Now We’re Cookin’! And Growing. And Putting Up.

Over a year ago I wrote about our dashed compost dreams. We were still at the condo then and the trustees vetoed the idea of a compost bin. Well, a year later the dream became possible again and we purchased two Earth Machines. Here is one of them, the active one:

Our Earth Machine (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

We followed all the rules but still had a swarm of small black flies to contend with. Yesterday, however, when I turned the pile inside the Machine, steam and heat rose up out of it. The pile is cooking! We are doing it right!

We’re also implementing the simplest of a grey water system. When I rinse fruits and vegetables, I catch the water in the kitchen sink in a tub, and we use that for watering the plants. Amie loves her little yellow watering can.

Our “grey water” system (c) Katiren Vander Straeten

I splurged a bit with a gift card given to us by dear friends as a house warming present. I drove to the garden center in town and purchased:

  1. parsley
  2. cilantro x 2
  3. thyme
  4. rosemary x 2
  5. dill
  6. bay laurel
  7. nana curry plant
  8. genovese basil x 2
  9. mint
  10. oregano
  11. tarragon
  12. sage
  13. marjoram

A month ago we bought a large cherry tomato plant and it is over eight feet high now. We’ll have to use a ladder to harvest the highest fruits! There are lots of fruits on it, but they are as yet all green. We also have a smaller plum tomato plant and 4 belle pepper plants. Can you believe that a little bit over a year ago I had no idea that tomatoes grow out of flowers!

unripe cherry tomatoes (c) Katrien Vander Straeten unripe plum tomatoes (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

It’s not nearly the garden we envision, yet, but it feels so good to have made a start. Who knows, which of the perennials we’ll still be harvesting from in five years’ time?

Amie has taken to gardening. A month ago, after reading Caillou in the Garden, she planted some basil seeds in a pot and made a marker. Then she sat down, and waited. Now the wait is paying off:

Amie waits for the basil to grow (c) Katrien Vander Straeten Amie’s Basil (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Our woodpile has grown considerably and is no longer wobbly. Probably all this wood won’t be cured well enough by this winter, so we’ll have to buy three extra cords. Forking out the money for them will get us going on the wood stove purchase. We’ll probably get a chimney sweep to check out our chimney and to advise us about a proper stove. We’re very much leaning toward a stand-alone stove, so we can heat tea and stews on it.

Woodpile 16 July 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

And you know what: I made jam! Of the many blueberries I got a the Farmer’s Market. It’s only freezer jam, and amounted to only three jars, but what an accomplishment it was for me! And Amie loves it.

Mama’s Blueberry Jam, July 2008 (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

And last but not least, some of the wildlife, right in front of our house. One more reason to include a garden fence in our plans.

Bunny in our garden (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

Join the Conversation


  1. Wow! Look at you’ll go..bird watching, planting, growing and making jam! You are amazing..from just a dream a year ago, here you are. I’m sure there are challenges, but your attitude is so positive and constructive, I’m sure things will be smooth in no time. Chapter 13 is probably still on hold but for GOOD reason. Amie is lucky to have visionary parents, what a wonderful way to grow up. I don’t think I could ever do what you’re doing, I’m too lazy and spoiled by the conveniences of city life. I have had a garden for two years and have planted flowers only once..I feel so guilty.

  2. Hi Anja!

    It is amazing how invigorating this kind of life is. We do a lot of work ourselves: knocking out walls, painting, sanding and staining floors, putting in bathrooms, moving heavy equipment, fighting carpenter ants…

    All of it “experimentally”, meaning half the time we don’t know what we’re doing. We’ve done the research, we’ve read a book (or five) and ferreted out online advice, but actually *doing* it always turns out to be something else. It comes down to estimating the risk, the cost, and the potential of success (or failure) if we do it ourselves. For the boiler and the woodstove and possibly the carpenter ants, we get the professionals in. As for the rest: we enter a steep learning curve and try to have a good time. We have learned to say “ah well,” and move on.

    That said: all we’ve done garden-wise so far is a couple of tomato plants and herbs!

    So yes, it’s very different than city/condo life, where everything is done for you. Here, *we* are the management. It was a big step to take, and in a way a step we need to keep on taking for each project, but once we take it, I feel it’s good for the body and good for the soul, not to mention the planet if you do it “green”.

    That is what got us going: the green angle. If we weren’t after a more ecologically sound lifestyle, I think we’d still live in a condo apartment in Brookline, sipping coffee at Peet’s. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and I still occasionally make sure to visit. But it’s no longer the best thing for us.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *