Wednesday, September 27, 2023

September 2023


After staying home all summer, busy with gardens and projects, we took a trip to the East side of the mountains and met our newest great grandson, Atlas. Another happy baby!

Grandpa Tony is teaching the older kiddos how to do chin ups! He's a total believer in core strength and knows the earlier you begin building muscles, the better you do as an adult.

Our oldest great grandson with knife and sheath he created using paper, glue, and imagination.

This one prefers Grandpa Ron to Grandma Rosie. He crawled right up on Ron's lap, ignoring all my friendly overtures. I may be losing my baby touch!

And sometimes, you just need a grandma lap and a short nap.
Back home to more projects:

The hillside where you can see Ron on the excavator, has been covered with blackberries for many years. He first scraped the blackberry bushes off, then we moved four 40 year old rhododendrons from where they were encroaching on the driveway to that hillside. Although an excavator makes this move possible, there is still a lot of hand work involved! At the base of the hill, I planted several hundred flower bulbs - tulips, daffodils, and dahlias. It should be beautiful if everything survives the move. We gave the plants the best possible start by waiting until they were dormant, and doing it in the middle of a torrential rain event.

Sixty-five years ago, as a teenager, I helped my father build a huge septic tank from brick. It has served the house all those years. When we relocated the driveway to come by the tank, we had to protect it from big trucks driving over it. We had railroad ties around the edge, but they weren't very pretty, so Ron removed them the other day, and we created a berm of dirt as a barrier. I robbed various plants from other places on the property to ensure that people can see it and hopefully avoid driving on it.

While harvesting most of the garden is over, winter squash time is just beginning. We had our first acorn squash stuffed with butter, brown sugar, pecans, and craisons yesterday! Still no frost, but the squash was hard enough it took a saw to cut it in half. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

August 2023

This is the first year that I have really used my greenhouse. While I started most plants on my kitchen table, I moved them into the greenhouse when it got warmer, and have left them through the heat of the summer. Surprisingly, they've survived the heat and have thrived with daily watering.  I've gotten most of my tomatoes and cucumbers from the plants in the greenhouse. We brought power to the greenhouse this month, so I should have more success in starting plants next spring.

Growing tobacco as a lark - beautiful plant with a very pretty flower. Now I need to research some way to use it other than smoking. Medicinal? I'm always looking for medicinal plants.

Our friends, Patti and Fran, from Florida visited on their way to an Alaska cruise, and we took in the local sites. Deception Pass, with it's spectacular views is always on our must see places.  
Closer to home, the swinging footbridge across the Stillaguamish River - a place we haven't actually stopped for in quite a while.
Lots of veggie and fruit preservation going on this month. Making jam, drying figs, freezing beans, making pickles, and most recently:
Making sauerkraut. As with anything, proper tools make the job easier.  My recipe: 
2 large heads of cabbage (shredded, it make about 2 gallons)
1/4 cup canning salt (thoroughly mixed with the cabbage) 
Pound to tamp down - now it's about a gallon and half in volume.
Cover with plate and large zip lock bag filled with water for weight. (I have a rock that I use - I found it years ago and have scoured it and kept it for the sauerkraut weight)

Cover with a clean towel, and wait! It takes about 5 or 6 weeks to be ready to put in jars and seal.

 "Winter is coming..." not my favorite phrase, but it feels good to have a pantry and freezer full of food and a woodshed full of wood. 


Wednesday, July 26, 2023

July 2023

 Harvest season begins with raspberries. It's a fast, almost overwhelming time where I pick every other day for about two weeks. This year I made about 24 quarts and 10 or so pints of raspberry jam. My grandkids have been eating raspberry jam for most of their lives, and I try to make enough so that all of the kids, grandkids, and great grandchildren have jam all year long.

While I could extend the season for another week or so, I'm concentrating now on getting the vines ready for next year.
The old canes that produced berries this year are easy to identify now as they are gray/black, and the new canes for next year's berries are green. I leave the new canes long for now to deter the deer from eating them. They still trim the bottom leaves, but the cane just keeps growing at the top and when all the leaves die off, I'll trellis the canes to the wire. You can see the piles of old canes beside the row.
On to blackberries and blueberries - Both are just beginning to produce! 
The Hugelkultur mound has Kohlrabi, cucumbers, tomatoes, beets and pumpkin growing nicely. I made my first jar of dill pickles today.
Inside the greenhouse things are lush! The tobacco plant in front of Ron has flourished inside. The plants I planted in the main garden are less than a foot tall. Still hoping for a flower! Ron was inside figuring out where to put the electric line.

My hero - digging the trench to bring power and water to the greenhouse. I do have water in the garden, but it's kind of a mess - underground for most of the way, but connected with a hose at the house, which involved turning on the spigot about 200 yards from where we use the water. He resisted a bit bringing water into the greenhouse, but we will lay the waterline today! 

My daughter in law, Tina, and I thinned the apple trees this past weekend, and the deer are enjoying not having to reach for apples. If only they would just eat the apples on the ground....if only they didn't love strawberry and raspberry and blackberry leaves so much....if only they hadn't discovered the green beans....So much of their habitat has gone away in recent years, that we are pretty tolerant of them hanging out in our little oasis.


Monday, June 19, 2023

June 2023


June saw most of the kids and their families visiting for our annual family gathering. We had 17 of the 23 grandchildren here for a nice sunny day where the kiddos could swim and play together. The new baby was a big hit with everyone. It's been a while since we had a baby in the mix!

Mom and big sister hovered while all the cousins had a chance to hold baby Martin. He laughed and smiled throughout.

The cousins always find a new game to test their skills against each other. The older teens are even challenging the uncles to arm wrestling matches. :) So far, the uncles prevail, but it won't be long!

The boys in their traditional pose. Getting a little gray around the edges, but still kids at heart.

A week later, Ron's brother and his three grown children came for a sad occasion - their daughter and sister, Regina, died suddenly earlier this year and they came for the memorial service. We are all still in shock and sadness at her passing.

Meanwhile, our projects continue - extending the water line to our new building site is complete. 

And June is only half over - definitely our busy season around here is in full swing.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

May Flowers and Projects


The area between the houses and the lake has been kind of neglected over the past few years.  We have a set of steps to the lake in the pea gravel, but weeds have overlayed the gravel, and the steps were getting a bit ragged. When I started weeding the area, the project began to evolve.

As I pulled weeds from the lake and weeded the bank, Ron emptied the many wheelbarrow loads for me as the slope demands a strong person to push the load uphill. 

The vision I have now is for a lawn between the house and the gravel which forms a bridge the lawn mower can cross between the two grassy areas. 

Meanwhile, Ron has split and stacked about 8 cords of wood, so we should be all set to stay cozy next winter.

Everything is in bloom right now. The rhodies are starting to wane, but the iris are in full bloom.

Even the sage is blooming. Interesting little blossoms that kind of look like mini orchids.

It's been a busy month - all about projects and work - June will be more about family and gatherings.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Garlic Infused Honey


I plant a lot of garlic. I've been asked "What do you do with all that garlic?" A lot of garlic goes into pickles around here - and I cook with garlic a lot - and, of course, I need seed for the next year. Last year I didn't have enough garlic because I had planted the garlic I bought at Costco that had sprouted, and planted it at the wrong time. It really needs to be in the ground in September or October. I planted in early spring, and it was California garlic.  My daughter-in-law rescued me last fall and gifted me some absolutely lovely Spanish Roja bulbs. They are more suited to this climate, and look amazing. So this year I should have enough garlic.
In the meantime, I just bought another bag of Costco garlic, and found that it was mostly sprouted and needed to be used right away. Nature's antibiotics - garlic and honey, make an amazing potion for control of colds and flu. It is a big job to peel enough garlic, but so worth the effort. 

It seems like everything I do becomes an assembly line of sorts. So first step, peel off the papery outside hulls from the garlic bulbs. Then separate into cloves. Next step, use the flat side of a large knife to whack each clove to loosen the hard inner hull. Since it takes 4 or 5 full bulbs to fill a pint jar, there is a lot of debris (compost).

Two different friends from high school each gifted me a bucket of honey recently! (Never too much honey or too much garlic around here) I separated the honey into quart size jars for ease of use, and now I have the garlic ready for the honey.

The garlic will liquify the honey as it ferments. This concoction will keep forever and is something to have on hand for so many uses. At the first sign of a cold take a tablespoon full in a glass of water. (I actually take it as a preventative nearly every day, and have not had a cold or flu in many years.)
I also use a couple of cloves in any sauce I make - spaghetti, marinade, BBQ sauce, etc.  The cloves plump up nicely when heated in the sauce. Once my assembly line project is done (A couple of hours this morning) I have enough garlic and antibiotic for years and to enough to give away to the few people who are into home remedies. :)

Monday, May 15, 2023

 "When lilies of the valley bloom, it's time to plant pumpkins and squash" - So the weather has warmed up and it's time for full on gardening!

We make garden space available to our renters, and they have their gardens planted too. You can see the raspberries fully leafed out and starting blooming on the left, the garlic of the right separating the two renter gardens. Gene has mostly potatoes, cabbage, and onions planted. Gabriel has tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers.  I have some of all of these, along with parsnips, carrots, garlic, squash, pumpkin, beets, broccoli, and more.  With good weather, we should all be eating fresh veggies before long.

The heather and candy tuft we planted on the bank in front of the house are getting bigger and prettier every year.  The iris are budding and should be in full bloom soon.

I cleaned all the empty pots and extra stuff out of the greenhouse, and you can see in the corner on the right where I have been burrowing under the foundation. We have power that we can extend to the greenhouse now. Most of the trench can be dug with the excavator, but I've managed to get a 3' by about 6' trench in the area where the excavator is too large to reach. I managed to get under the foundation, so I'm ready for Ron to finish the job.
Meanwhile, Ron has split 7 cords of firewood, and leveled the building site. 

And I've begun my swimming season! These are the days we've been waiting for!