Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fresh Potatoes

Last week we were invited short notice to a good friend's house for a small potluck during the olympic opening ceremony. She lives just down the road with her husband and two young kids, and is the one who watches Little M a couple days a week. We're really lucky to have her in our lives in so many ways, and I'm glad to say we've become friends as well as neighbors in the couple years that we've lived here.

Since we had already done our last shopping trip of the month for the remaining meals on our monthly meal plan, and none of those meals were really potluck friendly, I had to scrounge around a bit to come up with something to bring. I really wanted to bring this new potato casserole dish we've been loving lately, but we were out of potatoes.

Then I thought of the garden. Our potato plants had all flowered weeks ago, but weren't showing signs of dying back yet. Since last year we harvested our potatoes in late September, I wasn't sure if the new potatoes would be large enough or plentiful enough yet to be worth harvesting so early, since it's still July. I decided I would harvest one plant, and hope that it would provide enough potatoes. We grew 3 rows of potatoes this year, with about 5 plants in each row. One row of Russet's, one row of Yukon Gold's, and one row of Red Pontiac's. Of course I managed to forget which I planted where, so when I dug one plant out of the row between the cucumbers and the carrots it was a surprise that I ended up with Yukon Gold's.

The other surprise was how many I got from just one plant - over 4 pounds! 10 medium-large potatoes in all, definitely plenty to make my potluck casserole with! Not only was there more individual potatoes than I expected to get from just one plant, but they were far larger than I was expecting as well!

Now that we have this dish in addition to sides like baked potatoes, double baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, and hash browns, I'll have to re-evaluate how many pounds, and thus approximately how many potato plants, that we need to grow each year to tide us through to the following harvest. I'm sure that this year we won't have enough to last and we'll have to buy some to supplement, but in the 4 summers that we've been gardening here, our potato harvest has come a long way, with last year being the first real success, so even if the rest of the plants this summer don't produce much, which I doubt, we'll still have done as well or much better than last year.

Our pig, who we've named Pat, as in Pat the pig, or Pat that porker, or any other funny combination you can think of on the spot, came home with us last night. This morning was a bit of a rush around getting everything together and out the door as I had an early dentist appointment (which revealed my first ever filling - ick!), and everything was made later due to Little M discovering how to lock the new car (really a SUV, and nicknamed Pierre, whom I really should do a post on at some point to introduce you to him). So she locked the car with the keys inside using the keyless entry buttons on the door. Apparently if you push the 7/8 and 9/0 buttons at the same time it locks the car. Oops. After the mister ended up late for work by spending an hour with a coathanger getting the door open, our morning was pretty much shot. Hence potato post today, pig post later in the week once I have time to get decent photos!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Breaths in the quiet

I sit down to write and it is dusk outside, quiet and still inside. I can occasionally hear the puttering of my husband as he works to build the pig shelter for our soon-to-arrive newest addition to our property. Little M is either sound asleep or near enough there. I have the house to myself for at least a little slice of time until it gets full dark or my husband gets frustrated with the logs he's assembling into the shelter. It is times like this that I miss when our family's schedule changes. As I become used to a schedule, I learn what time of day I can find tucked away moments like this, where the house is still, where I can breathe and relax and feel the tension flowing out of me.

I am a creature of quiet. I crave it. I go slightly crazy without regular doses where the loudest noise is the wind through the trees. Or the chirping of the birds. Or the fridge. Yeah, I can usually make do with the fridge, if it's that time of day where I really need to be inside, near to my likely-asleep small child. Or if it's the depths of the dark winter.

I think it's one of the reasons why I've done so well moving across the country for grad school while doing field work in the woods 7 days a week for months and months and months on end, and later moving down into a new country and living out near the end of a seasonally dead-end road. I not only enjoy, but need, that quiet. Now don't get me wrong, I love and also need social hour, just maybe not quite as often as most people have it in their lives.

The quiet rejuvenates me. Whether I get it inside when the house is still and quiet, or whether I get it outside on a walk through the woods and hills. It fills me up. Especially when I'm running on near-empty, but even when I'm doing just fine, nothing completes me like a span of quiet time.

For me, when my husband or daughter are around, regardless of what they are doing, I tend to stay busy. Between spending quality time with my family, keeping them fed & clean, keeping the house clean & tidy, keeping up with things around the property, or even just busy work on the computer, I rarely sit down and relax when there are other people around. I suspect a bit of that is because when Little M is around, I can hardly sit down without her coming over and climbing all over me, or convincing me to come sit by her and do something with her, not that I really ever mind!

But it means that I need spaces of quiet in the house to just sit down and be myself. Read a book. Write. Think. Plan. Dream. Basically take my head out of the moment-to-moment of mothering a small child, running a household, keeping ahead of the weeds, and be able to stretch my brain a bit. Breathe in and out, and remember a broader world, bigger goals than those of the current hour, current day.

So tonight I squeezed in some quiet time. And between making a cup of hot chocolate (yes, even in the heat of the summer, I'm just a hot chocolate kind of girl), sitting down with my current book, and breathing, I remembered. I need this quiet. I find it's way too easy to forget. So remember to get your fill-you-up. Whether it's quiet, or something else, just try and remember to squeeze it into your everyday, your everyweek, your everylife.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mid July Garden - 2012

We had several days of on and off thunderstorms rolling through, which resulted in a lot of rain. Although we've been watering the garden every morning for the past couple months, the amount of (weed) growth down there just in the last week during and after all that rain has been incredible! We've got tomatoes and cucumbers, still very small, but far earlier than last year. In fact I don't even know if we ended up with a cucumber last year at all. I would love to claim that the plant growth is due to the chicken manure we added last fall, but I suspect some of it has to do with the better weather this year, and the better job of regular weeding and watering I've been able to do.

The onions have been growing huge. The ones on the east side of the garden, where the soil is a little different, and where the water regime is a bit better, have been doing just amazing. On the other side of the garden, where the water pools due to the watering system we have, and due to the ground slope there, aren't doing quite as well as these below, but they are still doing at least as good if not better than last year, so I'm quite satisfied. It has been interesting seeing the difference between the starts I planted inside in February and the seeds I direct seeded in the early spring. The direct seeded at first seemed to jump ahead, but now I don't notice a difference between the two groups.

Of course in addition to the weeds, we have other green things growing quickly too. Like this little grasshopper. The chickens have been seeming to do a good job of keeping the grasshopper numbers in the field between the coop and the garden down in numbers from last year, but within the garden fence, where the chickens don't go, there have been some areas where the grasshoppers have been surprisingly prevalent. They seem to love sitting on my cilantro patch and are just shredding the leaves as the plants go to seed. I think we'll still get lots of seed, but its been astonishing seeing the grasshoppers just sit so densely in that patch.

We've been harvesting tubs of raspberries and the last of the shell peas. I was dismayed to find what I am fairly certain are pea weevils. I'm thinking of devoting a whole post to them in the next week or so as I learn more and decide on a management strategy to avoid or reduce their presence in the garden next year. We have gotten a lot of shell peas though; I've frozen 2 batches of peas in the freezer after blanching, for use as a side dish or an addition to a couple of pasta dishes we make. I think there may be one more smaller batch tonight as well, before we pull the plants and feed them to the chickens, or wait a bit and feed them to the pig in the next couple weeks.

My herb patch is doing quite well, although my husband has decided that the basil variety (sacred basil if I recall) that I chose this year isn't his favorite at all, so we've been letting that go a bit. The chives have been frequently mowed down for twice baked potato casseroles, and the dill garnished the top of some grilled salmon the other day. The cilantro is pretty much past picking but soon we will be able to harvest the seeds and replant. The sage and oregano and thyme and rosemary are still fairly small, but they've got another month or two before we need to harvest before frost, so still lots of time to get our acts together there.

The corn, which got frosted as it was emerging, has been a bit spotty this year, with some definite patches where we could use another couple plants, but I'm happy with how large it is growing, and we even had one plant that was definitely knee high by the fourth of July :) Looking at this picture, I can tell I need to get in there and do some weeding in the next couple of days!

The rhubarb plants that I traded for this spring have just taken off, and I'm really looking forward to harvesting rhubarb next summer. There are also a lot of radishes going to seed in the picture, which my husband requested to seed out in the bottom field for his deer garden. As long as they get out of the way of the corn soon, I'm leaving them in there, but they do seem like they are taking over!

The winter squash (butternut and hubbard) are really taking off with the heat we've been having around the thunderstorms. I keep having to rearrange them so that they end up not completely entwined with everything else! I can see here in this picture I obviously have missed one of the hubbards trying to take over the broccoli... I'd better get that taken care of before the hubbard sends shoots into the ground and wraps around the broccoli! The green beans that I replanted are doing alright here, but not as well as the dry beans have been doing. They are almost at the flowering stage, which seems way earlier than last year. Loving this warm summer!

The pumpkins are also doing great, and having blossoms already. I expect they will totally take over this end area before the fall, and likely we'll have more pumpkins than we really need, but I figure the pig will eat anything we grow like that this year!

Well, that's the mid summer tour, how is your garden space doing this year?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Changing it up - the vehicle edition

Wow, how is it Friday already? We've been having a busy busy week here. We are currently looking to replace both of our main vehicles, after we sold my beloved Honda Fit and after a bit of an accident with my husband's beloved Ford F-150 (no one was hurt thankfully and Little M and I weren't in the truck with him at the time). We had already decided we needed to sell both and get 2 AWD or 4WD vehicles, but hadn't been planning on doing it all at once - but these things happen.

So now it is off to the big city on my husband's days off to see about getting me a 2008 Ford Escape (hopefully), and make sure a slightly older (2005? 2007?) Subaru Impreza will work for him. We'll have to wait a week or two I think to get his car, and in the meantime we have to hope the old Jeep keeps running (so far so good although the oil gauge was doing strange things for me this morning).

I can't say enough thanks that my husband wasn't hurt, that my car sold very quickly (in 2 days and locally!), that my dad is so knowledgeable about used vehicles with a stash of old consumer reports to refer to, that my mother-in-law lives in the big city and loves us visiting, and that our vehicles are fully paid off. I'll miss my little car, but having one that I'll be able to drive year round will be much better.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Our First Garlic Scape Pesto

Last week I had several days off with Little M, so we got lots of quality time together, and I got to catch up on things around the house. Didn't get all that much done in terms of hours towards my monthly paycheck, but life is about trade-offs, right? :)

One of the things we did, that had been on my radar as a to-do item for about a week, was harvest the garlic scapes. They had been ready for likely a bit longer than a week, and I wanted to make sure I harvested them before they started to flower. Luckily we had picked up some pine nuts while out doing our large monthly shopping trip a couple days prior, so we were ready to make some garlic scape pesto!

We used a rough recipe from here and here, and didn't really measure, just approximated volumes until it seemed about the right flavor, and blended until it was about the right consistency. It was my first time making any kind of pesto from scratch, and my first time even tasting garlic scape pesto, so I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to make, and how spice-y-tasty it was to eat!

As you can see, we didn't end up with that much, but I found that a little bit goes a long ways, so most of this was frozen in one of my weck jars (love those things!) as I'm imagining mixing it in to home-made spaghetti sauce later this summer. I think this fall we'll need to plant more garlic to get more garlic scapes next summer!

Linked up to the Homestead Barn Hop!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My rowing elephant

I can't remember if its something I found on Simple Mom, Money Saving Mom, Dave Ramsey, or elsewhere, but I've been using this elephant concept with my rowing goal. You see, this year I decided that I wanted to get to 2 million lifetime meters rowed. That's a lot of meters, let me tell you, and thinking about the large chunk of those left (I was at about 1.2 million as of January 1st) was pretty daunting. I made alright progress during the winter/early spring months, but once it started being serious gardening season, my monthly rowing goals (about 74k/month) to meet my yearly goal just weren't getting met.

Enter the elephant. Last month I sat down and figured out what rowing pieces (distance rowed per exercise session) I needed to finish to meet my ideal goal of having the rowing done mid fall. I drew this elephant in my household notebook, and then split the elephant into the pieces I needed to do each month to get to my distance goal by fall.

Each time I row (obviously almost every day in order to get every piece done within a one month time frame), I color over the piece that I rowed. It's a really nice visual, and knowing that I have a pre-determined number and assortment of pieces to do each month has really helped me make real progress on my goal. For example, even with our week vacation to Hawaii at the beginning of June, I still almost finished my elephant by the end of the month! And although I didn't finish, I came so close as to be not that significant, especially compared to my much shorter total distances rowed the past couple months without using this elephant concept.

I know this concept is applicable to other things, and it's really nothing new - breaking your yearly goals up into monthly and weekly and daily tasks is something lots of people talk about often, I'm remembering some great posts by Crystal of moneysavingmom about doing just that. I can't say that the rest of my yearly goals are so nicely broken up into discrete and daily-finish-able chunks, but this elephant thing is really helping me meet my rowing goal. Which I of course think is great! Now I just need to figure out how to break the other things high on my priority list & yearly goals list into do-able chunks like this... hmmm...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ready-to-fledge Robins

We came home yesterday evening from a weekend away to find that the robin that had made a nest while we were away in Hawaii had 3 little ready-to-fledge babies peering wide-eyed at us bringing all our camping gear back into the house. Sorry for the less-than-spectacular photo, it took a little bit to recharge the camera battery and the daylight was mostly gone. I'm glad I snapped a shot last night though, as this morning they've already fledged and were nowhere to be seen. I guess we can stop tip-toeing around the front porch!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...