Friday, July 30, 2010

KinderGARDENS and a KinderCanner!

Sigh- the septic guys got rained out today. I'm not sure if they will be out tomorrow to finish or not. The county health inspector also needs to look at the system and he didn't show up today either.
It was too wet to get out in the garden and life has been a bit crazy around here lately. But, even with the rain, it was a fun, eventful day.
The Black Knight Scabiosa is blooming in the Goth Garden.
It looks much darker in person.
The first sunflower is blooming.
My pattypan squash are blooming like mad but no squash yet.
The Black Pearls are growing. The largest is only about half an inch across!
J16 and I had planned to go blueberry picking this morning but didn't go due to the impending rain. But, we ran a few other errands and had lots of fun.
We went to Kalona to the Amish bulk store at Stringtown and then stopped at the cheese factory. Next week is Eat Local week sponsored by the local food coop so we wanted to get a few things. We didn't anticipate getting these:
Three more barrels for holding rainwater.
The cheese factory periodically has 55 gallon barrels that they sell. These have previously contained sanitizer or water purifiers. They are a great deal if you are there when they have them. They sell them for $5 each or 3/$10. Since they had a whole stack (8 or 9 barrels) today and we happened to be driving the van and had the seats out, we got three!
We also had a great find while we were at Stringtown Grocery:
Possibly the tastiest peaches I have ever had!!
So we decided to make peach jam. I think it's great that J16 is eager to learn how to can and preserve food. There are so many people out there who have no idea and so many fewer people out there to learn from.
She even has pretty good knife skills for a teenager.
I've seen way to many adults who don't know how to handle a knife and it's scary to watch!
Mmm, seven jars of July Gelatinous Yum (as named by J16)
And of course, she helped clean up. LOL!!
Tomorrow she wants to make Baba Ganoush from the eggplant we picked this morning. Mmmm.....

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What a day

I was up late last night...
The first canned tomatoes of the year.
And more mess was made of the yard:
The view from the front porch.
Oh, the poor side yard where the dump trucks have been driving.
This is where I have been waiting for them to get this done because I want to put in a patio area where we can set up the fire pit. I'm glad I didn't try to plant my little shrubs out there! They would have been smooshed. As it is, I think they accidentally ran over K10's apple seedling from last year. We had planted it near another old stump thinking it would be safe but evidently not. He will have to start another one. Now, the ground there is so thoroughly compacted it's going to be a lot of work to make it fit to plant anything.
The partially finished sand filtration system.
They dug a hole 12 feet wide, 8 feet deep and 60 feet long. Yeesh.
The view from the orchard.
That backhoe is mighty close to my little apple tree!!
But, I am now on vacation for the next 10 days! Whew, I can hardly wait. It has been an emotionally draining week with lots of family stress and distress.
I had a chance to see my uncle one last time this morning before they transferred him to the hospice program closer to their home. Hopefully Dad will be able to get down to see my uncle tomorrow. I'm worried about how he will handle this. It will be tough for him.
I hope they can finish the septic tomorrow so we can start putting the yard back together. Of course, I figure this is an excellent opportunity to plant something other than grass since the grass is all gone!!! I just need to figure out what we are allowed to plant over the sand filter. Nothing with too aggressive of roots that may clog the dispersal pipes. Hmmm... maybe I'll move the iris again, or maybe invest in day lilies. Don't know. But we're only gone on vacation for 4 days so that leaves me 6 days at home to get things done. Woo Hoo!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

News- good and bad

Sorry I've been absent for a bit. There has been a lot going on here and I've been a bit distracted. But I have much news:
Can you guess what got started today???
Yup, the new tank went in today
They ended up having to replace the line going from the tank to the house so V and the children ended up moving the iris and some of the flowers- AGAIN this afternoon. The contractor estimates that they should be done on Friday assuming the weather cooperates. The sand filter and leach lines still need to be installed but things are in the works. At least we can flush! It will take us a while to fill 1500 gallons so they have plenty of time.
It was a bit disconcerting to look out the kitchen window though!
In other good news (maybe), I will be canning some tomatoes this evening. I'm going to start with pints of diced tomatoes since we used all those I made last year and I still have quite a few quarts of sauce left. But look at these!
Black Krim, Jaune Flamme and Mortgage Lifter
Now, some not so good news. Both of my remaining uncles are hospitalized. Mom's brother fell over the weekend and broke his hip. He is hospitalized in Cedar Rapids. They had to wait to do surgery until his blood work was better since he has been on blood thinners for a long time following lots of pulmonary problems.
Dad's brother- his only remaining sibling- is the bigger stressor. He was admitted yesterday to the hospital where I work (UIHC- a major teaching hospital and trauma center). He was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer and it wasn't found soon enough and he already has mets to the spine. He is now presenting with a bowel obstruction that they think may be another mass of cancer. They were hoping to be able to do surgery to resect the bowel but now aren't willing to take the risk. He is 86, has had several heart attacks and has congestive heart failure on a good day. So, they are most likely looking at hospice care. I stopped in a few times today to see them. All the children (my cousins) are coming in from all over the country so it was nice to see them- I just wish it were for better circumstances.
Well, I've gotta go start my tomatoes. I hope everyone else is having a good week. I'll try to catch up with all of you.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Long and interesting

It was a long day today. The funeral was lovely and it was a beautiful day outside. My brother was there and my sister from DC drove out. She was already planning to come this week but came a few days early. We had cousins from all over and there was much laughter. I think everyone had already done much of their grieving before his death since for the past few years he hasn't been himself- the past few months especially.
After we left the church, we spent a little time at my parents' home. We had some good and interesting conversation and I was able to pick my father's brain a bit about how he feels about GMOs. I was very pleased that, as a long-time conventional farmer, he is opposed to the GMO crops and the tactics of Monsanto. I also learned that my sister in DC has been able to get a plot in their new community garden and has been gardening this year. YEAH!! This is the sister who has been furthest removed from the farm for the longest and has never had a garden of her own before.
Also fun was the fact that, FINALLY, I could take produce to my parents. There is a long history of them loading us down with produce every time we would visit. Generally it was a very welcome gift but for the first time ever, my garden is producing where theirs isn't. They have had even more rain than we have and the garden is suffering. So, I could take them some goodies. An eggplant and a few peppers, not much- but still something.
But, it is Monday and this is when I usually do my weekly update. So here goes:
1. Plant something- nope.
2. Harvest something- tomatoes, hot peppers, eggplant, cabbage, cucumbers and basil.

Black Sea Man, Mortgage Lifter and the first Polish Linguisa
3. Preserve something- froze some blueberries, not much else. But the tomatoes are starting to come fast and furious- I may have to can soon.
4. Waste not- We had one of our van tires patched today in my home town. Up here, the tire shops only want to sell you a new tire but this tire still had lots of tread (we picked up a nail). When we were down yesterday, we mentioned that we needed to get the tire fixed before our trip next week and Dad recommended the tire shop in town since they had patched a nail hole in one of their tires and had done a great job for a reasonable price. So, we loaded the tire up in the trunk of the car and dropped the tire off before the funeral this morning. We picked it up afterward. Only in a small town would this happen- but they didn't want our name or anything when we dropped it off. We told them we were in town for a funeral - they said they knew where we would be and that we would be back. Isn't that great. Other than that, we just did the usual stuff.
5. Want not- I stocked up on probably 20 lbs of flour and sugar at the grocery store this week. The sale ends tomorrow night so I may go hit the coupon specials one more time before it ends- if only to get more blueberries.
6. Community food systems- Hmm, I'm not sure if this counts but Mom and I were talking my sister through the process of canning tomatoes since her garden is doing really well. She hasn't canned anything since she left home (probably 30 years ago). But she did say that they loved all the home canned goods I gave them for the holidays (peach salsa, cranberry mustard and pear chutney) so maybe she will decide to be adventurous. Oh, and we also had some local sweet corn. Yum.
7. Eat the food- the featured meal of the week:
Pasta with sauce from fresh tomatoes, paprika peppers, onions and basil from the garden
A little turkey sausage and some parmesan cheese. Mmmm

Now, I only have three days to work this week and then I'm off for 10 days. We will have a mini vacation in Missouri but most of the time will be at home. Ahhhh... time to get things done.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A sad day for us.

V and I are off tomorrow to my hometown for the funeral of my cousin Dale. We were down today for some family events but came home this evening and will leave the children home tomorrow. This is someone who my children didn't really know but who I grew up with. It was one of those odd relationship.
My father was an afterthought child- the youngest of 6 children. His first niece was born when he was 4 so this cousin of mine was only 1o years younger than my father. But he was family and I grew up with his children and spent a lot of time at their house.
This is a cousin who has been in a nursing home for the last 3 years since he had surgery for a brain tumor (just one more reason I was so worked up about the possibility of V having a brain tumor). In some ways it is a relief for his family but it is always hard.
Tomorrow will be a long day but then I only have to work three more days before I have 10 days off. I can hardly wait.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Grocery store madness

I just had to share this one.
We did some grocery shopping after V picked me up from work this afternoon. They are having a great 2 week sale with coupons for things we actually use (flour, sugar, brown sugar and a great deal on blueberries that will go into the freezer). We decided to pick up some chicken for dinner as nothing had been thawed (oops). So... we picked up a package of the organic "smart chicken". You know, the kind that's minimally processed, no added water, raised without antibiotics and all that good stuff. But you know what's funny? Go on, guess....
On the package was one of those pull off coupons: $1.00 off this package of chicken if you buy a package of Velveeta shells and cheese.
Ok...let me get this straight... I'm spending big bucks to get the organic, no added crap chicken and they seem to think I'm going to buy a package of one of the most processed foods around to save a dollar.
What's wrong with this marketing picture???

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

And so... it begins.

This evening, I had the first "real" harvest of tomatoes. Still not many but more than we could eat in one sitting. Behold!
Here they are in all their glory.
(sorry the color is a bit weird)
Varieties making an appearance this evening. Roughly left to right:
Mortgage lifter (heirloom)
Yellow Cherry
Amish Paste (heirloom)
Campbell's super secret- our fun tomatoes with a story from last year
Black Sea Man (heirloom)
Jaune Flamme (heirloom- I got seeds from a seed saving workshop last fall)
Jetsonic (hybrid)
In front of the Black Sea man is a tiny red tomato that is from a volunteer plant. I'm not sure what it is. Oh, and there are a few peppers that were sauteed for our evening burritos.
Not yet making an appearance on our plates: Amana Orange, Polish Linguisa and Black Krim
Spaz checks out the new produce.
Moments later, a cherry tomato became a toy before I was mean and took it away.
Black Sea Man
Isn't that the coolest tomato you've ever seen?!!!
It's kind of funny. I've been watching them and saying to myself- man, those are taking a long time to ripen. Then I had the "duh!" moment when I realized that they were the black tomatoes and wouldn't turn all red. Boy, didn't I feel dumb! And a bonus- not only do they look fantastic, they taste just as good. Mmmm.... Definitely a keeper.
Those and the Jaune Flamme... they are really tasty!
In other news, I finally made our cabin reservations for our vacation. We will be spending a few days in Branson, MO. visiting the Silver Dollar City amusement park. Our friend Mike works there and gave us tickets when he visited us early in the year so we thought we would take advantage of them. The children have all been asking about going so we decided to have one last fling before school starts. We will be staying in a log cabin at a campground associated with the park. Don't worry, we won't be roughing it too much. We've been there before. It is a fully furnished loft cabin with a kitchen, gas grill, fireplace and a jacuzzi. Oh, the hardship. We have figured out that it isn't really that much more expensive than getting two hotel rooms each night and we end up saving money because we can cook two meals there so only have to eat lunch at the park. Another bonus is that there is a free shuttle bus that runs from the campground to the park so we don't have to mess with traffic and parking. Plus, Mike can join us at the cabin after he gets off work and have dinner with us. It's a nice chance to catch up with him and free tickets into the park are definitely worth feeding him dinner a few nights.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lazy cooking

I'll admit it. I'm a lazy cook. I look for shortcuts while not sacrificing taste or wholesomeness. One example are my lazy stuffed chiles.
Mmm, tasty
After several requests. I thought I'd share my "secret" with you. Not that it's a secret.
I essentially make lazy chilies rellenos. No roasting and peeling here. No breading or frying. Nope, I'm much too lazy for that (most of the time anyway). And no laborious hollowing out whole peppers. Not at all. My "recipe"? I simply split the peppers lengthwise, remove the stems and seeds and lay them out on a baking sheet. They then get filled with an (approximately) equal mix of cream cheese and shredded cheddar. Finally, they get popped into the oven until the cheese gets melted and puffy. You can wait until the cheese starts to brown but we can never wait that long.
OH, and I've tried it with the reduced fat cream cheese. They're not nearly as good and it tends to get runny and goop out all over the tray. It takes a bit of practice to learn to estimate the amount of cheese you will need for the amount of peppers you have but it isn't too hard. I have a 7 x 10 inch tray that I generally use. I generally cover the tray with split pepper halves (how many depends on the size of the peppers). It takes about half a block of cream cheese with equal shredded cheddar to fill them. The recipe is never the same twice since I never measure anything. We have used other types of cheese- pepper jack for even more kick, cheese curds, string cheese, whatever you have. It's all good. But the cream cheese/cheddar is our favorite.
Someone mentioned in a comment a while ago that she freezes her chilies with the cheese already inside for a quick treat. Hmmm... maybe a possibility. Currently, I freeze the seeded halves in the freezer ready for stuffing, or omelets, or in chili or whatever else trips my trigger in the depths of winter.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday

It's Monday so it must be time for an IDC update. It was a HOT weekend so we tried to get out to weed in the garden each morning before it got too hot. We also spent quite a bit of time in the pool. Ahhh...
But, here is the update for the week:
1. Plant something- nope.
2. Harvest something- a few tomatoes, lots of hot peppers, red cabbage, the first cucumber!
3. Preserve something- froze a few blueberries since our local store was having a great sale.
4. Waste not- not much new here. We have been using newspaper and grass clippings as mulch in the garden. While it was actually my parents who are responsible this, we ended up with 10 old folding chairs from their church. Someone gave their church a donation for new chairs so they decided to hold a silent auction to get rid of their old ones. My parents picked up 20 chairs for $.50 each. What a deal. So, one of my sisters is getting 5, my brother is getting 5 and my parents gave us 10. So, now we will have extra chairs if we need them. Of course, they are 50+ year old metal chairs but they are still good. A few need new rubber feet on them but they will be great for any events we decide to host.
5. Want not- stocked up on unbleached flour at the store ($.99 for a 5 lb bag) and brown sugar (also $.99 a package). Picked up two gallons of vinegar for cleaning and preserving while it was also on sale.
6. Community food systems- not much here. But I did share garden produce with my brother.
7. Eat the food- stuffed chilies!! Need I say more. Oh, and pink coleslaw. We also got some local sweet corn that was Oh, so tasty!!

Friday, July 16, 2010

KinderGARDENS- mid July

Wow, I can't believe that it is already mid July. And we've been in our current home for one year. I looked back and one year ago today, I was rejoicing that we finally had internet access and I could post photos of the move. It doesn't seem like that long. Things have definitely changed in the past year but we are still living in a construction zone and the garden and land are very slowly taking shape.
I took a tour outside with my camera today, checking out the Goth Garden for a KinderGARDEN update.
Black Pearl- again
Yeah, I know, I've posted pictures of it before but I do think I'm in love with this one.
The heat is taking it's toll.
Many things are looking wilted in the noonday sun. Even things in the garden are looking a bit droopy.

But not the boys (can you see them? They were trying to hide)
Welcome to our beach. The sand riding arena is quickly becoming grass covered (we're not spraying it with herbicide which I'm sure has happened in past years) but it still makes a great beach and the pool is essentially out of sight of the road. In case you're wondering- the wading pool is the foot washer to keep sand and mud out of the big pool.
I continued my walk around to look at what else was blooming. Having been not grazed for nearly two years now and being too wet for V to go crazy on his mower, lots of wildflowers are making an appearance. I've got pictures of a few. My camera is still being screwy about focusing so some didn't turn out as I would have liked.
Wild Bergamot (Bee Balm)
I've always loved this one. We have a whole hillside of it. Mmm.
A new one for me. Monkey flower.
I had to look this one up in my field guide. I also discovered that we have Agrimony and Wood Sage, among many others. The butterflies are thick this year but they never seem to hold still long enough for me to get their picture. They must be shy.
But these little guys weren't:
Simyra henrici
The Cattail Caterpillar
Oddly enough, on the cattails.
My field guide to insects wasn't enough for this one. It doesn't have many caterpillars in it. But thanks to the world wide web, I could figure this one out. These guys (or girls) will turn into moths- but not very spectacular ones. Oh well. They can't all be rock stars.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

No good answer

A question came at me out of the blue tonight...

K10: Mom, I have a question that's been bugging me.
Me (only half paying attention): Mmm?
K: What happens to us after we die?
Me (with a swift intake of breath and suddenly fully alert): What do you think happens?
K: I don't know. Maybe we go to heaven, maybe we just die. Maybe we wait around for a while for a new life. I'm not sure.
Me: All those are good ideas. Really, no one knows. People may think they know. But really, no one knows for sure.
silence for a bit...
Me: Are you worried about what happens when you die?
K: No, just wondering.
Then he went off to play with Legos, pretending to blow things up.

What do you think? How did I do? Honestly, I don't have a good answer to this one.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Random photos of the day

Now I know why they call it Black Pearl!
Rudbeckia. The bugs haven't been kind to the leaves.
The first cuke is growing!!!
Too hot to work outside tonight. We're expecting storms later tonight but the weekend looks good so far. Cross your fingers.
We had the first few tomatoes from the garden: Healthkick (hybrid) Cherry Roma (heirloom) two Mortgage Lifters (heirloom) and three from a volunteer that I thought would be a yellow cherry but is something red and on the small side. I wonder if it is a Bloody Butcher from last year since it had fairly thin walls and lots of pulp. I didn't have any seed saved from those last year so didn't plant any this year. So, that would be cool. Anyway- it was tasty! And I ate one warm in the garden. Mmmm... The first tomato is always eaten in the garden- it's a kind of ritual of thanks that I do every year. (that and I don't want to share with anyone!!!)

123

Degrees.. that is. That is the current heat index here (just before 4 pm). Yowza! 98 degrees and 55% humidity. dewpoint of 82 . Oosh. And I get to walk downtown to catch the bus soon. I'm glad I've got my water bottle with me.
Doesn't look like I'll be getting into the garden tonight. But that cold, cold pool may look pretty inviting.
****
Update- it's nearly 8 pm and the heat index is still 108. Sounds like some of the weather that's been going on out on the east coast. With all the rain we've had all it took was some hot weather to move in and it gets unbearable. With dewpoints in the 80s it's bound to be miserable.

Oh, and yes, the pool was lovely!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Stories of the birds and the.....

bats! And fireflies! You were thinking this was going to be a racy post, weren't you!? Shame on you. Where is your mind?

The boys and I spent time outside this evening doing catch and release with fireflies. We were fascinated to see the bats emerge and begin to swoop and spin above us. I was glad to see them since they will help reduce the mosquito population that has exploded with all the rain we have had.
But the big news is the bird. We have known for a while that we had owls around. We have heard them and found feathers (and pellets- eww) But it wasn't until Sunday night that we saw one. And what a surprise it was. We discovered that we have a Great Horned Owl in residence. Pretty cool! V saw it again last evening and we have seen swooping shadows before this in the early evening or early morning but hadn't gotten a good enough view to identify it. We were hoping to see the owl this evening while out catching fireflies but no luck. Maybe another night.
The boys and I also took an after dinner quick dip in the pool. The guys set up the pool today in the riding arena and by this evening had it filled. Let me tell you, the water straight from the well is freaking cold!!! But, it is supposed to be in the 90's tomorrow (we've got a heat advisory) so hopefully a few solar rays will warm it up a bit.
This weekend is Solon Beef Days- a community festival in the little town just North of us. The parade on Saturday morning is legendary. The last time I took the children a few years ago they got so much candy that they each burst the zipper on gallon ziploc bags. That's a LOT of candy. They also have music and games and fun things like a hay bale toss contest. It should be fun so we're planning to make a trip.
Now, I've got a load of laundry to finish up before bed. Have a great day tomorrow.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Another rainy IDC

It's Monday, and of course, that means rain, right? We had almost an inch this afternoon (as I was waiting for V to pick me up so we could run errands- yup, timing is everything!) It is supposed to be sunny and hot for the next two days so V and the children are finally planning to set up our pool tomorrow. It's frightening to think that they only have five and a half weeks before they go back to school. Unbelievable!
But, being Monday, it's time for my Independence Days update. Here goes:
1. Plant something- I did manage to plant the rest of the perennial flowers I got on clearance but I still have shrubs I need to get in the ground. I'm getting REALLY impatient to get this septic system done (waiting for the weather to cooperate!) since it's cramping my planting plans.
2. Harvest something- peppers, one tasty little eggplant, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, beets and some herbs. Oh, and the onions- how could I forget them!
3. Preserve something- no but we're still eating out of last years stocks. The children opened the last jar (I think) of Summer Fruit Massacre (black raspberry/blueberry/peach jam) from last year.
4. Waste not- nothing much new here.
5. Want not- Ok, this isn't exactly frugal or prep related but we ordered new bedroom furniture (well, matching dressers anyway). Our old house had these huge built-in drawers that were used for a combination of linens and mine and V's clothes. I finally decided that I was tired of living out of a suitcase (Yes, my socks and underwear have been in a suitcase for an entire year!!) We were just going to order the one but went home and measured and decided to get the matched set so both V and I will have plenty of drawer space. My winter sweaters can now have a home other than a box! They are really pretty and one thing that I loved about these dressers is that they have cedar lined drawers. Pretty awesome. They have to be ordered so we're not sure how long it will take to get them but after a year in a suitcase- what's a few more weeks.
6. Build community food systems- not a thing. I was hoping to go to the farmer's market Saturday morning but it just didn't happen. Maybe this weekend.
7. Eat the food- no problem here! Tonight we had eggplant, pepper, tomato sauce over some whole grain bow tie pasta. Fresh eggplant, onion and anaheim chili from the garden and tomato sauce from last year. Mmmm... On Saturday, J16 and I made homemade egg rolls with our very own cabbage, carrots and onions.

Now, it's another busy week. We're trying to figure out when we can take a real vacation this year- somewhere fun and not a whirlwind trip. We'll see.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

NOW it's summer!

Today's harvest
A few errant broccoli from the plant that refuses to die. This is the third cutting off this plant! Alas, its life is forfeit. It will now be compost.
But, now for the important news that signifies summer. We had the first stuffed hot peppers for dinner!!! YUM! Look at the size of those Anaheims! A little cream cheese, a little cheddar, pop them in the oven. Heaven! ALMOST as good as the first beefsteak tomato warm from the garden. (and we have a few starting to turn!!)
There are also a few teeny tiny cucumbers and blossoms on the pumpkin. Summer is definitely here.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I Believe...

Kim, over at The Inadvertent Farmer, the gracious hostess of the Kindergardens Challenge gave us another assignment this week. We are to look around and report what we believe about our gardens right now. So, here are some highlights..
I BELIEVE that someday we will have apples on this tree.
I BELIEVE that this is the prettiest Bee Balm I've ever seen!
I BELIEVE that this daylily will survive it's move and flourish in its new home.
I BELIEVE that bumble bees can fly!!
Even though according to the laws of physics, they shouldn't be able to...
I BELIEVE that our little apples are getting big.
I BELIEVE that we have onions! Harvested this afternoon.
A much better harvest than last year.
I BELIEVE this is the first purple pepper flower I've ever seen.
I BELIEVE I was surprised when I reached down to pull a weed and discovered this.
An eating sized eggplant!!!

And finally, I BELIEVE that my children are silly.

video

That carrot came up accidentally while weeding. We couldn't let it go to waste!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Your mother was a hamster...

and your father smelt of elderberries.
Thank you, Monty Python.
No, back to the original announcement...

We have elderberries!
This morning as V was driving me the few miles down the highway to the bus stop, I glanced into the wetlands that are the south end of our property. I saw something and mentioned to V "I wonder if those are elderberries?" He goes "HUH?"
So, this afternoon after work, we wandered down through the grass and mud to discover that, yes, we do have elderberries. Just a few, and only one bunch of flowers on it. But we will let it grow and spread. It is right on the stream bank in an area where we rarely go. I know they grow wild around here and have spotted them along the stream to the north on our neighbor's property (there is quite a stand so I may have to see how much fruit is there later ;) ) But I hadn't spotted any on our property, until today. Ok, maybe I'm a bit more excited than I need to be, but I've had elderberry jelly and it's pretty good! And anything that actually LIKES living in the wetlands that will produce food is welcome here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sometimes it's the little things...

Finally installed- one year later

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Things I dream of....

Maybe they'll come to be... maybe not. Here are just a few of the more selfish ones:
- the upstairs bathroom finished.
- a red leather couch for the basement (with zebra pillows)
- a ride from London to Venice on the Orient Express
- the septic system installed
- a week on a tropical island with perfect weather and someone to bring me drinks with little umbrellas
- having my children do chores without being hounded
- a producing orchard
- a garden without weeds
- having beehives
- time to do everything I want

What do you dream of?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Independence Days-Independence Day edition

What a day. We managed to get the construction stuff done today. We managed to get finished in about 5 hours, not too bad considering we had to add two new support posts and swap out a section of one of the support girders since there was a splice in the beam on top of the post we were removing. Fortunately, we have less than a 12 foot span so we are still within code and were able to jack up the floor, put in the new posts and swap out the beam. The house is still standing and we all still have all our fingers and toes so I consider it a success. Now construction can begin in earnest on "the rumpus room".
Before...
with partial support system in place. We added extra 4x4 beams with jack posts.
and after. New girder and posts in place.
I didn't have much chance to get any gardening stuff done today, but it's just as well- it was raining off and on all day. I also didn't get the other errands done that I wanted to accomplish. But this is a huge accomplishment that needed done before any other construction in the basement could be done... and, yes, as you can see, we still have many things in boxes (lots of books) a year later. Construction has taken MUCH longer than anticipated. I suppose that if we haven't needed them in a year, I could just get rid of them... but then, there are things that I know are somewhere in a box...... so we've just done without until we find it. All of my sewing/quilting and crafting stuff is still boxed until I have my sewing/guest room to unpack. But soon, I hope- My MIL is planning to visit in August so V's goal is to have that room complete by the time she visits.
But, it's Monday- the day I typically do my IDC update. So, here goes...
1. Plant something- just our new pear tree. J16 and I stopped at a local nursery this afternoon to pick up tree guards to put around the trunks of all our new little trees before fall to keep critters from snacking on the bark this winter. Now to just figure out how to keep the deer away and we'll be set!
2. Harvest something- cabbage, broccoli, carrots, beets, a few herbs and our first three cherry tomatoes! Oh, and a few fresh herbs as well.
3. Preserve something- dried a few herbs, not much else but I'm going to have to figure out something for all this cabbage.
4. Waste not- hmm, not much unusual here.
5. Want not- stocked up on sugar since we were out! I'm not sure how that happened but I ended up sweetening the bread I baked on Friday with honey since I discovered that we were out. I guess I also count the pear tree in the "want not" category since it will produce fruit for years to come.
6. Build community food systems- J16 and I stopped in the parking lot of K-Mart late this afternoon to get melon and tomatoes from two women selling from their pick up truck. Total impulse buy, but after an afternoon of construction a treat seemed in store. The lady we bought from said that this was their first picking. The tomatoes definitely weren't heirloom but they were tasty on our salads for dinner. We haven't cut into the melon yet but it smells heavenly.
7. Eat the food- hmm, we've had grassfed beef, local brats, sweet corn from Missouri (local enough!), salads from the garden and local bourbon and fresh mint for our mint juleps! Mmm, tasty... Mint juleps on 4th of July has long been a tradition for us- started many years ago in our college days using mint from our backyard of our rental house before we were married (gasp). It only takes one!!
It's another week. Our new therapist starts tomorrow so, for the first time in about 8 months we will be fully staffed at work! I'll hardly know what to do! If the weather cooperates, I'll FINALLY get my old broccoli pulled. The cucumbers are vining and the tomatoes are getting huge. Summer is here. Have a great one.


The 4th before the rain

We ended up skipping out on the fireworks in town last night. We went downtown for Jazz Fest and the fireworks were to begin after the last show. Unfortunately, early evening the sky opened and it POURED!! So we bugged out- much to the disappointment/anger/teen angst of J16 who was seeing her boyfriend for the first time in over 3 weeks. Poor thing- before you feel too bad for her- she had already been there for several hours longer than the rest of us. Evidently they did actually set off the fireworks but at the time it was drizzling and miserably hot and sticky outside. The boys, at least, were fine with it. They discovered that there was a Star Wars movie marathon on TV so were pleasantly distracted.
But we did get a lot accomplished during the day before the rain hit (oh, and we had another additional inch overnight so more work in the garden is off limits for today).
See, I do actually do some work.
Not the most flattering picture- thanks V. We planted our new pear tree since it was so tall that the wind kept blowing it over and we were afraid it would be damaged.
Look at the size of that thing!
Now, remember, I13 is taller than I am- probably about 5'7" at this point (we haven't measured recently). What a lot of tree for the price. After dropping J16 off downtown yesterday afternoon to meet her friends, I stopped by a different nursery to check out what they have since they are also having a half price sale- but they had already closed for the 4th.
I also did a LOT of weeding in the garden- but didn't get to pulling out my old broccoli- sigh.
But I did stop to take some pictures in the herb/flower garden out there.
The foxglove is lovely.
The anise hyssop is beautiful and really does smell like anise.
J16 and I will have to experiment with some teas soon. I don't see getting any dried this year- they have already started blooming. But we can try out some combinations. If it ever gets dry enough to cross the wetland, I want to check out the wild mint growing at the base of one of the hills.
On tap for today is some inside work. We are working to move one of the support posts in the basement (adding two new ones on either side) to open up an area so we can have a room without the post in the middle of the room. Before you panic- we have had experience with this before at our old house and we have built enough secondary supports that we should be OK when we swap out the beams. But, with old houses, anything can happen.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Meet the new kids

While I was running around with errands and grocery shopping this morning, I discovered that the garden center at our local grocery was closing everything was 75% off. So, I picked up a few things. Call me an impulse shopper. I can't pass up a plant sale!
The new kids.
Mostly, they are perennial flowers that will be great for attracting butterflies and bees. They are terribly root bound but I picked the ones that looked in the best shape. Some have already found homes around the base of the flagpole and others will fill out our flower bed in front of the house.
Blooming Veronica
I also got a gallon pot full of horseradish. I looks like three crowns in there. Now just to find it a home. Oh, and I also got a stevia plant that promptly went into a bigger pot.
Inspired by this find, I stopped by another garden center on my way home and discovered that they had all trees and shrubs 50% off. So, after lunch, I grabbed V and we went to check it out.

The other new guys.
We've been looking for some shrubs to make a better screen between the house and the highway. We picked up two shrubby spruce and two holly bushes (a male and a female). I fell in love with holly when we lived in Virginia and have wanted to have some ever since. We never had room when we lived in town so now is my chance. We also selected a huge hardy azalea, even though I have no idea where we will put it. Our final purchase was an 8+ foot pear tree. It is a beautiful tree and for $13, we couldn't pass it up. All in all, we got 5 shrubs and a huge pear tree for $66. I suppose we will have to get another pear tree for a pollinator but we've got next year to continue expanding the orchard.
Now I have more things to plant- like I didn't already have enough to do this weekend.