22 May 2012

Urban Farming - Looking UP

In our urban garden, we are definitely lacking space.  We have taken out all of our grass to make room for productive plants, but we still need to utilize whatever we can.  Growing UP can be a huge benefit for the urban farmer who is short on space, but long on ambition.

Posts have been dropped into some of the cinder blocks which are not home to strawberries.  There are four posts, standing about seven feet high.  I will criss-cross wire between the posts to make a screen on which various plants can grow.

The plan is to trellis the grapes, blackberries, and raspberries across the post and wires.  I love this concept and that will certainly be the plan for the long run.  But berries and grapes will take their time growing across that ten foot expanse.

(My little gardener, tending some seedlings)

So, for this year, I planted 14 green bean plants (Kentucky Wonder and Burpees Stringless) in the cinder blocks flanking each post.  My hope is that the fast growing beans will create the desired screen for this summer.  Of course, I'll be happy to have all of those beans to eat, freeze, and can as well!

18 May 2012

Seven Quick Takes - Random and Unconnected

I know school isn't out yet, but it sure feels like it should be!  I am having a tough time trudging through these last few weeks with Grace and finishing up projects with Christopher.  Only about two more weeks!  We have a lot of summer fun looming on the horizon, so I am really excited.

Earlier this week, we went strawberry picking with Annie and her girls.  It was the perfect day - warm and sunny, with a cool breeze.  Much better than the sweltering conditions of years past.  We have been feasting on strawberries and I really need to freeze the rest.  

May Crowning was a couple weeks ago.  Really, it's one of my favorites.  It is so beautiful!  And look at that handsome server!

Christopher's school had their "Fine Arts Festival" the other night.  It pleases me greatly that they put such an emphasis on the fine arts, as they seem to be cut from the systems so frequently these days.   The school also has an amazing religious art study, but this was more music and your typical art class.  This mama was proud, though, when her son created a "Purple People Eater" sculpture.  It was amazingly awesome.  One eyed, one horned, and flying (ok, not really, but it had wings!), it was!

Mother's Day made me the proud owner of this beauty:

True love.  I'm not sure how I live so long without a Big Shot!


 PeterXavier turned SIX this week!  He is so proud to be such a big boy.  Life was crazy on his actual birthday, so we'll be officially celebrating on Sunday.  Andrew got a great deal on a really nice bike for him. It is the size up from his current bike, which was definitely too small.  He loves to ride with his daddy, so this is the perfect gift.  And now that he's learned to stop before flying into streets, I won't worry too much.

I got Christopher a passport the other week.  To save money, I thought I'd just snap the photo myself (find a great editing tool here, and save $15 at the post office!  For some reason, my dad HATED my first shot and made me retake it!  But I admit, the second one is a little better - less like a mug shot!

16 May 2012

Urban Farming - Involving the Children

The kids and I set about creating a tiered herb garden yesterday afternoon.  This project was inspired by one in the book The Ultimate Step-by-Step Kid's First Gardening Book.  The book is fabulous and brimming with wonderful, kid friendly gardening ideas.

This project is perfect for kids of all ages.  I had an 8 year old, 5 year old, and 4 year old helping, plus a 2 year old watching on.  We modified the plans a bit to accomidate our meager budget!  Instead of pretty terra cotta pots of varying sizes, I found some plastic and metal pots in the dollar bins at Target (small, medium, and large.  Make sure they'll nest).  They aren't as pretty, but they'll serve our purpose well.  I am also banking on the herbs growing large and hiding the pots a bit.

First things first, make sure you have the right tools gathered.  We had our three nesting pots, a bag of soil, a trowel, some seeds, and a few small herbs.  We chose basil, thyme, lemon balm, chamomile, and curly parsley.  There is a bit room for more, but that's what we had.  Steer clear of mint, as it grows rampant and will take over your pots!  Have fun choosing your favorite herbs or try new varieties.  There are so many to choose from.

After we gathered our tools, we set the medium sized pot inside the largest pot and filled in all around with potting soil.  We had a few herbs that were already a bit large, but mostly we had seeds (trying to be economical!!).  We planted a couple types of seeds and a couple larger plants in this bottom tier. 

We filled in a bit more and then set the smallest pot into the middle one and filled in around it.  We planted a few more herbs in our middle pot.

We then filled the top pot with soil and planted a lovely bit of curly parsley to crown our herb garden.

This fun project was quick and easy!  It was perfect for including all of the children and gave them a real sense of ownership in our garden.

Try this project with your own little ones!  Keep it in a sunny place and let them water it each day.  Very soon, their own herbs will be gracing the kitchen!

I am really enjoying this "Urban Farming" series.  I would LOVE to have you join in, either with comments or links to your own posts in the combox, so that we can all see other peoples adventures in Urban Farming!

14 May 2012

Urban Farming - Cinder Block Strawberries

 The kids and I went strawberry picking with cousins this morning.  We went to our favorite local orchard and had a great time.  My kids always pick tons of strawberries!

As fun as it was and as much as I love supporting local small farms, I can't wait until we have our own productive strawberry patch!  I am sure we will always go to the orchard for large quantities to put up for the winter, but we look forward to our little patch producing.

We have a total of 12 strawberry plants right now (I only had six, but last night when I came home from our Mother's Day picnic, there were six more on my backyard table!  Thanks to my wonderful neighbors for plants AND garden planning!).  I planted a few in the sunny front yard, but the remaining are in the "Cinder Block Strawberry Patch" in our side yard.  Our driveway is separated from the neighboring  apartments by a beat up row of cinder blocks.  In an effort to beautify and produce, we are planting strawberries in the hole of the cinder blocks.  I am setting plants in about every third hole and filling the remaining holes with soil and compost.  Strawberries send out shoots and grow new plants, so we are hoping that the blocks will one day be filled in with many beautiful strawberry plants!

08 May 2012

Urban Farming - Hugelkultur

After letting our house sit on the market for well over a year with nary a nibble, we decided to bring the farm to the city.  Urban farming, if you will.  But, lack of soil makes that difficult!  My neighbor suggested something called Hugelkultur and then this weekend, he started collecting this and that and before we knew it, Andrew's empty planting box was a Hugelkultur system!

This creation is an amazing display of scavenging, reusing, and making do.  Andrew created the planter from old doors destined for the landfill.  It's quite large and when we moved it to the end of the driveway, it now gets tons of sun.

Rotten logs were scavenged from the abandoned house down the street and used as the bottom layer.  The logs will hold moisture, create air pockets, and eventually decompose to create rich soil.  

The logs were lined up to create the bottom layer.

The box is on a slope, so a tarp was positioned to help prevent run-off.  Since this was a free project, it was a pretty sad looking tarp!

Rotting leaves and other plant-stuff was scooped up from the alley to fill in around the logs.

  Then compost soil was placed on top of that.

We had a great deal of child slave labor.  Always a good thing.

This corner is at the alley where the telephone pole is.  Tons of leaves had gathered there over the years and started to decompose.  With a little ingenuity, now it houses a grape vine to grow up the telephone pole and a blackberry bush which will vine across the driveway.

One more layer of soil is needed and then I get the fun job of planting!  I can't wait to see how well this garden produces.

03 May 2012

Needle and ThREAD

I am joining in on Elizabeth Foss' Needle and ThREAD link up this week.  I am doing so in order to TOTALLY SHOW OFF.

But not me.  These are the quilts made by the amazing kids I had at the homeschool co-op this year.  These kids were great - so eager to learn and so hard working.  They did a great job!

As for my reading, it's the same as earlier this week!  We love Kid's First Gardening Book!

02 May 2012

Yarnin' Along, Garden Style

My knitting has slowed lately!  So sad!  I finally started on a sweater for Andrew with yarn I purchased last summer at a fiber fest.  It's a hand dyed, one ply wool and it is seriously delicious.  It's wonderful to knit.  I am using the Jones & Vandermeer Nathan Vest pattern.  It's super easy, but turns out a classy sweater vest.

My mom bought the kids a fabulous gardening book:  Kids First Gardening Book  This is definitely our new favorite book!  As I write, the kids are making a "wormery" with Andrew.  This afternoon, the kids and I made a fun herb planter.  This book is chocked full of wonderful gardening ideas!  So fun.

We've been gardening like crazy people here on our tenth of an acres urban plot.  If you want an eight year olds perspective, Grace is blogging it at www.graceblog03.blogspot.com

(Yarning Along with Ginny!  Go check out the other great entries!)

01 May 2012


It seems that, at the ripe old age of 22 months, Avila is potty trained.  My kids have been all over the board with potty training, but she is definitely the youngest.  I credit this to cloth diapers, cheering older siblings, and ample doses of naked time.

With the youngest two kids, we have approached this different.y  Not that we ever went about potty training with rewards and punishment or any other crazy games.  We've always been really lax, but with these two girls, (the two earliest to ditch the dipes) we have been even more lax.  How can you get upset when a 22 month old has an accident??  So basically, she ran around in the buff, we praised her when she went, said "oops" when she didn't, and in no time, she pretty much got it.  Easy peasy!

For the first time, I think ever, we have no one in diapers!  Crazy!  Avi can hand down her basket of diapers to her new little to-be-born cousin!

This evening, I ran out and bought her some new tiny undies (size 2T - so cute!!).  She was so proud of them that she insisted on wearing every single pair at the same time!