Summer Growth

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I went for my inaugural swim in the pool this weekend and I am already drowning in too much food from the garden.  I guess summer is officially here.

Tarragon:: When I planted my herb garden, I planted tarragon because it is one of those herbs that whenever I eat it, I absolutely love the flavor.  My mom makes this chicken dish with a ham and tarragon stuffing and it is amazing.  It was a happy surprise that tarragon is a perennial and it is one of the first things to come up in the garden.  Last year, on a whim, I started using it as a green in flower bouquets and I found that it lasted forever.  It’s now my go to when I need a little green and a good way to make sure that it doesn’t grow out of control.

New cookbooks:: Second to magazines, cookbooks are my favorite thing to buy and have around.  It MAY be a little bit of a problem.  I made a commitment that I would start cooking a lot more from my cookbooks instead of just enjoying them like novels.  Haha.  These are four new cookbooks that I have purchased and they are all awesome.  However, without a doubt, Six Seasons by Joel McFadden is my favorite.  If you are a gardener or belong to a CSA and you are looking for creative and different ways to cook vegetables, it’s a must.  We have already made the charred snap peas, the honey roasted carrots with almonds and the swiss chard and ricotta crostata.  They were all so good and the book is really beautiful.  And this weekend we made the fried chicken as well as the buttermilk biscuits from Ashley English’s Southern from Scratch and they were also really, really good.  Off to a good start on this new commitment!

My girls:: School is out and as usual I have totally unrealistic expectations.  Am I doing enough to make summer special for them?  Am I focusing on the right things?  Will they have enough downtime?  Do they have too much downtime?  I want them to have great memories from their childhood summers.  I just love this time in their lives and I want to freeze time.  I will take tween and teen kids over babies and toddlers any day.  Hearing their stories and listening to their laughter is just the best.  Teagan took this picture of that honey jar the other day when I was making lunch.  She looked at the viewfinder after she took it and said, oooh, that’s a great picture.  I didn’t see it until today when I downloaded the pictures and I agree, it is great.  She’s got a good eye for an 11-year-old. I also love how it captured the friendship bracelet that Ceara made for me.  When I was her age, I tried so hard to make cool friendship bracelets like that and was never successful.  My cousins and I even thought that we could have a business and the bracelets were definitely never that good! I am so impressed that Ceara can make them so well and so fast and I secretly hope that they will be a gateway to other crafts in the future, like knitting or crochet. 🙂 xo

 

 

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Almost Summer!

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We are finally all planted!  I feel like we have been planting this garden for months.  Haha.  Going away for two weekends during key planting time really threw off our schedule but we are done and it feels good to also have so much that is ready to be picked.  We are already eating Swiss chard, snap peas and strawberries.  This picture of the strawberries was taken right before we started to find ripe ones everywhere.  What a difference from last year.  We have picked and eaten a little more than a quart and there are still so many growing.  Our plants are supposed to be ever-bearing so I am excited to see how they produce this year.   Our Swiss chard also just keeps growing and growing.  I may have planted too much and it’s going to be a challenge to stay on top of it.  I think I need to make a quiche.  🙂 For sure one of the things that I will miss about the bunnies is that it didn’t feel like you were wasting stuff from the garden when you could feed it to them.  If something was too prolific or getting close to going to seed, the bunnies would always eat it.  No guilt.

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Having two recent road trips, I have been knitting like crazy.  I’m still working on my stitch block cowl.  I have two of the 20 inch panels done.  I really love the way that it is coming out.  I also joined a yarn subscription box.  It’s so fun and a great way to get introduced to new yarns in small quantities.  The project that went along with the first box are these wrist warmers and I am struggling with the lace part for some reason.  It’s not even that many stitches.  I have ripped it out so many times.  I thought it would be easy for me but I am doing something wrong and it is driving me crazy.  I just ripped it out again this morning and started that section over again. Learning new techniques is one of the best and most frustrating things about being a knitter.  I will persevere though!

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The pool is open and we have started the process of re-landscaping that area.  We are taking out or moving all of the perennials that the previous owners planted there.  The beds were not maintained and it just looks so messy so we are just going to mulch and plant ornamental grasses.  I’m really excited to get this done this year but it means we probably won’t see this pretty peony next year.  When we move it, it will probably be a year or two until it blooms again.   Also, no more milkweed.  I feel kind of guilty about that.

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The bees are doing great.  We put the honey supers on but they aren’t building them out as much as we had hoped.  Hoping that by the next check, we will see some more progress.

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Our two local farmer’s markets are open again. I took some pictures of opening day.  These radishes and beets were so gorgeous.  I hope our beets look this good when they are ready.   For the first time in my life, I now love beets.  I had never had them roasted or grilled before last year and it totally changed my opinion.  I love them now.  Now, if I can just learn to love celery… xo

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!

 

 

 

 

 

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