Wednesday, April 30, 2008

John Seymour

John Seymour 1914-2004

Here is an excerpt from the book "The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It" By John Seymour.

"Work- I once knew an old lady who lived by herself in the Golfen Valley of England. She was one of the happiest people I have met. She described to me all the work she and her mother used to do when she was a child..."It all sounds like a lot of hard work," I said to here. "Yes, but nobody ever told us then." she said. "Told you what?" "Told us there was anything wrong with work!" Today, "work" has become a dirty word, and most people would do anything to get out of it. To say an invention is labor-saving is the highest praise, but it never seems to occur to anyone that the work might have been enjoyable. I have plowed all day behind a good set of horses and been sad when the day came to an end! This book is about changing the way we live, and I am aware that the subject is fraught with difficulties. The young couple who have mortgaged themselves to buy a house, or are struggling with personal loans and credit card debts, are in no position to be very choosy about what work they do. But why get into such a situation. Why labor to enrich the banks? There is not necessarily anything wrong with doing things that are profitable. It is when "profit" becomes the dominant motive that the cycle of disaster begins.

In my work with self-sufficiency I have met hundreds of people in many countries and four continents who have withdrawn themselves from conventional work in big cities and moved to the country. Almost all of them have found good honest and useful ways of making a living. Some are fairly well off with regard to money; others are poor in that regard, but they are all rich in the things that really matter. They are the people of the future. If they are not in debt, they are happy men and women."

The first step in living an urban or country life of self sufficiency is to remove debt from your life. It isn't easy. Debt in our society has become the norm. Most people cannot even imagine living without it. Debt is a hard habit to break and takes dedication and self-control to end the cycle. I chose to follow the Dave Ramsey plan because it is simple and will work for anyone no matter what their income is. As Dave explains it (in my words): sometimes your shovel is big or small (the shovel is your income), everyone's hole is different sizes (the hole is your amount of debt). As long as you are not making the hole any larger and you are shoveling as much as you can into the hole, you will fill it up and get out of debt. It is possible. His web site and radio show is encouraging because you get to hear the stories of other people who have beat debt. (see my fav links)

Here is the link to John Seymour's school in Ireland.
Smallholding School for Self Sufficiency

Monday, April 28, 2008

My Sustainable Life

There is so much to be done to achieve a sustainable life. It certainly isn't cheap in effort or initial monetary investment. Someone once wrote, "It sure is complicated living this simple life." Many eco-morally (maybe that's not a word, but it's the best way I can describe it :) )challenging decisions have to made daily. For instance, It would have been simple to "round up" the grass in my future garden with chemicals. With a leftover fourth of a container of industrial grade weed killer from my father in law wasting away on the top shelf of my tool shed, it was an act of dedication to proceed with my convictions. Oh the temptations of the easy way. Collecting the newspapers and cardboard, storing them in a corner of my living room wasn't exactly the easiest or fastest way. The temptation to throw out everything and have a neat living room again was at times all but overwhelming. Putting the newspaper and cardboard down then the pine straw mulch was the best for our environment and my soil. It will kill the grass and suppress any future weeds from growing. The earthworms will eventually eat through the paper and return it to the soil in the form of rich earthworm castings. My garden will be richer for it, and I have saved money by recycling, kept the trash from the landfill, and removed the chemical element from the process.

At church someone asked my husband if we were preparing for the endtimes. He was implying this because of the changes we have made. My husband replied "Yes we are preparing for the endtimes." Then he held up his Bible and said, "and it has nothing to do with chickens." We are not doing this to avoid anything apocalyptic. If anything, after Katrina we understand that the best laid plans of mice and men truly go awry. We are doing this because it is full filling and satisfying. Placing still warm jars of home picked and canned blackberry jam in the cabinet gives a sense of contentment that no all day bout of shopping could ever compare with. Just knowing we could survive on our little plot of land brings a smile to my lips and a light to my eyes. Maybe its in my genes? There are too many other people who find delight in this as well for me to think I'm strange. Even so, I've never been afraid of strange.

Truly there is still much to learn, and I am daily. Progression is being made slowly yet steadily. Here are the steps we have currently achieved:

Solar oven

Vegetable Garden


Line clothes dryer

Mini Orchard


Future plans:

Dairy cow


More Permaculture

There are some interesting videos on you tube from peak moment on sustainable living if you are interested. Later I will post the best steps in my opinion to take if you want to endeavor to live a more sustainable life.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

How my truck became a Boat

Today was the most interesting day. Byron and I went on a training hike on the Woodlands Trail in Belle Chasse. It is a wonderful under used path. The variety of birds are simply amazing. All of the paths were lined with mulberry trees and overloaded blackberry brambles. Every puddle we came to was populated by tens of little brown shiny frogs. We saw a Brown Louisiana skink as well. Then..."Crruuumbleack!!! (thunder and lightning)....EEEEk (me). It quickly turned into a pulse elevating exercise as my stride length doubled. Byron thinks I'm a chicken. Aaanywaay. We made it back to the truck double time.

So, we decided since we were out to make our way to Massey Outfitters to pick up some Jetboil fuel in order to try out our Jetboil backpacking stove we are going to use on our Grand Canyon trip. Of course, while we were out there I had to pick up a book I have been drooling over. The whole point of this story is to tell you how our truck became a boat. On the way home as we approached the Crescent City Connection we ran into one of the Louisiana rains, whipping wind and a waterfall. Along with everyone else we put our blinkers on and slowed to a crawl. We got off of the bridge at the Terry Parkway exit. OH My Jesus!! I exclaimed and from there on I continued to pray...Jesus..Jesus...Jesus..The water was over a foot in some areas. There were flooded cars scattering the street. Worried people were peering out of their doors at the water lapping their doorstep. Indignant men were wading into the waves angrily waving at the young men in large trucks to slow it down. The wake from fast moving vehicles laps into their homes. We turned onto Carrol Sue hoping to escape the water. It was worse, high water along with flooded cars littering the way. I prayed even more. As we pulled onto Berhman Highway the road raised somewhat. There was a young girl in a small black car turning onto Carrol Sue from Berhman. Byron and I frantically waved her down to tell her "Turn around! You will flood!" Big eyed she turned her small car and drove into a higher parking lot. Berhman was flooded just as bad further down. We had to weave around the small stalled cars we approached. We made it through. Thank you Jesus, and that is how our truck was a boat today!

The Tom Thumb lettuce I grew. These are from heirloom seeds I purchased from
Bakers Creek heirloom seed company. They are so cute-only 3 to 4 inches across.
Here are the beets I pickled from the last of the crop.
This is the book by John Seymour I have been desiring. I bought it today at Barnes and Noble. He is from Ireland and England and is considered the "Father" of the sustainable lifestyle. He was born in 1914. I can't wait to read it. Here is his wikapedia link John Seymour

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Around the House and Garden

This morning is so misty. The grass is saturated. After taking my morning stroll around the yard to see what's up, my feet were soaked with dew and caked with grass seeds. The uncertain weather of early spring is finally giving way to consistently warmer temperatures. I think tonight I won't need to use the brooder light for the chicks. They are certainly growing. They look like little old men with their scruffy fuzz sticking out from their tiny skulls.

While cleaning off the front porch the other day, I noticed a big pile of mulch, leaves, and other things in one of the large urns by my front door. So, thinking my kids put it there, I pulled out the bundle. Plop, plop, catch. Two tiny eggs fell out and smashed. I managed to catch the third. Awwaww. Next time I will look a little closer. I'm not sure what kind of nest it is. I have seen a humming bird hanging out around my crybaby tree. Whatever kind of bird it is must have been tiny and sneaky to build a nest right under our noses without us noticing. The egg is about the size of my thumb nail. Even though I did my best to put everything back, the bird probably isn't coming back. Sigh. The yard is popping with all kinds of birds, insects, snakes, lizards, frogs, bunnies,...but no alligators yet this year.

The nest.
Close up of the tiny egg. Does anyone know what kind it is?
This is the three Cavendish Banana trees I recently purchased. I've finally convinced my husband we won't look like Vietnam War recluses if we plant them.
Look how pretty the garden looks in the mist.

Monday, April 21, 2008

It's Blackberry Time

Yesterday after church I picked blackberries at my Mother's house. There are tons of them. It's a really good berry year in south Louisiana. I hope it's a good berry year out west. You know, so the bears don't attack. They killed off all the black bears in Louisiana so no need to worry about that here. :( Side note: They are attempting to re-establish them in a corridor around Lafayette. But if we did have bears they'd be as happy as me.

Today I grabbed a bucket, jumped on my cool Cannondale mountain bike, rode down the levee a few miles to my previous scouted out berry patches and was rewarded with quite a few more berries to add to those I picked at my Mom's.

So now we get fresh berries to eat until we're sick of them, blackberry cobbler and blackberry jam.

Here is my solar oven baked cobbler. It baked just fine in the solar oven and tasted yum, yum, yummy. I did open the oven several times and wipe the moisture off of the glass. As you can see, it did brown. (I also cooked a pork loin in the solar oven today. The temps are rising. It was 84 degrees today.)
Fresh berries in the pot ready to turn into jam!
18 cups of berries and 9 cups of sugar yielded 4 and 1/2 pints of blackberry jam. Here are the four processed jars. The half jar is in the fridge to eat now and in the morning. Fresh blackberry jam is so delicious. If you want to learn to can, buy the Ball Blue Book on canning. It has pretty much all the info you need. Canning is really easy. Except for waiting for the mixture to cook enough to gel. You have to stir continuously for about an hour. It is a great workout. Keeps the flab off the underside of the arms. :)

Here is the cobbler recipe I use. It's easy to remember.


1 stick of butter

1 cup of self rising flour

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of milk (I use about 3/4 cup of milk)

Fresh fruit and another cup of sugar

Melt butter an pour in the bottom of medium pyrex dish or such like. Mix flour, sugar and milk. Drizzle mixture in pan over butter. Sprinkle with fresh fruit. Then sprinkle 1/2 a cup to 1 cup of sugar over that and pop into the oven. Bake at 350 degrees until golden. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream. So good.

Friday, April 18, 2008

We did it!

We did it. We killed half of our meat chickens today and we will kill the rest in the morning. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It was actually very interesting. Plucking chickens is sorta fun. Byron did all the killing and butchering. I'm not that brave yet. Although before it was over I was peeping at Byron wringing their necks and wasn't as shocked as I thought I'd be. I did the plucking, sorting, bagging, and freezing.

O.K. If you don't like gross close your eyes for the next paragraph. Byron was a little too enthusiastic when he was wringing the first one's neck. He came inside looking bewildered. I asked him how it went. He said, "Well, the head came off." Me-"You cut the head off?" Byron-"No it came off when I was wringing it." Evidently in his efforts to kill the chicken quickly he was left with a severed head in his hand and the chicken flopping off in the distance. I guess it died quickly and with as little pain as possible. I found this great blog site with photos of how to butcher a chicken if your interested. How to butcher a chicken.

Here's the first one. It weighed 5 lbs and 2 and 3/8ths ounces. Three of them were over six pounds, two were just under 5 pounds and the other two were over five pounds.
And this is how the first one looked fried. Wish I could have shared it with you so you would know how it taste's. It was really yummy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sitting in the E-Room

Since Katrina I do not have a pediatrician for my children. I tried the family doctor thing. Then when I took my kids in for scheduled flu shots they informed me they didn't keep kid size doses.. huh??? Anyway I'm not bringing them back there. The pediatrician clinic I took them to pre-Katrina was great. They had several doctors and someone could always see your child, but alas, they are no more. So now when I call a doctor, they tell me they are booked until some god forsaken time and if my child is very sick bring her to the emergency room. My life seems to be forever categorized as pre and post Katrina.

Today I hauled Talia to Children's Hospital and spent most of the day there. She had been throwing up and all the other things that go with a stomach virus since early Saturday morning. She seemed to be better yesterday afternoon, then last night....blechhh all over again. Sigh. Finally in desperation I went to the emergency room. Talia was dehydrated. They gave her fluids and a medication to stop the vomiting. The doctor said she would feel better quickly and she did! I'm listening to her on the phone right now reporting to McKenna and Logan (her cousins) all about her emergency room experience. Children's hospital spoiled us. It was a short wait to see the doctor, and everyone there is such professionals. If any doctors are reading this by chance, Move to New Orleans!!! We need more doctors.

Now I'm going to lay on my couch and hope this headache goes away soon.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Yesterday's Wedding

This is my favorite picture I have taken at a wedding in a long time. Every cathedral has a C.N. That's short for what my husband calls the Church Nazi. That's the person who makes sure nothing unseemly happens to the cathedral. Such as glitter spray, unglassed candles, or shedding asparagus fern. Certainly me as a very professional event florist would never do such a common thing. Here is the Bride letting the Church Nazi know that she would not sit in that limousine a moment longer. No matter if she was supposed to be in hiding. "Let's get this thing on!" the Bride said. I just love the expressions.
Here is the Bride and her maids.

Here are two of the ten bride's maids. This was one of the sweetest brides I have designed flowers for. This morning she called me to thank me with the nicest compliments. Often I get cards, but never a call before the honeymoon.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Working on a wedding

Working on a big wedding this weekend! It's going to be beautiful.

Friday, April 11, 2008

High River

The river is higher than it has been in a long time, not counting Katrina. This is water from the north not the south. Due to all the snow and rain up north the river has reached levels high enough to warrant opening the Bonnet Carre Spillway and diverting water into Lake Pontchartrain. That's supposed to happen around noon today. Here is a pic of the river from the levee behind my house. The trees are several feet from the normal river bank.
This is the levee behind my house. You can see the saturation. The river level is above the point where I am standing to take this pic.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Around the Garden

Today it's been work, work, work: cut back all the perennials, give the liriope, mondo, and lemon grass haircuts, tame the vines (yeah right), plant the butterfly bushes and guara, weed and remove the bitter lettuce from the veggie garden and get ready to plant cucumbers and melons, keep a sharp eye out for wasps. It looks a mess, but I have a vision! I'm going to layer all that mess under the newspaper and then top it off with mounds of pine straw. I think the earthworms are drooling. Isn't Spring wonderful!

New front garden which will eventually have a path and a bench.
The mini citrus orchard with fig tree in the very back by the levee.
My potager in progress.
Side perennial border.
The other side with my crybaby tree.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Blackberries, greens, solar chicken and a tomato sandwich

Today I took a bucket to put blackberries in when I went on my walk. There were a few, but it is still a little too early. The bushes are just loaded with green and red berries. Soon there will be plenty to eat and can. Timing is so important when picking wild blackberries. You have to get them at just the right time. Too early and they are tart. Too late and they are mush. This little pint will be devoured quickly when Talia gets home. I have a couple of really great patches scouted out. Hopefully I'm the only one! I also spotted a swath of wild red Louisiana irises! I'm going to snag me one on my next walk. I have never seen red ones before.
My lunch, a farmers market tomato on sour dough bread. Yum Yum The garden is beginning to give in abundance. That's a bunch of collards, turnip and spinach greens in the back. I'll cook them tomorrow.
Tonight we're having "solar baked chicken" and snap beans! It baked all day and didn't heat up the house. Another way to stay cool in the sub-tropics.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Irises and Newspaper Mulch

African Iris-I relocated this plant from the perennial border to the front garden and it is blooming it's little head off.
A Louisiana Iris I just purchased. "Glowlight"

Here is a pic of the newspapers scavenged from everyone. They are going to be the base layer of the mulch for the new front garden. Wednesday morning 55 rolls of pine straw will be delivered: 20 rolls for my brother, 10 for my mother, 10 for our church's garden and 15 rolls for me! This should be enough to mulch my entire new garden and some of the paths in the potager. Byron is working on my raised bed potager. He built one more new bed and has enough wood to build two more. The herb wheel will come next as well as pics.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Permaculture. Permaculture is a combination of the words "permanent agriculture". I had heard the term before and understood that it had something to do with sustainability, but didn't really know what it was. It seems that Bill Mollison is generally given credit with coming up with this style of agriculture. Through his studies of forests he came up with a way to work with the lay of the land in the same manner and create a sustainable lifestyle.

You don't till the land into nice tidy rows. In fact his land is far from tidy. It is a series of terraces subtly sculpted down a hill designed to slow the movement of water in the soil as it moves down the hill. No mowing for him. He mulches down his unwanted weeds. The mulch reduces competition from weeds, reduces water evaporation, and decomposes to replenish nutrients. Plants that provide food are widely planted. Nut and fruit trees, berry bushes, vegetables, grains, flowers etc... Basically a forest edge with understudy plants along clearings are created. Sun loving veggies and such are planted in the clearings. The land is planted so that even if you leave it and return, it will still be producing edibles. Chickens and other animals are allowed to run free and roost in the trees. Of course no pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used. The diversity of plants and the accumulation of organic matter is enough to keep the soil rich and balance out the populations of beneficial insects and pests.

This really fascinates me. It's not only a sustainable way to live, it is also in the long run a much less labor intensive way to live. In some ways I have already been following this form of agriculture. I intend to learn more about this and implement more of it in the way I plant my garden. Unfortunately in our perfection driven society gardening like this might not be looked upon with favor. I do believe that "Path to Freedom" (see links) shows how sustainability can be successful in a neighborhood. Youtube also has a three part series on Bill Mollison and permaculture.

On another note, The garden show at the New Orleans Botanical Gardens was wonderful and so was the farmer's market on Magazine street. Look at all my loot!!!
Four old garden climbing roses (for the chicken coop), a guava tree, some local honey and a whole flat of organic local tomatoes. Yummy. Last but not least, my prize!!! I found a bamboo that I had been looking for. I first saw it in the "Amazon" exhibit at the Audubon zoo. It will grow 50 feet tall and will make stalks at least five to six inches in diameter. It is a clumping variety and will spread between ten to fifteen feet. Gorgeous! Besides you can also eat bamboo shoots. So it will work well in my permaculture attempt! :)
Close up of my beautiful tomato find.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

More Baby Chick Pics

We have 49 chickens now. Fifteen of which are destined for a short but enjoyable life. The rest are four brown leghorn roosters, Byron's choice, and hens. Only two roosters were ordered. Murray Mc Murray Hatcheries threw in a couple of extra for free. Thanks. I guess males aren't as rare a commodity in chicken society.

I didn't realize chicks came in such an assortment of looks. With all the Easter pics featuring fluffy yellow chicks, I thought that was all there was. I figured they just changed as they grew. You know it's really sad that me the granddaughter of a farmer didn't know this. My children will. A Brown Leghorn Rooster
Not Sure.
Fluffy Easter Chickie-Looks like a Pom Pom
I think this is a Dark Cornish-A really pretty chick

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Holy Trinity

There are three ingredients that are a must for beginning any local New Orleans dish. From sauce piquant, greens to jambalaya, they all begin with sauteing onions, celery and bell pepper.

You can buy cute little containers of nicely chopped up trinity in the stores for way to much, or you can do what I do. Buy a bunch of each when on sale (preferably grow your own, buy from local farmer market, or buy seasonal). Then chop 'em up in the food processor, and freeze the chopped seasonings in little saved containers. I use different sizes so I can take out just enough for what ever dish I am making. Also, my seasonings are chopped fine because my family doesn't like chunks. After they freeze, pop them out of containers like ice cubes and store in freezer bags or containers. The bags and containers can be reused over and over.

See! Instant time and money saving seasonings at a tiny fraction of the prepared package cost. Saving time is a matter of preparation and planning.

Chop up the seasoning!
Chop it up further.
Pour seasonings in containers and freeze. This batch I made was about four times the amount you see in the pic.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Around the house and garden

Things have only calmed down slightly since this weekend. How come everything seems to happen all at once. I had a large bridal shower and Art in Bloom at NOMA (New Orleans Museum of Art) to prepare for all happening at once. Then sadly my sister-in-law's Mother died and I had a slew of flowers and the casket spray to do for Sunday. Hopefully they were a bright spot of cheerfulness in the family's grief. Personally I like flowers at funerals. Of course maybe that's why I'm a florist.

Then Saturday night we got a call from New Orleans Post office. "Hey, we got some baby chicks here. Can you come to Loyola to pick them up?" We were thankful for the call. They let our last batch sit there until we finally received them in Belle Chasse early am Tuesday. Six of them died :(. So we happily picked them up. I'll be showing their baby pics a little a a time. They are unbelievably cute. Time gets by me when I'm watching them. (Tiffany, it's better than TV) .

Keep them fingers crossed for me. Maybe my arrangement at Art In Bloom will win a prize. Hmmmm?

I think this little guy is a Silver Laced Wyandotte.
This is either a New Hampshire red or a Rhode Island red (I think).
Group Nursery Pic
Turnips, mini carrots, and mixed greens: turnip, spinach, collards, and carrot greens. I cooked them up. Yum Yum Yum. I have the recipe posted in a previous blog. The potatoes are Russian fingerlings I bought at Whole foods. Pretty good.
Two cabbages, salad greens, and radishes. I shared with my mother-in-law. That's the wonderful thing about gardening. The sharing is always appreciated unless it's giant zucchini at the end of summer
Hey, hey! The first of my Japanese plums have ripened. The birds discovered them first. So I threw all the pecked on ones out so they could finish them up! Yesterday a mocking bird was chasing my cat Josephine and pecking her rear end. I guess she's already seen Josie's claws and fangs and figured the back end was safest. Boy was that bird mad.