Sunday, May 20, 2012

Urban gardening/homesteading

It is that time of year that I love, when everything starts to grow! I love all the seasons, but spring and early summer are fun because of all the things that start to come up. I think I truly am becoming an urban homesteader. I would love to be able to move to the country, but that isn't an option for us right now, so I am bringing the country to me. I'm trying to cram as many edible things as I can into my 1/2 acre of property.

We planted these strawberries last year, and they are doing well so far. They were a mix of June-bearing and Ever-bearing. We have been picking a handful a day. I hope they start producing more, but it looks like I will definitely have to buy some this year instead of relying on my patch. Maybe next year though :).

We planted 6 blueberry bushes two years ago, and they are small, but are loaded down with blueberries. You can see tiny berries on this bush below. I can't wait until they get huge and produce a lot of fruit!!
We expanded our garden this year. Thankfully we haven't gotten so many weird looks this year like we did last year. It cracked me up how people stared. They looked at us like we were digging a bomb shelter! It seems like people in subdivisions have forgotten what gardens are. Of the 50 or so houses in our little subdivision, we are the only ones with a garden. There is one woman who has a garden, but it is not in the subdivision, but on acreage next to the subdivision.

I started many of my plants from seed, and they did so/so. My tomatoes did great, and I planted 12 of them. The broccoli and cabbage also did great. My peppers and celery did really bad, as did my herbs. Next year I am just going to buy them. We found a guy who grows his own heirloom veggies, and he has a small greenhouse. I bought my celery and pepper plants there, and last year I bought tomatoes from him. They are always super healthy plants, and so much easier than trying to get mine to grow. I would love to have a greenhouse, but we don't have the room or the money. In the garden, along with my tomatoes, peppers, cabbage and broccoli, there are carrots, turnips, beets, peas (they are the ones near the middle growing up the fence), cucumbers and celery. We are doing a lot of things vertically this year. In the back yard, I went a little squash crazy. I planted 4 different kinds, all are going to be grown vertically. Here is a picture of my big garden.

Jeff is talking about making a root cellar to store our veggies for winter, so I won't have to can or freeze everything. I am also learning about how the pioneers used to preserve things, before canning. They did what was called lacto-fermentation. The lacto doesn't refer to dairy, but refers to the lactic acid that results from the fermentation process. The pioneers didn't have pressure canners or regular canners, so they fermented a lot of foods. It actually is really easy and very healthy. I fermented pickles and sauerkraut last year (I did a few jars), and kept them in my fridge. They can be stored in a root cellar too (most root cellars stay at around 50 degrees). They are supposed to be loaded with probiotics, and the salt in them preserves them. I was amazed at how crisp and fresh they tasted, even after 8 months!

We have had lots of fun animals and critters around. Our Orioles came back and made another nest in our Sycamore tree. I keep trying to take a picture of them at our Oriole feeder, but haven't been able to get one :(. Both the male and female have come to the feeder at the same time, and they are so beautiful! Our ducks are also back, but haven't been swimming in our pond as of yet. The tree frogs are everywhere, and we can hear them chirping. They love hanging out under the cover of our hot tub. Evie found this one :)....
Our school year is almost done. We have one month left. We were going to be done the first week of June, but we took a week off. We will only have 6 weeks off in the summer, but I have a plan for next year. I want to start the first week of August, then take a week off each month and 2 weeks off at Christmas. I figured that we will have our 180 days in by the 30th of May if we do that. I love the idea of being able to have a week off every month! I think it will avoid burnout for me.

Evie started soccer, and is having so much fun. They did soccer pictures a week ago, and we were able to take some great pictures instead with our camera. I didn't want to spend $30 for 6 wallets and a 5x7, which is what the package prices were. I thought this picture turned out great. There were several other really good ones.
My birthday was on the 9th. It was the big 4-0. It feels strange just typing that. When I was a kid, 40 seemed so old and decripit. Now here I am! Not that I am old and decripit :). I actually had a wonderful birthday. I didn't want a party. Jeff took the day off of work, and he and Evie showered me with lots of love. The night before, they made me go to my room and relax (oooohhhh the torture!) while they secretly decorated the house and made me a cake. I figured out what they were doing when Evie came in to ask me how I was doing, and her face was covered with chocolate :). lol! They decorated with purple balloons and streamers. Purple is my favorite color :). On my birthday, I opened my presents. Jeff got me a really sweet book with pictures of our family. I cried when I saw it because it was so sweet. It was an actually book he had printed out. He also got me this.....

I LOVE my swing! I am out there several times a day, swinging whenever I can. It folds out into a bed too, but I haven't done that yet. It is so relaxing, and a wonderful place to go out and read. Evie and I have homeschooled out on it too, which is great.

We are making changes to the backyard. Jeff privacy fenced in a larger section of the yard. It looks so nice, and really makes our back yard look bigger! We have a chain link fence across the other side of the back yard, and we want to fence that in with a privacy fence too. Then it will seem like our own little oasis back there. Jeff said he was completely fine with me getting a few chickens (Yay!), so I can do that once we fence in the rest of the back yard with privacy fence.

I wanted to post this picture because it is SO funny. I use a hot water bottle every day on sore spots, and put essential oils on beforehand. The hot water bottle helps the oils sink in better. I had heated up the bottle with hot water, then stuck it on my bed. Then I went to go get something. When I came back, I found Sierra laying like this....
And no, I didn't put it like that, she did! I guess her legs or paws were sore, or she just liked how warm it felt. I love the guilty look on her face :)!

Okay, this blog post is ginormous. I will end it with a picture of my beautiful irises. Oh how I wish they lasted longer, and that I could bottle their scent. The scent of them reminds me of fresh grapes cut from the vine. During iris season, I definitely take time to stop and smell the irises!


Jules said...

Happy Birthday! Evie looks so grown up - seems she's grown up overnight. Love your garden. We just planted 2 blueberry bushes and I was worried it was going to be more produce than we could eat. Perhaps I need to plant another four???

BTW, a lot of your comments on my blog go to my blogger spam page. Seems there are still some glitches with the new blogger. But at least I know to check there now.

Jen said...

Hi Jules! Thank you for the birthday wishes :). Yes, Evie is growing so fast. Sometimes I look at her and wonder where the time went!

I hope your blueberry bushes do well. When we have picked blueberries, we usually pick off of about 4 or 5 bushes at the patch. The bushes are huge, and we have gotten about 30 pounds at the most. If you don't freeze them, then 2 bushes may be plenty.

I am not getting very many comments lately. I don't know if it is Blogger problems, or if people are just not commenting. I cant seem to find the spam page. Do you only have that if you check comments before posting them?

April said...

It sounds like you had a wonderful birthday! 40 is young but you don't look 40 at all. I love that comfortable looking swing you have. I can see turning it into a bed and lying around reading - if I could ever force myself to sit down and read this time of the year. (Not likely)

Your garden looks great. I love that you have grass all around yours; it look so neat and tidy (and soft and comfortable). I've just about finished planting mine and will post pictures soon on my blog.

Yes, people in suburbia do act odd about veggie gardens. But to a lot of people it's just work that they don't want to do. They must think people like you and me are nuts - ha!

Funny, my tomato seedlings did great this year too, but my peppers were a big fail. I had to buy them and we have way too many. I'd already planted maybe 12 I think when Mike brought home 3 more of the hottest of the hot peppers. He likes those a lot, but I don't know what I'm going to do with them... maybe make a bunch of hot pepper sauces like the ones he buys.

I would love a greenhouse too; it's on my wishlist for some day.

What kind of squashes did you grow that you are growing vertically? I'm not planting winter squashes this year; the squash bugs last year quelled my enthusiasm! Maybe next year.

Mike and I have talked about a root cellar a lot too; I'd love one. I've read a bit on fermenting food and how it's very healthy. I might have to look more into that.

I love the picture of Evie with the frog on her nose - so cute!

Okay, this is getting too long so let me quit blathering. :)

Jen said...

Hi April! Thanks for saying I don't look 40 :). You made my day!

I am really trying to keep the weeds down this year. I am out there weeding about every other day, even if it is only for 15 minutes. It has helped keep the garden looking nice. I planted 4 different squash varieties, and 3 of them we are growing vertically. One is butternut squash, which is super heavy so we will have to make a sturdy arbor for them to climb. One is called Zucchini Rampicante, and it is a crazy looking zucchini that tastes like zucchini when small, and winter squash when large. I have never grown it before, but it looked fun. I guess it is insanely prolific. I am growing the little squashes called Sweet Dumplings. They are good keepers, and good as just a dish for one person. I'm also growing Black Beauty zucchini, but that one won't grow vertically. That is the one I tend to have problems with when it comes to squash bugs. I'm hoping the radishes work this year!

It is so great having you back! I really missed your blog, and you :).