Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Posts Tagged ‘DIY’

HOMEGROWN Life: For Perfect Pickles, Keep It Simple

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012






I am a fantastic canning assistant.  Just ask my mom.  She and my aunts and grandmother always pickled and canned excess food so that and we had dills to snack on, peaches in the winter, and sauerkraut galore.  The preservation process is far from foreign to me.  That being said, I’ve never really tried it without the trained hand of a prize-winning pickler guiding me.  But, how hard could it be? The Internet lives in our pockets now!

A few friends and I made good use of a recent Saturday, and a wave of DIY inspiration, and set out to make pickles.  Some of them first-timers, and all of us ever eager, we planned to christen my (unused) canner and make enough pickles to last us well-past the coming end of the Mayan calendar.  Common sense (and a phone call to my parents) got the better of us, though, and for fear of botulism and first-timer errors, we decided on refrigerator dills. Easy!

Although its not cucumber season (guilty), we found organic cukes on sale.  We consulted Google for a recipe and got 1,600,000 results. WHAT?! After combing through a few of them who recommended ingredients ranging from fresh dill to cinnamon bark, I called my Dad for a recipe.  Always the minimalist, he suggested white vinegar, a little dill, salt and pepper.  “Stay simple for the best results” he warned.

Well, sorry, Pops, that recipe’s not adventurous enough for us! We wanted gourmet pickles, not some boring dills. Instead of heeding his warning, we took the mustard seed, peppercorns, and dill from one recipe, the allspice, cloves, and sugar from another, and, why not, we added some cinnamon bark in a few of the jars. After sterilizing the jars, prepping and brining the onions, cucumbers, garlic and hot pepper, and boiling our very-own ingredients mixture, we ladled it into each jar and placed them in the refrigerator to set.

Finally, after 24 hours of curing time, it was time for a taste-test.  The results? Edible (score!). The pickles were crisp, with a strong vinegar flavor mixed with a strange essence of cinnamon, which tasted odd with garlic.  The experiment was not a total loss, but certainly a lesson learned: we should have stayed simple: maybe the best recipe is vinegar, dill, salt and pepper.

Oh well, we enjoyed the fruits (er, pickles) of our labor. Isn’t getting there half the fun? We’re planning on canning in the near future. I think we’ll stick to a simple old standby recipe next time!


I am the Flock-Tender here on I am keeping a chronicle of my experiences learning, living, and growing a homegrown lifestyle just out of college.

Accepting Submissions for the End-of-Season HOMEGROWN Fair!

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Recently I traveled back to my roots in rural Connecticut to celebrate an annual agricultural tradition – the Durham Fair.  The Durham Fair is the largest agricultural fair in Connecticut, and growing up as a local, I’ve never missed a fair season! There’s something magical about fair season; a wonderful communal culmination of a year of agri-culture that connects us all back to our roots.

Photos courtesy of Caroline

The beauty of agricultural fairs is the celebration of a rich farming history and homegrown skills.  Family farmers who have worked the land for hundreds of years come back annually near harvest time to show their animals, crafts, art, baked goods, preserves, and plants, share traditional skills and demonstrations, and to eat amazing food and enjoy the exhibits.  Community groups and schools work behind booths to sell their products and their food – much of it local and in support of community-building initiatives.  The spirit and culture of these fairs reminds me very much of the philosophy of – a space for folks to come together and share their knowledge and skills with one another and to enjoy a lively conversation about good food and good living.

Photos courtesy of Caroline

As we approach the end of the harvest season and prepare for winter (here in the Northeast, anyway!), we can all take a little time to look back on a year of progress in living HOMEGROWN.  Share your successes, failures, thoughts and experiences with the HOMEGROWN community – fair-style. Anything new that you’ve done, built, created, explored, or learned, share with us!

  • Submit photos of your backyard livestock, chickens and pets.
  • Post recipes for your favorite dishes that use locally-grown ingredients.
  • Share planting, growing, and food preservation tips.
  • Upload instructions on creating homegrown art, crafts for the upcoming holiday season, or projects you’ve been working on all year.
  • Create a virtual skillshare of new skills learned and share with others.
  • Comment on other’s work, and foster the sense of community that we are proud to build on

While we can’t display your bountiful harvests, beautiful dishes, and crafty projects in a physical space, we want to share them with all in our community through the fall season. Upload your photos, videos, and blogs with “HOMEGROWN Fair” in the title so that they are recognizable submissions.  Of course, we will award prizes for the best of the best – a prize pack, HOMEGROWN Mix-Tape, and a few surprise goodies.  We want to showcase the work that you’ve done this year and how you’ve done it! So get those submissions ready and enjoy the first-annual, end-of-season HOMEGROWN Fair!

Photos courtesy of Caroline

HOMEGROWN Life: Am I Doing This Right?

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011






It’s a question I find myself asking more often as I delve deeper into a homegrown lifestyle – What does it really mean to live HOMEGROWN? Am I doing this right?

(Photo via Caroline Malcolm)

Growing up as one of five in a rural New England town, I was accustomed to canning jam, green tomato pickles, and whatever else we could preserve, digging for potatoes and harvesting lettuce, wearing hand-me-down clothes and playing in the woods.  We lived more simply than most of our neighbors.  My parents built our log home together, we raised animals, and we ate dinner together at home, usually sourcing from the garden or from local farms.  It was our way of life and it was second nature to me.  We lived “homegrown” in order to survive, and to keep traditions alive in our family – and it was easy for us.

(Photo via Flickr)

Going to college in the “big city” allowed me luxuries that I didn’t have as a youngin’.  There was a movie theatre within walking distance! I could get pizza at 3 am! I could get across town and back without a car! It was a new and exciting way of life for me. I still enjoy the buzz of the city after four years of living it, but it isn’t the best environment to fully enjoy the greener pastures of a homegrown lifestyle.

Maybe it’s something instinctual inside of me that yearns for a simplified, way of life.  I want to live homegrown, but I’m not sure that I can do it on my own. I’ve enjoyed perusing local farmers’ market and making meals out of what I can source locally.  I find recycling, composting, and repurposing fun and easy to do. Crafting and DIY-ing feeds my creativity and imagination. I love caring for container “gardens” and talking about growing and planting with others.  But, am I doing enough to be “homegrown” and am I doing it correctly?

(Photo via Flickr)

I’m not canning or preserving on my own. I’m not generating my own energy.  I’m not growing everything I need to survive, nor am I purchasing solely from farmers.  I’m not making my own soaps, laundry detergent, or cosmetics (yet!). I’m still drinking mass-produced beer. And, I don’t feel that I’m really changing the world.  It’s daunting to think how far I have to go.  Living in a shoebox apartment on a shoestring budget, it’s daunting to think of all the “shoulda, coulda, wouldas” that would make my life more sustainable, my footprint smaller and myself a better steward of the land.  Sometimes, I’m just plain old overwhelmed.

But, I have found that this movement is less about doing everything, and more about doing something.  I want to live simpler and more self-sufficiently.  I want to grow my own food and utilize renewable energy.  I want to make my own clothing and cosmetics, but I am 22, fresh out of the dormitories, and just getting started on an independent life.  I am a newbie, and I’m not going to change the way I live overnight.

(Photo via Flickr)

Instead of being overwhelmed, I’m channeling that energy into making the most of what I have where I am in my own life, while contributing to a greater social movement in the meantime.  The more and more time I spend talking with folks who are also attempting to live homegrown, the more and more I feel that I am part of an alternative system of doing, eating, crafting, and spending.  The integrity and importance of this movement keeps me going on my path to establish a homegrown life.  And, I realize that I am doing more to become self-sufficient every day!  Despite needing to read books about canning, Google garden terminology, and research the ingredients in purchases that I do have to make as an urban resident, I am educating myself and about living homegrown, while teaching others new skills, too, which is at the heart of the matter!

We all can’t live as off-the-grid purists overnight, but we can follow a path to our own version of homegrown living.  We can plant the seeds of change first by informing ourselves and learning from those who emulate homegrown living – the homesteading superstars we all strive to be.  This dissemination of information and sharing of skills via hands-on experience or through a resource like builds a community within the movement, and increases motivation to realize our own homegrown goals. Whether that is growing herbs in a window box, starting a farm, or building an Earth house, we can all find ways to live homegrown and to inspire others to do the same.

Share your homegrown living tips. What motivates you? Why do you chose to live HOMEGROWN?  Add to our discussion and keep the movement alive!


I am the Flock-Tender here on  I am keeping a chronicle of my experiences learning, living, and growing a homegrown lifestyle fresh out of college.