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!

Entering Summer ’17

As we transition from spring into summer, there are some new flowers and colors and growth to admire.

Just when we were breathing a sigh of relief that the strawberries and cherries were petering out, the black raspberries started to ripen.

Echinacea, pink and white, is adding to the perennial bed beauty.

The larkspur is creating a flower jungle. My plan is to try and keep on top of the seed pods as we definitely don’t need it spreading farther than it already has…we’ll see how that goes.

Fargo is helpful as always while we work outside. In this case, he thought my pile of branches needed a little unpiling.

The veggies are coming along. I dealt with some aphids on the tomatoes. Something is eating bean leaves, but the plants seem to be hanging on overall. Cucumber and squash plants are having trouble getting past germination. We’re not sure if it’s a seed fail or if something is eating them as soon as they pop.

A quick brag picture because hubby was really rockin the crusts towards the end of pie week. Woven lattice tops for the win!

Feel free to follow me on instagram. Some pictures are repeats in the blog, but not all.

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.

Sweet Potato Starts

Back in October I wrote about our Sweet Potato Bonanza crop. We are hoping to have another one this Fall.

In the beginning of April, hubby set up the potatoes from last year’s crop to sprout starts. The jam jars are multi-purpose, as are the window sills in the eldest’s bedroom.

And a few weeks later, most of them are producing!

Fargo is super impressed with our mad sweet potato skills!

Spring ’17 Continued

I have been having fun taking flower and Fargo pictures.

Tulips in the morning.

Same tulips in the afternoon.

Fargo loves being out in the sun, but I’m not sure he’s really able to relax.

With a ton of help from Fargo…

The first round of veggie garden weeding is DONE! Unfortunately, there will be many more rounds because the only thing we don’t have to work hard to grow is weeds.

Beautiful Blooms 2017

It’s that time of year again when there will be lots of outdoor pictures. In between the never ending hours of weeding, I’m definitely trying to appreciate the beauty of the blooms.

This is a Star Magnolia baby from the in-laws’ tree. First year it has bloomed.

Bleeding Heart

Candy Tuft ground cover

Fargo The Terrible is looking at the flowers on the Flowering Plum Tree

I did get all of the tall grass cut. I’m working my way through the perennial beds, they are all raked out and last season’s growth is all trimmed. I took a first go at the upper third of the veggie garden this morning.

We took a few minutes away from the weeding/project list to get out for a walk yesterday morning. It’s been a while since we’ve taken Fargo, but that’s a longer story for another time.

Catching Up, Cornbread and Signs of Spring

Hello, sorry it’s been so long. I had to travel for work (which is a rarity), then we were away to see family, then I was trying to catch up from being away for 5 days, then there were actually a few hours of nice weather and I used them to get started on the yard work. But here I am and I have a few things to share.

We bought a cast iron skillet! We have dutch ovens, but never had a skillet. I have seen a number of recipes for desserts baked in a skillet and I saw one for cornbread that looked pretty fun, so we bought a Lodge 10″. Before buying ours, we borrowed the in-law’s skillet (in pictures below) and because hubby loves cornbread, that was the first thing we tried.

This Honey Skillet Cornbread recipe uses corn kernels (we used the corn we froze last Fall) and a lot of butter.

It looked beautiful out of the oven, nicely browned, and even a bit like the picture in the recipe for a change. My “hunny” jar, a gift the youngest made at school a few semesters ago, was perfect in this picture because honey was just the right thing to drizzle on this bread.

It didn’t last long, that’s for sure.

I have since tried another recipe, but it was definitely not as good. I’ll try a few more, but I’m not sure there is a better one.

Happily, the seeds (except for the ones I forgot to order) have almost all sprouted and the seedlings are doing well.

We are supposed to have rain/snow showers tomorrow, so planting is still a ways off. Next step here will be thinning and/or transferring to new cups if I think I can fit more plants in the garden or I have friends who want some. It’s painful for me to actually just get rid of a healthy start for the sake of thinning, but I know it’s necessary, both here and when direct seeding in the garden.

Fargo was very helpful yesterday while I was working on cutting back the tall grass.

I only managed to get to about a third of it yesterday, so it’s still on the overall “to do” list.

I have spent hours weeding two of the perennial beds. There are hours and hours and hours of work left to do. I always have big ideas of how to improve or expand the beds to add more natives, but by the time I get even a fraction of the weeding done, there’s no time left to go above and beyond.

Here are some of the first flowers to show their faces.

I am hoping to take the fancy camera out over the weekend, weather permitting, and take some flower pictures. The grape hyacinth is up, the lace peonies are are working their way up and the dogwood buds are pretty.

In the next few posts, I’ll have the master bathroom re-boot project to share, a new and very exciting outdoor project that will be starting soon, and pictures from a very quick trip to Vermont. I have no Hobby Adventures update for March, as I’m still finishing up one last cross stitch. I will not likely have a report for April, given the mess of yard work waiting for me, but maybe.

 

Seed Starting 2017

I took the first day of Spring 2017 literally. I lined up my plastic cups and my seed packs and I got busy.

Unfortunately, I somehow messed up my seed order from Fedco Seeds and forgot to order banana peppers. I’ll need to find seeds locally (which I thought I would have done by now, but those particular cups are still empty). I started three types of tomatoes, three types of peppers, broccoli, cabbage and basil.

Hubby set up the little shelves and lights.

And this morning my brassicas showed their might.

Also, Fargo still loves his new ball.

And when we just can’t take any more ball and we “hide” it in the bathroom he still lets us know he wants it. No one is getting into or out of that bathroom without him knowing.

Special Guest Post

I am super excited to have a special guest on my blog today. I’ve mentioned my friend of many years and fellow empty nester, Beth, in this blog a a number of times. I had thought it would be fun to add a new feature of posts by empty nester friends, and she was gracious enough to agree to my request. I hope to have more empty nester guest posts over the next few months, and maybe Beth will even stop back again. After reading her post, I may finally use my Instant Pot for more than just yogurt.

THANK YOU BETH!!

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When Mara asked me to write a guest post for her blog I was flattered and slightly nervous at the same time. It took me weeks to figure out what to write about. Mara and I have a lot in common so there are many directions I could go. We have been friends for over 30 years, we are both runners and empty-nesters, both have puppies attempting to refill our empty nests, and we both enjoy cooking and crafting.

My empty nest puppy:

I decided to go in the cooking direction and talk about my latest cooking appliance, the Instant Pot.  I had been intrigued for the past year after reading many articles and blogs about people who adore their instant pots. For anyone not familiar, the Instant Pot is a multi-function pressure cooker with additional settings to be used as a slow cooker, rice cooker, sauté pot, steamer, warming pot, and yogurt maker. I finally purchased one because I thought it would complement my cooking style.

I’ve been doing much more food prep over the past year or so. This is part of my “empty nest”  routine as I no longer cook a meal every evening as I did when my son was at home. Instead I tend to cook a couple of times each week and make larger batches of food that my husband & I eat for multiple meals. For example I may roast a tray of chicken, a tray or two  of vegetables, bake some potatoes and cook some grains. Then we mix and match for different meals all week. It’s a great way to save time while eating healthy.

Back to the Instant pot. After reading the instructions multiple times as well as reading and watching various online tutorials, I finally felt confident that I wouldn’t have an explosion in my kitchen and was ready to do some experimentation. The first thing I made was hard boiled eggs. They had a five-minute cooking time, came out perfectly and were very easy to peel. (Does anyone else have a hard time with stubborn shells that are a pain to peel?) Next I baked purple sweet potatoes (10 minute cook time), quinoa (1 minute cook time!), and chicken breasts (5 minute cooking time). Keep in mind that each food takes a few minutes to get up to pressure and then to depressurize after the cooking time so the actual time is a bit longer but this gives you a comparison to traditional cooking times.

Perfect chicken:

My first attempt at an actual recipe was Thai Chicken Coconut Soup.  This involved first using the sauté mode for the onion and chicken for a few minutes, then adding additional ingredients and letting the Pot do it’s thing on high pressure for 10 minutes. The finished product was absolutely delicious, with tender chicken and bright flavors.

Outstanding soup:

There is still much more experimenting I will be doing with the Instant Pot, but so far it is definitely a winner in my kitchen. It’s great for food prep as well as being able to turn out dishes quickly without having to “babysit” them at the stove. I expect the Instant Pot to be in frequent use in my kitchen.