Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Archive for the ‘Homesteading’ Category

HOMEGROWN Life: How to Cook the Best Thanksgiving Turkey You’ll Ever Eat

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015


HOMEGROWN-LIFE-LT-GREENIt’s November, and we all know what that means: The holidays will be here any day now! Last year we followed the Thanksgiving turkey recipe below with our own homegrown bird, and we’ll do it again this year because it’s that good: super moist, flavorful, and sure to please your guests. It takes some preparation, but in the end, it’s more than worth the effort!


This recipe will work for a 16- to 25-pound turkey. Make sure the bird is completely thawed the day before you plan to cook it, because brining it requires at least 12 hours. It’s even better if you can brine it longer. We’re doing ours a full 48 hours.


» 1 gallon unsweetened apple juice
» 6 to 8 thin slices of fresh ginger
» 2 Tbsp peppercorns
» 2 Tbsp allspice berries
» 2 Tbsp whole cloves
» 2 bay leaves
» 3/4 cup salt
» 3/4 cup granulated sugar

Combine the apple juice, ginger, and spices in a large sauce pan. Stir in the salt and sugar. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes then allow to cool completely. We’ve designated a large water cooler, similar to the one pictured at left, for brining our bird.

Unwrap the thawed turkey, remove the giblets, and place the bird in the cooler, neck end down. Pour your cooled brining liquid over the bird. Add water until the bird is completely submerged then add a bunch of ice on top to keep cool. Put the lid on the cooler and leave it undisturbed for at least 12 and up to 48 hours. (Just make sure it’s staying cold.)

» olive oil
» 2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
»  2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
» 2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
» 1/4 lb butter (1 stick), cut into pats
» 2 cups chicken broth

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Remove the bird from the brine, letting the brine drain out of the cavity. Don’t rinse the bird.

2. Coat a roasting pan with olive oil and place the bird in it, breast-side up.

3. Using your hands, separate the bird’s skin from the breast and legs. Rub the chopped herbs into the meat.

4. Place the pats of butter under the skin in various locations, including on the legs. Pour the chicken broth over the bird.

5. Cover the bird with the pan lid or foil and put the pan in the oven.

6. Roast for two hours, basting every hour. Then remove the foil and allow the bird to brown, basting every 20 minutes.

7. Continue to roast the bird until the interior temperature reaches 165F. This can take an additional 1 to 2 hours, depending on whether the bird is stuffed. When taking the temperature, make sure the thermometer is through the thickest part of the breast and not touching bone.

You’ll end up with an incredibly moist, flavorful, and tender bird. Happy Thanksgiving!

Rachel-Dog-Island-FarmMy friends in college used to call me a Renaissance woman. I was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. I still am. Instead of arts and crafts, my focus these days has been farming as much of my urban quarter-acre as humanly possible. Along with my husband, I run Dog Island Farm, in the San Francisco Bay Area. We raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. We’re always keeping busy. If I’m not out in the yard, I’m in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!

HOMEGROWN Life: Buyer Beware! Don’t Plant Those Seedlings Just Yet

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015


HOMEGROWN-LIFE-LT-GREENThis morning I saw tomato and pepper plants for sale. I also saw frost on the ground at my house. What do peppers and tomatoes hate? You guessed it. Frost.

So why in the world would a nursery be trying to sell frost-sensitive seedlings while there’s still frost outside? Come on now! We live in a capitalist society. We all know the answer to that one. The nursery doesn’t care if your tomato plants fail. They want to get a jump on selling the most popular vegetables around.

Don’t be fooled. Just because a nursery is selling it does not mean it’s time to put it in the ground! Even some of the best nurseries can make you fall victim to buying before it’s time: Spring is here! Seed catalogs are out! It’s time to plant!!!

Hold on a second. What’s your last average frost date? Not yet? Then don’t buy those frost-sensitive plants. Actually, I wouldn’t even buy them within three weeks of the average frost date. Remember, it’s an average, so some years it will be later. Our last average frost date is supposed to be sometime in February, but I’m not buying it. As I said, we had frost last night, and last year we had frost as late as mid-April. Let’s just say I learned the hard way not to plant before mid-April.

Now, you can very well plant tomatoes and peppers early if you have season extenders, but mid-March still seems excessively early to use even those. Tomatoes and peppers aren’t just delicate around frost; they LIVE for heat and prefer nights above 55F. Planting them too early can stunt them or, at best, knock them back so they don’t get a good start.

Nurseries do a disservice to gardeners by selling veggies before plants can safely go in the ground. Nothing discourages a beginning gardener like a dead plant.


Rachel-Dog-Island-FarmRachel’s friends in college used to call her a Renaissance woman. She was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. She still is. Instead of crafts, her focus these days has been farming as much of her urban quarter-acre as humanly possible. Along with her husband, she runs Dog Island Farm, in the San Francisco Bay Area. They raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. They’re always keeping busy. If Rachel isn’t out in the yard, she’s in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!


HOMEGROWN Life: Oh, Baby, Baby! Pregnant Mama Michelle Shares Her Secrets for Buying Secondhand

Thursday, February 26th, 2015


HOMEGROWN-LIFE-DK-MAGENTALike me, I’m sure lots of HOMEGROWN readers aren’t crazy about being stagnant. For us, this equates to being unproductive. It goes against so many things we believe in! I don’t do well with forced stillness, even the kind brought on by pregnancy. And although I certainly don’t miss the shoveling (I am milking that this year!), I do miss the home projects that usually keep me busy and distracted when there are so many inches of snow on the ground.

That said, all of this sitting has given me the time to plan—as long as I can get my pregnant mind to stay focused for more than seven seconds at a time. The house is currently under construction, as our “extra” bedroom turned out to be not so extra after all. We’re adding an office/rec room, and I’ve been scouting out decor on the cheap.



I’ve always told the kids that buying secondhand is the best way to recycle, and I’ve taken that to heart with this pregnancy. Being pregnant has really amped up my desire to keep this world as clean as possible and to keep as many things out of landfills as I personally can! Although recycling cans and plastics in the household is obviously important, it can feel a bit removed from the cause. By buying and sourcing secondhand, my kids are learning that things don’t have to be new to be useful. More importantly, they realize their donated toys end up somewhere else, that there’s a life to these items. They’re not “out of sight, out of mind” quite so easily.

I’m lucky enough to have a Habitat for Humanity ReStore near me, where people and companies donate everything from furniture to construction materials. While I would prefer an eco-friendly variety if I had my druthers, I needed a large amount of paint—on a budget—so buying a leftover five-gallon bucket seemed like a decent second choice. It’s a fraction of the price and still has four gallons left in it. I also purchased several light fixtures, ceiling fans, and furniture for a fraction of their prices new. The ReStore also has tile and caulk—all of the little incidentals that I’d usually be tempted to grab at a hardware store.



Besides buying my decor secondhand, this time around I decided to collect almost all of my baby needs secondhand as well. From family and friends alone, I’ve received two hand-me-down cribs, additional furniture for the baby’s room, a safe car seat, a baby bag, and a baby monitor, among other things. I also signed up for all of the local Facebook online yard sale lists (just plug “your town + yard sale” into the search bar), including the free ones, and I check them regularly. I recently got a huge lot of clothes—65 items—for $60, and many things still had the tags on them!



Some tips for buying secondhand baby items:

It’s all about timing. Be fast! If you see an item online but hesitate to express interest, the good deals will be snatched right out of your hands. Be decisive and be ready to pick up the purchase as soon as possible.

Spring is a great time to ask. It’s likely that your cousin would love to get that crib out of her attic! A lot of people who’ve had babies in recent years hold onto their goods, just in case. Prompt their memory by letting them know you’re happy to take these things off their hands. Just make sure the item in question is still safe and sound before using. For car seats, this includes making sure it has never been in an accident and that it hasn’t expired. If it has expired, Babies-R-Us offers a trade in. Turning in an expired model gets you a discount on a new one. Nice!

Speaking of asking . . . If you’re planning on breastfeeding, remember that many insurance carriers will cover all or a portion of your breast pump. Call and ask before Baby arrives!

Start early and give yourself time to collect. Begin looking for deals as early on in your pregnancy as you’re comfortable. The greater head start you have, the wider the variety of things you can get your hands on. Sometimes it takes a couple of months to find that perfect changing table, but persistence pays off. And even though it’s hard to remember when we’ve got piles of snow outside, yard-sale season will be here soon!

Offer to have it cleaned yourself. Sometimes people resist giving away an item due to the work or expense it would take to clean it. When talking with family or friends, or if you post an “in search of” request on a local site, mention that you’re willing to clean the right items. For something as pricey as a crib, a glider, or even a large lot of clothes in good condition, your effort will be worth it. Plus, your crazy nesting instincts are going to make you re-clean everything anyway!

Pay it forward. If you’re shopping and you see a great deal, pick up an extra and pay it forward to a mom in need. The same goes for keeping your baby items in good condition once you’re done with them. There will always be appreciative like-minded moms or women in dire need of your supplies. If you’re done having kids (like I thought I was!), pass supplies along as soon as your baby outgrows them. That means less clutter for you and more items recycled as quickly as possible.

Don’t forget consignment. Maternity clothes are pricey! Do yourself a favor and look for a local shop that carries maternity resale. You’re only wearing these items for a few months. You don’t have to invest hundreds of dollars in clothes to get you by!

Consider setting up a swap/trade in your area. Are there lots of families near you? There’s a good chance those moms are as hungry as you are for a good deal. Many parents will trade toddler toys for newborn needs or happily swap quickly outgrown “like new” sneakers for a nice set of swaddling blankets. Why not get everyone together and make a party out of it? Bonus: You’ll be building community with like-minded parents! Just make sure everyone marks a value on his or her items ahead of time; you can also bundle smaller items together for greater trade value. Check out HOMEGROWN member Kate’s Hosting a Food Swap 101 and Nat’s Bartering 101 for more ideas.

Got a great source for finding? Share your advice below and spread the secondhand love. Enjoy the hunt!



HOMEGROWN-life-michelleMichelle Wire comes from serious pioneer stock: Her great-grandmother literally wrote the book. It’s this legacy, in part, that led Michelle to trade in her high-stress life for a Pennsylvania homestead. Even so, she holds down a full-time gig in between raising kids and chickens.