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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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

garden to table

I'd like to be one of those gardeners who takes the time to photograph the meals created using the ingredients grown in her own garden, but I'm not. I don't consistently document via camera what we eat. I actually don't enjoy taking pictures of food and think I'm better at taking pictures of the garden and our adventures anyway.

However, I did capture this side dish of potatoes, green beans and kale sauteed with onions in bacon grease. It's late September, but I'm still able to serve dishes with fresh ingredients from the garden. Although the temperatures have unfortunately risen reminiscent of Summer, I'm trying to look on the bright side. The warmer temps encourage continued growth. 

Since we've made it our standard to eat from home most of the time and since the preparation of those meals is mostly my responsibility, it is so, so lovely to be able to walk a few feet to get the fresh ingredients for the meal that day. Each time I cook with our own garden ingredients I think how frugal and healthy we're being and how tasty the food is too. 

I just realized I do have another meal picture. This is of shrimp fried rice. All the vegetables are from our garden and the shrimp is from a new local business called KC Shrimp that grows salt water shrimp on the outskirts of Kansas City. Truly, the best shrimp I've ever tasted.

Well, here's another picture ~ of pizza ~ always a winner around here. 

I'm still frequently roasting Roma tomatoes in the morning, using what is fresh and saving the leftover in the freezer. We are stocked for the winter which really makes me happy.

For the freezer, I roast the tomatoes, let them cool and then bag them for the freezer. If after roasting I use the tomatoes for a meal that day I put the cooled Romas in the blender and use the setting "chop" which makes the consistency more of a chunky (rather than smooth) puree. Just today I put together a spaghetti sauce for dinner. For this homemaker-ever-in-training, these fresh ingredients help me look like I know what I'm doing. Maybe I'm becoming like this Julia Child quotation!

You learn to cook 
so that you don't have to be a slave to recipes. 
You get what's in season 
and you know what to do with it. 
-Julia Child-

Sunday, September 11, 2016

james a. reed memorial wildlife area

We have frequented the James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area for fishing and archery. Saturday was the first time that Roone and I were able to accompany Ella and Jesse at the archery range. Not only is there a range for target practice, but also a trail through the woods with 20+ targets, which is where Ella practiced. We arrived early and the day was cool anyway, so it was wonderful to have a walk in the woods watching Ella be an archer. Perfect for a Saturday morning.

It's always impressive to see my children do anything. It's amazing, to me, that I get to be their mother and everything they do is wonderful! I have no knowledge or experience with archery, so to see Ella develop this skill separate from me makes it that much more impressive!

After archery, we spent a few hours at nearby Gopher Lake (the area has 11 lakes). The kids and Jesse fished while I read a gardening book, soaked up Vitamin D and found flowers to photograph (of course). Although there were just a few fish bites, we did bring home a catfish now residing in the freezer waiting for another day to be fried. 

September weather can be fickle. Will it be hot or cold? I was so thankful for an autumnal-like day where we could be in long-sleeves and jeans and comfortable! Minus the humidity it makes one enjoy Midwest living again.

Friday, August 26, 2016

end of august garden

This morning I walked a counter-clock wise loop around our back yard, camera in hand to capture the lushness of the August garden. I expected a dry, crispy, ugly garden by this time, but no! Cooler temperatures and a rainy day here and there have provided a beauty place for us. This really is a gift for August.

We had thunderstorms during the night so if the plants look wet and bedraggled, they are; but I don't mind.

If the plants look jungle-y, they are. That is a sign of August that can't be wished away. I like the jungle, though. You never know what vegetable or insect you are going to discover hidden away in the foliage.

The empty beds are where the potatoes were, and one is now the catch-all for vines that have been trimmed.

My favorite place in the garden right now is this flower bed. After mowing or doing yard work it's so nice to sit in that hammock and look at all the pretty colors. The pink/purple cosmos are new this year. They were actually the last of the flowers to bloom, and I thought I'd only have orange and white to gaze at. These cosmos have added a certain softness to the bright orange cosmos and really complement the white zinnias and cosmos well. They have been nice to cut and bring inside to enjoy too.

These clematis vines were actually transplanted just a month ago. Due to disease I had to cut back all the clematis vines in June after their Spring bloom. I was very disappointed! However, after moving them to a location where they will get more air flow (hopefully to prevent disease), they decided to grow and even bloom again for us. Thankful for the beauty!

August was a heavy hitter for vegetables too. The vegetable pound totals are below. 
  • 137 lbs ~ Roma Tomatoes
  • 95 lbs ~ Potatoes
  • 47 lbs ~ Blackberries
  • 36 lbs ~ Beefsteak Tomatoes
  • 27 lbs ~ Carrots
  • 10 lbs ~ Garlic
  • 9 lbs ~ Onions
  • 6 lbs ~ Squash
  • 3 lbs ~ Golden Beets
  • 2 lb ~ Green Beans
  • 1 lb ~ Cucumbers
  • 1 lb ~ Sweet Peppers
  • 1 lb ~ Tomatillo Tomatoes
  • 1 lb ~ Lima Beans
We harvested almost 140 pounds in this month alone. Vegetable harvests thru July were 238 pounds while thru August was 376 pounds! We're still harvesting Romas, Beefsteak, Squash, Green Beans, Lima Beans and hopefully some Red Beans. It'd be nice to top the 400 pound mark. Even so, we're so pleased with these amounts and enjoying the fresh vegetables each day with our meals.

The majority of the "Summer" work in the garden is complete (harvesting, upkeep, etc.) which was my plan since we begin our schooling schedule next Monday and I work best with one thing on my mind at a time. The harvest now is minimal and the clean-up of the garden won't happen until October or November. It's time to concentrate on some book work with the children. Gardening and guiding my children as they learn ~ two of my favorite things ~ so it's not a bad trade off.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

end of july garden

Peegee Hydrangea

Leaving our large home garden the beginning of July to go on vacation was an act of faith! We could see that the blackberries and tomatoes were ready to ripen and that the final potatoes and golden beets were ready to harvest. We were already harvesting some squash and green beans and many herbs. The carrots were growing like mad, and the flowers were getting ready to really put on their summer display.


Although April and May were full of rain June was the exact opposite! The rain barrels were dry and we really wondered how the garden would fair while we were away. Well, it's as simple as driving away and hoping everything isn't crispy on your return.


Even though there was just a bit of rainfall while away, the entire yard seemed a jungle, albeit dry, when we got back. The blackberries had begun to turn and were ready for immediate harvest, but I was surprised that my Roma tomatoes weren't red and ready for picking. That would soon change.

Purple Viking potatoes

Overall, this month has been just what July should be: a dance of harvesting from the garden and finding time in the mornings to process it. Berries are easy: wash, lay on a cookie sheet to freeze, then bag and put in the deep freeze. Roma tomatoes I slice, roast and then bag and freeze. Carrots are washed, sliced, blanched and frozen. Potatoes are dug up, the excess dirt shaken off (not washed) and then put in bags and stored in the basement. Although there is a lot of work involved this really is the fun part of having the garden ~ eating fresh vegetables every day and storing the excess. 

Morning Glory 

Jesse purchased a scale for me to weigh our produce, and it has been a delight to see how much we are actually harvesting. These are the totals so far for the year.
  • 95 lbs ~ Potatoes
  • 54 lbs ~ Roma Tomatos
  • 39 lbs ~ Blackberries
  • 12 lbs ~ Beefsteak Tomatoes
  • 10 lbs ~ Carrots
  • 10 lbs ~ Garlic
  • 9 lbs ~ Onions
  • 3 lbs ~ Golden Beets
  • 3 lbs ~ Squash
  • 1 lb ~ Cucumbers
  • 1 lb ~ Bush Beans
  • 1 lb ~ Tomatillo Tomatoes
I haven't taken the time to weigh any greens (kale, spinach, lettuce) or herbs, but so far having 238 pounds of produce is an accomplishment I'm very proud of. Obviously, the potatoes are a heavyweight and they have such versatility in the kitchen that they are more than welcome. The Romas are a staple for sauces and soups and I hope to have a good 100 pounds by the end of the growing season. I have many more carrots to harvest, am hopeful to have more green beans and squash and haven't even begun to harvest lima or red beans. 

Carrot bloom

Overall, I'm filled with gratitude. Maintaining a home garden blesses me so because my work is in my home. The easy access to fresh vegetables in spring and summer and then the stored vegetables through the cold weather months makes my work in the home go that much more smoothly. Simply going to the garden or to the freezer instead of hopping out to the grocery store for that one missing item is a blessing. The taste of fresh produce speaks for itself. There is also an economic benefit. I haven't taken the time to add up how much purchasing these types and amounts of organic produce would cost us at the grocery store or farmer's market (Jesse guesses a good $1,000), but I know that having purchased our twelve blackberry plants for $60 that the thirty-nine pounds we've already harvested this year has easily paid for them and we're not done harvesting!

To me, the garden isn't complete without some color and the yard is bursting right now. The greenery of the vegetable garden is beautiful knowing all the produce growing within, but the color of the blooms speaks to me too. Pinks, reds, whites, purples, oranges, greens, yellows ~ flowers really are easy to grow and should be added to the vegetable garden if there is space. 

The August garden has the reputation of being crispy and brown, hopefully we can hold that off and have a harvest similar to that of July.

Crepe Myrtle 

Pole Beans


View from the Kitchen 

Friday, July 22, 2016

gsm to kc: wilderness of the smokies & pennyrile


We've set a precedent that if we are on vacation in Summer we go to a waterpark. It turned out to be quite convenient for us that just north of Gatlinburg, TN/Smoky Mountain National Park in is Wilderness of the Smokies in Sevierville, TN. It is a massive waterpark complete with lodging, two outdoor parks and one indoor park. You are allowed access to the parks both the day you check in and the day you check out. They open early ~ as early as 9am ~ and close late ~ as late as 10pm. Well, all those details spoke to us and the price for lodging including the parks was fair, so this was our last big activity and we scheduled it to be on Roone's 10th birthday weekend. It was a very, very fun place to spend dome down time (Ella and I spend most of our time in the lazy river), although I think Jesse and Roone wore themselves out with the more high energy activities (see the Wake Board pictures, above, it was Roone's favorite activity).

Our last stop on the way home was at Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park. When originally researching our vacation I found many Kentucky state parks that looked beautiful with many activities. We decided to continue further southeast for our time away, but since this state park was on our way back home, and lodging for the night cost less than a hotel, we decided to take a minor detour to scope it out. 

We arrived just in time to check-in and eat dinner, sleep, eat breakfast and leave. But driving into the park gave you scope of just how much forest there is, where the hiking trails are, and we could obviously view the lake from both the dining room and hotel room. It was all very inviting, and if we ever want a more simple getaway, this could be the place for one. There are plenty of things to do, canoeing, fishing, hiking, swimming (pool and beach), but without the epic-ness of our Smoky Mountain adventure.

The food was fantastic country cooking (fried chicken like my mom makes; okra like Jesse's grandma made) and the people were so nice (complete with Southern drawl which is sounds so friendly to me). The accommodations were homey, not modernized, which I actually liked; it made it seem that much more simple and relaxing. After a quick breakfast we were just under eight hours from being back home, picking up Arwen from the kennel and checking out how much the garden had grown while we were away!