Greetings From Suburbia

Well, that’s it. We’re no longer Chicagoans. We are full-fledged suburbanites. The traffic and having to drive everywhere is going to take some getting used to. There’s no such thing as a quick jaunt to the corner store to fulfill my soy icecream craving, or ordering take out from our favorite reliable standards.

I’ve got to figure out who sells the soy icecream we like, and we’ve got to explore the new restaurant scene. According to Grub Hub, there’s a decent Thai place nearby that delivers to us, and I saw a Sweet Baby Ray’s for barbecue while we were out and about driving the other day that isn’t too far away. Happily, there’s a Woodman’s within a reasonable driving distance so we’re set for stock up shopping grocery trips.

Finding a good farmer’s market is a pretty big priority too. The one in our town is closed this year for parking lot renovations, so we’re kind of stuck. The most promising one sounds like it’s over in Park Ridge, which is about a 20 minute drive. That’s a lot different than a five minute walk! But we’ll see about heading over there tomorrow so we can check it out.

We do have a few parks within walking distance, and the library and park district pool and gym are both long walks or short drives away. And it’s quiet here. We’re on a purely residential street, in a purely residential neighborhood – there is rarely sound here. You can hear birds. And silence. Sometimes you can hear kids playing outside – and they can play ball or ride their bikes in the street! We have next to no car traffic, so that’s not a completely unreasonable thing to do. Refreshing for a newly-former city girl to see.

We’re fairly well unpacked and settled. There are finishing touches that we need to do – the computer cords and wireless setup for the internet is a mess, so I’ve got to get one of those cord-keeper basket things to corral that disaster. And we still need to hang some coat hooks and little things like that.

And hopefully this weekend I will get a mother lode of tomatoes so I can do some canning. And I’m hoping I can still get some corn and fruit for the freezer – just prior to the move disaster struck and our chest freezer became accidentally unplugged. So all the corn and fruit I’d put up this summer, as well as my duck and turkey stocks were lost. On the plus side, the freezer was easier to move… so there’s no great loss without some small gain.

That’s life at the moment. It’s been busy, to say the least. We harvested the last of the tomatoes, peppers and kale before we moved, but we’ve still got chard and lots of herbs growing. I’m debating with myself on doing a fall garden – do I have the energy to plant fall crops like more kale, green onions and things? Or am I ready to put the garden to bed once the current stuff stops producing? I might let it go until next year. I do have quite a few sewing projects on the agenda that I could easily dive into, not to mention the Christmas crafting that I need to kick into high gear… so many choices!

I Think, Therefore I Am

Still here! Packing like a madwoman most days, but we’re just about in the home stretch of the Big Move. At the same time, the garden is keeping us busy. We’ve probably picked somewhere in the neighborhood of four to five quarts of cherry tomatoes off of the Gold Nugget plants so far, so we’re eating our fill there. We’ve also continued to have regular harvests of the sweet Jimmy Nardello peppers, a little kale and a little chard. The hot peppers are looking good too, and will be ready to eat anytime now. The cucumbers have suffered a bit – they haven’t gotten enough water so we’ve only got one cucumber that’ll be ready to harvest soon, and a couple flowers that hopefully shape up to more cucumbers.

The big onslaught of tomatoes for canning didn’t start this week like I hoped, but I’m told I should expect at least 20 pounds next weekend, so canning tomatoes is on the agenda. And I did put up 5 jars of apricot jam recently (and I have a little post about it as soon as I can upload the photos). Apricot jam makes the best glaze on roasted pork and gives apple tarts a lovely sheen. So you can bet we’ll put those to good use over the fall and winter.

And Baby Apartment Farmer is officially becoming Toddler Apartment Farmer – he’s taking his first tentative, holding onto Mama steps. Time flies!

Can’t wait to post here that I’m all settled – I’ve got the new Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders book so I’m itching to get the sewing machine unpacked and ready to go – lots of projects in store for this fall!

Step One: Establish a Perimeter

Okay, enough talk. It’s been high time to take action around here. We finally got around to building the chicken wire enclosure for our largest group of containers. I warn you – it’s highly utilitarian –

It does not have a beautiful wood-painted frame or ornate wire work. But it will keep those bastard squirrels out! Hopefully. We used four-foot-high chicken wire with a one inch mesh. On the right side, we stapled it to the deck and then wrapped it around the pots. On the left, it’s secured with clips so we can open up the structure easily to get inside for harvest and such. For the top, since we anticipate the need to prevent aerial attacks as well, we cut a section of wire and bent it to fit the curved piece below, patching the sides with small pieces to close up any opening. We bent the wire from the top piece onto the sides, but also reinforced it with clear zip ties. It’s pretty secure.

It’s hard to see in this photo (I need to figure out how my photos are getting resized so small, but that’s another matter) but we have some green tomatoes, flowers on the peppers and even a few zucchini starting to form. And we intend to keep it that way.

We do still have another smaller grouping of pots – some more peppers and a few cucumbers – that need protection, but that will be an easier job by far. We’ll just create a cylinder of wire for those, and likely with no top since they’ll don’t sit right up against the deck. So that’s the next garden project to tackle. But as you can see, we’re hoping to the War of the Squirrels this year.

Sneaky Summer

So apparently yesterday was the first official day of summer. I meant to do a garden update post on the first day of summer but we can all see that did not happen. Sigh. But, even though I forgot to photograph it, we have a few developments – green tomatoes, budding zucchini, flowers on the cucumber and peppers and everything! It’s looking pretty fantastic out there. Shh – don’t tell the squirrels. We’ve got to get that cage built this weekend. Stay tuned for pictures this weekend – the garden update will occur!

Curve Balls

Well, in case you’ve been wondering where I am, I’m here. Life has been crazy recently. My boss at the day job has been on a two week vacation (must be nice), Little Man has finally cut his first tooth (which I’m excited about, but I also feel bad for him since it’s obviously painful), and to put the icing on the cake – I’M SICK. I’m not talking allergies or a little cold, I’m talking down and out sick. Terribly sore throat, whole body aches, raging fever, chills – the whole nine yards. It started Thursday afternoon and by Friday morning I was more or less delirious with fever and barely able to get out of bed.

I’m hoping the worst has past. I still feel completely terrible, but now I can sit upright for more than twenty minutes at a stretch and even swallow food (somewhat – and it hurts like hell). Little Man has been sounding a little hoarse, so I’m seriously hoping I didn’t pass it along to him.  He’s got enough drama with the teething.

So, there was a whole bunch of stuff that I wanted to do (and thus post about) this weekend, but at this point I’m just hoping to be able to feel okay enough to walk to the farmer’s market down the block tomorrow to pick up some fresh veg and our seedling order. And that’s pretty much it, since the most important thing is to be well enough to go back into the office on Monday and make some monies. As they say, money makes the world go around. Though I’d like to meet the guy whole invented capitalism and clock him in the face… but that’s another story for another time.

Before I digress too much into working-for-the-man bitterness, I’ll give you a little preview of what’s in store here at Apartment Farm.

– We lost another battle with the squirrels (hint – we had sunflowers for 29 hours). But we think we’ve found a way to win the war.

– We bought home brewing equipment at long last. We will make beer!

– We stocked up on wood chips for the grill, so we’re going to be doing some good eating.

– I made a taggie blanket for Little Man. If you don’t know what that is, feel free to disregard. If you do know what that is, I can show you how to make one in five minutes!

– The deck veggies are coming along nicely. It’s high time for an update.

So see, Apartment Farming continues. Or it will, after I’m over these sickies. I’ll be back!

Sunday Market Score

For once, we remembered when the Glenwood Sunday Market was holding a winter market – the last one of the year. Though with temps nearing 80 today, saying we were going to a winter market was a little weird. And it certainly wasn’t austere – the place was jam-packed and we came home with a nice haul – a pint of field-ripened strawberries (it’s true!) from Hardin Farm, fresh garlic from Montalbano, an entire bag of red potatoes from King’s Hill, and mushrooms from River Valley Mushrooms.We also picked up a breakfast treat from Bennison’s – two chocolate croissants for me and two chocolate doughnuts for husband. And last but not least, we got some lettuce and plant starts from our favorite market vendor, Midnight Sun – a Patio Star summer squash, a couple of Italian parsley and four miniature sunflowers.

It was great to dig in the dirt this morning planting. I put the four sunflowers in our window box on the deck railing, and they look gorgeous. Once the three morning glories get a bit bigger, I’ll plant them in front so they can cascade down to the patio. It’ll look great. The parsley went into our blue glazed planter, and the squash went into one of the mid-sized planters on the patio so it can get plenty of sun. I didn’t go hog wild at the market today with plants because Becky let me know that their seedling list is up on their website and that she’d be happy to put together an order for me to pick up the first outdoor market in a few weeks. So of course the first thing I did when I got home was email over my order –

1 dill
1 lavender
4 Improved Rainbow Swiss chard
2 Lacinato kale
1 Roma tomato
1 Sungold tomato
3 of the container tomatoes we asked you to grow (I am having a brain freeze on the name at the moment)
2 Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers
Other than forgetting the name of the tomato I specifically asked for last fall and that they obligingly agreed to grow out this season, I think I’m pretty well set on plants now. We’ve got our four types of hot peppers that are doing fairly well along with a few basil starts that are looking good. We need to restart our edamame and peas – I know it’s kind of late for peas since it’s getting hot already, but I’m going to try a couple anyway and see what we get.
And of course, despite my best laid plans for what I planned to grow, my list is always a bit different once I start to get things in the dirt. But that’s what I like about gardening – you can always mix it up and see get a lot of good stuff! It’s too bad we don’t have any batteries for the camera today (need to put that on my next shopping list) or I’d take a picture and show it all off. Good thing we’ve got the whole season ahead of – you’ll be able to see the garden in it’s full glory soon enough.

Spring Stockpiling

Seeds are germinating, so it’s the time of year when I start getting really anxious about pots. I never seem to have enough. If you recall, last season I was really excited to acquire six 14-inch planters (we only used four) at the dollar store for $7.00 a piece. We definitely plan to use all six of them this season, and then some. I’ve been watching the dollar store for a few weeks now for this season’s gardening supplies, and today I finally hit gold. I popped in to check out the situation on my way to the grocer for the week’s meat and veg and lo and behold – two aisles of garden supplies. After grocery shopping, I returned to purchase what I’m estimating we’ll need for this season. I know from experience that the dollar store is going to sell out of the planters fast – they went like hotcakes last year.

I thought about getting two more of the largest planters so we’d have a total of eight, but the real estate on the common patio is getting kind of tight. There’s a communal table and chairs (that no one uses ever, so it’s kind of annoying that it’s taking up space) out there, and I know a couple more grills in addition to ours are going to make an appearance as the weather gets warmer. And that’s okay, it is a shared space. So instead of the largest planters, I decided to expand our growing space with a collection of smaller pots, that can be easily moved around and tucked into small spots.

I purchased four 12-inch pots at $5.00 each, four 10-inch pots at $2.00 each and two 6-inch pots for $1.00 each. I also picked up two 3-packs of plastic drainage pans for the smaller pots at $1.00 each. I figure the 10- and 6-inch pots will be good for the assortment of herbs we’re growing this year, and will be much easier to bring indoors in the fall for overwintering. So for $32.00 I think I got a pretty good deal. We also acquired a blue glazed pot (I think it’s around 12 inches) last fall when we received some planted mums as a gift.

So the total inventory of plant pots currently is –

6 14-inch pots

4 12-inch pots (new)

4 12-inch hanging baskets

4 10-inch pots (new)

2 6-inch pots (new)

1 12-inch glazed pot (new)

1 10-inch (I think) glazed pot (permanent home for the hops)

1 8-inch glazed pot

1 6-inch glazed pot (permanent home for the bamboo)

2 square glazed pots (permanent homes for the bay tree and oregano)

1 strawberry pot

1 window box

1 freestanding window box shelf with Earthbox “insert” (permanent home for the dwarf junipers)

 

Think it will be enough? Likely not, but at least we’re closer! And it’s a good thing, because we have dichondra, jalapeno and cayenne peppers sprouted, as well as some herbs. Which herbs, we don’t know yet. The mini greenhouse had a little accident on the patio on a windy day recently, so things got a bit mixed up. I think basil and thyme, but we’ll find out for sure once the seedlings get a little bigger and put out more true leaves. And this weekend we’re going to do some more planting – more peppers (the germination rate wasn’t too great – I got the seeds in trade, so you can never be sure of the quality), peas, chard, more herbs – lots of other stuff. My planting list and schedule have gone out the window… but that’s okay. My husband is really involved this year so I’m excited about that. So if he says he wants to plant something, we just do it. So we may need to go buy more pots yet!