raori

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The Edible Garden Project 2015 – part 7. Livin’ it!

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Before and after: heavy wooden structures filled to the brim with flowers and food.

It took some time to get everything going and working, so much actually, that I had to quit my beloved raori for a while. But here we are now. No more hard work, just a functioning Edible Garden filled with flowers and food. This is what I wrote one year ago:

The plan is:

– to try to grow as much food as we can by ourselves.

– to eat mainly vegetarian (although Max and the kids will eat meat occasionally).

– to buy what we can’t grow in bulk and locally grown (flour, oats, cheese, butter, milk).

– to have our own eggs (there is a chicken coop in our garden already!)

– to cook and bake everything by ourselves and really avoid processed food.

– to create a peaceful, organised and beautiful garden full of flowers and food.

And I’m happy to tell you that our plan worked! We are livin’ it and lovin’ it. Our dinners are based on what is ready to harvest, and the entire family is happier and healthier than ever 🙂

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livin it-5See my little corn field? We bought an extra freezer to be able to store it all over the winter.

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livin it-8Remember that awful grey and boring entrance to our little back yard farm? This has now been replaced with climbing beans and soft grass.

livin it-9Fresh eggs every day is the best!

livin it-10Organised Square Foot Gardening: easy to manage and care for.

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livin it-16There is something very precious about harvest from your own garden. This was Elsa’s breakfast.

livin it-17We have a huge Cherry tree at the back of the garden. In June it invites you to climb up to harvest or to have a quick snack.

meet the family-5Even babies enjoy picking vegetables.

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livin it3-1Garden dinner on the terrace: all made from Garden food: Chard in garlic and olive oil, leeks in lemon and parmesan, baked potato… yummie!

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bread-1The most basic human cooking knowledge: to learn how to bake bread. This has been the most important skill to learn. Max’s bread is the most delicious bread I’ve ever had.


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Gold and silver garland from cake box paper

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Sometimes we have relatives coming over, and they always bring cakes. Inside the boxes they bring from the bakery are of course the creamy pastries topped with all kinds of jellied fruit, marzipan or Belgian chocolate, but it is what you find in the bottom of the box that interests me: a thick paper with one side gold, one side silver. All you need to do is: wash it up, cut small triangles and stitch them together on the sewing machine (or by hand) into this pretty little bunting!


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New vintage shop!

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I knoooow it’s been ages, but seriously I’ve been about to work myself mental! I truly needed a break to catch up with… LIFE! And now, five months later, I’m finally getting ready to start my work-life again. The raori shop is up and running again, my studio has gone through a mega-clean-up and I’m full of energy and ready for business again. As I like to just jump straight into things and do it all at the same time, I also decided to dust of my vintage shop and open it with a fresh new model (my wonderful friend Lynn) and some cool and kitschy new things…

The raori vintage shop is still under construction and I’ll be adding lots of new things the coming week, but please feel free to have a quick peek.


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Lovely vintage toys…

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Look at these plastic fantastic old figurines! I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older or if I’m just a very nostalgic woman, but seriously: wasn’t toys back then so much prettier and better made than nowadays? The simpler, the better in my taste. And since plastic will inevitably stay around for long until after we are gone, we might as well stop supporting new production  of plastic crap that are meant to break anyway, and spend way less money on cute vintage toys like these 😉 Be the change!


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The Edible Garden Project 2015 – part 1

Our present garden.

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This is our garden. Welcome! It doesn’t look amazingly inviting, does it? That’s because our garden is far from finished. Let me explain:

We moved here a few months ago (in the middle of the growing season!) and when we arrived, I made sure most of my plants from my old vegetable garden came with me. It’s hard to move, to get your roots pulled up… literally! My vegetable plants really didn’t like to be moved, but with some heavy work and some fresh pot soil, they survived at least. Still, because of the move, we ended up having a pretty pathetic crop this summer so I focused on learning and studying about growing your own food instead. I tried to learn as much as I could about the plants I was growing, about plants I should try to grow and also what I could have done better. But what I realised after all this studying is that it is really easy to grow your own food! Much easier than I thought. So we decided to start this project for real and I am so exited to share this with you now:

The Edible Garden Project 2015!

Max and I have decided that we will make our garden as productive as possible for next summer (2015) and we are starting with a few fall-friendly vegetables already this fall! We don’t have a lot of space to grow on yet, but with a little planning we think we might be able to grow quite a lot and seriously cut our food expenses as well as decreasing our carbon footprint by growing organic and save the waste we would create by buying food in the supermarket.

The plan is:

– to try to grow as much food as we can by ourselves.

– to eat mainly vegetarian (although Max and the kids will eat meat occasionally).

– to buy what we can’t grow in bulk and locally grown (flour, oats, cheese, butter, milk).

– to have our own eggs (there is a chicken coop in our garden already!)

– to cook and bake everything by ourselves and really avoid processed food.

– to create a peaceful, organised and beautiful garden full of flowers and food.

So let me take you on a tour of our garden as it looks at present and let me explain what needs to be done to get started.

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First: this is what our vegetable garden looked like this summer… Not very impressive, right? I just planted them in pots, buckets and what-not … what I had available really.

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This is the second year I grow corn and still no success! The mistake I made the first year was not to give them enough sun and this year it was a combination of being uprooted three times (!!) and vicious slugs.

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I like to mix my vegetables in the vegetable beds. Not only does it look interesting, but they all grow in different speed (fast-growing radish is great to grow while you are waiting for a slow-growing cauliflower). It also helps to grow certain vegetables next to each other as companion planting repels and confuse pests. I’m growing potatoes in those big pots in the background.

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Broad beans, Cresse, Sunflowers and Lemon Balm, extremely productive courgettes in the background.

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A yellow zucchini plant and popcorn (!!). My kids played around with popcorn for fun and they actually started growing! Although no cobs grew, they were still decorative.

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I grow garlic and peas in wooden wine crates on the terrace. It always worked fine for me and it gives a little space in the precious vegetable beds for other goodies.

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I grew my first tomato plant this year and at first it looked very productive as about 20 tomatoes started to show. Unfortunately I learned at harvest time that there is something called “Blossom end rot” and all my tomatoes had it 😦 Apparently it is due to a lack of calcium in the soil. You learn by your mistakes is what they say …

To continue our tour, here is what we have to work with and ideas I have to change or re-make to the better:

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1. The entrance: This used to be a little gravel path leading to the garage you can see in the background. This will all be made into a lawn and growing beds. The garage has flooding problems, so the only thing we can store there are pots and maybe a seed growing table and a shelf. The ornamental grass hedge is gorgeous! It looks like Fountain Grass and will have featherlike flowers in the end of the summer. I’m planning to dig up the ground here to create a long vegetable bed along the grass all the way to the garage. That should give us about 20 square metres of growing space. I’m thinking that I will build a tall trellis structure with beans climbing between the house wall and the grass, creating a pretty entrance into the garden.

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2. The chicken coop: If I was a chicken I wouldn’t want to live in this coop… It’s dark, disgusting, dirty and it needs a big clean up! I have already removed some old and moulded wood planks that was covering and weighing down the roof, plus taken down a scary looking tarp that looked like that sail on the Black Pearl in Pirates of the Caribbean! I’m planning to wash the entire coop, inside out, add wood shavings all over the ground and make a “dust bath tub” out of an old tire. I also need to add a door to the coop to protect the chickens from all the foxes that are running around in our neighbourhood at night. The cage can be closed, but I heard incredible stories about foxes. They can get in anywhere! So another door to the coop itself would be a good idea I think. As you can see the coop stands inside a cubic cage, so we could technically keep them shut in that cage with still some space to run free. I’m not to fond of the idea to close an animal in a cage though, so I’m planning to let them run around in the back area surrounding the garage. There is a closed fenced to “the house garden”, so they won’t be able to get to the vegetable patches and mess around, so I’ll be able to control their free range to the closed “garage garden”, the chicken coop area and the composts (where they are more than welcome to play!).

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3. The compost: To continue the tale of dirty and disgusting … well, the present compost is the most disgusting compost I have ever seen. Apart from lots of flies there was no sign of life, no worms, no caterpillars, no beetles… I thought that was  pretty strange for a compost, so I decided to … ehh … have a look inside. And as I suspected, after some turning of the wet and gooey material, I found whole egg shells, plastic pieces, bones and even better: the remains of a pig foot with some rotten flesh still on it. yup. So I think I’m going to make a big hole and bury the remains of this compost, and start a new one. With crushed eggshells. Here is a great list of what you can and can’t compost.

Around the garage is a really wild area, full of nettles and thistles and facing the neighbour’s garden. I think this could be a great area to make a few composts actually. We also need to put up some sort of fence as the neighbours have a dog, I’m scared his constant barking will scare the chickens to death… Anyone with experience of barking dogs and chickens? Please tell me about it in the comments below. Anyway, the first task here is to pull up all them weeds by the roots. It’s gonna sting and cut me, but it will be nice and clean once it’s done 🙂 And then I’m going to build a huge compost.

ediblegarden-214. The ornamental grass: The first part of this grass hedge is so pretty! And then the above happens. Thistles, nettles, wines and un-trimmed lavender has taken over! I actually feel exited to arm myself with a long-sleeved sweater and garden gloves and get it there to pull! There is life in there though… I’ve heard a mouse (please don’t let it be a rat!) running around in there squeaking and also some angry buzzing from what I believe is a wasp-nest. Gulp. You can imagine how nice it will look once there is a lawn and vegetable patches in front of this hedge instead of weed-infested gravel.

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5. The good things that needs some tweaking: There are two fruit trees: one apple tree and one cherry tree, both very productive. For seasonal thinking it’s great. We can harvest the cherries in June and the apples in September-October. Both can be stored, canned or frozen and will give us a big supply during the winter.

There is a semi-shaded spot against a straw fence/ hedge next to the apple tree. I’m planning to plant strawberries and herbs there. We have a small citronella tree standing in the middle of the lawn, I’m moving it here as well. The citronella is a mosquito repellant so it will be a good idea to put it next to the terrace.

There is also some bamboo next to the chicken coop. Great for those important bamboo sticks to create growing structures.

So there you have it! Our garden. I’m so exited to do this project and I hope you want to follow us and see what happens and how we progress. Now I’m off to build a compost!


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Zero Waste Living – Inspiring books

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We lived in Tokyo many years ago. In the summer we used to go swimming in Kamakura, a little city by the sea, not too far from the busy streets of Tokyo. It was always great to go there for a day or two, to get that breath of fresh air and clean water to swim in. However, a few years ago we returned to Kamakura. Six years had passed since we lived in Tokyo then, but to our surprise something awful had happened to the ocean! Every wave brought slimy pieces of plastic towards the beach, stroking against our legs passing. That’s when I realised that something is really wrong with the way we consume, trash and pollute. Humans have been on this earth a very short time and we have already managed to do a lot of harm. We are all responsible for this scenario, but where to start?

Well, a good place to start is always within yourself. You can’t change others or the world over night, but you can definitely change your own behaviour and your own mind. And like someone once told me: sharing and spreading goodness is like a great smelling perfume – it’s never a good idea to go around spraying it on people, but wear it yourself and someone might ask: “man, you smell good! What is that you’re wearing!?” And once you explain, you might sew a small seed and you might actually be able to help change the next person 🙂

Two great books that I’m reading at the moment about trash and how to live trash-free are Zero Waste Lifestyle by Amy Korst and Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson. Both books are full of information about the garbage problem in our world and lots of hands-on tips how you can change the way you live. I really recommend them. Happy reading!


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DIY – little love box

My husband is one of those men who doesn’t want anything for his birthday. So every year I find myself totally lost. I do know however, that he likes handmade things and he really appreciates sweet thoughts (like eloping without the kids for a small weekend or a handmade bag or some very nice sushi for dinner or… well, you get the point!) When I ask him if there is something special he wants, most of the time he tells me: “oh, just give me a kiss!”And this year was no exception, but this time it gave me an idea….
I’m gonna show you have to make “a love box” !! A sweet little something, super fast and pretty much free to make. A little paper box filled with love! In my case, I have written some thoughts on long strips of pretty paper, thoughts that I have about him … oh, I won’t go into details, but it goes something like: “I love looking into your beautiful eyes, I could stare at them all day…” stuff like that.
Here is how I made the box:
We have a lot of different cheese here in Belgium, and many of them comes in pretty wood or paper boxes. That is exactly the kind of “garbage” paper box that we’re looking for here. Something that is made to be thrown away, but brought to life. (I love that!).
I flipped through my huge pile of old design magazines and found this Belgian graffiti fashion shoot that I thought had potential for my little project. I grabbed a Pritt stick (glue) and started tearing small pieces of the photo shoot pages. It was the background I really liked. First I glued the entire top of the box, started to add small pieces, and as I moved on, I glued on the pieces instead before I tacked them down.
The edge of the box was beige brown and I thought it would look better white, so I painted it with fast drying acrylic paint before I continued to glue down my ripped pieces. I found a nice drawing of a man I thought looked like Max and some women that I liked, I glue the man on the top, cut out letters for “Max” and glued the women on the bottom. For a great finish and longer lasting quality, you could add a layer of Mod Podge on top of everything, but it’s not necessary.