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!

 

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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

Fall Insanity

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Everyone says that September is the craziest but I seriously underestimated how crazy re-entry would be this year.  I definitely have not yet found the rhythm of our schedule and how to fit in all the projects I want to do with work, the kid’s schedules and keeping the house running (ha!). How we got to October, I will never know, but here we are!

It has been really warm here, with only a couple of light frosts, so the garden is still going. The veggies in the raised beds are growing like crazy – except for the Swiss Chard.  We are getting tons of arugula, the Kale looks strong and in the Spring, we will have a bunch of carrots and parsnips – if I can mange to keep the chipmunks from eating them.  The chipmunks have been brutal this year, and have been the biggest threat to our tomatoes, which is totally annoying.  That said, we are still bringing tomatoes out of the garden everyday. We have roasted and canned some and as in years past, I have been just chopping and freezing tomatoes in dinner-sized portions.  When we make pasta, eggplant and mint or Puttanesca, I just take them right out of the freezer to roast.  It’s a huge timesaver, especially when most of the tomatoes are coming out in September right when your schedule gets crazy.  The tomato tart above is a favorite in our fam – even with Ceara who doesn’t love tomatoes.  You just roll out some puff pastry dough, put shredded parm on the dough, layer with plum tomatoes and finish off with fresh thyme, a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper.  You have to roll up the edges a little but otherwise just bake according to directions.  It’s so good.

I finished my Ramona cardigan.  Forgive the ridiculous picture but since I wanted to get this post up, I had Ceara snap a few photos. We were going for a run and I literally said, before I change, can you just take a few pictures of me in my sweater? I put the sweater on and we ran outside.  Hence the baseball hat. No photo styling here.  Haha. The sweater was knit with Quince and Co. Puffin yarn in a color called Carrie’s Yellow.  I’m not really a yellow person and never wear yellow so I’m not sure why I bought this color but I bought four skeins of this yarn more than five years ago.  Maybe even longer that.  It was the first “good yarn” that I ever bought, i.e., not from JoAnn’s.  I have no idea why I never did anything with it right away but it has been sitting in my stash for a LONG time.  At some point last spring, I was going through yarn to see what I had and I decided that this summer I would use it to knit a cardigan for myself.  I knew it would be super squishy and rustic and it will be perfect for hanging out on weekends.  It’s actually meant to be more of a fitted cardigan but I made it bigger because I knew it would be a hangout sweater.  In addition to making a larger size than I wear, I added some length to the body and I made the sleeves a little wider so it could fit over things.  Originally I had a ribbed cuff on the sleeves but when it was done blocking, I decided I didn’t like how baggy the sleeves were with the ribbed binding so I ripped it off and just kept the sleeves with a rolled edge. I had to order additional skeins from Quince (twice!) so there are different dye lots in there and well, let’s just say it wouldn’t win any awards.  But I am happy that it is done and ready for outdoor firepits!

I am in full swing knitting and planning for Christmas and the bowl of yarn is some that I ordered for gifts.  The dusty purple is Worsted Twist from Purl is already on the needles for a sweater for my cousin’s daughter and the blues are Quince and Co. Lark and they are destined for hats.

We are all decorated for Halloween and Teagan is off-the-wall excited.  I’ll save those pics for another post because this is getting too long. xo

 

Straddling the Seasons

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We have our feet firmly planted in both summer and fall right now.  School started so it was definitely time for pumpkin, dark chocolate chip muffins and the garden is overflowing with butternut squash and gourds.  We even had two pumpkins that were ready to pick.  But we still have loads of green tomatoes and eggplant, zucchini and cantaloupe to harvest.  We are hoping that this warm weather continues throughout September like forecasters are predicting because we have a lot of tomatoes that need to ripen. 😉 We finally got around to building two of the raised beds that we had planned for this summer.  Next year, they will be built up a little higher and right now the plan is to add a few more for flowers and herbs.  In these two I planted kale, arugula, rainbow chard, parsnips, carrots and broccoli.  I love them.  It’s our first time doing a fall crop so we will see.  But we were happily surprised to see several rows of sprouts yesterday.  We also finally built the bunnies (Penny and S’mores) a little outside enclosure and they seem to be so happy to have more space.  It’s a little temporary right now as we will put in some sturdier fencing but it is doing the trick for the time being.

The girls are back to sports and activities so we will be tied locally for a while and anyone who knows me knows that I am just fine with that. We had a great summer and had a lot of fun but I am ready for some home time and ready to work on some inside house projects. There’s also lots of knitting going on and the girls and I have started to brainstorm some of our handmade Christmas gift ideas. xo

August

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Somebody said to me today, “you know it’s August, so everyone is trying to cram in everything they hoped to do this summer.” Ugh, that feeling is the worst.  It’s the same with Christmas.  I always have so many plans to make the most of the holiday season and then it goes by before you know it.  This summer, I keep reminding myself, we still have time.  But even I am realizing that there are only so many days left.  I’m trying really hard this year to just enjoy the little things and not rush it.  I’m also trying to do some of the things that don’t require a lot of effort but feel relaxing.  Like reading by the pool (The Nightingale. So good.), knitting with coffee, watching a crazy downpour.

Yesterday we went to check out an art installation on a trail in town and then went out to breakfast at a new diner in town.  It was such a nice walk.  I am so happy that there are people who take the time to give back to the community in that way.  And breakfast was so good, too.  Loving our little town these days.

We spotted several gourds finally growing the garden.  We bought the seeds when we were in Paris in April and I am irrationally excited about having them for fall decorating.  The chipmunks kept digging up the pots where I planted the lavender seeds that we also bought in Paris so these feel extra exciting.  We also got to spend a little time checking out the bees this weekend and they are rocking.  We are pretty confident that we will have a good harvest this fall.  xo

 

In the Summer Groove

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There’s something about this year that the summer really feels like summer.  I’m not sure how to explain it  but even with work and summer softball, I really feel like I have been soaking it in.  The kids seemed more relaxed, too.  I’m so glad we took it easy on the camps this year and that I was able to work from home more and have my mom and my mother-in-law watch the girls.  Growing up with a mother who was a teacher (at least when I was young), I was always able to be home, in my own house, playing in my own yard during the summer.  I think that’s what made it feel like it lasted so long and what made it feel like such a break.  When everything is over-scheduled, it goes by in a blur.  With Ceara turning 13 this week, I am fully-appreciating how fleeting these childhood days are and I’m glad that we have had some good family time and that they have been able to relax and swim and hang out with their friends.  I am also so glad that they have had this time with their grandmothers.  I’m feeling pretty lucky that we have that as an option because I know lots of people don’t.

After finishing my beach tank, I wanted to knit something that was relatively quick and I wanted to start my Christmas gift-making in earnest.  I had pinned this Drop Stitch Cowl last year thinking I might make it for someone but never did.  It came together really quickly.  I like it but don’t love it so I think I might experiment with weaving in a color or two.

I’m not sure what to say about the number of butternut squash, cucumbers and pumpkins we have.  It’s like a full-time job guiding the vines away from the tomatoes and eggplants! I knew I was putting too much in the space but I have to admit it’s a little out of control.  I also feel like the bees are really helping the garden this year.  Last year, I felt like I never saw any of our bees in the garden and this year, you can’t look in a flower and not see a bee.  It’s pretty incredible. xo

In the Yard and At the Field

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Nearly one month into the summer and it’s almost impossible to remember coats and the fact that we have stretches where it is dark from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.  We have had such amazing weather lately that has made both walking through the yard and sitting in the bleachers such a delight. I never want to be inside. It has been a joy to watch Sean coach Ceara’s summer softball team this year and to see what a good time these girls have had playing.  Win or lose, their bench is filled with laughter and ridiculous jokes and we have all had a great time – even Teegy who happily plays with a sister of one of Ceara’s team mates on any playground they can find.

The garden is in full bloom and all around the yard, we have been finding little surprises: a random, tiny blueberry bush with one ripe blueberry; wild blackberries on the verge of ripening; bright white mushrooms (I think) popping up through the leaves on the edge of the back woods and a gorgeous, pink hydrangea blooming in the woods along our driveway.  Wish it didn’t have to go by so fast. xo