Cucumbers are a garden staple for us. We have been growing the Middle Eastern Zagross variety from Fedco Seeds for years. Last year, friends gave us a few pickling cucumber plants, and they produced well enough that we decided we ought to try pickling.

Do you have any idea how many pickling processes and recipes are out there? Even if you narrow it down to dill only? A FREAKING TON!!! We decided to try both refrigerator pickles and canned pickles.

Refrigerator pickles are certainly easier, given that there’s no boiling water/canning bath involved. They were tasty, but not our favorite.

A few weeks later, we went for the big process of canning pickles. We went with the Rodale recipe.

I have to say, that one of the more difficult parts was fitting cucumber slices of all shapes and sizes into the hot jars in a rapid manor.

We had enough dill from our garden to use in all of the jars. I love dill and I think it’s beautiful.

Unfortunately, we had a first batch mishap. Not sure if it was a jar defect, or if we didn’t work fast enough and the jar was too cold going in, or if it was something else, but ooops…

Luckily, it was only one jar, and that was our only loss.

We will be adding these to the annual canning list, for sure. I think they’re just a tad on the salty side, but everyone else who has tried them, gave us thumbs up.

Two Year Blogaversary

Facebook reminded me that a year ago was my first blogaversary. Honed critical thinking skills lead me to conclude that it is now my two year blogaversary. Where do the days go when they fly by so quickly? It doesn’t help that we feel like we lost about four plus months of our year to family illnesses and deaths. I’m still having a little bit of a tough time posting regularly but I’m hoping to catch up over the next week when it will be too cold for me to want to leave the house unless absolutely necessary.

There are no posts about running as it’s been a year since I’ve done any. I haven’t even walked much. This needs to change and I’m hoping to find my mojo and to get moving again. I had actually registered for an event in Oct 2017, but deferred to 2018. Maybe I’ll have some “back of the pack” fodder to share, but it’s so so so hard to get moving once the inertia is gone. Wish me luck.

In the meantime, here are posts I am considering to kickoff my blog in 2018:

The first post will detail what I did with the wood.

I’d also like to talk about our first go at making pickles.

And this lentil stew is pretty incredible, so I’ll write more about it.

Beleve it or not, it’s time to start thinking about seeds for the garden, so I’ll write my annual Fedco/seed ordering post. (catalog pic from last year)

I’m going to enjoy the last few days with the kiddos before my nest empties out again. I’m going to spend some more time learning about my camera. I’m going to think about goals for this blog and for me in 2018. If you are on Instagram, I tend to do a better job with (almost) daily pictures there. I very much appreciate those of you who visit here and follow my Empty Nest journey.





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.


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:


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.

(Not Actually) Gluten Free Berry Crisp

As I type this, there is a 4th rendition of this recipe in the oven. I originally found it in an attempt to make a gluten free dessert for company. Although it was delicious and I used GF flour, I failed because I thought rolled oats were inherently GF, and they’re not. In order to be gluten free, (if I’m correctly remembering what our company said) the oats need to be certified not to have been grown where wheat/etc. was grown for at least 3 years and processed where wheat/etc. are not processed. Luckily, he was happy to have vanilla ice cream instead.

Each time I’ve made this, I’ve (of course) tweaked it some. The best tweak has been to use 4 cups of berries vs 3. How can more berries NOT be better!?! I’ve used blueberries and black raspberries every time, but different ratios. I think I like it best with about 3 cups of blueberries and 1 cup of black raspberries. This picture is from the first time I made it and it’s about a 50/50 mix.

I followed the rest of the recipe pretty exact. Maybe it’s so good because of the 1/2 cup of butter?

One of the things I like about this recipe is that it has you put half of the “crisp” on the bottom and then bake just the bottom for 5 minutes. It’s pretty fun to have the berries surrounded by crisp.

The version in the oven right now is almost all black raspberries. We used 10 cups of blueberries to make some possibly burnt jam (more on that later), so we’ll see how the mostly black raspberry crisp comes out.

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.


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.

May (2017) Reflections

How is it the last day of May already? This month was a whirlwind, for sure. I feel grateful that we were able to travel to graduation and that the kiddos were able to spend a week with us here. I have truly marveled at the beauty of Spring every day (as well as at the number of grey days this month).

You can see how much the front bed has filled in!

My Hobby Adventures this month have been limited to current pursuits (garden, baking, yard, Fargo The Terrible, blogging) vs trying new things, but that’s fine. The veggie garden is planted and mulched.

Planters and hanging baskets are done, with the flowers we picked out as a family. I am anxious to see how they all fill out over the summer months, assuming Fargo doesn’t pull off all of the flowers when I’m not looking.

Strawberries are ripening and, though it’s early yet, I’m hopeful we may have enough for some jam.

And there’s so much more. Upcoming will be a post about our step project, and hopefully one or two about the pergola project (hopefully, because I’m hoping we’ll get to it), and of course, more Fargo picture posts.