I thought about starting a new blog about my journey into "urban homesteading" but figured that it's all part of the whole creative lifestyle we try to lead so I'm just going to write about it on Red Yarn. You may be familiar with the term but if you're not, it's about creating a simpler, self-sustaining lifestyle in a more urban home location. (Here's a blog about a family who's successfully doing it!) Our house is really in a suburban area that is surrounded by rural farms and on the border of little Lancaster city. We're not "urban" though because I grew up in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio, I have that mentality. With the prices of gas and wheat rising, it seemed that we needed to do something to cut costs and be a little more self-sufficient. But even more, I have always wanted to raise my children with healthy choices and what better way than to raise some organically at home, in season! Now, I'm not going to jump in full force, but slowly try some new things to make our lifestyle a little more "real" with choices that are not always the easiest or most convenient, but the healthiest and really, wise and fun at the same time!
Gardening is new to me, but not my family. My parents always gardened when I was growing up. My maternal grandparents had a huge garden and a peach tree right in their yard, close to downtown Dayton, Ohio. My German grandparents also lived in Dayton and gardened, growing things like gooseberries for gooseberry pie! Growing your own food is not a new idea by any means. Craig and I have always talked about gardening but have never really done it. I've had tomato plants and pepper plants but that's about it. I was lucky to grow up on healthy food and so was Craig. We also want that for our kids.
I picked up some books at the library about herbs, one called Tips for the Lazy Gardener, and a book called Maine Farm: A Year of Country Life. I've never wanted to live in the country except for in First Grade when my friend Matt Conrad's family moved away to a farm and I envisioned big oak trees with a tire swing! Craig grew up farming but he really didn't want to pursue it as an adult-- he works for an international technology company, as far away from agriculture as you can get! Yet he loves having a big yard and the woods behind us.
So after reading Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck, being enthralled by Tasha Tudor's lifestyle for years, and cooking with Sarah Foster's cookbook Foster's Market , my path to gardening was inevitable! I love reading about sustainable agriculture and intelligent farming. How does that apply to me though? I go to my farmer's markets now and look for farm stands who are doing this. I've been buying organic milk since the kids were little. I've also been making our own granola cereal with organic oats (my ingredients are from the grocery's bulk aisle) and buying organic beef and poultry when I can. We don't have a Whole Foods Market in this little city yet, but maybe someday soon. We try not to by things that have processed ingredients and cook more "real food" ourselves. The most important change I want to make now is to figure out when produce is harvested so we can look for it and cook with it during it's peek times. And eventually grow it!
My newest change is trying to make my own yogurt! I bought a yogurt maker this spring and today I started my first batch! It is so easy. I got tired of all the store yogurts with so much sugar in them for kids. We'll be experimenting with flavors and I know Craig and I just like vanilla and mixing in fresh berries and granola!
Yesterday Craig and I picked up two tomato plants and a pepper plant, and then a container of herbs. We have deer and bunnies back here so we had to put netting up to keep them out!
We're trying to find a sunny spot in our tree filled yard and I think I found the perfect location for a garden finally! The side yard seems to get 8 hours of sunlight (I'll be watching it now!). I think the plan will be to put a little arbored gate here and put in a pathway and a garden to the left... a raised bed, with maybe a white picket fence all the way around! I was reading about square foot gardening here and now I want the book! I also want to start composting so that's also on my list of researching the best options for us.
As Craig and I were driving back from vacation, he mentioned he had read an article about raising chickens at home and having fresh eggs!. So we are thinking of building a little chicken coop across from the shed in the back and getting three chickens! I found a fun site here which talks all about how to do that no matter where you live! The kids loved the idea and want to name them already. That might be next spring. We have fox and hawks around here too so it would have to be totally enclosed!
My next door neighbor's old fruit trees are still producing tiny fruit. I'm not sure how. The apricots are ready now:
The pears are growing:
Craig and I also filled our window boxes. I want to get two wicker rockers, a little table and an outdoor rug for the front porch. There's usually a cool breeze that blows through here during the day and Craig likes to take his laptop out and work here!
I've never had nasturtiams before but I fell in love with their colors at the garden center. Of course I had forgotten that they are edible until I saw them listed in the herb book! I won't eat these though... they are too pretty!
Craig transplanted a long row of tiger lilies in front of our yard and they're all in bloom. I guess our color theme this year is orange and yellow!
He also planted my zinnia seeds back in the same side yard plot as last year. It's not ideal as it only gets afternoon sun, but they have just started to bloom! The bunnies ate the sunflower plants on the opposite side!! :(
Here is Ellie, surveying the property! She loves to be outside and has become a little helper in the yard, picking up sticks and moving them about. Though maybe not so much a "helper" in that sense.We've been enjoying campfires and s'mores, eating outside and grilling, homemade blackberry cobbler, windows open on cooler days, swimming at the Township pool, homemade blueberry muffins, fresh farmer's produce, cherries, strawberries, lightening bug shows at dusk and family trips to the library! The kids will be celebrating the Fourth of July at their grandparent's and we will wander down to First Fridays at the city galleries. Then tennis lessons will begin for Caroline and later summer orchestra! I love summertime more and more each year!