The big gardening project.  That’s right, the one I have been alluding to for the last month or so… I finally found a moment to tell you about it.

Dear Anne at Nada Farm knows how badly we would like a farm of our own so she sent me a YouTube clip about that family in California who created an urban farm on their 1/8 on a acre… the exact same size lot that we have.  Joel and I watched it together and he was completely inspired!  Within days we were digging up the sod and planning the rather large expansion of our Potager and an equally as large expansion of the cutting/rose garden – which the kids have dubbed “Petit Giverny” as we are studying Monet at “Whole Heart School.” We aren’t finished yet and we are praying for some more days of warm sun to finish up. (turns out it’s 70 degrees this week and I am out of town!)

This whole “Urban Homesteading” it’s kind of  hilarious to me and I love to sit and ponder how the entire thing came about… there have been definate influences…

 like Homemaker Ang
and other random blogs…
even catching occasionional snipets of the Glenn Beck program in the car…
wanting to know how to do more for myself if the you-know-what ever hits the fan…

I would say it really started for me about three years ago when our painting company took a turn for the worse at the same time the ecomony did…
back then it became apparent that the big kitchen cabinet faux finish jobs were going to drop of 5 or 6 a year to 1… if.
 The swanky Venetian Plaster jobs…
all the high end customers we serviced for so many years…
It became almost impossible to pay the mortgage.  It became impossible to get nice haircuts and the occasional new lipgloss.   It became apparent that my distain for cheap grocery stores like Aldi was going to have to step aside.
 Praise God that Joel has had his “new job” for officially a year now, praise God for the people that bought us groceries and kids clothes during that time, Praise him for the people that DID hire us to work… but I tell you what… it was that shopping for cheap food that did the trick for me.  I hated that.

I wanted control.

I was no longer satisfied with my little potager that grew hobby carrots, lettuce for salads and handful of green beans and basil.  I devoured everything I could on canning and preserving what I grew and soon pretty quarts lined my basement shelves.  I became to crave to know all I could about growing my own food, doing what I could for myself (like making my own laundry detergent and shampoo)… I even imagined if I could ever bring myself to “process” a chicken…. or at the very least, grow my own eggs.  (Let me assure my neighbors who read this website that I am NOT butchering chickens behind my new fence!  I PROMISE!)  I also wanted to learn everything I could so that, if we were ever blessed with a “real” farm of our own someday we would have many lessons under our belts already.

Now, all you city girls, don’t loose me here!!!

  I KNOW!  
These things sound crazy. 
 And they don’t take away from the fact that I still dream of owning a Louis Vuitton… they don’t take away from the fact that I can navigate you thru the streets of Paris better than I can the streets of Chicago… it’s just that I am a control freak... and when I lost so much control of our lives when there was no paycheck… I turned my eyes and skills towards what I could learn.  Because I LOVE to learn.  And I have so much to learn but boy have I learned alot…

Fast forward to today.

After careful review of the annual amount we spend on groceries (which I think is pretty modest compared to most due to “from scratch” cooking) we decided to go the whole, nerdy, Motherearth mile and produce as much as we could from our corner lot in the country burbs of Chicago…  Rain barrel, compost pile, cold frames this spring and all winter long we will be pouring over seed catalogs and studying “Square Inch Gardening.”  You know, all those things you read about “real gardeners” doing.    We have spent the last few weeks building raised beds, putting up a privacy fence (from which we will grow much of our short rooted produce like lettuce and radish in gutter gardens) and doing other things that we hope will slash our trips to the grocery store in the year 2011.  We will even be turning our ancient cistern into a root cellar to store homegrown root veggies and apples all winter long.
This is going to be quite a step for our family.  And it’s cool cause for the first time the garden seems like it’s about the family and not just a hobby for Momma.

I tell new gardeners to be prepared to be patient because gardening is always about next year. 
 That’s never been more true for us than now. 
 We are full of anticipation.
The view of the original Potager from the rooftop of the house.
Rented sodcutter – $15 a day.
Expanding my rose garden area – Priceless.

Looking down the path, thru the arched apple trees to the Potager expansion.

My Blue Collar babies.

Raised beds.

Daddy’s Hands.

No more GRASS!!!!

For now we are using the raised beds for kitchen scraps – free compost.

The sandbox used to be just after the stone Potager but here you can see that we have removed that and expanded with our raised beds.  They add a formal sense with their symetrical layout, the paths will be all pea gravel just like the rest of the gardens… it will be very French when complete of course.  And here you can still see into the neighbors garden but today there is a privacy fence! 

Joel got those post holes dug in a matter of hours!  And Aidan was thrilled to stick his legs down there!

The side of our house has always been very shabby.  It’s along the neighbors driveway and was of NO use to us!   Dreadful.  Now it is encased in privacy fence and we can actually USE it!  We will fill it with pea gravel next spring and have our compost bin out there… I am also going to decorate it… maybe make a potting table out of an old dresser or something fun.  Hopefully a simple outdoor shower too so no more garden dirt makes it upstairs to our bathroom and bedrooms!

 Another view.

You can see how this long area along their driveway was wasted property.  We never even went over there.  Now we can exit out the back kitchen door and walk our fenced “alley” to our flagstone terrace… it’s so cozy… a wood burning bread oven and stove will be built next spring right where the watermark is on the photograph.    Perfect for those days when I bake bread ALL day!  I hope it makes the entire block smell like a bakery.  

On the next sunny day I will run out and take photos of the fence and I can’t wait to share with you the “pretty” side of the project…
“Petit Giverny” as my Chickens call it.  I even planted over 200 tulip bulbs!
Like I expressed earlier…
Next year is going to be wonderful.