Slow Snowy Days & Painting the Kitchen

It’s been a bit odd around here for the past few days–we have snow, which is very unusual for our part of Washington. We woke up last Wednesday to about an inch, but it melted by the time I got home from work. Then on Sunday we got around 3.4-4 inches.

It was nice to have a Sunday together just lounging around the house with the pets, making pour-over coffee and listening to records. Toward the evening I got a little antsy and started painting our kitchen cabinets, which is something I’ve been meaning to find time for after testing the below cabinet door a few weeks ago. I absolutely loathe the orange glow the cabinets infuse our kitchen with.

img_8953
I also loathe the baby blue counter tops, but that’s another story.

Yesterday it snowed all day, and we received another 3-4 inches. My work closed our offices early so we could all get home safe (Don’t laugh, it’s a real concern here when the city is never prepared!), so I decided I’d spend the extra time making even more progress on our kitchen cabinets. We are fortunate to have quite a lot of cabinet space, so I have a long way to go.

Excuse the mess, but, ya know, we live here.

I feel like half the time I don’t know if I’m doing any of this painting the “right” way. It seems like there are a million different Pinterest tutorials, so I’m just taking it one step at a time and going with what seems right for me. Overall, I’m very pleased with how they’re turning out.

I decided to use General Finishes Milk Paint in Antique White (a little spendy, but I’m really liking how it looks–and you don’t need to prime with it!), and this morning I ordered some new cabinet handles that I think will match the chrome on the oven better. Most of my painting supplies I  picked up from our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore for next to nothing and secondhand.

And our kitten, Lenore, has remained ever watchful over my kitchen revamp.

d44906ec-1e69-493d-a254-c6414f3ce4cd

I’ve always wanted a cat that would sit in baskets and other things around the house, which my husband has not been shy in voicing how specific and odd a wish it is.

And now I have her, much to my simultaneous delight and aggravation. Kittens are hard work, you guys.

Hope you all are staying warm and safe!

2018 Homesteading Goals

It often feels like I have way too many plans for our little slice of land. I grew up on 5 forested acres, so that’s what we were originally looking for when we started house hunting last spring, but we settled for 3 acres and even that seems a little daunting now.

We have mostly flat, cleared land along a private road, and a small amount of “wilder” land off to the other side of our house—mostly a tangle of old oak and hawthorn trees. I think the cleared land was farmed originally, maybe for wheat,  but that’s not quite what we want to do. I’d like to have an orchard, some chickens, some bees, and maybe some goats eventually… and the more I think about all this, the more my head spins. I just don’t know where to start.

So I’m breaking down my goals, starting with the most pressing things that need to be done this year. Most of them aren’t really that exciting, but for me it’s nice to see them written down and have a visual reminder. And, hey, maybe you’ll find them at least little interesting!

  • Replace the water heater in our house. It’s 16 years old, enough said.
  • Install new skirting around our house. This is something I’m honestly not looking forward to at all. We will need my dad’s help, and it’s going to be a lot of work that can really only be done in the summer when it’s not rainy and muddy.
  • Build raised garden beds
  • Plant fruit trees in the fall. We do already have a few cherry trees and an apple tree, but they’re growing along the fence line, and I’d like to start filling in our field so there’s less for Jordan to mow.
  • Plant a hedge along our private road. We don’t have any privacy from our neighbors along that side of our property, and I feel very exposed when I go out wandering through our field checking on the trees, etc. But I still can’t decide what I want to plant! Preferably something fast growing. I’m thinking maybe some rhododendrons, since they get so massive here, but maybe some sort of tree would be nice. I’m open to suggestions, if you have any!
  • Build a composter. Opossums are cute and all, but also slightly scary when you come upon them in the dark and they’re feasting at the open compost pile.
  • Install a solar tube in our kitchen for more natural light. Our kitchen is dark, and I hate wasting electricity during the daytime when I shouldn’t have to have the lights on. A solar tube seems like a much better option (financially and for energy efficiency) than installing a skylight that would likely leak and require continued maintenance.
  • Create a cat-waste compost system. This is the one area of our life where we produce the most waste and that I constantly feel guilty about. I’d like to switch our cats to a compostable wood pellet litter (fingers crossed; our old man isn’t a fan of change), eliminate the plastic bags used for scooping, and create a designated compost area for it.

I don’t expect we will accomplish everything on the list this year; more likely we will only get around to a small handful — we are still new homeowners, after all, and it does take a while to really settle into a new house. But I think this will be a good way to hold us accountable for the things we keep saying we’ll do. Here’s to a productive 2018!

Home, home on the range…

Have you ever tried to water bath can on a glass-top range? Our house came with one, and when I made jam and canned plums last summer and fall, well, let’s just say I was less than thrilled. It was a very frustrating experience.

From my experience, glass-top stoves are ridiculously difficult to can on because they don’t heat evenly — it’s hard to keep water at a boil to properly seal the jars — and anything that makes its way onto the glass immediately burns and is almost impossible to get off. Yes, even water. And I was only doing small-batch canning! I shouldn’t have been so difficult.

A few weeks ago I decided it was time to seriously start thinking about a new range.

I’ve been enamored with Kaitie Moyer’s vintage gas range on Instagram for a while now, and I decided to do a little research to see if getting a vintage range of my own would be worth it. This particular article from Slate, about the positives of cooking with vintage ranges, had me convinced I needed to find one.

I knew the prospects would be pretty slim that I’d find one I liked at an affordable price within the next year or so — we don’t have a gas line to our house, so it would need to be electric, and it would need to be about the same size as our current range to avoid ripping out cabinets. And, preferably, be in working condition. Many vintage ranges aren’t, and when they do work, they’re upward of $1,000. Yikes.

But, as I often remind myself, it never hurts to look. I opened Craigslist, thinking I’d just sigh over all the ranges I could never afford, and almost immediately found this beauty for $220.

I named her Betty. She’s a 1953 Frigidaire “Thrifty 30” porcelain range, and she works like a dream. She heats up much faster than our old range, and she cleans up much easier too. (Seriously, the drip pans are ridiculously easy to clean.)

I still cannot believe my luck. I think the people selling her had absolutely no idea what she’s worth. (I almost feel bad about it…) We had to put a new plug on her so she’s compatible with the outlet in our house, and we saved $20 by using the plug from our old range. AND I was able to find a PDF of the user manual online. (I unfortunately printed it backward, but oh well. You live and you learn.)

The only parts that don’t work are the clock and the timer, which aren’t a big deal to me. (There’s also a slim chance the clock isn’t broken — I read that the clocks on these ranges hummed pretty loudly, so a lot of people unhooked them. I will need to do some investigating.)

It’s been so much more enjoyable to cook with a range that actually works well, and it’s encouraged me to try many new recipes instead of sticking with our stand-by favorites. And it’s encouraged me to finally start planning our kitchen remodel. (More on that in the future!)

Now if you’ll excuse me, my mom has hinted that she’d like another jar of homemade blackberry jam, so I’d better get to work…

Bottling Our First Homebrew

My husband and I are big craft beer people, and we’ve been itching to try our hand at homebrew for quite some time. Now that we have our own house, a bigger kitchen, and more space to store everything, we figured it would be a good time to get serious about all our talk.

Last month during one of my frequent lunch-break trips to the thrift store, I happened upon a brew-your-own-IPA kit for $5. Everything was new and sealed in the box, so I snatched it up knowing a complete kit was a steal and would give us the push to finally get started brewing.

The process itself was pretty simple, and we had everything we needed in our kitchen already. Most of the afternoon was spent over the stove in the kitchen making sure the mash stayed at the right temperature. I was able to share some of my fermentation knowledge gleaned from maintaining my sourdough starter, which my husband found interesting, I think. (He might have been humoring me…)

After two weeks of fermenting, it was finally time to bottle!

As most people in my life are aware, I hate buying anything new. I try as much as possible to find what I need secondhand, and bottles for our homebrew were no different. I was able to find swing-top bottles fairly cheap at a few different thrift stores, ranging from 75 cents to 1.99. They’re larger than a standard beer bottle, probably around 22 oz., but we like to drink the “big boys” so it’s not a big deal.

When it came time to fill the bottles, we let gravity do most of the work. The instructional video on the web page for our kit made it look pretty easy, but this worked much better for us. Now we wait two more weeks… again.

And hopefully it won’t be flat — we realized we left too much headspace in the bottles. You’d think someone who regularly cans would realize this, but, hey, it was our first time and some mistakes were bound to happen.

It sure looks pretty, though, doesn’t it? I just had to sneak it out of the “fermentation cupboard” (aka the seldom-used laundry room cupboard) for a picture.

Some things I would do differently next time include:

  • Leave a little less headspace
  • Use cheesecloth inside the strainer to catch any super-fine sediment
  • Use a bleach-water solution to sanitize everything instead of frantically searching everywhere for a powdered sanitizer

In the meantime, I’m flipping through these two brewing books I got for Christmas, trying to decide what to make next. I’m thinking a blackberry mead, maybe. Have any favorite recipes? I’d love to hear!

A Beginning

This blog has been churning in the back of my mind since last summer, a few short months after my husband and I became homeowners. I’d found a massive wild blackberry bramble in our backyard and was frantically plucking the plumpest berries from it I’d ever seen, excited to try canning jam for the first time, when my husband jokingly told me, “You should write a blog where you do all these homesteady things while listening to the Misfits, and call it ‘Rock Homesteady.’”

I continued to think about his comment as I processed applesauce on the stove a few weeks later — the apple tree on our 3 little acres made the most beautiful rosy-pink sauce, and I wanted to tell everyone about it. I thought about it again while kneading dough made from my sourdough starter, and again while turning the compost pile. I’d always been interested in these sorts of things, but would other people find it interesting? Would anyone even want to read my blunders toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle? 

I’d grown tired of the “fashion” blog I’d been sporadically writing — it had begun to feel like people were only interested in reading product reviews, and I didn’t enjoy buying things I didn’t need for the sake of reviewing them it was nothing more than a waste of money and impulse buys in exchange for page views. I enjoyed writing thrifting hauls, but that was about it. It was time for a change.

So, after a little encouragement and rumination, here I am. These are my humble offerings from a piece of Internet real estate called Rock Homesteady, chock full of DIYs, recipes, music, musings, and mishaps along the way. I do hope you stick around a while. Let’s learn together.