Archive for June, 2012

Join Us in July for Two Unique Events!

Ladies Staycation Saturday, July 21st 5-9pm

Get away from it all–at least for a few hours! Treat yourself to an all-inclusive evening of food and signature drinks. Enjoy express spa services from Team Blonde, chillax out back in our Garden Center and pick up fresh recipes from our cooking demonstrations by New Rose Catering.

Grab a friend and give yourself the night off for our Ladies Staycation!  Reservations are required. Come in or call 708-660-1443 to reserve your tickets, or buy online.

Battle of the Brews
Thursday, July 12 7pm-10pmJoin us as ten homebrewers compete for the People’s Choice award and Celebrity Judge award!

Enjoy savory food and beer from The Kinderhook Tap, receive a commemorative stein and giveaways! Marty Nachel, author of Homebrewing for Dummies and one of our celebrity judges, will be on hand to sell and autograph his books.

All of this for just $25! Non-drinking tickets are $15. All guests must be 21+. Tickets can be purchased at GHE or call 708-660-1443 or online. Proceeds benefit the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry.

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Congratulations CCGT!

On Saturday Sue and I headed to the Chicago Center for Green Technology to celebrate their tenth anniversary. This building was the first LEED Platinum public building in the United States. It’s an excellent example of revitalizing a brownfield into a sustainable property. In its ten years, CCGT has been home to sustainable businesses, GreenCorps Chicago, and countless educational events and workshops.

We were thrilled to see their energetic staff and volunteers showing off the building: passive solar lighting, non-toxic finishes of all kinds, furniture from reclaimed wood, smart energy controls, a green roof and more. If you haven’t been to CCGT in a while or–gasp–if you’ve never been there, make sure to do so this summer. Learn about their class schedule, self tours and more here. And make sure to check out our favorite spot, the resource library on the second floor!


















On the rooftop of CCGT with Sue. What a view!

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One Heirloom Project: Updates From My Garden

My garden is happy.  It’s enjoying the new layers of mulch, a few new perennials, and containers of herbs and annuals. The hummingbird is enjoying her feeder and her hanging geranium basket. My son is enjoying the succulent garden–well, he’s enjoying the pea gravel really. The dogs love the cool, wet grass in the morning. My tiny goldfish seem to be enjoying the patio pond. And the birds are definitely enjoying their feeders!

As for me, I’m enjoying the veggie beds. I think I planted at least one of everything from GHE’s garden enter: cauliflower, broccoli, onions, eggplant, herbs, peppers hot and sweet, asparagus, rhubarb, tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, celery, fennel. There’s more, but that’s all I can remember!

Most of all, I’m enjoying watching my Arkansas Travelers take off. They are by far the biggest tomato plants I have growing. My routine so far has been to keep the beds mulched with grass clippings and to try to water every other night. The draught means I’ve turned the hose on way more than I’d like to. But it also means that I appreciate my 3 rain barrels more than ever!

Below are a few pictures of the beauties. You’ll notice I did some companion planting with basil. Please feel free to share pictures of your garden and One Heirloom tomatoes. And tell us your tips for keeping your plants happy during this heat wave!


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Winging It, by Debbie B.

Winging It
They say that if you ask ten beekeepers a question, you’ll get 12 answers. Maybe it was always that way, because of the nature of beekeepers, but with all the challenges bees are facing these days, there are no simple answers.
Many of the questions have to do with pest management–the bees are plagued with parasitic mites, and there’s a new kid in town, the small hive beetle. Beekeepers are also constantly puzzling out how to treat viruses without killing bees or affecting the honey. And how to keep the bees alive over the winter can spark quite a conversation.
Even a question as simple as whether to keep feeding the bees supplemental sugar syrup has at least three answers: Yes, no, or “as long as they keep taking it”.  You can see sugar syrup in the photo of the hives below–it’s in the spaghetti-sauce jars, which fit into a contraption known as a Boardman feeder.
The syrup question came up last week at a beekeepers’ mentoring get-together. During the course of the meeting one of the newbies said about her experiences in beekeeping, “I’m just winging it,” to which one of the mentors, a man with decades of beekeeping experience, replied, ” That’s how I feel.”
So I’m just winging it, too, alone in my backyard with two brand-new hives of bees. I’m amazed by how different the personalities of the hives are. One is doing everything by the book and coming along well; the other is a hive of mavericks and rebels who are raucous and will fly right into you if you’re in the way. Their behavior is related to the temperament of the queen. I kind of like the more assertive girls and am interested to see which hive does better.
In the photos below, guess which hive is the ‘party hive’ (can exterior decoration affect a bee’s mood?). In the close-up, you can see several bees who have just come back from foraging–they have yellow-orange lumps on their back legs, where their pollen baskets are. The pollen will be stored in the comb for later consumption–it’s the bees’ source of protein.

Coming up is National Pollinator Week, June 18-24 this year. How will you celebrate?

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Celebrating the Dads in my Life

Pardon my indulgence as I write about my three favorite men: my dad, my husband and my son.

My dad and I have always been close to each other, even when we fought through my teenage years. In fact, a lot of our horn-locking came from the fact that we’re exactly alike! I fell in love with my husband for a lot of reasons, and a big one was that I knew he’d be as good a father and husband as my own.

With Fathers Day approaching, I’m celebrating the two most important dads in my life. I celebrate my dad’s dedication to his family throughout the years. Now more than ever I appreciate the sacrifices he made for us to provide everything he did. And even though it made me crazy growing up, I’m grateful for his hard work to always keep our family close. I celebrate my dad’s outlooks on life. My favorite saying from Dad is “Hard things are hard to do.” That just about sums it up!

I go to my dad for advice and brainstorming about the shop. Just this weekend I vetted a situation with him before working it out. These days, most of our conversations are spent with me telling him about my son’s latest adventures and mishaps. Dad enjoys what he calls revenge, and I love making him laugh.

And my husband loves to make my son laugh. In fact, I think he lives for it. He spends every minute (that he’s not at work) with my son. They read stories together, they wrestle, they laugh. And it makes my heart sing. I celebrate my husband for being our family’s protector, provider, and maker of fun. I celebrate my husband for exemplifying the meaning of manhood to our young son, and I celebrate him for sharing me with my dad! It ain’t easy being married to Anthony’s daughter, ya know.

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How to Make a Chalkboard Fridge

Follow Gina T. from myskinnygarden on the journey to convert her old fridge to a chalkboard fridge:

How to Make a Chalkboard Fridge
originally published at 

When we moved into our house the stove the previous owners left was rusted with hole in the side of it and there was no dishwasher at all.  We bought a new stove and dishwasher but the fridge was clean and in good working order so we decided to keep it until it broke.  We figured we might get another year of service from it.  Here we are nearly 7 years later and the big white monster is still going strong.  Since it sits immediately next to the stove, the fact that it doesn’t match the stainless steel is the first thing you notice when you enter the kitchen.  I think it drives my mother-in-law crazy. She keeps threatening to buy us a new one.

As I was planning my minor kitchen update I found this great idea to turn the fridge into a chalkboard on one of my favorite websites the kitchn.  Since I used a fairly different (and easier!) process for my fridge, I thought I’d explain how I did it here, in case any of you want to try it.

Our chalkboard fridge is extremely practical because it gives us a place to write notes and it makes the fridge match the other appliances a little better.  My mother-in-law approves!


  1. Determine the type of material your fridge is made from.  Mine, like most, is some type of metal but the front is covered with a layer of vinyl that is kind of textured.
  2. Purchase a primer that is appropriate to cover the material the surface of your fridge is made from. I would recommend checking with Green Home Experts because they carry environmentally friendly primer. Note: Although the instructions I found at the kitchn recommended I sand off the front of the fridge, I learned that some primers can be applied right over vinyl and that sanding off the vinyl would extremely messy and an all around miserable task.
  3. Purchase chalkboard paint.  I bought plain black because I wanted the fridge to match my other appliances but you can also get school-house green and apparently some big box stores carry up to 14 colors.  Even pink!
  4. Remove all handles from fridge. Note: I did not replace my handles after my fridge was finished because, well, the handles are white and I think that would look stupid. The fridge looks much better with no handles at all and we have not found it difficult to open the fridge using the corners.
  5. Cover the floor around the fridge and any other surfaces vulnerable to paint splatter.
  6. Apply primer front of fridge per the instructions on the primer can or per your paint professional’s recommendations.  I believe I used 2 coats of primer.  I did not treat the sides or top of the fridge at all and I’m happy with the way it turned out.
  7. Paint front of fridge using chalkboard paint (mixed well) per the instructions on the paint can or per your professional’s recommendations.  I painted 3 coats allowing each to completely dry in between.
  8. Allow chalkboard paint to set for a minimum of 3 days prior to writing on it.  I followed the instructions on my chalkboard paint can which recommended 3 days but the paint scratched off in one area the first time I wrote on it.  I really feel it is better to allow the paint to set for up to 2 weeks to prevent damage because patching was no fun.  By the time you finish you will have multiple layers of primer and paint and it takes longer than you’d think to completely dry and set.
  9. Season the chalkboard fridge by covering the entire surface with chalk then erasing it.  Turn a long piece of chalk on its long side to speed up the process.  This step is especially important if your fridge is textured like mine.  It allows chalk particles to fill the crevices of the surface.  If you skip this part, the first thing you write will not be able to be completely erased.
  10. Write, draw, have fun!  A chalkboard fridge is a great place to write planting dates, grocery lists, recipes, menus and track your vegetable harvest.

A note about chalk dust and chalkboard markers.  I read a lot about the potential of chalkboard dust in the kitchen but it has not been a problem for me at all.  I was so worried about it that I considered using chalkboard markers instead of real chalk until I learned that these markers are not really meant to be used on actual chalkboard paint.  I spoke to the company and they suggested just using the chalkboard markers to write directly on my white fridge.  The reason they won’t work on actual chalkboard paint is that a cleaner like Windex is required to wipe these marks off and these cleaners cannot be used with proper chalkboard paint.

There is a lot of debate about whether it makes more sense to replace an old fridge with a new, more energy efficient one and I can see both sides. New ones use less energy but replacing a perfectly serviceable fridge means a big hunk of metal to dispose of. For us, keeping the old one was more comfortable. Now that it’s a chalkboard I’m kind of dreading needing to buy a new one!

Please click here to see a slideshow of my chalkboard fridge conversion process.

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Birds with Bare Butts

From Jennifer Murtoff, Urban Chicken Consultant. Learn more about Jennifer and read her blog here.

There was a discussion on a board I’m on concerning hens whose butts are bare. While my post on molting or pecking problems may address lack of feathers in part, bare butts may also be due to laying activity, especially in birds that lay well.  Read the rest of her post here.

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