Rich in Radishes

A tiny radish of passionate scarlet, tipped modestly in white. – Clementine Paddleford

As I was putting in my garden, Mom gave me a little bag of mixed radish and carrot seeds. “The radishes grow faster than the carrots,” she told me, “so it’s good to plant them together. By the time you harvest the last of the radishes, the carrots will be just about ready.”
She was right about how quickly radishes grow. For the last month, I’ve been home for summer break. Lunch most days has been salads of radish greens (both red and daikon), tossed with my other early grower, pak choi,  and supplemented with dandelion leaves picked from the yard. But now my radish days are coming to an end. They’re crowding out the carrots, and even each other. The other day, I picked one larger than a golf ball!

So with an eye to clearing out the last of the radishes, let me run through my favorite ways to use them.

Toss them in salads.

Radish roots are salad staples, at least at our house, but the young greens are equally good raw. Here is the basic template for the salad I’ve been making all summer:

  • 2 radishes, roots and leaves
  • handful of pak choi or other greens
  • 3 or 4 dandelion leaves
  • crumbled cheese to taste, whatever is in your fridge. (Chèvre is delicious. So is sharp cheddar. I probably won’t repeat the brie, though.)
  • nuts or seeds to garnish (usually sunflower and chia, for me)

Wash the radishes, greens, and dandelion leaves, chop them up, and toss it all together with your favorite dressing. I’ve been too lazy to make my own dressing after picking the salad ingredients, so I’ve been cheating and using Green Goddess dressing from Trader Joe’s. Go ahead and and judge me. This recipe also works well with daikon greens — it’s a great way to use up those young daikons you are thinning out.

If you want a more radish-centric recipe, Harvest to Table has a delicious recipe for a radish root and leafy green salad that gives the humble red radish center stage. I made the soy-sauce dressing variant and flavored it with shiso from my garden. So good! I also really want to try this radish salad with parmesan and lemon from the Crepes of Wrath.

Sauté them.

Yesterday’s lunch was a departure — scrambled eggs with sautéed onion, garlic, radish and zucchini. I sautéed the leaves as well as the root, because I like LOTS of vegetables mixed in with my eggs. Radishes are also good tucked into pasta or stir fry. 

Roast them.

While in California for some training last week, I ordered a dish of roasted vegetables and hummus. To my surprise, there were some roasted radishes tucked into the mix. They were delicious, especially dipped in hummus. Roasting mellows out the spicy radish, giving it a warm, almost sweet flavor. Now I really want to try this roasted radish with brown butter and lemon recipe from Epicurious. 

I know I’ve only scratched the surface of radish uses. Do you have any favorite radish recipes?

On Bumpkinism

I recently began a new job, which I am very excited about. I won’t talk much about it here, but I can tell you that it keeps me very busy, and I travel a lot. Most of my co-workers are in the Seattle area, and I go to Seattle at least once a month for team meetings and events and whatnot. I fly into the airport, take light rail downtown, and go right through our old neighborhood. Once a month I basically fly back to my old life.

A few weeks ago, I had to take my truck down to the airport in Spokane to catch a flight over to Seattle. As I hit the road, I heard a high pitched squeaking. It was louder when I stopped at lights. I figured that maybe a belt was out of alignment again, or maybe my breaks were getting bad. When I got to the airport, though, I turned off the truck and realized that the squeaking hadn’t stopped. If anything, it had gotten louder.

So I popped open the hood, dreading what I would find. At first, I didn’t see anything at all, but the squeaking was louder than ever.

Check out the upper left hand corner.

Check out the upper left hand corner.

And then I saw it. Huddled behind the headlight housing, there was some kind of rodent. Really large mouse? Small rat? Ground squirrel? Who knows. But it was terrified, and stuck in my truck, and I had a flight to catch. I wasn’t about to reach in there and get bitten. So I did what anyone would do. I broke up a granola bar, threw it on the ground directly under the truck, closed the hood, and ran to catch my flight. And had the weirdest check in story at the team meeting that morning.

When I flew back that night, the rodent was on the ground, nibbling the granola. I know I probably shouldn’t be contributing to pest problems at the airport, but I was tired and it was still an hour drive back home, so I left it there. The only thing I really cared about was that it was out of my truck.


And then I drove back home. It was nice a nice, quiet ride.

Six Things I Learned Doing Laundry with a Washboard

The Cabbage doesn’t have a washer and dryer yet, so we’ve been doing laundry at Mom’s since we moved. (Thanks, Mom!) About a month ago, though, we found a cheap washboard at the General Store. It waited in the bathroom, unused, throughout those last, few busy weeks of the school year. Then summer break came, and I decided to try my hand at hand-washing.

In a horror movie, this is where the scary music would start.

Unfortunately, I did not take time to photo-document the mess that followed. My sister, Lisa, chided me for that when I told her about the failed laundry experiment later that day. “When things go wrong, take pictures!” she said. Next time, I’ll listen to her. For now, you’ll just have to take my word. It wasn’t pretty. Fortunately, we can all learn a few things from my mistakes.



Small Joys: Pie Cherries

One of my goals in resurrecting this blog is to document some of the simple joys that come from living here.

For example, yesterday, my to-do list didn’t include picking cherries or making pie. But then my sister called to say that her tree was overflowing, and would I be interested in picking some pie cherries? Well, obviously!


Slow Compost

When we first moved into the cabbage, I started a compost heap. Nothing fancy. Just a pile of rotten wood and food scraps at the edge of our yard. I don’t turn it often. I never watered it. But every time the bucket of food scraps under the sink filled up, I’d carry it outside and empty it into the compost heap. Whenever the mood struck me, I’d shovel in some more rotting bark and pine needles to balance out the kitchen scraps.

We never bothered setting up any counter-measures against scavengers, so we’ve gotten to watch the local wildlife foraging through our compost pile. The ravens love it. One morning, Drew even woke up to find a bald eagle picking through the heap. It also meant we’d sometimes find food scraps dragged across the yard.

In short, the compost heap was as poorly planned and half-assed as most of the rest of our homesteading adventure has been. So you can imagine my surprise when I went to move it the other morning (we planted rosebushes in its place), only to discover that it had actually managed to yield something resembling usable compost.


It feels like a metaphor for this whole move.

Since we left Seattle, almost nothing has turned out the way we planned. Our grandiose dreams of escaping the rat race and living off the land got a reality check pretty quickly, confronted with bills, debt, and the very real cost of building supplies. We both found jobs. Progress on the cabbage stalled.

Yet we moved out here to live a life more in-line with our values. For the most part, we are. We both work a lot, but it’s good work and we enjoy it. Clean-up of the site has been slowly happening, and we have a small vegetable garden. We recently added a puppy to the growing homestead. (More on him in a later post!) We’ve started seriously researching geese and goats.

The compost heap reminds me that transformation can happen through a series of small, and sometimes accidental, steps. Take two humans and a Siamese cat. Toss into the country. Add sunshine. Rain. Occasional bursts of hard work. At a deep level, the food scraps in my bucket want to break down into compost, and given the right opportunity, they did. Sure, it could have been prettier and more efficient. But it still counts. It’s slow compost, I suppose, just as we are slow homesteaders and this blog is definitely a slow blog.

But that’s okay. We didn’t come out here to monetize this blog. We don’t want to be internet famous. We’re not even all that interested in building up a readership. Mostly, we want to document our progress. The compost heap reminds me that even slow progress is worth documenting.


Subtle Habits

No, this is not our savings! I wish. Someday.

No, this is not our savings! I wish. Someday.

One of the biggest reasons we moved out here was money. In Seattle we made a good amount of money but never had any, because so much of it went to rent and other bills. We make considerably less out here, but can use it more wisely. The cost of living is a lot cheaper. The support network is stronger. And obviously it helps when you downgrade from a centrally-located apartment to a refurbished shed.

But another reason we didn’t have money in Seattle was habits. We simply didn’t have good money saving habits. I would argue that it’s hard to develop a habit to save something you don’t have, but hindsight being perfect and all, I can see where we made errors: we had some discretionary income, but we used it on discretionary things. And so, being tired of not having a safety net, I made a decision in January to start putting money in savings.

I made a goal that seemed ambitious to me: have $1,000 in savings by next January. Then I found this thing called the 52 Week Savings Challenge on Pinterest. As you can see (if you click the link,) there are a lot of variations on it. I went with the one that seemed most low-stress to me, the one where you literally save $1 to begin with and move up weekly in incremental amounts.

But I found that having $1 in savings was a joke, and I wanted more in there. So I put $52 in instead and started moving backwards on the chart. And then I had some health problems and couldn’t work as much as I wanted. So I ended up with a smaller paycheck and put a smaller amount in, just picking numbers off the spreadsheet and depositing as I went along. And then when I got a little better and did a little better, I deposited a little more.

The trick, for me, was making sure I never let a week go by without depositing something. The amount was not as important to me as keeping the habit alive was. And it worked. We’re almost at April now and I’m pleased to say that I’m going to reach my goal of $1,000 in savings by June!

I’ve pretty much abandoned the numbers on the 52 Week Challenge in favor of saving aggressively instead. I can’t wait to hit that number, and hopefully even double it by next January. Having something to fall back on has eased our minds, especially in the days leading up to the next paycheck; but it’s also changed the way we look at our money, too. Gone is the urge to spend what we have, even though it would buy us a lot of stuff that we could use to finish the house. We’re playing the long game now, because the stakes are higher.

Our two big financial goals are to have a minimum of a year’s worth of living expenses in the bank, and to be debt-free. I never thought we’d be able to work on both of those at once, but we are (I’ll talk about our debt reduction strategy in a future post.) It’s all about forming those habits, though. If I hadn’t started with the 52 Week Challenge, I wouldn’t have formed a habit. I now look forward to putting money in the bank. That is such a stark contrast to who I was even six months ago that it’s crazy. But subtle habits can yield big results. I look at this as proof.

Power Outage Byproducts

I have never really thought about where my water comes from or how I get it. Previously, I lived in cities with a central water system. I turn on a tap. Water appears. If for some reason there is no water, I can reasonably assume that a pipe has burst — this happened to us in Yakima. Actually, that was the opposite of no water. It was too much water. Too much water cascading down the stairs and flooding the basement. But if I had turned on the taps, instead of ruining every towel we owned, I would not have had water.

Out here, we know where water comes from. It comes from a well at the bottom of a hill, and is pumped up to us through an enormous amount of pipe that was laid who knows when. The well is pretty shallow and the pressure is good, but gravity is gravity, and we use well pumps to assist the act of making water flow uphill. And when power goes out, so do those pumps.

We woke up Sunday morning to a power outage. The reason, according to our local electric company, was “animal.” My guess is a squirrel crawled somewhere it shouldn’t have, and now we have some crispy critters somewhere.

Why don't they make this anymore?

Why don’t they make this anymore?

So the pumps went off, and we lost our water pressure, but it was no big deal because we had other stuff to do anyway and who needs silly old water pressure. But having constant pressure in the lines matters. Otherwise, it starts flowing downhill. And we end up with air in the pipes. Which is exactly what we got when the power came on several hours later and we finally reconciled ourselves with the idea of doing dishes.

So I went out to our pump house, where our poor beleaguered pump was toiling away to no avail, desperately trying to pump air. And then I called Steve.

(Side note: if you ever decide to undertake something as weird as moving from the city and starting over from scratch in the country, I hope you have a Steve to mentor you. Or a Bryan. Or a Sheryl or a Lisa. Or even a Jim. These are all really good people to have in your corner.)

Well, it’s been a day and a half of bleeding the lines of air, but we are finally on track to getting water back at the Cabbage. That isn’t to say that we didn’t have it. We did, just not at a consistent pressure. (It’s set up to run at 40 psi or so — obviously you can run the taps at 10 psi, but it will take you awhile to finish what you’re doing.)

So what do we do in the event of future power outages? Well, really, nothing. We can install a choke valve to make sure water doesn’t flow backwards, which I think we’re going to do. We could put a hydraulic ram in down at the creek (“crick” in local vernacular), which sounds like a fun project. Or at some point, we can dig a well up here on the upper field. But that has its own host of problems, namely money and ownership issues. It can cost upwards of $30,000 to dig a well, and we don’t own the land anyway, so …

But it sure makes me think back to living in the city and never knowing or caring about where the water comes from or why, or the intricate infrastructure required to make sure all of this stuff works. I don’t take it for granted. You shouldn’t either.



Happy Birthday!

Mindy with the perfect cupcake

Mindy with the perfect cupcake


Today we celebrate the birthday of my wife, my best friend, my co-blogger, and my co-conspirator in life. I think this time last year we were kicking around Seattle, enjoying everything that Capitol Hill had to offer and having a raucous karaoke party. This year was a stark contrast — a day of fun in Spokane, cake and ice cream with the family, and a quiet night at home. Don’t get me wrong, if we were still in Seattle, we’d probably repeat last year’s birthday. But out here in the country, the closest (respectable) karaoke bar is a long ways away, and Lyft doesn’t drive this far out. (The local karaoke bar is less karaoke, more bar, and a bit more … colorful than the places we usually haunt.)

A goofy photo of us around Christmastime

A goofy photo of us around Christmastime

Needless to say, it has been a crazy year for us, with lots of big changes. But you know what? When you spend your life with someone like Mindy, facing change becomes less about “how are we going to get through this” and more “how are we going to turn this into an opportunity.” That’s how we ended up out here, living small and blogging it all. She would never own up to this, but Mindy is one of the most positive people I know. She’s the one you want in your corner when the chips are down. She doesn’t post on here as often as I do because she has more demands on her time, but trust me — none of this would have ever happened without Mindy. Or been even half as fun.

Mindy on the banks of the Thames with the London Eye behind her

Mindy on the banks of the Thames with the London Eye behind her


So happy birthday to my beautiful bride, and may this year be the best one yet! I look back on the adventures we’ve shared so far and I can’t wait to share more adventures with you. I love you from the bottom of my heart.



Life In Progress: Shame and Pinterest Envy

We moved into the Cabbage a good two months ago, yet we still haven’t posted any pictures, despite several requests. When we’d just moved in, it was easy enough to justify holding out. After all, we had boxes everywhere and construction tools still piled in half the corners. Then the holidays were here. Then the holidays were over, and we were swamped with work. After awhile, though, it became easy enough to recognize my hesitation for what it was — shame.

On some level, I’ve been dreaming of posting amazing “after” images of our little cabbage. But as far as we’ve come, there’s no denying that, in many ways, our home is still a “before.” When we were still living at our parents’ house, every step forward in this place filled me with elation. We were making progress! Yet now, with each step forward makes me more and more aware of the distance we still need to go. When people come over, I’m no longer excited to show them what we’re working on. Instead, I find myself embarrassed for our OSB floors and the exposed insulation in the ceiling, our lack of windowsills or frames, the bare lightbulbs, and the messed up tile behind the tub.  When did pride in our cabbage turn to shame?

Personally, I blame Pinterest.