Monday, August 31, 2015

In The Garden :: August 31, 2015

We have reached the end of official kid related summer, yet our garden's summer still has a few final weeks.  This time of year the garden really takes care of itself, our tasks are focused indoors where all of the bounty must be processed and preserved for the longer colder months ahead.

Though the garden still runs about two weeks behind, we are way ahead of our processing compared to last season.  Our pickling, freezing and canning is going great.  Really just eating all we can and waiting on the final reward, tomatoes ripening for sauce and salsa.

It is also the time of year when we focus on our to do list.  The litany of things that must be completed before winter.  As we finish final harvests over the next few weeks the garden must be put to bed.  Each row will need to be topped with a generous helping of compost, and covered.  The best way to do this will be to take it a bed at a time as we finish harvests as not to get too overwhelmed doing the whole thing at once.

We need to take advantage of the temperate days to get outdoor work done.  At the top of the list is preparing the granary to become our farrowing space for Mabel and Penelope.  The girls will be farrowing this winter, so we really need to get everything done when we are not also battling the cold.  As important as what is happening in the garden this time of year is how we balance enjoying the season, while accomplishing everything necessary to make our lives easier this winter as we button up the homestead.

Summer's End

Today marks the final day of the kids' summer break.  

There was plenty of down time and self direction peppered with day trips, friends, movies, bonfires, parties and finally a great vacation.  

This last day of break will be filled with little last minute school prep errands, maybe with a little something to make the day extra special. Until next time summer....

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


It is always tough coming home from vacation and getting back into the time zone and routine.  Especially when the routine has been summer and you get thrown immediately into fall sports, and back to school preparations. Thankfully we have had this week to get the litany of pre-school year errands, appointments and open houses taken care of.  As the kids both start new schools this year, there is added enthusiasm for the start, with maybe a smattering of trepidation about the first days navigating new waters.  It is important for me to have things as in line as possible before school starts so that the transitions are smooth and free of any avoidable stresses.  The temperatures have been cool and rather fall-like early on this week. As the week winds down, the to do lists melt away and the temperatures look to be warming once again for the final weekend of summer break.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

In The Garden :: August 23

Leaving on vacation for nine days in the heart of the season always leaves us with a bit of anxiety.  I was thankful that we got so much preservation done before we left, because I do not feel so much panic in seeing the current surplus'.

This is one thing that we will not preserve, these little cucumbers are perfect just to pop whole into the Greek salads that may just be dominating our diets for the next couple of weeks.

I think if anything defines the state of the garden as we return from vacation, it is blush.  As we continue to preserve the summer squash and green beans, the next phase is blushing nicely.  Hints of canned tomatoes, sauces and salsas come...and oh the masses of butternut!  For a season that started so slowly, some things are well ahead of last year.  We were keeping our fingers crossed for ripening on winter squash up until we harvested them in late October last year.  This year?  Well, they are well on their way!

Along with the garden bounty, the late summer blooms are dotting the landscape in all of their glory.  The first goldenrod is just beginning to put on its show.  The garden tends to do what it wants this time of year and really you just must wait for it to provide and then eat and process.  The animals, on the other hand, gave Ellen quite a run for her money while we were gone, but that is a story for another post :)

Friday, August 14, 2015

How Two Hives Become One

Two years ago, B placed two bait hives in different trees around the property.  There they have sat since, unsuccessful at catching a swarm.  I talked about our honey tree here, and it has been a very active hive with an enormous number of bees.  Low and behold, as we were surveying the place a week or so ago, B discovered that one of the bait hives was full of bees!  We are certain that the abundant honey tree hive, must have recently swarmed, and they did not travel too far.  Now comes the dilemma, they have built a fair amount of comb already, but there simply is not enough time for them to make a home to sustain themselves through the winter.  So on the advise of a bee keeping friend of ours, we decided to introduce this box to our other large hive and see if we could get them to assimilate.

When working with bees, B has found it is best to have all of your ducks in a row supplies wise before you don the very warm bee suit on a hot humid day.  Fortunately, last Sunday was a perfect morning for the move.  It was foggy and a bit cooler, so there was not much in the way of activity around the hives early in the day.  First, he smoked both hives to encourage the bees to ascend into the upper portions of their respective hives.  

Then, he detached the bait hive from it's foundation in the tree, put a bottom platform on it, and blocked the exit door so they could not all fly out while being moved.  The idea when combining both hives is that when we add the new hive to the bottom of the existing one, top it with a large piece of newspaper like paper with some slits cut in it.  Over the next several days the bees will eat through the paper and be released into the existing hive, hopefully giving them time to recognize each others scents and adjust.  Then what will come is the queens deciding who will reign.   

The bottom box on the main hive was empty, but the bees were just beginning to beard into it preparing to fill it, so the timing was perfect to remove the empty box and add the new hive with the partially completed box.  The whole process took about 30 minutes, and now we wait to see if it is successful.  After about 48 hours, we were advised to open the exit door on the bottom hive, and when B did there was a huge flurry of activity.  It will be interesting to see if they assimilate.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

#100HappyDays :: Day 100

And, there it is.  100 days of finding happy moments even in the mundane.  I began this challenge as our Northern landscape was just beginning to bloom, and I end it now enjoying the beautiful aroma of late summer and first blushes of fall in early turning leaves.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

#100HappyDays :: Day 98

Soccer season has officially begun.  They have a team camp this week each night from 5:30- 8:30 pm.  When I went to pick Charles up last night, a combination of the still warm humid air, and the wet ground from our sudden afternoon storm, made conditions perfect for fog.  As I watched the boys finish practice, it was cool to watch their forms in the twilight morph in and out of the mist.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a morning person, up and getting my day started between 430-5 most days, so the soccer pick up was late for me.  I was glad to go and see all the parents that we have been on this club soccer journey with over the last four years, along with meeting some new.  When I turned to leave, I caught this sunset, a very happy spot at the end of a long day.

Monday, August 10, 2015

#100HappyDays :: Day 97

The wrap up before leaving on vacation this time of year is much like the furor prior to guests arriving.  We finished a massive harvest of beets, and carrots and the fall planting is taken care of.  We also processed 25 squash into six casseroles snug in the freezer for easy fall meals.  B also successfully combined two bee hives, but that craziness deserves its own post.  I love days where we accomplish a lot but still have time to leisurely bar-b-cue with the kids and enjoy the late summer/early fall foliage that is just beginning to peak through.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

In the Garden :: August 9

In the last week the garden has definitely hit its stride.  The extended cool to the beginning of the season has us running a little behind last year's harvest. Most notably, several of the plants themselves are much smaller.  Though our harvest dates have started a bit later the yields all seem to be great, even from the smaller plants.

We harvested the garlic, which in and of itself ended up being quite an adventure.  B ended up putting on his bee suit to harvest the last few rows as we had discovered a group of ground wasps had decided to take up residence in that bed.  We yielded 168 heads this year!

We enjoyed the first of our yard long beans.  They have been fun to watch grow, and have a special sweetness to them that gives them an asparagus like quality.  I think these will become a quick favorite, and be something that we grow again.

Both summer and winter squash are making impressive showings.  It is not unusual for summer squash to be abundant, I am sure you've heard of national sneak zucchini on your neighbors porch day (which happened to be yesterday)!  What is most exciting is the sheer volume of butternut squash that is well on it's way to maturity.

The late summer wildflowers are abundant and peppering my kitchen with their display.  There is just something about fresh cut flowers!

As I mentioned earlier, this is the crunch time for food preservation.  So far we are keeping up, but are really trying to get ahead.  As you can see the tomatoes are beginning to blush so along with what I hope is a big tomato season and the backlog of everything else, I know we will come back to quite an onslaught after we return from vacation.

#100HappyDays :: Day 96

This week, Fall soccer starts.  Charlie has a team camp all week (at least until we head out of town), and then next week is the official start to practices.  A handful of the boys participated in a  3 v. 3 soccer tournament yesterday.  A good experience and a great warm up for them to get their heads and bodies back in the game.  The kids doing what they love makes for a happy day every time.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

#100HappyDays :: Day 95

A kitten finally sprung from the fixator in her leg.  Maybe I would get a better picture if we could get her to sit still!  Notice the bell around her neck, it is the only way we can keep track of her, she is that fast!  I guess four weeks in a kennel results in masses of pent up kitten energy.  Happy that we now get to see her personality unleashed.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Garden is Humming, Now What?

Time in the kitchen is an important part of our daily lives, both B and I enjoy cooking and the kids have also shown interest in making their own recipes.  Never is our time in the kitchen so intense as come August.  Until now we have one crop at a time coming in that we eat and preserve; rhubarb, raspberries, peas, each coming in their own window.  Right now begins the onslaught.  Every spare moment will involve cutting, blanching, roasting, baking, and the hiss, hiss, hiss sound as the pressure caner works overtime.  

It can be easy to get lost in getting everything put up, so we also make an added effort to cook out of the garden daily.  This can be to the kids chagrin as they have decided that we do not grow the good vegetables.  Ha!  I challenge you to name a vegetable we do not grow, or like corn can get so easily grown locally.  Kids! :)  A favorite they do agree on is zucchini bread.  I baked six loaves yesterday, a great start on my freezer stock.  It is a go to weekend breakfast treat during the winter.

We were about 50/50 kid approval wise of what we made this week.   They liked the jalapeno poppers and the Indian Spiced Corn Soup that I made last night.  I got a neutral on the Late Summer Minestrone soup that I got from this months Living Magazine, which was great by the way.  They were less than thrilled with the Borscht.  They both love beets, but I guess they just want them roasted, not in the form of a pink soup.

Zucchini Bread

3 C Flour
1 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Baking Powder
3 tsp. Cinnamon
3 Eggs
2 C Sugar
3 tsp. Vanilla
1 C Vegetable Oil
3 C Shredded Zucchini

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large bowl combine dry ingredients, mix together, and set aside.  In a stand mixer beat eggs, add sugar, vanilla, and vegetable oil and mix until well combined.  Add shredded zucchini (you can use any summer squash, I suggest squeezing the surplus liquid from it before adding to the batter).  Mix until well combined, then add dry ingredients and mix.  Split batter between two loaf pans and bake for 1 hour or until a tooth pick comes out clean.  You can also add 1/2 cup of chopped nuts to the batter before splitting into pans, but I tend to leave them out in case I want to take a loaf to a party or give as a gift, I do not have to worry about nut allergies.  Enjoy.

#100HappyDays :: Day 94

We do not grow our own sweet corn as it is space intensive and we have such a great source of locally grown.  When the first of the it hits the roadside stands we happily stock up, especially at 13 ears for $5.  We eat plenty of fresh, but since buying our pressure caner two years ago, try to can as much as possible for off season cooking.  At Julie's suggestion I subscribed to the New York Times Cooking newsletter.  I am so glad that I did, I have been trying recipes out of it the last couple of weeks right and left.  The Indian Spiced Corn Soup was simple, fantastic, and most importantly a kid pleaser!   I The first sweet corn of the season providing a deliciously happy moment.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

#100HappyDays :: Day 93

August has arrived and even just a few days in you know it.  It has its own feel; a combination of lazy hazy days and the hustle and bustle of finishing up summer while simultaneously preparing for the school year.  The days have begun to grow shorter and the light is taking on that special golden hue that I so love this time of year.  As we walk the property there is just a certain feel to everything, the locusts hum and the garden is producing.  It feels as if everything has hit its stride, instinctively knowing that change is coming and every moment should be enjoyed before the season is out.  I love the feel of late summer.  Maybe because we head off on a much anticipated vacation, or it is the time when we eat the freshest and put up most of the garden produce for the winter, or maybe it is just because it is the final build up to my favorite time of year, the fall.  Regardless, an August day with its fluctuations between busy and relaxed make for many happy moments.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

#100HappyDays :: Day 92

Thistles are a royal pain when you are gardening organically.  Since we do not use herbicides, we need to take them out by hand.  They come up everywhere and even the best of gloves are no great protection when pulling them.  They do come out fairly easily most of the time, but it is a never ending task, and even with the best intentions there are always areas on the property where they will grow with flourish, flower and at the moment they are creating thousands of seeds that I am sure we will see next year.

The plant itself is nothing to look at, but the flowers are gorgeous and do have a rich Celtic history.  When I looked out my kitchen window last night the sun was setting just right, and the thistle seed and web were both sparkling.  Proof that a happy moment can even come from a pesky weed.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Do You BuJo?

At the beginning of the summer I heard through some friends about the bullet journal (BuJo), and hosted a class at our house to find out more.  I have been a fully digital girl for a long time and rely heavily on it for my calendar and address book but at heart I am still a list maker, and note taker, and like to be able to quickly refer back to something long since completed.  As I have downloaded any number of apps for this purpose, I have yet to come across one that does exactly what I would like.  I have taken to using two separate notebooks at work for our weekly meeting notes, and find that when I need to jot something down, since life is so digital, I either have sticky notes everywhere or will jot a note down in one of two places on my phone, both mediums have the problem of being out of sight, out of mind.

Enter the bullet journal, one place for everything.  Though a major component of it is also to house your calendar, I do not use it for that function, except to highlight a special event on a given day, like a birthday or anniversary.  More importantly, I use it to house notes on particular projects, party plans, school related stuff, random business cards that I want to hang onto and weekly to-do lists, goals and menu plans....yes, I am even trying to menu plan!  Though I may not be sticking to it entirely in this season of garden bounty, it is nice that my ideas for the week are there to look back on.

I also enjoy that I have made it part art journal too.  I can doodle and decorate.  On busy summer days when there are an impossible number of to-dos running through the ongoing list in my head, I am happy that I have a place to find everything.  There is something about having a little bit of analog in this ever digital life that is grounding.


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