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Archive for the 'Garden' Category

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Acre of Land

Nathan played this song for me the other day. It was quiet in the house – the baby, dog, and cat were all sleeping – and we decided to each have a beer together. I listened.

I’m gonna buy me an acre of land
Yes I’m going to build me a home
With my very own hands
Gonna dig me a little garden
And watch that garden grow
And take it slow
Take it slow
Let it roll

I’m gonna find me a high place to stand
Then I’m gonna find me the girl
Gonna take my hand
Gonna have myself some children
And watch those children grow
And take it slow
Let them grow
Take it slow

I’m gonna find me an arce of land
Then I’m going to build me a home
With my very own hands
Gonna plant me a little garden
And watch that garden grow
And take it slow
Take it slow
Let it roll

It’s pretty much our theme song. Our dream.

Spring Snow?!

Did you think it was spring? Because I sure did! And, then we woke up to snow this morning.


This is the day after we spent such a beautiful, breezy day outside planting seeds. Thankfully they were all cold weather crops! We knew the last frost was this week, but we weren’t anticipating actual snow. Let’s just say our fingers are crossed that the seeds don’t mind the unexpected blanket.

Radishes are growing!

Look, it’s a pea plant!



In Jeopardy

I am so upset right now.
Our landlord is saying that his attorney found that chickens are illegal in Chicago so we cannot have them. Even though he previously said it was okay AND chickens are NOT illegal in the city of Chicago as long as they are used for eggs or pets. But even more infuriating he is also questioning our garden! He is saying that we may not be able to have our front garden because there are “all kinds of laws about plants.”

Are you kidding me?!

Nathan wants me to not worry about it until tomorrow when he tells us a definite answer. But I can’t. I’m upset. This is something we love to do. This is something we spent so much time and energy learning about. This is something our neighborhood and our neighbors love. We are always sharing our vegetables, talking to people about how easy it is to grow a simple cucumber plant, and just making people smile as they walk by our front yard. I can’t imagine not having our garden this year. We have invested a lot of money in this garden from seeds to compost to supplies. It just makes me so sad to think about it. I know I need to just stop crying, and go to bed since I only have another hour or so until Eleanor will be awake again.

I’m just sad.
I wish we could just own our own home already.
I wish we could find our place.

Edit: Our landlord got back to us – Chickens are a no, but our urban garden is a yes. Thank goodness, and thank you all for your information and support!

It’s Warming Up

Yesterday was a hot one! Nathan rented the roto-tiller again, and we (well, really he – Eleanor and I watched) got to work on the front yard farm. There is so much to do but it brings us such enjoyment, and once the seeds are in the ground we just have to water and weed. I think Ellie and I can take care of that over the next few weeks.



And, we have our first seedlings – heirloom Scarlet Globe radishes!


Dirt is for Lovers

Lately I’ve been waking up around 3 am, and can’t quite go back to sleep. Sometimes I let myself stay up for a bit hoping I get tired again. It usually works. This is me doing that now.

I felt sort of awkward about having posted pictures of Mr. Hanky the pupae. What if he was the last thing I posted before our baby arrived? Well, I’m changing that now. Here are a few nicer ones just in time for the snow that’s in our forecast today. Ugh snow. Nathan was out late finishing the doors to the chicken coop (10 pm-ish) so we can test its water resistance today during our rain snow storm.

Planting radishes

Little pea

First Peas are in

I love peas

Dirt is for lovers

Our first set of peas and radishes are in the ground. They don’t mind a little frost, and we’re hoping it stays that way.
Vote for no snow!!! …oh, and our blog?

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Urban Farm Discoveries

I would like for us to start sharing the trials and tribulations of our growing season with this year’s Front Yard Farm. Nathan and I have learned so much together since we started gardening in this space three years ago. Something we have learned as we go is how to garden as “organically” as possible (I should point out that our soil isn’t qualified organic though all of our seeds this year are) by not using pesticides or chemicals to deter nasty garden spoilers like bugs and diseases.

Every year we are hit by my biggest nemesis – Powdery Mildew! And, we still haven’t quite figured out how to keep it at bay but I’m hoping this year with a little persistence and out reach we might conquer it! Last year we were also ambushed by some crazy buggers called Cutworms. One day we had green bean seedlings sprouting our of our soil strong and proud, and the next day – GONE!

Griffin Yard Farm - one week later

After a little time and digging I discovered that we had cutworms in our soil. Turns out cutworms aren’t worms at all but larvae of certain types of moths and catepillars, and they get their name because in essence they “cut” down growing plants root systems before they ever get the chance to produce. They love snacking on young seedlings! And this is how we went from 16 bean plants to 6 overnight!

Today I went outside for a few minutes to peek at what Nathan has been working on (and can I just say that man oh man I am ready to be able to bend over like a normal person just so I can play in the dirt!). I noticed an oddly shaped bug beneath our bird feeder and exclaimed for Nathan to come over and check it out. He picked it up right away, and it moved! We both were so startled, we screamed and Nathan dropped it! I ran in to get the camera and we snapped a few photos of our find.

Cutworm pupae

Cutworm pupae

Besides looking mostly like Mr. Hanky from Southpark we were curious as to what this odd rollypolly creature was! It was half worm but it also had the outline of wings, and it wiggled. Nathan and I aren’t usually faint of heart when it comes to crawly creatures and dirty things, but this bugger grossed us out! I discovered it was a different form of a cut worm! This guy is of the solitary surface cutworm, and generally destroys one plant at a time right below or near the surface of the soil. He lived throughout winter underground as a larvae, and slowly moves his way up to the surface as spring begins. The worse part is they don’t actually eat the entire plant just parts of it that lead to its destruction, and move on the next and the next throughout the night. Then they turn in to moths.

Bad news is we didn’t know this dude was so terrible when we first found him, and ended up throwing him towards the pigeons (hey they need to eat, too!) but in the compost we were just delivered. I have half a mind to go out there, dig him up, and destroy him but I’m sipping tea at the moment.

The good news is there are ways to combat these cutworms. One method we have already prepared for. If you want to start seedlings early it’s best to grow them in paper wraps (we use toilet paper rolls), so that you can transplant them outside with little contact to the cutworm. They won’t eat through the paper in time, and eventually it will breakdown in to compost in your garden. Another I just read about is to plant a “trap crop” like sunflowers around the perimeter of your garden. I guess cutworms love these, and will gravitate toward the sunflower where you can then find and destroy it. Other ideas are to rotate crops (we already do this), plow your garden in the fall when the larvae are just starting to burrow, and get toads for your garden! Um I love toads but I don’t think our chickens will. Hopefully with a little luck, a few sunflowers, and a lot of seedlings started in paper rolls we will win over the cutworm!

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Planting the First Seeds

Lots has been going on around the Griffin Front Yard Farm the past few days. I’m thinking Nathan wants to write about how awesome his chicken coop is so I will save that surprise for later. We have pepper and broccoli seeds started indoors, moved the raised beds to the front, and were delivered a few cubic yards of yummy smelling compost today! The sun has been out almost every day which we’re hoping is helping to dry up all the clay in the front, but the temperatures have still been mighty cold.

Here are a few photos of our progress. And, can I just mention how impressed I am every day by my husband’s determination and passion? I am. It inspires me beyond words.




Planting some seeds

Planting some seeds

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If you build it, they will come

Buy bird seed
Put up feeder

Two things off my list. Now all we need are some birds.

Our birds are hungry (for votes)

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Oh, how our garden grows.

I’ve been rather quiet around the YSL blog this past week with the exception of a few fun, little surveys but that’s not to say I haven’t had plenty to write about.

Truth is, I’ve been anxious. I think both Carey and myself have been quietly squirming over the lack of ‘forward momentum’ in her labor. It’s not so much that I (we) just want the baby to come but the longer our little one waits past her due date, the more possibility we will have to deal with conversations about induction and ‘alternatives’ and neither of us want that. We’ve both been very committed to the idea of a natural childbirth, not obsessively so as we understand that anything can happen but we’ve certainly not spent much (any) time talking about the “what if we can’t have that” scenario. Maybe we should?

I’ve always looked at Carey’s due date as more of a mile marker than a destination but never really thought too much (until now) about how quickly we can pass that up and zip off towards 41 or 42 weeks.

With that being said, although I’m desperately awaiting the arrival of our child, I’m taking full advantage of the last bit of ‘free time’ I’m sure to have for a while. Most of my focus has been on our garden. A little over a week ago (?!) I threw everything aside and attacked the chicken coop project, stalling for a few days when it came time to build the roof but everything is back on track and thus far, it’s only cost us about $5 for nails. I did buy some brackets also but realize now I don’t need them. Hopefully by this weekend I will have the chicken coop (and run) ready to be moved out to the front.

I (we) are also trying to get our “Front Yard Farm” ready for planting. The soil here in Chicago is not ideal so I spent most of the winter researching what needed to be done and now it’s simply a question of finding the time to do it. Basically, we need A LOT of composted material and some wood ash to turn into the bed. This past fall I discovered Manure Share which is a great resource for folks wanting free composted manure in the Chicago area but most of the places I found were either out of compost already or too far away to make it worthwhile.

Yesterday, however, I found a guy on Craigslist with 2 year old composted material for pick-up so depending on what Carey’s status is come Friday, we may rent a truck from Home Depot and drive out to pick up 5 cubic yards of delicious compost amendment for our front yard. I’ve also been saving the ash from my frequent mini-bonfires over the winter which we will turn into the yard with the compost.

Still on the list. Move the remaining raised bed to the front, build trellis (plural) for cucumber, squash, peas, order tower support for tomatoes, put up new bird feeder (say goodbye to squirrel and pigeon theft), buy bird seed, till the garden, mark off veggie plots/lines, buy & pick up chickens, fix fence gate(s), build Cornhole boards for summer cookout(s), move compost bin, paint signs for our Front Yard Farm veggies & projects, find a few more tires for our ‘tater towers,’ and a few more things.

Sadly, the above list doesn’t include our normal household chores, last-minute baby prep, blogging responsibilities, work & school or any ‘spring cleaning’ that needs to be done. I can see now why folks were skeptical about us having a garden this year, let alone chickens. But it’s gonna happen. Looking at these photos from our garden last year, there’s NO WAY we’d go without. I’m so ready to get dirty and watch things grow.

Plant a seed. Vote.

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Bakbak Baaaak

chickens and pigs and more

We are getting sooooo close to having chickens! Nathan has been busy on the coop, and I am so excited about the idea of hens pecking away at our garden and laying eggs. He doesn’t think we should name them, but I really want to. How many of you with chickens have names for yours? Also, what breeds do you have? Any favorites?