Saturday, August 12, 2017

Fall Garden Starting/ Summer Update

This is one of 4 Cinderella pumpkins growing in the hugelkultur bed.  It's not ripe yet; it will turn bright reddish orange when it is ripe.  They are huge and beautiful.

Here is a view of the hugelkultur bed.  In the foreground is the extra mound, and you can see all the vines - those are sweet potatoes.  The sunflower presides over them.  Behind is the hugelkultur, with the Cinderella pumpkins along the right side.  On top are more sunflowers, not yet blooming, sunberries, a couple of tomato plants, arugula that has gone to seed, several calypso bean plants, candy onions, lettuce gone to seed, and sugar baby watermelons.

These are calypso beans.  They are really delicious; they taste a lot like kidney beans.  I often put them in soups.

Malachi's banana tree is growing nicely.

And here is the deck garden.  Lydia said, "It was a forest, and now it's bare!  What happened?"  What happened is that I cleared it out/harvested, and now I've started replanting fall crops.  In the foreground I planted radishes, spinach, and broccoli seeds.  The arugula, cilantro, and dill reseeded, and now there are tiny seedlings that aren't visible in the picture but are located just beyond the area I planted.  In the middle there is a small cantaloupe plant that is a quick-maturing type.  I hope to get cantaloupe from it before frost.  There are some cabbages at the back, and kale.  I plan on replanting that area soon as well.  A few cherry tomato plants have volunteered along the house to the right.

Here is a glimpse of the tomatoes.  They are doing so well; I'm harvesting around a dozen a day of these types: Black Vernissage, Black Krim, Golden Jubilee, Woodle Orange, and St. Pierre.  All are delicious.  I've been canning and freezing quite a bit.

I didn't take photos of the butternut squash, but it is doing fabulous.  I also have tomatillos, some cucumbers (not tons), golden crescent beans, sunberries, herbs, cantaloupes, blue pumpkins, etc.  I have a few pepper plants, too, which are getting closer to harvest time.  I replanted carrots in the square foot gardens and in some pots, along with more radishes.  Lydia and Gyunay planted pea pods out front.  

Overall, the summer garden has done very well, and for once I actually have focused on planting a fall garden, so we may continue to have harvests of various things for at least a couple more months.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Review - Fault Lines by Thomas Locke

 Fault Lines by Thomas Locke is definitely a suspenseful book.  The action starts right away and rarely lets up.  It is a bit hard to follow in spots, because there are multiple characters at play, and not all are as well-developed to make their personalities and roles easily apparent.  I really enjoyed the characters of Charlie Hazard, Julio, and Alessandro.  The book does have a good resolution, but it is apparent that the end of the book is not the end of the story.  I enjoyed all of the action and suspense in this book, but I struggled a bit with some of the elements in the story line not quite meshing, or being well explored.  Perhaps some of these elements are better defined in the rest of the trilogy.  I'm not being too specific here, because I don't want to spoil anything for readers.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, but it was not my favorite.  Then again, sci-fi in general is not my favorite, although I do really enjoy suspense, so this would probably be more appealing to people who enjoy sci-fi as much as the suspense.  Readers looking for an overtly religious book would be disappointed, as faith elements are subtle and not forefront.

I received this book from the publisher, Revell, for the purpose of writing a review, but all opinions are my own.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

July Harvest Totals

Arugula - 2c
Blackberries - 5 1/2 cups
Carrots, Dragon - 19
Carrots, Little Finger - 12
Corn - 12 ears
Cucumber, Edmonson - 10
Cucumber, Russian Pickling -1
Eggs - 168
Golden Crescent Beans - 2c
Kale - 1 bunch
Onion, candy - 1
Onions, green - 3
Pea Pods - 1c
Potatoes, fingerling - 17.5 oz
Potatoes, purple viking - 7 oz
Tomatillos - 10.5 oz
Tomatoes, Black Krim - 19
Tomatoes, black vernissage - 38
Tomatoes, golden jubilee - 20
Tomatoes, St Pierre - 12
Tomatoes, Woodle Orange - 16
Turnips - 9
Zucchini (grey) -3

All in all, it was a pretty good month.  We also harvested sunberries, basil, mint, cilantro, dill, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, and parsley as needed.  And now I'm rearranging those herbs in my mind to sing "parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme..."  And now it's stuck in your head, too.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Back from the beach

We had a great vacation, and we just got home a couple of hours ago (and found literally over 100 ripe tomatoes in the garden - yay!).  But back to vacation.  We enjoyed the beaches on Lake Michigan in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

The boogie boards were a big hit.

Malachi loves to be silly.  He is always wearing his tinted goggles at the beach, or he would suffer migraines.

The vacation was a huge hit with everyone.  We spent time with my inlaws, then met my family at a rental house in Michigan, then went back to the inlaws, took a train to Chicago (me, Lydia, and Nathaniel's parents) to go to the American Girl store, and then back to the inlaws and now home.  We're all pretty exhausted and very happy to be home.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Garden Bounty

The tomatoes are really coming in now.  We picked these today:

I'm not sure how big of a basket that is, exactly, but it originally had 20 lbs of apples in it.  The largest tomato in that bunch weighed 1.25 lbs!  I now have 6 1/2 quarts of crushed tomatoes in the freezer, waiting for me to can salsa later.  I plan to can a lot of salsa at once, now that I have the huge canner.  That way, I don't heat up the kitchen as often.  I should be doing well enough in tomatoes to also can crushed tomatoes for sauces, too.

I also harvested the fingerling potatoes, and I roasted them with olive oil, rosemary, and parmesan cheese.  Now it's time for dinner, with those and bacon and tomatoes!

And here are all of the grandkids on my side of the family:

Friday, July 21, 2017

Tadpole Rescuers

We use an inflatable pool, which the younger kids are generally in about every day, but we went a couple of days with no swimming or adding new water, and we ended up with tiny tadpoles.  Hundreds of tadpoles. These two spent an hour rescuing tadpoles by transporting them bucket by bucket to the pond:
Here they yelled "Save the Tadpoles" before posing.  

Some of the saved tadpoles are visible here in one of the buckets.  Lydia took the bucket pictures.

Gyunay was less interested in tadpoles, but he enjoyed pushing around his lawnmower.  

Sweet Corn!

I've tried and failed to grow heirloom corn in the past, but this year just look:
I harvested this last night.  We tried a few kernels raw, and I did a happy dance.  It is absolutely delicious, sweet, and fresh.  I only harvested half of the corn, since the other half will probably be ripe next week.  Tonight, we are having sweet corn!

And this golden jubilee tomato has Lydia very excited.  We are also having hamburgers tonight, with fat, juicy slices of tomato both on top and on the side, sprinkled with pink salt.  I love summer.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


I wait all year for this:
And now Lydia and I are in heaven.  These are mostly Black Krims, with one Black Vernissage (the striped little guy).  We've also had some Golden Jubilees, but Lydia devours those pretty quickly.  Gyunay also enjoys the tomatoes, although he doesn't eat quite so many as we girls do.  The St. Pierres and Woodle Oranges aren't quite ripe yet, and both are new varieties, so I am curious as to how those will taste.  In the meantime, I'll be indulging in the ripe tomatoes we have!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Peach Picking Time

We had our annual peach and white nectarine picking session this weekend.  We ended up with a bit over a hundred pounds of peaches and white nectarines!  I've been busy peeling, dicing, and canning.  We also picked up 20 pounds of apples for applesauce while we were there, and Lydia has been a huge help in using the corer/peeler/slicer to prep those for me.

Elijah wanted a picture with his hat full of fruit, and it turned out quite well.  

Lydia scored some free sunglasses that morning at our county day parade, and Gyunay looks so cute in the fishing hat.

Speaking of fishing, Nathaniel took those who wanted to go on a canoe ride/fishing trip yesterday afternoon while I was peeling nectarines.

They had a lot of fun, although no fish were caught.  Nathaniel wanted to enjoy some time on the water, and then relax at home.  We've had lots of visitors lately, both this week and last week from Thursday through Saturday, and before that he was in China, so he was due for a day to just relax.  

Monday, July 10, 2017

New Canoe

The kids love Daddy's new toy.  They were searching for tailys in the Amazon.  

(Lydia recently invented a new species, tailys, which she gave a speech on last night.  She has spent a lot of time determining their diet, habitat, etc.)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

June Harvest Totals

The garden is healthy, but it's taking much longer than anticipated to get the crops ripe.  I thought that with the early spring and starting seeds earlier, we'd be harvesting earlier, but I didn't account for the increased shade in the yard this year.  The trees have really grown, and shaded parts of nearly all of the gardens.  And although my tomato plants are loaded, none are ripe by the 4th of July (always the goal Papaw set, and I stick to that goal).  Still we did start harvesting some veggies and a few fruits, so here's the list:

galen - 1c
turnips - 12
pea pods - 3 3/4 cups  (Delicious!  These all got eaten quickly.)
radishes - 20
garlic scapes - 8
kale - 2 bunches
raspberries - 1/2 c
arugula - 4c
garlic bulbs - 28 (would have been more, but a tree branch fell on the crop and took out several)
dragon carrots - 10
green onions - 8
swiss chard - 1bunch
blackberries - 3 1/4 c
cucumber (white Edmondson) - 1
Herbs - mint, thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, some basil

Also, we lost 2 chickens this month to raccoon attacks, so we now only have 7 hens.  Still, we had 205 eggs this month.
This head of broccoli looks good, but none of the other 5 plants has a head at all yet.  Neither does the cauliflower.

The butternut squash is looking good.

And it looks like we will have some corn!

Gyunay loves his new lawnmower.  He also loves telling everyone that he is 5 now!  

Book Review - High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin is the best novel I've read in a long time.  I absolutely loved this book.  The main character, Eve, is a nurse and spy in Belgium during WWI.  Her character has depth and growth, and it was very easy to root for Eve.  Her anguish and determination are palpable.  Several secondary characters were also well-drawn, and all were realistic.  The historical detail of this novel is excellent, and I really enjoyed that aspect, as I knew nothing of Belgium and little of WWI.  I also appreciate that the author has notes at the end to separate her inventions from the historical record.  The story is suspenseful and engaging from start to finish.  I highly recommend this book!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher, Bethany House, for the purpose of writing a review, but all opinions are my own.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Bulgarian Reunion

I didn't take very many pictures at the reunion, and the ones I have are not the greatest.  See?  I don't know why Elijah has such a hard time smiling.
Our cultural activity this year involved learning about traditional Bulgarian clothing, and then letting the kids make their own versions.  These three really enjoyed making shirts:

on the porch of the cabin

A couple of the moms were great sports and did face painting for hours.  Lydia chose to be a black dog.

These descriptions were provided by Cincinnati's Bulgarian group, which taught us about the meaning behind the embroidery.  

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Book Review - Freedom's Price by Christine Johnson

While I was waiting up for my husband to get home from China, I read Freedom's Price by Christine Johnson.  I was glad that I was able to finish it in one (long) day, since, it was an intriguing historical fiction.  Set in the 1850s in England, Key West, and Louisiana, this story gives readers a good idea of differences in how people lived in that time according to class, race, and location.  The story is told in third person, but mainly through the eyes of Catherine, an English woman who leaves home and heads toward Louisiana to be with family she's never met, and Tom, a sailor who works on ship wrecks off the coast of Key West.  Their verbal sparring is enjoyable, and both characters are well-drawn.  This story is the third in a series, but it is a stand-alone novel.  Readers of the first two books will get a glimpse of some of the main characters from those, but this novel is about Catherine and Tom.  Both characters grow throughout the story, and they are forced to make choices between what they had planned, and what is just.  Both of them find that mysteries from their past involve the same devilish man.  Readers realize right away that this is a romance, but it also has an intriguing and suspenseful plot.  Overall, it is a good read, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

I received this book from the publisher, Revell, in exchange for my review, but all opinions are my own.


Nathaniel is home from China, and we are so very glad.  He brought Lydia and me both new dresses, so we wore them to Mass this morning.

And while he was gone, we had a visit from my mom, sister, nieces, and nephew.  The cousins always have fun together!

(obligatory couch photo)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Garden Tour

The garden is really growing now, so I thought I'd take you on a little tour.  I took pictures of most of the gardens, but not the pots on the front or back decks, the potatoes, or the veggies and herbs out front mixed into the flower beds.  Let's start with the original garden.  Here is the sadly small cabbage:
And below is a cauliflower, which still has not formed a head.  The broccoli looks the same.

This is the cilantro.  It's very prettily flowering right now, which is good.  It will go to seed, and reseed the bed, and hopefully I will have fresh cilantro ready when the tomatoes are ripe.

The tomatoes are growing.  As you can see from each side of the garden, they are big, healthy plants on one end and much smaller on the other.  The trees have grown so much in the past year that the end is shaded part of the day, and the tomatoes really don't like it.

Below is the kids' square foot garden.  Most of the plants are quite small, partially due to the fact that some of them waited to plant.  Lydia's zucchini is flowering, though, and the beans are growing well.

And my square garden next:

I've already replanted a few squares, because we harvested all of the radishes out of it.  Also, I just harvested a bunch of swiss chard from the front right box, so it was actually fuller.  In the back left, the Edmonson cucumbers are doing very well, and on the back right are sweet peas that are very tasty.  I've also got carrots, beets, peppers, and kholrabi doing well.

This is a beautiful butternut squash:

It is situated to the right of this bed.  You can just see the edge of the trellis here:
Sadly, the chipmunks ate most of the corn, so we only have a few plants.  There are beans, blue pumpkins, zucchini, and cantaloupes in there, too.  In the concrete blocks, there are some herbs and green onions.  I harvested 7 of the green onions yesterday, though.

Now, on to the hugelkultur.  This is the smaller bed, which actually isn't hugelkultur, since it's just dirt, but anyways, it looks good with mostly purple sweet potato plants, a few beans, a cantaloupe, and that tall sunflower growing in the center.

The main hugelkultur bed now has stakes around it due to a deer attack.  You can see the big arugula patch on the left.  I've already harvested 3 cups of it this week.  There are Cinderella pumpkins, Sugar baby watermelons, Calypso beans, a few peas, a cherry tomato or two, sunflowers, onions, and a Russian pickling cucumber here as well.  

And lastly, Malachi finally got his banana tree!

He's so excited about it.  I hope we can keep it alive.