Here’s the kitchen! plus DIY Chalkboard

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Last post was from sometime near the end of June. We were gently demolishing our kitchen. We did a lot of the work ourselves and finished by fall. From the old we made a new. We used our existing wooden cabinets, took them out, sanded and painted them. We reinstalled them in a new layout. We dressed them in new hardware, of course. We built a new peninsula wall for the sink which is 13 ” back form the original, to make room for the island. One cabinet was custom built for us by Simon Burke Lipiczki who also helped out with cabinet reinstall, design, and a few other things. We also worked with MKC kichens on design as well as bought our Corian countertops, sink and faucet through them.

A fun and exciting feature is the built in compost bin, by Rev a Shelf, which is where the custom cabinet by Simon comes in. Taking care of our own food scraps has been a part of my/our lives for 20 years. It was a top priority on our design to have something easy, clean and accessible, yet out of the way. Everyday we fill it with kitchen waste and throw it to the chickens. Along with chicken feed, its a direct barter for 6 eggs a day.

island with compost bin

island with compost bin

We absolutely love our highly functional and family room- like kitchen. Its suitable for all sorts of cooking, hanging out, canning, and other large scale food projects. In the same space that we had before, we tripled our functional surfaces by rearranging cabinets, adding outlets, and adding in as much counter overhang wherever possible.

bar behind double sink Jason made of rough cut yellow pine. Excellent for rising dough, brewing beer and fermenting veggies wine and kefir.

bar behind double sink Jason made of rough cut yellow pine. Excellent for rising dough, brewing beer and fermenting veggies wine and kefir.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother great feature is the DIY chalkboard wall. Actually there are 2. An adult height one for food planning and a kid height one for doodles and occasional spontaneous math lessons.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo make your own chalkboard paint just do this: 1 cup (any color) FLAT latex paint

mixed with 2 Tablespoons nonsanded grout.

Apply to a wall. I think I did 2 coats. Made a frame with another color (non chalk paint).  done.

Wipe chalk off  with wool fibers or damp rag.

Making a new Kitchen without breaking the bank

Jason and I have begun our kitchen remodeling project for the summer.

To stay within a reasonable budget, we have decided to keep our cabinets but remove them, sand and paint them, and rearrange them in a new layout .(We need a cutting surface closer to the sink).

Our big purchase will be new countertops, which were the main inspiration for redoing the kitchen. check out our peeling formica from installed when Olivia Newton John was dressed in sparkling roller-skates.

The rest of the remodel will consist of

  • a new basement door (with a shallow opening space to allow for more counter top).
  • Fresh color on the stained white walls and ceiling
  • removal of  an excess of recessed lights in favor a few pendants and maybe even some
  • wifi ceiling remote speakers “wahoo“
  • new sink (UNDERMOUNT) and faucet (WITH PULL OUT SPRAYER)
  • water filter faucet
  • built in organization for garbage, variety of recycling, rags and compost
  • fermentation shelf
  • menu chalkboard wall
  • kids chalkboard wall
  • small bump out on island for kids to eat breakfast
  • our current kitchen eating area will turn into a lounge
  • our woodstove kitchen area will turn into a homework, art, hangout and play space

Jason is also building a new half wall which will set the sink area back a foot or so . He is currently sharpening his self taught plumbing and electric skills .

We are doing most of the work ourselves, which keeps the cost down.

We dreamed of making homemade concrete countertops but decided we wanted to see some of each other this summer and not just be slaves to the projects, so we opted to buy Corian. Going with a blue gray-green gray theme. What you can’t see in these photos is the skylight in the middle of the kitchen. Its pretty dramatic. Our new island, made from our existing cabinets will be under it. We are trying to think of some creative (pulley?) ways to utilize the sunlight and space under the skylight  for a hanging indoor winter herb garden.

I’ll try to keep the project updated. There is also the upcoming two week family trip to Ireland which might get a few posts.

Here is the flow of the morning we tore down

9 am, before tear town

10 am : we’ve removed some cabinets

good bye sink

removing DW, disposal and nasty, heavy sink

Ruby tears down the sink wall

Mulberry Vinegar

We picked some colanders full of Mulberries from our backyard this week. Washed them. Put a cup or so in a mason jar, topped with a tablespoon of sugar. Smashed them in the jar. Covered the berries with 2 cups of white vinegar. Covered them. Placed them on a secret dark shelf.

enough said

smashing berries with a little sugar in a jar

 

In 3 weeks we will strain the purple liquid and have lots of MULBERRY VINEGAR.

listening

ok I’ll sit for a minute but  I’d much rather be in my overalls, walking in my boots and pushing my wheelbarrow full of something heavy.

Life is reproducing, networks overlapping, muscles firming, community building, food waste becoming 

the foundations for life to keep feeding us

anything is possible in May

I’ve been busy in my business as an organic landscape gardener: filling lots of potted patio planter pots, weeding those too -lush -for- spring garden beds with a shovel instead of a hand tool, and sometimes mulching 6″ to try to keep up with the weeds.  In the afternoons, after I put my 2.5 year old to sleep, I garden at home.

Ruby sitting in the bean tent I made last week. Kentucky Wonder pole beans, sunflowers and marigolds will soon create a little world for children and winged insects

There is a veggie garden to start, beds to be weeded, an emerging lawn to water, and an herb bed to build. We have a full sun area outside of our fenced in veggie garden, on either side of the deck stairs, that is calling to be just herbs and maybe a Hypericum shrub. I’ve been throwing my garden detritus on either side of the stairs(weeds, rocks, sod, old potting soil). After that comes a thick layer of last week’s newspaper, then a few wheelbarrows full of topsoil/compost mix. Ready for oregano, dill, lovage, calendula, sage, thyme…

left: herb bed ready. right: just garden detritus.

I so enjoy this level of activity, but some days (like today) I intentionally wear a dress. I think my kids know that means reading more stories on the couch.

We have an inter-species communal living scene on our pond. The geese pair have 2 goslings. The Mallard pair have 7 ducklings. They are ALWAYS together. All 13 of them. The males of each species defend the whole flock and swim on the outside. The females are in tight with the babes, chatting about good weeds I’m sure.

Ruby found these eggs. And a burrowed dirt nest. The day after National Turtle day. Hmmmm They are leathery. I’ve never seen turtle eggs, but I’m thinking these could be them?

  In town we have brimming farmers markets, potlucks for our baysitting coop (troy) and babysitting coop (albany), Cooperative Playschool,  buildings being restored and not torn down, community composting, From Scratch Club <monetary free>Food Swaps, talk of new community spaces, the Veggie Mobile bringing fresh produce to our cities so we can choose not to go to a huge grocery store, and more ideas becoming little realities every week. It is nourishing. I am so happy to be in Troy, New York in 2012.

My little Cy just wasn’t adjusting to our awesome Playschool group. He’s simply not ready to have time without Mama. As much as I thought it would be a transition for him, his tearful pleading revealed more pain each week. I finally started Listening to my little son. He is so light. He wants to be held. He wants to ask questions to his Mama, wants to be in my shadow. He does not want me to leave. So now we garden together. I put him on my back whenever he asks. I only have a little window of time for him to be so small and needing my presence. I took a turn as parent last week. I finally started Listening to my little son. He is happy to be himself these days. He is actually learning to listen to me too!

Cy and Mama walking to the Veggie Mobile from Ruby’s school.

scraping the earth, moving rocks, making kefir

OUTSIDE   = Starting a low maintenance lawn

When we moved here in December, the septic system and leach field had been freshly rebuilt, giving us a home with a naked front yard.

This spring we dove right in on our outdoor projects. First was the creation of a fence in the back yard (gotta contain the kids+ chickens) . Before we could finish the last portion of the fence, I had to begin making a lawn. Fall is the best time to make a grass lawn, but if we wait till then, we will deal with the summer’s weeds. There is a small window of opportunity for seeding a lawn in the spring. Cool temps and plenty of moisture are perfect. My window is closing and I am scraping as fast as I can,…..a half  hour here, a few hours there, while Cyrus naps, while kids play in the driveway, while the rice boils before dinner.

Scraping rocks from our 3,000 square ft bare leach feild.
photo by Ruby

I decided to use the bow rake ( instead of a gas-tiller) to do all of the rock removal and tilling. We raked pile after pile of golf ball sized to cantaloupe sized rocks into hills, then carted them here and there in the wheelbarrow. A reality of landscaping is refuse. I like to repurpose as much as possible. Some rock and dirt mixtures went along the grass near our back deck as a base for raised herb beds. Some barrows full of rocks went to fill in rain washed areas from the roof runoff. A couple wheelbarrows full filled in some holes the woodchuck made. I stomped those holes pretty well. They are too close to our Veggie Garden area.

After the rocks were removed (crazy amounts of work), the area needed to be graded with a wide rake. I have slept soooooo well this week.

My friend Emily helped me put 4 yards of Herrington’s garden mix (topsoil and composted manure) evenly over the lawn area. I have been sooooo hungry this week.

I did a soil PH test at Cornell Cooperative Extension. I called them about numerous things and was helped by many knowledgable master gardeners as well as David Chinery who knows his grass seed!

The PH result  was 7.4- needs to go down to 6.2- 6.5 to make for  healthy lawn. I could apply 30 pounds of sulphur to lower the PH. Instead I am opting to go with the acid-basic neutrality of five pounds of  10-10-10 fertilizer, (hand broadcasted =old school).

My goal with this lawn is to have a place to play and not to  have to mow all  of the time. I am planting all fescue grasses ( sheeps fescue, creeping red fescue, chewings fescue). Although the fescue species take longer than traditional grasses (i.e.: kentucky bluegrass, perennial rye) to germinate and start roots, the main benefits are SLOW GROWTH and no need for FERTILIZER past the initial planting. I am getting my seeds from Agway in Schaghticoke, Ny. They make all the grass seed mixes for the local garden centers. I’m going to the source and spending a quarter of the price. If you call Agway, talk to John. He’s the man.

I will use only 4 pounds of seed. I will hand broadcast, like feeding chickens, the seed , cover it lightly with straw, water every morning for at least a month say a little prayer, and give thanks.

This summer we hope to mow only once a month.

Next projects / slightly overlapping:

Build a chicken coop. Our girls will be ready on Mothers Day to live outside!

Fence in the Veggie Garden area, dig a perimeter trench and bury chicken wire to attempt to keep out Mr. Woodchuck  and his buds…….Then start to build up the soil (no till) to make raise beds.

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IN THE KITCHEN= Kefir

My dad gave me some of his Kefir grains. They grow and multiply as you use them, so by nature, they are meant to be shared, given.  Soon I’ll have enough to give.

The process of making Kefir is so incredibly easy. Find out more about Kefir, a Turkish fermented dairy beverage ( I call it “milk beer’).

I take between a quart and a half gallon of cold milk. Put in in a large mason jar ( or a milk bottle ) with a lid. Spoon in the kefir grains ( they look like giant cottage cheese curds. Place it on the counter for 2-3 days. A couple of time a day, tip the kefir milk upside down (don’t shake , don’t stir) a bit to incorporate the grains into the milk. After 2-3 days, strain with a colander into a big bowl. The good stuff in the bowl is your milk-beer! Rinse  grains in a little water and start again!

Straining the grains from the Kefir

Plain kefir is so sour and fizzy . It ‘s medicinal. The liveness of it is invigorating!

Add a little maple syrup or a couple spoonfuls of berry jam to a quart of kefir and your children will have a new favorite drink.

Cy getting ready to dig in to cardamom and coconut kefir ice cream

This week I experimented with making Coconut Kefir Ice Cream. Cyrus and I made a simple syrup with organic sugar and water, then melted a can of coconut milk into the syrup, added a dash of cardamom powder. We let it cool and then blended it into the fresh plain Kefir. I poured it into my ice cream machine, he turned it on. 30 minutes later we enjoyed the most amazing live food delicious nutritious ice cream lunch on our stoop warmed by the Spring sun.

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IN THE STUDIO=

New Growth Necklace with Drusy