Washing by Hand

We have a problem.

Our dishwasher is broken, likely plugged with hard water mineral buildup and perhaps some seals are broken. Its been doing its job for 10 years but now running vinegar through it no longer keeps water moving inside.

The only “kid” still living in the house frequently sneaks to the laundry room in the basement to wash just one outfit — sometimes even one article of clothing — at a time in the washer and dryer.

The heater on our 15-year-old clothes dryer no longer works so it runs again and again.

I lied. My family has at least three problems, as evidenced above.

My solutions are as follows.

  1. Wash your dishes by hand. Seriously. It can be done.
  2. Wash your clothes by hand or go to the laundromat with heavily soiled items.
  3. Hang clothes to dry or go to the laundromat with items that need a dryer in wintertime

We may or may not repair and/or replace the dishwasher and dryer. Running a machine for just a few items is an unacceptable waste of water, electricity and money, but my kid won’t take my advice. My kid does, however, like Youtube. After telling my kid what each person’s responsibilities are, I sent these links – via Facebook message, of course. Hopefully one of them will have an impact.

How to Wash your Clothes by Hand : easy way and Save water

I like that this young man’s solution is simple and environmentally focused. He’s cool.

Hand Wash Laundry With A Salad Spinner

This is a fun idea but the presenter introduces herself as a grandma. Does fun trump “not cool”?

Should I buy a laundry salad spinner or should I wait til I see my kid trying to use the one in the kitchen before I splurge on another purchase?

I really need to collect some “cool” videos on homemaking to share with my young adult children, especially the one still at home. I’m not sure where I failed, but they are dang lazy and entitled. When people say, “kids these days…” I fear they’ve met mine. *Sigh*

Favourite Crust, Apple Pie and Butter Tart Recipes

My mother is an amazing home style cook. Her best recipes are either handed down from her Southern Alberta pioneer relatives or come from a Purity Flour cookbook circa 1965. Mom’s pie crust recipe comes from the Purity book. Since the late 80’s I’ve tried to master her technique, but my crust always turned out tough. Until last year, that is, when I searched online for a different recipe that was highly rated and labelled as “easy”.

Finally, at Christmastime 2013, I had butter tarts worthy of serving to guests because I used this pie crust recipe:


Today, my last day of winter vacation, I decided to make an apple pie with some fruit that was going soft in the fridge. I didn’t have enough shortening to make the crust, though, so I searched for recipes that might combine shortening with butter. I read a few different recipes and their reviews and came up with my own. Its my new favourite pie crust!


Butter makes the crust taste better than shortening, but by using half shortening it handles better than using butter all on its own.

(Makes at least one double crusted pie; I had leftover dough)

3 cups white flour

1 cup butter, diced

1 cup butter flavoured shortening, diced

1 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)

¼ c very cold water (I float ice in it)

Chill KitchenAid mixer bowl, whisk attachment, flour, and diced fats in the freezer or outside in winter. (It was -20C today.)

Add cold fats to flour and salt in mixer on low speed until crumbly. Drizzle water in until just wet enough to form a ball. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.

Keep hands cold while working dough by plunging them into ice water and drying. (Mom insists she is so good at making crusts because her hands are always cold.)

Make two crusts, one bottom and one top, by rolling on floured counter top with a floured rolling pin. Roll from the centre out, not back and forth.

Save extra dough by wrapping and putting back into fridge or freeze. I had enough for one single crust or several tarts.


  • 8 or more medium apples, peeled, cored, diced, and toss with
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon grated dried ginger
  • 2 tablespoons white flour
  • 1—2 oz dark rum (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons of cream or milk

Combine dry ingredients and toss with apples

Put apple mix into unbaked bottom pie crust

Mix melted butter, cream, rum, vanilla and drizzle over apples

Top pie and slash

Brush top of pie with milk and sugar if desired

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes

Cover loosely with foil and bake for 60 minutes

Remove foil and finish baking for 30 minutes

(Total baking time is 120 minutes or two hours)


Oh, if you’d like MOM’S BUTTER TART RECIPE, its almost identical to this one:


Legal and Stealthy Backyard Livestock

Our local bylaws are opposed to the keeping of livestock.  Urban farmers here have few options for raising their own proteins if they also want to be laws abiding citizens. These “pets” are exceptions to our rules: pigeons (with a fancier’s permit and restrictions), pond fish, and a single rabbit.

When I sought clarity from an officer about keeping quail which are not described in our laws or more than one rabbit, he said that what I did was only an issue if a neighbor reported me and he winked.

I took a chance and purchased three pullets, beautiful and hardy dual purpose heritage breed chickens: a Buff Orpington, a Columbian Wyandotte, and a Barred Rock, hatchery stock raised by by a nearby organic farmer.  They were quiet, too, as the experts on the interwebs told me they would be..until they began to lay. So, I got reported — but not fined, thankfully — and my chickens went to a friend’s farm. The Buff was killed by a weasel but the others are happy to free range daily now, two years later. I really miss the girls. They were fun to watch and so friendly, too.

What did I do with an empty, hubby-built coop and run? I tried Corturnix quail, of course. Those critters were very difficult to find where I live, but we came upon two trios of white birds for sale at a nearby auction. Hubby bid with enthusiasm. We paid a dear price for all six birds and carted our winnings home. Our smiles faded, however, when one by one each snowy critter began to crow. Loudly. At all times, day and night. They were not announcing eggs, they were all males, crying for a lady. We’d been had. One by one the boys were rehomed to our living room so as to avoid another report to the bylaw office, which surely would include a fine and/or court summons, I supposed.

I sold two, traded a third for an unrelated boy, and one of my dogs ate the weakest link. A month and a six hundred kilometer drive later, I had acquired four quiet females from an honest breeder. They joined my three boys in the backyard coop. When boy quail are kept busy with girls, they manage to be quiet. This ratio of boys and girls is not recommended, I really only needed one or two boys, but my run has lots of space for the teeny girls to hide.

Egg production from Corturnix quail is high. Each girl will drop a tiny delicacy almost every day. They don’t, however, use a nest of any sort, so rummaging for eggs can be a bit of a pain if the birds aren’t caged tightly. They tended to drop their eggs on the ground versus in the coop and they liked sheltered corners under the coop. This is where they tended to huddle, too. I used a Chuck-It dog ball tosser to help me retrieve eggs, its long handle reaching to tricky spaces.

Quail are also very skittish and, from my experience, don’t return home after free ranging, whether their freedom is intended or not. They are food producers, not pets with benefits. Although, when penned with other critters — I’ll get to that in a bit — they are terrific at scavenging the potentially wasted feed on the ground. They tend to spend most of their time on the ground.

When baking, three corturnix eggs make the equivalent of one large chicken egg. If you were to sell them, they may fetch a higher price than chicken eggs. Here they go for $15 per dozen, but I never sold any. I ate them. I hatched a batch in a borrowed incubator, too, but that was a disappointing experience. All but one of 18 eggs hatched, but only six survived 24 hours. I don’t know why.

To the pen I added a rescued meat rabbit. Nugget lasted a year. He likely passed from old age. He was eight. I never intended to eat him.

The corturnix quail didn’t last much longer. They have been bred for hundreds, nay thousands, of years for high egg production, not longevity. Its a good thing I didn’t get attached to them.

I did, however, get attached to Finn and Rachel, the Show King Pigeons. They are an infertile pair, sold to me by a local hobbyist. I thought they’d be happy to sit on quail eggs instead of their duds, but they kept kicking the corturnix eggs out of their nest.

Then, after much research, came the ultimate, stealthy backyard protein producer. I sourced two Muscovy hens.

Muscovy ducks, actually more closely related to geese, produce jumbo sized eggs almost as reliably as chickens and their meat, I’m told, tastes like veal. They tend to go broody, so are good for hatching all sorts of eggs. They are also very quiet. If close neighbors can’t see them or smell them, they’d likely not know they exist. My girls, Gertrude and Beatrice, are at yet another friend’s farm now while we put our house for sale.

Back to rabbits. I’m debating getting a pair of meat producers. I know they are great for urban farms. I do believe I should try rabbit meat first, though, before I make that commitment.

My point to all of this is that its possible to raise eggs and meat in even a small urban backyard depending on your local laws (or your willingness to break them). I’m experimenting.


About Us

Its important to note that my marriage is struggling and has for a number of years. We’ve just barely survived what I have dubbed “two years from hell,” during which time we lost nine family members including my father, almost lost our teenaged daughter, Hubby lost his job, and we almost lost our home to the bank. Recently we have considered separating. Our children are all independent young adults now. Why does this matter? I believe that big decisions shouldn’t be made by a married person unless their spouse is enthusiastic, too.

The idea of backyard farming has been mine for a few years now; I began planning – and taking some action –about three and a half years ago, just before our “hell” began. Although initially opposed to some of my ideas, Hubby has fully embraced them over the last few months — while on the other hand agreeing that maybe we’d be better apart — and has even taken my plans to the next level by suggesting we go “off grid” as much as possible. Perhaps this is his last ditch effort to save our relationship.

My goals are:

* Healthier food

* Learning new skills

* Increased physical activity indoors and out

* Engaging in self-reliance activities I enjoy; buying products and services locally when I don’t do it for myself

My Husband has these additional goals which would mean selling our home in the city suburbs and buying at least one acre of land in commuting distance to our full-time jobs:

* More freedom from bylaws regarding livestock, solar panels, and wind turbines

*Less dependence on a municipality for utilities

* Become mortgage free (pay cash for land and build our own small house or live in a mobile home)

Hubby says our home has only sad memories for him, so he wants to be rid of it and the mortgage. That idea is a big extreme to me, but, honestly, if we separate permanently, the house would have to be sold anyway. What do we have to lose by moving forward, together, on a plan we’re both excited about? Maybe this is the focus we need to bring us back together with passion that we once had for our children.Why do I hesitate? Hubby and I cope with stress differently. Although we share life goals, our personalities – and, therefore, the ways we go about achieving our goals – are very different. Our “two years from hell” has taken a toll on each of us. I wonder if the trials and tribulations of moving to a homesteading lifestyle on an acreage would just mean even more stress for our marriage.

Land in this area starts at $25,000 per acre with no services. Our eyes are open for appropriate land advertised online, but we may get better leads from friends who live in the counties nearby. Alternately, we may each end up in a condo of our own, me with pots of tomatoes and quail cages on the balcony and he with a solar-powered gaming system. While we see where we’ll end up calling “home”, and if that home has one or both of us living under the roof, I’m focused on my current winter activity.

I’m searching for non-gmo seeds to be ordered in January. Container gardening is my best bet, allowing for portability. I’m watching for pots I may collect, too.

I’m not a contrary person. I’m just not certain how my garden, marriage, or life, will grow from this point on.


Why homestead?

Why would this fortysomething, almost empty nester, want to attempt homesteading? Maybe I’ve played too much Hay Day. Maybe I’m overwhelmed with my working suburban mom lifestyle. Maybe I really miss my departed dad, the one who gave me the bug for working on land of one’s own and being somewhat self-reliant. The answer is probably all of the above.

I’ve done a lot of reading, thinking, and planning about it over the last three years. Now its time to take some action.

Here I’ll write about what I learn as I go and share my favorite resources.

For reference, I’m in gardening zone 3B. My starting point is a suburban 1600 sq ft home on a 1/4 acre pie lot in a cul de sac, a 15 minute commute to my day job in a windowless office. Backyard livestock is illegal here. My husband is handy. I am not.