About Me

My photo
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.

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.

Cosmos

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.

Watermelon

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

Carrots

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!


Thursday, July 21, 2016

kc to gsm: tubing







There are so many little creeks and big rivers that run through the Smoky Mountains that tubing is a common activity. Many vacationers bring their own tubes, find water and jump in. We rented tubes through a company that provided shuttling to a starting point, but also provided transportation if you didn't want to tube the entire length back to headquarters. The tube fee is for the entire day so you can tube this portion of the Little Pigeon River as many times as you want, so that's a nice deal. 

Jesse and I really aren't water people and hadn't ever tubed before (although Jesse has fished from a tube, but that was in a lake, I think). It was fun and mostly relaxing, although the pictures don't show some bigger rapids we encountered. The first time down the river went well so we tried it again. The second time a couple of us actually fell out of our tubes on some bigger rapids and my water shoes came off. Jesse and I decided to stop while we were ahead (you really have to have shoes on or your feet can get cut on rocks) so that ended our tubing adventure. Overall it was a nice, relaxing time. There were again a lot of people on the river, but we all seemed to be spread out and giving each other space. Campsites were common along the banks so it was like we were on view for all the people hanging out at their sites and enjoying the shade. There was also a BBQ restaurant on site so we had pulled pork sandwiches afterwards. 

The location of the tubing company allowed us to drive along the scenic road that took us to our biking destination on the first day in the park. It was nice to see a few more beautiful spots (specifically, The Meigs and The Sinks) one more time before leaving the next morning.

The Sinks 

 The Sinks 

The Sinks  


The Meigs 

 The Meigs

  The Meigs

 The Meigs

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

kc to gsm: trillium gap trail & grotto falls







See the birds? Roone spotted them in a lichen-made nest just near the falls.




Since this was our vacation hike, it should go without saying that this was my favorite activity of the trip. I enjoyed everything we did, but hiking just speaks to me. 

The Trillium Gap trail head is on the Roaring Fork Motor Trail, so we were able to drive that again. I took the driver's seat this time so Jesse could enjoy all the views. We made it to the trail head by 8am and I was sure that the small parking lot would be full and the trail congested. I was delighted to find that I was wrong on both counts. There were plenty of parking spots and we hiked mostly in solitude, (except for our bear bells ringing and children being loud). This was truly a gift for us because the trails just become overloaded with people. In fact, on our way down the trial we probably passed a good fifty hikers going up (some in flip flops, others yodeling). 

The rewards of this hike are two-fold, that at the end of 1.3 miles are the beautiful Grotto Falls and that the return trip is all downhill. This means that the ascent is all uphill. The trail was rocky and full of tree roots, making it a bit cumbersome, but the views of the forests, streams and rhododendrons were wonderful. The falls were a fun place and we lingered for a bit for a few photo ops. 

We promised the kids this would not be a hiking vacation. It's the middle of summer anyway, and Jesse and I didn't want to suffer ourselves. The kids know we love hiking, though, and when we were planning the trip they knew that mom would get one hike, for sure. This was it, and it really was perfect for us. A quiet, morning hike under three miles with waterfalls that you can walk behind. It even left us enough time for another activity that day, but I'll leave that for the next post.


Friday, July 15, 2016

kc to gsm: whitewater rafting & roaring fork motor trail


The only pictures taken of us while whitewater rafting were by the rafting company. They all basically look the same, so I'm only sharing one. 

This activity was so fun for our family. Both Jesse and I had experience rafting in Colorado, separately, with our families growing up. Rafting on the Pigeon River is not the same as Colorado rafting (smaller rapids), but since my children are only 12 and 10, that was fine with me. There were some good rapids (another raft actually got stuck on a rock in some rapids and it was a bit dramatic seeing them get help off that rock), but the trip was mostly mild and a good introduction for the kids to this activity. I actually never paddled growing up, so for them to do that while enjoying the ride was good for them. 

There were many rafting outfitters, but we scheduled ours with Big Creek Expeditions from home just to make sure we would have a spot. Our guide, Wayne, was a great teacher and patient with the children. There were many rafts on the river at the same time and the river runs along a highway. I was accustomed to a bit more solitude while rafting in Colorado, but this was still a very nice ride for  us considering we had never done this before as a family.

These big rapids were on the upper Pigeon River and after a break for lunch we were supposed to raft the lower, calmer portion. However, torrential rain came through, so we opted out of that and received a refund. We drove home, showered and went out for an early dinner and then a drive on the Roaring Fork Motor Trail

The touristy city of Gatlinburg sits against the The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, literally. The one-way Roaring Fork Motor Trail is just a couple of streets off the main strip. You jump from civilization to forest that quickly. It was good for us to drive this trail to scope out hiking trails for the next morning. During the day the hiking trails are overrun with people, cars almost piled on top of each other crowding the roads. We had no intention of hiking mid-day, rather get up in the morning and hopefully beat a few of the crowd. 

This drive was awesome. Mostly, we were covered in forest, but a couple of times we had a great view of the mountains. On one of these stops a kind lady took our picture. A stream runs through the forest and that was the view from the car most of the ride. Also from the car you can see A Place of a Thousand Drips (the last photo), a waterfall with any small falls or "drips." After researching later that evening we decided to venture on the Trillium Trail to view Grotto Falls the next morning (next post).






Place of a Thousand Drips