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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Yard and garden tour - 2013

So, now that our fence is finished (YAY!!!) I decided to take some new pictures of the entire back yard....and some of the growing things in the front yard.  Please bear with me if you find these things tedious - or just feel free to skip this entire post.

 Our lovely garden beds and rain barrels - which we forgot to close last night, so they are now empty {sigh}...but we are supposed to have rain on Sunday and Monday, so they will fill back up again.
Shed and part of the back fence - 4' tall because we actually like those neighbors and keep an eye out on them since they are a nice, older couple.
 The rest of the back fence and the swing set that is in desperate need of a paint job.
 Corner showing how our wonderful installers sloped down from the 6' section to the 4' section - we probably should have had 6' for a few more of the back sections, but it's still nice.
 Most of the side fence - 6' tall - blocks out a lot more of the traffic noise than I actually expected.  Rose of Sharon bushes in the right corner.
 The rest of the side fence and part of the short, front section, with yet another rain barrel and one of the heat pumps - which is where the strawberries are growing.
 My mutant rose bush.  I say "mutant" because I once had 2 rose bushes here.  One was a Peace rose (yellow/pink) and the other was a Home and Family (bright white) did they mutate into this??!!??  It does look quite a bit like the roses our backyard neighbors have, but there are a few differences....odd, but still a nice color.

 Another view of the short, front section of fence - the window is my workroom/office space.  At least I don't have to see or hear the loud teenagers and cars when I'm working now....but the fence provides a boring view, so there will probably be another flower bed put year.
 Not part of the yard/garden, but what I spent part of this week doing - building the shelf and organizing the variety of (top to bottom) camping gear, paper products, juice boxes, and shoes that have been worn outside.
 The other side of the dryer with boxes that I am still debating over, the shelf I bought from our next door neighbors, which is currently holding (top to bottom) gardening gloves, gardening implements, extension cord, lampshade for the lamp sitting in the lower left of the shelf area.  At this point, I'm only really about 1/3 finished with cleaning the garage....totally overwhelming at times.
 Our lovely butterfly bushes and the grass that is supposed to thrive in wet areas....yeah, well, it isn't dead, but not so much water gathers there since we have the drains now.
The spread of the "blue and gold" which started as a single plant back close to the house.
 Yes, it is a purple flower, but this is what pops up when the "blue and gold" least it adds a little bit of color to an otherwise boring and colorless front yard.
 Same type of plant as the "blue and gold" but I can't remember what they are actually called....this one is the same color combination as the Peace rose (yellow/pink).
 Our dwarf Japanese maple that likes to spread out and tries to take over the entire front of the house.  Ken trimmed it this year, so I won't touch it....I'm a much harsher "barber" than he is.
 Better shot of the pink/yellow flowers in the front of the house.
 Front shot of the new fence.  All the wood stacked there are fence pickets that were delivered for installation, however, they are still here because they were warped or cracked.  Now we are just waiting for Lowe's to come and pick them up.  To the right you can see the flower bed that i am trying to bring life to.
 Yet another sad rose bush.  This is the second Peace rose that I've tried to grow here.  There is ONE branch coming up and the rest is relatively dead stump....not sure what happened to this one {sigh}.
 Closer shot of the 3 blooms and the buggy leaves that I dealt with tonight.
 Rebekah's flower choices for color - purple, red/coral, and yellow (no, can't remember their names off the top of my head).
The pink/white dianthus and yellow begonia with the Peace rose "stalk" in the middle.
forget-me-nots in the foreground with the other rose bush (purple!) behind them.  This one has a lot of branches, but no buds yet....I will be trimming off the dead or dying bits tomorrow.

So, that's basically a walk around my yard.  In the flower bed that we just went through, there have also been seeds planted: pansies, johnny jump ups, nasturtiums, marigolds, different types/colors of daisies, and....crap....some sort of spreading carpeting flower in a purple shade (nope, forgot this one as well).  All are ones that were suggested for shade/part sun areas, and that's exactly what this area is, so (fingers crossed) we should have some blooms in a few weeks.  We also put some marigold seeds in the garden beds to help keep the bugs away....not sure how well it will work, but worth a try.

Tonight, after once again having to deal with a migraine, I played in my dirt.  For some reason, I am more involved (and want to be more involved) in the care of the garden beds, so I spent a good 30 minutes out weeding and checking for bugs and keeping Brady from walking through them.  He's good about ignoring the initial 2 garden beds, but is still adjusting to having the 3rd one in the yard and I've caught him going through it 3 times now....probably part of the reason the first round of cucumbers died - squashed to death by a 115lb dog!!!

Need to read through a few things and hunt up some potential future garden designs, then get back to canning and dehydrating....not that I'm a prepper, but I feel more comfortable knowing that we have food put aside should we need it....still aiming to make the homemade version of Pop the recipe today and I definitely need to get some apples canned and ready....and will dehydrate some on the same day for healthier snacking....working up to making homemade fruit

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Planting, waiting, growing

SO.....I've mentioned our gardens.....thought it was about time to post some pictures now that things are actually showing out of the some prep work:

Thomas is working on his Family Life merit badge and had to do one chore to help the family BY he weeded the existing 2 garden beds and got the soil all turned up.  The box that you see in the background of the last picture is the frame for the 3rd garden bed.  Thomas and Ken put it together while Rebekah and I were elsewhere...they were just waiting for me to decide where I wanted it to go.

Once I decided that the new frame was pretty much where it needed to be, support stakes were pounded in and screwed to the frame - Thomas was excited to use his folding saw to help cut the stakes down even with the frame edges.  This is also part of his merit badge work - helping the family with a chore that is beneficial.....for the 3rd garden bed, he and Ken built the frame, Ken removed the sod which Rebekah then carried over to a bald spot in the yard (from removal of a crappy "play house" left by the previous owners), and they all worked to get it filled and top off the other 2 beds.

I don't have pictures of the planting going on, but that is what Thomas and I did.  Here are the results:
 Garden bed #1.  From left to right, we have planted iceberg lettuce (which didn't grow, so there is now oakleaf lettuce in there), collard greens, and cherry tomatoes.

 Garden bed #2, from left to right: bush beans, bush beans, corn.  The beans are doing great, but the corn is only just now starting to poke through the's all good, it will grow eventually :-)

Garden bed #3 - the newest bed - left to right: romaine lettuce, half a row of cucumbers and the other half carrots, and a row of cucumbers.  We have both salad cucumbers and pickling cucumbers.....guess we'll see which ones actually take.

The planter along the back of the house has the BEST growing matter what we've planted there, it takes off like wildfire.  This year, we moved the beefsteak tomatoes over here to see how well they do.

Our lone pepper plant.  The plants we've had the past few years haven't done very well.  This is a different brand of plant, bought from a different location, so maybe it will do better....this is also the first time we've had a pepper in the's already got some tiny peppers showing, but the plant hasn't actually gotten any taller.

Rebekah wanted to grow strawberries, so we put plants in last year (eh) and added some more this year.  Had to put the fencing up when we caught Brady (the chocolate lab) sniffing around them.  The second picture shows the start of our strawberry crop - she's already pulled one ripe one off and eaten it!
In addition to the gardens for food, we've also put in some new flowers in the side flower garden.  We are hopeful that these will actually flourish and add some color to that area.  The only sad part is that I had to remove one of my lavender plants because it had gotten dried out and wasn't growing....but it wasn't too sad a moment since I checked the second lavender plant only to discover that it was going bonkers and needed to be trimmed back some.  Will be drying out what I cut....but only after the latest round of beef jerky is finished :-)


Saturday, May 25, 2013


DD had a school friend spend the night last night....I never knew girls were really THAT giggly and silly!!!  

First, I brought them both to the house as soon as school was done (well, after a stop to get clean clothes for DDs friend), so they played in R's room until dinner time...LOTS of laughter, thumping, and pretty much a trashed room {sigh}....momma wasn't happy.  But, if the room is trashed tonight, it's all on R because I told them at 7pm last night that they had an hour to clean it all up before we were moving them to the tv room....both girls like the bridal gown shows, so that was what was decided on for the evening tv viewing.  Got them settled on the sofa bed (took quite a while because R kept acting up - hiding under the covers, rolling around, invading her friend's personal space to the point of almost pushing her off the sofabed)....watched the shows, commented on what we liked and didn't like about the various dresses - both are deadly serious about NOT wearing a strapless dress for their weddings because they look "bad.....bad for a wedding, but not bad for a prom dress"

Tired because R couldn't get to sleep on the sofa bed, moved to recliner, couldn't get to sleep there so moved back to her bed....nope, she asked to have a friend over and she was NOT abandoning her, so back downstairs, moved recliner a bit more so it could open all the way, turned off hall light and turned on bathroom light, and that was the end of it......until DSs alarm clock went off at 630 this morning...yup, he got so wrapped up watching Sci-Fi with Dad that he totally forgot to turn the alarm clock off before settling down for the's gonna be a LOOOOOONG day.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Not happy

So, I did sauce yesterday and thought everything was good to go.  Only one jar hadn't popped it's lid...or so I thought.  Once they had all cooled down, hubby helped me move them to my storage cabinet - as I was bending over to put them on the shelf, 2 jars "unpopped"...craptastic.  Well, what one more thing after scorching the sauce and finding out as I was ladling it into the jars that somehow the pot had become fused to the burner(!)???  Yup, little bits of the enamel coating are stuck on one of my burners, so I either have to figure out how to scrape it off or go back and buy a new burner {sigh}

On the plus side, I found my original recipe and will be making MORE sauce to stash away using that....and hoping that none of yesterday's sauce has too much of a burned taste (though once I noticed there was some scorching, I made a point NOT to scrape the bottom of the pot and I turned the heat down as well).

Have to decide what I want to do next - would love to switch back to the dehydrator for a bit and get some more jerky made and stashed away, but the other 3 eat it as soon as it comes out and cools down....wonder if I could use a friends' house for running the dehydrator in, then bring it home and vacuum seal it and stash it away (that way they wouldn't be smelling the jerky all day long)...hmmm....

Thinking that I'll do both dehydrated apples since my daughter and I love them, then while the dehydrator is working, I can make the apple pie in a jar...only planning on a couple of pints - maybe this is what I'll use my vintage reproduction Ball jars know, the pretty blue jars.....

Have to re-read my various cookbooks and preserving books to see what I can make that I know the family will eat....and they all have to be things done in a hot water least for now...still not too comfortable with a pressure to take the boy to his karate class, then a stop by the library, then back home so he can start on his summer class for a couple of hours, then get the girl, hubby home an hour early, screwed up supper (was supposed to be Mulligan stew, but only had one container in the freezer, so half the family can have that and the other can have ham-bean soup)....what a day...should have known it would be wonky as soon as I had to take apart the kitchen sink pipes to clean them out....argh

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cruising right along.....

So, in the past month, we've had some of the oddest weather combinations that I can remember.  We've had heat, then cold, then heat again, then frost warnings overnight....and of course, the frost warnings came AFTER we put in the 3rd garden bed and got our seeds and seedlings in the ground {sigh}.

However....we got everything planted, and had tarps to cover the beds on the 2 nights we got frost, so it's looking like everything survived.  The soil we got apparently wasn't completely clean because the new garden bed, which is filled entirely with the soil, has a nice green slime on top....we'll work with it and probably add some Miracle Grow garden soil in a few weeks.  The cucumbers that we purchased are apparently delectable to the critters because, out of 8 plants, only 1 is still standing...the rest have been chewed into oblivion.  One type of lettuce has not broken through the soil yet, but the other lettuce (can't remember which type I planted in which garden bed) is coming up, the collard greens are doing well, beans are starting to sprout, and we are also starting to see the tips of the carrots leaves (stalks?).  We bought the tomatoes and pepper as young plants and they are all doing well.....corn, not so much....but we can replant this weekend.  Oh, and Rebekah got more strawberry plants and the first full-grown, red strawberry is peeking through...if we can just keep the birds away from them, we might have a decent amount of our own berries instead of having to venture out and purchasing them.

Yesterday I got back into canning again - ended up with 13 quarts of kosher dill pickles.  

This year, I did some as pickle spears, and some as pickle chips for use on burgers and sandwiches...very happy with them, and considering entering a jar in the county fair.  Kids say I should also enter a jar of my jelly, but we shall see.  Today's adventure is spaghetti sauce....and I hunted for the recipe I used last time I canned, but of course, couldn't find it.  Did find another option and the second batch of jars is in the water bath as I type.  But of course, while the first batch was processing, I hunted through my stacks of recipes (that I need to get on the computer instead of having millions of pieces of paper) and of course, after I had already started with the new recipe, I found my original one tucked into a magazine of kid-friendly meals {sigh}.  Well, I know where it is now (on the table right next to me) and I will make sure I put it with the rest of my canning supplies when today's work is done. 

I have a fabric stash sewing contest coming up next month....might be the best time to work through some of the projects that I've been delaying work on....and gives my poor stove a break from all the canning work.  Besides, the next thing I want to can is the chopped, spiced apples for use in pies or in poptarts (something else I need to get to work on).  Next shopping trip, I also have to purchase some more ground beef (probably the family size package) and make it all into jerky.  I will only let them have a small amount, then I'll vacuum seal the rest and add it to my closet - apparently they ALL like it (not me, can't stand it...barely tolerate SlimJims....gah) all kinds of "50s housewife" around here, but it's fun for me and I enjoy the results - particularly when the rest of the family gets HUGE eyes and HUGE smiles when they taste the results.....