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September 21, 2015

September Garden

Hello, friends! I sure have missed you. It's hard to believe an entire summer has gone by, and we are now heading into the season of shorter days and cooler weather. Along with the change of season, our routines and focus change as well.  Much of my days are now spent in the house cleaning and organizing for our soon-to-come winter "hibernation", preserving the last of the garden produce, helping the Littles through their daily lessons at home, and running to soccer practices and games. As hard as it is for this summer-loving mama to see the garden come to an end, it is a bit of a relief, as my attentions are drawn and pulled into so many other directions once the rhythm of autumn settles in.

This year's garden did very well in some areas, but, unfortunately, we had a number of crops that did not do so well.  Each year I learn more about gardening. I try to implement the age-old techniques that I learned as a child from my grandparents as well as new ideas I may read about in books, magazines or on the web.  Gardening is a journey of learning, and, even though, I have, and will no doubt, continue to encounter failures and disappointments along the way, I am thoroughly enjoying this process of feeding my family from the food I have planted, harvested and preserved.

 It was a good year for...
     Chard -- Oh, I love this green, leafy vegetable!  I have always had problems with spinach bolting too quickly and never end up having enough for even one meal (granted it does take a lot of spinach to feed this family of twelve, but one meal?).  This year I replaced the spinach with Bright Lights Swiss Chard, and I have never been so satisfied with a green, leafy vegetable. We have eaten many meals of its tasty green leaves, and it is still growing strong, never bolting, even during the hottest days of summer.  The Littles all love it steamed with salt, pepper, butter and a dash of vinegar.  Yes, Swiss chard is, indeed, a winner in my book.

     Kale  -- Winterbore kale never disappoints, giving us meal after meal all summer long, even well into the fall when the rest of the garden is killed by the frost. In fact, those lovely green leaves taste even sweeter once they have been touched by a frost.

     Brussels Sprouts -- Although we haven't harvested our little sprouts yet, the plants are loaded, and we are all looking forward to feasting on one of our families all-time favorite vegetables.  I know, Brussels sprouts...who would have ever guessed ten children would all agree that Brussel sprouts are a favorite?

     Lettuce, Arugula, Beets, Carrots, Cabbage -- All of these did well, and we are still enjoying them, except for the lettuce and arugula.  I did, however, plant a second crop of arugula, but it is taking its time growing. The beets will soon be harvested for preserving...we all love pickled beets!  I only planted late cabbage this year, and so we will soon be enjoying the lovely crunch of our first cabbage, and the carrots have been harvested and stored in the shed in moist sawdust.

     Onions and Garlic -- I am pleased to say that after a couple of failed attempts to grow onions and garlic I finally succeeded in growing successful crops of both!

     Cucumbers -- In spite of being affected by a disease (I believe it's one that lives in my soil, and I have plans for a brand new cucumber garden next year), the cucumbers did amazingly well.  They have now succumbed to the disease, but while they were still healthy, they produced enough for us to eat fresh cucumbers on a daily basis for the last month and a half, and I also made forty quarts of pickles for the pantry.  So, I would say a success for sure, even though they were infected with a possible fungus.

Not such a good year for...

     Potatoes -- I don't know what happened to my potatoes.  I was faithful in feeding (for a healthy root) and hilling them.  The plants were beautiful, some taller than Little #10 (as you can see in this post).  I was ecstatic, thinking our harvest would be the best one yet, but to my great disappointment, we harvested only a few potatoes.  In some rows we only found four or five potatoes.  I have no idea what went wrong!  I guess I know what I will be researching this winter.

     Beans -- This was an unusual year for beans.  We usually have green beans (Provider and pole beans) coming out of our ears, but this year the bushes turned brown and died very quickly.  Again, not sure what happened to them.

     Winter Squash -- Much to my disappointment I don't believe we will be eating any buttercup or butternut squash from our garden this year.  It looks like we may have a few Delicata squash on the vines, but, unfortunately, not very many. The pumpkins never even germinated.

How did your garden grow this year?  I would love to hear what may or may not have worked for you. 

Thank you for taking the time to stop by my little corner and visit for a bit.  I do hope to be spending more time here now that we are changing our routine and finding ourselves indoors a bit more.  I have been trying to keep updated on Instagram, so if you like, you can visit me there as well. 


September 1, 2015

A Pink Cake and Vintage Barbies

Our eldest and youngest daughters both celebrate their birthdays in August, one at the beginning of the month and the other at the end.  Little #9 turned four, and I believe this was the most anticipated of all her birthdays.  A few weeks ago when we went to the antiques barn, Little #9 was with us, and she spied a bag of vintage toy foods, dishes and other kitchen gadgets along with a small basket of Barbie dolls and handmade clothing (from the 1970's, I would guess).  Oh, how she wanted those items, so we carefully tried to sneak them to the counter without her seeing, but I'm not so sure we were successful. She spoke often of the toys she saw at the antiques barn and how she was so excited that she was getting them for her birthday.  She spent a lovely morning, having lunch out with Mama and a quick stop at a thrift store where she picked out a darling vintage dress for $1.00 (I think I may have had the same dress when I was her age) and came home to very excited siblings,"Happy Birhtday" being played on the piano by her brother, noise makers (Oh, why did I agree to those?) and a pink birthday cake.  What fun it must be to be four years old!

August 20, 2015

A Cool Rock in a Shady Spot

Yes, I must agree with Sid, our sleeping yellow cat and the other animals at Front Forty. This is exactly what kind of week it has been, the kind where you want to find a cool rock in a shady spot and take a nap.  The high temperatures and humidity make for lazy-feeling days,  Although I am not complaining (this summer loving mama never complains when summer offers us its best), but I do feel a bit sorry for Little #2 and #3 who started double-session soccer practices this week.  They are handling it quite well, though, and are pushing through it like little troopers with very little complaining.  Lots of lemon water and watermelon have been consumed; bathing suits are the preferred attire, and the porch hammock is the favorite spot.

In spite of the heat, I have spent much of my week in the kitchen canning and pickling.  The cucumbers are producing like crazy at the moment, but much to my dismay, I believe they (and my tomatoes) are infected with verticillium wilt. I am trying to harvest and pickle as many as I can before the plants succumb to the disease. After doing some research, I think I may have discovered that this dreaded verticillim wilt is the culprit responsible for killing my cucumbers and tomatoes the past few years.  I'm not happy about this, but I am relieved to finally have an answer.  The process of getting rid of the fungi is slow, and Hubby and I are discussing the best method for doing so...more on that later...back to the pickles.  Garlic dills, sweet spears, and bread and butter pickles are filling the shelves of the pantry along with jars of mixed vegetables (cauliflower, carrots, onions, beans, and zucchini) and dilly beans.  I have used the traditional pickling method, but I would like to eventually try fermentation.  I am still trying to recuperate from a fermentation-gone-bad experience, so I haven't quite dared step into that new realm of preservation yet...maybe next summer. I would love any suggestions you may have for books and/or resources on the process of fermentation.

Last night Hubby and I took a few minutes to sit on the porch before the mosquitos bombarded us, and we were commenting on how lush and vibrant everything was...the gardens, the pastures, the woods, the lawn...everything is so full.  It's hard to believe that all that green foliage, all that color eventually fades, and we are left with a white and grey landscape.  I asked him, "Which is harder to imagine, summer during the frigid, white days of winter, or winter during the lush, warm days of summer?" We are undecided. 

August 17, 2015

A Trip to the Antiques Barn

Good morning!  What a beautiful August morning it is! The sun is shining; the air is warm; the insects are chirping and buzzing their August tune (August just has a distinct sound that no other month has).  The day will be hot, but I am drinking in every last minute of these late summer days because autumn is near, which I was reminded of this morning as I sent two of the Littles out the door for their first session of their fall pre-season soccer. Yes, these days are to be savoured.

One thing Hubby and I enjoy doing, at least once during the summer, is antique shopping, and we had been hankering all summer long to make a visit to this one particular place, a huge old barn full of antiques and junk, well mostly junk, but such a fun place to browse amongst the dust and cobwebs in search of treasure.  We didn't think we would make it there this year, but last weekend the opportunity presented itself, and we gladly accepted. We both had in mind particular items that we would be looking for, things that we needed, as we are trying to be very conscious of what we purchase and keeping the clutter to a more buying items simply because they are cheap or interesting...they must have useful value.  Hubby was in search of wooden shovel handles, which he found, because so many of our shovels are in need of having their handles replaced, and I had a few household items in mind, including aprons, which, unfortunately, I did not find.  I did, however, bring home a few oh-so-very-useful items that I am very excited about.  It's funny how "useful" has slowly turned exciting over the years.

A lovely watering can was the first thing I laid my eyes on and after some careful inspection of the nozzle I decided I would be taking it home with me...then, I put it down, thinking I didn't want to carry it all through the barn with me, that I would pick it up on our way out.  Well, I forgot to pick it up, and we ended up turning around, after we had already buckled hot, whiny kids in their car seats and drove two miles down the road. Hubby graciously ran back in and purchased my watering can.

The next item that found its way home with us was a wonderfully large and sturdy drying rack. It can hold an entire load of much as I can currently hang on my clothes line.  I wanted more drying space, but Hubby and I were having difficulty finding a spot to hang more line. This rack is the answer to my drying needs. It is so sturdy and big! I couldn't wait to wash a load of laundry just so I could use my new rack...imagine that...excited to do laundry.
I also picked up a few wooden laundry baskets.  I spotted them near the end of our visit and was hesitant to purchase them because of their price, but then just as I was leaving the stall they were in I noticed a sign saying that everything in that booth was 50% off.  Bingo!  I had myself two new laundry baskets.

The final item is this enamel chamber pot which works as our new "chicken bucket". It fits perfectly under the sink, and the lid keeps everything covered up until it's time to feed the chickens.
We also picked up a few things for Little #9's upcoming birthday, which I will wait to show in order to keep them a surprise.
Hunting for thrifted treasure is such fun, and I love coming home with items that are so useful and make life on the homestead that much easier.  (Still on a search for a few aprons.)

An update on Maggie, our new kitten...
   As I mentioned before, the Littles found a kitten that had been hit by a car a few weeks ago.   It was heartbreaking...her tail was dead; she was covered in maggots, and she couldn't use the lower half of her body.  The Littles said they heard her meowing in the woods, and when they found her she was dragging herself towards them with her front paws. She drank an entire bowl of water on the way to the vet's office (we held back food in case she would need surgery).  The vet estimated that she had lain in the woods, possibly unconscious, for three days.  Her spine was broken at the base of her tail, but in spite of her horrific ordeal she was perky and begging for attention.  The vet said they would remove the tail, clear her of the maggots, and care for her wounds, but we would have to wait and see if  the nerves from the spinal break would recover.  After a week, Maggie was doing wonderfully. She was eating and drinking like a champ, her tail fell off on its own (no surgery), and she was able to stand and walk on three legs.  The vet said she was such a cheerful kitty, full of energy and desire, and  she didn't seem to be bothered by her injuries.  She, however, was unable to go to the bathroom on her own.  The nerves to her bladder were still not working, and the vet was expressimg the bladder three times a day (sometimes more).  We decided to give her some more time.  After another week Maggie was still not able to go to the bathroom, so after getting second opinions and a long discussion with the vet, we made the  tearful decision to lay Maggie down to sleep.  She was scheduled for 9:00 am the next day.  Hubby was going to the hospital to be with Maggie and then bring her home to be buried peacefully under the trees. It was a sad morning, I struggled with putting such a loving, cheerful kitten down to sleep...I just wanted more time, more time to allow for possible healing.  I prayed for a miracle.

At 9:00 that fateful morning, I was trying to keep myself busy so as not to think about the sadness taking place at the vet.  I went to the shed to gather canning jars for pickles I would be making that day, and I heard the phone ring. I ran in the house to find that it was Hubby. I picked it up, expecting him to say that it was over and he was on his way home.  Instead his voice was chipper as he explained to me that a vet, at the hospital where Maggie was, met them in the waiting room and told them she decided to take Maggie home with her, to give her more time, to express her bladder and watch for signs of healing.  She said she would start with a month.  She wouldn't let her suffer, but she wanted to give her more time.  She said the hearling process can take quite some time, and they really don't know enough about the nerves and spine to say that Maggie is ready to be put down. If we were willing,  she was offering to do this for free, and if Maggie improves and the nerves heal, she will give her back to us.  I received my miracle! We are now praying for little Maggie's full recovery. 

August 7, 2015

Oh, so busy...

Happy Friday to you all! I am just quickly checking in to say, "hello", and let you know I have not forgotten you all.  I'm sorry that I haven't been keeping up with posting. It's not for lack of wanting to; life has just kept me so very busy...a good busy, though.

Beans, squash, zucchini, red potatoes, garlic, kale, chard, lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, and lots of herbs are being harvested, almost daily, from the gardens.  Looking forward to tomatoes soon,

Dilly beans and pickles are filling the pantry shelves.  Kale, broccoli and beans are going into the freezer.  Parsley, basil, oregano, cilantro, and sage are drying and filling the herb jars.

A mama and daddy Rose-breasted grosbeak have brought their family of little ones to our feeders. What a joy it has been watching them each day!

Our eldest daughter celebrated her 19th birthday...19th!!!  Where does the time go?

Work on the addition continues...cedar shingles and trim going up this coming week.

A clutch of keets (baby guinea fowl) were warmly welcomed to the farm a few weeks ago.
Little #2 and #5 brought home a stray kitten they found while on a bike ride.  The poor little thing had been hit by a car.  She is currently at the vet, and we are all praying for a small miracle for her.

Wildflowers are being brought in daily and placed all around the house.

I have been trying to stay updated on Instagram, with lots of garden related posts, so feel free to come by and visit me there from time to time.  I'd love to see you.

July 17, 2015

Vintage Beach Chairs

In anticipation of our recent trip to the coast, Hubby mentioned wanting to bring comfy beach chairs. After taking a peek at what the local stores offered and not being entirely impressed with the prices or the options, I remembered a pair of vintage beach chairs that we had stored in our shed, waiting for me to find the time to refurbish them. One no longer had its cloth seat, and the other seat was so brittle it disintegrated in my hands while taking it off the wood frame. Hubby did some light repairs to the frames, and I sewed two seats from brightly patterned decorator's fabric that I purchased rather inexpensively, a modern floral/paisley print for one chair, and a beachy stripe for the other.  I sanded the wooden frames and freshened them up with a couple coats of paint, a color quite reminiscent of drift wood...perfect for beach chairs, I would say. 
The whole process really didn't take long, and the cost to repair both chairs was less than the cost of purchasing one beach chair at a retail store.  I am delighted with our "new" old chairs, and, like I have said before, it was so rewarding to breath new life into something we already had.

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