Thursday, September 1, 2016

Garden Update: late August

Home Garden: Aug 2016
Basil plants, rehabbed into metal cans. 
Piercen loves basil. Fresh, dried, pesto-ed, doesn't matter. So I started a good number of basil plants from seed this spring. They were doing fine, until Buffalo Treehoppers discovered them and went to town sucking out the sap. I'd find my little seedlings turning yellow with a blacked stem where those little devils made their own buffet.  So each time, I'd dig the plant up, cut the stem right above the blackened area, then let the root tip sit in water for a couple of days until it developed enough rootlings to be repotted. Putting them in these metal cans (don't fuss, they are BPA free), seems to keep the BT away. Now, I harvest basil leaves every couple of days and am getting a nice supply of frozen basil-in-oil to keep P happy this coming winter. 
Home Garden: Aug 2016
Marigolds, lima beans, and nasturtiums on the retaining wall.

Home Garden: Aug 2016
Back in March I ordered the "Companion Plant" collection from Annie's Seeds. In the collection were seeds for a plant I had neither seen nor heard of; nasturtium. So I started the seeds indoors like the packet said and went about my business. Up popped these little plants with lovely lilypad-like leaves. I planted them in the retaining wall area off the porch and went about my business. The nasturtiums did great until one day I discovered them covered in black tiny dots. Aphids had come to town. I did some research and discovered that nasturtiums are aphids' favorite food. Nasturtiums are used as companion plants because they attract the aphids away from the more valuable crops (note: nasturtiums can be valuable; the flowers and leaves can be eaten and the flowers are good for sugaring). For the next couple of months, attract aphids they did and most of the plants suffered. The one on the end of the wall though, seemed to weather the aphid attack quite well and, as you can see above, has become the star of the flower show. 
Home Garden: Aug 2016
Fall Cover Crop
Since we're going to be gone most of September, I decided to start a fall cover crop a bit earlier than I would normally to make sure it gets good and watered before we abandon it to the whims of the weather gods. 
Home Garden: Aug 2016 Home Garden: Aug 2016
The birds have finally (and inexplicably) decided to leave some of the ripe strawberries alone. They are not very large and tend to look a little wonky, but oh man do they taste good. Sweet and with a strong strawberry flavor. 
Home Garden: Aug 2016
Luther's tomato plant (bought from the store back in June)
Home Garden: Aug 2016
Big bed. 
This big bed was originally planted with arugula, spinach, peas, broccoli and some cabbages. The arugula and spinach bolted early when we had a unseasonal week of heat in May, but I was able to save seeds from both. The peas were amazing and some of the little peas that dropped out of pods before I could pull them are already starting to grow. The broccoli and cabbages were ravaged multiple times by Boris the Groundhog and never stood a chance, so I cut down the parts above the soil and left the roots in the ground to continue feeding/harboring soil microbes. I have since replanted the bed with lima beans (which are doing splendid), sunflowers (which like to fall over but by splinting the broken bits with sticks and first aid tape, I've managed to save), marigolds, basil, and borage. I also just planted seeds for a fall cover crop in the bed. 
Home Garden: Aug 2016
The sunflowers are a beautiful orange gold color.
Home Garden: Aug 2016
Lima bean pods.
Home Garden: Aug 2016
Borage; looking a little unfortunate. 
Home Garden: Aug 2016
These next two beds originally held mainly cabbages and cauliflower but Boris had his way here too. In their places, I've put in more sunflowers, marigolds, cucumber, and some dill. 
Home Garden: Aug 2016
Cucumbers are doing great. Next year, I would like to do a stronger flavered cuke.
Home Garden: Aug 2016
This bed held the most cabbages and cauliflowers and thus was the most damaged by Boris. 
Home Garden: Aug 2016
Gardener's Delight Cherry (on the left) and Wisconsin 55 (on the right) tomatoes. 
And now for the main event: tomatoes. So my tomatoes plants have gone insane. They have far outgrown their 5 ft tall rebar cages. That cage on the left has fallen over twice, and we've had to brace it with boulders. I spent a good half hour yesterday tying branches to the cages in creative ways to keep the branches from breaking. Those that have broken have hopefully been saved by splinting with sticks and first aid tape. 
Home Garden: Aug 2016
Wisconsin 55 
I think it was just last week that these babies starting turning red. There's a ton of fruit on each plant but all had been stubbornly staying green. I have a friend coming to pick the ripe ones while we are gone. 
Home Garden: Aug 2016
Wisconsin 55
Finally! I didn't think they were ever going to turn! And of course we're leaving the country soon for 2+ weeks . . .  #perfecttiming #tomatoes #homegarden #gardening
Wisconsin 55.
Even the deformed one that split early in the season made it through and was delicious. 
Home Garden: Aug 2016
Back beds: green beans and scarlet runner beans (on the trellis); sweet potatoes in the ground. 
Boris also ravaged the sweet potatoes (and before that, only two of the four original plants survived shipping and planting in my garden). They have come back but it will be interesting to see how they turn out.
Home Garden: Aug 2016
More beans on a trellis; red potatoes in the ground. 
I've read that once your potato plants starting looking real rough, the potatoes can be harvested. Clearly we'll be harvesting soon.
Home Garden: Aug 2016
Green beans and scarlet runner beans on a trellis. 
The last beds in the back of the garden hold the beans on trellises and sweet potatoes, and red potatoes. The beans are doing ok; they are not producing as much as I had hoped. I think the lack of rain has affected them.

Thus stands the garden as August ends and September begins. We leave for Germany very soon so the garden will have to fend for itself. I'm a little anxious to see what I will return to at the end of September! 

Which reminds me, if there's something in the shop you want in a timely manner, grab it now (or at least before noon tomorrow); otherwise, all shop orders will be shipped out upon our return. For more details see T-Minus Nine Days 

Friday, August 26, 2016

T-minus Nine Days till Germany!

L├╝beck, Germany, 2013

I'm at the point where I have no other big event coming up or visitors arriving before we leave for Germany. And so there's nothing to distract me from my dread of traveling so far with the kids  (let's just say that last time, all three changes of clothes ended up covered in kid vomit before we had even embarked on the Atlantic flight). However, that need not concern you. What may concern you is that I will NOT be putting the shop on vacation while we are gone. You will still be able to view product images/listing pages and purchase items; I will just not be shipping them out until we return at the end of Sept. That said, if you do order doing that time, I will be offering a 15% off discount code, WithLoveFromGermany, as a way of saying "thank you for putting up with the shipping delay!"

The Deets:
-Friday, Sept 2nd is the last day to purchase shop items and have them shipped before we leave (must purchase before noon). That afternoon I will make the coupon code live (again, it's WithLoveFromGermany).
-Any purchase made between Sat, Sept 3 and Thurs, Sept 22 will be shipped on Monday, Sept 26.
-To use the coupon code during that period (one last time, it's WithLoveFromGermany), start the normal Etsy checkout process, and you will be given the option to use a coupon code.
-I am hoping to at least have some spotty internet service and will try to respond to questions via convos that come in during that period. However, if you don't hear back from me, I promise I'm not ignoring you, and I will respond ASAP upon our return to the States and widespread wifi.

And if you are the praying type, or the good vibes from the universe type, please start sending it our way. I'd love for this visit to be free of vomit, visits to foreign hospitals, major flight delays, etc. A girl can dream . . . 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Life Recently

A boy and his dog. #instaluther #dogsofinstagram #yellowlab #labsofinstagram #childhoodLuther's never going to want to come home . . . #grandparents #georgiaonmymind #fishing #boyhood
Luther spent a week and half down South without us; first a week with my parents, my sister, and the family dog, Sailor, and then a couple of days with Piercen's parents, his younger brother, and his brother's girlfriend. We missed him terribly; he had the time of his life.
Baby girl may share my revulsion of sea water. #ugh #itssosticky #dayatthebeach #instasinclairNo offense to you Ben Folds, but I am the luckiest. #motherhood #instasinclair #babygirl
While Luther was gone, Piercen, Sinclair, and I spent a sweltering hot Saturday at the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival. | Sinclair really missed Luther; we had to have lots of extra snuggle time.
The littlest flower girl. From yesterday. #unclebusgetsmarried #instasinclair #flowergirl  #weddingAt Lance and Heather's wedding. #wedding #family #instaluther #instasinclair
We were reunited with Luther in Cumberland, Ohio where the family was gathering for Piercen's brother Lance's wedding. | Luther was the ring bearer and Sinclair a flower girl.
Ready for Luther to arrive home on Sunday; can't wait to see him tomorrow in Ohio! #welcomehome
Luther was greeted at home with a special banner.
A scene from our morning stroll. #morning #walk #saint #newenglandUntitled
In preparation for when Luther starts preschool, I've been trying to establish a routine where we all get up early in the morning. I've also been trying to start a routine where we take a neighborhood walk in the morning. | Happy Half Birthday Sinclair!
Reading Calvin and Hobbes. #instasinclair #instaluther #siblings #childhood #calvinandhobbes
There two are old enough now to start enjoying each other's company. My favorite moments recently have been watching them chase each other around the house and falling down with laughter.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Urban Foraging: Sugared Pinks Flowers

Urban Foraging Candied Flowers
Freshly picked blue borage flowers from my garden and pinks flowers from the yard. 
Urban Foraging Candied Flowers

My borage plants are blooming blue and beautiful, so I decided preserve some of them via the sugaring method. Then it occurred to me that we have other plants around the yard with flowers that might be good candidates for sugaring.  In particular, we have these small plants with deep pink flowers near the side of the house. I used the myGardenAnswers app on my phone to identify them as pinks (carnations are in the same "dianthus" genus) and then read on to discover that the flowers are indeed edible and sugar-ible. Bingo.

Now to be fair, these plants were in all likelihood planted by the previous homeowner and thus not wild; however, since I did not plant them and they are pretty common/wild in urban city settings, I'm going to count this as urban foraging.
Urban Foraging Candied Flowers
I briefly soaked the flowers in a ice water bath to get rid of any debris/bugs, took the sepal leaves off the pinks which caused the petals to separate, then dried them off on a towel.

Urban Foraging Candied Flowers
Next step was to whip up an egg white until a bit frothy.
Urban Foraging Candied Flowers
My colleague and I then took small paint brushes, lightly painted the egg wash onto the top side of the petals/flowers, then sprinkled them with castor (sugar fine) sugar. We let them dry a bit on parchment paper, then did the bottom side. I've done this a couple of times now and have discovered it's easier to put down a thin lay of sugar on the parchment, then coat both sides of the petal/flower at the same time, lay the bottom of the flower on top of the sugar layer, and then sprinkle more sugar on top of the petal/flower.

Urban Foraging Candied Flowers
The full set of sugared petals/flowers ready to dry. 
Urban Foraging Candied Flowers
Finished sugared borage and pinks. 

We were having some humid weather, so instead of letting these sit on the counter to dry, I put them in the oven for 24 hours with the oven light on. With later batches, the humidity hasn't been as bad, so I just set them out on a shelf for a couple of days.

After they are completely dry, they should be stored in an airtight container and kept, according to most sources in a room temp location (should be good for about 3-6 months.) Now, I did find one source that recommended storing them in the fridge, so I am storing half the batch on a shelf in the kitchen and the other half in the fridge; I'll report back. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

America the Beautiful / Life Recently

Happy birthday America! In honor of our beloved country, I've gathered up a few recent-ish pics of us out and about in its natural loveliness.
Checking out the chickens with Vicar Alissa. #newengland #farmgirl #countrylife #chicken
Towards the end of May, Sinclair and I joined a group from our church on a tour of New Lands Farm where refugee and immigrant farmers are given the opportunity and support to practice the agriculture heritage of their birth countries.
Ridiculous child. #instasinclair #children
At the very end of May, we biked from our house over to Revere Beach, America's first public beach, and had lunch in celebration of Piercen's birthday.
Boston is literally built out of Legos. #Boston #legos #instaluther
In early June, while Pierce and Sinclair were down South visiting family, Luther and I popped down to Boston for the day and discovered that this bastion of American history is really being propped up by Legos. Clearly, we owe a lot to the Danes.
Day at the farm. #instasi nclair #instaluther #farm Later in June, the kids and I joined some friends for a visit to the Great Brook Farm State Park in Carlisle, MA. We had a picnic, looked at animals, and ate icecream. #publictransportation #mbta #urbanlife #instaluther #fatherhood #fatherandson Obvs the U.S. has neither the monopoly on public transportation nor the best systems, but regardless,  they are an vital part of American urban life. They may be my favorite part of living near a big cityIt's an unattractive area. #newhampshire #camping #river At the end of June, we went camping for a long weekend near the White Mountains National ForestThe spelunker. #instaluther #spelunking #exploring #childhood The Flume Gorge is so very tall! #latergram #americathebeautiful #newhampshire We hiked in the Flume Gorge. Another unattractive locale. #americathebeautiful #mtwashington And did the drive up the Mt. Washington auto mileYesterday at the top of the world. It's rather chilly there.
At the top of Mt. Washington, the highest point in the Northeast, we visited the museum and the visitors center and tried not to freeze our buns off. It was an awe-inspiring visit.

At times like these, when it seems like the political passions have split us into two different countries who don't even recognize each other, it's good to take some time to remember what an amazing country we live in and how blessed we are to be Americans.

Happy birthday America!