Monday, December 28, 2015

Making Your Own Laundry Soap

Several years ago {like 8} I became more aware of what foods, chemicals, environment and other unavoidable toxins can do to your body. Since then I’ve tried to become more aware of the foods I eat and to avoid toxins whenever I can feasibly do it. {Like I never microwave something in a plastic dish}

One of the items I decided to change in our family was our laundry detergent. I bought a name brand and it seemed to work just fine, but then I started reading ingredients that I couldn’t even say and started hearing more about what these ingredients can and are doing to our bodies. 

I decided that I wanted to start making our laundry detergent. Now, it is more dense than the laundry detergent you buy at the store, but it was worth it to me in the long run. No, our clothes don’t have that nice smell anymore, but I know they are clean. 

I use Borax, Baking Soda and Zote’ or Fels Naptha. On occasion I will add Biz.

RECIPE (you can use your own judgement too)

4 Cups Borax
2 Cups Baking Soda
1 Cup Biz
1/2 Bar Zote’ or Fels Naptha (grated as finely as you can get it)

Mix together with a whisk or wooden spoon in a large bowl. Once completely mixed together put inside of a jar or container that you have chosen to store you homemade laundry detergent in.  I rescued a small scoop from another detergent and that is what I use to put the soap in my washing machine.  We have an HE washer and dryer so we don't use as much detergent as we used to.  Plus you don't need as much to wash your clothes with this homemade laundry detergent.

Knowing that it is healthier for my family makes the difference for me.  

M & S
Uptown Grange

Friday, December 11, 2015

First Fall Garden {Former Chicken Yard}

 Back in September we planted beets, swiss chards, carrots, radishes, kale and green beans in the former chicken yard. We were afraid that since this yard was recently vacated by our 8 girls that there might be too much nitrogen in the dirt. 

Well, the radishes, swiss chard and kale and doing wonderful, in fact they exceeded any expectations exceeded any previous time we’ve planted them. Baker Creek seeds really do provide very good seeds, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the results of these three crops. 

Kale surrounded by tomato plants
From Left to Right: radishes, carrots, swiss chard and beets
The beets and carrots however, did not fare as well. They did get big beautiful tops, but did not provide much in the form of beets or carrots to eat. We were afraid that this was going to happen with these 2 crops, but it was definitely worth the shot. We did learn a lesson and you can’t learn without trial and error. 

When we pull the garden, we will share what we ended up doing with everything. I believe that they will all be blanched for the most part, but I’ve also heard a lot about kale chips and I wanted to try to make some of those.  {the carrot tops already made it into the composted}

The green beans really did climb well, but they haven't produced any beans to date.

Oh yes, lets not forget about our volunteer tomatoes in the former chicken yard. We have several that have blossoms on them. Once all the other crops are pulled we will put them in tomato cages and cover them so they can be in a sort of greenhouse. Hopefully we won’t need to plant any tomatoes this coming spring, just depends upon if they end up being indeterminate tomatoes or determinate.

Bottom left is our Kale and behind the tomato was our little radish patch.
M & S
Uptown Grange

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Hunt….Quick Update!

Unfortunately there were just as many people there when they returned later that week as there were when they left on Saturday.

So lesson learned, put in for an earlier hunt in a less popular area.  Have your own camper, travel trailer or pop up so you are not at dependent upon the individual who owns the travel trailer and their timeline.

Oh, yeah, and listen to your wife when she says to head up a day earlier than necessary, you’ll get a better camping spot, and can scout out before everyone else shows up and spoils the hunt for everyone.

M & S                                  

Uptown Grange

Friday, December 4, 2015

Tidying Up…I’m Overwhelmed!

I had such grand plans and such motivation. There is the room of doom, Dudes bedroom {it’s very messy}, the linen closet, the laundry room, the pantry and the other pantry that all need to be more than tidied up. They need MAJOR de-collectioning!

When I think about tidying up, I am excited, I have the motivation, I even get a bit of a rush, "YES, I AM GOING TO DO THIS!", but when it comes to doing it, that’s another story. I’ll get to the point where I walk into the room or open the door and my motivation just deflates….COMPLETELY!

Sometimes I have the determination to get the cleaning done, but normally that is because I am at my wits end or I am expecting company. Since these areas are not seen by company I am not as determined.

Like right now, I feel the determination to get these areas cleaned and de-collectioned, but the thought of actually doing it makes me feel overwhelmed.

I’ll read a book and feel the determination and then the same happens….deflation.

I guess I will have to put on my big girl panties and just dive in and get it done! Make an agenda of what I want accomplished and give myself a deadline of when I want it completed for each task.

I wonder if I give myself a small treat for each accomplishment completed by my deadline if that would work.  When everything on my original agenda is de-collectioned I could treat myself to a pedicure or manicure, something I don't usually treat myself to.

Is this the weekend that I finally conquer my anxiety with my collections?  I've saved some boxes up from work so I have something to put stuff that I no longer need, items to donate and trash in!

I’m going to give the agenda and treat idea a shot, I’ll let you know what happens.

M & S
Uptown Grange

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Baby It's Cold Outside...It's too CoLd For Us...

I know two posts in one day, I am making up for missing a few weeks and I found some motivation last night!

They say the threat of freezing temperatures is over, for now anyway, and we are glad.  We are not equipped for this cold weather in Arizona especially in November; we had to dig out our winter coats long before we put up our Christmas tree.  The weather we are seeing now is our normal January/February weather.   

We're ready for regular fall weather, well actually that’s a lie, we’re ready for spring weather and spring gardening.  However, our basil is going crazy and so are our roses. We decided 4 days too late that it was time to cover the plants at night, so hopefully we don’t lose any due to frost/freezing.  It is only supposed to get down to 41 degrees tonight but given our location sometimes it dips a bit below that, so we will cover again tonight.  We will also water the plants as well as that has helped in the past to keep them from freezing, again 4 days too late.

As I’ve said before, we are not a cold weather family.  We like the heat and warmth of spring and summer.  And of course, we love the spring veggie gardens!  AND hopefully this year we will be able to have some spring chickens! xoxox

Come on SpRiNg!

M & S

Uptown Grange

The Hunt Is On…Literally!

Grange man and Dude were drawn for late season bull elk in 5b up near Lake Mary, AZ. The season is from the Friday after Thanksgiving to the following Thursday, so only 7 days. From what I’ve been able to see Arizona Game and Fish issued 590 tags to this same area for this time frame. While 6A just across Lake Mary road they issued 825 tags for the same time frame.

They went up on Thanksgiving Day after we ate our dinner, made camp about 4:00 p.m. and started scouting. Grange man said there were people camping at every corner. The decision was made to come home on Saturday evening after they had tried all day, and that they would head back up on Tuesday or Wednesday after most of the campers left {hopefully}. They saw a total of two bull elks and only 7 hanging while they were up there.

Wednesday was the day, the are leaving around 3:30 in the morning so that there is at least 2 full days left for hunting.

Send good hunting juju or vibes, we could use them.

M & S

Uptown Grange

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Item of Special Interest {Backyard Chickens} Council Workshop – Postponed to January 19, 2016 Glendale, AZ

I spoke with Ryan Lee {assistant to Bart Turner} today. He advised that the workshop scheduled for December 15th to discuss backyard chicken keeping has been postponed until Tuesday, January 19, 2016. See below e-mail from Ryan:

Hi Shelly,

Staff is currently researching and preparing a report to the City Council regarding allowing chickens as pets in residential neighborhoods. We were informed last week that the report will be shared with the Council on January 19, not December 15. We apologize for the delay and look forward to seeing you at the Council Workshop on January 19.

Best regards,

Ryan Lee
Council Assistant, Barrel & Cholla District
Glendale City Council

If you haven’t had a chance to contact your council member you still have over a month to do so, this also means that we have the extra time frame to reach out to more city of Glendale residents.

Please spread the word about the meeting change, I know there were a few individuals including us that were planning on the meeting this month.

We have also started a petition on to allow backyard chickens.  If you reside in Glendale or are thinking about moving to Glendale please sign it.  If you've decided not to buy in Glendale because of the backyard chicken restrictions you can sign it also, please click on the below link.

Make Backyard Chickens legal for all city of Glendale, AZ residents

Not sure who your council member is? Please see below map.

Glendale District Map 2015

Thursday, November 12, 2015

City of Glendale - Contact Your Councilmember!

We received a call from the assistant to Bart Turner {Barrel District}.  They are requesting that any / all city of Glendale residents that want to legalize Backyard Chickens to contact their council member before the December 15th Workshop.  I would suggest e-mailing that way you have a record, I would also like to suggest including Bart Turner in the e-mail as this is his item of special interest.

ANY RESIDENT IN GLENDALE....This is for any city of Glendale resident please contact your council member even if you are currently allowed to have chickens on your property.  Show support for those that currently are not allowed this option.  

They requested that you send your name, district and address.  HOWEVER, I would only include your name and district if you already have chickens illegally, we don't want anyone else to get into trouble.

If you need help in writing your e-mail feel free to contact me at  You can also reach us on facebook at Uptown Grange.  There is always the option to research some suggestions online as well.  It doesn't need to be anything fancy or technical, just a simple letter showing support of allowing backyard chickens in the city of Glendale on regular residential lots.  If you want to add more, please go ahead, the more information the better.  I wouldn't limit the number of chickens that you are requesting to have on your lots.  We aren't saying a minimum would be good, however, if they allow to few it may put some families that already have chickens in an awkward position. 

Remember Sahuaro District resident's just recently had a council member change.  See the updated map below for your council member.  Also included below is a direct link to your council members e-mail address and their phone numbers.

Councilmember Bart Turner {Barrel District)}
City Council Office: 623-930-2249

Vice Mayor Ian Hugh {Cactus District}
City Council Office: 623-930-2249
Cell: 602-615-7672

Councilmember Lauren Tolmachoff {Cholla District}
City Council Office: 623-930-2249

Councilmember Jamie Aldama {Ocotillo District}
City Council Office: 623-930-2249

Councilmember Ray Malnar {Sahuaro District}
City Council Office: 623-930- 2245

Councilmember Samuel Chavira {Yucca District}
City Council Office: 623-930-2249

Glendale District Map 2015

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Building a Compost Container

FINALLY!  The Grange man got some pallets and create a compost container.  

We weren't sure exactly where to place it.  We wanted it to be somewhere where the dogs wouldn't be able to get into it and enjoy it {remember the manure & turds}.  We also wanted it some place that would be easy access should we be able to get chickens again so we can put their manure in there as well.

The spot is the side yard where to girls were, towards the front of the house, that way it is far enough away from ANYONE'S patio.  

Grange man found 3 full pallets and a 1/2 pallet.  This worked perfectly.

The finished product, Grange man used about 2 dozen drywall screws

A view of it from the garden gate and you can also see our fall garden bed

We had been "collecting" some of our discarded veggies, egg shells and coffee grounds so we already had some "goodies" to put inside of it....{it smelled like a good organic earthy matter}.

Hopefully it will be functional for us, and a good spot, and hopefully the girls {when we can hopefully have chickens again} won't bother it too much, but we can always block it off from them.

M & S
Uptown Grange

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Red Onions ~ What to do with them?

A few weeks ago my mom brought over about a dozen small sized red onions. Grange man and Dude LoVe onions, like they will go out of their way and just eat onions, they really are sick men. Anyway, there were just too many for us to use up before they went bad, so we decided why don’t we pickle them?

Onions make me emotional. I just took off the paper skins and cut off the top and bottom and was literally crying the entire time. Grange man and Doodles just laughed at me, and kept asking me “what’s wrong”….jerks.

Grange man sliced them otherwise I would have been an even bigger blubbering mess.

Pickled Red Onions

1. Slice onions real thin

2. Place in a water solution with a bit of salt and let soak in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours or overnight {the longer they soak the less crispy they will be}

3. Boil or sterilize jars and lids while onions are soaking

4. After finished soaking dump onions into strainer to remove liquid

5. Make a refrigerator pickle recipe {recipe to follow}

6. Put sliced onions in jars to within ½ inch from the top of the jar {we chose pint size jars}

7. Using your canning funnel pour hot pickle recipe over onions in jar to within ½ from the top of the jar or covering all onions.

8. Place jars in an area to cool

9. After jars are cooled down place in refrigerator, these will keep for at least 6 months

They’ll be good on brats, hotdogs or even hamburgers, or you could even eat them alone.

Refrigerator Dill Pickles {Makes them taste like Klaussen’s}

Pickling Solution:
6 C Water
2 C White Vinegar
1/2 C Canning Salt
1/2 tsp Alum {optional, does help to keep crisp}
1 T Pickling Spice

Bring above ingredients to a boil.
Refrigerate, and they will be ready in 2 - 4 days

This is the recipe we use each summer for our pickling cucumbers, it calls for 4 - 5 lbs of freshly picked cucumbers.  Will post that recipe next summer when we make pickles again, there are additional things to add.

M & S
Uptown Grange

Monday, November 2, 2015

Pumpkin Puree

GrEaT pumpkin adventures on the Grange.

One of our local stores and the one that Grange man just happens to love had pumpkins on sale for $0.01 {yes, one penny} each, not per pound, just each. Holy cow, can you imagine…well, we did, I sent Grange man and Doodles up there to get a few and they were already back to regular price, figure’s that our luck. They did come back with 2 pumpkins though, in addition to the pumpkin that Doodles already picked up a few days before Halloween, so we had a total of 3 pumpkins.

The plan I had for these pumpkins was to simply them to puree them. Some recommend that you buy the smaller pumpkins but I figured, WHY!?! if you get the bigger pumpkins it means more puree.  {I'm wishing we would have got the smaller pumpkins...I honestly don't know what I am going to do with all this puree}  The pumpkins were about the size of a volleyball and basketball. Not unreasonably sized, GrEaT for carving, but that isn’t what we were going to do with them.

I had this image in my mind of the awesome smell of pumpkin wafting through the house as they baked. To me pumpkin is a smell that defines fall….but without the nutmeg and other spices it really doesn’t have a smell or even much of a that was a bummer.

Grange man helped me out, he cut off the tops and we gutted them the best we could. {We saved the seeds to bake later…recipe to follow}. Then he cut them in half and then half again and then in half again. We had 4 baking sheets of cut up pumpkin. Yes, it was a tad bit overwhelming.

Roasted Pumpkin Puree Steps

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Whole Pumpkins {however many you are ambitious enough to bake and the size you prefer}

3. Cut out top of pumpkin {like you normally do}

4. You can either cut in half and gut pumpkin or you can do it the old fashion way by gutting from the top

5. Cut up into manageable chunks {4” to 5” square or triangular} you can put these upside down or right side up on your baking sheets

6. Bake from 45 – 60 minutes or until fork soft

7. Let cool

8. Remove pumpkin skin and slice into 1 – 1 ½ inch chunks

9. Put into food processor with the grater attachment and the chop attachment to get a fine puree

Depending upon how much you are processing, you can either remove the puree directly out of the mixer or pour into a bowl. We made a bunch so we poured ours into a bowl and repeated step 9 until all of the pumpkin was pureed.

This is our first 2 you can see we've only filled 2 bags and we have much more to go...oy vey!
10. Put about 1-2 cups into a freezer zip lock sandwich bag {Grange man decided to make some of them extra full}

11. Lay flat and freeze

I’ll share recipes when I get a chance to start making stuff with the pumpkin puree. I love pumpkin and so does Doodles, the dogs even love pumpkin so they will get some dog treats made for them too. They got to get in on the act too and had a few chunks every now and then.

Grange man just kept saying “I sure hope you like pumpkin”…."because that is a lot of pumpkin"

M & S
Uptown Grange

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Canning ~ Sauerkraut

On September 26, 2015 the Hubs started his second attempt at making home made sauerkraut.  There are some changes that we need to make to the recipe as far as how much salt to add.  The nice thing about cabbage is, it is cheap to do our experiments until we have it fined tuned.

The Hubs chopped up the cabbage real fine and added salt and mashed the two together until the sauerkraut was getting watery.

To hold down the cabbage so it would say immersed in its own liquid, the Hubs used a plate with a rock on top {the rock was inside of a zip lock bag}.

This is after 38 days this is the end result.  The Hubs used 2 heads of cabbage and a bit too much salt, but we will know for next time.

1 Quart, 2 Pints and one 1/2 Pint

This is the recipe we will use next time.  It is from a vintage Kerr canning book, {that my folks left behind for us}.

Use good, sound heads of mature cabbage.  1 pound of salt with 40 pounds of cabbage; or more realistically, 2 ounces ( 3 1/2 tablespoons) with 5 pounds cabbage.  One pound fills 1 pint glass jar.

Remove outside green and dirty leaves.  Quarter the head and shred the cabbage finely. Put 5 pounds cabbage and 2 ounces of salt into a large pan and mix with hands; we would use the wooden masher we have.   Pack gently into the crock {or whatever container you are using, we used a food grade plastic bucket} with a potato masher.  Repeat until crock is nearly full.  Cover with a cloth, plate and weight.  During the curing process, kraut requires daily attention.  Remove scum as it forms and wash and scald the cloth often to keep it free from scum and mold.  Fermentation will be complete in 10 to 12 days.

As soon as the kraut is thoroughly cured, pack into clean KERR Jars, adding enough of the kraut juice, or a weak brine made by dissolving 2 tablespoons salt into a quart of water, to fill jars to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar.  Put on cap, screwing the band tight.  Process in a water bath for 15 minutes.

We lefts ours for 38 days, and then canned it today.  Hoping it turns out okay, we would like to use the sauerkraut we made today on Ruben sandwiches.

...the feast of the harvest, the fruits of thy labors... Exodus 23:16

M & S
Uptown Grange

Friday, October 30, 2015

Bumper Crop ~ Fall 2015!

OMGoodness! So far this fall garden is appearing to be a bumper crop! 

We thought for sure we were going to lose some of our long beans from the hail storm a few weeks ago, but they seem to be thriving. They are to a point where they are starting to climb up the trellis that Hubs made for them.

The radishes are going crazy, we’ve enjoyed a few from the garden already and they are huge we've grown radishes in the past but they have never been this large and they are very tasty.  We will be planting some more here within the next few weeks.  These can be grown most of the winter here in Arizona.

Of course we have to thank our girls as they helped us with their awesome fertilizer for being on the side yard for over 2 years!

The kale, swiss chard, beets and bush beans are coming up nicely, hoping for a crop of each by Thanksgiving.

Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and spinach are showing signs of coming up, they were planted two weeks ago.

We are so impressed with the seeds that we purchased online. If you think about it, the seeds cost less than they would if you were buying organic seeds in a big box hardware store or other big box store. The average price is $2.25 to $3.00 per package, they are organic GMO free seeds. EVERY seed that we plant has come up without fail, this is a bonus as normally if you buy seeds from one of the above type stores you are guessing if they will come up and how big your crop will be. You do have to pay for shipping but that cost is minimal {$5.00 at most}, also they are such an awesome company, each time we’ve bought seeds from them, they have thrown in a random seed packet for free! We will definitely be purchasing our seeds from them again and again. 

M & S 
Uptown Grange

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tidying Up ~ Day 1

I read a few short books {like under 50 pages} over the weekend on de-cluttering {de-collectioning}. One of the books did not make any sense to me at all, it talked more about organizing rather than de-collectioning, and how to hide stuff. The second book pertained much more to de-collectioning and organizing, still not exactly what I was looking for, but a much better help.

I started off in the hall bathroom cabinet. This is the bathroom that the hubs, my 16 year old and any guests typically use {I hope our guests never looked under the cabinet…YIKES, it was very scary}. There were cleaning products, dog shampoo, raw vinegar, Epsom salt, pedicure stuff and a ton of random bottles of empty shampoo, just sort of thrown in there. I already had a plastic shelf unit in there so it was relatively easy to get organized. I turned the shelf around and was able to make it look more orderly. I threw out what was empty, old or no longer needed. I also went through the draws and was able to completely empty one of the drawers and organize the drawer with stuff in it. To organize the drawers I used clear cosmetic bags that I had saved and had an individual bag for: random dental stuff and then another bag for shaving stuff. This really cleaned the drawer out nicely, just hoping that it stays this way.

Hallway/Guest Bathroom
Next it was on to the master bath. It’s not really as grand as a master bath, it has a shower, a toilet and a sink, and it is about 5’ x 6’. The cabinet in there is really extra small and there is also a shelf/stand type thing that we put behind the toilet for more storage. Under the sink again I already had shelves to try to keep the organization in shape, again that failed. I had so many bottles of old lotions, body soaps and make-up. I really purged a lot in this cabinet. I was able to take some stuff that was on the shelf/stand behind the toilet and move it into this cabinet under the sink. The sink in the master bath is also very tiny and easily cluttered so I tried to remove as much as I could from it “appear cleaner”. This really helped by removing stuff from the shelf and counter top. We still have some work to do in this bathroom, but at least a good portion of the eyesore has been “hidden”.

I next moved onto my dresser. I was determined to purge as many clothes as possible and re-design the way I lay out the clothes in them. We have antique dressers so they aren’t the easiest to open and close as it is and I was hoping that re-designing them would help with this. I was only able to purge a few pairs of pajama bottoms and a few shirts, but it still felt great. I folded the clothes and stacked them and then turned the stack sideways so that I could visually see all of my bottoms and tops. It looks so much better and it definitely easier finding and getting clothes this way too, I no longer have to dig through stacks to find the shirt or bottoms I am looking for, I just find the color and bottoms I want and grab. I did this to 4 of my drawers in our room and was able to completely eliminate usage of one drawer {the hubs now has an extra drawer}. I still have to work on the “lingerie” drawer, but I have to decide how I want to lay that one out.

Just one of my drawers, too many to post the all.
I was feeling very accomplished and motivated by the time I was finished with each bathroom and my dresser that I moved onto my portion of the master closet. Again this is maybe 4’ x 6’, the hubs “remolded” it and at least we now have two rows of clothes rods rather than just the one and a shelf like when we first moved in. Of course my clothes take up ¾ of the closet. I was able to find about a foot worth of clothes that I either no longer wear or were to big/small for me. I do try to go through my closet at least once a year and do this. My BFF likes to go through the clothes I am removing and she has friends that she shares them with as well. It’s a win win!

And finally, I went through my nail polish, by this time the sun was going down and I wasn’t as ambitious as I was earlier in the day, so I figured this was a good thing to finish off with for the day. It was time to go through the nail polish; I was going through a craze where I would find these bright funky colors for cheap. Well since then, I’ve started doing my own gel nails and I am trying to match the gel polish to lacquer polish when I buy it, so I was able to taper it down and put my gel polish and matching nail polish along with my LED lamp in there so they now have a more permanent home. I removed about ¾ of a shoe box full of nail polish. My oldest son’s girlfriend said she would like to go through it and she has two sisters, so I am hoping by the time they are finished it all has a new home, she will also go through the hair products that I found that I no longer need. Again, it is a win win!

By the end of the day I felt good about getting stuff organized and de-collectioned. I know that I have A LOT {understatement} more to do, but this was a good start.

All in all it took me about 5 hours to complete. I didn’t say good bye to anything or tell it thank you, I’m more of the personality where I just cut ties…but I feel a bit more at ease and know that I really need to go through my whole house. I also need to get the hubs and the teenager involved in this as well.

M & S
Uptown Grange

Friday, October 23, 2015

Tidying Up!

OH BOY!  We have a lot of clutter, and I mean a lot.  We like to collect things, so I am going to change that from clutter to collections.  Our collections range from Ball & Kerr jars, clocks, meat grinders, enamelware and a lot of other primitive items I’ve collected along the way. 

We also have what I like to call the “ROOM OF DOOM{my nemesis}.   Before we bought the house it was my mom’s sewing room.  My parents converted the former living room into a “room” so my mom had a front door for her business and people weren’t walking through our house, she was a professional monogrammer.  Anyway, the hubs took out the window and put a closet in its place.  The intention of the room was a craft/sewing room/small storage room for our family. 

It has just taken on a life of its own.  If we’ve had a project in the house and had to box things up, yep, you guessed it, it goes in that room.  If there are items that we have intentions of getting rid of, yep, you guessed it, they get put in that room.  If we don’t have a use for it right then and there, yep, you guessed it, it goes in that room. 

You see, I have a problem, I’ve inherited from my mom, she got it from here mom and now our youngest son has it also, we like to hoard….there I’ve said it….we aren’t the type where the wall will come tumbling down if you move one thing from the pile, but I have a problem letting go of things.
I still have some of our boys’ clothes, shoes and toys {they are 19 & 16}, the reason I tell myself is “someday we will have grandchildren and they can use those items”.  It will be cheaper to have the toys already bought and paid for...right...eye roll….by the time we have grand-kids the toys will be brittle, the clothes will have holes or no elastic and the shoes will have no grip left on the soles.  I know these things need to go, most of them, but I can’t part with them.  I really need help.  I plan on reading a couple of de-collectioning {like how I just made up that phrase} books over the weekend to find some inspiration. 

If you have a story or advice, please feel free to leave a message, I am open to suggestions.  I’ll let you know what I feel or think or if anything in the way of de-collectioning was done over the weekend.

M & S
Uptown Grange

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Garden Lasagna – So Far So Good

It’s been about 2 weeks since we made our garden lasagna in two of our garden beds.

It’s working pretty good only a few spots have Bermuda coming through, we sort of expected this. I’ve poured hot boiling water on them to see if that will stop them in their tracks, this works on the purslane.

If the boiling water doesn’t work I will definitely try using a home made weed killer. The Bermuda is mostly sneaking through the edges. These are spots where we may have missed the garden lasagna or it settled differently than we anticipated and we don’t plant near the edges anyway.

The other slight issue is the straw is growing so we have to stay on top of pulling it out.

Would we do it again? I’m not sure we will have to see what happens over all on how the garden beds look after it finally turns into a garden bed that can be planted in again.

We’ll keep you updated.

M & S
Uptown Grange

Friday, October 16, 2015

Feeling Under the Weather?

Whenever I hear friends and co-workers say that they aren’t feeling well I immediately mention to them about a great bath that I take several times a month.

This bath is a tried & true bath, for my family at least.  

It’s really easy, only has 2-3 main ingredients.  Start with bath water as hot as you can stand it.  To it add:

- 2 Cups Epsom salts
- 1-2 Cups Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Cup Baking Soda (optional, but does help with the PH of the water and your body, individuals with edema, liver disease, kidney disease, or high blood pressure should use caution if using baking soda as it does contain sodium.)

You can also add a few drops your own essential oils mix depending on whether you are under the weather or stressed out.

I also like to put on some relaxing music, and try to mediate or close my mind off.

Stay in the bath until you are sweating it out or until the water cools down.  Then rinse in a cool to luke warm shower.  Try not to use any body soap or shampoo that isn’t natural as well.

That’s it.  I do recommend that you drink lots of water the day you plan on doing this and make sure you drink lots of water after you’ve taken it.  Also, have a light meal during the day as well if you don’t eat anything this bath may make you feel dizzy and light headed.

I am normally exhausted by the time I’ve taken this bath so I take mine just before bedtime.  By the next morning I am usually feeling a lot better.

M & S
Uptown Grange

Sunday, October 11, 2015

2015 Fall Garden & Update

Please excuse my absence.

On to our fall garden update.  The Garden Lasagna is still brewing away, we haven't seen much breakdown yet.  For some reason I don't think we will be able to plant in these beds until it's time for our spring planting.  

The side yard where our girls were has been growing, some plants and doing what they are supposed to be doing, while others are dragging their to speak.  Everything is up, just not moving at the pace that I wish they would grow.

The Asian Long Beans are doing very well.  The Hubs created a little fence to put between the rows so that the beans have something to climb on.  

We had some plants come up that we know we didn't plant.  We scratched our head one night when we were weeding because we kept seeing these plants.  The Hubs says "How did these get here?" Me: "I don't know".... ding ding ding ....we used to feed our girls tomatoes from the garden that the wild birds got to, so our girls sort of left us something behind for us to enjoy.  There are about 20 tomato plants mixed in our garden, hopefully we will have some fresh tomatoes this winter in addition to our other crops.

Monday will be a busy day planting the cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, green beans, broccoli.  It should be interesting being two planters down, but we will figure it out.

M & S
Uptown Grange

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Follies of Dog Ownership – Not for weak stomachs

Alright, well you know we have 3 dogs. They really are pretty good but stubborn dogs. They are all three basically siblings, they get into their fights and we have to separate them every now and then. Seriously, think of the sitcom Modern Family, the Dunphy kids are always arguing, well, that’s what these 3 dogs of ours do….

One of our dogs, as gross as it is, enjoys cleaning up after the other dogs….yes I mean she likes to snack on their turds. I know this is totally gross, it has never been encouraged by us, we try to stop her, by telling her NO, who wants to put their hands in her mouth to remove the turd? It is just one of the things she “enjoys” doing. I guess maybe she thinks she is doing her part in keeping the yard free of turds, which doesn’t help, because hers are huge!

Well…….apparently she feels the same way about the manure that we placed in the garden lasagna. Ick, nasty, disgusting, my eyes are still burning! We kept the dogs in the house all day Saturday and Sunday, with supervised potty breaks. We already had an idea that she would be totally into snacking on any clumps of manure, and boy were we right. She does her business, looks back at you to see if you are looking and then she tries to go and “sneak” some snacks. It would be different if she wasn’t the most stubborn of the 3 dogs that we have. She is 50+ pounds of Basset Hound (and a mix of something else) and well she seems to think when you reprimand her that you are playing and that this is her clue to start playing, it’s pretty funny but also frustrating. (slump and eyeroll)

I bet you’re wondering well, if they work what do they do with the dogs if they can’t be in the backyard? Well, we lock them in the house. The hubs worked a half day yesterday so he was home to let them have their potty breaks and today he went home at lunch to let them out to do their business. They do have accidents in the house, but for some reason if one of them does their “business” in the house the Basset Hound has no interest….no clue why she has no interest in these turds, I wish she would so I’m not gagging picking it up…. AND thankfully she isn’t one of those dogs that give kisses.

She is pretty mellow, for the most part, she reminds me of Eeyore, but she sounds like a Wookie from Star Wars...she moves slowly and makes up her mind slowly. She definitely has her way of making up for her dim wittedness though, she is sneaky…OH BOY is she sneaky, she likes to put her paws on the counter and help herself to food that we’ve prepared or is waiting to be put away. (imagine the dog on the table eating the Thanksgiving dinner, it’s not that bad, but I wouldn’t put it past her) I guess she figures, well, they shouldn’t have put it in my reach. We’ve since learned that anything on the counter has to be at least a foot from the edge of it. It goes beyond turds and food though; it’s clothes, shoes and garbage….

It’s like having a 2 year old all over again for us, always getting into something she knows she shouldn’t be getting into but then she looks at you with those huge puppy dog eyes and you can’t help but love her!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Who We Are

We've been married for over 20 years.  We live in the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix Metro – Glendale, AZ). We love living in the Valley of the Sun, we love the heat, we don’t cope well in the winter or cold.

We have two boys who are our world. Our oldest, Dude, is studying to become a mechanic, he has been working towards this since he was in high school. Our youngest, Doodles, is still in high school, he is active in student council and the art/ceramics club. They both keep us on our toes!

We have 3 dogs that think they are humans. They like to hog the bed, the chair, the floor right in front of where you need to go and always hover when you are in the kitchen chopping up veggies. They are all three stubborn and pretty much always get their way.

We both work full-time, but within a short distance from our home. This makes it nice because we really have no commute, and we are both home by a decent time so we have time in the evening to work in the garden and improve our little grange.

We did have 8 chickens which we were required by the city of Glendale to remove them from our property. Click on the Chicken tab for our chicken story. Check back for updates on making backyard chickens legal in the city of Glendale for residential developments.

The hubs and I have always enjoyed gardening. Here recently though we’ve become more aware of where our food is coming from and we aren’t okay with that. We are making a concerted effort to grow as much of our own food as possible. We grow our vegetables from seeds whenever possible and they are GMO free. We are not okay with big businesses creating GMO foods and pretending that they are safe to eat. Our goal is to grow and preserve as much of our own food as possible so that we can be as self-sufficient as possible. We want to know where our food is coming from and how it was prepared. It’s amazing the different types of fruits and veggies you can grow in the Valley of the Sun.

This year the hubs and Dude have been drawn for elk, we are hoping to have our freezer’s full of fresh harvested elk meat. This will go a long way in helping us to be a bit more self-sufficient. I dream of the different cuts of elk meat we will have….NOW no pressure on them but they have to get one.

That’s us in a nutshell, aside from having two awesome sons, gardening, raising backyard chickens we also enjoy camping, cooking, DIY, using essential oils, crafts and scrapbooking. We aren’t perfect; we love pizza, ice cream, fries and other food that isn’t good for you. We have the same every day struggles most people have we are your average family but we are trying to live as self-sufficiently as possible on our little grange.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Garden Lasagna

Yes, you have read that correctly....Garden Lasagna, not the kind you eat of course...silly gooses!

Two of our raised garden beds have been infiltrated with bermuda grass for years.  We are over it and ready to really use our garden beds to be as self-sufficient as we can be on our little 7,000 sq. ft. lot. 

We have tried several times flooding the beds and pulling as much as we can with the soil being soaked and it still continues to return....URG

Doing research and asking other members on a few gardening pages I follow on facebook, several people recommended layering the beds.  AKA Garden Lasagna or the Lazy Gardener method by Ruth Stout.  

I weed whacked all the bermuda grass down as close to the soil as I could get so that there is a nice somewhat flat surface.

First layer is cardboard, paper bags, newspaper or other type of barrier you are choosing to use to block the weeds/bermuda from returning.  (we do not recommend the landscape plastic unless you are planning on removing it).

The second layer is straw about 3-5 inches thick.  This breaks off into about 3-5 inch flat plate type chunks this also helps to make sure that you have it tight in the garden bed. (fewer weeds to sneak through)

Third layer is manure, the stinky kind, whats the point of having a garden if you can't enjoy the smell of manure.  Boy oh boy, did my eyes burn layering this down, it also didn't smell real pleasant up close and personal either, but keeping fingers crossed this method works, if it does in the end it is well worth it.

I see one of our dogs photo bombed the picture, silly girl!
Water a little each day, this will help it to start breaking down and turn into a compost. Whatever barrier you used will "hopefully" kill off the bermuda grass, and any other weeds, while providing nutrients back into your soil.  This is a hot compost so make sure you water it daily to keep it hot so it breaks down.

We are only trying this in the two raised beds that have the worst amount of bermuda grass.  Since this is an experiment only at this time, we left the other beds be, that way we can definitely plant our fall garden in them while this breaks down.

We've tried just paper bags in the past, with no straw or manure, just the paper bags seemed to work to control the bermuda grass in the other planters, only purslane (which our girls loved) keeps returning, but it isn't too bad and we can stay on top of it.

Total cost for this reconditioning was about $30, and covered about 120 sq. ft. with a thickness of about 4-5 inches when all was said and done.  We used 2 bails of straw (@ $8.50 each) we bought at our local stock shop and 16 bags of manure ($1.09 each) that we bought at homies.

Here's hoping we can keep the dogs out of the beds now....and that this method works, we promise to keep you updated on the bermuda grass issue in these beds, and hopefully you can try it too!

M & S
Uptown Grange

Essential Oils (Oh My! The Excitement)

One of my favorite days!!! Well, anyone's favorite day really, at least I think so, getting a package in the mail.

I ordered some new essential oils, I've been buying my essential oils from Edens Garden  for close to a year now. For me they are #1 in affordability and as close to perfect on quality, you can buy through them directly or through Amazon.

If you are skeptical, (I was too) they really do work, we've been using oils for everything: dogs kennel cough (eliminated in 4 days) we used them in a humidifier to help with their coughing, bug infestations, breathing issues, ingrown toe nails, rashes, relaxing or to even make the cars smell nice and of course the house. They really do work, these are just some examples of what we have used them for in the last month.

For a clean smelling house, I normally mix them and diffuse them in the house, placing the diffuser in the most central place. I will also put essential oil drops on a cotton ball and vacuum it up and as I am vacuuming it will leave a pleasant smell (we usually use lemon for this) this helps invigorate us to continue cleaning.

If you are unsure of which brand to go with, make a small investment and test the 2 big brands against whatever brand you are thinking about going with, no pressure from me to choose the same brand that I use, this brand I have found is what my family can afford. The most popular essential oils for beginners are Lemon, Lavender and Peppermint they are usually the most affordable from each manufacturer as well.

The guys call me a witch doctor. Our oldest said the other day, "Mom, I'm not sure how, but whatever is in those oils is taking care of everything." (he scored extra points for that remark) our youngest is waiting for me to bring out the shaking stick with the head on it and do a dance each time I break them out to use...he cracks me up!

Of course whenever I get in an order I have to open each one and smell it! Oh my, I can just never decide which one I want to use first, I become overwhelmed.

I am not receiving any money from them, I wouldn't recommend anything that I wouldn't use for my own family and I would be honest if I didn't care for a product. Also, I do not recommend that you take any essential oil internally, no matter what the manufacturer may say about it being safe.

M & S
Uptown Grange

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hard Decisions

They say the hardest thing and the right thing are the same thing.

On Saturday, we moved our girls to their new and final home. Taking care of the girls was beginning to take a toile on the hubs, with them not living with us where we had them on our property. It was difficult to get over to where they were every day to make sure they had fresh water and food. If we couldn’t make it our son would take care of them, he works 10 hours a day and goes to school full time, so it wasn’t fair to him.

We’ve hummed and hawed on this for several weeks before making this decision. They are the hubs girls, he loves each and every one of them, but in the end he knew it was the right thing to do.

The hubs has a friend at work who really wanted chickens, but didn’t have the means to build a coop and house for them, so we gave him our hen house and coop and everything that he would need to get him started. Once they are used to their surroundings they will have a bit of land to roam around on and have the life once again that they deserve. The hub’s does have visitation rights though, that was a condition to moving them.

We are only changing pages in this backyard chicken raising chapter of our lives. We are hopeful that one day again we will have chickens, legally. We are turning over every rock and locating every resource that we can find to make them legal in our city and/or state if necessary.

This was one of the hardest decisions we’ve had to make, but it is also the right decision for our girls!

M & S
Uptown Grange

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Note to our Senator's

On Friday (9/25/2015) I sent this to our state senators.  I've since been contacted by Senator Farnsworth, the creator of SB 1151, and he wants to meet with us to discuss backyard chickens.  I'll update when that happens...finally getting exposure!

Good Evening,

I am writing to you about backyard chickens. I am hoping that since SB 1151 failed in April 2014 some of you may have had the opportunity to learn more about backyard chicken keeping and how they are no more of a nuisance than a feral cat or a dog barking.

There are already many cities in the Phoenix metro area that allow chickens. The codes vary from city to city such as: distance away from neighbors back patio, number of chickens a resident is allowed to have on their property,to not being allowed on residential property at all.

I’m not sure I understand how or why having backyard chickens is even an issue. They are one of the most harmless creatures on the planet; they can do so many different things for so many people. They are therapeutic after a long stressful day at work, they are quiet and pretty much keep to themselves unless they are laying an egg, they are a complete joy to have and have some of the best personalities, please see below for more examples:

Top 10 items you may not know about chickens:

1. you do not need a rooster for a hen to lay an egg

2. production of eggs slows down in the winter time as there is not sufficient sunlight for the chicken, they need 14-16 hours of sunlight to lay an egg

3. their coops are a mess and stink, only if they are not cleaned regularly, and I might add, that if they do stink it is not as bad as a cat’s litter box

4. they are loud and obnoxious all day and night, they are only loud when they are laying an egg generally and they put themselves to bed each night as the sun goes down

5. in the early 1940’s the government encouraged people to be self-sufficient, including raising their own flocks of chickens

6. pest control, yes they will eat scorpions that many of us have here in Arizona, along with spiders and ticks just to name a few

7. weed control, they will eat most weeds, they are smart, they know which weeds they can and can’t eat

8. eggs from hens raised with access to your backyard are tastier and more nutritious, they're not only higher in omega-3s, beta-carotene, and vitamins A, D, and E, but they're lower in cholesterol and saturated fat.

9. they will eat most of your table scraps

10. they are easy to care for, believe it or not, they are a very low maintenance animal, give them fresh water and food daily and they are happy

Chickens are an inexpensive way for families to try to be as self-sufficient on their own property on a small scale, they just require a bit of care to check their water and food each morning and night. More and more families want to be self sufficient, they have vegetable gardens, they grow their own fruit trees, they can their own food, they want to know where their food is coming from. Raising backyard chickens is an easy way to be a bit more self-sufficient.

I personally want to thank Representative Boyer, when he received my original e-mail he was concerned and continued to keep in touch with me throughout the process of us trying to fight the city of Glendale to keep our girls. It really meant the world to me and gave me some hope that maybe just maybe something could be worked out with the city.

Unfortunately, the city did not see things our way and we did have to move our girls, they live about 6 miles away from us, on a family friends property, but they do not look after them the way that we did. My husband has gone over at least once a day to give them fresh water and make sure they have food, if he isn’t able to someone else in the family takes care of it, needless to say this could have been avoided had SB 1151 passed, we could have kept our girls with us. We were heart broken and still are, the day of the move we lost 2 girls due to the stress of the move and heatstroke and then another one of our girls died a week later after a feral cat attacked her, when we found her she was completely plucked of her feathers on her back and chest and covered in ants, and again this too could have been avoided had SB 1151 passed. We've made the difficult decision this week to move them to a new permanent home within the next month with a new family, they need to be at a home that they are looked after every morning and night like they were when they were on our property, it just isn’t fair to them.

I’m sure you think this isn’t your problem and your right it's not, but truthfully, there is no realistic reason that backyard chickens are not allowed, if they are allowed in some of the cities and towns in Arizona then why aren’t they allowed in all of them? Why do some cities have certain codes that will allow them while other’s have complete opposites, I know this isn’t your question to answer, but it is something that you can do for your constituents, by creating a something similar to SB 1151 and it won't cost the state a penny.

Thank you again, and I hope that something similar to SB 1151 is brought up again and passed, I know it would make a lot of people in this state happy, after all, those that want chickens already have them regardless of any city code, they just haven’t been caught or turned in to code yet, which means that their neighbors do not have a problem with them raising backyard chickens.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Thrift Shopping - The Thrill of the Hunt

For anyone who really knows me it’s no secret that I enjoy thrift shopping.  Our youngest son also enjoys thrift shopping (more than me).  I’m not sure if it is the thrill of the hunt for whatever we are searching for on our list, if it is to find that bargain that you just can’t resist (whether you need it or not) or if we are just cheap.  It is more than likely a combination of all three.

We go to many different thrift shops in the area but I have one that I prefer to go to. The reason, well I’m not sure, maybe because my mom and I would go to this one a lot when I was growing up, I think thrift shopping it’s been brainwashed into us, or if I am just lucky and find stuff there A LOT. 

So over the weekend, I let our son know I could be persuaded to go thrift shopping since it had been awhile.  I honestly don't pay attention to discount days, and prefer to stay away when they have the BIG holiday 50% off everything sales.  This day just happened to be on a day when they were having a 50% off sale on certain color tag items, okay cool, if I find some I find something, if not well, I wasn't planning on any big discounts.  I NEVER get lucky at finding anything I want that is marked or special tagged.

We normally start in housewares, for some reason I always search out black frames, (for my pictures, that I have yet to print and organize, we have no family pictures on our walls, it’s really pretty sad, I have big plans...but that is for another time) white plates or other dishes that we can use for the holiday’s and those elusive large clear glass jars or clear glass canisters with lids…WHY OH WHY are they so elusive???

Next we move on to the furniture, normally nothing catches our eye, I cannot tell a lie, we are wood furniture snobs, we go after REAL solid wood.  We were just browsing, our son had already done a scan of the furniture and didn't see anything, I said, well, let me give a look and I turned the corner and it was like a light was shining down on this one end table.  It was marked $14.99, it was a Lane, I hummed and hawed and thought well for the brand that really is a super price, do we need it, where would we put it, we already have so much furniture...yadda yadda yadda, we pulled it out and wiggled it, it seemed relatively steady, the drawer opened nice, not too many nicks or scratches except the top...and then I realized and said out loud to my son not the whole store, HOLY CRAP....THAT’S A GREEN TAG, which was the 50% off color tag, we both got excited, I felt flush and giddy at the same time….Oh My Goodness …. simultaneously my son and I said “That is going home with us whether we need it or not”… we paid $7.49 for this treasure.

Our son is treating it like it is a brand new piece of furniture, if he catches a glass on it without a coaster under it we get the evil eye and he puts a coaster under it…it is pretty funny.

NOW do we paint it or just refurbish it?

I’m thinking it will be a weekend project while the hub is working regardless of what we choose to do! 


M & S
Uptown Grange

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Happy 1st Day of Fall

HaPpY 1st Day of Fall! One of my most favorite seasons…next to Spring. 

Granted where we are there is a very real possibility that we will still reach over 100 degrees, but the nights will eventually start cooling down and the mornings will be beautiful, it was 71 degrees this morning when I left for work, what a beautiful morning.

The hubs and I are not normally bothered by the summer heat, this year for me was an exception, I am ready for the cooler weather.  This year was a rough summer so for us, it's a time for change, a time to wash away the summer’s hiccups and start fresh with a new season and new beginnings. 

Yes, it would be nice to see the season's change, (we were just discussing this at lunch today) at least once in my life time, but with a quick trip up north to Flagstaff that can be accomplished to satisfy me...I am a native to Arizona and I do not cope well in the cold.  I thank my parents every winter for moving down to Arizona from Montana a month before I was born.  I'm sure the Montana weather wouldn't phase me if I was raised in it, but let's face it...In Arizona, we don't have to shovel sunshine.

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald.

What does fall mean to you or what is in store for you this fall? 

For us this year it means:  my nieces wedding, family visiting, a family member coming for life saving surgery, a big elk hunt….and last but not least our baby turning 17 years old. 

What fall always means:  soup weather, a fall garden, no more worrying about pedicures and chipped toe nail polish, Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, baking, using the fireplace, no more re-runs because new TV seasons are starting, and football, if you watch.
Enjoy your first day of fall!

M & S
Uptown Grange

Fall Garden Time

We decided since our neighbor gave us lemons by turning us into the city for our chickens we would make good use of our "former" chicken run by putting in a garden.

The soil had sand and chicken manure in it so what better place.  We decided to put in beets (I LOVE beets) swiss chard, carrots, radishes, kale and long beans.  We planted some cucumbers back in late July, and only one is left standing (some critter decided they liked them) so hopefully we will also have some fresh cucumbers this fall.

Now is the time to plant, the window of opportunity to have fresh veggies for your Thanksgiving meal is slipping by very quickly.  You can plant really anytime before it starts freezing, yeah right in Arizona, but the farmer's almanac was pushing me and so was the hubs.

We already have some of everything come up, hopefully the soil isn't too rich because then we will only get a pretty greens with no veggies at the bottom...urg...that would be our luck.

We rescued 2 x 4's and sandstone from two of our neighbors who were throwing them away, (not exactly dumpster diving) the hubs made nice flower beds using the 2 x 4's and since I am short and have stubby legs the sandstone steps make it easier for me to get into the garden bed to harvest the veggies.

The trap you see is the try to keep the critter away from our loan cucumber plant that has survived since July.  This is where we have the long beans planted, at some point the hubs will make a trellis for the beans to climb on.

This is the garden bed that has from bottom:  kale, radishes, carrots, swiss chards and beets.

You know we've tried several times to start seeds in those nifty little peat moss pots and even disks and have not been very successful, planting seeds directly into the ground has worked the best for us.