Progress

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It was another rainy weekend but in pockets of time we were able to make a little progress in the yard and in the garden.

I finally got the flower boxes planted and after a couple of years of trial and error, I think I have the perfect mix of flowers that will fill in nicely and survive in the shade.  The New Guinea Impatiens do really well and so does the Fuschia. I also put in some Sweet Potato vines and another filler that is supposed to well in the shade but I forget the name.

The garden is coming along.  The peas are shooting up like crazy and the perennial herbs – the chives and tarragon – look beautiful.  We also have beets, radishes, kale and arugula that are coming along.  I direct sowed carrots and parsnips but they are just barely coming up.

Sean built a mobile cold frame for us to put on the garden boxes and it has been awesome.  We have moved almost all the remaining trays out there – making the hardening off process so much easier.  Our plan is to cover it with plexi-glass instead of the plastic but we will do that next year.

We should be able to get everything else in the ground in the next week or so.  We will plant our tomatoes – Roma, Brandywine and Cherry, pickling cukes, three varieties of pumpkins, potatoes, butterbush squash, pepperoncinis, beans, zucchini, corn and five different types of flowers for cutting.

We have had an eventful couple of weeks with the bees.  We found a new mentor who has been helping us out.  We lost our Queen over the winter and we purchased one from him.  He swears by this particular Queen breeder and I can now see why.  She is laying like crazy.  That is a picture we took on Friday of some capped brood.   There were several other frames like that and tons of larvae.  Less than a month ago, we thought we might lose the hive and it is so strong right now.  To be safe, we also treated for mites and we put our honey supers on yesterday.  This guy told us that we should move to all wax frames because the bees build them out faster so we bought and assembled wax frames and put them in yesterday.  Fingers crossed we have a good year!

There’s also plenty of stuff that is making progress without us doing a thing.  That’s a baby apple!  The apple trees look so good and they are covered with apples.  The rhubarb is huge and we now have five different rhubarb plants in the yard.  Hopefully, I will find the time to make pickled rhubarb, some rhubarb jam that we can use in thumbprint cookies during the holidays and of course, a strawberry rhubarb pie.  It’s Teagan’s favorite so it’s a must every year.  I harvested just enough yesterday that I should be able to cut just a bit more in a week or two.

While they won’t be ready for a strawberry rhubarb pie, our strawberries look awesome with tons of flowers.  After a pretty lackluster year, last year, we’re hoping for at least a pint or two. 🙂

Finally, I am knitting this cowl.  The pattern is the Stitch Block Cowl from Purl Soho.  It’s been really fun to knit and definitely out of my comfort zone.  No wine-knitting with this one because there is a lot to keep track of!

 

 

 

 

 

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A Pig Party!

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It’s spring, which means it’s time to resurrect the blog!  I feel like we have a million fun things going on at the house and in the garden and I have been knitting a ton but to get back in the swing of things (I know there’s really no swing of things for this blog – ha!), I thought I would post these pictures from Teagan’s pig birthday party last month.  90% of these ideas were found on Pinterest.  People are so darn creative.  Someone even had the brilliant idea to put nostrils on the bottom of pink solo cups.  Of course we had to do that!

We had so much fun pulling this together and Teagan had a blast with her friends.  They made pig stress balls out of pink balloons and play-doh, which were cute but I didn’t get any pics of those.  They also decorated cupcakes.  They were allowed to decorate one any way they wanted and one had to be a pig-theme.  We had a little contest for the best pig ones, which Sean judged.  No pic of the winning one but these two were pretty cute and the blue one came in second, since it was so unique.  Finally, I knit this sweet little pig for her as a gift.  I used a pattern from Susan B. Anderson’s Itty Bitty Knits.  This was a super fun knit.

Catching-Up on July

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These pictures are kind of old pictures now.  I started this post almost a month ago and then never finished it.  I actually took a bunch of pictures today to write a new post and it is insane how much growth there has been in the garden since these pictures were taken in July.  I contemplated just deleting these pictures and starting over but opted to keep some of it so I had a quick post to have for a record of this summer’s garden.

Hopefully I’ll get the new pictures posted soon to show the progress.  It seems crazy based on the pictures above, but we have been picking cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini (of course) and have already made a big batch of pesto with our basil.  Like usual, August will be a our big month and so far, things look good.

Our peas and some greens are already done for the season and strawberry season seems like a lifetime ago now!  We planted 25 strawberry plants this year and we have maybe harvested 15 strawberries! haha. I am not sure why we didn’t get many strawberries but I am glad that they are perennials. Maybe when they come back next year, they will be stronger and more productive. Because our strawberries were such a failure, we went strawberry picking at Nourse Farm.  The family farm has been there and continuously running since 1722! It’s super low-key and the people there are so nice.  We picked more than 10 lbs. of strawberries and made strawberry rhubarb pie and tons of strawberry “fruit roll-ups.”

I used a combination of a few recipes for the roll-ups but essentially you take about 4 cups of cut-up strawberries, 4 tablespoons of lemon juice and a quarter to half of a cup of sugar and blend it.  I used my dehydrator but you could do it in the oven as well with a silpat tray.  Just cook them on the lowest setting until they are no longer wet.  The kids love them.  You can adjust the lemon and sugar to your taste depending on how sweet or sour your strawberries are.  I have a few pounds of strawberries left that I hope to use for more when school starts but next year, I will definitely buy more strawberries in season. (Unless of course ours actually produce!)

Summer is flying by.  I need time to slow down.  I’m going to do my best to really embrace these next four weeks.  I really hope we get some summer weather, too.  It’s been so cool, I haven’t even wanted to swim in the pool and that is so unlike me. xo

P.S. – See the Queen??  She’s alive and laying!

 

Apple Blossoms

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After we sold our house that was located in the downtown area of our town, we rented for a couple of years before we were ready to buy again.  When we started the process of looking for houses, we came to look at this house just to get a sense of what was out there.  It was on the street where our first house was so we knew we liked the street, but the house was a little out of our budget.  We actually said to the kids when we went to look at it, “we are NOT buying this house, we are just looking.”  To be honest, because of that, we sort of flew through the house and really only took a cursory look at the backyard.  We put offers in on two others houses and we were outbid.  It was a really frustrating process.  Like all homebuyers, I would just keep looking at what was available everyday.  One morning, I started thinking about this house and thinking about if there was any way that we could make it work.  A couple of hours later my mom called me and said, “I have been thinking about that house on Cross Street, have you thought about putting in a low offer on that house?” It was so weird that we were both thinking about it because it wasn’t even in the mix.  The next day Sean and I put in an offer and to this day, I am surprised by the fact that it all worked out.  But like I said, when we looked at it, we looked so quickly that we didn’t even walk around the yard.  All that to say, one of the best surprises of this house was the apple and pear trees.  Sean and I had always talked about wanting fruit trees and the fact that the house had mature, healthy trees was such a happy surprise.  We have since added two more apple trees but it will be years before they bear fruit.  We have been mostly hands off with the trees since we moved in but this year we are hoping to learn more about caring for them and hopefully we will learn how to help them thrive.  xo

Seedlings

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It’s the weekend!  Hoping that these seedlings can get some more of this sun this weekend.  We will be putting the pumpkins, arugula and a couple of the flower varieties in the ground.  The weather looks good for this weekend but it looks like we will be back to rain for most of next week so I think I will let everything else stay inside for a while longer. This week, I planted Sweet Pea flowers on the fence between the pool and the garden.  I have been so inspired by Floret flower farm over the past year and as I mentioned, we will be incorporating a lot of flowers for cutting into our garden.  I think that it is going to be really fun for the girls because as much as they like our veggies, they are infinitely more interested in having flowers in their bedrooms.  I have absolutely no idea if the Sweet Peas (or anything else) will flourish but I am following all of Floret’s advice and crossing my fingers that we have a wall of flowers this spring.  We have 15 different kinds of cut flowers seeded right now and we are also going to try and grow Dahlias this year.  Dahlias are tricky in Massachusetts because you should dig the bulbs up for the winter, which obviously adds more work, and some people have warned me that the bulbs get eaten by moles and chipmunks.  But we’ll see.  As I said to my Dad this week, the benefit of this being a hobby is that if something doesn’t work out, it’s not like I am a farmer depending on income.  I planted the Sweet Peas in a garden that has barely been cleaned out.  I was literally raking leaves and then digging the holes on Wednesday evening – in the rain.  I was waiting to get them in the ground but they were getting really “leggy” and then I read that Sweet Peas should be planted as soon as the ground is workable so after I finished work, I just planted them. This weekend, the goal is to get that garden cleaned up and prepped for pumpkins and we need to build a few more beds.

Over the winter I took lots of photos that I intended to blog about but never did.  But after this dreary week, when I saw this photo of these lemon cookies we made, they brightened my day and I just had to post them.  They were so, so good.  As usual, I didn’t put the cookies back into the fridge to firm up after we cut the rings so they don’t look as pretty as they should. But if you like lemon and have the patience to make lemon curd (you could always buy it, too!), these are worth it.  Our whole family loved them.  We got the recipe from Sweet Paul.  Go here to get the recipe and see what they should look like. xo

New Bees

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It’s spring, I think… The tulips have all bloomed and the peonies are getting taller and taller.  That means it’s time for bees and the garden.  Finally! We lost both of our hives last fall so we had to replace them with new colonies or “packages.”  It went much smoother this time than the first time we did it — for a number of reasons but primarily because Sean took over this job and I just got to take pictures and videos!  It’s kind of an unnerving process because you have to shake thousands of bees from a box into the hive.  They are pretty good about wanting to stay with the Queen and go in pretty easily but it’s still a lot of bees and you have to bang the box kind of hard to really get them to fall out.  We had a beautiful day to put them in and in a couple of days, we will be able to open the hives up and check to see that the Queen is alive and that she is laying eggs.  Because we lost the other hives in the fall and the bees didn’t have a chance to go through any of their honey stores, the new bees should be off to a fast start and we should be able to harvest honey this spring, which we have not been able to do in years past.  Yesterday, after a few pretty dreary, cold days, we had a beautiful day and the bees were really active, bringing in tons of pollen.

We are getting to work on this year’s garden and our kitchen is full of seedlings.  It’s a little crazy.  Next year we may need to move things and get some grow lights.  This year’s garden will include flowers for cutting.  This is not something that we have done in the past — choosing to mostly focus on veggies and pumpkins — so I am really excited to see how it goes.  We are adding six additional raised beds and using the majority of the existing garden for more pumpkins. Sean built two of the beds yesterday and they look awesome.

We over-wintered our carrots and parsnips and they look beautiful already, thought not quite ready to pick.  We also unintentionally left the roots of some of our kale in over the winter as well and it is growing back really nicely.  Not sure how it will taste but it was a nice surprise to see it growing back and it looks really good.

Yesterday, we planted peas and some more kale and we have started to harden off some of the other seedlings.  It’s so tough to be in Massachusetts because the weather is so unpredictable but sometimes I think I wait too long to get things in the ground.  This year I am going to gamble a little bit and get things in earlier in May.  In my next post, I will share some of what we are growing. xo

Catching Up

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Not quite sure how we got to mid-January. I had the best intentions of blogging throughout the holidays but obviously I didn’t. I didn’t even do a year-in-review.  Oh well, time to move forward. 🙂 I probably made more gifts this year than I have in years past but as a total rookie blogger, I didn’t take any good pictures of what I made.  The two photos up top were taken with my phone at my Mom’s house after I had already gifted the items. It didn’t even occur to me to take the pictures until after so I snagged them back for a quick picture.  So there is obviously zero photo-styling going on those shots.  Haha.  I made the Honey Cowl for my sister Lonnie.  I loved, loved, loved this pattern and knitting with Madeline Tosh DK.  The tote is the Wool + Wax Tote from Making:FAUNA. I made this for my sister-in-law Lori and I loved making this tote, too.  I plan to make another one for myself.  I really liked working with waxed canvas and how much structure it provided to the bag.  We made a ton of soaps, orange oil and beeswax salves and apple cinnamon lip balm but I only got pictures of the soaps.  We did two kinds of soap – a honey buttermilk cold process soap and a honey goat’s milk soap made with a soap base.  I think both kinds came out great and I loved the molds that we found to fit with our honey and bee theme. Those adorable mugs were made by Ceara for her friends.  She saw the idea on Pinterest (you use a gold Sharpie and letter stencils) and they came out so awesome.  She filled them with some soaps and lip balms.

December seems like a million years ago now.  We had a wonderful, relaxing holiday week together.  It was so nice that we were all off from work and school.  We went to the Vineyard for Christmas in Edgartown earlier in the month.  It was freezing on the day of the parade.  Last year it was so warm, we didn’t even wear jackets and this year, we could barely stand to walk around. But the parade is always so charming and the locals do such a good job making it a fun event.

2017 is off to a good but busy start.  I am really committed to making the time to be creative this year and I am hoping to take on some new challenges and even a creative adventure.  Last week, I won my first-ever Instagram giveaway – 10 gorgeous skeins of Brooklyn Tweed Arbor from Squam Art Workshops!  I was ridiculously excited about it and a little dorky.  The yarn is so soft and  I can’t wait to make something with it but I need to finish a few projects first. I owe Sean a hat, though, so I may just have to cast on for that. He is not much for wool but this yarn is so soft, it may change his mind.

One of my challenges for the year is to learn to take better photos and hopefully, in turn, improve my blogging game.  The two photos on the bottom were taken after the first “lesson” in an on-line photo course I signed up for.  I have had a pretty decent DSLR camera for almost 10 years.  However, I always take photos in auto-mode and I have never been able to take a photo in low light or actually capture a light bulb or a fire or anything of that nature. I have tried a million times.  But after this lesson and getting out my manual and playing around for awhile – success!! That’s the only reason for posting that. Haha. The bottom one of the succulents was taken after playing around with aperture.  So let’s hope that 2017 brings more photos like the bottom and less like the top. xo