Thursday, May 31, 2012

Urban Garden

Almost ready!!!

Everyday I wake up amazed that I am still working in my job.  How is it I haven't written Twilight or the Hunger Games or some other teen best-seller to take me away from this dreaded job?  How have I not thought of some great way to keep myself in gardening or knitting full time?  I am not someone who works in emergency rooms!  For 22 years I have been in the wrong profession. I should be a designer or gardener, author or artist.  When did I take the wrong turn? 

After 2 very long 12 hour shifts this week, I am ready for a break!
We spent the day with kids running through the house, everyone wants to see the chicks. The chicks are growing fast and getting their feathers.

I am trying to get the boys to feed and water them.  Mostly they want to hold Ruby or the chicks and get little else done, but were getting there.

Owl Babies by Susan B Anderson
I knitted this 5 months ago but it took me all this time to finish the face! Asher has been bugging me, and it's finally done!  

Add caption
Asher and his friend Charlie raided the pea garden

The first strawberry of the season.  We had a friend over so we split it 5 ways

Monday, May 28, 2012

Knitting obsession

mousie pattern by Ysolda Teague
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pretty red bowl

Finally I am posting about knitting!  Knitting is my first love ever since I first laid my hands on a set of needles about 8 years ago.  Of course I became obsessed, how could you not?  There are so many beautiful natural fibers these days.  

Unfortunately it takes a back seat to gardening when spring rolls around.  But I still try and keep a a project or two going. 
I love knitting blogs and even listen to knitting pod casts on my iPod when I am gardening or exercising. 
A few if my favorites: 

Cast On
Savvy Girls
Never Not Knitting
Knitmore Girls

This is the whisper cardigan by Hannah Fettig,

I purchased the pattern on Raverly and am knitting it in Habu silk and linen lace weight yarn in a coral/brick color. This is my first time knitting in a lace weight yarn and it is wonderful.   I am so excited to have something light for the summer.  It has a very interesting construction and is going faster than I thought (when I actually work on it)

I am not the only one who loves knitting. That's right,my boys both like to knit.                

Although my oldest son, on seeing the blog wanted me to clarify that he only "kinda likes knitting".

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sew what's new...

Sign at Fancy Tiger in Denver Colorado
It's funny that I would post a sewing blog before a knitting blog since knitting is my first love, but there will be more about knitting in later post                  


The sewing machine a neighbor gave me 2 years ago.  It's very cool, and in keeping with my love of all things old.  Sadly though, it doesn't work.  I wish I had known before spending 120.00 tuning it up. The gentleman at the shop said he thought this was great machine.
 I had my first sewing lesson with a very talented friend who is a seamstress.  She tinkered with it and still could not get it to work properly, so it's back to Craigslist for a new(used) sewing machine when I can save some money.  I will use hers in the mean time.
I took a trip to Fancy Tiger to get some material and a pattern. 

I have shopped at Fancy Tiger for years and love it, it has such a great feel, the staff is wonderful ans they have done so much for the crafting community.   In the past, though,  I was always buying yarn. I have admired the fabric but had never had a chance to really try any. 


In my usual fashion, I arrived at the store last and had to pick a fabric and pattern without much chance to linger. 


This cute tunic pattern also has a pattern for a mini dress.  I don't love the belt, (can you wear a belt if you are under 5'5"?)

Laura, the seamstress who is giving me lessens, has a background in engineering.  I can see how being a very precise type of person would be helpful in sewing.  Unfortunately, I live by the "close enough" dogma.  When Laura explained that to save the pattern and be able to first sew the tunic and next be able to sew the mini dress, we would have to trace the pattern onto plastic, I thought she must be kidding.  No she wasn't kidding, we painstakingly traced the pattern, and it was really fun.  I can't believe how satisfying it is the cut the cloth and see the pattern taking shape.  
I had all sorts of thoughts of designing my own clothes.  Ahh another career to quit my job for....

Friday, May 25, 2012

City garden chaos

I need to come clean, I feel the name of this blog, City Garden Bliss is somewhat of a misnomer.  "City garden chaos" might be a more appropriate title.  I have to admit to being more than just a little manic with the whole "homesteading" thing come spring time, the starting of seedlings, the planting and digging and weeding and cleaning chicken coops and managing the bee hive and micro-managing the watering.  

Also in May is the chaos that occurs with the end of school year.  If you have kids you know just what I'm talking about.  So many class trips, picnics, galas and requests for volunteers that I can't keep it all straight, (did I mention I'm a little ADD) so to relieve stress I plant more plants.   

Before you know it is time to harvest the garden, there is cooking and baking, and canning and drying.  I do feel Barbara Kingsolver is to blame for my manic attempts to make from scratch everything my family eats.  Go ahead and read her book, Animal Vegetable Miracle and just try not to make your own yogurt!  I dare you.

If you are not familiar with the book, she and her family move from Arizona (see the connection...I moved from Arizona...) to West Virginia and make a pact to grow or buy locally everything they eat for a year.  But she is a talented writer of fiction, and instead of depicting the hell that it is, she paints the most warm, homey, back-to-your-roots image you can imagine. 

Before you know what is happening you are buying a dehydrator at a yard sale and spending hours cutting up tiny pieces of locally grown cherries to dry for the winter.  Five pounds of cherries that you planned on carrying you through the winter with the promise of local harvest cherry scones on a cold December morning, will yield you one measly baggy full that your kids will consume before you are finished cleaning cherry stains from the dehydrator.         
Lets not even get into the daily bread making.  The worst part about this book is there is no going back.  Once you have made your own yogurt, there is no store bought yogurt for you.  You will never again enjoy the simple pleasure of buying jam or a pie.  It's all homemade, handmade, scratch or nothing for you.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Urban Cycle

How can you call yourself an Urban Homesteader without relying on a handy dandy urban bike to do errands?
And this bike can do errands! I can hit the library, grocery store, and apothecary (for my beeswax concoctions) load up and still have room to spare.  Unfortunately I share this bike with my husband and the top bar is so long, it's a little bit of stretch for me to reach the handle bars, but I am hoping to slowly take over this bike.
Lucky for me, my husband has a little bike business on the side 
( since his real life job wasn't keeping him busy enough.  Bikes are to him what gardening is to me and he wanted to keep his hands dirty with bike grease on his off time, and this is a great way to go. Weekends he is now doing what he loves, putting together and tweaking bikes.  I just need to convince him to tweak this bike to fit me.  Permanently.

In Tucson, my husband really pulled a load

When we moved to Denver from Arizona 4 years ago, we decided that the second most important quality of the place we wanted to live, (number one, obviously was having 4 seasons)  was ability to get around without a vehicle.  Not that we wanted to get rid of a our vehicles, we just didn't want to have to rely on then. 
Central Denver really fit the bill.  We can walk or ride to parks, local shopping districts, the Museum, Zoo, Botanic Gardens, library and grocery stores.  We are even close to a large mall on the off chance we are crazy enough to want to want to go.  I am usually to covered in dirt, compost or chicken poop on my days off to want to shop.  Malls are not my thing, but garden stores and yarn stores are, and it's by no coincidence that we are within 2 short blocks of  each.  That's how I chose our current home.  By the proximity to each of these stores. I found our house on a one day whirlwind trip to Denver.  I saw several beautiful homes in other locations, but from this house I could throw a stone to the garden store AND the yarn store.  Who cares how small it is?  SHHH, don't tell that to my husband. He thought it was the wood floors original leaded glass.     


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The chicks have their day

My pretty friend Katie who doubles as a chicken perch in her spare time

As I posted a few days ago, I introduced the chicks to Ruby.  I guess I should say that the chicks took it upon themselves to do the introduction.  They kept sneaking under the chicken fabric that separated them, despite my best efforts to tack the fabric down.  I was pretty sure they had already been exposed to whatever the hens had so we let nature take it's course. 
The chicks seem ecstatic to have the run of the yard. They flit around madly, running and flapping their wings, staying clear of Ruby who struts around like shes queen of the yard. She eats their chick starter food and drinks from their water and gives a sharp peck to any chick in range.  She does not however chase the chicks and they seem happy to tag along a safe distance behind her. 
I grew up in a rather urban setting and never even saw a chicken before we got or first three chicks several years ago.  We had their little red barn coop my husband had built, all ready and when they were finally old enough to spend their first night outside, I was worried.  How would we catch them each night to put them in the coop?  I pictured us running madly around the yard trying to catch our hens.  At dusk that night, I was pleasantly surprised to see the 13 week girls hop knowingly into the coop and up onto the roosting posts. No chasing hens around the yard at all.   
Now since we have the chicks out in the yard, Ruby hops into the coop as usual, and the little chicks huddle together in a corner of the yard or in the cardboard box I leave out for them.  I thought maybe they would try and follow Ruby, but they seem to know instinctively that queen Ruby would not be happy with that arrangement.
But yesterday, I was weeding in the garden when I heard a raucous, cackling that sounded like the hens alarm call.  "Help there's a hawk flying overhead,"
I ran to the coop with my dog Casey, hot on my heels.
Casey the dog, can't you just feel his energy?

Ruby was pacing back and forth in front of the coop raising a racket.
I heard peeping coming from inside the coop and peeked in.
 There they were the four of them, having a good old time, chirping and hopping from roosting pole to roosting pole, in the nesting box and above. Ruby was in a tizzy and it took me digging up some earthworms for her to quiet her down. 
In the evening though, the girls let Ruby have the coop and they huddled together and seemed happy to come inside for the night.  I am looking forward to them being big enough and brave enough to hop into the coop beside Ruby.
They are getting more difficult to wrangle into the box I use to carry them into the house.  When I go out at night they are all too happy to hop into my lap, sometimes all four of them, but once I snatch one up and put her into the box the others scatter like dust and all of them chirping in distress. "Run for your lives" the one inside calls, and they do.  The last one has been almost impossible to catch.


Goodbye to another Hen

I posted a few weeks ago about one of our 3 hens, Hazel, dying.  She was over 3 years of age and since she hadn't seemed ill, I thought it was just a fluke.  The next day in my usual fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants mode, I bought those 4 baby chicks I have been photographing like mad.  Everything seemed great until 2 days later I noted another of the Hens appeared ill.
I was completely panicked.  I had sick hens and although we were keeping the chicks separate, they were in the same yard just separated by chicken cloth.  I was sure the whole flock would be wiped out because of my stupidity. Lucy died within the day.

Then I noted Ruby our last hen had diarrhea and next my youngest son complained of stomach cramps and within a few minutes was having diarrhea.  Oh my god!  I was typhoid Mary and had transmitted this illness to humans.  I tried to recall the countless friends and neighbors who had stopped by to see and hold the chicks since we had purchased them just a few days before.  People we didn't even know stopped by because they heard from a friend who heard from a friend....
What if all of them became ill?  What if my dream of neighborhoods full of backyard chickens came to a screeching halt because of my flock?   I imagined widespread fowl-borne illness and the government putting a ban on all backyard chickens.  Not just Denver or Colorado but world wide.  The CDC issuing warnings against all fowl...
Luckily my son was fine by noon and as  far as I know, no one else has been ill. I am not allowing anyone touch the chicks.  They can watch from gate and go no further.  I spoke with a Vet in Fort Collins about Ruby, she recommend seeing the chicken and would probably prescribe antibiotics.  In my other life I am a Physician Assistant and have been for more than 20 years.  The longer I practice medicine, the more suspicious of modern medicine I become.  
There are many things that can give a chicken diarrhea, only a handful are caused by bacteria.  Antibiotics only work against bacteria, not viruses and even in the event it was a bacterial causing her illness, it isn't always easy to determine which antibiotic to use.  Antibiotics kill off good bacteria, our so called "normal flora" in our bowels and they run the risk of causing a whole new type of diarrhea.   Since Ruby seemed very perky I decided to try some home remedies for a day and see how she did.
I am happy to report the Ruby and the 4 chicks seems to be doing well!  
I have been giving her whole milk organic yogurt. I read about this on Backyard chickens and several other sites, and did it only sporadically but now will be faithful.  Ruby loves it, although the chicks seem a little stymied about any food that isn't their chick starter. As they get older I am sure they will love it too. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Strwaberry Rhubarb Pie

Rhubarb is such an easy plant to grow.  It can tolerate full sun or partial shade, and I have 2 plants, one in the back garden and one I snuck in my flower bed in the front yard .  
This one above gets about 6 hours of sun a day,  I don't do anything to it but toss a heap of compost on top of it in the spring. I do notice that if I am not careful the bottom leaves start to get mushy from being wet and on the ground.  My boys look under the Rhubarb first when they are hunting for slugs to put in  their slug house.  Yes, I did say slug house.  My kids think slugs are terrific and keep them as pet during the summer.  If I go so far as to remove a slug from a plant and bring it the back alley (where it is very dry most of the time and slugs probably wont survive) my kids scream and run to it's rescue.  Hence the slug house.
 Here is the Rhubarb in my front yard,  There is broccoli as well, and not too noticeable from the street.  The Rhubarb doesn't look too great up here, I'm not sure why,
Yesterday was time to make make my favorite, strawberry rhubarb pie. I gathered the supplies,

 I bought these organic strawberries at the store the day before and awoke to find most of them mush.  I called Whole Foods who said they would be happy to refund my money, but between grocery shopping, gardening, pets and kids, I had no time, so I forged ahead,

To pick rhubarb you gently twist the stalk close to the base of the plant,

Although I love the look of ruby red stalks, but my plant is mixed red and green.  There varieties that are all green, the green taste a little more tangy, which I love.  The green is also heartier.  I would make just a plain rhubarb pie, but unfortunately, the mostly green stalks don't look very palatable when cooked alone.

 I used Martha Stewart's recipe.  Her Pate Brisee ( is hands down my favorite pie dough recipe and it is pretty easy. I am not a perfectionist (as you might have gleaned from my photos) so this may be a bit sloppy but it tastes wonderful!  Served warm with vanilla ice cream, yummm.