Planning the garden

Last year was my first year with the large garden beds.  It went really well and I learned a lot!  I used the book Square Foot Gardening as a resource for planning out my beds.  It worked pretty well but this year I am definitely going to be tweaking my plans a bit.  Here are my plans from last year.  They are a bit dirty but that’s because I had them out in the garden with me while I was planting.

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I planted this bed just how I planned.  This bed is being changed quite a bit this year, this was the bed that was kind of  a fail last year.  What I plan to do differently;

1. I will probably never grow tomatillos again.  They get huge!!!  I would really have to have a dedicated space for them because they took over my 4’x8′ bed.  My onions and peppers pretty much did nothing because the tomatillo grew right over them.

2. The squash needed more room.  I was pretty sure that it would but the book told me different so I went with it.  This year I have a whole bed just for squash and zuc.

3. Placement; the cucumbers did really well and grew on my fence which I wanted them to do but they were really hard to get to.  This year I will be planting smaller plants in front of my cucumbers so I can more easily harvest the veggies.

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This bed did really well, for the most part I was really happy with the way things turned out here.  I will be making a few changes to this and here they are;

1. I am going to do less tomatoes so I can give them more space.

2. I am either going to but way down on the amount of collards or not grow them at all.  We like collards but not enough to grow that much.

3. Probably not going to do pole beans in that location.

The awesome thing about this bed was that we were able to harvest the kale, collards and chard throughout the entire summer and into late fall. It was awesome!

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This bed was planted differently than you see here.  I did do a lot of lettuce but I also did a lot of herbs as well.  Here are the changes I am making this year to this bed.

1. I have a whole bed for lettuce this year, so I will have more room for other stuff in this bed.

2.  This bed is going to be mostly herbs and maybe some onions too.  This bed tends to be the mish-mash bed and I am ok with that.

These are the new beds that I have drawn out.  I only have two drawings because two of the beds are the same.

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I have two of these beds and they are going to be for zuc and squash only.  I made two of them because I only intend to put two plants in each bed.  Maybe I’ll sneak something else in there too, something small.

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This bed is going to be for lettuce and spinach only, maybe some edible flowers too.  The great thing about this new bed is that it is in a morning sun location that gets afternoon shade, I think my lettuce with be happier this year.

Along with these beds I also have veg growing all over my yard.  Each of my children have a small wash tub garden and I have lots of container gardens too.  I mostly grow herbs in the containers but sometimes radishes or beets make an appearance in a container too.

I know that the bulk of this post has been boring pics so here are some pics to brighten things up.  This was my garden from last year.

The tomatillo's playground!

The tomatillo’s playground!

Kale, chard, collards tomatoes.

Kale, chard, collards tomatoes.

Lettuce and herbs

Lettuce and herbs

Lettuce and flowers

More chard and flowers

Herbs and flowers

Herbs and flowers

Anwen and Esu's garden

Anwen and Esu’s garden

Ewan's garden

Ewan’s garden

Some perennials

Some perennials

Looking back at these pics from last year makes me so excited about this new growing season.  I can’t wait to get my hands in the dirt!!!

Coop construction/yard work day

This past Sunday we constructed the coop for our chickens and also did a handful of other projects in the yard.  It was a long but very productive day and by the end I was ready to fall over from exhaustion, but it was the good kind of exhaustion.  Here are the pics of the coop project:

This is the coop spread out in our living room.  Brian was checking to make sure we got all the of parts and that they were in good shape.

This is the coop spread out in our living room. Brian was checking to make sure we recieved all the of parts and that they were in good shape.

Here Brian and my cousin Ian are building a foundation for our coop.  They worked on this for HOURS!  The biggest problem they encountered were the huge tree roots in our yard that make it difficult to dig.

Here Brian and my cousin Ian are building a foundation for our coop. They worked on this for HOURS! The biggest problem they encountered were the huge tree roots in our yard that make it difficult to dig.

Since the foundation took way longer that anyone anticipated the girls started work on assembling the coop.

Since the foundation took way longer than anyone anticipated the girls started work on assembling the coop.

My sister Meghan and my cousin Cammie are working hard screwing together parts of the coop.

My sister Meghan and my cousin Cammie are working hard screwing together parts of the coop.

At this point we realized that we could no longer assemble the coop on the grass.  We moved it into the garage so we would have a level surface to work on.

At this point we realized that we could no longer assemble the coop on the grass. We moved it into the garage so we would have a level surface to work on.

Now that we are on level ground we are back to piecing this coop together.

Now that we are on level ground we are back to piecing this coop together. You see my sister holding the instructions. There was a lot of close inspection of the instructions, because THEY SUCKED! I have never see worse instructions, this was NOT COOL!

The run is almost together.

The run is almost together.

Now that the foundation is done the boys join us in frustrating task of assembling this coop.

Now that the foundation is done the boys join us in frustrating task of assembling this coop.

All smiles!  Probably because at some point about half way through the assembly we decided as a group that what would make this easier was if we all took a beer break.  Seriously, this coop should have been easier to assemble.

All smiles! Probably because at some point about half way through the assembly we decided as a group that what would make this easier was if we all took a beer break. Seriously, this coop should have been easier to assemble.

So, our coop is assembled and in place I don’t have a pic yet because once we were done it was getting dark, and of course it has rained everyday since.  These are my thoughts on this coop so far:

Downside:

1. The directions stunk!!!  They were very hard to read and way to basic, I was shocked how little information was given.  There was a lot of guess work as to where and how things fit.

2. The coop came damaged which was really irritating.  The manufacture is willing to replace the broken peices but still it was annoying.

3. Several people that were helping us put the coop together commented seperatly that they thought we over paid for this coop.  I tend to feel they are right.

Upside:

1. We have had serious flooding rains in Chicago for the past week and for the most part the coop is dry.  That was very encouraging.

2. It has a pull out tray for cleaning under the roosting bars, I like that.

3. It is appealing to the eye, which is great for maintaining good relations with my neighbors. 🙂

I am sure I will have more to say about the coop once the girls occupy it, lets hope it is all good stuff!

Other yard projects that happened were;

Cammie and I made three raised beds out of old wood pallets.  You can see two of them clearly in this pick and the other one is just behind the chicken coop.

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This is the “farm” part of my Chicago yard. I have 3- 4’x3.5′ beds, 2- 4’x8′ beds and 1- 4’x4′ bed. I also have my composter in the back as well as the chicken coop.

I’ll get into more detail about the garden in my next post which will be about my garden plans for this year.

We also moved my compost bin into a sunnier spot of the yard.  The compost was mixed really well in the process of moving it which mean that soon I’ll have some great stuff to add to the garden beds.

The final project we did last weekend was to start preparing a spot in our yard for a small patio to be put in. We cleared the area, marked it with twine and started to level it.  I’ll take pics of that project as soon as it gets underway.

PODCAST PLUG- I have been listening to a pod cast called COOP CAST which is put out by Chicken Thistle Farm.  I am really enjoying it and learning a lot and not just about chickens.  Stop by their website to find out how to listen if your into that kind of thing.

Newest additions

The Grant clan got chickens!!!  As I sit here writing this post, our little ladies are pecking, peeping and scratching away in the brood behind me.  It really is the cutest thing!

Owning chickens has been something I have wanted to do for years, I started day dreaming about it when we lived on our condo.  As we begin our 3rd summer in the house it has finally happened.  Our chicks are about a week and a half old now and are super cute, but what baby chicks aren’t cute.  We have four little chicks each a different breed.

The Chicks: The top photo is of them now, the bottom is what they will look like all grown up.

This is Belina, she is a Buff Orpington

Belina

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This is Mavis and she is a Black Australorp

Mavis

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This is Beatrice, she is a Barred Rock

Beatrice

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This is Saphira and she is a Golden Laced  Wyandotte

Sephira

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When doing my research on what breeds we should get I had a few very specific requirements:

1. The chickens would need to be cold hardy, which means that they needed to be able to live in their coop during a Chicago winter.

2. The chickens would need to be pretty good egg layers, cause that is why we got them!

3. The chickens would also, and this is very important, need to be NICE!  With three kids and a fourth on the way these little ladies needed to be calm, friendly, and docile.

A great resource that I found to help with breed selection was on the website My Pet Chicken.  I had also done a bunch of reading in the book Chickens in your backyard and in the magazine Backyard Poultry.

The Coop!!

When researching what kind of coop to either build or make we looked all over the web and in a few books as well.  We looked at purchasing plans, building from scratch, buying a kit, etc.  What we settled on was a coop kit, the cost seemed right and we have a screw driver. 😉  What turned us away from the plans that we found for purchase everywhere was that they did not give us enough information up front.  That was frustrating for us and we did not want to waste money on plans that we might end up not liking.

This is the coop that our little ladies will move into in about 4 weeks.

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This kit is from the Chicken Saloon website.  We are going to be putting the coop together this weekend with the help of some family.  I’ll try my hardest to take photos of the construction in progress.

Welcome to my Esty shop!!

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Check it out!!! Adorable handmade hair clips and barrettes for the fashionable little and not so little girls in your life.   I also have Ethiopian inspired handmade cards.  Some of my hair clips are made with vintage fabric and many are vintage inspired, all of them are cute.

Anwen and her little sister (who is in our hearts but not yet in our arms) were my inspiration.   Anwen always looks so cute when she wears clips in her hair, and I can only imagine her sister will rock the clips just as well!

The handmade cards were inspired by Esuyawkal, I wanted to make something to celebrate Ethiopia, something that I would have looked for as I waited for him to come home.  Here is a sample of one of my cards:

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This is part of the series of cards that depict Tukuls, the traditional homes in Ethiopia.

The vintage aspect of my shop is in process.  As many of you know I am a great lover of vintage goods and my goal is to offer up some of my excellent finds in my shop.  I’ll be sure to let you know once I have a few things posted.

While I have been searching for a way to sell some of my handmade goods, this shop came into existence in part to help fund our adoption.  At this time all proceeds from Prolifika will go towards our adoption, which I hope will cause you to feel even better about recommending my shop or purchasing for yourself.

Here we go again!

The Grant family is adopting again!!! We are very please to announce that God has lead us to another adoption and we are pleased to be in the early stages of the process.  We are returning to Ethiopia as this is where Esuyawkal is from and If one of us is Ethiopian than all of us are Ethiopian!

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Our hearts will forever be in love with this amazing country, it’s beautiful people and it’s rich, vibrant culture.

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We will be rounding out our family with a little girl between 3-4 years of age.  Ewan, Anwen and Esu are very excited about having a little sister, their understanding of why we are adopting is not always sound but it is always cute!  The children though are not the only ones that are giddy about adding a member to the family, Brian and I are also quite thrilled!

We were so impressed with our agencies Adoption Advocates International and Adoption Link (for the homestudy) when we adopted Esu that we are using them again.  It has been nice to be back in touch with people that helped us along the way when we were in process with Esu.  It’s like talking to an old friend, or that labor and delivery nurse that was awesome and you will never forget, it just makes you feel good to see them or talk with them again!

So, there you have it, our big news!  Three cheers for adoption!!!!

Important health warning for children of Ethiopian/Abyssinian/Eritrean decent!

Our agency had a little blurb about this in their newsletter and I was pretty alarmed, alarmed in that dodged a bullet kind of way.  Here is a condensed version of the article from the FDA with a link to the larger, more in-depth article.

An article by the FDA exploring the link between children of certain ethnic groups and an increased risk of experiencing life-threatening or even fatal side effects from taking codeine for pain relief was recently brought to my attention, as children of Ethiopian descent may be the most at risk. From the FDA’s website:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing reports of children who developed serious adverse effects or died after taking codeine for pain relief after tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy for obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Recently, three pediatric deaths and one non-fatal but life-threatening case of respiratory depression were documented in the medical literature. These children (ages two to five) had evidence of an inherited (genetic) ability to convert codeine into life-threatening or fatal amounts of morphine in the body. All children had received doses of codeine that were within the typical dose range.

Parents and caregivers

who observe unusual sleepiness, confusion, or difficult or noisy breathing in their child should stop giving their child codeine and seek medical attention immediately, as these are signs of overdose.

FDA will update the public with more information once it has completed its review. 

 

Additional Information for Parents and Caregivers

Certain children may be at risk for life-threatening side effects, such as breathing difficulty, or death when taking codeine for pain relief after tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy. This can occur even with use of codeine at recommended doses.

Codeine is usually prescribed on an “AS NEEDED” basis. Do not administer codeine to the child on a regular basis UNLESS the child requires the drug. Do not administer more than six (6) doses per day.

Signs of serious side effects of codeine in children can include unusual sleepiness, confusion, and difficult or noisy breathing. If your child shows these signs, stop giving your child codeine and seek medical attention immediately by taking your child to the emergency room or calling 911.

 

 

 

To see the full article please visit

http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm313631.htm

 

How my garden grows

I am throughly enjoying the dirt in my backyard!!  Not even the high temperatures and the beating sun can keep me away from the fulfilling work of growing my own food!  Here are some pictures of what we are doing this year:

The big bushy stuff in the background is our huge raspberry patch. We also have two tomato plants, cilantro, onions and parsley planted here.

Beets, lavender, onions and snap peas are planted here.

The back garden; sorrel, french sorrel, lettuce, jalapeno, thai hot, 2 variety of sweet pepper, onions, chard, green zebra tomato, cherry tomato, borage, blueberries, corn, fingerling potatoes and lemon verbena.

Sorrel

Borage

French sorrel

French Sorrel is absolutely awesome!!  It has a lemony flavor especially when you get to the stem part.  An excellent addition to your salad or to just pick from the garden and munch on.  This is one of Anwen’s favorites, she is always eager for our visitors to have a taste.

Corn

Ewan picked out the corn since we love to eat sweet corn during the summer.  We cook our corn right in the coals of our grill, husk on and not soaked.  It is so yummy that no butter or salt is required!

Fingerling potatoes

This year a bunch of what I am growing is in containers because I did not want to rush to take stuff out of the grow before I knew what it was.  Next year I hope to know what it worth taking out so that I have even more growing space.  Nothing tastes quite like home-grown food!

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