...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


In a Rush to Relax

The homestead thus far.  With all this rain, it's a jungle
out there.
As we've scrambled around this week to prepare for a Memorial Day weekend outing in nature a recurring thought has crossed my mind.  It seems that before every escape, no matter how near or far, we rush through the week making lists, running errands, getting supplies, and working ahead till we come to a screeching halt at our temporary relaxation site where we need an entire 24 hours (at least!) to unwind before we can really settle into the quiet, calm, unscheduled beauty of it all.  This is a topic covered a bit in Zero Waste Home, a book I mentioned in my last post.  If we all didn't have so many possessions to manage, organize, maintain, and store then wouldn't we have more time to just enjoy life?  I'm hoping to find some time in the great outdoors this weekend to really ponder that question.  And I'm hoping the feeling of taking it slowly and enjoying the journey will last once we start our routine next week.

The last week and a half have found me outside quite a bit more.  We've had some gorgeous weather which allowed me to get V and a friend out in the woods as well as really zone in on my garden.

Girls being girls.

My early seeds have sprouted and are well on their way.  I can nearly taste the salad greens and have already used many herbs.  Last year we didn't do much with the garden because we'd just come off of our kitchen remodel and were drained in many ways.  I guess now I'm making up for that lack of garden expansion.  We've incorporated a lot more perennial foods this year.  We replanted asparagus (for the third time, which will be a charm, right?), planted a Nero Aronia bush (which I THOUGHT I read was a.k.a. chokeberry, but now I'm not finding that information) which should fruit this first year, planted a variety of hops (the gateway crop for my husband to join me in urban homesteading)--our trellis/hops crop a few years ago was ripped down in a wind storm so here's to a second try, started some hardy kiwi (also planted for the third time--another charm), added more rhubarb, and put in more strawberries to join the golden raspberries, elderberries, gooseberries, thornless blackberries, red currants, grapes, sunchokes, tart and sweet cherries, and heirloom apples already in place.

Sink full of muddy, soaking sunchokes.
Mt. Hood hops beginning to vine towards the trellis.
Three-year-old blackberry bushes join our
already prolific 6-year-old bushes.
Grapevines really starting to leaf out this week.

Enterprise apple blossoms

Sunchokes already proliferating

Red Lake Currants

Original rhubarb patch

Strawberries and Golden Raspberries on the ground
and new strawberries in the raised bed

The big project this week was to finally--after 3-4 seasons of procrastination--dig up our parkway (or as some call it "hell strip") and plant edibles.  I chose some sturdy rhubarb, red and green cabbages, broccoli, flowering kale, and perennial lovage.  I currently have it blocked off with a little garden edging (in white, which I'm not crazy about), but am hoping to keep dogs off of it at least until it's more established.  I knew I was taking a risk when I did this--the city can also tromp on it without notice or compensation if they need access.  It's a risk I'm willing to take in the name of food production.  At least I won't have to drag my rotary mower to the front now.  There's a tiny strip of grass on the north side of our front steps that I also hope to turn into edible space someday.  For now I can trim that with a manual hedge trimmer.

After--I'm not crazy about the white edging, but it works
until I find something better.  At least it's a temporary visual
for dogs and people.
The path I created from some pieces of busted concrete we had from a
pathway project in the backyard a few years ago.  Creeping thyme will
hopefully fill in the cracks in a couple of seasons.
I'm also having fun with more container veggies this year: determinate tomatoes, peppers, and mixed brassicas.
Lacinato and Red Russian Kale, Red Orach, Treviso
Radicchio, and Baby Mustard greens add color and
texture to the front stoop. 
V's upcycled clementine boxes with chamomile, nasturtiums,
radishes, bachelor buttons amid some little ceramic
friends we found at a church rummage.  We'll see what
actually has enough depth to grow.
And just some other unique odds and ends this year:

Potted Curry plant, French tarragon, and Italian parsley
Arugula, radishes, and peas on a trellis
upcycled from my neighbors' broken and
discarded drying rack
V wanted to grow some popcorn near her
garden.  We'll give it a shot, but only under
protection from the birds.
View from the greenhouse
We're looking forward to the beginning of summer and relaxing a lot in our backyard sanctuary.  Everyone have a safe and happy holiday season.


  1. Wow, it's all so amazing! I say give yourself one less "to do" and live with the white edging :) Can't wait to see it all unfold.

    1. Thanks. Def. not rushing out to buy something else, but if I stumble upon black/green this year at a rummage/thrift store I'll pick it up. Thanks for your encouragement. You're right!

  2. I'm in the greater Milwaukee area and have been enjoying your blog. Would you be willing to share your source for berries and grapes? I don't mind purchasing online, but if there's a good stop locally, even better!

    1. The main grapevines were here when we moved in. Actually it was a wild vine that my neighbor was trying to eradicate and I decided to harness it. Haven't gotten too many grapes from it, but have preserved the leaves. I usually order my other berry/fruit bushes from Jung Seeds in Randolph, WI. Plant Land and even Stein's here in Milwaukee have also had some good ones. I try to buy small, family-owned, independent when possible, but did find something at Stein's while passing through last week. Thanks for following.

    2. Thanks so much for responding!