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Showing posts from June, 2012

The Impatient Person's Raspberry Jam

Perennials can be great instruments of torture.  No, really... it's true.  Take my raspberry bushes as an example.  They tease.  They start to produce berries, which causes all sorts of excitement. Then they take what feels like forever to bring the fruits to the perfect level of ripeness.  For many people, this wouldn't be a problem.  I, however, have this really bad habit.  As they ripen, I pick them.  Then I eat them. Again, this wouldn't be a problem, really, except that what I really wanted was to make raspberry jam. A great aspiration, of course, but when you eat every raspberry that ripens, rather than saving it for later, you run into problems. Like having to wait ten days to make it, rather than the three or four that it would otherwise take. Perennials have the wonderful talent of not producing all of their berries all at once.  This means that you don't have to worry about getting out and harvesting everything all at once, which means that you never

Playdough: Toilet Paper Art Alternative?

Oh, geez... another pile of toilet paper. I've been thinking these words quite often lately. Why, you ask?  Because my daughter has gotten into the habit of taking toilet paper from the roll, wetting that paper, then using it to sculpt various masterpieces.  Strawberries, chairs, houses... the list goes on. It's been driving me nuts.  Not only does it mean that I have toilet paper hanging out in places that nobody wants to find it, but it's a huge waste of resources, both trees and water. Fortunately, This was an easy one to fix... after I got over my initial freak-out, that is. Make playdough, of course! My mom used to make playdough for me when I was a little girl, and I had written the recipe down a few years ago.  I went hunting for it. And hunting. And hunting. After making a thorough mess of the kitchen, piling up recipe cards and papers in interesting new locations, I finally gave up.  The recipe was nowhere to be found.  I hung my head in grief,

I Made an 'Oops'

I made an 'oops'. Ok, in the grand scheme of things it wasn't a very big 'oops'.  It was a small, annoying, what-was-I-thinking kind of 'oops'. I bought some moss.  I love moss, always have.  Watching the low cover of green inch its way over trees, rocks, or whatever else is in its path, is truly exhilarating for me.  It takes me right into the center of a really, really good fantasy novel, filled with dragons, fairies, and heroes on their quests toward glory. Yeah.  I love moss. Why in the world would I call this an 'oops', then, you ask? Because I didn't buy just any moss... I bought moss that is best grown in zones 5-8 .  ::cue eerie music:: No doubt, you wonder why this is such a big problem. Well, I was planning on placing the moss at the corners of the retaining wall along the garden path .  Give them a bit of dimension. Unfortunately, I live in zone 4.  This means that there's a possibility of the moss dying off du

A Good Day... For Gnats

I could hear the birds sing in my backyard.  I smiled as I opened my eyes, and took in the wash of warm and welcoming colors throughout my room.  I woke up early, yet I was completely awake, and it was of my own volition.  Something like this doesn't happen as often as I'd like.  It's a good feeling. It was still morning, so the day was cool. Today will be a good day , I thought. I walked downstairs and into the kitchen to make my morning juice.  Orange, carrot, celery, mint, and apple are my staples.  I often throw in a small amount of some sort of additional fruit, just to change up the taste a bit. I think I'll use some fresh raspberries , I thought, a smile on my lips as I approached the kitchen. ::Thwack!:: Something hit my forehead.  Whatever it was, it was quite small.  I shrugged it off, then walked through the entryway of the kitchen. It was then that I noticed. I forgot to clean out my juicer, yesterday!!!  I was so distracted by the heat, tha

Hot Days and Water Ball Fights

People that were raised in the desert are not allowed to say it's hot after they move to the colder side of the country.  Period.  It's not allowed.   If you've gone through summer after summer with temperatures over 105, you have no reason to complain about heat on a 90 degree day.   Period.  End of story. That being said... It's really hot here, right now. No, really.  See, what I've learned is that temperature is relative.  What's a little hot to a person in the desert southwest is scorching  to a person in Minnesota. Therefore, the past few days have been scorching.   I retain my  stubbornness in this, however, and refuse to turn on the a/c, preferring to tough it out.     So what have I decided to do to beat the heat in these summer months?  Well, the evening is easy.  After sunset, I open all the windows wide so that the very cool nighttime breeze can enter the house.  As soon as I wake up, I close the windo

Saving Seeds of Chives

The green spikes shot toward the sky, reaching up toward the clouds.  Purple teardrops atop slender shoots slowly opened into magnificent feathered balls of violet and white. Their splendid posture held for weeks, until time finally won, and the chives aged.  They did so gracefully, rather than suddenly, and the process was dignified. At last, however, it was time for the chives to bow to the laws of nature, and their blooms began to dry. Still, I waited.  Patience, after all, is a virtue.  It's also one that I really, really need to work at! Finally, the waiting period ended.  I examined the once white and purple flowers, which had become beige.  All of the purple had washed away, causing the chives to look like a canvas that an artist had left out in the rain. What looked like black pebbles had begun to jut out to the surface, breaking the washed-out monotony. It was time. I'd never worried about saving seeds before.  My favored plants had

Milkapalooza Happiness!

Milkapalooza! Now, seriously... who can resist saying that word?  Mil-ka-pa-loo-za.  It just rolls off the tongue.  The only word, I believe, that's more fun to say than that would be 'supercalifragilisticexpialidocious'.  As a matter of fact, my daughter ran around the house, saying "Milkapalooza!" over and over, this morning.  We were both very excited. We piled into a very full car, since it was a total of five of us:  My husband and myself, my parents, and of course, my very happy daughter.  I also loaded up my empty milk bottles , so that I could drop by the farm store to exchange them for some more non-homogenized milky goodness. When we got there, we discovered the area was filled with enjoyable things to do.   Once we got to the main event, my daughter was given a small notebook.  The key was to find the 4 learning areas that were scattered about, and get a stamp and a sticker placed on each page of the notebook from those areas.  The learning ar

Milkapalooza! Yay!

It's Milkapalooza day!  We spent a few hours at Cedar Summit Farm, where the cows are grass fed and happy, and had a great time.   Full post tomorrow ! Naturally, I couldn't resist a teaser photo...

Soybeans, Bugs, and Green Leaves Turned Brown

What in the world?! I stared at the once green leaves, which looked as though they had gone through a blender on pulse mode.  Brown along the crinkled edges, the leaves were dried out husks of their former selves. I had bugs. Lots of bugs. The thing is, though, that I have never actually seen a bug on my soybean plants.  Naturally, that makes identification of the problem bug a wee bit difficult. Is it some kind of wormy thing?  A beetle?  Has the chupacabra turned vegetarian and moved up North? I took a Deep breath and rationalized the situation at hand. Actually, it's probably none of these things.  As mentioned previously, there are huge ants up here.  One of the things I've noticed on other plants, is that these ants love to eat my leaves. Or, perhaps they're not actually eating them. Maybe they're just tearing pieces off to build a masterful piece of technology that will be used in their takeover of my yard.  Ants are much more intelligent

Cucumbers Among the Weeds

I decided to take a break from cleaning out the grass and weeds from the path leading up the hill.  Uprooting a colony of ants can have that sort of effect on a person, after all! Understand, I don't suffer from myrmecophobia, or anything.  My nervousness around ants is perfectly rational.  I don't scream, nor do I run.  I simply have a healthy cautiousness around tiny little creatures that have a talent for biting me and producing itchy bumps that I scratch for days afterwards. Causing the temporary upheaval of an entire civilization of arthropods seems to be a good reason to stay at a distance for a while.  The peacemaking process can begin later. Instead, I decided to plant a few bush cucumbers that I bought at a local nursery (This one is called Donahue's).  There was a 40% off sale, storewide, and the temptation to buy even more plants was overwhelming.  Normally, I can resist this temptation, but I really love cucumbers, and the ones I've seen for sale at t

Grass, Ants, and That Darn Murphy

I think the fates are conspiring against me. Last time, I talked about how I transplanted a couple of blueberry bushes .  After taking a photo, I came to the realization that I really, really needed to clean up weeds and grass that were growing into my path that leads up the hill. I know, I know... you saw this yesterday, but I feel this is a big enough mess that it needs to be shown twice. It's that bad.  This is all very simple:  Pluck the grass and plants that are growing within the edges of all of the bricks, remove bits and pieces that have begun to grow within the retaining wall, then pour boiling water in those areas (being careful, of course, to avoid the blueberries).  Again, simple.  It's time consuming, yes, but easy. At least, it should be.  I seem to have a habit of turning easy things into complex situations, however. I began the cleanup, and things were going quite well. I was feeling pretty proud of myself.  Perhaps that's the reason th

Blueberries Transplanted

Since moving here, I had told myself that I would not plant blueberries.  I love blueberries, and would love to have them in my yard.  Realistically, though, I couldn't see planting a fruit bearing perennial in a yard that I wouldn't be living in for long.  The chances of reaping the benefits would be slim.   I was not willing to pay $10 per plant because of this. So, as always...  I changed my mind. In my defense, my largest argument against buying blueberry plants was that they cost way too much.  That argument got thrown out the window when I parked beside a greenhouse that had everything on clearance for 50% off.   Ten dollars was too much to pay for something that I may not be able to enjoy the fruit of, but five ?  Five I could do. I decided to buy two of them to plant on either side of the path that leads up the hill.  Whether I get any blueberries out of it or not becomes inconsequential, because, at minimum these plants will provide me with gorgeous aesth

Raspberry Plants, Ready for Harvest!

A while back I had mentioned that raspberry plants had once been placed on the slope of my yard, in the section that I designated as ' the wild area '.  They had been left to their own devices, and reseeded themselves throughout the area.  They sprouted out from between rocks, they grew out from piles of leaves that were long ago raked into piles, and they covered any other soil they could get to, crowding out even such aggressive plants as dandelions ! Since then, they've been growing like crazy, and now they're in full-out berry mode!  The area is thick with raspberry plants, and there are dozens upon dozens of raspberries being produced! This is just one very small section.  If you peer closely, you'll notice several raspberries in the process of ripening. As well as one that's ready to be picked!  Yum! Unlike raspberries that are farmed for sale, the raspberries in my yard won't all ripen at the same time.  Even on individual plants th

Beautiful Blooms Abound!

Beautiful blooms abound!!! Since supporting my peas on their picture frame , they've continued to grow, and grow tall.  Indeed, two of the vines have reached up above the frame, and have begun to produce vibrant blooms.  Since I'd never planted peas before, I wasn't expecting the surprise that awaited me when I went out to check on them. Who knew peas could produce such gorgeous flowers?  Well, all right... most people probably know that.  I, however, did not, so glimpsing this beautiful treasure brought a huge smile to my face. I then went to the wild area of my yard so that I could check on my zucchini plants.  Again, blooms awaited me. These made me particularly happy.  Not only are the blooms gigantic, but in this photo you can see that there are even more flower buds preparing to open.  These are the plants that I had started from seed in a strawberry container, then totally forgot about .  The fact that even after an emergency transplant into the groun

Farmers Market Tokens: Strike Two

I didn't go to the farmers market last weekend, due to my frustration over the lack of fruits and vegetables on opening morning.  While I greatly appreciate baked goods, jams, and crafts, I want fresh produce when I go to a farmers market.  I was, therefore, totally prepared to go to one in a different town. After talking to my Minnesota-raised grandmother, however, I decided to give the local farmers market another chance.  She told me that farmers markets in this state always start that way.  Harvests are later in the season, so there's really not much at the beginning.  My neighbor said basically the same thing, adding on that the sweet corn that's there later in the season is wonderful. Armed with this knowledge, I decided to give it another go.   Slight problem, though.  A carnival had set itself up in the park, so naturally I spent all of my cash there in under two hours.   My family had fun, though, so it was totally worth it. I began to worry

Flooding My Co-op Plans

Last week I bought non-homogenized milk from Cedar Summit Farm.  My plan on Thursday was to buy more, since I'm on the last half gallon bottle. One thing that had concerned me, however, was the distance I had to travel to buy the milk.  While 22 miles isn't a long drive for many people, it's huge for me.  Since moving here, I've kept my driving down to a minimum, largely due to my location being so close to everything I need.  I even walk to the grocery store , although that's been put on hold until the store reopens under new ownership. Regardless, this was a huge distance.  I worried about my ecological footprint .  I have to burn fossil fuels to get that far, after all. I did some research.  It turns out that I can drive half of that distance and still buy Cedar Summit's milk!  There's a business that's only 11 miles away from me that stocks it!  Not only that, but it's a co-op! What's a co-op? For those of you that aren't famil

Being Environmentally Friendly is Child Friendly

I once mentioned that homeschooling is environmentally friendly.  I'd like to take that a step further today, and talk about how being environmentally friendly is, in and of itself, child friendly.  I'm sure many of you are nodding your heads, thinking, "Well, duh..." But how often do we think about why that is? I thought about this for a while, but it wasn't until I really dove into trying to be environmentally friendly that I was truly able to see the effects on my daughter. Here are a few things I've noticed in the past 4 months: 1.  Increased responsibility     My daughter has become very serious about litter belonging in the trash, rather than on the ground.  I haven't actively taught her to be concerned about this.  She's simply noticed that when I see trash that has blown into our yard, I pick it up and throw it away with a look of disappointment in my eyes.  She now has a habit of picking up litter wherever she sees it, and throwing

Potato Grow Bag Progress

I figure it's probably about time for a progress report on my potato grow bag .  Things are going quite well!  The potato plants have gotten huge, and there's even a small flower bud on one of the stems.  The flower hasn't actually opened yet, but give it time!  It's not actually potato harvest time in this region until July, so I'm happy to wait. That's quite a lot of leaves for one reusable grocery bag , don't you think?  I'm actually a bit worried as I look at this.  I mean, sure... the potato plants are happy in their DIY grow bag ,  but I'm concerned about the harvest itself.  How big (or small) are my potatoes going to be?  I'm not sure there's enough dirt surrounding them for adequate growth.  I honestly didn't expect to have quite so much greenery shooting out of this bag! I also noticed that potato plant stems are heavy .  These things are about half an inch thick at the visible base, and the stems are very long.  This h