of seeds and started nothing (fortunately a kind farmer in Phoenecia is starting my tomatoes for me... so I could be doing worse)

-Rebuiding the chicken run (It's basically falling apart and the girls need more space) and mucking the old space out.

-Tearing down one of the janky old raised beds in the backyard and building new ones.

- All of the normal day to day stuff like doing laundry, eating, cleaning my house, hugging my boyfriend, sleeping.

Now, I'm really struggling with the management of all of this stuff. Working for yourself requires a whole new level of organization and focus. On one hand I'm really flustered that I've got so much to do and can't figure out how to get it all accomplished fast enough. On the other, I'm just really grateful that I am doing the things I WANT to do for a living and not the things I HAVE to do to get by. It's a struggle, but one I'm glad to be working through.

I've been using my Google Calender a lot and making lists, but I'm struggling to find other ways to get more than one thing done at a time. Organization has never really been something I excel at.

Any suggestions, readers? Lay 'em on me!

national-get-organized-month.gif (I know, it's not January but look! This lady has a beehive in her office!)

Losing My Kimchi Virginity

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I'm finally taking the plunge. After years of eating Kimchi, buying Kimchi, loving Kimchi, I am just getting around to making this stuff myself. I spent the past 2 months babysitting two big jars of Kimchi for my friend when she moved and never came back for them. They went into a pot of Boar Belly Kimchi Jigue last night...Sorry, Yvo. You snooze you lose!) and I figured, if my lazy (but still totally lovely and awesome) friend can make this stuff, then so can I.

photo (1).JPG

So here we go! I've got my rinsed, salted napa cabbage and daikon sitting and I'm about to make my chili porridge based off of this great recipe from Maangchi who I think has the best Korean food blog out there. Instead of carrots and squid, I'll just be adding crisp slivers of apple for sweetness.


photo (2).JPG

After leaving the chili porridge coated vegetables out on the counter overnight, I moved them to the refrigerator. The next day, being unable to resist a taste, I went it and sampled both. They were crispy, a tad sour and spicy. (but fairly mild compared to other kimchis I've had. I've got a delicate constitution, you know!) Truth be told, I'd be perfectly happy eating this kimchi fairly fresh with a bowl of rice and sesame seeds. Really happy with the way this turned out and can't wait to try this method of lactofermenting on other foods!



I need some contributors! I'm crazy busy for the next couple of months with class prep and paying writing gigs and I would love it if anyone out there would like to contribute any beekeeping, canning, animal husbandry, home brewing, pickling, whatevah-whatevah content. I'll kiss yr butt. Or give you some eggs and honey or something. Please, just do me a solid. I don't want this blog to be just about me. I'm boring.

So, if you are reading this and have got some fun urban-homesteader-y stuff going on and have a basic understanding of the English language and how computers "go" GET AT ME!


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This page is an archive of entries from March 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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