About Me

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This blog chronicles the adventures I share with my husband, daughter and son. It is also a place to share what I am learning as a homemaker, gardener, book lover and homeschooling mother. Welcome.

Monday, September 18, 2017

saturday bike ride










Last weekend afforded us a free Saturday so we rose early and were biking one of our favorite paths by 8:30am. It is really still too warm for hiking, so biking (to me) is second best and as we were there early it was still cool enough to actually feel like autumn on our first loop. The loop is 3.75 miles and we rode three loops, stopping between each loop for water breaks and to provide encouragement (as needed). At just over 11 miles it was a good workout and finishing mid-morning meant we timed it just right to not get overspent due to too much heat.

The lake around which we loop breaks off into a little creek, which, depending on the amount of rainfall is sometimes linked to the lake but often times not. We always stop to check out this space and this time were rewarded with viewing an amazing number of baby catfish (of which Roone had to catch one!). Really, these should be in the larger lake area, so hopefully the lake and creek will be linked again through rainfall and these catfish can survive there.



Friday, September 1, 2017

the august garden


 apple trees

apple tree - leaf damage

 crepe myrtle

 roma tomatoes - on the decline

looking back to one of my favorite spots
a little corner, hidden somewhat, with flowers abundant, fire pit, hammock and benches 

peegee hydrangea - the change in color signals the change in seasons 

someone needs to thin the strawberry plants 

bouquets of cosmos - a favorite

Harvest Total thru August ~ 444 lbs.

Herbs ~ 3 lbs.
Lemon Balm, Chamomile, Mint, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Oregano, Basil and Chives

Fruit ~ 94 lbs.
Strawberries, Raspberries and Blackberries

Vegetables ~ 347 lbs.
Kale, Lettuce, Endive, Spinach (8 lbs.), Cosmic Purple, Chantenay and Parisienne Carrots and  (41 lbs.), Sweet Peppers (8 lbs.), Japanese Long and Dutch Yellow Cucumbers (45 lbs.), Bush Beans (21 lbs.), Forum Onions (23 lbs.), Caribou Russet Potatoes (71 lbs.), Garlic (4 lbs.),  Beefsteak Tomatoes (3 lbs.), Roma Tomatoes (96 lbs.), Cherry Tomatoes (6 lbs.), Kohlrabi (6 lbs.), Golden Beets (4 lbs.) and Squash (16 lbs.)

~

We harvested a little more than 100 pounds in August bringing our total up to 444 pounds! We still have a 4x8 square bed of potatoes to harvest as well as more roma tomatoes, if the plants don't die early. From the picture above you can see the leaves of this plant are not happy. The plants will continue to produce until totally dead, so we'll just leave them until completely done. New plantings of green beans and kale are already producing and we're still reaping sweet peppers, raspberries and herbs. I'd like our total to reach 500 pounds since that is the amount we reached last year (the first year I began weighting our harvest bounty) and it seems a good goal to reach for. At the end of the year I'm going to do a comparison of last year's results to see what produced and what didn't and try to analyze why. Sometimes it's gardener error and sometimes it isn't!

It seems we have the Japanese Beetle problem under control thanks to using Neem. It is a safe-for-edible plants concentrate that you mix with water and spray. We've used it on the apple trees, crepe myrtle bushes, Japanese Maple trees, Crab Apple tree and the Sand Cherry bush. The Crab Apple tree does not look well so we'll see if it survives. We bought it on extreme clearance last year (under $10 maybe), so don't feel it will be much of a loss, just a deal that slipped through our fingers. 

The apple trees seem happy with the application of Neem, but I'm not sure whether to attribute their leaf loss to Japanese Beetles or not since I never actually saw one on any of the four trees. These were also bought inexpensively because they were small, albeit from a reputable company a few years ago, so we are hoping they will all survive. We have not fertilized them but for compost but this year we will do so (in the fall and spring with an organic fruit-tree specific fertilizer) to help them along with whatever pests are around. 

This has been a learning year! We've learned that 1) the garden can produce heavily even when we have a busy schedule and don't have as much time to tend to her and 2) that we need to have a system of proactive maintenance with fertilizers and sprays (organic) to set the garden up to be a healthy one (this is even more needed as our future summer schedule may also not allow us to have eyes on her regularly).

Last night we ate spaghetti with sauce made from garden tomatoes, onions and herbs roasted that day. Tonight we'll have mashed potatoes from our own russets. It is not lost on me the sweetness of growing our own produce just outside our back door framed with the beauty of the floral blooms.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

summer '17






















Although Summer the season is still here for another month, the mindset of Summer begins to wane as we pick up math, grammar, chemistry books and add special events to our calendar. The Summer was active from late May to mid-June with a short breather until Ella began her volleyball league. What was once typically busy days at home is now sprinkled with busyness outside of the home, but it is good and time for more of those opportunities, consistently, for my children. 

What would Summer be without wide expanse of time for reading? I enjoyed previewing a few books for the children and thoroughly enjoyed Eye of the World (The first in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series), The Blue Sword (and it's prequel The Hero and the Crown) by Robin McKinley and Troubling a Star by Madeleine L'Engle. As a family we are reading aloud The Spell of the White Sturgeon  by Jim Kjelgaard and the children and I are reading Over Sea, Under Stone (from Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising Sequence) and it's Roone's first time through so it's enjoyable seeing him discover this world.

Although the seasons change the rhythm of our days I'm so thankful we've established a family and home life that doesn't change so that it really seems the transitions flow naturally to the next exciting opportunity and we are healthy (in particular ample rest, good food and taking time to know each other) to participate and enjoy them. Here's to transitioning to the schooling days with an 8th grader and 6th grader.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

the july garden

 peegee hydrangea

 raspberries

 zinnia

althea/rose of sharon


golden beets

 kohlrabi

 sweet peppers

dutch yellow cucumber

japanese long cucumber

 zinnias

sunflower

Harvest Total thru July ~ 333 lbs.

Herbs ~ 3 lbs.
Lemon Balm, Chamomile, Mint, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Oregano, Basil and Chives

Fruit ~ 92 lbs.
Strawberries, Raspberries and Blackberries

Vegetables ~ 238 lbs.
Kale, Lettuce, Endive, Spinach (8 lbs.), Cosmic Purple, Chantenay and Parisienne Carrots and  (36 lbs.), Sweet Peppers (6 lbs.), Japanese Long and Dutch Yellow Cucumbers (45 lbs.), Bush Beans (13 lbs.), Forum Onions (23 lbs.), Caribou Russet Potatoes (56 lbs.), Garlic (4 lbs.),  Beefsteak Tomatoes (3 lbs.), Roma Tomatoes (35 lbs.), Cherry Tomatoes (4 lbs.), Kohlrabi (6 lbs.), Golden Beets (4 lbs.) and Squash (3 lbs.)

~

An entire month between posts means my mind has been elsewhere. The Summer heat and busy schedule has me feeling I've neglected the garden, however, since we've set it up to be manageable the plants keep growing well even without my presence. As long as we took the time to water when there was a prolonged dry spell we felt good even if the weeds mocked our neglect!

This past month of July began the season of heavy harvest and not having enough room in the kitchen for all the produce. The tomatoes are really strutting their stuff now, which means a daily morning task is to roast a pan for freezing. I usually prep them the evening before so all I have to do is slice them, place them on the pan, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and roast. These provide a much welcome staple in the freezer come winter.

Our root vegetables have done well: carrots, potatoes, beets. I could grow more beets than I do, but they actually aren't as easy to germinate/grow as carrots and potatoes. We've harvested 4 out of the 6 boxes of potatoes and eat them almost daily. This Caribou Russet variety is pretty great as mashed potatoes, but we also enjoy them roasted, as baked potatoes and hashbrowns. 

I'm very pleased with a new-to-us vegetable, kohlrabi. This vegetable is in the Brassica family and while Kale always does well for us, broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts never have. Kohlrabi has a thick covering, but once that is peeled/cut away you get to the edible portion which I dice and roast, similar to my preparation for roasted potatoes and carrots. It has the look and texture of potatoes, but the taste of brussels sprouts. We are really enjoying this vegetable. 

I'm diligently trying to succession plant as we harvest a complete bed. Mostly, I'm attempting to grow more greens for salads and carrots for storage. I've started more green beans for good measure to see if they will do well for me too. 

I will mention this is the first year we've had pest problems. Japanese Beetles have discovered the raspberry and blackberry canes as well as the apple trees and a few ornamental bushes. We have never sprayed, but this year we are sparingly using Neem Oil so that those specific plants are not decimated. I will say we haven't used the Neem Oil on the raspberry and blackberry canes, although it is considered okay to do so. Now that the intense heat has subsided we are being more diligent to check the plants ourselves and last weekend eradicated around 100 of them. Since we don't have chickens any more we are wondering if this is part of our problem and now considering adding them again to our backyard. Chickens are amazing at eating bugs and weeds. We'll see what we decide.

Overall, we are pleased with our garden harvest and are grateful that we don't have to be helicopter gardeners for it to produce well!

Friday, June 30, 2017

the june garden


robin's nest in the blackberries 

kale & lettuce 

potatoes 

peony poppy 

annabelle hydrangeas 

balloon flowers 

red inchelium garlic 

  oakleaf hydrangea

 chamomile

bush beans

 baby wren ~ struggling to fly but eventually flew away

caribou russet potatoes

zinnia

Harvest Total thru June ~ 157 lbs.

Herbs ~ 3 lbs.
Lemon Balm, Chamomile, Mint, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Oregano, Basil & Chives

Fruit ~ 86 lbs.
Strawberries

Vegetables ~ 68 lbs.
Kale, Lettuce, Endive, Spinach (6 lbs.), Cosmic Purple and Chantenay Carrots (19 1/2 lbs.), Sweet Peppers (1 1/2 lbs.), Japanese Long and Dutch Yellow Cucumbers (5 lbs.), Bush Beans (3 lbs.), Forum Onions (23 lbs.), Caribou Russet Potatoes (10 lbs.)

~~~~~

Thanks to the amazing strawberry harvest our numbers for the year are already high (to us). We enjoy fresh vegetables everyday which is, of course, tasty and healthy. My children enjoy most of what we grow. They look forward to lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, carrots, green beans, squash, tomatoes, potatoes (beets can be a struggle!) and I look on this as a success. Vegetables are so healthy and I know it's difficult for children (and adults) to acquire a taste for them, so I'm thankful that my children have become used to having them in their diet. I've also dehydrated quite an amount of herbs (although 3 pounds doesn't sound like a lot, for herbs it is), but will continue on as I have time. 

Although I hop out to the garden to cut flowers and gather produce each  morning, my main time to weed and maintain order is on Saturday mornings. My weekday mornings have been consumed by dive team for my son, which is a new adventure for him and so fun for our family to enjoy. However, this means I really can't let myself go in the garden during the weekday mornings (or we'd never make it to practice) and our afternoons are hot, sunny and many times muggy. So I'm enjoying my Saturday morning immersion in the garden.

Since we use raised beds the effort really is minimal, and the chores are usually weeding, watering (as needed), tying up vines (cucumbers, tomatoes), harvesting and amending the soil (with egg shells, coffee grounds and compost). The pests that have arrived are Japanese beetles, cabbage moths and cucumber beetles so as we have opportunity we are on the hunt for those. We do not use sprays so this is definitely a labor of love. Here's hoping squash beetles don't arrive too soon ~ we haven't seen one yet!

We are enjoying many blooms, too, which just makes the yard so beautiful and bright. Somehow my green and white zinnia's are blooming pink here and there, and it's just the loveliest shade so that has been fun. I've been enjoying cutting small bouquets for the house usually featuring blooms from butterfly bush, zinnias, oregano, chamomile, annabelle hydrangea's and peony poppies.  

June is usually an "easy" harvest month and July should bring the bounty of squash, beets, kohlrabi (new to us!), tomatoes, potatoes (so far I've harvested one bed out of six) and even more carrots, cucumbers and peppers. There will be much more work to do in this next month and so it's convenient that my son's dive season is coming to a close.