Friday, April 27, 2012


I assigned every commenter a number based on the order they commented. Each one who wanted to be in both drawings got two numbers, one for the rabbit bowl and one for the rock box. There were 29 in the Rabbit bowl drawing, and 19 in the rock box drawing.
I used to pick the numbers. 

So, the winner of the rabbit bowl is White Moon Witchcraft!
And the winner of the rock box is Jackie-O!

I will be contacting the winners today! Thank you so much for playing!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mini Greenhouse or Hot Box

For weeks now I have been moving seedlings off my dining table and out into the sun every morning and then bringing them back in after dinner.  It was getting old! So, today I (with the help of husband Danny) made a mini greenhouse, or hot box out of some old windows,  two hinges, some screws and and old board. 

I bought the windows, hinges and even the board at our local Salvage shop.  (You could also check out at  a local ReStore for windows. ) I had the choice of double paned windows or these single paned ones. (I chose the less expensive single panes, though if I decide to make another one I will get double paned ones so it can work better as a cold frame too. )
They were selling the windows for $6.00 a pair or
for 5.00 a single.  I bought two pairs that all matched and one large single window. They have boards there, as well as old door hinges. The hinges were 1.50 each and the boards were 1.00.  I also bought some screws.

Windows .................17.00
Danny and I put the materials close to where were wanted it to finally be.  We took the hardware off the windows, and Danny drilled pilot holes for the screws.

We (mostly Danny) assembled the four matching windows into a square with screws, to make a bottomless and topless cube.
The fifth window was just as wide as the cube, but a bit short.
Danny cut the board to be as wide as the cube, then screwed it to the top on one side. He hinged the fifth window to the board, hanging out a bit on the front for a lip to lift it by.
The bottom was left open to the grass.
Now it is ready to use!
I put in some small pallets for my plants to sit on, and propped open the lid with a small plastic toy so the inside wouldn't overheat. I will shut it this evening. It can be opened all the way and the top window leans against the house for really warm days, or if it rains.

If I make another one with the double paned windows, Danny will cut a board for the sides to make the top window slope, so snow slides off.
So, there you have it!
A mini greenhouse for less than 25 dollars. It is light enough that two people could move it easily, and would be simple enough to take apart- Just remove the screws for storage.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day! And a Giveaway!

Happy Earth Day! And Beltane is just around the corner!
To celebrate, and because I haven't done a giveaway for a while, I thought I would combine them.

I have two items to give away. If you want in the drawing for the little rabbit bowl (It is a small Rachel Ray style bowl that might be good to hold salt on the table, or dipping sauce for spring rolls. ) This is from my SecondChanceCeramics.Etsy.Com shop.

Or you can get in the drawing for a rock box from AntB.Etsy.Com.
This rock box has clear glass in it.

Just leave a message in the comments. Say which one you would like to have a chance win. If you want to be in the running for both of them, just say so, and I will put you in for both.

I will be picking winners on Thursday. **Be sure to put a way to contact you in the comments!!**


PS. Some people are having trouble commenting. If you are, just convo me in one of my shops. Or leave a message on the forums. Or tweet me. I will get you counted. Also, if you didn't say which one you like, I will put you in for both. :)

Monday, April 16, 2012


I was driving by First Free Church in rockford il. Police were directing traffic for the church. Suddenly, BEES were EVERYWHERE. Traffic stopped, the police stopped directing and crouched. I snapped photos of the bees in the air, and of the coming swarm. (the grey cloud in this photo)

The blurry black dots are bees, not rain!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Community Gardens

Yesterday, Jasmine and I helped out at the Rock River Valley Food Pantry. Normally she and I work there on Fridays distributing food, but yesterday (Saturday) we were helping the local Master Gardeners ready and plant some garden beds. The local extension office is helping the food pantry put together vegetable beds. Families who use the pantry will be able to pick their own vegetables from the beds.

Jasi and I came and were put to work lining the beds with card board, edging them with plastic and then filling the beds with compost and soil using a wheelbarrow. Other volunteers used pickaxes to level the other beds. The ground was crabgrass over hardpacked gravel, and I didn't envy them trying to make headway in that stuff.

We hadn't gotten too far when a local businessman showed up with an endloader.
Barbara, one of the Master Gardeners, had met him yesterday and told him about the project. He then decided to help out, bringing his equipment! That was an amazing help!

By 2 pm, 6 raised beds were completely lined and full, and planted. They planted lettuce, spinach, peas and a salad mix. Other crops will be replacing these as they are picked.

The students at Rockford College are starting some warmer weather plants for them to rotate in, like tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers.

Next Saturday there will be more beds to level and fill, and then walkways to cover with mulch.
I really enjoyed working toward getting freshly picked vegetables in the hands of the clients at the pantry. There is such a disconnect with so many city people as to where food comes from. I think the children will especially benefit.

Jasi and I are looking foreword to next week, working with and asking questions of the Master Gardeners.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Growin' Taters

This is the third year I have had a garden. In my other houses I have either not had enough room or the yard was totally in shade. I always wanted a nice garden, so I did try to plant edibles even when I couldn't plant regular gardens. I think I planted at least one fruit tree or bush (but usually two or more!) at every place we have lived.

Years ago I visited a friend who had a nice, big garden, and she served potatoes that she had just dug up. I still remember how delicious it was! Ever since then I wanted to try my hand at growing my own potatoes someday.

When I finally got to plan a garden at this home, I looked for a likely place for a potato bed. Unfortunately, the place I wanted to put it was all gravely and hard packed. I asked the neighbors, and they said that a previous tenant had put herbicide on the whole yard, then started to gravel the whole thing. He only got the back part of the yard graveled before he moved out, but by then the damage had been done. The yard was mostly bare dirt, and the many cars he parked all over the yard leaked all sorts of gasoline and oil everywhere. I was afraid to plant anything in the soil for fear of contamination.

The problem was eventually solved when I used raised beds for the garden, built up lasagna style. But I really wanted to plant potatoes. So I looked for ways to grow them in containers. One of the ways I read about was growing potatoes in wire bins or barrels. I didn't have any low cost or free barrels laying around, but wire is cheap, so I tried that.
The way I read sounded pretty easy. Just put a bin out, put dirt in, lay the seed potatoes on the dirt, and then add more dirt. Water once in a while and add more dirt when the plants grow up a bit, and you are good to go.

The first year I made three bins. I bought seed potatoes from online (darn expensive!) and put them in the bins. One of the blogs I read said that potatoes grew in almost anything. They suggested trying straw and sawdust. I had dried leaves. Lots of dried leaves. So I planted mine in those. I also gave them a bit of organic garden fertilizer too. They grew up through the leaves after about a month, and I covered them with more leaves until just a little of them poked out. They grew through that, and I covered them mostly all the way up again. They grew through those. By then the bins were a little more than half full, so I left them to grow.

That first year the potatoes produced just OK, because they only produced about three times the potatoes I put in. They were very yummy!

The next year I planted potatoes in bins again, but this year I bought the seed potatoes at a local big box store, where they were much less expensive than online. Again I planted them in dried leaves, and again I covered them over almost up to the top as they grew through the dried leaves. I watered them but I didn't feed them very much. We had a late spring and a very hot summer, so I probably should have watered them a bit more. But when we dumped out the bins, there were hardly any potatoes. We took out just about the same amount as we put in. It was disappointing, to say the least.

I asked around at the farmer's market, and one of the growers said she grows potatoes in bins too. But she uses dirt, compost and lots and lots of fertilizer. She figured that I didn't fertilize the potatoes enough.

This year I bought some potatoes online again. They were expensive, but I had a coupon and got them reasonably. They were due to be mailed at the end of April. Then we had that unbelievable warm spell the beginning of March and I wished I had some potatoes to get started. So I cancelled my order online, telling them they would come later than I wanted them. Then I went to a local produce store (the 320 Store), and bought some organic potatoes. I let them sit on the fridge for a few days to let them start to sprout, and I planted three bins in horse manure mixed with compost, added in some organic fertilizer, and crossed my fingers.

The next day I got an email from the online company saying they were going to mail out their potatoes early as requested, and I would get them the next day. I did get them, and they also sent me five pounds of each potato instead of one, since I was 'such a good customer'.

So, I bought some more wire, got more horse poop, and planted those four types too. But there were too many potatoes for each bin, so I still have a bunch left over.

My kids are teasing me and saying if I just break even this year and only grow as many potatoes as I put in the bins, I should still have lots of potatoes.
And they are about right, too.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Freeze Warning

The last week or so has been seasonably cool here.
Temps during the day have been in the fifties and sixties, and nights have been in the forties. Last night the temperatures were predicted to get to 28 degrees or lower. This means that there was a freeze warning for last night.  I found this description on the net:

Both [the frost advisory and the freeze warning] are only issued during the growing season. A Frost Advisory is issued when the predicted temperature is expected to fall to 36 degrees or lower in the next 3 to 30 hours during the growing season. So temperatures 35 to 40 range would also dictate a frost advisory. A Freeze Warningis issued when there is an 80% or greater chance that the temperatures are expected to fall
to 32 degrees (F) or lower in the next 3 to 30 hours during the growing season. If the temperature is expected to fall below 28 degrees (F) this is considered a Hard Freeze.

Since I am in the city and my neighborhood is on a slight hill, I usually assume my yard will be about 3 to 5 degrees warmer. Even so, I could expect a good freeze or at least a hard frost.

If the temperature had been only cool enough for a light frost, I would have crossed my fingers and let the garden sort itself out, since the early plants are all pretty hardy. What I have planted so far are pretty frost tolerant, but even so, temperatures that low could still do some damage, so I broke out the plastic.

Danny and I put props in the beds that didn't have tall supports. Any leaves touching the plastic could get frozen, so we had to prop the plastic up away from the baby plants. We got them covered by about 5 pm. This time of year my yard is in shade by about 7 pm, so the beds had a couple of hours to warm in the tents be
fore the sun went down.

This morning I went out before the shade left the yard to open the tents, since I didn't want the plants to overheat in the plastic with the sun. As I opened each one, a puff of warm air escaped, so I knew the plants had been toasty all night. The only casualty was a volunteer pansy that was near an opening in the plastic. It had frozen and wilted.
I left the plastic out for the day. Tonight is going to be a little warmer, but tomorrow night is supposed to be in the low 30's again, so I will be covering them for that.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Past and Present

I am thinking about changing the focus of this blog from just being about my Etsy shops to more of a personal blog, with an emphasis on gardening, home life and urban homesteading. To help this along, I am going to give a bit of backstory:

I have been very interested in Urban Homesteading (living simply, raising our family's food and conserving resources) for a while now.
When my husband and I and our seven children first moved to Rockford, in far northern Illinois, back in 1998, I posted in the Mother Earth online forums how excited I was to be moving to a large property in a very rough side of town. My plans then were to buy up the derelict properties that were next to me and expand our tiny urban homestead.

That never happened.

We actually moved from that home and to a bigger house with a smaller yard (and two bathrooms). Even in that small space, I found room for three apple trees, three kinds of raspberries, a dozen herbs and many pots of strawberries, as well as a few tomato, bush green beans and tomatillo plants every summer. All this in a 4 x 20 foot yard, and in pots on my porch.

We lost that home in 2008 and 2009 when the economy tanked hard and our family's income halved. Along with the financial difficulties, one of my sons, David, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

In 2009, we felt grateful to find a house to rent that was big enough for us and affordable, and had room for the return of some of the now-adult children that moved back in to help us cope with the loss of David.

Eventually, in 2010, my son left home, and my oldest daughter and her girlfriend moved out, we used the rooms they vacated to start up and then expand our home business (pottery).

So now there are just five of us living here. Husband Danny and I, youngest daughter Grace who is 18 and has William's Syndrome, and middle daughter Jasmine along with her three year old daughter. This means we have the whole attic and basement to devote to pottery. We also have a good sized, and mostly sunny, back yard and a landlord whose only requirement for the yard is that it look neat. He has allowed us to put in five raised beds along with a seasonal green bean tunnel. Because of this we have more garden space than ever before.

I have also looked for jobs outside the home, but there aren't too many around that pay a living wage, and right now I feel I am pretty valuable at home, working with the pottery, selling it online, and growing food. I continue to look and apply for local work, but by being thrifty we make it with what we have.

We eat well, especially so during garden season. My daughter Jasmine has learned to freeze, can and preserve nearly all our garden's excess, so we have some that lasts all year.

Last year, we started selling our pottery locally at a couple of farmer's markets too. While we just broke even in our sales, it turned out to be valuable from a food standpoint. We made friends with other vendors, who were mostly produce growers. One let us glean her acre of green beans when they got grasshopper spots. All we had to do was uproot the plants when we were done, and put the litter in her compost pile. We had enough green beans to can dill and spicy beans, as well as lots to freeze. We had frozen beans well into the winter. This same vendor let us have extras of her produce very often, and another vendor invited us for outdoor movies and popcorn every Saturday night. Later he supplied us with all the pumpkins we wanted, and enough apples for many jars of apple sauce. Another vendor told us of a local auction where local produce was sold at wholesale prices. We had fun and were able to buy wonderful food very reasonably. Other vendors allowed us to barter pottery for local cheese and eggs, gallons of honey, and even a huge home-raised chicken for my birthday dinner.

So, while we made very little money from pottery sales beyond the cost of the market itself, we still had great food all winter from the market at very little expense, other than the time it took to freeze it or can it. 

It was yesterday evening as I was rearranging the freezer to get to the last of the frozen pumpkin for soup, that I realized my long-ago dream of having an urban homestead had mostly come true. While I don't own my own place, and our space is smaller than I had hoped, we are still raising our own food. Most of the food we don't raise ourselves is still locally and ethically produced. I fertilize my garden with worm poop from my worm bins, along with horse poop from a farmer just outside of town. I am learning to save seed, so this year much of my garden is from seeds I saved from the farmer's market produce or my own garden.

Our meat is purchased from a local butcher that buys from local farmers and sells just about every part of the animal so there is very little waste. The shop has wide variations in what meat they offer from day to day depending on what animals they have butchered that week.

I wish this city allowed backyard chickens, but the city council always shoots it down when someone proposes it. But one of the people I met at a farmer's market sells me chicken and duck eggs very reasonably. I do love using the duck eggs!

Most of the waste our family produces is recycled as well. Our mail, cardboard, and the newspaper is fed to the worms along with our kitchen scraps. Their castings go in the garden. Our cats' and dog's poo is composted and put on the flower bed. The canning jars we use for vegetables are reused each year, and so are the plastic containers we freeze in. If we buy from the store, we save the plastic to use for our tender seedlings and the glass we break and use in our pottery. Boxes that can't be reused for mailing pottery, are used for worm bedding, and heavy paper is padding for mailing pots.

In our pottery business too, we use up or recycle just about every scrap. Besides reusing the glass, our used clay is wedged and re-thrown or made into magnets or garden markers. The last drippings of glaze that are left over from each batch we make are used to glaze the magnets Gracie makes that we give free with most purchases. The padding we use for mailing with is often defective grocery bags or packaging the local grocery store gives us that they would otherwise throw away. The bubble wrap is often reused from my friends who know to save packaging materials for me. The electricity company we use (for our home and electric kiln) gets the power from green sources, and at least 80% from local windfarms. The mugs we use in SecondChanceCeramics are mostly from out of business restaurants.

I am hoping to blog more about how I am trying to live in my big city, yet still live green.
I think I can.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Early Gardening

With all the unusually warm weather, my garden is going really early.
Last year I planted spinach and peas in mid April. This year I planted peas the first week of March. I also planted a bunch of greens (raab, spinach, chard) and by mid March I planted carrots (red, purple, short and sweet long ones) along with broccoli, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, and more spinach.

Now, my pea plants are about 8 inches tall, the spinach is almost ready to start picking, and the broccoli raab is bunching.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Happy April!

Happy First Day of April!
To celebrate, I have two new listings in my shops.
In my AntB Shop, I have this listing:

Solar and Wind Powered CLOTHES DRYING MACHINE Steampunk

This is a solar and wind powered clothes drying machine. It is very easy to assemble, and can be used in or outdoors. Not only is it useful, but it also is a fashion statement for your home!
Be the envy of your neighbors and family, and save the environment at the same time!
Instructions for assembly and use will
be included

TRAVEL MUG Steampunk
This travel mug is made of clear, sparkling glass, and shiny metal lids. One lid is a travel mug lid, and one is a lid to seal up your drink so you can tuck it in your lunch bag. Simply remove the top ring and the lids are easily interchangeable. Dishwasher safe.
Hobo Chic Coffee Cozy sold separately.

Please check out my listings!
and I also have a coupon code for this month:

to receive 10% off any item this month in either shop!
Thanks for reading my blog!
Happy April Fool's Day!