Dreams of Tiny Dinosaurs

One of the items I mentioned I had wanted to add to our house was chickens. Many people love to comment that chickens are descendants of dinos…I know the science behind that is slightly more involved than a simple “they are related to” but go with me on this one. Maybe I won’t get as as many in the video I was thinking like six or 8 to start. We moved in over October and in the spring of last year I began to do my research. I swore I would never get another pet that I hadn’t really looked into. You know like that Tortoise we adopted from a friend who will out life me and maybe need his own room at that homestead. So I began by joining some local facebook groups on backyard chickens. Let me tell you that was eye opening…..The amount of crazy stuff that can go wrong with your chickens is humbling for sure!

Next I began to do what I do best…research…I am a historian after all! Ok so history teacher by career historian by degree! So I took out every book I could find on chicken raising for the library and read through them. I found a few I thought were really helpful and purchased them to have on hand. Although, lets be real there is a lot at my finger tips on the internet….but I am old school I love a vetted book source.

Then began coup research. We are handy, and by we I mean Ryan. I started to look into coups. I had Ryan ask a good friend to take a look at my choice and see if it was a worth one. We also asked our dear neighbors who also have a flock their opinions. We decided to go with a pre-fab coop from Tractor Supply Store (TSS for those in the know). It was delivered this week and will be our April Vacation project this year.

We also found a local farm that hatches a variety of chickens in Bloomfield which is just a town away. called 4 Five Farm We are expected to get our babies on or around 4-15 and they will be just a few weeks old when we get them. We have a special enclosure that I bought for them. We are planning on getting Two Rhode Island Reds, Two Delawares, Two Easter Eggers, and Two Black. Below are the pictures of all except the Easter Egg…those chickens vary in what they look like just like the color of their eggs. Easter Eggers do just what their name says…give you colored eggs. Some are blue, green, or even pink. I am very excited the name them….if one of the Delaware’s has a black collar I am going to name her RGB (After my girl)

Rhode Island Red (reminds me of the tawny color of our pup)
Delaware: An endangered variety at this one looks like she has a decent collar on)
The Black Australorps: Their feathers have a teal tinge to them

There is of course some fear involved….like can I keep these tiny dinosaurs alive? Will they like me? will this be a colossal waste of money? Then again I haven’t met an animal I didn’t love! I can’t wait to post an update once the babies get here! Wish us luck!

Turing waste into Treasure

So for the last 3 years my friend Julie and I have a share in our local CSA. We both have felt that it is an amazing addition to our own gardens. Years ago either as a suggestion from them (or maybe elsewhere online) I read that you should save all your vegetable scraps in a bag in the freezer and use them later on to make stock I started this before I had a composter so it was a great way to use scraps that would normally go out in the trash or compost. This is now common place in my house but I was thinking that maybe a lot of folks are like me and have never thought to make their own stocks from scraps. I always have made meat stocks so why I did think to do this with veggie was surprising to me.

So basically I throw anything scrap related into giant ziplock bags in my freezer when they are full I dump them in a huge pasta pot. Now I mean I put it all in there….peels from potatoes, onion skins, and even those veggies that you might toss out because they aren’t really ideal for eating but not moldy yet. All I do is throw the frozen scraps and fill it to the top with water and simmer it for a few hours.

The start-frozen veggies with water getting ready to be boiled

So after a few hours of simmering I strain the veggies….pictured below is the aftermath of a few hours of simmering…you can see sort of what I throw in there. Stumps of broccoli, shady snap peas that were not ideal for eating, peels, asparagus that met its demise in my veggie draw.

You can see all the repurposed goodness

Below you will see the result…amazingly rich vegetable stock that you can use for making rice dishes, soups, or for use in any recipe. I often will make a huge batch before I make some soup and then have a large container left to freeze for another time. I used the bowl for when I made minestrone soup during a recent snowstorm and saved the square for another time in the freezer. I also keep using the same two bags so I am not creating new waste.

I know that you could make a quick version in an instant-a-pot or you could do it longer with a crockpot. I just love the idea of taking something that I would normally toss in the trash and making something so good for me. The stuff you get in the store can’t compete with this! So go….get a bag for the freezer start freezing your scraps today!

The Hunt Family Library

Today I wanted to share one of the best things about my new house is our library. I know don’t we sound Bougie. Well our house is a standard 1990’s colonial with the front dinning room and living room. Well we have a great big family room in the back of the house so the living room would be one of those “fancy” rooms that you only go in for holidays or maybe on occasion with company. But we all know the truth at a party everyone gravitates towards your kitchen anyways.

Ryan and I are obsessed with books….we had bookcase everywhere in our old house. We love to read, talk about books, collect them. So we figured what if we could make a dream room for us. A reading room/library. Once we moved in we decided we wanted to line the back wall and some of the sides with bookcases. Originally I was eying the bookscases at Ikea with the doors but then I felt that might limit the ability to put knicknacks and such on the shelves.

Well it took awhile to get this room even up and running because well when you need a ton of book shelves and you only have a Rav-4 things take time. Thankfully I got lucky and was able to get a delivery date for holiday time from Ikea so I sucked it up and ordered all the book cases at once from them and had them delivered. We also decided to add in a desk that was going to go in Josie’s room before she got a loft bed with a desk under it. That has worked about perfectly because there were times when both Ryan and I had to teach from home and we needed seperate areas to teach from. So my classes got to have class from the Hunt library

As the holiday season was approaching I decided we needed to go all in on decorating the library! We went out and got a second tree for it and its so lovely. Although we don’t have any decorations on it my goal is over the years to pick up and collect reading themed ornaments for the library tree. I have been pinning away on pinterest how to make ornaments from old books. I think I may top it with a sorting hat (JK why do you have to be such a piss poor human-It makes it hard to still love all things Harry Potter). This space makes me so happy so why not have it all decked out for the holidays

As I am reflecting on this post a bit I realized that this space is one of the first things that is truly me…truly us. I often care a lot of what others think of me…that is another post or book for another day. I could have had a lovely living room or sitting room and gone all out with a pottery barn vibe….but when I really figured out what I wanted…this was it. A cozy place that is perfect for us…perfect for me. We aren’t fancy pants people-we are cozy up with a blanket and a book people. This is a space that really makes me happy. I wish for all of you a similar spot in your homes.

For those who are close by just remember the Hunt Library is always open for visits, browsing, and yes borrowing-So come on by!

Mushroom Shepards Pie from Collar City Mushrooms

One of the great joys in life is seeing people you care about (friends, family, students) find their passion and run wild with it. In my life I have had the joy to see my godfather live out his dream of opening a tea shop, my students become famous musicians, hairdressers, and news anchors. There is something about seeing someone live their truth that is amazing to witness.

When Covid hit a dear friend of ours Avery, who admittedly we don’t see as much as we should, found himself on furlough from his job. Well, long story short, he and a few of his friends and loved ones opened a mushroom shop close to where we went to school in Troy, NY. Avery is one of those people who is somehow good at all things…so I had no doubt that he would find success in his newest adventure. Yet, to see this dream evolve from a Go Fund me project to a thriving business has been a true joy. Two weeks ago we packed up for a day trip and headed up to Troy to see him shop and mushroom farm. Taking the tour of his shop and his grow areas was legit some of the coolest stuff I have done in a long time and needless to say this mushroom loving family left with more than a few items!!!

In addition to an amazing collection of fresh mushrooms they also had dehydrated mushrooms which I had never used before. The recipe as I made it was using a lot of the fresh mushrooms I picked up but I also made mushroom risotto a few days later with the dehydrated ones and they were fantastic.

So the first thing is let’s talk about mushrooms! OMG they had such amazing ones. Here is some mushroom porn if you will!

So once you have your mushrooms all set here is what else you will need

-20oz of Potatoes

-1lb mushrooms (I doubled my recipe and used half of the pictured ones and some sliced portabellas from the store

-8oz diced carrots

-One large onion

-2 cloves of garlic

-2oz tomato paste

-4 TBS of sour cream

-Garlic powder to taste

-A few cups veggie broth/stock

-1 cup cheddar cheese

-Flour or cornstarch (1 TBS)

Step One: Dice your potatoes and get them boiling in salted water till tender

Step Two- Chop or tear your mushrooms dry saute them with a big pinch of salt for about five minutes to release the water. Then add some oil the onions and carrots and cook for till carrots are tender. Add your garlic and cook for two more minutes

Step Three-Add the butter to your veggie mix as well as your flour and cook for one minutes. Next a in your tomato paste and broth. Bring this to a boil then simmer for 2-3 minutes. When complete you should have a nice sauce

Step Four-Drain your potatoes and mash and make to your preference. Suggested in the recipe were the sour cream and half the cheddar. We are mashed potato snobs at our house so the cheddar cheese and sour cream were not enough we went all in when making ours.

Step Five-Cover the mushroom mix with the potatoes and then cover with the remaining cheddar. Put under the broiler till its nice and browned.

So it was so damn good and smelled so good I forgot to take the picture before I served it! Even my mom who hates mushrooms ate almost her entire portion. As our goal of living a more sustainable life moves forward we know that we need to cut back on our meat consumption and knowing I have recipes like this is my back pocket make that goal seem a bit more acheiveable

Now please promise if you are even in the Albany NY area you will make a point to stop by and see our dear friend Avery and pick up some of the most amazing mushrooms. If you get a chance go check out his website or follow him on facebook!

**Please note the original recipe was found at Collar City Mushrooms***

Cans, Bands, and Fruit….Oh My

So for some odd reason…maybe its my not so secret desire to be a 1950’s housewife I have always wanted to make my own jams, jellies, and preserve fruit. I remember my grandparents basement being filled with jars of god knows what from who the hell knows how long ago on shelves in the basement and I have been intrigued since. My MIL makes amazing bread and butter pickles every year and we always look forward to those glass mason jars of goodness.

Over the year and our goal for a more sustainable/eco conscious life we talked about how we could work on better utilizing our garden and local produce. So I began looking up canning and preserving-and to be fair some of this is still way out of my comfort zone I figured we all start somewhere…..you don’t wake up one day and suddenly are homesteading in the true sense. Plus you know I don’t actually live on a farm so I need to be setting realistic goals here.

So I set out on my first easy to achieve goal…..Jam! So let me start by saying it isn’t as easy and busting out some Mason jars and boiling some fruit and that is it….nope apparently you need a whole set of crap to do this and do it so you don’t poison your whole family. So I started in the best place possible….Amazon. I bought a starter kit for canning that came with all the stuff I needed and the jars. For the price it was worth it because it wasn’t that much more than buying the jars themselves.

So then after this I went berry picking. I decided to do strawberry jam first and then I moved on to Cherry. So let me be upfront…..unless you are growing your own berries this isn’t really a cost saving thing…even if you don’t count the canning supplies I bought the price of fruit is staggering. I spent over 50 dollars both and Cherries and Strawberries (each). I do have to say the making of the jam was far easier than I thought. It’s basically cut up the fruit, add the sugar, and cook till boiling, add the pectin, boil some more and then put it in jars and boil the jars.

Bring the cut strawberries and sugar to a roiling boil
This is the pectin I used for the strawberry jam. I use liquid for the cherry
The filled jars waiting to be put into the water for boiling

I am working a bit on my technique….one of my strawberry jam batches came out more preserves than jam (that is secret code for the jam didn’t fully set). There are so many recipes out there to try…so I would suggest if you want to try this endevour go find a recipe that you look and is easy for you to understand. I think I looked about about ten before I just ended up using the one that came in the box of pectin. For my cherry jam I used this one

I will be making peach preserves later this week and I will posts about that separately. I know it sounds so silly but making this jam really put a smile on my face, and when I put a dollop on my toast or swirl some in my grits its nice to know I made it. I often don’t do things because I am scared to try something new and fail…but the older I am getting I am thinking more and more why the hell not try…what is the worst that could happen!

The finished product

So what is your thing that you have wanted to try and make but have been saying nah another time…..

Spring Time Garden Update

So its been a bit since I have posted….well that is simply the life of a teacher at the end of the year. Add to that two kiddos graduating from middle school and elementary school and an active softball season and you have crazy parent life….one I wouldn’t change for anything.

So we have been working hard trying to get the yard and the gardens in a bit better shape. We planted the garden with squashes and tomatoes and a few watermelons. We did our raised beds with smaller crops and peas/beans. This past week we added our bags.

We have such bad soil we really have had to think outside of the box and what has helped us is a Master Class on Gardening that we watched. I bought Ryan master class for Xmas and we have watched a few. One of the episodes/classes suggested that if you have bad soil or need to conserve space to use garden bags or recycle coffee bean bags. You fill them with soil and your root veggies and grow in them. The bags have Velcro sides that when its time to harvest you open the sides and pull out the veggies. We are trying this because the soil is so rocky we would never get anything to grow. We added some raised beds and repurposed and old crate (where we are growing our tortoises kale). We also used several decorative pots my mom brought from her house to plant our smaller tomatoes in.

I am curious to see how these new gardens turn out. There is something about looking out my kitchen window or wandering around my new property and to see all this loveliness coming to life. The last photo shot is is of my lettuce…does it get any better than this?

Garden and Yard Starting Point

So I love to garden-mostly so I was excited when we moved about all the possibilities of new gardens. The only issue was once we moved in we realized the soil here is far worse then our really bad soil at our house on the other side of town. This soil was so rocky and hard Ryan struggled to even put some simple stakes in the ground when we first moved in. We thought the crappy lawn was from when they installed our new foundation (story for another day-but crumbling foundations is a thing in our area). Nope…its just shitty soil! So we decided awhile go we didn’t want to go the grass route anymore-its too hard on the environment. We will be making our garden beds larger and adding cover crop. Below are some pictures of our starting points.

Notice the harsh rocky soil and no grass-Cover crops here we come!

So now on to the gardens. The backyard looks similar perhaps worse than the front yard! So we are putting in a large garden. The chickens will hopefully be coming next year to the right of the garden. We took the recommendation of someone on our town page and had someone come and till our soil…due to the quality of the soil we also are going to be adding a garden mix (50% topsoil/50% compost) to the top of this. Please note my standard gardening look…..crop pants, tank top, and LL Bean duck boots!

Close up of the crappy rocky soil…and a new neighborhood friend!

Indoors I have also started some seedlings to add to this garden or the raised beds that were recently delivered and need to be built.

I find there is nothing more lovely then the site of seedlings starting to sprout. Its like the promise of all good things to come. So stay tuned to see how all of this starts to come together!

Beginnings and Dreams

As a lover of history and animals my dream has always been to own an old farm house and live out my dreams of all things farm life….minus you know the responsibilities of a farming for a living. Well about two years ago we began a search for a new home that also included an in law apartment for my mother to join us. Well I found my dream house…an old farm house with a good piece of property on “the street” in our town. Well such as many of us have learned…..dreams and reality are very different things. During the inspection of this farm house from 1650 that even included a spot for hiding runaway slaves we realized that a house like this would be a lifetime commitment that we really weren’t financially or emotional capable fo making…so I walked away from my dream house and the search continued.

Fast forward 9 months later we found Tuttle Circle. A house that needed a lot of updating but held a lot of potential. We moved in during October and just now in April it is starting to feel like home. As we have settled in Ryan and I have begun to talk about our dreams for this place. Ryan, as an AP Environmental Science teacher and me with my farmhouse dreams, we have decided that we really want to work on creating a home that is as sustainable as we can get…..hence the homestead.

Homesteading has tons of definitions but to me it means doing your best to live a sustainable life within your home. For me this includes gardening, cooking and baking, and as many environmental efforts and we can manage. So what is on deck for Tuttle Circle. Here are some projects some will be happening sooner rather than later

-Vegetable Gardens

–Xeriscaped front and side lawn

-Chickens (For eggs not eating)

-Bee Hive

-Solar Panels


-Switch to Gluten Free Baking

-Farmhouse Styling our 1990’s house. Our Tuttle circle house is great but it screams 1990s!

We know not all of this can happen all at once but I can’t wait to share our journey…both the successes and failures. I am sure there will be many failures. Join us for the ride!

Photo Credit for both-Kim Nguyen