Saturday, May 30, 2009

More chick pics


that's chick for "HI!"

As wise ol' Hubby pointed out, "PEEP!" is also chick speak for everything else too. :o)

Yesterday we bit the bullet and tried playing God one last time with our Mama chicken, Meringue. We bought 6 Ameraucana chicks from the feed store last night and tried to introduce them to Mama.

She was not pleased.

And how does a chicken let you know she's not pleased? She mouth-breathes...alot. And when you get the chicks anywhere close to her, she pecks at their poor little heads. Her pecks were like a scolding an animal mother would give to her child, but we were too nervous to take any chances, so out she and the Aunties went into the run. They have a new nest and roost out there thanks to Hubbie last weekend. They'll be fine--and now i guess they'll all be Aunties. Poor Mama.

The chicks are out in the coop. There is a straw nest on the floor, under the nesting boxes, and their food and water are out there with them. We put the heat lamp near the nest on the floor, blocked the door to the run with a piece of wire screen, and hopefully everything will be good.

One of the chicks adopted me last night and kept crawling up in my lap. When i left him in the coop, he just kept peep-shrieking at me. I hate that you are leaving your baby at preschool for the first time. Is that what it's going to feel like when we take Ri to college for the first time? UGH! Thank God i have 12 years before that happens! Especially when she looks as cute as this It's nice to have chicks again...Ri is more confident with them this time around, so she is willing to pick them up and hold them. She's so gentle with them too, and makes sure she puts them down at the watering hole, just incase they are thristy. :o)

It's funny, but the chicks' markings are kinda like our cat's--the cat is black with white markings down the middle of it's back (that oddly enough look like a cross.)

Since we've been delving into Egyptian culture with Ri lately (getting ready for homeschooling in Sept), the other thing Ri and i noticed about these chicks is that they all look like Cleopatra with that "eyeliner" they have around their eyes. :o) And they do kinda "walk like an Egyptian". ;O) If they keep that look when they are hens, i think we'll have to name one Cleo. :o)

(aren't their little 2 day old feathers on their wings so cute?? those are "big chicken" feathers!)

Here's Meringue...she's finally walking a bit more normally and she's stopped being too broody. She's looking good and Victoria and Lil' Miss have excepted her back into the social structure without too much hen pecking.

So far, so good here this weekend. Just getting ready for company and Summer--in between visits to the coop to make sure the chicks are okay. :o) Hope you have a blessed and wonderfully sunny weekend too!

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Promise of Summer

the blueberries are bursting...

the raspberries are taking shape...

strawberries are movin' right along...

and with the arrival of these...
Hubbie and i discovered a new, kid-friend exclaimation that doesn't require the use of soap applied orally afterwards:
"Bloomin' Lupines!"
(can be used as exclamtions of excitement or surprise and in all cases where other naughtier curse words may be appropriate.) :o)

And why do we feel the need to invent new, kid-friendly cursing?
Well, it's not because she isn't a good brooder, but we are very sad for our poor Mamacita. She sat and sat, but there are no babies to be had from the eggs we placed under her 3 weeks ago. We contacted the lady that so graciously gave them to us, just to see what our chances were if we let them go a little longer under her. She said they were slim to none...chickens are built to sit for 21days and chicks are built to hatch then too, like clockwork.
So Hubbie pulled Meringue out of her nest last night so we could get a look for pips in the eggs. No luck. One was totally smashed, so we were down to four eggs that have no sign of exit. We put her and the eggs down on the floor of the coop, and returned to the house to form a plan.
We decided that we are going to go purchase some chicks and try to sneak them under her in the darkness of night tonight. :o) Poor Mama. She's been sitting so long she's having trouble walking! We'll be masking off the other two hens out in the run and letting everyone get used to the new arrangement. It's pretty bittersweet, but i am sure once we hold those delightfully peepy little chicks in our hands again, that we will be cheered up in no time. :o)
Hope all the gardens are moving in the right direction--it'll be 'mater season before you know it!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What A Wednesday!

Today was one of those days i wasn't looking forward too really, because there were specific tasks that needed to be accomplished today to complete my errands and pending projects. Technically, i was supposed to be looking strictly for teachers gifts. My intent was to buy something for them from one of the thrift stores around combined with a little handmade homemade goodness. Sadly, our thrift stores are seeing lots of visitors that share with them prices they've seen in other parts of the state or country for things--and sadly, most of our thrifts stores downtown now think they are antique stores, if you know what i mean. And to prove how haute they are, they'll hang a sign next to the item for sale that is a picture of the same type of item that recently sold on Ebay for $XXX to justify why they are asking that much for their item--i.e., a gallon tub full of wooden spools for $15. 1 dark turquoise Fiesta ware bowl for $25, when the kind they find on Ebay had a 4 set for $100. You get the idea. And you'll also understand then one of the reasons why i truely wasn't looking forward to it. ;o)

So first, i headed to our local quilt shop. After leaving Joann's yesterday totally uninspired by their collection of fabrics, yet in need of one more pairing for a set of napkins Ri and i are sewing for some of the teachers.

I couldn't resist some of this chicken fabric for Riona--a pillowcase to gow ith the quilt we'll be making her, i hope. ;o) I can totally relate to that chicken in the tub--that's usually how i look taking a bath with seed catalogues or seed packets in hand.

I also needed to get some dishtowels to embroider on these cute pictures Ri drew for her teachers. I am thinking i am going to embroider a Mother's Day one for me with that chicky design and include her handwriting from my mother's day card this year.

These daisy and blue gingham fabrics i found also for the napkins for one of Ri's teacher's aids. I think they'll look just right for a Scandinavian woman named Mrs. Nordsletten, don't you?

(The "Gardening: Just Another Day at the Plant" is a sign my parents got me for Cmas. Today i found the faucet "coat rack" and had a brain surge--i am going to place these out on the inside of our tool shed door. Then i can make a few cotton drawstring bags for garden gloves, hats, and first aid. Now if i could just find a box that i could hang next to them to put the hand clippers and trowels in.)

The thrifting Gods must have known that today was the last day that i would have (hopefully for a good long while, since we're truely looking forward to homeschooling next year) for a thrift shop hop as today was the last day Ri has school till the early afternoon hours. So for my first stop, i tried a new little place next to our Big Kmart called Lili's Thrift Shop. It is an awesome place, and turns out, the owner is my neighbour (she lives one block over from us.) She is a sweet 84 year old woman that raised 3 children, one still lives at home with her because as she says "he is retarded and never really grew up past the age of six" (how hard that must be!!), and has been in the thrifting business for years here in our area--she owned a thrift store downtown since the time she was in her 30's until the city/downtown developers forced her out in the late '90's, telling her that if she didn't leave, then they'd jack up her rent because they didn't want "junk stores" in their town. Now, our downtown continuously gets nominated for best place to thrift shop due to mass amounts of 2nd hand stores. Go figure.

However, in talking with her, she got the better end of that deal, because even though she isn't in the thick of the thrift-district, she's got her name and reputation and she's paying a half as much for rent where she is now! She shops garage sales and thrift stores in other areas to stock her store. She has a hand full of family members that help her with that. And she is known by the people in her generation as the lady who came in to help them unload all their parent's houses when they died. So now that they are getting older and having to downsize or want to clean out their homes, they call her to do the same for them. Her store is packed...i hope someday she'll let me take a picture of it. It's amazing! A few people in there today said, "Oh my gosh, this place is scary because i have a storage shed that looks like this." Ha!

So, first stop, textiles:

I found this great piece of fabric. Maybe make it into an apron or napkins or placemats. I'm not sure yet.
Then i found this

which turned out to be...
Sadly, it has a huge mess of paint on the top of it, so i am wondering if i should just trim the top and make it into a small apron for Ri or if i should keep it, using it as a messy frock for her. It could also be a pattern for more. I'll have to think about that--but i couldn't pass it's usefullness up for a $1.
Here's a neat card table tablecloth i found--wouldn't it be cute for a Bunco player? Alas, we haven't an intention of learning Bunco, however we play a mean game of Go Fish, so maybe we'll have to make Go Fish nights, so we have a reason to use this cute tablecloth.
I find it a huge blessing to buy something like this from a woman like Mrs. Lili. When i asked her if she knew if the card tables from these days would be the same size of those of yesteryear, she remarked, "Well, i would guess so. But whatever you do, don't put that on the table till you're done playing cards. That's not how we did it. You'd play cards, then you'd tie this on real quick (it has bias tape ties on the corners) to serve your cup of coffee and dessert." Not often that handmade treasures from days gone by come with instructions for use! :o)
Then i found this statue of The Sacred Heart. For 99 cents. I figured that he would make a neat garden statue out near the Pope John Paul II rose. Once the roses bloom, i'll try to remember to take another picture of Him in his new home.
I also found this sweet embroidered dresser scarf and other items.
I am really excited to use those candle vases this summer. I've never heard of such a thing, but they are so adorable, i wish they still made things like that (especially because they are made in Detroit, MI.) :o) The book is copyrighted 1918. It's a biographical school reader "for Upper Grades" that once belonged to "A. D. Plumb of Rolling Bay, Wn."--i am presuming Wn is Wisconsin? It has stories and photos of people like Teddy Roosevelt, Henry Ford, Helen Keller, Robert E. Peary (discoverer of the North Pole), Dr. Anna Shaw (a key player in the Woman's Sufferage Movement after Susan B. Anthony died), and Clara Barton (of American Red Cross fame). I'm very excited to read this myself, but with Ri too, because by the time i went to school, they stopped teaching us about people (or history) like this.
The best find at Mrs. Lili's today were these...
I've never seen this colour of glass before--it's a bluish-green with a bit of gray thrown in, and i just love it! There are 5 glasses total and i got them for $2 a piece! Just thinking about when i'll use these, i think they would look completely grand with my Fransican "Desert Rose" china for a little tea for friends or family...maybe with this dresser scarf as a table runner?!?!
However, now we are 2/3rd the way through this post and you see my problem: nothing really for the teachers yet. UGH! So i chatted with Mrs. Lili for a few more minutes, offering yard help or what have you--a little advice on her predicament about whether she should listen to the mortgage broker who told her that she should take a reverse mortgage out to fix up her house in order to sell it (i told her to run the other way from that mortgage broker! And she shared with me that it is hard to find someone to help her that she doesn't feel like they are trying to take advantage of someone as old and with only a 6th grade education.) Oy! The heartstrings, eh?
So, i headed to the Union Gospel Mission thrift shop and found little somethings that i think will work: the hand painted flamingo bowl with matching flamingo napkins (i'll make from my fabric stash) for Mrs. Stelzer the teacher's aid, who is from the Phillipines and loves all things tropical. The square, green Anchor Hocking dish which i will fill with 4 or 5 handmade dishclothes for Mrs. Lewan (the head teacher who shared with me that she loves those handmade dishclothes because they remind her of her mom, who always knit her a bunch for the holidays, and who passed away last year. )
The other items in the picture are a small juice glass with the letter "B" on it, for my beloved WW leader's birthday next month, and a couple more covered pyrex dishes to add to my collection (aka reasons to pitch the tupperware replacements!)
Don't you just love this flamingo?
and i couldn't pass these two things up either since it was 1/2 off in the linens dept. today:
this crocheted turkey is the cutest!
and a couple of these hospital blankets from a hospital in Cincinatti, OH. These look like they are from my era of baby blankets. I figured Ri would love them to play with her baby dolls. Especially since her Achoo is from Ohio. :o)
But the best thing i got all day, was this love letter from Ri when i arrived back at school to pick her up for the day.
Boy, will we be glad when it's just us two again, having adventures and fun at home, just the two of us!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

St. Edwards State Park Seminary, Washington State

Found this neat photo tour of a very charming seminary building here in our area. Thought some of you might enjoy the beauty of it too. Don't you just love the early 1900's architecture?

A Different Kinda Hatchling...

Woke up this morning to find something exciting had happened overnight.

Where there's these,

you can expect to see this:

The best part is that this poppy is planted in the flower bed by the guest room window, so when my parents and family come next week, they'll be able to enjoy it. Maybe not this flower, per se, but one of the other friends it has next to it that is getting ready to bloom. Our Pope John Paul II rose is almost ready to burst too! O, please wait till June 1st!!

Sometimes i long for the days when this was as much excitement as we'd see around here till the tomatoes were ready to be picked. :o) The "Pre-Chicken Whit Days"* as it were.
*Hubbie and i have a little system worked out for putting events into the timeline of our lives. There was "Pre-Whit" or "Pre-Hubbie" days, before we knew each other, "Pre- or Post- Ri" days, before or after Ri was born. Sometimes i can't believe we ever had a life before chickens. :o)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Chicken Update: CRY FOWL!!

Well, this egg hatching thing is tougher than it sounds apparently. No wonder why people incubate more you more control over the wild things.

This morning i went into the coop the check on the girls and found this:
which to my dear readers makes you giggle...until i tell you that the two chickens on the left are where Mama chicken is supposed to be. Aaaack! They had jumped up and sat on her eggs, thus kicking her out of her nest. Come on, you chickens!! We only have 3 days till our EHD (est. hatching date!!) Apparently, they didn't get the memo, and frankly aren't turning out the be the awesome Aunties they are supposed to be, eh? Aunts are supposed to be the spoiling type! I know, i have 7 neices and nephews, for cryin' out loud! First you spoil the pregnant momma, then you spoil the kids!!
But wait till you hear this. So, i flush the naughty aunties out of Mama's nest to find...say wah, only 5 eggs? I put 6 in there. There were 6 the night before. What in blue blazin' eggshells is goin' on here! I found evidence of yolk...i am hoping those Aunties didn't bust an egg! Hopefully it had just spoiled and started leaking. After recovering the 5 and placing them back in with Mama in her new nest, i noticed that another one is cracked and leaking a little, so the baby (if there is one) in there probably won't make it. 2 down, 4 to go. No pips yet, and i am not sure Mama will let me get in under there to see if there are any. She's barely tolerating me hand feeding her. There'll be no sleep till Friday night, i can plainly see. :o)
The good news is that we checked with our local feed store today and they are getting a shipment of day old Ameraucanas on Thursday, so worse case scenario, we could buy a few and sneak them under her that night.
The whole weekend was pretty delightful, i have this laundry list of things to get done before our guests come, and i got a few done, however, then i got sick on Saturday. Nothing big, just a sore throat and the nasal drip. Nothing worseinthe summertime, but what can you do?
Saturday i did manage to get some potato vines hilled for the first time and some weeding done. I also got two of our Roma tomatoes planted in the garden.

And being sick allowed me to help my daughter get some more of her reading done for school. She is going for the gusto: reading 135 books for 15 minutes each to get a trophey and a book from her kindergarten teachers. Unfortunately, she doesn't read things like Yurtle the Turtle or Mike Mulligan and His Steamshovel anymore (she's been reading those since she was 2 and 3 years old), so we read chapter books--the second to third grader kind. But we read to quickly, so 2 chapters usually take 15 minutes for us, even though she is reading the equivalent number of pages for 2 kindergartener books. Oh well, we put a little more work into it than the other families who are only reading phonics books with their kids to get these 135 books read, but i think we've rewarded our daughter much more with the love and gift of reading at an early age. She'll even take books with us to the restaurant and read while she's waiting for her dinner. That's something that she'll have forever! Not some silly trophey she "earned" in kindergarten.

Not a bad weekend, and i hope you hada good one too!

Sunday, May 24, 2009


"Sunny Memorial Day Weekend in Seattle, First in Years!
People Rejoice as Skin Sizzles--News at 11"

Friday, May 22, 2009

Spoiling Tomatoes Rotten: How We Grow 'Em in the Pacific NW

Tomatoes are fussy plants. They require lots of pampering before we see results here in the maritime weather of Seattle. And if you live on a hill, like we do, there's even more pampering that has to occur. And if you don't pamper, you could be adding weeks and weeks of time between planting till picking your first ripened juicy jewel of a tomato.

I attended a class given by a local gardening guru, Marianne Binetti. She is a character. Travels to Italy alot because her son is a pro basketball player there. She had some great directions for planting tomatoes in cool to moderate climates like our.

The quickest way to a tomato harvest is to start with a plan.

First, find a south facing wall with full sun. Try to paint the wall white, as the white will reflect more of the sun's rays that induce quicker ripening of fruit. I tried a west facing wall last year with 6-8 hours of light with not so great results. Even better is if you have windows on a south facing wall. This is how my mom-in-law grows them and her plants always grow like gangbusters!

Then gather your list of supplies:
  1. terracotta pots (i use the E31 size. i've seen people use the huge terracotta pots, so they can companion plant herbs in with their toms)
  2. stakes
  3. Momma's holy nylons: use these to tie plants to the stake without damaging the stem
  4. fertilizer such as bonemeal, alfalfa meal, wood ashes
  5. clear plastic: to cover pants on nights where the temp dips below 50 and on those rainy days to protect the leaves from getting wet, which could induce tomato blight.
  6. Planting in the ground? You'll also need red plastic (like the kind the potatoes or the Sunday news comes in--use these to save some $$$). This plastic can be used as mulch spread out on top of the soil underneath plants. Red plastic reflects UV rays to leaves of plant and helps fruit ripen 5-7 days earlier, whereas black plastic only holds heat.
With all you'll need gathered, you'll be ready to go to the garden centre and investigate which tomato plants will be just perfect for your home.

There are to types of tomato plants: determinate (d) and indeterminate (i).

Determinate's fruit will mature earlier than the indeterminate's. Determinates will stop producing around the time the indeterminate begin ripening. It is recommended to purchase at least 1 determinate and 1 indeterminate, for the determinate's fruit will ripen and you will be enjoying it in sandwiches, salads, burgers long before your indeterminate's have ripened.

It is also recommended that you seek out the plants that are developed in your area. I know people who are set on a certain kind like Big Boy or the like. 'Cause why would you plant a tomato plant in the foothills of the Cascades when it was developed for the gardener from the Oklahoma plains?

For our area of West WA, Coastal OR, and cooler climates of N. ID, these types are recommended:

  • d's for our area: Gold Nugget, Oregon Spring, Early Cascade, Willamette, Golden Delight, Taxi, Fantasic Hybrid, Pic Red, Legend, Sun Sugar.
  • i's for our area: Early Girl, Stupice
  • Best sauce toms: window box Roma (d), striped Roma (d), Heinz, Oregon Star, Super Marzano.

Once you have purchased your seedlings, it's time to harden off like a professional. Hardening off requires you to place the plants outside 4 -5 days, exposing them to sun and a tiny bit of wind in the daytime and bring indoors at night. The plants leaves will thicken and become a darker green, therefore making the plant more resistant to flea beetles.

For our cooler climate, test growers have reported that covering your tomatoes every night until July 4th is best for maxium productivity. Just don't forget to uncover them every morning so they'll get good circulation. I have seen gardeners around the area just wrap the plastic around the sides of the tomato cage, which cuts down on the work of removing the plastic every day.

The biggest reason to make sure your plants have a nice warm shelter on a cool night is because plants like tomatoes and peppers "pout" when they get cold. They'll throw tantrums that rival that of a 3 year old's fit in the grocery store, during the busiest time on day, when you tell them they can't have the free cookie at the bakery! If these plants are exposed to 1 night 50 degrees or below, they pout for a week. For 2 nights at 50 degrees, then for 2 weeks they'll pout. Basically the number of days their exposed to cold temps, that's the number of weeks they'll go on strike. A pouting plant will throw the equivalant to a tantrum by shuting down production and casting off buds. Kinda like a French labour union's strike, without the hostages, eh?

Marianne's Rule of (green) Thumb is:

if you don't know how to spoil a child, you won't grow good tomatoes and peppers. :o)

Another rule of thumb--proven at test gardens in OR--peppers can not be planted in our climate until after June 10th. Same with basil.

Planting your tomato pot:

Use a terra cotta pot with drainage holes

Use crumpled plastic pots from starts in the bottom of the pot for great drainage material. This will also enable you to use less soil if you have purchased a larger pot.

Use POTTING SOIL to fill the pot so to cover the drainage you've placed in there plus an inch. Make sure you don't use garden soil from the yard as it doesn't drain fast enough for use in a pot. Also, don't reuse tomato pots with last years soil for this year's tomatoes--reuse last year's soil for flowers. Blight can overwinter in the soil just as it does in the garden.

Add fertilizer (i use alfalfa) to your pot.

Now prep your plant: remove those bottom leaves--at least half way up the stem.

like this

Get in touch with your inner kid and make mud puddling: take 1 cup of luke warm water and pour in the hole, making a slurry of soil.

Dip plant in bucket of warm water, half way up the stem from roots. Warm water tells plant to grow roots instead of leaves. Then massage roots. And add another cup of warm water to the pudding.

When potting, bury 1/2 of the plant stem. If flowering, try to lay plant on it's side with small piece of top exposed. The warm water will induce root growth faster and the heavy fruit that will soon develope on that flower will have plenty of roots to support that stem of the young plant.

Place pot on top of plastic caps from bottles or lids from jars (i use the saucers i have left over from pots that have broken), carefully avoiding drainage holes, to boost drainage so that plant doesn't sit in pool of water on ground, deck, patio, etc. Tomatoes really don't like wet feet either.


Boy, i can almost taste those Christmas Grape Tomatoes!!

Other important tips:

**if planting in ground, follow these directions (minus the plastic pots in the bottom of the hole) and add one handful of bonemeal, wood ashes, or dolomite lime (anything high in Ca) to increase acidity of soil to prevent blossom end rot.

**if using water soluble fertilizer, pour over leaves early A.M. on a sunny, warm day for max absorbtion into the plant.

***keep your soil moisture consistant and your leaves dry to prevent late blight.

***to prevent Tobacco Mosaic Virus, do not allow any smokers near your tomato plants.

Remember Mom's and Dad's advice: "You have to plant marigolds with tomatoes!" Well, marigolds are the magnet that attract aphids and slugs to your toms. Use lavendar instead, or plant onions or garlic around your tomatoes. Basil is especially good if you are planting in pots.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Journeying From Semi-Typical Suburbanite to Urban Homesteader in the Making

Recently, the Little House in the Suburbs blog (you'll find the link to it there in my blogroll on the right) asked the question relating to how many of their readers where living the typical consumeristic lifestyle and recently converted to the mend, make do, and do-it-yourself mentality with the economy teetering on the brink of the worst recession/depression in our country's history.
It got me did our lives today come to be. It's only 12 years ago i graduated college and entered the work force. 11 years ago, i accepted my first *real* job as a pharm tech, killing myself on night shift so i could have a few more days off to visit with my parents during the month. I lived in an apartment called The Whimsical Pig. Every so often, when i'd work a killer stretch of overtime (2 16's or close to it), i'd treat myself to a new pair of Docs, a new outfit, whatever--$80- $100 bucks a pop. 10 years ago (last week, in fact), i met my hubbie and 8.25 years ago we got married. 6.5 years ago we had a kid. Time flies!
And the switch to a thriftier lifestyle is not something one accomplishes overnight. It's an evolution. This turning away from the typical, overly mass marketed lifestyle has not been something we recently just started. This is something we've had to come to terms with (and still are learning how) since we decided to become parents. One of the things that made my Hubbie and i fall in love with each other was our agreement that the Mommy's place is in the home. Thankfully, we have been blessed to have that opportunity (and not have it really threaten ever--yet.) Little by little, we've been switching our home to a greener clean, a make do with or freecycle or yard sale finds. When family has hand-me-down furniture to offer, we take it if it's useful to us.

This change to start producing as much of our own food as we can, during the summer months, came with the birth of Ri. That is when we switched really to all organic 95% of the time. We eliminated fast food restaurants from our diet. And luckily my new hobbies as a homemaker were hobbies that happened to save us money and time in the end. It's nice not to have to sweat teacher's gifts when you have canned jam or tomato sauce on hand to give as gifts. Knit up a quick wash cloth or make a quick loaf of bread, and you've got a gift that will bless anyone--hostess, birthday boy/girl, teacher. Before i didn't think like that--gift giving always required running to the store for something bought. Now it can be a cute find from a thrift store, or an upcycling artist even.
If i listed all the ways that our lives have saved from what they could have been in this 3 or 4 credit card world, with all the toys you could hope for, and a house and vacation home that are "under water" financially, this post would sound like a Rod Dreher book (and it would be as long as one too.) Today, i've picked our yard as the most significant difference between the typical people we meet around the Puget Sound area and us. (Plus, the pictures are prettier than pictures of homemade dishwasher powder, dirty plates and get the idea.) :o)
Here is our journey in the yard so far...
This is a side by side of the picture of our c. 1959 home. On the left is a picture of our home when my mother in law owned it. The right, is after Hubbie and i have lived in it for 8.5 years now. (as you can see, we still have some projects underway but we've gotten a lot done.)

We live in a city that has the 3rd largest total warehouse square footage in the nation. So this is our view, lest we forget that fact above. Sure the mountains are pretty, the warehouse rooves?

And to make matters more precarious, our deck and most of our yard for playing in, running through sprinklers, and gardening in is in the front of our house. Imagine a 75 ft x ~100 ft. grass lot--that is our (front) yard. We feel like we are on display when we are mowing or bbqing or just kicking the ball around. But at least we have a yard, right? Most of our acquaintences have a McMansion with a 6,000 sq foot yard. I complain about mowing too much grass, i wonder what the incentive is for hauling out a big ol' stinky gas powered mower just to mow 400 sq feet of grass?
tomato plants are grown on the deck at our house--only the Roma kind does well in the garden. these pots allow the soil to heat up quicker!Most of the herbs are grown up there too.
My ideal suburban-scape is to build a mostly edible, privacy providing, easy care landscape. No hedges that have to be pruned twice a year (we have enough of that already with the neighbours' hedges.) Plants that beckon you off the deck and into the yard for a snack or dinner. But since $$$ is limited, we usually go with what's small and affordable, rather than spring for the pricey larger shurbs and trees that give instant gratification.
A lot has changed here. My soap box has been dedicated to the enormous lawn and the erradication of it. We have 17.000 sq ft lot and with the exception of the driveway and the house's footprint, the entire yard required the use of a mower, weed whacker, or hedge trimmer. UGH! Gas guzzling motors are the first place we could cut our consumption in the yard.
The first year we lived here, i was still working, so we did spring for 4 trees that were larger, because our property only had trees in the back of the house. We planted a Nordman pine, Blue spruce, Paperbark maple out front and an oak in the back. Next we evicted the English Laurel hedge out front (NEVER plant English Laurel unless you are 1. a sadist and 2. love to use the hedge trimmers and hand saw.) We replaced it with mugo pines, a bird's nest spruce (shrub), couple of provencial and hidcote lavenders, lupines, and 2 blueberry bushes. Our strawberry pots are out front too. Here we keep strawberries in pots to try to deter the slugs. No luck, so next we are going to try a huge metal horse watering trough.

This is what the front yard looks like from our deck:

Another way to cut grass sq. footage was to cut a woodchip path from the driveway to the deck. Then i got this inspired idea to make a garden in the area between the path and the house. We designed it to look like a Celtic Cross.

The top of the cross is my lavender and hydrangae plants, some alpine tulips and some hardier herbs like sages, savory, and thyme. The sides of the cross are ever changing--think kitchen garden with cauliflowers, broccoli, onions, garlic, leeks usually ending up in there with some sunflowers too for the birds; however i am slowly coming around to the idea of planting things that wouldn't require me to dig out the area every year due to weeds. At the bottom of the cross is my daughter's sandbox--a nice way to garden and keep her occupied while she was too young to help plant.

the top of the cross garden with french and Jean Davis lavender, white coneflowers, "Jupiter's Beard"

this year's artichoke (this past summer was so cold and snowy here, most gardeners lost their artichokes and rosemary)

The next project was to take out a 10 x 40 foot swath of grass for a veggie garden. We've had a lot more success with this than just trying to dig rows in the grass and plant seed like we were doing before. Here we are able to grow 8 rows of corn, 4-6 tomato plants, beans-pole and bush, peas, potatoes, and zucchinis and sugar pumpkins. This year we are adding a grapevine. My advice: don't try to do too much at once...pick 1-2 new items each year that you would like to try your hand at. You'll feel more successful that way.

Last year, we added a rhubarb plant. If we ever have a farm, Hubbie and i think that is what we'll grow. It does well here, along with hops. WA used to be the capital of rhubarb and hop production.

Also, last year, we moved the raspberries out from the semi-shady spot in the back. They have grown in size by gargantuan amounts!

It's been amazing the amount of food we can get out of this garden in a good summer. The first year we had 50+ ears of corn, green beans running out our ears, so many tomatoes we were able to can 15-20 jars of pizza sauce from the recipes in Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy. This inspired me to stop calling out for pizza and to learn to make our own dough. That saves us $20 each week right there. This year, i am really looking forward seeing how many raspberries we have this year--we never buy them anymore because nothing compares with the taste of off the vine--which saves us $5.00 a pint.

The front entry to our home is still a work in progress. It is the only place i will allow fussie plants (like roses). I have some lavender in there too, and a poppy here or there. We just replaced our windows this year (that were original 1 pane, aluminum framed from the late fifties) with aluminum clad wood windows (another thing we did outside of the normal vinyl windows.) One of the nice features of the entry is that brick planter near the front door.

It's as handy as the deck for keeping commonly used herbs like parsley, oregano, and thyme. We also plant sweet peas there to cascade down the wall: we use these for cutting flowers (double as an air freshener in the bathroom!) and their nice welcoming aroma.

This past year we also added chickens to our family in our quest for semi self sufficency. They have been a welcomed addition in our lives, not only because of their entertainment value, but because they are quite the rewarding pets. What do cats give you in return for the care we give them? Attitude and self-righteousness. What do fish give you? Nothin' but a guilty conscience at the first sign of algae in the tank. :o)

And, besides, the best gift chickens give you is if you are too tired for grocery shopping for dinner, there's always breakfast for dinner! :o) And in the late summer, combine that with a little basil, tomato, and zucchini from the garden and you've got an awesome strata!

Although there are still tons of things i'd like to do (beekeeping = candle making, making our own soap, bettering my sewing skills so we can give more handmade gifts), we are saving a bit in the summertime by gardening.