Summer Vegetable Fun

It’s been a little while since we’ve checked in with our friend Renee Wilkinson, author of Modern Homestead and creator of, a wonderful blog filled with inspiring homesteading ideas. After Jack and Carolyn’s post earlier this week on their incredible garden, I’ve had gardens and veggies on my mind, so I headed over to Renee’s blog to see what she’s been up to. Renee’s post from last week, Good Haul, is just beautiful. I just love her vivid photographs of delicious-looking vegetables. And I must admit, it’s hard not to be a little envious when she says, “I am almost getting buried in the harvest this summer!” How fun is that?! I would love to have more homegrown vegetables than I know what to do with…

Renee’s blog post from yesterday, Cool Summer Eggs, got my stomach grumbling as she shared ways in which she’s been using the abundance of chicken and duck eggs from her backyard homestead. With three chickens and four ducks, you can imagine you’d need to get a little creative to find ways to use all those delicious eggs. Renee shares some yummy recipes for deviled eggs and egg salad. I think I know what I’ll be making this weekend!

And now, I’ve got some exciting news to share. I admit I am a complete gardening newbie, so don’t laugh…but we have our first red tomato on our tomato plant! We have ten little tomatoes on the plant,(our first try at growing tomatoes), and just two days ago one finally started to turn red!

Fulcrum gardening blog

Red tomato!

Look at that beauty! Well…she’s not perfect, but once fully ripe, I’m sure she’ll taste divine.

Modern Homestead red tomato

I imagine we’ll be able to bite into it in just a few short days. With a 70-90 day gestation period for tomatoes, it is a long, slow process waiting for the plant to start growing fruit, but boy is it exciting when you finally have something to enjoy from it!

Do you have anything exciting going on in your garden? We’d love to hear about it if so!

Homesteading Summer

Modern Homestead

This blogger’s adventures in modern homesteading took a turn for the surreal last night when a hailstorm struck. Worried about our egg-layers, we gathered up Mr. Darcy Chickenator and her sister-hen, Megan Fox, and brought the biddies safely inside to sit on a towel and watch The X-Files with us while the storm raged outside.

Though my seasoned farmer family members might scoff and say that chickens are hardy enough to weather a summer storm, I say that chickens who watch David Duchovny lay finer eggs. And, dare I say, that bloggers who watch David Duchovny write better posts?

I also have some news to share on the Modern Homestead book front:

For fans on Goodreads, I was tickled to see that the Modern Homestead cover had earned a place in the prestigious “In the Palms of Hands” group, alongside Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. It’s nice to be trendy.

On July 30, Renee Wilkinson will be speaking on her book Modern Homestead: Grow, Raise, Create at In Other Words Feminist Community Center in Portland, OR. The event starts at 4 p.m. Perhaps some of our readers recognize In Other Words as the location of Portlandia’s “feminist book store” sketch:

Also, if you haven’t been reading Renee’s blog, Hip Chick Digs, she’s been posting some great recipes recently, and her posts on her duck Milt’s…erm…insatiable appetite have been hilarious.

Friday Link Love

It’s a beautiful sunny Friday here in Colorado. Today’s link roundup includes a delicious recipe from a modern homesteader and some food for thought as well.

Have you checked out the Tattered Cover’s events lineup this month? I’m already geeking out over George R. R. Martin coming to town, and I still have three weeks to go.

When I lived in Boston, I loved Porter Square Books. They have a great post about supporting your local indie. Despite the fact that I work in publishing, it took the closing of one of my all-time favorite bookstores, The Curious George Bookstore in Harvard Square, for me to wake up to the plight of bookstores. A little more than two months ago, I resolved to never again buy books from Amazon. There was a little sticker shock at first as I adjusted to buying graphic novels at list price, but it was the right choice for me—to spend a little more money to invest in my community and in the future of books.

Do you follow Modern Homestead author Renee Wilkinson’s blog, Hip Chick Digs? This week, she posted this recipe for strawberry lemon marmalade, and I can’t wait to try it out this weekend. Yum.

Native Appropriations was on Al Jazeera! They even aired the “Don’t Tread on My Culture” video made in response to Operation code name Geronimo. Check out the video for a great dialogue on postcolonial appropriation of Native and indigenous culture:

Speaking of opening dialogues on race and the history of white supremacy in the US, Indian Voices author Alison Owing’s post on three of Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence set the Twitterverse a-tweeting over the holiday weekend. It’s worth a look.

Hope everyone has a great weekend! Happy reading!

Fulcrum’s News Round-up

TGIF. The view outside my window is filled with blue sky, bright white fluffy clouds, and miles of green. Perfect weather to… well, do nothing. Before I get busy doing that, let’s review another wonderful week of great Fulcrum books, events, and authors.

‘Twas a short week at the office, although a busy one after getting back from a week in NYC for BEA. See video and audio highlights from the 2011 show here, although, none of these include Dani’s and my highlights: Tyra Banks??!! Benjamin Batt??!! Ok, Benjamin wasn’t at the show, but we saw him walking down the street near Times Square, all cool and nonchalant and sending Dani’s heart racing. Tyra was at the show to publicize her new fantasy novel, Modelland. Here’s a picture of Dani admiring the book back at our booth:

Our own celebrities Richard Hetzler and Renee Wilkinson, authors of the books The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook and Modern Homestead respectively, were also at BEA this year. They both brought in great crowds for their signings. Richard’s fans raved about the menu at The Mitsitam Cafe at the NMAI in Washington, DC (which is, by the way, amazing):

While Renee’s fans solicited her advice on planting, growing, and chicken-raising conundrums (I believe the fan pictured below is reenacting one of her chicken conundrums) and her years of experience on her Portland plot in

In addition to our exciting BEA news, Dani also wrote a great blog post yesterday about our memorial edition of Every Day is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women by Wilma Mankiller. If you have not read it yet, please do. The book is not only a favorite of ours, but of many Native women, activists, libraries, and schools. And it’s a great, inspiring read for this weekend. Happy June and Happy Friday!

BEA Wrap-Up

After a week spent at Book Expo America in NYC, this blogger has her feet back on mile-high soil.

BEA 2011 was great fun—we enjoyed meeting everyone who stopped by the Fulcrum booth, from dear friends to attendees who came by to discover Fulcrum’s books for the first time. Katie and I were able to do a little bit of our own expo touring and gawking; we met Tyra Banks, I saw Judy Moody, and on our way back to our hotel we saw a certain former Sterling Cooper art director on the street (Katie is still recovering from the sighting, since I punched her in the shoulder and shouted “BRYAN BATT!” into her ear, and then proceeded to hop up and down, flapping my arms like a startled chicken).

Tyra Banks at BEA

Can you guess which one is the supermodel and which one is the starstruck marketing associate?

Katie cochaired a panel called “Back to Basics: Why Home Economics Books Are the New Retro Chic” with the Fabulous Beekman Boys, the publisher from Interweave, and  two librarians, one from the New York City Public Library and the other from the Portland Public Library. The panel seemed to be well-received by the librarians who attended, and we were proud to have Modern Homestead represented among such a great group of DIY panelists and homesteaders.

Our authors Richard Hetzler and Renee Wilkinson made a big splash as well. We were delighted by the many attendees who stopped by The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook signing to tell Richard how much they had enjoyed a meal at the Mitsitam Cafe. Many attendees in line for the Modern Homestead signing swapped planting stories with Renee and talked about their urban plots like proud parents.

Renee Wilkinson meets a fan and shares homesteading stories.

We had a great time and enjoyed meeting new friends, such as our booth buddy, Biblioasis, and the bloggers who shared their wisdom at Blogworld. Thanks to everyone who stopped by.

Nerdin’ Out at Book Expo America 2011

This week, New York City is all abuzz with the excitement of Book Expo America, the largest publishing event in North America. Each year, thousands of people from every part of the publishing and book world converge in New York City to learn about what’s new, what’s next, and what exciting things our happening in our industry. There are parties, presentations, book signings, and plenty of giveaways, making it a fun and busy week in NYC. Fulcrum’s marketing manager Katie O’Neill and sales and marketing associate Dani Perea are taking New York City by storm and manning the Fulcrum booth at BEA 2011. Here’s what Katie, a first-time attendee, had to say about going to BEA:

I’m definitely nerdin’ out over attending my first BEA this week. I initially heard of this amazing show many years ago while working in a bookstore, during which a couple of our buyers would disappear for a week to New York and return looking refreshed, even better read, and brimming with stories of celebrity authors. I thought, “I must go to this show some day. I must see what all the buzz is about.” Not just because I’ve never been to NYC, although that is a HUGE perk, but because I feel drawn to be in the place where once a year so many booksellers, librarians, publishers, authors, printers, media, etc., etc. are all together to celebrate those great, timeless things: books.

I’m also really psyched to meet two of our authors face-to-face finally: Renee Wilkinson, author of Modern Homestead: Grow, Raise, Create (and to hear how she can really raise 3 chickens in her backyard when I have a hard time not getting my pup to eat my furniture), and Richard Hetzler, author of The Mitsitam Café Cookbook (who, I hear, will be bringing some mouthwatering giveaway items to the show). They will each have two signings (Hetzler: 5/24 from 4-5 PM at Table 6 and 5/25 from 10-11 AM in our booth # 4507, and Wilkinson: 5/25 from 11:30-12:30 PM at Table 11 and 2-3:00 PM in our booth # 4507) and give away FREE copies of their books!


I’m pretty sure Dani and I (after standing in the middle of the convention center, wide-eyed with book wonder for several minutes. Imagine two Dorothys upon seeing Oz) will try to sneak away from the booth to see what free galleys we can find, what favorite authors we can catch a glimpse, and what schwag we can steal. Stay posted for what spoils we bring home next week…

Have fun Katie and Dani! Bring us back some good schwag! And for those of you lucky enough to be attending BEA this year, stop by Fulcrum’s booth, #4507, and say hello!

Fulcrum’s Friday Roundup

Happy Friday! Here’s to a warm, sunny weekend after days of cold and rain!  (Fingers crossed.) And, cheers to another great week of Fulcrum publicity!

First up: Our latest book to hit bookshelves is garnering some great publicity… Modern Homestead: Grow, Raise, Create (ISBN: 978-1-55591-748-7, $26.95) by Renee Wilkinson. Wilkinson was interviewed last weekend on the Joy Cardin Show on Wisconsin Public Radio about her blog,, her homesteading philosophy, and her first book.

Wilkinson (above, with a bantam chicken), will be joining us at BEA next week to sign and give away free copies of her book on Thursday, May 23, and we’re sure she is going to be a huge hit! Look for Modern Homestead in bookstores and gardening centers near you to learn some great tips on raising ducks and chickens, to gardening on a small scale and with a small budget!

And… some more great publicity to end the week… Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth (ISBN: 978-1-55591-717-3, $22.95) by Larry Schweiger was named the First Place Grand Prize Winner for Non-Fiction books of the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. What an honor!

Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation (above, in Alaska), speaks about the causes and effects of global warming on our wildlife, ecosystems, and human life, not just as a conservation leader, but also as a parent and outdoor lover. Last Chance is witty and engaging (e.g., “What Happens in Greenland Will Not Stay in Greenland”), while still being inspiring in the face of some daunting environmental science.

If you’re not familiar with the work the National Wildlife Federation, check them out here: You can learn how to help wildlife in your own backyard and around the world by donating your time, money, or by becoming a member.

Congratulations to our inspiring authors and happy weekend!

Fulcrum’s Friday Roundup

Happy Friday, and happy Friday the 13th at that! We are rounding out the week with a re-cap of the recent happenings worth mentioning in the Fulcrum world.

Awards season is upon us, and several of Fulcrum’s titles and authors were honored with awards this week. It’s always a nice feeling when hard work pays off, so congratulations to everyone that was involved in the creation of these books!

Buffalo Bill: Scout, Showman, Visionary (ISBN: 978-1-55591-719-7, $22.95) by Steve Friesen, was selected as a finalist for the 2011 Colorado Book Awards, in the Biography/History category. The winners will be announced on Friday, June 24th, during the 20th Annual Colorado Book Awards ceremony during the Aspen Summer Words Literary Festival in Aspen, Colorado. Tickets can be purchased for $10 online at the Colorado Humanities website.

Endangered: Biodiversity on the Brink (ISBN: 978-1-55591-721-0, $27.95) by Mitch Tobin tied for Gold in the Environment/Ecology/Nature category of the Independent Publisher Book Awards.

Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth (ISBN: 978-1-55591-717-3, $22.95) by Larry Schweiger was named the Winner in the Science/Nature/Environment category of the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

Tattooed Lady: A History (ISBN: 978-1-93310-226-1, $27.00) by Amelia Klem Osterud also received recognition from the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, as it was named a Finalist in the Historical Non-Fiction category.

Our newly released Modern Homestead: Grow, Raise, Create (ISBN: 978-1-55591-748-7, $26.95) by Renee Wilkinson has already won an award! Modern Homestead took First Place in the Gardening category of the San Francisco Green Book Festival.

And last but not least…

Buffalo Unbound: A Celebration (ISBN: 978-1-55591-735-7, $16.00) by Laura Pedersen received two awards this week. Buffalo Unbound was selected as a Finalist for the International Book Awards in the Humor category and was also a Winner in the Humor/Comedy category of the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

Cheers to everyone on this great week of awards! Head over to the Fulcrum website or your favorite bookstore to pick up any of these award-winning books.

Adventures in Modern Homesteading

I was so excited to hear that we were publishing Modern Homestead, Renee Wilkinson’s DIY guide to urban homesteading.  A tenderfoot on the homesteading scene, I’ve long wanted to create my own self-sufficient homestead (a dream I’ve had since playing Oregon Trail as a tot), and I was thrilled to see Renee’s handy guide to sustainable living. I don’t have much of a green thumb, and in Boston the only planter I kept was the one that held cigarette butts and bottle caps on our front stoop. When I moved to Colorado in December, I was excited about the possibility of having a plot of green space bigger than a footprint and using it to grow my own food. I’m looking forward to reading Renee’s tips and tricks for homesteading newbies like myself.

I’ve already begun work on the ol’ homestead. In January, my sweet abuelita kindly offered me a wyandotte egglayer from her working farm in New Mexico to start us on our modern homesteading venture. Perhaps she had fond memories of my youth, when my brother and I would spend afternoons clinging to the screen door and screaming as chickens pecked for grain around our feet.  Abuelita presented us with an easygoing bird from her flock who was nothing like the vicious talon-wielding raptor I remembered from when I was five.

Meet Mr. Darcy Chickenator:

The finest hen there ever was.

She is a lady of fine breeding and taste, with a penchant for classical symphonies, particularly Bach. She speaks of Bach alone and nothing else.

We were delighted to receive our fluffy lil’ egg factory. We modified a standing rabbit hutch that we snagged on freecycle for her roost. Feed and grit is cheaper than the food we buy for our dog and cat.  So far it’s gone pretty smoothly. We haven’t had to resort to eating Mr. Darcy to feed ourselves, and she’s been happily spending her days clucking, laying eggs, and scaring the dog. We have fresh eggs every morning and a new appreciation for our tiny backyard, which we now call “nature’s television.” Many an evening is spent, beer in hand, watching our chicken poke around the yard.

Mr. Darcy Chickenator patrols the yard for zombies. She's ready for you, zombies.

It’s a good start to a modern homestead, and we hope to build on it, with more birds, a garden, and of course, some proper zombie fortifications. It’s a small step toward self-sufficiency for two city slickers.

GIVEAWAY: We will award one of our readers a free copy of Modern Homestead: Grow, Raise, Create for providing their most innovative homesteading tip (in writing or picture). Please send your tip via our Facebook page, or comment on our blog. Results will be posted and a winner will be awarded on Thursday, March 31. We can’t wait to see your ideas!

Renee Wilkinson: Blogger, Fire Escape Gardener, and Raiser of Bantam Chickens


It takes quite a bit to pull me off my high horse after I have done something “homemakery,” as I call it (i.e., cooking food from actual ingredients, instead of putting a TV dinner into the microwave). For instance, I baked an apple pie a few weeks ago to impress someone special, and when I pulled it out of the oven and it wasn’t burnt to a crisp nor did it taste like dog food, I wanted to immediately change my name to Martha Stewart.

Then along came Renee Wilkinson, creator of the popular site and our newest Fulcrum author, and knocked me right off that horse. Not only does Renee cook, bake, garden, and can, she also raises bantam chickens (named Pearl, Maude, and Florence) and bees (I don’t believe she names the bees, though). This woman is amazing and so is her book, Modern Homestead: Grow, Raise, Create (April 2011, 978-1-55591-748-7), and not just because she is so resourceful and innovative, but because she provides simple, practical advice—even for people like me, with little time, space, or know-how. (What cool tips do you have to make your urban space into a sustainable home? See GIVEAWAY details below…)

I recently caught up with Renee to discuss her inspiration for Modern Homestead and the process of writing her first book. I think she’ll quickly become your idol too. Plus, isn’t she cute?

Please talk a little bit about your decision to begin this journey and write Modern Homestead. How different is the process from writing and maintaining
Renee: I remember beginning my early gardening adventures and feeling really uncertain about whether I was doing it all “right.” The books I found at the time didn’t seem approachable for a beginner, so I fell back on my parents and grandparents for gardening advice. A few gardens down the road, I started to make the transition from urban gardener to urban homesteader—keeping backyard livestock, canning the harvest, and getting involved in the local food system. Around that time I started as a way to reach more people who were interested in urban homesteading, but, like me, couldn’t find a lot of practical information online or in books.

The blog turned into a responsibility after a few years. I felt, and still do, like I owe my readers frequent posts. There are still lots of people out there looking for help, or at least looking for community. It’s nice to know we’re not alone on this adventure. When Fulcrum approached me about writing a book, I felt like this was my chance to reach even more people. This was the book I wish I had those first few years.

The process was really serious for me. I was balancing my first year of graduate school with living long distance from my partner. Researching and writing the book was my escape from all that. It was a chance to draw stories about keeping goats out of my grandparents. I got to read all kinds of books to really flesh out my knowledge on the more obscure topics. It was a pleasure to write—to just swim around in that lifestyle I love—but it was also stressful. Looking back, I’m really not sure how I balanced it all!

What was the most challenging part of creating this book? Do you have any advice to share for hopeful first-time authors?

Renee: An author friend of mine, Laura Irwin, gave me this advice before I committed to the project: “Don’t write a book unless you really, really want to write a book.” At the time it seemed silly. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to write a book? But a few months in I knew what she meant. It’s a huge project once you get a month or two in. My buddies would go out for beers and I would need to say, “No, I’ve got writing to do.” I was like a broken record for months.

Creating a production schedule was immensely helpful. It’s a massive project and you have to split it up into bite-sized pieces. It feels good to cross things off that list, knowing you are still moving forward despite the months of work ahead. I broke it down by chapter, then by section, gave myself timelines and stuck to them. I also front loaded my schedule, to leave a little wiggle room toward the end just in case I needed it. And of course I needed it.

Where do you get your energy to do all this modern homesteading? I am very impressed.

Renee: You could certainly make the argument that I am hyperproductive.  I guess I grew up in a household that valued that. We had chores, my dad was always needing our help in the garden, my mom always had a long do-to list that she needed help with…

Despite being so productive, I balance it with serious downtime and try to take really good care of myself. I can spend hours working outside, which is really meditative for me and keeps me pretty centered. I get a lot of sleep and eat pretty healthily, which keeps me fit and energetic. Life is short, sometimes too short, and I just want to get every drop I can from mine.

What is the most valuable project featured in the book that a newbie to gardening or canning or raising livestock can learn?

Renee: Boy, that’s a tough one…I’ve found that the fear of doing something “wrong” often paralyzes people into doing nothing instead. So although it’s not really a project, I think the most valuable thing a newbie can learn from the book is that we all have to start somewhere. The book is full of good projects to start this adventure.

Perhaps one of my favorite projects is the bantam chicken coop. It’s so small and easy to move, and chickens are such cute little creatures. I wish I could go back in time to some of the small rentals I lived in and build this coop. I always thought I needed to wait until I had a huge house that I owned, but this is a project great for small spaces and rentals.

For folks interested in canning, reading about how important it is to can with friends will be a huge help. Friends, finger foods, and good music will make it such a fun experience. I’ve done it without these things and the time just seems to drag on and on.

And for those getting their hands dirty for the first time, the soil information is super important. You have to know how to cultivate good soil if you want a good garden. Period.

GIVEAWAY: We will award one of our readers a free copy of Modern Homestead: Grow, Raise, Create for providing their most innovative homesteading tip (in writing or picture). Please send your tip via our Facebook page, or comment on our blog. Results will be posted and a winner will be awarded on Thursday, March 31. We can’t wait to see your ideas!