Cleaning Out

This has been our focus the past few weeks. Dealing with so much stuff from my in-laws’ house prompted us to take preemptive action here. How is it possible to accumulate SO MUCH STUFF!?!?! Of course, much of it can be chalked up to sentimentality. But the rest is just not going back through it all every few years to clean out the crap.

We opted for a staycation last week to try and get a handle on our house. Four heavy bags of paper went to the curb for recycling. Garbage cans were full as well. But now there are piles of “what the heck should we do with this” stuff. It’s random, no solid theme, and very few large items. We have china, beanie babies, old cameras, sheet music, statuettes, Disney VHS tapes, etc.

It took way longer than it should have, but I posted 9 whole things in ebay. No takers yet. Here are a few of them.

See what I mean? No theme. I keep hoping, as most people I’m sure do, that something in the piles will be worth millions. So far, no dice.

I want it all gone. I want to work towards only having stuff we really use, or which has sentimental value left. It’s a LOFTY goal, that’s for sure. Hoping the kiddos appreciate this (way) down the road.

Pergola Proud

Every day I have good intentions of putting together a blog post. It actually takes way more mental energy than one might think, and I’m low on that lately. We still have a lot of rough family stuff to deal with, though I’m REALLY hoping we are on the other side of most of it now. The girls are good, which helps. We’ve crossed a few things off the huge to-do list, which helps. I’m cooking/baking some yummy stuff again, which helps. Fargo keeps us busy, which helps.

I realized, as we ate lunch in our new and beautiful outdoor space yesterday, that I never wrote the “we finished the pergola” post. Although it took longer than anticipated, and due to The Lost Summer we haven’t been able to use it as much as we anticipated, it is done and it is wonderful. Neither of us can believe how it has changed the patio space into so much more than it was.

You can go back and see the earlier stages of the project here: Pergola I and Pergola II. We had gotten as far as putting enough of the structure together that it was time to fasten it to the concrete. Unfortunately, that process was more intense than we had anticipated. Between needing (very good) friends and relatives to lift the sucker into place, to chalking out where it would sit, to moving it away again, and then moving it back once the rubber footers were fastened, all proved challenging. The fastening was a hurdle as well, since the lag bolts kept breaking off and we had to get new ones. Finally, the fastening was done.

And the structure was attached.

This particular pergola has a high table on one side and a bench seat on the other. Next step was the table.

Fargo supervised, as per usual.

At that point, we decided not to use the bench seat. After spending some time walking around the patio and assessing the things, it seemed like it would close in the space too much. I am very happy with our decision.

We found some high stools to go with the high table. We mixed and matched some end of the season outdoor furniture. We attached a shade above the high table that can pull down to the ground (if necessary) and block the setting sun. The shade makes the space usable, as the hot late afternoon sun was one of our main problems.

It’s pretty fantastic!

We are hoping to use the heck out of it starting next Spring. I enjoyed working with hubby on this project and I’m hoping we can do more empty nest building of stuff together.

Sauerkraut

It was about a year ago that a friend and I got to talking about sauerkraut, of all things. She had made some and then was nice enough to bring a jar in for me. It was awesome! Being the wild and crazy empty nester that I am, I decided right then that I wanted to add cabbage to our garden this year, specifically to make sauerkraut. Hubby was totally on board.

I opted for Gunma from Fedco Seeds after reading all of the descriptions. The resulting cabbages were HUGE!!! We had four of these suckers!

My friend loaned us her Ball Canning book when it was time to shred. Sounded pretty simple, but it was a LOT of shredding.

As I shredded each batch, hubby salted it. I guess I didn’t realize that sauerkraut is simply cabbage and salt left on its own to do its thing.

There are quite a few ways to ferment the cabbage into sauerkraut, we opted for jars. Thanks to my friend, Beth, who gave me many jars of grain to grind, there were a few large ones in the house. Hubby smashed the cabbage down into the jars while I still continued to shred.

Once we filled four jars, we used cheesecloth to cover the cabbage and sewing weights in sandwich bags to hold the cheesecloth down.

 

Time to stink up the house! Every few days we removed the scum that formed, but otherwise, it was low maintenance. Fast forward to five weeks later. We used the smaller three jars this morning for the first batch of canning. We need to get some more small jars in order to do the rest.

We tried the “raw” sauerkraut, but it definitely has a different taste, neither of us was super excited about it. We again followed the directions from the Ball Canning book and cooked the cabbage until simmering.

Ta-da! And I can tell you, as we dropped sauerkraut everywhere and ate the dropped blops trying to get it into the smaller jars, that it is crazy delicious.

As soon as we have time, we’ll do the rest. It will be interesting to see if a few days more of fermentation makes any difference in the taste. It’s definitely going to be an every year thing!

Special note: As an early anniversary/holiday gift, we picked out a fancy camera for beginners. Hopefully it will improve the pictures on the blog…once I actually learn to use it.

 

Saying Goodbye is Hard to Infinity

We said hello to our kiddos last week. They came home for the Celebration of Life we held for my in-laws. Their plane landed at 11:30pm and that is WAY past my bedtime. There are only a few reasons I would be not only be awake, but also out of the house, at that hour and the girls are most of those reasons.

My parents came in as well, first time since my dad was sick. It was pretty great to have a full house for a few days. We stuffed ourselves with Indian food, did a little shopping, and prepped for the big event.

Fargo was in his glory because he loves his girls and he loves my parents. He played and visited until he was worn out.

 

It was a beautiful day for us to gather. Too hot for my comfort, but could have been way worse. We had a good crowd and I think people enjoyed being together.

It was happy and sad and included emotions in between. Having the girls, my parents, our family and good friends in one place to eat and to talk and to remember and to celebrate two incredible people was perfect.

Hubby’s co-workers did something pretty incredible for him. His boss/friend had the idea, he ran it by me, I ran it by the girls, and we all agreed that we LOVED his idea. We now have a beautiful glider bench with a plaque on it to commemorate and celebrate the lives and the love of hubby’s parents

My parents left early the next morning. We had  booked the girls on a later flight than we usually would have in order to squeeze as much as we could out of the very quick visit. Though it ended up being stressful for them, and resulted in a very late arrival home, I very selfishly enjoyed having those extra few hours. We LOVE these two and we’re so stinking proud of them. So is Fargo, as he looks on longingly.

And then we said goodbye. Saying goodbye is hard to infinity and it still sucks.

 

 

Appreciating Our Homestead

I love our house/property, and I have since we moved here more than 10 years ago. In the last year or two though, I am trying to more purposefully take time to observe and notice. I am using the day-to-day beauty of the flowers and the veggies and the fruits, and the hard work that goes along with it, to help me with missing the kiddos every day. It seems to help me stay (at least slightly more) centered.

The blog and my newer enjoyment of taking pictures also helps. So, while I’m waiting for us to make more progress on the pergola, I thought I’d share a few flowers with you.

The bee balm was beautiful again this year, though it gets a powdery mildew pretty quickly.

And the echinacea did really well.

Daylilies with larkspur and bee balm make a pretty color palette.

Of course, having Fargo The Terrible around helps (most of the time).

Veggie garden, blueberry and pergola updates coming soon!

Pergola Part II

This is such a huge project, that I think it will require a three-part series. I started assembly in the garage. I asked hubby to look things over before I put pieces together and then I did my best to get things moving.

I began on my own because the neighbors had some trees cut down and were nice enough to offer us the wood. When you heat with wood, you need to be thinking about the cold, even when you are sweating your a$$ off in the summer.

I only made it through step 4. The next one required the big posts, so had to wait for the hubster to be available. After a few hot, sweaty and tiring days, the main structure is up.

This was the first big project in a while that we were able to work on together. I really enjoyed it (95% of the time 😉 ). I did mess up a bit, but luckily hubby can cover for me. I pushed out of my comfort zone and really worked hard on something that I would have previously thought of as “his project.”

It’s not throwing much shade yet. We’re hoping to have some sort of climbing/trellising type of plant. We do have a shade for the side to block the setting sun, but may need to get something lightweight to cover the top for a while too.

There are quite a few more steps to go, but we already love it. It makes the back of the house more interesting, and somehow homier. Shoulda, coulda, woulda done this years ago.

 

Pergola Part I

As much as I love our house and our yard, one of the big issues we have, and never addressed, is that our patio is unusable much of the summer. The back of our house is bland and there is no cover. What there is, is direct sun all afternoon and evening. IT. IS. HOT!!!!! We’ve had a patio set with an umbrella for 20 years but even tilting the umbrella doesn’t help, it just throws the shade 5 feet away.

For a while, hubby was researching designs and lumber options and the plan was to create and build it on our own. Each year it didn’t get done and didn’t get done, and so on. In order to facilitate this actually happening, we did something unplanned and bought a pre-cut pergola that just needs to be put together.

Three very large boxes of pergola pieces have been in the garage for about 4 months now.

Hubby spent a good bit of time before building the new stecks (yes, that is the correct word), measuring to make certain they would allow room to enter/exit the pergola. If you look at the picture above, you will see there is a bench seat on one side and a high table across the other. We definitely wanted to be able to access the interior without having to go into the yard first.

Hubby had unloaded one of the boxes a few weeks ago, and now, I’ve finished unloading (and inventorying) the other two.

Now, let’s hope the putting it together (and the Pergola Part II post) happens soon!

Berry-Cherry-Palooza!!

This has been my life the past two weeks!

Resulting in 24 jars of

4 Quart bags of frozen strawberries and multiple

Hubby’s first go at homemade crust was a home run

Meanwhile, first big year for this guy

I spent many hours pitting (which is a pretty good excuse to watch Netflix/TV)

So we could have

Between strawberry and sour cherry, I think we ended up with 6 pies. I froze 4 cups of cherries, and there are more staring me in the face right now. Also…I noticed some black raspberries ripening…

Panzanella, Potatoes and (a) Porch Step

It was a busy week, but there is some fun stuff to share. We took the new grill on its maiden voyage, moving it from the garage to the patio and then testing it out.

In case anyone is wondering, far left is for searing, next is a gas grill, next is a charcoal grill, and last is a smoker. This is one large monster of a grill. Happy birthday/early Father’s Day to the hubster.

We used the grill to cook ingredients to try a Smitten Kitchen recipe, Grilled Pepper and Torn Mozzarella Panzanella. I mostly followed the recipe, though I used balsamic vinegar instead of sherry vinegar, I didn’t peel off the pepper skins, and I added a few kalamata olive pieces. We put our finished product on a bed of lettuce and let me tell you, it was so good that there were NO leftovers. A friend mentioned that she had never made panzanella (which beat me because I had never heard of it) because she thought the bread would be soggy. This bread was not at all soggy after being grilled. I predict this will be a summer staple.

As for potatoes, a quick check in on the sweet potato slips that, so far, look pretty good.

Other than replacing two tomato plants, we always keep a few extra til we’re sure, the rest of the garden seems to be hanging in as well.

The patio step project is on the list because both of the steps leading from the back of our house are rotting. Here is a picture of the right side step.

Here is the left side, pulled away from the house. Gross. We don’t even use that step and the wood is disintegrating at the meeting point.

So, hubby spent a good bit of time designing new steps, keeping in mind the pergola that is going up (SOON I HOPE!!!). The original design had two steps on each side, one step on the same level as the house. After building the bottom step, we are going to wait a while and see if we think we need two, as we like the way one looks. I do think, however, that we might have made it a board width smaller if we anticipated only doing a single step. It’s a large step.

Maybe we should call it a steck? It’s almost a combination of a step and a deck. Bottom line though, it’s a vast improvement over what was there and hubby did a pretty great job.

Fargo The Perennial

It’s quite amazing that every year I can still be in awe of the amount of weeds in our perennial beds, and how the grass encroaches so quickly. We work so very hard to grow our veggies, but the weeds don’t seem to need any help to flourish. This spring was no different than previous in terms of the hours and hours and hours we (mostly me) spent weeding and pulling grass.

Here is a picture from the day we really went to town (dogwood blossom photo bomb in the top left corner).

This pathway is a bugger to keep clear. It’s not just the weeds and grass, it’s also the bee balm and the black eyed susans, etc. that want to spread between the stones.

It started to feel like we were making some progress, though the opportunity to weed NEVER really ends. I’m not sure Fargo agreed with this assessment.

In one area, the grass was so prolific that we decided the better option would be to just dig it out and start over. I need to research a native perennial or two to add into the open spot, but in the meantime, Fargo The Perennial will keep it warm.

In the few weeks since I took these pictures, the perennials have exploded in growth. I’ll share a few recent pictures in the next post.