What’s Growing on My Counter

What’s Growing on My Counter

Dom and I are both sprawlers. Actually, Simmi is a sprawler as well. Dom has his bottles of mead and beers fermenting, along with lacto fermented veggies and pickles, Simmi leaves a trail of belongings everywhere and doesn’t like to throw anything away, and I have jars of things rooting or being nurtured on the counter.

I chose the north side of the house where our kitchen is because it gets some moderate light and won’t be too hard on my little water babies soaking up water and love.

I started my water baby collection back in March when my orchids were suffering. Our climate doesn’t offer any moisture in the air, and can be quite a challenge to keep injured orchids from dying.

On the right are my orchids last June, just coming to the end of their flowering. The blooms last through the winter and after the flowering stops, they go into leaf growth. I obsessed for weeks prior to relocating to New Mexico about how my six orchids would make it across the country in the dead of winter with no heat. Three survived the trip and three died.

In an effort to save my remaining orchids, I started the process of trying to save them in February, but it seemed hopeless.

I know it sounds ridiculous to be so attached to these little beings, but they mean the world to me.

After I wasn’t getting many results pampering them and seeing that my remaining three orchids were declining still, I chose to put them in a water culture, which is just a fancy way of saying that I keep them in a jar with a third of the jar filled with water. One of them is so pathetic that I keep her in a full water culture.

It’s working. Finally.

One of my orchids finally grew two new leaves. I’m waiting for the other two to start to sprout. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m optimistic and I refuse to give up on them.

So, in no particular order, here’s a look at what’s on my counter:

The new leaf growth on one of my orchids.

The second orchid hasn’t sprouted new leaves yet, but I’m hopeful. She’s in a full water culture.

This is what she looks like in the water.

The third orchid. She’s juicy and ready to leaf. I’m hoping this month it will happen.

A clipping from one of my random house plants.

Rooting Rosemary. These were from clippings I got at the grocery store.

I love to see the roots of new plants that never had a chance to make it.

I LOVE this tree so much that I took clippings home to root them and plant them by our house. This is White Poplar. Back about 15 years ago when it was a medical mystery why I was sick beyond having Lupus, my doctor arranged for me to get allergy tested to see if mold could be tied to my recurring intensive care stays at the hospital. It turned out that I was indeed allergic to not only many different types of mold, but to poplar, willow, birch, (12 trees in all) different grasses, horses, guinea pigs, cats, and dust mites. I thought I was just allergic to the pollen with those trees until I went into anaphylaxis after drinking real birch beer. I finally identified the clippings as White Poplar and I wanted to know what the medicinal and food properties were. It turns out that poplar contains salicylate which is another compound I’m highly allergic to. It’s also in birch.

Now I know why I’m allergic to those particular trees. It’s the salicylates in the trees. I’ve gone into anaphylaxis with aspirin and ibuprofin. It’s not pretty! So, while I won’t be using any of the trees I’m allergic to for medicinal purposes, I will still be planting them. How can I not? They are so beautiful.

The pretty buds ready to send out roots.

Oh green onions how I love you! Did you know you can keep green onions on the counter in water and they will continue to grow for you? You can even clip down to a few inches above the roots and it will grow back for you. Next time you have slimy green onions that slipped to the back on the fridge, remember you can always put them in water. Don’t worry if some of the green leaves die or change color, because it is always setting out new green growth. The water needs to be changed every day or they will die from a lack of oxygen.

See the new growth? The old growth can be clipped with a scissor and used. Just discard any small portion of the green onion that is yellow or brown.

This lovely collection is Dom’s different brews. He has some natural beers and mead. All his brews are wildcrafted and pack a wallop if you drink too much! He did a first racking of the meads the other day, and it was pretty strong.

Dom’s kombucha. Behind one of them is a coffee kombucha he’s working on.

Transfering mead to a new container. Oh, and in the background you can see I also keep romaine lettuce in a jar of water. Only the base of the romaine touches the water. I don’t recommend keeping it in water if you won’t be eating it quickly. The water needs to be changed daily, AND if you don’t like to eat lettuce everyday, it will continue to grow. I once left romaine in fresh water for a week and it was not edible because the inner leaves turned bitter. If you’ll be eating it within a day or two of putting it in the water, it will taste fine.

So that’s what was on my counter. Next week the rosemary will be potted and put outside. I do have rosemary already growing out there, so I take more cuttings and root them as well.

Thanks for reading!



Adobe Fireplace or Wood Burning Stove?

One of the great things about our home is that we have a concrete slab foundation throughout most of the house. As we continue to discuss what direction we’re going in terms of heating the house in winter, we’ve definitely decided we want a fireplace or wood burning stove in the living room and our bedroom.
We currently have two fireplaces which LOOK like adobe fireplaces, but aren’t. The one in the dining room retains absolutely no heat whatsoever, and is good for warming up a room, but once the fire goes out, so does the heat.

The nice thing about a cast iron wood burning stove is that it’s already built, and all we need to do is install a stove pipe through the roof, tile and/or brick on the foundation and part of the walls.

The downside of having a wood burning stove is that it doesn’t retain heat the way that a masonry, cob, or adobe fireplace can.

We’re not looking to heat the whole house with it, but just to add a little extended warmth to each room, as well as to make each room more inviting and cozy.

In our kid’s rooms, obviously there wouldn’t be fireplaces, but since their rooms are located on the south side of the house, they will benefit from the solar heating we’ll be installing.

I guess it comes down to money more than anything else. We can purchase fire bricks over a short period of time, or get them for free if anyone is giving them away. We already have plenty of dirt and clay from down by the arroyos, and we have experience working with cob and natural plasters.

We have a second large fireplace down in the basement which also doesn’t retain heat, but since it’s in the basement, if we were to close the door, the heat would stay put for a good long while.

I think on an emotional feel good level, a fireplace and/or wood burning stove bring an earthy, homey style that just begs you to put on your fuzzy socks and big old raggedy sweater, come up close with some hot chocolate and enjoy the company and conversation of family.

Which do you prefer, a fireplace with thermal mass or a wood burning stove?

At this time last year:

Dom started making compost piles that would crank up the heat to 140 degrees.

Garden Bon Bons

Yesterday in the mail arrived a product called Garden Bon Bons. Vicki was flipping through one of her magazines and spied this little beauty and decided it was a must have.
We often joke about how I don’t do any work, lay around and eat bon bons, while everyone else in the world works soooo damn hard. LOL

Well, with Garden Bon Bons, even though I can’t eat them, I can go to work and “plant” them.

So what are they? They are earth dumplings, seed balls, garden bombs. It really makes a great gift (I’m not being paid to discuss this product). I was impressed with the simple packaging, and the presentation when you open up the box…Watch out Garden Bon Bons, I might be on your tail with a product that will rival yours! LOL Hey, they say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery right? Anyway, here are more photos of the Garden Bon Bons:

Photos around the garden:

This is just a weed that pops up all over the place in NM. It must be from the mustard family since I’ve sampled the leaves and blossoms and they taste like a cross between mustard and horseradish. Its a keeper since it isn’t hurting anything in the garden and it looks so pretty.

Okay, see the lettuce in the photo above? Well, I hauled compost, mixed it with love and prepared this awesome little lettuce patch UNDER the trees, and what is this?

This is a red lettuce that is growing in the regular sandy soil where a seed must have dropped out of the package or something. It really shouldn’t be growing here since it is in soil devoid of any kind of nutrient and has full sun must of the day. This is my freako lettuce growing against all odds, all on its own with no help from anyone. Isn’t nature amazing?

So, I guess my next question is…”Why do I even bother to prepare soil, bending, stretching and hauling compost and mulch when garden plants will grow happily without any of it?” LOL That was rhetorical. Is there something special about our soil? I’ve planted sunflowers and lots of other things right in the soil without preparing or putting any effort in, and things just seem to grow no matter what. Well, everything except nasturtium.

Its Been a Year Already!

Its been a year since we first moved in and its hard to believe that time has flown so fast, but here we all are!
So much has happened over this last year and thank god we have  been chronicling it all.

I don’t know if I could recap a whole year, but I can say with all honesty, it has been a great year.

Beginning the process of creating a homestead started to change me last year. I had all these ideas, plans, dreams and hopes for our little patch of earth, and I couldn’t wait to get started.

I definitely didn’t idealize or romanticize having a homestead, especially since I understood the reality of having a special needs toddler on my hands, health issues, and a husband that worked 60+ hours a week.

If anything, I think what changed the most was my ability to keep my feet on the ground and plan from a realistic starting point.

I tried not to bog myself down or get over worked. I wanted to do each thing with excellence, taking my time to do it right.

I think so far everything has turned out well. Another thing that changed for me is how I plan out gardens and even the interior design of our home. I used to plan out things according to what I thought would be befitting in a certain space, but now I need to consider dirty shoes, farm animals residing in the dining room, changing my lists of what I think is a priority and finally the biggest thing I’ve learn so far is how to start to dole out time for myself. That has always been a problem for me since I am always pulled in so many directions through out the day…finding myself at the end of the day totally spent and mentally retarded.

Last year at this time we were just getting moved in, dealing with extreme humidity, trying to clean the house, and waiting for the cable guy to come. I don’t know what drove us more crazy last year…the lack of coolness coming from the nasty old swamp cooler, or not having a phone, internet and cable! Both, I think, were equally torturous.

On this day last year, my crazy ass sexy husband stood on the back edge of the moving truck, after he put the loading ramps out, and proceeded to push our PIANO to the edge where he stood. He then told me, “Make sure it doesn’t tip as it comes down towards you.” Uhh??!!! What??? OMG, are you kidding me? No, he was dead serious!

He pushes the very large and extremely heavy piano down towards me, and there I am trying to keep the damn thing from falling…ON ME!

Shit, forget about falling on the ground. Whatta bout me? LOL I had the strength of at least three men as I pushed the piano which was dangerously tilting over my freaking head! I did it though…I guided that piano like a champ, and no one was rushed to the hospital that day.

We were able to accomplish so much in the months that followed moving in:

  • The office, master bedroom and master bathroom are complete.
  • The living room (previously the dining room) is complete.
  • The long ass hallway is done.
  • Simmi’s room is done.
  • Noah’s room is done.
  • The laundry room is done.
  • This year we almost have completed our kitchen.
  • Walls were erected in the basement to create another large space
  • Tumbleweeds were tackled and subdued too late in the season.

We still have a lot of inside work to do, but right now we are concentrating on the outside work. Our first Thanksgiving was awesome, and it was such a pleasure to have most of my children home for Christmas. I am looking forward to the day when their lives aren’t too busy and they can all come for the holidays.

We dealt with some major illnesses, with Dom, Noah, my Dad, and Gina all having some degree of illness. Then the unthinkable happened, and I was taken to the hospital with pneumonia.

I have a very long history of getting pneumonia and a few times I almost lost my life because of it. Usually I get a bacterial pneumonia, end up in the hospital for a week or two and then I deal with the long recovery afterward.

This time I had a viral pneumonia, and it took almost a week for them to figure that out. I made a pretty fast recovery since it usually takes about 6 months for me to recover…this time it only took a month! Talk about miracles.

March of 2011 was really the start of our outdoor work. We started our mini kitchen garden, started planting fruit trees and fast forward to this day…we have a very different landscape. I am truly amazed and blessed by all that has been accomplished by our family this year. Everyone has worked their asses off to make our house and land a home.

I asked Dom, Vicki and my dad to write a little something about what its been like for them over this last year and here is what they had to say:


“Wow, a year has passed so quickly and during the past year I have been faced with the daunting task of building a homestead with my family, all the while working 65-70 a week, away from our home.

Because of that, the tasks that we thought only I could do had to be performed by Angela.

This became a learning process for me, and I had to let go of some pride and perceived value I gave to myself for performing a task. I have come to value the accomplishments of what my family is able to do in order to fill the gap of my absence.

Learning to balance work life, family life, love life, and now homestead life has been overwhelming at times and I have learned that giving up a shift or two at my second job in order to spend more time with my family or finishing up a project is well worth the lower income.

Getting caught in the “doing syndrome” with so many trees we want to plant and the edible landscape we are wishing to create along with the cottage industries we are developing, I fell into the trap of moving from project to project and adding on the maintenance routine around each completed project.

I became so involved with the projects I stopped observing what we created.

I stopped reading and learning about what others have done and are doing right now with homesteading. I am looking forward to another amazing year of growth in the high desert.”


“Until June 30th of 2010, I lived in an apartment in suburban NY.

I liked to go to the mall, I ate my diet frozen meals, and I was afraid to have anything to do with plants (my limited experience made me believe I had a black thumb).

Herbs came in bottles, fresh just meant a new bottle. Trees were just, well, there.

Most bugs were sucked up by my dustbuster as soon as I spotted them. Roadrunners were just in cartoons.

Now? I shop aisles of Home Depot like a pro. Herbs can be picked from our garden whenever (though I’m still working on identifying them by sight).
We buy and plant our trees and shrubs and flowers. We’ll be eating our own veggies soon, and I’ll be able to pick all of my salad ingredients right from the ground.
I shovel and dig and haul. I eat healthy ,delicious food. I will learn to milk a cow, I will eat animals I have helped raise. I love being involved in every single part of this.
I love watching our house being transformed in to a home. Hot, sweaty, dirty, sore. Who cares, it’s all for a wonderful reason. Being able to provide for ourselves, and some day, for others. I’m learning sooo much, having experiences I would never have imagined two years ago.
Bats make me smile, not all bees are to be feared.  And dirt and sand are unavoidable here in the desert, it’s absolutely everywhere. Deal with it 🙂
Of course I miss my family and friends  in NY, but I hope that some day they can come and enjoy this as much as I do. In the mean time, I know they love hearing about our ventures, reading about our progress, seeing the pictures that tell our story so vividly.
Every single day, something new. And I’m eager to see what each day will bring. I love my new life, and the amazing family and friends  I’m sharing it with. Their knowledge is so extensive, my education is neverending. I look at everything so differently now.  Angela and Dom, Noah and Simmi, thank you so much for allowing me to experience all of this with you, to be a part of your lives.”


Rick Koestler-

“When I arrived in New Mexico for my retirement this past January, I really wasn’t prepared physically for the extreme change in altitude and climate.

Those two entities rocked my world. Living over a mile high in an extremely arid climate left me with everything from nosebleeds to nauseous bathroom excursions to a dangerous rise in my blood pressure.

Thank God I had acclimated entirely in exactly sixty days. From then on it was a whole new, elevated experience, and I felt like I was living in paradise.

The cool, crisp mountain air is like an elixir from heaven, gently floating over my head through my bedroom window each night.

Once I was able to work again, without losing my breath getting out of my car, I began driving to Los Lunas twice or three times a week to help on the homestead. My daughter Angela and son-in-law Dominic began to describe a homestead plan that totally blew my mind. The plan was to create a high desert farm that, once laid out in the most efficient manner, would practically take care of itself.

They’d begun planting this past March, and from a barren, sandy soiled acre and a quarter of land, the property is now teeming with life. In less than three months they’ve created separate berms containing every sort of herbs, vegetables, trees and perennials.

The property is so beautiful now. I’m so proud of my family’s perpetual hard work and the love that they express performing it, that I’m blessed beyond compare every time visit and join in the effort.

They began adding animals to the mix starting with 15 Magpie Ducklings and three chicks. Dominic, Vicki (a dearly loved friend considered family) and my grandson, Noah, have dug out a 30-foot area in front of the vegetable garden that will eventually be the duck pond.

Retirement for me is anything but boring, now that I’m so close to most of my family and a part of the most exciting adventure I have ever endeavored to enjoin.”

I wanted to put together a slide of all that has happened over the last year, but I do NOT know how to work the movie program on the IMAC. I feel lost. I remembered that I could do a project on onetruemedia.com, BUT they only allow a certain amount of photos and video if you don’t have a premium account. So…I’ll just have to put the before and after photos here:


Kitchen before and after
From pantry to office
Laundry room before and after
Front entrance before and after half wall is taken out.
Big ass hallway before and after
Air conditioning being installed.

Chicken pasture before

chicken pasture after.
Simmi last year on July 17th, 2010
Simmi this year.
Last year…before
This year…after: Fig trees, pomegranate tree, grapevines, Western sand cherry trees, and in the picture below now added this past week are two nectarine trees, and lots of shrubs.
You can see more updated photos by browsing throughout the site.
Thanks for reading!

Harvesting Broccoli Leaves

About a week ago, I harvested some zucchini, tomatoes, Japanese eggplant, snipped a few broccoli leaves and made a great stir fry. Broccoli leaves taste pretty good and can hold their own in the heat of the pan. This past Thursday I carefully removed almost all the broccoli at the base of the plant. I didn’t want to rip out the roots, so I just cut under the dirt. A few roots were pulled up, but for the most part I was able to keep them in the ground. Anyway, I was pretty excited to bring all these broccoli plants inside to be washed, snipped and laid out to dry. That is…until I started to inspect each plant a little more carefully. I don’t know what I expected! Did I have a silent expectation that every leaf was going to be pristine, unchewed and uninhabited by other little creatures? Yeah, okay, I saw a few holes in some of the leaves, but nothing major…right?

Uhh?! Right! Nope, that wasn’t the case. I thought to my self, “The really chewed ones I’ll just put into the compost…no biggie”, BUT as I began to snip each leaf, I found a multitude of MOTH EGGS! It was like egg city. I thought I was okay washing all the leaves off, picking the best ones, and laying them out to wilt. Of all the broccoli plants I had, there were only a handful of very nice leaves.

Because of the infestation of moth eggs on the rest of the plant, I decided not to even put it into the compost pile. I don’t have a hot pile going right now, so the only thing that would end up happening in our massive compost worm pile, is the eggs hatching, they eat ALL the broccoli, turn into butterflies and eat more of my cabbage. No thank you! Into the garbage it went.

So these broccoli leaves are laying on my counter over night, and each time I come into the kitchen, all I could think about is the massive amounts of eggs I had to wash off the plant. My stomach started to turn. To me it would be like eating something that was maggot infested. Needless to say, I was perturbed by it all.

<——-Do you see ALL the eggs? Some leaves were more riddled with moth eggs than others, but they all had them. That’s all I could think about…moth eggs on my food. Yes I washed them off, and even cleaned them with a very mild soap, (okay I scrubbed them) but I definitely created a mental block around eating these broccoli leaves now! I was so totally grossed out, yet I STILL laid out the leaves to dry and wilt.

As I said earlier, I’d com into the kitchen and look at the broccoli leaves and my stomach would turn. Last night I couldn’t take it any more and I decided to throw them away. Yup, my mental block won this round.

I’ve eaten leaves of lettuce and other veggies that had a few nibbles taken from it, and I really had no problem with that. The moth eggs I DO have a problem with. Maybe someday the mental block will be removed, but as of now, I will not eat anything that was previously infested with bug eggs.

Our Kitchen…A Work in Progress

Our kitchen is a work in progress. (click the photos to see full size) I’m still not done with everything, but I thought I’d share an update on it so far. We refaced the cabinets, added new hardware, painted the cabinets a gorgeous red, added a stainless steel and glass hood and also a stainless steel table. Honestly, I don’t know how we got along in our kitchen without that table! We added new light fixtures, a stainless steel shelf unit where we now have room for the microwave and pots and pans.

The things left to do in the kitchen are:

Finish painting around the base of the cabinets, paint the ovens (we have a high gloss stainless steel paint for the oven), add our spice jars to the side of the oven casing, shelving in the large round window for herbs, and add our coffee station shelving. We’ll be switching over to the french press and also roasting our own beans for the coffee…I can’t wait!

Here is a photo of what the kitchen used to look like:

And this one:

Its hard to believe that this is the same kitchen! Here are some more photos of the kitchen now:

Not sure if you can see it, but the curtains are being suspended from a set a William Sonoma Botanical Bee napkin rings. LOL I fell in love with those little things, and then after they arrived, I was surprised that their little tails actually wiggle.

Update, more things were added since this publishing this post:

A dishwasher was installed

Open shelf pantry

We added shelves on the side of the oven casing to store all our spices

Coffee station was added

Measuring cups and spoons added to save space