Appreciating The Homestead

We’ve been spending a lot of time working outside and I’ve been trying to stop and really look around and appreciate our hard work and the beauty we’ve created (despite the weeds). I’ve felt pretty good about the cell phone pics, but one of these days, I might just get a nice camera.

We are getting pretty close to jungle status out front. You can see that even with the amount of lambs ear I pulled, there is still plenty left.

jungle status

Fargo likes romping through the flowers.

Fargo larkspur

Our peonies don’t last long, nor do they remain upright for long, but they sure are beautiful while they do last.

pink peonies

pink and white peonies

I love the nigella. This is one I took of a flower just blooming.

nigella

Here are some that bloomed a few days earlier, with a deeper coloring.

nigella 2

I need to get a picture of the post bloom seed pods, which are apparently very popular for dry flower arrangements.

Coral bells.

coral bells

Plenty more for another post. Hope you feel like you are getting a personal tour!

 

Doggie Pool

We were at Tractor Supply the other day and saw a pile of doggie pools. We’ve seen a few friends share pictures and videos of their pups enjoying a soak on a hot day and thought Fargo might enjoy that as well.

So far, it’s not going as we had imagined. Fargo is pretty sure the pool is just an extraordinarily large water dish. It is definitely not something he wants to put even one paw into, let alone his entire body, even if his beloved ball is in there.

fargo pool

 

Never fear, we gave him his ball back. Hopefully, he will quickly realize the pool is his friend…along with being a large water dish.

Strawberry Pie

Our strawberry crop this year was disappointing. After last year’s crazy berries out our ears crop which resulted in many jars of jam, multiple pies, and bags of frozen berries to be used throughout the Winter, this year was definitely lacking. Not only were there fewer strawberries, but they were smaller and in order to beat the chipmunks and crows to the punch, we picked them earlier and therefore, they were not nearly as sweet.

We had enough to enjoy in dishes of yogurt and bowls of ice cream. We froze three small containers of sliced berries. And we just made 2 pies. There will be no more frozen berries, no jars of jam at all, and only 2 pies.

The pies came out pretty yummy, so thought I’d write about them and share some pictures. We used a Strawberry Pie recipe we found last year, and though we keep saying we’re going to attempt homemade crust, we haven’t yet.

It took a few days worth of strawberries to have enough for two pies. And then we sorted through for the nicest to place on the crust:

strawberries lining crust

Mash and simmer the rest with some sugar and corn starch:

simmering strawberries

Hubby did not feel it was getting thick enough so we added a bit more cornstarch/water mixture to it. It was so good I may have licked the saucepan…

Distribute over the two pie shells:

hot strawberry pies

They are definitely filled to the top, and there was enough left over to use as topping on ice cream (YUMMY!).

Not only amazingly delicious, but pretty too (apologies for the blurry picture):

pretty strawberry pie

Hoping we have better luck with the black raspberries.

Oh Fargo: Spring ’16 Edition

In the past few days, my head has been spinning over personal and world events. While there is a lot I want to say, I have realized that I have no idea how to even say some of it, let alone all of it. I decided that pictures of Fargo is the way I need to go.

A few weeks ago I planted flowers in our three patio pots. I took a picture over the weekend of how pretty they were looking as the plants filled out and the flowers started to bloom:

pretty flower pots

Unfortunately, Fargo decided flower petals were very fun to pull off. Hubby was “outside” with him but really he was reading and not paying attention to the new game Fargo was playing.

flower-less pots

Previously, I had a picture of a blue bird sitting on top of a blue bird box. There are babies in the box and they are making some interesting sounds. Fargo felt the need to check it out after he observed the momma bird exiting the box (the birds are used to us and to Fargo and were not disturbed by his curiosity).

fargo bird babies

We are still using the soccer ball obsession to wear him out, though he’s doing a good job of destroying the ball in the process. This is why we can’t have nice things:

mangled ball

Fargo is not known for subtlety when it comes to “PLAY WITH ME”:

Fargo T ball

Fargo pees on the mint (so much for putting it in iced tea), runs through the perennial beds, steals strawberries, and is an all around mischief maker. Fargo also makes us smile and we love the little bugger.

fargo raised bed

 

Scary Scarecrow

Well, we hope it’s scary, at least to the crows. Last summer we thought a critter or two had managed to get into the garden when we saw ears of corn that were significantly damaged. A few days later, we caught the crows in the act. They are destructive buggers and there are a lot of them around.

At first we tried tying aluminum pie pans across the garden, but the wind out here was too much and the pie pans were taking off with the gusts. It was then that we got out the makings of big scarecrow.

Fargo wasn’t too sure of this new addition (and I’m pretty sure he realized the head was a dog toy):

fargo scarecrow

The hubby did such a great job, I got confused for a minute:

t scarecrow

And we both did a lot of double-takes when we walked out the back door, or looked at the garden from the road. But our scarecrow seemed to do its job well.

This week (later than usual) we got the garden planted. All the starts and the seeds in the ground and straw shaken:

2016 garden

And then the next day, the crows arrived. The top of one pepper plant was ripped off and some of the sweet potato starts that my hubby had nursed into being were pulled right out of the ground.

The scarecrow is back again (and Fargo still isn’t sure what he thinks of it):

2016 scarecrow

So far, so good, no new destruction. Hoping those crows stay FAR FAR AWAY!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

I tried something new on Monday night, for the first time in a while. We’ve been super focused on all things outdoors lately and I haven’t done much in the kitchen…even cooking. We’ve also had a lot of friends who are dealing with a lot of tough and sad stuff. On Monday night, I was feeling the way one feels when friends are hurting and there isn’t a way to help. So I baked.

If you had told me, even 6 months ago, that I would turn to baking as a form of therapy, I would have burst out laughing. But there I was, looking up a recipe I could try given the meager supplies in the house (shopping has been low on the “to do” list as well). I went to my go to favorite, Sally’s Baking Addiction and found her Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars, with melted butter…lots and lots of melted butter.

I had some Trader Joe’s brown sugar hanging around that I hadn’t been able to use because it got hard and crunchy quite quickly after opening. I thought this could be a good time to use it because it would melt in the butter.

20160607_172315

Another attractive aspect is that you can easily do all of the mixing by hand. You can also easily miss the extra egg yolk in the recipe (or, at least I easily almost missed it). I subbed in one cup of wheat flour for white.

20160607_172834

It mixes up into a ball and, as Sally indicated might happen, it’s a little hard to get the chocolate chips to mix in because the butter makes it all pretty slick. I did add the extra chips on top for pretty, and a little sea salt.

20160607_173650

It baked up golden brown and smelled amazing. They are delicious, definitely buttery, nice chewy texture.

20160607_203157

I could taste the sea salt, and I thought it was a nice complementary flavor. Hubby didn’t notice the salt at all. I shared some of these with friends and got the thumbs up from them. I will definitely be making these again.

I also mixed up a batch of bread dough that night. I used “bolted wheat” flour that my parents found at a farmers market. It’s a much softer flour, for lack of a better descriptor. I added a cup of spent wheat and barley grains from a day when my hubby made beer with a friend.

I found that when it was time to form the dough into a ball the next morning, it was some seriously wet dough, REALLY REALLY wet. It took a lot of extra flour to get it anywhere near looking like a ball of bread. To my surprise, it baked up beautifully, has a less dense texture and tastes great. I haven’t been too adventurous with the bread recipe because it has come out perfect every time I’ve made it, but I’m glad I stretched the comfort zone.

I often share the baked goods with friends, and when I share them with friends who are hurting, maybe it helps in some tiny way. I found that it helped me on Monday night.

 

 

Beautiful New Fence!

It has been a long time since I posted about ripping down our old disintigrating garden fence, \which the hubby designed and built and I loved, in preparation for a new one. In the interim, there has been much planning/research/design/purchasing and there have been lots of things going on that have kept it from actually getting built.

We typically spend a good chunk of Memorial Day Weekend planting the garden. This time around, during Memorial Day, the soil was ready (once we got Fargo to let us broadfork his new favorite spot) and the pathways were cleared:

soil ready

soil ready 2

And the plants were ready:

veggies ready

The peppers were so ready they had flowers and…peppers!

pepper flowers

baby peppers

I mean, these veggie starts are SCREAMING to be planted. Given that we share space with bunnies, deer, groundhogs, etc. where we live, I would have bet money that planting without a fence would have meant disappearing veggie plants within a day or two.

As of yesterday evening, we have a fence!! I have to admit, I was worried about whether I would like it. I knew what the plan was, but I just couldn’t decide if I thought it was a good plan. I can honestly say…I LOVE IT! I think the hubster did an absolutely amazing job with the design and construction (even through rain).

finished fence

There are some finishing touches that still need to be added, and I think we will eventually relocate the gate. The plan was to do that right away, but it got scrapped for the sake of getting the project finished. But I truly think it is beautiful.

I think the bluebirds agree and will be happy the construction is finished:

bluebird

I’m not sure Fargo approves, however.

poor fargo

 

Memorial Day Race Report

On Monday morning I ran the local Memorial Day 3.8 mile race. The last (and only) time I ran it was in 2011. It is NOT an easy course as there is much uphill and downhill running, though luckily the downhill is towards the end. On top of the difficulty of the course, no matter what the temp/weather conditions have been up until Memorial Day weekend, race day weather is inevitably hot and humid.

As I am a total weather weenie, I wait until the Saturday before the event to register and this is the first year since 2011 I thought conditions might be reasonable. It’s also the first year in a while that I have continued to run consistently enough that I felt I could reasonably deal with the course.

In addition to my multiple comments about the hills and difficulty, I should probably add that it’s also beautiful. It begins and ends in a small historic village and the hills are residential, mostly tree lined streets with folks cheering in front of their houses along the way. The two out and backs provided me the chance to cheer for the runners ahead of me and behind me.

I wore my TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) shirt from the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon. I was part of a Run and Remember Team which represented fallen Military personnel. It seemed an appropriate shirt to wear, with names of the many men in that particular unit who gave all listed on the back. You can see the TAPS pocket logo in this pic of the hubby and me before the race.

memorial day 3

The hubby was out on the course cheering and taking pics, which was so great. He started snapping the pics when I was pretty far away but luckily I was wearing the easy to spot yellow shirt.

Memorial Day 2

Before the start, we chatted with another runner and I ended up running the first mile with her, which was fun.

Memorial Day Run 1

My race time from 2011 was 43:33 and in the back of my mind I thought that it might be possible to PR since I think I’m in better shape than in 2011, though I’m also 5 years older. We hit the first mile in under 12 minutes, which was good.

The second and third miles included the two huge hills. I dealt with the first one well and even the second one, though by the time I hit the turn around point I wasn’t thinking I could have continued uphill much longer. I didn’t use a standard interval, but walked 3 times when I felt I needed to walk. After the turn around on the second hill, the rest of the course is mostly downhill/flat and I ran it all without walking.

It had gotten very hot, very fast in the sun and if the course had more sunny spots I would have been toast. I don’t have a GPS watch and there aren’t mile markers on the course, so I really wasn’t sure how I was doing on time. As I made the final turn towards the finish, I looked at my watch and thought I might actually have a PR if I could keep the pace.

I finished with a 43:00 which was a 33 second PR. I was excited, but I was also crazy HOT so I immediately dumped some water over my head from the bottle I was handed by a volunteer. You can see me being happy and you can see that I dumped water on me in the finish line pic (and you can see the course photographer’s shadow 🙂 ).

memorial day finish line

33 seconds doesn’t really sound like a huge amount of time, but a friend whom I was texting with said that she thought it was a short race for that much of a PR. When I actually thought about it, I chuckled because I realized that my last marathon PR was only 18 seconds. I had an 18 second PR in 26.2 miles, but a 33 second PR in 3.8 miles. I’ll take it!

I don’t have any other events planned until October, so I’m glad I ran this one. It was a fun morning and a nice way to have a few quiet minutes to reflect and remember and be thankful.