Make yourself comfortable under the Tulip Tree.

My name is Victoria and I am gradually creating a suburban homestead in Central Illinois.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

home made pizza

this is pizza using fresh dough, tomatoes, herbs, onions, and mozzarella


yep, yum, sweet "thumblinas"

plus bonus lettuces (green, red, and romaine)

long view of garden

two views of the garden. I calculated that it is about 250 sq ft plus fruit trees and potatoes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


At Alexa's urging, I entered the Peoria Journal Star Better Earth Garden Contest. I was a finalist in the Vegetable Garden category. The judges visited last Thursday. Yesterday, I got a call from Jonelle of the PJStar...


I got first prize in the category for my raised bed garden!! It will be featured in the Sunday, June 26 paper. I'll post a link if I can!

of peas and cabbages!

Our friend, Harry, who has a garden instead of lawn, gave us two big cabbages today! I see coleslaw in our future!

The peas are ready. They are sweet from the vine but I hope enough pods survive to be cooked.

The blueberries are ready to pop! Birds are eating the strawberries - the pie pans are no longer a deterrent so we'll have to go to netting. The strawberries have sent out runners so I'll need to thin them out this weekend.

The bush beans have put out flowers and the pole beans are climbing. The tomatoes LOVE the hot weather and frequent overnight rains.

Friday, June 10, 2011

blueberries - keep away from birds!

Covering them with netting. Hopefully we'll get a couple of pints this year.

of peas and pita

pita bread using a simple recipe: flour, salt, yeast, sugar, olive oil and water. Baked at 500F on a baking stone.

Peas are coming into season! These are snow peas with edible pods.

Salad with garden greens and herbs

Thursday, May 19, 2011

strawberries ripening

gratutious flower picture of chives First line of defense from birds stealing our ripening berries - aluminum pie pans suspended over the bed.

What we've been waiting for all along: ripe strawberries, homegrown, organic!

We've been busy planting the containers for the front of the house. The intent is two-fold: 1) make a living space of the front deck; 2) beautify the curb appeal of the house.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

potatoes planted perfectly

Yes! Healthy starch (in moderation!)

From greenhouse where the seed potatoes were rooted and leafed: To the pots lined up for planting....

We had great root growth as well as leaf:

These were planted into the old pyramid composter repurposed as a potato container:

The container is lasgana method with manure, compost, peat, straw and dirt. As the plants grow, we'll be adding more peat/straw/dirt as we go.

There are organic red poatoes and gold yukons.

I think I underestimated the amount we are going to harvest. The good news is we can always take young potatoes to snack on once the plants flower.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Alexa called for me to go out and take a look at the garden...what did she find? RADISHES!


first salad of the year

red leaf lettuce, green bib lettuce, broccoli leaf, cabbage leaf, bok choi leaf, radish greens, radish, spinach, swiss chard, peppermint, basil, oregano, chives tossed with a peach baslamic vingar.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

strawberry update

Strawberry update. They are bigger than last week - May 10th.

first harvest !

Radishes are ready!!!

After watering the garden boxes last night , Alexa demanded that I come outside even though I was in my pajamas. So I put on my recently located flipflops and went outside to find.....radishes!!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

strawberries are fruiting

The strawberry plants are lush with fruit!

These are 2-3 year old plants.

This is one of the new lasagna boxes with compost, peat and dirt. I gave the plants a big helping of coffee grounds last week as well.

The bottles are used for continuous watering and water conservation. They also helped keep the plants warm along with straw during the frosts.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

There was a good frost last night. We covered the strawberries and tomatoes with plastic on the frames and draped a bedsheet over the blueberry bushes.

These are the tulips we cut to bring inside the house. The crocus are about finished blooming. Asian lilies are about 3-5 inches tall. Naked Ladies are in full leaf. Peonies are also coming up.

I had thought that I had pruned Rose of Sharon too harshly last fall but the main branches have small buds developing. I may not get any flowers this year, but at least they'll survive.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

rain and the resultant pond

We had over 1 inch of rain in less than an hour last night. Half of the backyard was a very nice pond. I tried to get a picture but a nighttime photo even with flash was not viewable. This morning, our pond was gone. That's good. We won't have passing geese stopping in like last time. The basement was dry - also a good thing. I think I have the water problem fixed.

Tonight is a frost warning so the covers will have to go on the boxes and we'll wrap the blueberries in bed sheet.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Garden Goals 2011

In no particular order:

  • expand garden beds on northern fence (approximately six 4' raised beds) -- completed

  • double dig the new beds (borrow tiller from Harry?) -- decided to use lasagna method

  • use old compost "pyramid" to cultivate potatoes -- check. seed potatoes are sprouting.

  • plant container blueberry bush (and new ones) in northwest corner -- completed

  • add raspberry and blackberry canes using esplanier method (trellis trained)

  • add dwarf fruit trees esplanier method (maybe apricot/peach/cherry) along north fence

  • strawberry bed -- three different varieties. straw placed in bed to protect plants from spring chilliness

  • add perennial flowering herbs to side yard (north side)

  • check asparagus patch -- asparagus is up. thinking of buying more male plants - more plants bought, need to dig them in.

  • construct raised bed boxs (4'x4') for old and new beds. -- completed. have 5 4'x4' and 5 6'x4' beds

  • use slow watering techniques (2L pop bottles) -- installed in tomato and strawberry beds

  • set up soaker hose in new beds -- not sure if this is viable using the existing hose and new beds.

  • rain water catchment on northeast corner of house to water new beds

  • wildflower bed - long stemmed for flower arrangements -- seeded.

  • rabbit proof yard -- dog fur along openings check.

  • basement - set up indoor growing site for seedlings -- yes. done. still have some things downstairs - green onions, yellow squash

  • early tomatoes? -- probably not.

  • supplies for row coverings (PVC pipe and clear plastic ) -- check.

Purposeful living in the garden

The idea behind this garden blog is to share information about growing my own vegetables for health. I'm already a regular customer at the farmer's market for fresh, local produce. I'm a big fan of eating local and supporting organic practices. I have an existing garden bed but intend to step up this year and try to grow more vegetables in order to change my nutrition lifestyle into a more vegetarian one. All the books I've read indicate a diet composed of fresh, organic and raw vegetables is desirable for both treating and preventing a host of health concerns.

I've been diagnosed with psoaratic arthritis - I have all the symptoms of Rhuematoid arthritis but tested negative for the Rh factor. I am being treated with a combination of piroxicam, humira (a "biologic" - monoclonal antibody - anti-TNF) and methotrexate. I take tramadol for pain. It currently affects the mobility and dexterity in my hands/wrists, neck, hip, and toes. Reducing localized and systemic inflammation is a main health goal.

My friend, Alexa, is a wonderful supporter in this endeavor.

I expect to grow most of our spring/summer/autumn vegetables in the backyard this year. There are two exceptions: corn and squash which can be had very cheap at the farmer's market and in plentiful supply. Both are heavy feeders and take up a lot of space in the garden so it makes economic sense to simply buy local from trusted farmers.

I've toyed with the four season harvest and one year harvested winter carrots in March. I use the double dig, raised bed method with succesive, intensive planting. I have three compost tumblers for soil improvement.

My gardening has a purpose - mental, physical, spiritual.


The blueberry bushes have been planted into the northwest corner of the backyard. There are three varieties (bluecrop, patriot, and jersey): one high bush and two lowbushes. The one on the top right is my old container blueberry; hopefully it will like the ground much better than the pot.
The holes were MUCH easier to dig than I thought. The soil is still clay and the pH will be adjusted by pouring vinegar around. Hot vinegar will also kill the grass so I don't have a difficult time keeping the area neat.
Fruit is a 3-5 year plan. Next up will be dwarf cherries and apricot.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

asparagus - first of the season

The asparagus bed has started putting up stalks. I ate this one raw. It's sweeter than store-bought asparagus.
I don't know how big the bed really is...it's sandwiched between wild growth of peppermint and lemon balm. I think about digging it up to take a look - I planted 5 crowns a few years ago. Hvae to look up care and feeding of asparagus.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


In a flurry of activity this weekend, Alexa and I have planted our strawberries. There are ten plants of 3 different hybrids. The continuous watering system consists of 2liter soda bottles with a small hole in the bottom that is filled with water. This also has the added benefit of provided a local microclimate to warm the area and prevent frost damage. This is one of the new "lasagna" beds with cardboard laid over the lawn, mulched leaves/grass, compost, peat moss, sand, and some garden soil. The PVC pipe allows us to cover the box with plastic for a greenhouse effect or with netting to discourage birds from harvesting our berries.

Monday, April 11, 2011

a peek into the basement

It's been a few years since I started seedlings in the basement. I've forgotten a few lessons.
The grow lights worked great except that I had them too high at the beginning and a lot of the plants (heck, all of the plants!) went leggy. They might not survive a transplant into the garden.
I might go back to Lowe's to get more of the 25cent plants!

sprouts are up...

Next weekend,t here looks to be a frost/freeze forecast. Have to get out the covers. Radish sprouts and some lettuce in the refurbished beds. Also featured are some bokchoy plants that were on sale for $0.99/four. ONe can't beat 25cents for a delicious plant! Stir fry, here we come! Onion (red) sets went into the "extra" 4'x4' box.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Goals from 2009 - progress report

I want to revisit my goals from previous years to see how they've worked out (or not.)

1. Don’t go digital on February 17. It’ll save money and liberate time. Affirmative! I didn't go digital and do not have television in my house. I got rid of internet as well so I don't watch any television programming on the laptop either. I do watch DVDs either on the laptop or with Alexa at her house. I have a blackberry so I do get email at home.

2. Commit to an anti-inflammation (mostly vegetarian) lifestyle. This comes and goes. Recommitted with the new season and Alexa's support.

3. Eat 75% local (100 mile ) nutrition. Ditto. The garden was expanded and much more produce will be available from less than 10 ft away. Farmer's market for things I can't or won't grow: zucchini, peaches, apples, specialty plants.

4. Eliminate packaged foods to all extent possible. Mmm, partial success.

5. Reduce waste in the household. Increase recycling. Yep. No-sort recycling with a new company makes it easy to dump everything (plastic, paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum, etc) into the big tote. 6. Determine and follow a financial plan and schedule for home improvements (roof, bathroom, deck, etc). I have saved up enough money to complete the projects. Prioritization completed. Now to get quotes and start work.

7. Expand the garden beds. I have twice the growing space as last year. The boxes were built in 4'x4' and 6'x4' dimensions.

8. Plant dwarf fruit trees. The potted lemon tree that Mom gave me in 2009 is in good shape an dproducing fruit. This is on schedule for this year. Blueberry, blackberry/raspberry, and cherry esplanier.

9. Implement rain water catchment for irrigating the garden beds. Also on schedule for this year with the new beds.

10. Ride my bike for enjoyment at least twice a week, weather permitting. With my RA under control, this should be good to go for this summer.

11. Use bike/trailer to do local shopping on weekend. Maybe. Traffic is a problem unless I do grocery shopping at 6 am.

12. Ride to work at least once a week. Possibly. Safety in traffic a concern. 13. Continue reducing “things” in the house aka the 100 Thing Challenge. Pretty good. I still have a big closet to go. The neighborhood grarage sale is coming up 3rd week in May.

14. Explore different compost systems to maximize production and minimize space.I obtained 3 compost tumblers which work pretty efficiently. Also have a cold pile box.

ask yourself....

will this take you to where you want to go in life?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Old beds. New boxes

I've been gardening for about 10 years. For 5 of those, I simply improved the soil in the old landscaping area. I had to remove layers of old mulch, plastic sheeting, and rock. I added compost, peat and sand. I used old boards to hold in the beds. This year, with the help of a friend, I have made a more permanent area and expanded the garden. There are now 5 6'x4' boxes installed in the old beds. They are "double-dig" with at least 6 inches of improved soil on the top and a recent application of manure, peat and sand. The nex boxes are 2" wide and 12" tall.
There are 5 4'x4' boxes installed along the north fence. These were installed over cardboard over the grass in a "lasagna" method of layered leaves and grass clippings from the cold compost pile and manure, peat and sand on the top.
Constructing the new boxes required a new power tool: the impact driver. We had to drive 3 inch deck screws into the pine boards at the corners. My small electric drill and the human operator were quickly exhausted. Nailing them together with a hammer was even more work! Impact driver (less than $100) made short work of driving more than 120 deck screws in about 1.5 hours. Overall, we spent about $200 on construction materials plus the cost of the impact driver.

Seedlings were started in the first week of March.

Direct seeding of some crops was accomplished in the third week in March.

Compost was redistributed amongst the tumblers for better and quicker cooking. The manufacturer boasts usuable compost in 21 days. The temperatures haven't been too warm laterly.

We had a couple days of 60's and now due for two weeks of 30's. Cold frames ready.

Oh, I forgot to mention - the mint. It has escaped containment and I was very careful not to cultivate and spread the little segments all over. I'm sure I'll be pulling up peppermint throughout the growing season.