Garden Adventures 2018

I would say that our garden was mostly successful this year, despite the inches and inches of rain that fell on us.

We currently have five huge Gunma cabbages fermenting for sauerkraut. Fargo wasn’t sure what to think about that cabbage…or is it a ball…

Basil crop wasn’t happy this year, only one batch of pesto.

Our absolute biggest success this year was sweet potatoes. HOLY COW!!! This was the first plant we dug up. The color is amazing!

That is an actual laundry basket and two large bowls, full to bursting.

Tim made a valiant effort to battle the squash vine borer which found our Blue Hubbard squash. We knew they were susceptible to vine borers, and thought we had outsmarted them, but alas, we had not. No more Blue Hubbards in our future plantings. We still ended up with a few, but they are on the small side. Nice round of butternuts though.

We had some tomato issues, but we also opted for Heirlooms, which are not quite as immune to weather. These are from a variety packet of seeds. It’s kind of fun waiting to find out what you are growing.

We grew pickling cucumbers and dill and canned 26 pints of pickles.

 

Enough berries to enjoy in yogurt and ice cream and for some baked goods, but no jams this year.

Used the dehydrator to dry cilantro, dill and parsley (lots and lots of parsley).

Grasshoppers ate the baby beets. We only had a small crop, but they were delicious. Rattlesnake pole beans were great this year, til the bean beetles showed. Luckily they waited til closer to the end. We had enough banana peppers for 18 pints of pickled peppers and quite a few roasted cheesy peppers (YUM!). Overall, the hard work was worthwhile.

Making Stuff With Wood

Hi all! Been a while…a LONG LONG while. No good excuse, just lots of busy and not enough focus. Once we hit May, which started off with the youngest’s graduation…

…then moved to the garden, the yard work, etc. etc., the days just seemed to whiz by. On top of all of that, I’ve been serious about one of the Hobby Adventures I started to tackle over the Winter: Making Stuff With Wood.

I have been having SO MUCH FUN, especially since the hubster has been helping and teaching me and showing how much patience he possesses. My learning curve has had some steep spots, but I am super proud of what I have to show you so far. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen all of these, but I’m going to get joy from sharing them here too.

We are turning our garage into work space and started by building a massive, and massively awesome, workbench!

We mostly followed the plans from Shanty-2-Chic.com for their large workbench. The main change is that we left extra overhang along the edges in order to be able to clamp things. Also, there has been a lumber pile in our garage for an embarrassingly long time, so most of the workbench was already in the garage, just waiting for us.

Next, we tackled a miter saw cart based on plans from the Ana White site.

Fargo The Terrible helped us with the wings out picture.

Again, we were able to use a lot of the garage lumber for this project. The main changes we made were using wood supports for the wings, and putting a back on the storage area, which also provides additional strength.

Speaking of the garage lumber, we built a lumber storage cart that we basically designed ourselves.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit all of the lumber and there is still more on the garage floor, but it definitely helps and I’m working on using the rest of it up in more projects.

EVERYTHING IS ON WHEELS!! I love that we can move it all around in order to use it, or to get it out of the way, or to roll it into the driveway when we have the rare non-rainy day (wettest summer on record here this year).

I honestly wish I had tried all of this four years ago, the first year of the Empty Nest, but I’m so glad I am doing it now. I have a huge sense of pride as I’m working on each project, and I feel like I am learning so much.

I’m giving my Rosies Workwear a workout. I love the Kreg Jig and pocket holes, I’m not afraid of the miter saw, I’ve used a circular saw, and I conquered 2.5″ wood screws. I want to build everything I see on the Shanty-2-Chic, Ana White, Rogue Engineer and House of Wood sites. I love that they all learned as they went and were able to turn their passions into a business. I now follow all different “makers” and woodcrafters on Instagram and I love seeing what they’re all working on. I literally have an “I want to make” wish list.

We’re still working on garden veggies…freezing, canning, curing, baking. I’m way behind on general yard work, like weeding (of course, the endless rain also has something to do with this). Sometimes the house cleaning gets bumped further down the list than it should so I can squeeze in a few more minutes in the garage. The rain currently falling again, for the third day in a row, is why I decided I could finally sit down and concentrate long enough to put this post together.

In my next post, I’ll show you the first non rough carpentry project we’ve been working on. The first one where looks matter. I’m so excited about it, I could burst.

Some Fancy Camera Photos (and some ponderings)

Sorting through all of the stuff from my in-laws’ house, and my house, has included piles of pictures. A few things struck me along the way. One, before digital cameras, a lot of money was spent to develop many pictures, in order to get a few really good ones. Obviously, there were pros and cons to that process. On the “pro” side is all of the memories that sifting through piles of pictures brings back. On the “con” is the piles and piles of pictures to sort through to decide keep vs pitch.

Second, since digital cameras, the freedom to keep snapping picture after picture in the search for good ones, is tremendous. Knowing there won’t be money spent on developing rolls of film, means that newbies such as myself, can just go crazy.

Third, it takes a conscious effort to print out pictures and have hard copies. I think it’s an important thing to do. If you aren’t great about backing up the contents of your computer (me!), then it is especially important. After the eldest’s graduation, I made a photo book from an online site, something I haven’t done in a long time, and ordered some prints as well. I need to do this again.

In the meantime, I will share a few (of the many, many, many I have taken) with you here. Fargo may be getting tired of being my main model, though he hasn’t said so yet. The kiddos are in here too, while they’re home, and I love snapping the sunrises and sunsets.

Capturing good news for the eldest.

In Between the All Consuming Clean Out

The all consuming cleaning out continues. I’m trying to attack every inch of the house and remove everything that has not been used in the last 10+ years or has no sentimental/material value. This has resulted in many piles. Fargo may be concerned about the status of the house.

The air hockey table is gone to make room for a craft table. It went to a good home where youngsters will hopefully have lots of fun playing. The craft table is downstairs, but since I have everything pulled out of the closet below the basement steps, the furniture has not yet been re-arranged.

We did manage to move my in-laws’ jelly cupboard into the dining room and it is absolutely perfect. I think they would be proud of what we are filling it with.

I added a new recipe to to my baking toolbox, and it’s so yummy that I made a 4th batch this morning. Favorite Pumpkin Muffins by Pinch of Yum are easy to make in the morning. Warm muffins for breakfast pretty much ROCK!!

All of the ingredients go in the food processor or blender (which is on the max end of what my ancient work horse of a unit can tolerate).

I didn’t put chocolate chips in the batter because I thought that might put the machine over the edge, so just added them to the top at the end.

Unfortunately, the first time, I forgot to spray the tin. It wasn’t a complete disaster, and I did get to eat about a half a muffin’s worth of bottoms that were attached to the tin. You can see the raggedy bottoms.

I remembered to spray the next three times. These are definitely worth trying if you like pumpkin muffins.

When I do sit down to cross stitch, or attempt my (as yet to be identified) crochet project. Fargo has been extra good about keeping me company. He is an exceptional hip warmer.

Look at that lower lip!! I just love that lip!

 

 

 

It’s That Pumpkin Time of Year!

Fall happens to be my favorite time of year. Amongst all of the stress and emotions, I have tried really hard to stop and breathe and look at the colors, even though they were fairly muted this year. These are cell phone pics. I did get the new camera about 2 weeks ago, and I’ve been reading the manual, but haven’t gotten the guts up to use it yet.

We even got some pumpkins and mums and attempted to decorate.

I hadn’t really had a chance to do too much pumpkin baking, but made time last week to try something new. Sally’s Baking Addiction Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bundt Cake was the winner.

Unfortunately, we didn’t grow any type of pumpkins or pumpkin-like baking squash this year, so had to settle for canned. It is what it is. Here are just a few pics.

I have a pretty narrow bundt pan with a wide circumference, so I knew it wouldn’t turn out quite the same as Sally’s.

I should have thought to cut some of the pointier peaks off because once I turned it upside down and cut individual pieces, they toppled over. Next time.

So so soooooooo good!!!!

It really has continued to be unusual times in our household. We have been trying so hard to catch up. I have been trying hard to get back to moving the body, though it’s in the form of walking, and only a mile or two at a time. In the few moments when I do stop and relax, I sometimes have company.

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.

The Lost Summer

Back in mid July, I started drafting a blog post entitled, “Walking is Our New Running.” Hubby is no longer able to run so we were trying to embrace walking together. We had been doing pretty well the previous few weeks, walking 4-5 mornings/week, seeing pretty sunrises. I was going to include pics of the pretty sunrises and scenery in the post, like this:

Hubby’s body even managed a 4 miler, which was our last real walk. In the third week of July, we said goodbye to our Summer.

Who here has ever heard of Babesiosis? It’s a tick borne parasite. Only a very small number of you? I hadn’t heard of it either, until my dad contracted it. Here is some information:

https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/babesiosis/index.html

From the “Disease” page, some important information that pertains to my dad is that Babesiosis can be a severe, life threatening disease if you do not have a spleen. My dad does not have a spleen and he became critically ill. We are pretty certain that if his family doctor (whom I called and thanked), did not immediately think to have his blood tested for this parasite, my dad would not still be with us. It’s been a months long recovery, and his red blood cells are still being monitored.

I share this, in more detail than the happenings in the rest of our lost summer, as a heads up, a plea, to be vigilant about checking yourself and your pets for ticks. My parents are not outdoorsy. The chances of them getting a tick bite are very slim, let alone my dad getting a tick bite from a tick with babesia. All of the doctors and researchers are saying that Lyme disease and other tick borne diseases are on the rise. Please don’t take any chances.

At this point, let’s just say that the bad news Summer continued. We lost both of my in-laws, 10 days apart, and learned that a close family member has terminal cancer.

It’s been hard on the girls, and on us, that they’re so far away. With the eldest no longer in college, she moved further from campus. The girls don’t see each other as often, so when they sent us a picture together, it helped our hearts.

The pergola and pergola space got finished, but we haven’t had been able to really make use of it (pergola post to follow later).

It’s been hard to give Fargo The Terrible the time he deserves. He did his best to hang in there (always more Fargo pics to follow later).

It’s been hard to do anything in the house beyond the basic dishes/laundry. (I can’t bring myself to share a pic of the messy house to illustrate). As you may have noticed, there have been no blog posts for a long time. It’s been hard to find the energy to do more than the bare minimum. We are lucky to have friends/neighbors who made us food. THANK YOU, you know who you are!! It has been hard keeping up with the garden produce, and a few things did end up going to waste.

We randomly had enough hours and energy, at the same time, to be productive. We are attempting to make sauerkraut, which is currently smelling up the closet in which it resides (sauerkraut post to follow later).

We got one batch of peppers canned. We are calling these (and any batch of cheesy roasted peppers we make) Pepper Roulette this year. Every once in a while, there’s a HOT one in the mix and it can be from any of the three varieties.

We made a first go at pickles (pickle post to follow later).

And we just got the sweet potatoes harvested last weekend. They are smaller and many are unusually shaped, but hopefully they are yummy.

A more positive and productive Fall is welcome.

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.

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.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cake

A few weeks ago our neighbor dropped off a yummy treat. As soon as we tried it, I asked her for the recipe because it was amazing. Apparently, it’s an old recipe, so old that she can’t remember where it originally came from. In addition, she has tweaked it a bit, so there is no link and I am crediting our neighbor. I have now made it twice, and I tweaked it a bit too which I will mention later.

The first thing that stood out to me about the recipe instructions, was to combine boiling water and the oats. (I just noticed that my finger is photobombing this picture…nice…)

I had fun trying to spread the chips and the walnuts evenly and prettily across the top.

Finished product.

The first time I made the cake, I mostly followed the recipe, just used dark chocolate chunks in the batter vs chips. It seems to me to be fairly low in sugar to begin with, but the second time, I replaced a bit of sugar with honey, and used all dark chocolate chunks, no chips. The dark chocolate chunks from Trader Joes seem less sweet than the chips. It is still delicious the second time around, even with my tweaks. I froze and mailed some of the first batch to the kiddos, hoping to get a taste test report soon.

I have not yet figured out how to add recipes so that they are easily printed. SORRY!!

Recipe:

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine 1 3/4 cups boiling water and 1 cup of old fashioned or quick cooking oats and let stand 10 minutes.

Sift together:

1 3/4 C flour (I used 1 cup of white wheat and 3/4 cup freshly ground hard white wheat)

1/2 t salt

2 T cocoa powder (I used Special Dark Cocoa)

1 t baking soda

 

Add to oatmeal and mix well:

1/2 c butter

1/2 c white sugar (I used a little less and subbed in honey)

1/2 c brown sugar

2 large eggs

Add flour mixture and 6 oz chocolate chips. Pour into a 13″ x 9″ greased pan (I use coconut oil for greasing) and sprinkle top with 6 oz chocolate chips and 1 3/4 c chopped walnuts. Bake about 40 minutes.

In between the baking, cooking, cleaning, volunteering for a dog rescue, blogging and yard work, I humor my spoiled empty nest pup when he wants me to hold his chew toy while he chews.

I got out twice this past week for just over two miles each time. I’m trying to get back into the groove, but it is darn freaking hard. I may sign up for a half in early November to try and motivate myself to do better. I just wish I knew if it would actually motivate me, or just make me feel guilty if I don’t get miles logged.