All posts in projects

bread, bone broth and bacon

That, my friends, is homemade bacon and homemade bread for breakfast on a Sunday!

The last few years, I’ve either been staying at Boyfriend’s house or traveling for work … a lot. Some weeks, I’d only be back here at the farmhouse one or two nights to change bags and whisper hello to my plants. Who am I kidding. All the houseplants died.

I hadn’t necessarily been planning on spending a lot more time at my house this year, but I’m not complaining about the opportunity to sink in and enjoy this place I love so much.

While working from home and sheltering in place, I’ve been experimenting with a gluten-free sourdough starter the last few weeks (start here and then try this). I know there are a lot of sourdough starters out there nowadays, but I haven’t actually seen a lot of GF versions! I’m loving this recipe. It takes some planning and some dedicated time, but the bread is delicious and the sour is getting stronger as the weeks pass.

sourdough starter in progress
keeping a scale and a bag of flour on my counter: not things my house has ever experienced.
slice of bread with loaf in background
good crumb, perfect crust (not too hard) and great flavor

It’s also been really interesting living in a state with a lot of pork production, and numerous meat processing plants closing and reopening due to covid-19 outbreaks. For a while recently, thousands of hogs were being euthanized every day because the processing plants weren’t open to receive them. Boyfriend’s family has the equipment and know-how, so we (and I mean a royal We — there were lots of hands helping on this one) located, picked up and butchered seven 250-lb hogs (for $50 apiece) in the meat shed on his parent’s homestead. I’ve had exposure to deer processing over the past few hunting seasons, so I knew some of what to expect.

What I did not expect was finding that anyone would throw out the feet — the most nutritious part of the hog! So while the brotherly assembly line tackled the big stuff, I learned how to skin and clean pigs feet so that I could bring them home and make myself some rich, gelatinous bone broth. It’s going to save me a ton of money at the grocery store, based on how much broth I go through.

Lauren holding a skinned pig's foot
Very proud of my first solo skinning job
roasted pigs feet
My method for bones is 1) blanch to draw impurities to the surface 2) roast for 2 hours at 450 3) low simmer for 24 hours with a bit of apple cider vinegar in a pot of water just covering the bones
bread in the oven, blanching bones on the stove
Bread in the oven, blanching bones on the stove. I bake the bread in a cast-iron skillet with a small pan of water next to it for steam.
Bone broth after 24 hours on a barely-there simmer. I know it’s done when I cool a spoonful and watch it jiggle like jell-o.

Boyfriend and I got one hog for ourselves, which yielded probably $500 worth of meat for the $50 we paid:

  • Eight bags of bones and feet
  • Seven racks of ribs
  • Eleven roasts
  • Ten hams
  • Pork belly and bacon
  • Many pounds of ground pork
  • One tenderloin and one loin roast
  • Seventeen chops
  • Six t-bones
slabs of bacon in a smoker
Bacon in the smoker, courtesy of Boyfriend and his very patient dad

The bacon is being cured and smoked now, and the hams are up next. I got to try the first batch of bacon this weekend. This particular cut is chewy, kind of like brisket burnt ends — more pork chop than crispy fatty bacon. And so delicious!

slices of bacon in butcher paper
Bacon fresh from the smoker

I’ve always been interested in meat processing and fascinated by the cuts and techniques. It’s one of Boyfriend’s particular skills, so it’s been a lot of fun to work alongside him on this project and start to learn how to help.

We now have pork recipes earmarked to last us a long while — probably a good way through the year. We’ll still buy beef and chicken occsionally, but have plenty of venison still in the freezer to cut in with the pork (they balance one another nicely – one lean, one fatty) so I don’t think we’ll run out of ideas before we run out of meat.

Next up: broiling the bacon with maple syrup from this spring’s harvest! Which was, entirely, another adventure…

seedling season

I said a few weeks ago that this stay-at-home spring feels a lot like the first few months as a homeowner. A lot of this is because that was the first — and last — year that I tried starting my garden from seeds instead of purchasing seedlings from a nursery. As soon as my employer told me, in mid-March, that we’d be working remotely until at least the end of April, I thought “well … I would finally be home to water seeds!”

And so, friends, I jumped in with basically no plan. I visited the neighborhood hardware store the weekend before Minnesota’s stay-at-home order went into effect, and I grabbed a bunch of seed packets, seedling trays and a grow light. It wasn’t until a month in that I realized my grow light situation was probably only 1/10 of what the seeds really needed … like I said, no plan. But it made me feel better about giving them a try, since spring weather in Minnesota means we don’t plant outdoors until between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day.

I’m excited about the herbs and veggies for sure, but I’m especially hopeful about the perennials. Buying a packet of seeds for $3 could yield dozens of plants that otherwise cost $15 or more apiece from a garden center. I know that’s because they’re time-intensive to nurture, so we’ll see if it works out in my favor by the end of the summer. But if I can fill my side yard with bee- and butterfly-friendly flowers that will come back year after year, I’ll be happppppy.

To be continued …

planted 4/5: lavender, green onion, oregano, lettuce, sweet basil, genovese basil, chives, red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers; perennials: soapwort, black eyed susans, shasta daisies, coneflowers, butterfly flowers, hollyhock; annuals: cosmos, coleus, poppies
week 1 | the winner for first to sprout is … cosmos! three days!
weeks 1-3 | grow lamp and west-facing sunlight in the upstairs guest bedroom
week 4 | transition to the three-season porch
week 4 | everything has germinated except the soapwort and coneflowers

fix it february: cabinets + closets

The latest installment of Fix-It February: tackling cabinets and closets.

This is less of a how-to post and more intended to inspire you to get out that screwdriver and fix your own crooked doors and loose wall hooks. Maybe even climb on a ladder in your closet and install some battery-powered LED lights so that you can get dressed in the dark of winter? Because that was a pretty fun project.

Cabinets: I have the kind of kitchen cabinet hinges that snap apart (with a bang) when the screws get loose. They’re easy to fix, and I took a few extra minutes this time to go around the kitchen and tighten all the screws so there are fewer loud, scary noises in the future.

SONY DSC SONY DSC

 

I also deputized some drywall expansion screws (Twist-N-Lock) to fix this curtain hook that was falling out of the wall. Don’t know why it took me two years to think of that solution, but it definitely did the trick. These hooks hold back the curtain doors of my master bedroom closet…

IMG_3043IMG_3036IMG_3034

…which was also the site of some new LED lights. Eventually I’d like to have the closet wired for real lights, but these help well enough for now. If you can drill pilot holes and fill battery packs, you too can add remote-control-powered lights to your closet! I got this set on sale at my local ACE Hardware for just $15.

20140219-203844.jpg

All together with some projects not worth photographing, I fixed or installed 8 things around the house in about two hours. Much speedier than I planned, leaving plenty of time to enjoy season 2 of House of Cards πŸ˜‰

fix it february

We’ve had 40+ days of sub-zero temperatures in the beautiful Twin Cities this year. They’re saying it’s the coldest winter in a generation. Since 1981-82, which is before my parents left Minnesota for Texas.

All of this to say: I can’t fix the weather, so I’m fixing everything else. Understatement? Welcome to Fix It February, y’all.

This past week, the focus has been my blog (#nerd). If you read my blog via RSS or email, as many of you do, you won’t have noticed much of a change, but that’s ok! It’s working a lot better on the back-end now. I’ve had a few things I needed to fix since the site migration in November, and their lingering presence on my to-do list has also been a major reason for my lack of posting these recent weeks. See! Another thing that will now be fixed.

Kind of neat, though, if you like this sort of thing: you can now see related posts when reading any of my blog posts. You can also browse by categories — just navigate to “Archives and Categories” via the main menu.

archives and categories

Next up: some DIY fix-it projects around the house. It’s time for all the little annoyances to be checked off the list.

What are you working on during this cold spell? Or the drought in California? Or whatever crazy weather it is where you are? πŸ™‚

lady, get on that!

I have a bee in my bonnet. And this is a good thing.

There are a handful of projects that I’ve been meaning to tackle since before I even moved furniture into the house.

Like…

finishing the edges and trim in the kitchen…

touching up paint mistakes in the basement…

and turning the garage into a truly usable space.

It’s time for me to get on those projects, my friends — plus a few others. I can’t tell you why (yet! maybe ever.) but there’s a reason and it’s a good one. And even if “it” never comes to pass, it is providing me exactlyΒ the motivation I need to finish some long-standing items on the to-do list.

Will you help? Encourage me with your comments, texts, phone calls and stories of your own DIY mis-adventures!

*Project name lifted directly from John and Sherry over at YHL

gardening in the rain

I didn’t originally plan to garden in the rain today. It was supposed to rain in the afternoon (it rained in the morning). I was up early anyway (had a work conference call at 7 a.m.). The farmer’s market was still selling beautiful things and I couldn’t contain myself (let’s pretend to be surprised).

So, I tackled a bunch of things:

Check marks galore.

Project #1: Fixed up the herb garden outside the back door

BEFORE

  • Planted new basil, nasturtiums, rosemary and another tomato plant in pots
  • Pulled weedsΒ 
  • Added soil to level out the sloping garden bed
  • Planted onions at the bottom of the bed
  • Fixed the hutch (it was old, and needed screws instead of nails. I also drilled some holes for water to drain out)
  • Rearranged everything for maximum sunlight angles
  • Planted wildflowers from Caitlin & Alex’s wedding last weekend in a newly filled-in patch behind the mint pot (where the cilantro and peppers used to be)
Project #2: Added flowers to the whiskey barrel planter out front
  • Moved two plants to sunnier locations on the side yard
  • Added spikes, begonias, creeping jenny and some pretty yellow & purple flowers
Project #3: Weeded and mulched the Hydrangea tree beds (one near the patio, one in the middle of the yard)

Project #4: Staking tomatoes (pictured: four cherry tomato plants, which are growing like gangbusters in a planter on the south side of the yard)
In between all the projects, I got to admire squash blossoms, potato plant flowers, baby strawberries, the summer’s first pepper (so early!) AND A FROG.

Β 
First harvest of the year: kale, lettuce, basil, lemon verbena, cilantro, raspberries and one strawberry πŸ™‚
This is how excited (and dirty) I was when I finished:Β 
Oh yeah, and the sun came out πŸ™‚Β 

Fan Fixer

Sometimes you do things out of sheer desperation. Such as, within two minutes of meeting your friend’s new boyfriend AND finding out he lives in your neighborhood AND that he’s good at fixing things (specifically, a carpenter), and immediately upon processing all of this information, asking if you can cook him dinner in exchange for him trying to fix your ceiling fan, which has been on since last August (and annoyingly, all winter long) because the chain fell out of the fan one day.

You might be tempted to hide under a rock after saying such a thing to a stranger, but instead you sort of laugh it off. And then the NEXT time you see him, the prospect of getting your ceiling fan fixed has you so giddy that you pull out your calendar and set a date right then and there. It’s a good thing your friend loves you so much that her boyfriend doesn’t think you’re completely out of your mind. Or maybe he does but he hides it very well.

And then, because of your desperate ask, and maybe because of the sausage & polenta casserole, he manages to fix your fan (and also, to label the fuse box, which the previous owner never got around to doing when it came to the upstairs switch).

Hallej-freakin-ullah.

Thanks Daniel!!!

front garden: doubled!

My major accomplishment this weekend: doubling the size of the garden in the front yard. I’ve never lovedΒ the front garden the way I love the side and back gardens. I’ve thought about building a raised flower bed to fill the space better, but it wasn’t a project I was ready to tackle this year (and then I went and bought a whisky barrel…)

This weekend, while spreading mulch on the flower beds in the side yard, I noticed that the grass wasn’t growing back very well near the front yard flower bed. After 10 minutes of digging out grass clumps and another 10 minutes of dumping garden soil and mulch on the newly cleared area… I had a curvaceous, beautiful garden bed that matches the style of the rest of the garden πŸ™‚

To be honest, I can’t believe I didn’t think of this sooner. It was so easy, and completely transformed the look of the front yard. At some point, I plan to fill in the space with some shade-loving perennials. For now, it looks at least 100% better than it did 72 hours ago πŸ™‚

In lesser news, I also spread some funny-looking grass seed in the backyard to fill in a bald patch:

And we’ve been getting some cra-zy storms since I finished my yardwork yesterday. Hopefully they won’t strip my tulips to shreds πŸ™

With love from the farmhouse….

the big reveal…

OK, so I meant to post this on Tuesday but my internet has been down all week. Le sigh.

The good news is this: my house has a brand spankin’ new roof!

Taking before and after pictures wasn’t really worth it, since it looks exactly the same (luckily). But here are some of the in-between mess:

It all started last spring, with a hailstorm that led my insurance company to declaring the roof “totaled.” And then a summer of back-and-forth with the roofing company. And then a long line of other roofs for them to fix. But finally, it was my turn. And two days after they arrived, waking me up at sunrise with ladders against my window, they pulled the last pile of shingles and tarps off the front lawn and I have a new roof on my house.

Ta-da. Major “someday” project = checked off the list.

hello 2011

2010 saw a lot of major projects here at the farmhouse…

a new floor in the master bedroom

painted walls and floor in the basement

a kitchen makeover

vegetables in the garden

…and countless weekends of smaller projects, unpacking, organizing and hosting visitors. A wonderful year.

In the spirit of taking stock and looking forward, here are a few projects I plan to tackle in the new year. Now that they’re public, you can hold me to them πŸ™‚

  • paint walls and add furniture in the third bedroom (former nursery)
  • headboard and bedside tables for the yellow bedroom
  • finish the front living room (new couches, shelves, tables and rug)
  • more framed photo arrangements
  • a bigger garden

Bring it on, 2011.

UA-45176443-1