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I was outside today playing catch with our dogs and thinking about how our outdoor spaces are different from what others in the past may of considered. On our urban city block, new neighbors are moving in since people are passing away and change is inevitable. I was out in my yard the other day working on clearing out my squash beds and preparing for fall/winter crops. I looked over a few yards and noticed one of my new neighbors was putting in a new brick porch out back. The older lady that lived there had gone to a nursing home , and the other neighbor decided to sell their home after her husband passed away in the spring. Two families purchased these two homes so they could live next door to each other which is a pretty neat idea. The grandparents can help the younger couple as they try to work and raise their kids. How neat to grow up next door to your grandparents. I have enjoyed their addition to our city block since they are always outside working, or hanging out.
Benning's Green Tint Scallop Squash
Benning’s Green Tint Scallop Squash
I am enjoying the changes of plants and people to the landscape of our city block. We live close to our downtown area and have walkers and bikers on our main road all day long. If you try to work out in your yard, it may take you all day since you spend a lot of time chatting to people walking by or visiting over the fence. When we moved here back in 2000, all the lawns were mostly grass and old landscaping that was overgrown. Every year I kept adding more, bee friendly plants, fruit bushes, native plants, vegetables to create biodiversity on this old city lot. Over the years, I have noticed more people taking out the old bushes and putting in new gardens. It is nice to see all the new “bee friendly” plants being put into the landscape. One definition of “landscape” describes it as a “dynamic backdrop to people’s lives”.
Red Romaine Lettuce
Red Romaine Lettuce
People can’t afford to go on vacations all the time due to work schedules or financial restraints, so they are changing the landscapes of our cities. Today People are creating urban homesteads right out their backdoor, front yard, side yard, balcony, or sharing community gardens. For many years, we were so dependent on the grocery store for all our food. I was fortunate to be blessed with a family that valued growing food on their city lot. I grew up near Chicago, Illinois. For many years, I watched my grandparents (that lived across the street from my cousins a mile from our house) growing food on their city lots. Our home did not have a large lot, but my mother and father always found space to grow food. We had fresh greens, tomatoes, beans and apples, and food for winter eating, too.
Heirloom California Giant Petunias
Heirloom California Giant Petunias
It took me getting cancer in 2000 to change the dynamics of our landscape. My cancer is “slow-growing” which means it is not curable, but it is manageable. This means I had to find a way to battle my cancer long-term. I had to change the dynamics of our “family landscape” or the way we live life.
Best Flowers to Plant are those that feed our pollinators....
Best Flowers to Plant are those that feed our pollinators….
Reduce Stress. Simplify life…
Dragon Tongue Bush Beans
Dragon Tongue Bush Beans
Grow Food right where you live by getting outside and changing the landscape….
Plant more native plants on city lots...
Plant more native plants on city lots…
Our Urban Potager is filled with food, family, friends, and neighbors on a daily basis. Isn’t change great!

Written by Robbie

M.S. Education, , Organic Gardener, soil + nature lover, former modern dancer

21 comments

  1. Spectacular photographs. That bee friendly flower has a visitor! The changes in your neighborhood sound like things are moving in a good direction. I changed the place where I live two years ago, and I too am growing food where I live and simplifying life. Another lovely post Robbie.

  2. I love your photographs Robbie, just beautiful. I am sorry to hear about your illness, I saw it mentioned in one of your other posts but thought you must have recovered and left it behind you.

    1. It is “Indolent” which means it is “slow” + manageable, so I am one of the lucky ones. I also got the drug “Rituxin”( in 2003) which was an experimental drug at the time. It is now the main tx for people first dx. I believe cancer will not be a death sentence in the future( today it is not!). Many people are living with cancer/learning to manage it with drugs ( besides chemo)that fight it as they live life…:-)

      1. That’s good, but still….!! Super that you have a medication that helps well.

        I believe so too. I nursed my nephew through cancer 3 years ago and he won the battle but it was terribly harsh treatment at the time, I hope they find better than chemo and radiation in the near future.

      2. That is good news to hear he is doing well:-) I believe they will have a cure soon, they are so close. I also believe food closer to home is a a lot better for keeping the bodies immune system running well. I use to tell people, we all need to have an “immunity garden” in our backyard, front yard or porch etc…and if you plant one yourself, it keeps your hands in the dirt to destress your life!

      3. Oh, I couldn’t agree more!! I have fibromyalgia and that is half the reason we started growing in earnest, we could afford to eat so much better this way……in summer I keep really well, in winter when we are eating stored food not so well. Sunshine and super fresh food make all the difference.

      4. Sorry to hear you have Fibromyalgia that is not a fun thing to have…..organic food is just too expensive in the store. Good thing we grow it for our health:-) Even the farmer market locally is starting to charge too much for things like tomatoes , beans , lettuce, spinach..so easy to grow your own for pennies!

      5. Yes, exactly….and we eat so much better because it costs so little. Farmer’s markets are quite expensive here too and the closest one is 25 minutes or so, I never take a trip in especially to go there.
        No, Fibro is not much fun, I hate it, however am very aware it could be worse 🙂

  3. Your landscape looks absolutely magical! It speaks to a careful hand. I love watching more and more people in our neighborhood remove grass and put in drought tolerant, bee-friendly plants instead.

    1. It is so much fun to see all the bees buzzing around this time of year. I use to see all the “chemical lawn” trucks when I first moved here years ago, but in the past few years I don’t see them anymore! YEAH!!!:-)

  4. Hi Robbie,
    I’ve been reading your archives, getting caught up, and and to tell you how much I’m enjoying your blog. I love what you’ve done with your yard! I too grew up in a family that always grew much of their own food … My maternal grandparents grew all sorts of vegetables & flowers in their tiny yard in Detroit, my dad grew up on a farm in Michigan and my family always had a vegetable garden in our back yard. So for me, it’s only natural. My husbands family always had a vegetable garden in a corner of their little yard in Chicago – so he “gets it” too! When my husband & I bought our house here in California, we immediately turned the backyard lawn into a vegetable garden. Of course, some of our neighbors thought we were crazy, but I think they’re crazy NOT to grow food! Besides, lawns are a huge waste of water – especially here where droughts are common. After just a couple of years, we’ve managed to convince a few neighbors to plant more drought tolerant natives and even a few vegetables – hooray! Anyhow, I wanted to tell you how beautiful your garden is and how I wish we were neighbors!

    1. As I read your comment( I thought why can’t she be my neighbor-lol_..then I got to the final sentence and you said you wished we were neighbors. ME TOO! You are so right how people think we are strange and they just don’t understand what all this food growing is about…I need your attitude–“but I think they’re crazy NOT to grow food” ….oh I wish I had a neighbor like you to sit in the vegetable patch and sip a cup of tea and ponder what to make with all the food we grow:-)

  5. Robbie I love the colors of your garden. I am drawn to that dark purple combined with orange. There is news that bee friendly plants from Lowe’s and Home Depot are pretreated with pesticides harmful to bees – go figure. I want to warn as many people as I can. The best plants are not purchased at all but are traded with neighbors, friends and family – it sounds as if you live in a wonderful neighborhood.

    1. That is interesting about Home Depot and Lowes, I use to purchase plants from them when I first started our urban potager. I quit after I read they give them ” plant steroids” to make them look good and stay short for travel. They would look great for one season,but eventually die( which mine did often). They never had those HUGE blooms the next year if they made it in our garden.A few years ago, I decided to grow my own heirloom annual flowers from seed. I like “change” and it is fun to find all the orange, red,purple, and blues flowers out there that I just have to grow! It is like living art, I often feel our gardens are a canvas that we can paint and change if we choose to do so.When I came across your blog I was thrilled to see someone that loved ‘color” and you use it beautifully,too:-)

      1. Kathy,I also like the purple , orange, red vegetables mixed in there..hmm..also wonder if those pesticides have something to do with colony collapse. My friends have been trying to get their bee hives going for two years, and the bees leave each season. They are experienced bee keepers,too. They do shop at lowes for flowers…I believe I will mention it to them…thanks for spreading the word, I will too…

  6. Robbie–I am so sorry about your health struggles–I didn’t know! No wonder that you connect so deeply to these beautiful things that you have created and that you share with others! Food that you grow feeds you in so many ways. Wishing you all the best in your journey & hoping that life sends you plenty of bees, sunshine & the occasional good soaking rain. :D!

    1. I am so lucky compared to so many people. I was dx when I had 3 kids in 3 different schools! There was one other man locally dx with another cancer at the same time. I believe his was incurable, too. He had it a lot worse than I did with younger children than mine(one of his was the same age as my youngest). I see him jog by my house on occasion and remember 13 yrs ago I did not believe I would be here…but I changed my life…simplified what I could do, and am learning daily how to live differently…I am so confident that eating food closer to home is the key to good health…I have my yearly visit to the Oncologist this next week, and I have great faith I will be here a long time…I feel that is why I do the blog since I don’t want to preach to people all the time, this is a great place to put all the information I find out, or just encourage others to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life…..stress is a factor to your health….I am enjoying life now! As long as my cancer is slow I will probably live a long life….most of us do with NHL-indolent….You are right today I was out photographing bees, and we do need a good soaking of rain:-)…you keep posting your “witty” posts, and they keep me laughing…still think of the first post I read of yours with the rabbit photograph in the distance among the veggies….gottcha-lol…

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