I'll do it the way I want to.
Just a Chingona. Dwelling. Digging. Dining. Daring.
Just a Chingona. Dwelling. Digging. Dining. Daring.
Hello all! There's been a great deal of progress here at The Chingona Homestead. We've been living here for just a few months and, even though we've still got boxes to unpack, we are already harvesting food from our "tiny farm", thanks to the wonderful knowledge and hard work on our consultant farmer, Benjamin.
The other big news around here is that I've launched The Chingona Homesead PODCAST! Just another way to share my thoughts on this experience with anyone who might be interested. I hope you'll check it out and let me know what you think!
Check out my podcast, The Chingona Homesteader: Getting Back To Our Urban Homesteading Roots, on Anchor: https://anchor.fm/chingonahomesteader
GREAT NEWS! The Little Radish Plant that Could is still ALIVE. In fact, it's doing well enough to go outside and join the kale, lettuce and herbs in their temporary home on my mom's patio! I can't wait til we can take all the little plants with us to the Bungalow. I sure hope we're in by Halloween!
Which means I have a vacancy on my mom's windowsill. So the kids and I thought we'd try to propagate a little more from seeds. We've been saving egg cartons for just this occasion. My mom said she heard somewhere that seeds grow better if you plant them in the eggshell itself. Have any of you ever heard this? I never have, but then, as you know, I'm totally new to this planting thing.
The kids and I looked over our stash of seeds and decided to go with this...
I was going to ask you to guess what it is, then I remembered I put it right in the title of this post. Go, me!
The entire time we were planting, I couldn't get this song out of my head:
I love Booker T. and the MGs. One of the reasons I'm such a fan, apart from the killer music, is that they were an "interracial" group working in the South in the mid-1960s, the very same time my late uncle Jess was in another "interracial" group in Los Angeles, called The Mixtures. It was a very difficult time to be "inclusive" and I really learned a lot from the stories my uncle and my parents told me about those days.
The Mixtures were the house band at the long-gone Rainbow Gardens Ballroom. They had a large local following and backed many of the biggest West Coast acts of the mid-sixties. My uncle played the saxophone and I can always pick him out on their records. One of my favorites was his rock/jazz arrangement of the Spanish-language classic, "Besame Mucho".
The family was always so proud of my uncle's music career, and with good reason-they were truly groundbreaking! Music was always a big part of our family life, at the end of a long day there were few things my grandparents enjoyed more than to sit out in the yard, among the nopales and lemon trees, singing and playing guitars long into the night.
I wonder if playing music will help my green onions grow?
This post first appeared on The Chingona Homesteader,©2017 TheChingonaHomesteader.com
I feel like it's necessary for me to clarify something here. It's not that I'm completely out of touch with plants and what they can do. Both my grandmothers, in addition to being farmworkers for much of their lives, kept beautiful gardens filled with plants that fed and healed their families.
All my life, I've used plants like aloe, roses, mint and bougainvillea to help myself and my family stay healthy. I love plants and have devoted many, many hours to the study of herbalism-I even have some certification in the area. Really!
I believe in the power of plants. I've just never been able to actually grow any.
As we've been preparing to move into the new-to-us, 100-year-old house, I've wondered if I might finally be able to do any successful planting. Much of the house sits perched on a lush canyon, which in itself is like having a maintenance-free garden. Other than that, there's only an eensy dirt-patch to play around with.
Could I actually grow anything here? If so, what?
I have no idea. But I do know someone who does.
Part of the process of renovating a century-old bungalow is putting myself in the shoes of the people who designed and built my house in the first place. I've lost track of how many of my soon-to-be neighbors have either politely asked, "Hmmm, so...you're ALL going to live there?" or have just straight up told me they think I'm crazy. But here's what I know that they probably also know, if they stopped to think about it: our little bungalow was DEFINITELY designed for a family at least the size of mine. How do I know? For one thing, I've lived in this neighborhood nearly all my life, in at least five homes from the same era. I know that people didn't used to need 1,000 square feet of space per family member. Children shared bedrooms. EVERYONE shared one bathroom-luxury! Our "tiny" bungalow was designed with a dining room AND a breakfast nook off the kitchen (which is enormous by bungalow standards). Also, and this is downright extravagant for the area, we have a CELLAR.
Back in the day, the original family put very shallow redwood shelves along the walls in the cellar (which, admittedly, needs a redo). The first time I went down there, I could almost see the rows of mason jars filled with beans, strawberry jam and, er, whatever else grows around here (I'm still working on that radish). It really helped me forget about the rat poop that was also down there for a minute!
Suddenly, I thought, "Hey there, what if I became a CANNER? What if I not only learned how to grow some food but PRESERVE it? You know, for the winter!" I know, we don't actually have winter here, but sometimes it's fun to play pretend. I started thinking about WHAT I could can: definitely my spaghetti sauce (I'm actually pretty good at that). Maybe pickles? How hard could pickles be?
I slowly started picking up canning supplies whenever I spotted a bargain. I checked out books from the library and watched Youtube videos on the various methods. Then last weekend I finally had some time to give it a go. I was going to try spaghetti sauce. That was my FINAL DECISION.
Then I came home to this:
Our lovely neighbors are the drop-off house for the local CSA. Seems at least one person didn't pick up their box of fresh, locally grown organic veggies. So they brought all the leftovers to us. Yay?
Now I had at least $40 worth of fresh fruits and veggies to deal with, which would be fantastic, except I'd just packed my fridge with produce from the organic co-op I belong to. Change of plans!
I broke out my new pressure cooker (which I'd snapped up for a song on Ebay but had, until that point, been too scared to use) and spent the entire day processing and canning the stuff on my counter. Yes, me!
ME, CANNING. When I was done I had this:
The cucumbers and onions became bread and butter pickles. Because I'd just bought one of those small crates of cuties, I turned the oranges into marmalade (which was surprisingly simple and delicious!). I'm pretty sure I managed a botulism-and-listeria-free seal. Those two butternut squash? No match for my pressure cooker!
All my childhood and adolescence, whenever we'd visit Mama Lola and Papa (in the photo above) in Oxnard, we'd leave with a jar or two of my grandfather's salsa. He was very proud of his secret recipe, and home-grown ingredients. When I was a kid I'd always assumed that my grandmother had done all the canning, but in the decade after she died, my grandfather continued to replenish the salsa supply in a cupboard in his garage. Which means that he was the one who did the canning. My grandfather died just after my daughter, Lola, was born. She's in high school now. Until last weekend, it never occurred to me that I'd never actually seen him preserve anything he kept in the garage. I spent nearly half my childhood in their house.
When the hell were they canning?
As you may know, we have spent the summer renovating a 100-year-old bungalow. What you may not know is that the bungalow is less than half the size of the home we sold. In preparing to go from 2200 to just over 1000 square feet of living space for our family of 4, we knew we'd have to downsize. So, while we were selling our old, too-big house, we also decided to sell more than half of what was in it.
Look around your home. How much of it do you really need, much less want? No, really though.
When I looked around our old house I felt so overwhelmed by it all. Once I decided to get rid of it, there was the teensy matter of just how I was going to make that happen.
I realize the path we took was a bit extreme, but it was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. While I would never use the word "minimalist" to describe myself, I am glad to say I won't be a candidate for Hoarders anytime soon.
My friend (and podcast co-host) Sue recently went through a virtually identical epiphany. Mine is leading us to a downsized bungalow and (I think? I hope?) a wee homestead. Hers led her to another state.
Check out the episode of our podcast "Did I Just Eat That Out Loud?" in which we discuss how we both decided it was time to scale down, slow down and calm down. Of course, we both did it the way we wanted to.
©2017 The Chingona Homesteader, The Chicana Homesteader, NachoMama and thechingonahomesteader.com, thechicanahomesteader.com, Bungalow Productions 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given toThe Chingona Homesteader, The Chicana Homesteader, NachoMama and thechingonahomesteader.com, thechicanahomesteader.com, Bungalow Productionswith appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thoughts expressed here are strictly our own and do not reflect the views or opinions of our family, friends or any company.