Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The New Sustainable Lifestyle

I've been pondering this urban homesteading lifestyle lately and have come to the conclusion that once you plant veggies in your yard you begin re-thinking different aspects of your life.  Well, that's been my experience anyway!  I think I came to some sort of a cathartic moment the other day when I was doing planning for the fall when the kids go back to school.  I had been working out at a gym in the spring before the kids got out of school and during the three hours or so while my little guy was in pre-school I would dash off to my gym, get my work out in, eat lunch and pick him up.  So I was pondering which gym I should join this fall, since I wasn't super happy with the last one I had a membership with honestly.  Then it hit me - why should I be paying a company for my work out?  I mean seriously, how ridiculous is it that I should have to pay someone for exercise?  Yeah, I know it's convenient and makes the work out fun, but why spend fifty bucks per month, (at least), to work out?  I mean there are plenty of other ways I can exercise this body than working out at a gym.  I have a Wii fit, I can walk, I can get some weights and use them at home, I can get a work out video, and the list goes on.

Then that train of thought led me to thinking further about this consumerism society and all of the "must haves" we have been brainwashed into.  Society tells us what to eat:  processed foods, junk food, and sugar.  Society tells us what we should buy:  that new car, the dream home, the gym membership, designer clothing and the list goes on.  I'm not saying that all of these things are bad; I'm simply making the point that this lifestyle we're being sold, this "American Dream" is making us sick, burning us out, and making us broke in the process.  Drying clothes on the line until recently would have been considered "back woods", at least in California anyway.  But now, there is a huge growing movement that is working hard to lower energy and live a sustainable lifestyle.

I've been scrutinizing my own lifestyle and have come up with some big changes recently.  I have a long ways to go to reach what I feel is a fully sustainable green lifestyle, but each small change will get me closer to my goal.  I'm not going to become a hippy living up in the hills off the grid, but I am going to do my best to live a sustainable lifestyle and respect the planet and my body.  I'm amazed how many activities in my life cost, and how I can save money by doing them myself, or coming up with creative solutions.  Here are some of the changes I'm making in my life and the reasons I've made these decisions:

Growing a garden:  Sustainable living, cheap pesticide free veggies, health reasons

Cutting out sugars and processed foods:  They make me sick, they will shorten my life span, they will ultimately kill me.

Cooking from scratch:  I can control the ingredients that go into my food, it's easier on the budget, it's healthier.

Working out on my own:  It saves money, it saves gas because I'll be working out at home.

Buying clothing and goods second hand:  It's cheaper, I don't want to put my money toward companies that aren't fair trade, it's recycling at its best.  This can be challenging with kids, since they always want the new name brand clothes.  I'm still trying to figure out the balance on this one.

Buying Fair Trade:  Chocolate companies are mostly non fair trade and many of the cocoa plantations use children as slaves.  This is a fact, and the only way you can be sure your chocolate is fair trade is to buy chocolate with the fair trade label.  There are many other goods such as clothing that aren't fair trade.  I plan to do a post on this issue, so be keeping an eye out for it.

Recycling:  We recycle all plastics, glass, and paper products.  I'm trying to reduce the amount of plastics we use, since they are full of toxins that cause diseases.

Car Pooling & Taking Public Transit:  We're reducing the amount of gas we use by taking the bus and car pooling.  Our gas bill a few months back was $500 per month, now it's down to about $200.

Trading services or getting recycled items free:  You would be amazed how many people are willing to trade services.  We've gotten our cars fixed in trade for garden advise and work, I've traded my art for art or other services, and most of the structures on our homestead, (i.e. greenhouse, chicken coop, etc.) were re-purposed from friends.

Limiting TV and computer time:  This is by far our biggest challenge.  I have the good excuse of researching how to live a sustainable life via the computer, but eventually I hope to limit my time once I have this whole thing a bit more figured out!  I'm working on keeping the kids active outside and in the garden instead of watching TV and playing computer games.  I have them involved in sports which helps a lot, but I've had to set limits for screen time.  The American Society of Pediatrics says no more than 2 hours per day, which I feel is still too much!  (Again, I'm questioning everything the medical system tells me.)

Natural Cleaners and Make-Up Products:  I just recently realized that we aren't as green in this department as we should be.  I switched over to natural cleaning products and detergents a while back which surprisingly aren't more expensive than the conventional kind.

Cloth napkins and towels:  We used to use a boat load of paper towels and napkins.  I did some second hand shopping and found some cute vintage napkins, and we requested kitchen towels for Christmas one year so we've got a great supply.

Energy conservation:  We had the PG&E folks come out for an energy audit of our home and we scored high, so there's not much more we can do to cut back on our energy bill.  We use the compact fluorescent bulbs and restrict our furnace use in the winter.  We'd love to get a wood burning stove eventually.  This summer one of our projects is to put in a clothes line.

So what are you doing to live a more sustainable affordable eco friendly lifestyle?  If you have more to add to my list I'd appreciate the tips!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Julie Bass aka "Veggie Criminal" now "Bad Dog Owner"

In case you haven't heard the story, a woman named Julie Bass was given a misdemeanor for growing vegetables in her front yard in Oak Park Michigan.  Yes, you heard that right - growing vegetables in this town is a crime.  It's a long story, and Julie tells it quite well here in her blog Oak Park Hates Veggies.  Her story went viral on the internet and she was on MSN, CNN, and other news stations across the country.  She was also written up in Treehugger, Grist, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and her article was front page on the Drudge Report.  My Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) fb page did a massive letter writing campaign to the city of Oak Park, and spread the word around fb about Oak Park's actions.  I honestly believe we made a difference in this case, and I'm proud of us as a community for taking action and effecting change.

A day or so ago Oak Park dropped the charges against her, which is good news, but her battle isn't over officially yet.  The city can pick up the charges against her at any time because the case wasn't legally settled.  So, they have her on a string still and they aren't letting the poor woman rest which is just wrong on so many levels.  The word tyrannical comes to mind, among others not suited for a polite audience.  The city didn't officially inform her that they had dropped the charges about the veggie garden by the way, which is very weird.  She found out in a round about way, and then they brought up an old issue - licencing her dogs.  Apparently the licenses had lapsed, so she had to go in and pay for them for her two dogs, plus the late fee which she did a while ago.  She thought the issue had been settled, and even double checked about it, but no. Now she's being asked to appear in court for dog licences, (on the same day she would have showed up for the veggie charges),which she ALREADY PAID.  I don't usually use caps, but this is outrageous!!!  I feel the city is now harassing her because of the bad press they got over the veggie issue.  I sure as heck hope she brings her lawyer with her to court because I wouldn't be one bit surprised if the city tries to pull something.  Luckily the mayoral elections are coming up soon, and the person running against the current mayor is totally in support of Julie, and I SO hope she wins!!

So, that's the update on Julie Bass.  I spoke to her on the phone this past week and I was so very impressed with the woman.  She is just down to earth and real as I mentioned in my last post.  The woman wants to live her life in peace with her husband and 6 kids, 2 dogs and front yard veggie garden.  Aren't there real criminals out there the city should be spending their time on?  Seriously!!!

It appears Julie isn't the only one out there being harassed by the city for vegetables.  The same week her story came out another one from Canada emerged.  Dirk Becker of Lantzville B.C. is facing 6 months in jail for guess what?  You got it, growing veggies!  He turned a gravel pit into a veggie farm and sells his produce at a local farmer's market, but laws in this town don't allow for veggie growing, no siree.  A petition has been started for him, and people are spreading the word on fb and the net about his plight.  I fear more stories like Julie and Dirk's are going to be emerging in the future, and I'm working on several fronts lately to raise awareness and make the government aware of this issue.  I have a feeling it's going to be a long term fight, with no short term solutions unfortunately.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I have 200 followers!

I just had to do a celebratory post because I now have 200 blog followers!  Thanks so much to all of my faithful readers.  I'm working on a cool crafty garden item handmade by yours truly I can post here for a free drawing.  So be looking for it, and until then happy urban homesteading!

(Image from Treehugger.com)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vision, Identity, and Faith

Once upon a time there was a stay at home urban homesteading mom of two who dreamed of living an idealistic life on her .15 acre in the city.  She envisioned raising chickens and harvesting fresh veggies from her garden daily, then she would blog about it via her cool eco-groovy mama urban homesteading blog:

One day she heard about the trademarking of the terms "urban homestead"and "urban homesteading", and her dream was interrupted.  The rest is history my friends.  My idealistic image of being like Amanda Soule, crafty super mama hero of all crafters, disappeared into a fog of legal speak and a rapidly growing, and very wonderful urban homesteading facebook page.  Things took a turn shall we say, a major shift in direction, and I became the leader of a fast moving grassroots urban homesteading community almost over night.  It's been an exceptional ride, and I wouldn't change a moment of it, but lately I've become introspective and have been questioning who I am in all of this.

The questioning started when an interviewer asked me, "What is your life plan?"  Ummm.....life plan, what is that anyway?  That got me thinking about what my "plan" is, and truth be told I have none.  My vision up until this point has been to continue being a stay at home mom, growing my sewing and designing business, which I'm still doing slowly but surely when I'm not on facebook fighting the latest battle.  Honestly though, I'm just taking life as it comes and living in the present, following my heart, and trying to take the community I'm leading in the right direction in the mean time.  I'm sorting through the multitude of directions that are opening up to me, and that others are presenting me with.  Everyone has ideas, really great ideas, but if I were to implement every single idea presented to me I would lose vision, lose focus, and ultimately not get a darned thing done.  I get phone calls, e-mails, requests, etc. and for the first time in my life I have to sit back and evaluate each possible direction carefully before taking action.  There have been times when the direction I've gone has back fired, (and I've got the hate mail and letters to the editor to prove it!)  But, I've learned to get back up, shake the dust off, and continue on without dwelling on the past.

Lately I've been asking myself another question, "Who am I in the midst of all of this anyway?"  Writer?  Activist?  Leader?  At first I tried to fit into the mold of blogger as my main identity.  I tried, and there were days where I almost believed I could be an amazing one post a day urban homesteader blogger who would wow the crowds like Erica Strauss of Northwest Edible Life.  That woman can write like no other urban homesteading mama I've seen out there, seriously.  Just read one post and you'll see what I mean!  Then there's Deanna Duke of Crunchy Chicken.  She's another one I just can't hold a candle to, sigh.  Eco groovy chicken lovin' writer extraordinaire, that's what she is!  There are others out there who get all down into the psychology of homesteading and house holding and house this and that...I've lost track of all of the terms, I just can't keep up anymore.  Harriet Fasenfest, (amazing writer and woman in general), is one of them, as is Calamity Jane of Apron Stringz.  Just reading what that woman does on a daily basis makes my head spin.  Really?  She does all of that, really? Wow, just wow.  Talk about giving someone an inferiority complex!  Then there are the super hero gardening sorts like Rachel Hoff of Dog Island Farm. She's doing the "year without groceries challenge" and I just stand in awe of that kind of commitment.  There's lots more of the super hero gardener types, so please forgive me if I skipped over you!  But I love them all, they are truly wonderful and talented women....just not me.

Enter Julie Bass, of Oakparkhatesveggies - the gardening hero who has been all over the media for the audacious crime of growing veggies, (NO!), in her front yard in raised beds in Oak Park Michigan!  I first heard about her veggie "crime" via the Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) page.  Within a day of posting her story on the main TBUH feed Treehugger and Grist had articles up about her, and within a few more days her story had gone viral.  Then I checked her blog out, and I was sold.  This was a woman I could relate to, a woman I could hang my hat on.  Her tone resonated with me and I get her, or at least I think I do.  She's totally down to earth and human, but don't let that sweet voice deceive you - she's got got an iron fist under the velvet glove.  There will be no backing down until she gets what is rightfully hers let me tell you.  I guess I see a bit of myself in her and the more I think about it the more I see that I'm an activist at heart.  I sit down to write a blog, and I have a hard time finishing it because I'm too busy looking through news feeds, or blog posts to see what's happening.  I look for people to help, causes to fight, and although I wasn't initially looking for a cause when the urban homesteaders united, I do now.  I know the power of a unified voice, of people standing up in unison and refusing to accept the status quo.

I have faith that I can make a difference in this world somehow.  I believe that my position in the urban homesteading community was more than simply fate.  I don't speak much about my personal faith beliefs publicly, because honestly I hate the idea of anyone feeling I'm shoving my religion faith down their throats.  Deep breath...I quit church a few years back because I was done with other people telling me what God's plan for my life was, so very done.  I'm still sorting through all of that and trying to figure out what my faith means, how to implement it, and where to go from here.  (Did you hear that God?)  The past few months I've come to realize that the planet and nature itself are more important to God, (yes, I believe He (they) exist), than I ever knew before.  I don't think any of my life happens by accident, and I think God puts people in places at specific times for specific reasons.  (Disclaimer:  I'm not saying you must believe this.  I'm not saying if you don't believe this you will go to hell.  I'm not accusing or judging you in any way.)  This is what I believe at my core, and if I'm going to stay true to myself I need to follow my own path, and this is it.

So, to conclude, thank you Julie Bass, Erica Strauss, Harriet Fasenfest, and the rest of you wonderful, talented and intelligent women for helping me figure out who I am in all of this. We're in this together, so keep writing, blogging, house holding, and I'll be right beside you fighting the fight.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday's View of the Garden

We've been cleaning and sprucing up the garden for a few months now, and it's finally looking really good I'm proud to say!  Harvest time is here and what isn't ripe is getting very close.  My big project this past weekend was painting the shed which was in desperate need of a paint job.  Remember this old grey thing from the photo garden tour?  Much improved don't ya think?!  I used left over interior paint which just happens to be very close to the house color, and we hung this vintage wooden red window on the side of the shed we got off Craig's List a while back.  It just happens to be reddish like our house trim color.  The red couch cushions and pillows were bought on sale at Target. I love it when everything ends up color coordinated without much effort.

The tomatoes are exploding with blooms in the greenhouse!

We'll have red tomatoes this year!  Greenhouses are a must where we live on the North California Coast if you want a large tomato crop.  

Head enjoying the afternoon view.

Garlic harvest.  To preserve these yummies we'll soak them in olive oil and freeze.  Home grown garlic for months!

We took down the cat nip plant for the kitties and they ate a LOT.  First they get wild, then they get tired, then last, they get feisty.  Last I saw Derby, (above), he was passed out on the lawn.  Good times.

What's been going on in your urban homestead lately?  What's growing?  What projects are you working on?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Vegetable Growing Criminal?

I took a break outside and enjoyed my beautiful backyard for a moment on a  lovely Northcoast day a few hours ago.  I can sit out there for hours and enjoy the many fruits of our labors:  Overflowing veggie beds, trees we planted with our own hands, a beautiful greenhouse and more.  If I had this on my front yard in Oak Park Michigan I could go to jail...seriously.

A few years ago we didn't have all of this to enjoy because we rented and our only real yard was our front yard which was off limits for gardening for the most part.  We wanted to plant a garden in the yard, but our landlords forbid us from doing so.  Their reason?  It wouldn't look good, in their opinion.  So we planted things around the entire perimeter of the yard, some things grew in pots, and when we moved we uprooted the entire garden, moved it here, and then re-seeded the yard with grass.  Now we have people asking us to give them garden tours, asking us how to make raised beds and grow veggies, and I am the admin for a large growing urban homesteading page that has turned into a powerful grassroots movement.  Take that "don't plant a garden on your front lawn" land lords!

A few days ago I heard about a woman named Julie Bass who lives in Oak Park Michigan.  She was cited and eventually charged with a misdemeanor for growing vegetables on her front lawn.  Her story struck a cord in me because the reason she was given for not being allowed to have a front yard garden was much the same as the reason we were given a few years back.  She was told that her vegetation was not "suitable" by the city planner, who went on to say that suitable meant "common" from Webster's Dictionary.  I looked up the definitions for myself, and found that his definition is inaccurate.  The definition for suitable has 3 meanings: 1.) similar, 2.) proper 3.) satisfying propriety.  Now the city planner is claiming he used the legal definition for suitable, which is completely different from the Webster's definition.  But he was recorded saying he used Webster's on camera, so there is no way he can back out of that one.  Julie's story is all over the internet and was picked up this week by GristWashington PostTreehuggerHuffington Post, and then the big hitter Drudge Report where the story was sandwiched between a picture of the space shuttle launch and Prince William and Kate for much of the day.  How's that for press coverage?!  The petition for Julie is now up to 4,400 signatures in just a few days, and the urban homesteading activists have only just begun.  

As I sat out on my garden bench the famous quote by Thomas Jefferson came to mind, "If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny."  Is this what it's come to America:  The government dictating what foods we eat?  Honestly, I doubt that the Bass family of 8 could even afford organic vegetables, I know that my family of 4 certainly can't!  So the city of Oak Park is dictating that Julie and her family won't be able to eat organic vegetables ultimately, is it not?  Julie asked specifically if the city codes prohibited growing vegetables.  The city planner's response?  "I don't know."  He never gave a definitive answer either way, and now he's attempting to manipulate language and definitions to suit his purposes.  What has this country come to if a family isn't allowed to grow their own vegetables, seriously?  Just because her yard doesn't look exactly like the other yards in her neighborhood she was given and misdemeanor and could spend 93 days in prison.  I've read that the city of Oak Park is having financial issues, and honestly it sounds to me like they're trying to make a buck off of Julie.  It's a sorry situation in more ways that one, and I feel at this point they should throw in the trowel, I mean towel and let Julie feed her family in these tough economic times.  

So what do you think?  Should Julie be allowed to grow veggies in her front yard?  

Thursday, July 7, 2011

In Oak Park Michigan it is Illegal to Grow Veggies in your Front Yard, Seriously

You read that right, it is apparently illegal to grow veggies in raised beds in the town of Oak Park Michigan.  Julie Bass, mother of 6 and upstanding citizen has been given several citations from the city because she is growing veggies (gasp!), on her front lawn.  Apparently she is high on the list because she received her citation early in the day, and the city official claimed to be busy, wow.  I honestly thought I'd never see the day!  Vegetables, such violent creatures by nature don't you know?!  You would think that this city would have better things to do than fighting "vegetable crime!" 

So, as usual the Take Back page is jumping on the band wagon and writing letters, blogging and letting the world know all about this story.  I posted a letter writing action day and we have almost 140 people writing letters to the city planner and city council members.  I posted a petition for Julie and saw it climb from 22 to almost 500 today!  I feel like we're making a difference as a community and I'm very proud! 

Here is the letter I e-mailed to the city of Oak Park:

Dear Sirs,

Recently I heard about a woman in your town named Julie Bass who has been given several court summons by your city over the "crime" of growing vegetables in her front yard.  I am the creator and admin for the Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) facebook page, which consists of nearly eight thousand urban homesteaders, most of which grow and harvest vegetables in their own yards.  

Urban homesteading is becoming increasingly common during these difficult times when families like myself are struggling to make ends meet.  Many are hanging on by a string financially and having access to their own free produce on their land makes a huge difference both nutritionally and financially.  My family lives on .15 of an acre in Eureka, Northern California.  We have 10 raised beds full of veggies on our property which we eat from daily.  We are a family of 4, with only one working parent, living in a very expensive area of California.  The prices of gas, food, and goods have all increased exponentially in the past few years, and families like ours are finding it increasingly difficult to support ourselves.  Fresh produce is very expensive, and organic pesticide free produce is even more expensive and completely out of our budget at this point.  Growing our own vegetables gives us the opportunity to eat healthy nutritious greens, whereas we wouldn't be able to have access to them otherwise.

I have researched Julie Bass' story extensively, and it appears that she was cited for not having "suitable" vegetation in her front yard.  The statement made by you, Mr. Rolkowsky was as follows, "If you look at the definition of what suitable is in Webster's dictionary, it will say common. So, if you look around and you look in any other community, what's common to a front yard is a nice, grass yard with beautiful trees and bushes and flowers."  I researched the definition of "suitable" in Webster's dictionary and found the following definitions:  1.)  similar, matching, 2.)  proper 3.) satisfying propriety, 4.) able, qualified.  Nowhere in these definitions do I see the word "common."  Ask any horticulturist and they will tell you that kale and ornamental kale are very similar, however one is edible and the other is not.  Is it not true that all vegetation is related genetically?  It is obvious that you are splitting hairs in regards to your definition of suitable in this instance in order to drive your point home.  Just because Julie's garden doesn't satisfy propriety in your eyes doesn't mean it is in any way an eye sore to her neighborhood. 

Julie and her family of 6 8 are law abiding citizens who are simply attempting to grow their own food in a creative and innovative way as are thousands of people across the nation.  She doesn't have unsightly garbage, un-registered cars, an unattractive unkempt home, or anything unattractive or illegal on her property.  Her front yard raised veggie beds are some of the most attractive I personally have seen.  Yes, this is an exception to your norm, but it doesn't make it unattractive, just different and foreign to you. 

Myself and the community at Take Back Urban-Homesteading fully support Julie's actions.  Our group consists of hundreds of bloggers, writers and urban homesteading activists who are writing, blogging, and spreading her story on the internet and the media at large.  We won't refrain from actively supporting and educating the public about your actions until she is allowed to grow vegetables in her front yard.  As a fellow urban homesteader and mother I ask you to please reconsider your position.  Please put yourself in her shoes and ask yourself the question:  If I were a mother of 4 6 living on a tight budget would I put a raised bed garden on my front lawn to help feed my family? 


April Alexander
creator and admin of Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Urban Homestead Photo Tour - Part 3, Back Yard, Veggie Garden and Greenhouse

Last but not least, here is the very back part of our .15 of an acre dedicated to the raised veggie beds and greenhouse.  It is also home to our bunny, Charcoal, and a few other fruit trees.  This is the most usable space we have on the property and we're planning to add more raised beds and another smaller greenhouse in time.

Our arbor leading into this part of the garden was made by Ron from Willow branches.  I got the cute animal garden flags at our local Co-Op, and if you're interested in where to buy them I can post the website for the company.

View from the arbor looking toward the greenhouse and raised beds.  My next creative garden project is going to be painting and doing a mosaic on the garden shed you can see on the back right of the picture.  Ron plants and builds and I paint and create!

We currently have about 10 active raised beds.  We added two large beds for raspberries for next year and another for grapes.  Once the garden was cleaned up this year we realized we have room to add two more large raised beds in the front to maximize space.

View from the back of the garden.

View from the left side of the garden facing the greenhouse.

To the left we have a Santa Rosa Plum and beds we're prepping for Raspberry plants.  Charcoal the bunny's cage is in the background. 

This is our squash raised bed with Zucchini, Cucumbers and Crookneck Squash.  The tepee climbing pole is made from bamboo.  Ron is going to do a demo guest post for me on these soon - can't wait!

Trellis Ron just made out of re-purposed redwood.  We plan to grow native grapes on it next season.  The raised beds to the left is where the grapes will be planted.  Our fresh garlic harvest is drying over there currently.  Does that shed need a face lift or what?  Oy vey!

The garlic harvest!  After much research we found out that the best way to preserve garlic is to freeze it.  So, we'll be having a garlic freezing party soon.

Our one and only fig tree, a Desert King.  It produced some fruit last year, but they didn't mature.  Hopefully we'll get some kind of harvest from this tree someday soon!

Our berry bushes - 5 Blueberry bushes and 2 Raspberries, and more to come.  The Raspberries are still in pots because their raised bed isn't finished.  We also have ornamental kale planted in this bed.  

We get a few ripe berries every day, yummy!

Sugar Snap Peas' raised bed.  My favorite thing grown in the garden!  There is nothing like eating these sweet peas right off the vine.

Carrots and Kale.  We have some other Kale starts that are just coming up in another bed.  I put Kale into my green smoothies, so I can never have enough of it. 

More carrots and poppies in between raised beds and my cute butterfly. 

Brussel Sprout greens.  This is our first try at Brussel Sprouts and they are doing really well.  I can't wait until it's time to harvest them! 

Green Onions, Shallots and Carrots.


Potatoes, not sure of the varieties, but we have purple, red and yellow colored ones. 

Lettuce bed

Red and white Bulb Onions and Broccoli

Potting table off the back of the shed.  Thanks to Harriet we now use the sink with a hose and bucket underneath for rinsing.  Ron got both the sink and the table from work for free. 

Our longest project yet, the greenhouse took one full year to complete from start to finish.  We took a lot of breaks, but it was still a very big task.  The framing is made from re-claimed lumber taken from a nunnery, and the large windows were from our remodel.  The other vintage wooden windows we've collected for our "someday greenhouse" over the years.  The door was actually our old front door from the house remodel.  The only new material on the greenhouse was the roofing, and it was given to us.  So, just goes to show you that with some patience and building skills you can have a free greenhouse! 

The main produce we're growing inside of the greenhouse is tomatoes.  We live on the Northern coast of California and most of our tomato crop last year grown in the raised beds were green, very, very sad.  This year we vowed to have a decent tomato crop and it looks hopeful so far. 

We're trying our hand at peppers and watermelons.  These are a total experiment, so we'll see how it goes!  There is no way either of these would grow in our climate without a greenhouse. 

Cilantro and Basil

Loads of blossoms and hopefully nice red tomatoes soon!

Charcoal the bunny:  He was in a very hoppy mood, so this was the best pic I could get of him at the moment.  He's very friendly and produces lots of fertilizer for the garden. 

Our garden kitty Derby with Justin.  He's sitting directly under the Cat Nip plant, which is up in a milk carton high on one of our trellises out of kitty reach. 

He's hard to see, but that's garden kitty #2, Head, pronounced "Heed" with Sarah. 

Last but not least:  The compost!  We have three compost bins all made from pallets which are made from untreated wood.  For our compost we use horse manure, garden clippings, kitchen compost, and soil.  We also make compost tea composed of manure, clippings, and water which we let sit for a few days to a week before fertilizing the soil with it.  I cannot tell you how big of a difference that compost tea makes in the garden.  As Ron says, "We're not growing produce, we're growing soil!"  'Tis very true, I would say the soil is the biggest investment you will ever make in your garden.

I hope you enjoyed my three part urban homestead photo tour!  If you have any questions about methods or materials please feel free to ask.  Until next time, happy urban homesteading!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Urban Homestead Photo Tour - Part 2 Back Yard, Chickens, Apple Trees and Herbs

When we bought our house the back yard was bare except for a gigantic holly tree, a flowering plum tree that was on its way out, and a few more flowering cherry trees and rose bushes.  The very back part of the yard where the raised beds are now was completely bare, in fact when we first looked at the property we weren't sure it was part of the property because it was separated by a fence.  When we found out it was indeed part of the land we really wanted it because we knew we would grow veggies, and that's exactly what we did.

This is the side back yard with the chicken coop, (at the left), apple trees and some flowers and herbs scattered here and there.

Here is the coop Ron made.  The run was constructed from re-purposed materials, as was the structure of the coop.  I painted it!  I know I've posted this pic a lot of times, my apologies but I just love this angle.  

Meet the girls:  The 3 Co Coo Marans are:  Peepers, Snowflake and Jacqueline, (hidden in the back.)  They will lay chocolate colored eggs, can't wait!  The Buff Orpington is Penelope, "Penny."

Here is the ruler of the roost "Ophelia" the Buff Orpington.  It has remained to be seen whether "she" is actually a she.  She may just be a very aggressive girl who developed early, only time will tell!

This is Henrietta our sole Ameraucana.  She likes to be up high, as you can see she is perched up on the back of the gate.  Her eggs will be greenish tinted. 

Another bird we have frequently in our backyard is the finch.  Our neighbor told us that before we moved in and grew flowers there weren't any finches or small birds on the property.  We have two feeders for them, and I see birds here daily.  

This is our biggest apple tree, a Semi Dwarf Fuji, planted 2 years ago.  It's doing quite well due to lots of manure and good compost at the base.  

September is harvest time for these apples, and I can't wait.  Hopefully no worms will get to them before then!

Semi Dwarf Courtland Apple 

Semi Dwarf Banana Apple 

Semi Dwarf Gala Apple

Herbs - Rosemary bush on the right, and in the wine barrel we're growing:  Cilantro, Dill, Oregano, Chives and Thyme.  We want to dedicate an entire raised bed for herbs next season.  One wine barrel is not enough!  The bamboo fence behind the herbs was built by Ron.

My prized Lavender bush.  I generally dry my Lavender, but this year I hope to make my own bath salts and add it to the mixtures.  I'll let you know how that goes!

This was one of Ron's latest creations, a lattice made from copper piping we found on the property and bamboo.  He plans to grow climbing vines of some sort on it to provide a screen. 

Back porch - We have several roses growing along the side of the porch as well as some Japanese Maples.

My little mosaic rock garden.  There are a bunch of wildflowers about to bloom behind it. 

Our prettiest rose growing along the back porch.  Not sure of the name because my dad gave it to us.  

Back porch flowers