...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.


Late Arrivals

Around here we're all wondering if spring will ever come.  We certainly don't have the 5-8 inches of snow that was just dropped near my hometown in east central Illinois so I shouldn't complain.  We're used to wearing layers and overcoats and--in my case--scarves and hats indoors--well into April, but everyone just seems to want spring so much more badly this year.  Give us one winter like last year and we quickly forget how it should really be in these parts during the colder months.

Tart Cherry Tree, pre-haircut
I'm remaining optimistic, trying to look at the bright side.  When I pruned our cherry trees last week I was able to use the remaining huge piles of snow to reach higher branches without a ladder.  Snow during tree trimming doesn't usually occur.  While manicuring the tree this year for maximum fruit production--an annual task for which I was finally released by our neighborhood tree-pruning expert/bonsai enthusiast/my dentist/all-around meticulous man; he feels I have the hang of it now and I can go about offering my advice and services to others--I made a few observations:

1) Being a cheerleader for six years helped me to have the balance and courage to confidently get up high.  
2) I used to list mountain biking in the woods of the glaciated areas of southeastern Wisconsin as my extreme sport, but now I would have to say that it's tree-pruning.  

I genuinely enjoy carefully choosing each branch and limb that I'll remove then very delicately and deliberately clipping each all while balancing near the top of a tall step ladder.  (Pure danger!) The final product is rewarding and the tree always looks much happier afterwards.

We're running away sans child this weekend for the first extended getaway since her birth.  With Grammy at the helm we have no worries.  I'm already behind in starting vegetable seeds, but because of this jaunt I decided to wait even longer to get them going indoors--I don't want to add any more tasks to my mom's already full plate while she's here.  (And really, it's probably a little bit about procrastinating too.)  This short vacation seems like the perfect way to cap off "winter" and/or kick off spring.  When we return I'm sure I'll be rarin' to go with sunshine, warm weather, and gardening.  Now I just need the Earth to cooperate.

It's been a long winter.  My latest project to stay entertained was to FINALLY--I mean, some of these prints were sitting framed in our basement for months, even years--hang some artwork.  Remodeling our kitchen created an actual hallway/gallery space and Grammy's upcoming visit gave us the motivation to finally get these pieces hung.  We're not pros and could have possibly put more thought into it, but you know me--I don't like to overthink things.  Going with my gut is often the best.

The newest "gallery space" L to R: Two local artists' bird prints and a
random big circle I thrifted.  A revolving art frame for V, a quad of
seasonal prints I clipped from Taproot magazine.
Local art--the lower piece was actually done by a "girl"
I went to parochial school with back in the day.


Know Your Farmer

Last Saturday I went to a reunion.  Not for the class of '96  or '00, but a reunion of farmers and friends in our region.  It was the Local Farmer Open House, a chance for community members to meet farmers and learn about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and local food.  I lead two sessions of a workshop called "Cooking From Your CSA Box" in an attempt to sway those thinking about joining a CSA and encourage current subscribers that they'll, indeed, be able to successfully cook with everything in their weekly boxes and get their money's worth, not to mention make important connections with growers and producers.  I also did an impromptu interview for this clip:

At this event I reunited with farmer friends I hadn't seen since last spring, fellow food enthusiasts with whom I haven't spent enough time, the farmers who raise the certified organic Thanksgiving turkeys we purchase year after year, and my own CSA farmers (who I'm having dinner with next week.)  I saw my close friend who manages that branch of Urban Ecology Center and whom I would spend time with later that evening, worker share friends I've joined in the summers getting our hands dirty in the field, alumni from my food preservation classes who were eager to tell me how the preservation season ended for them last year and share a new recipe or idea.  And I met so many new people--potential CSA subscribers and class attendees, new farmers--both urban and rural, community organizers, and others who are simply curious about local food.  It was such a heartwarming day; I feel incredibly lucky to be connected to such an honest, wholesome, energetic, healthy, diverse group of people.  It got me excited for all that this season holds--warmth, bounty, community, and more.  Knowing your farmer and the heart and soul they've put into the food you eat is my wish for all.  It was an amazing reunion, but I hope it isn't the only time this season that I see so many of these talented folks.


Room for a Big Girl

Today is our daughter's 4th birthday.  It was a foggy, near-spring Saturday with spring beauties trying to pop out of the ground when I labored peacefully in our bedroom surrounded by strong, beautiful women like our doula and midwife and my strong, supportive husband who massaged my lower back for several hours to ease my labor pain.  At 10 AM on the dot, little V entered our world and we were changed forever.
Happy Birthday to our little goofball
I joined her class this morning to celebrate her "four trips around the sun," which is the ritual in her classroom along with the birthday child giving a gift to the group.  We chose a metal tray to hold some of the Montessori work as well as small vase for the children's flower arranging work.  She was delighted to show her classmates what she'd brought and I was overjoyed to share small bits of each year of her life thus far as she circled "the sun," a bright candle on a small rug in the middle of the circle of children.

We've spent the day doing fun things, letting V choose.  We went out to lunch, to the museum and library and tonight we'll see a class play at school then settle in for a spaghetti and meatball dinner, dessert, some gift opening, and read birth stories and look at photos.  It's been a very special day.
A vintage I tasted last week at a wine tasting.
Perfect for the adults to enjoy for her big day.
We've considered V a "big girl" ever since she hit the big milestones like a toddler bed, no diapers, dry at night, getting herself dressed, etc. etc.  But we recently made it even more official by redecorating her room.  We now also have a guest room again as we put a trundle under our bed.  When friends come they can take over her room and she will still have a comfortable place to sleep.  And one of the best things is how many special pieces, heirlooms, and memories make up this room.

Vintage lamp I've had since my downtown apt.
eBay score hanging lamp for this little cozy corner
Vintage Lawnware lamp.  Yes!
Giraffe sand painting from Gram-E and Gramps'
trip to Africa
Wall hung shelf makes the perfect bedside table
with a cozy place for books and storage
room underneath
Some of the classics
Always thought this crazy quilt was my
great-grandmother's, but recently found out my
Gramma lifted it from a neighbor's estate.
I had this crazy quilt on my bed at my
downtown apt.  Glad to bring it back to life.
It's a bit fragile after over 100 years of life!
Fresh supplies for V's new art desk, which was a
repurposed table from her room's last
Art desk--plenty of drawing supplies and a drawer
full of paper galore!
Who doesn't love fresh art supplies?  Found this chicken feeder at the
ReStore and thought it would make the perfect caddy.
My old double bed, which belonged to my dad before that.  There's a
handwritten indication on the frame that it was from the late 60s.
The new loft fits well
Origami mobile from this year's Chinese New Year
The stain glass window a neighbor designed and created.  We had it
installed where an old window unit A/C was.
Not currently using the ladder, top bunk's off
limits unless guests are here, but the ladder fits
perfectly when it's down.
Trinkets and souvenirs from family journeys
including the music box from my first trip to
Switzerland in 1992.
Vintage satin quilt and duvet from the antique store. 
My old vanity from downtown--my mom
refinished it after finding it at the rummage of
one of my former teachers.  V's Chinese New Year
animal (the ox) framed above. 
A special place for her comb and brush.
Trinket from a friend's birthday party.
Bear my mom made out of my old baby blanket
and a stuffed puppet I used to love at a kid.
My dad's old bed frame. 
Her play kitchen hides away nicely in the knee wall closets.
Hiding some of the toys.
A batik hides the back of the mirror from the bed.
Love these painted green floors.
Corduroy Kitty from Great Aunt Jini.
The art desk fits snuggly behind the bi-fold door.
Vintage suitcases make great dress-up trunks.
Her fave activity at the art desk thus far is sharpening all the colored pencils.