--William C Bryant
Well, graduation has happened, father’s day has come and gone, and I think we’re all ready to get in the swing of summer in the country. I need to make a bucket list. I have all these things I want to do now that we’re back in the country after so many years. I can’t possibly do it all, so I need to just write it all down and pick off what I can.
Don’t ask me what The Girl in the tiny bucket is doing. She has an entire pool behind her, but this is how I found her, huddled in a little bit of water in a little plastic bucket. Her “pool” is actually an unheated hot tub, sort of an upgraded kiddie pool. In the process of having it fixed/serviced, our suspicions were confirmed that the electrical had not been originally set up properly. I believe the technician’s actual words were that he was “shocked no one had been electrocuted.” (No pun intended.) So, until the parts arrive, it’s a small pool for the kiddos.
Is it just us, or are there butterflies EVERYWHERE this year? We have an assortment of butterflies that grace us with their presence each summer, but the main one is the black and yellow swallowtail. I have many fond memories of these flittering little lovelies in abundance when I was a child. We’d find them dead all over our property, and each time such a treasure was found, I would bring it inside and perch it on this big floral wreath my mom had in her dining room. I thought it was delightful, but as an adult, I’m now proud of my mom for letting us kids putting dead bugs on display on her decorations. Now grown up, I was starting to think that butterfly abundance of butterflies was just childhood’s tendency to see everything as bigger, or longer, or in bigger quantities than things actually are, because I never seem to see more than about two swallowtails flying about each summer. But THIS year, holy cow. They’re everywhere. And they’re not shy, and they’re kind of drunk. We found our first dead specimen since those I found when I was a kid, we have it saved in a shoe box for special display someday, or for a homeschool science or art study.
Summer seems to happen all at once here. It’s like we go from this halfhearted winter, to an almost spring, and we’re waiting and waiting for REAL spring to happen, and all of a sudden, wham! Early summer is here instead, with gobs of flowers, yellow sunlight, warm days and warm nights, strawberries, butterflies and bees and birds, and green green GREEN everywhere.
Around here, we have green in every shade in succulents, all over everywhere outside. They’re like bunnies, you get two and you end up with 200. Not that I’m complaining. I don’t think you can have too many succulents, with their flower-like shapes, strange alien-like projections, and every color of green under the sun. My mom rips half of them out, though. If you want some succulents, come on over, because she rips out enough for a plant nursery’s supply every year. They’re so pretty, though.
On the studio table, we’re seeing a lot of farm toys – cows, pigs, chickens, farmers. I wish I knew more about where all these peggies were going. Will they be toys, added to some child’s farm set? Will they be toppers for a farm-themed baby’s first birthday cake? Or maybe someone just loves cows? It’s a mystery.
I have been informed that tuna arrives in a week and a half. We’ll be travelling a few hours to Westport to pick up our fish, and take it home for canning. This year, I plan to learn how to can the tuna. My mom says there’s just nothing to it, you just do this and that, and you’re done. But what she doesn’t realize is that us kids don’t know this stuff (at least, not enough to actually be able to do it on our own), and it is her obligation, her matronly duty to pass down this knowledge before she croaks. (Yes, I do remind her of this often). Now that we live only 3 miles from her, we’re really excited to be able to take an actual hands-on role to all the harvesting, canning, juicing, and dehydrating this year.
Do you have canning plans for the summer? Do you like succulents? What butterflies do you have where you live? Do you have a summer bucket list?
P.S. You can see all of our Peg Dolls here
“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
"Winter is dead.”
-A.A. Milne, from "When We Were Very Young"
Just a bit of spring courtesy of beautiful Washington State for those of you who have a while yet to wait. part of my own personal physical health plan for this year is to get out of the house and take a daily walk. While living in the suburbs has never ever appealed to me (I grew up deep in the country - it is hard to be comfortable in a neighborhood when you're used to having just trees and birds as your neighbors!), there are several things I appreciate about where we live. There are walking trails everywhere. I can walk out my door and have a dozen ways I can go. It is delightful! And with spring on our doorstep, each walk brings a new discovery.
We have been watching these crocus grow in a neighbor's yard. Crocus is among the first flowers to bloom where I am from, along with snowdrops. The greens of daffodils and tulips are several inches long, but no blooms for a while yet. Each walk with my children is a lesson on garden plants - at 3 and almost 8, they are at such a fun age where they love to learn what things are called.
While I haven't walked daily, it has been pretty close. I'll post some more as we discover new, pretty things. For those of you almost literally buried in snow, I wish I could box up some of our spring and send it to you!
One of our favorite local nursery centers was My Garden Nursery. They were right down the street from us, and we got to know the owners over time; it was a fantastic center, filled with great stuff for the kids as well as for the gardener. That's why we were super sad to learn (last year) that the owners were moving My Garden up to Bellingham - a solid couple of hours away from us.
Fortunately, they already had someone lined up to take over their space, which was exciting in itself. We packed Savannah into the car the other day and went for an adventure, and they are doing a fantastic job getting up to speed - we're super excited to see what they bring in, but already they've got some beautiful plants and flowers.
Chris, being a veggie garden addict, was extremely excited to see some unique items coming in, with the promise of more to come. This includes the Sun Sugar tomato plant - which we've only ever found up at The Plant Farm (another of our favorite nursery centers, although at 30+ minutes away, definitely more of a planned trip than a quick stop). Already (last week) 'Lil Sprouts was full of peas, potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, herbs, and so much more (really, just go check them out!)
Chris is also very excited to see that they have brought in some columnar apple trees - have you seen these before? They're fantastic in pots, on patios or decks. They grow up in a column - skinny (at least for a fruit tree) - here's a link over to Google Images with a bunch of pictures so that you can get the idea.... ANYWAY, this is something Chris has always wanted to try, so maybe we'll do that this year. He's been putting an obscene amount of time into the new veggie bed - there's a post coming up soon about that whole thing - so we're moving back into the suburban farming realm (in an HOA controlled community, no less)
Another incredibly cool thing about 'Lil Sprouts is the hydroponics setup; they have a serious passion for hydroponics and aquaponics - if you're in the market, or just looking to talk to somebody about it, you should at the very least pick up the phone - or better yet, head on in there and check it out in person!
You can find 'Lil Sprouts online, too:
- Website: http://lilsproutnursery.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lilsproutnursery
Do you have a favorite nursery around? What is it that you love about it?
Last year we put in a large section of lavender plants in the garden - they bloomed and bloomed, all the way through November, incredibly! Here's a few photos from the other day - they're starting to bloom again, and I'm SO excited! :)
The garden is growing nicely, but there's still SO much to plant and to do. But we've got corn shoots coming up, onion, garlic, asparagus, swiss chard, tons of peas, carrots, radishes, lettuce... the blueberries are starting to grow, the raspberries are developing nicely. Kohlrabi, beans, dill, tons of great herbs, cabbage, shallots, nasturtium, a few tomatoes. Last week I planted almost 40 cucumbers, and we've got a few different squash plants to get in (both starts and seeds), but to do that I need to finish up the next bed.... We also are working on landscaping, so I have over a dozen Hydrangaes, tree mallow, hostas, lilac, and more! We've also managed to attract a few hummingbirds - including this one here that I got a few photos of through the window... Anyway, here's some eye candy!
“The best time to plant trees was 20 years ago. The next best time is NOW.”
~ (so many people have said this, I'm not sure who to attribute it to. If you know, drop a comment, please!)
In addition to the store, Janene and I are quite passionate about living a simpler, less complicated life. We've been learning and moving towards an urban homesteading lifestyle. I am incredibly passionate about gardening - both vegetable and floral / landscaping. Among the goals that we have is to turn the house into an urban homestead - we had even discussed bees, goats, and chickens for this year, but decided that was far more than we could handle. Which, given the way this year has gone, turned out to be a VERY good decision.
One thing we HAVE managed to do this year, however, was to plant some fruit trees. We were blessed to receive some trees from a friend, and also to find a smokin' hot deal at one of our favorite nurseries (The Plant Farm) on bare root trees. This is something we're especially excited about, and wish we had been able to do a few years ago when we first moved in, as we would be that much further along... But now we have a start, and over the next few years we'll be able to harvest more and more of our own apples, pears, and prunes. In the meantime, farmer's markets it will be!
Ben was SO excited to help plant them, and he CONSTANTLY is asking when he can pick the fruit off the trees. This is so important to us, because we feel strongly about teaching the kids the importance of environmental responsibility, and that includes growing our own food and understanding where it all comes from.
So, what did we end up planting?
"Honeycrisp Apple has become increasingly popular in American grocery stores over the past few years. Primarily due to its explosive crisp texture and well-balanced sweet/tart flavor, it is said to be the "fun to eat apple". A relatively new patented variety, Honeycrisp Apple has a texture similar to a crisp watermelon or Asian Pear. The fruit size is very large and predominantly red over a yellow background." ~Willis Orchard Co. (http://www.willisorchards.com/product/Honeycrisp+Apple+Tree)
Dwarf Early Italian Prune:
"Similar to Italian, but sweeter, slightly larger & more productive. Shorter growing season than Italian. Originated near Yakima, Washington in 1935. Self-fruitful." ~The Plant Farm (http://www.theplantfarm.com/trees/plums.htm)
Grafted Dwarf Apple:
Jonagold, Yellow Delicious, Gravenstein, Melrose, and Liberty. How cool is it that we can get five different apple varieties from one tree, and that the tree will self-pollinate? Given our limited space, these grafted trees are an awesome option.
Grafted Dwarf Pear:
Anjou, Flemish Beauty, Conference, Bartlett and Red Bartlett. These trees are wonderful; we'll get a variety of pears from this beauty, and (since we have limited space) we can plant just the one tree and it will self pollinate! (Apparently European and Asian pear trees don't cross polinate well, which doesn't necessarily bode well for the Asian Pear tree...
"The Shinseiki Pear Tree is a round, medium sized, golden pear with white, sweet, crisp, and juicy flesh. The fruit of the Shinseiki Pear Tree ripens in late July, to mid August and stores extremely well until March. The Shinseiki Pear Tree bears fruit at a young age and requires 250-450 chill hours to set it's good quality pear fruit. Zones 5-9a." ~Willis Orchard Co. (http://www.willisorchards.com/product/Shinseiki+Pear+Tree)
We're not sure what this is. This is one that we inherited from our good friend, and the tag on it is completely faded off. It will be interesting to see what develops!
Depending on how our landscaping comes together, maybe next year we'll look into some espalier apple or other fruit trees... I've got a GREAT spot for them, if things come together the way they might ... and a living wall of scrumptious edibility is extremely appealing! The other thing I'm very excited about looking into is columnar apple trees - I can grow them in pots; they get to be 8'-10' tall, but only 3-4' wide... and I have an AWESOME spot between us and our wonderful neighbors that gets full sun - but I don't want to plant anything right on the property line. These would be PERFECT!
Do you have any fruit trees? What's your favorite?
Since it has been a while since we blogged - and since so many of you comment about how you love seeing what we're up to - here's a brief overview of what's happening on the homestead... I have several posts in here that will be written with more information, so this really is just a quick overview. :)
We're working to expand our veggie garden with the goal of eating out of it all summer, and putting up enough to get us through the winter. All told, we'll have almost 600sq feet of veggie garden space once it's all in place. To accomplish this, Ben and I have been building additional raised beds; we have four of the five new beds built, with three of those in and at least somewhat planted. The fourth is huge (almost 4 yards of dirt!) and isn't seated yet, and the fifth we haven't started at all - it will be 24' x 4'! These projects have been wonderful, both for the soul as well as for Ben and I - he has helped with every little project, including planting! He has his "own" bed that he (mostly) gets to plant whatever he wants in, and he is picking the most RANDOM things - it's quite fun to see what catches his eye.
We've been blessed by a friend with some fruit trees, so we have the starts of an orchard (2 pear, one of which is grafted with 5 varieties; one Italian Prune, 3 apple, one of with is grafted as well, and one existing pie cherry tree). The raspberry patch is starting to explode, and soon we're hoping to expand with some heirloom raspberries from Janene's grandmother's house. The blueberry plants are all still in pots (which may be how they stay one more year), but we have two grape plants to go on a new pergola (not yet built) that are already in the ground.
We WERE hoping to add chickens and bees this year, but that was a "little" ambitious, so we'll see if we might make that happen next year. We did manage to get some strawberries to experiment with; we're trying a Topsy Turvy Strawberry Planter - it holds 15 plants, and thus far seems to be working nicely. We'll see how it goes. :)
Ben is finishing up his first year at preschool, and BOY has he made huge progress this year! We're so incredibly excited to see what next year brings, with kindergarten....
Savannah is now 8 months old; she's started to crawl, and she's also already working on walking (with our help, of course - she's still not even standing up on her own...). She's the happiest little one ever, and she spends all her time playing and exploring her world and smiling a smile will melt many hearts in the future. Definitely time to invest in a shotgun.... ;)
As promised so long ago, here's an overview (part 2) of what's in our veggie garden this year. As I mentioned in a previous post long ago, we have an awful lot of plants in the garden this year. Here's a list (part 2) of most of what we planted.
- Millionaire (1)
- Bodacious (4)
- Luscious (4)
- Peaches & Cream (2)
- Obsession (2)
- Crookneck Goldstar (5)
- Black Jack Zuchinni (1)
- Spaghetti (1)
- Fall Gourd Mix (1)
- Golden Zebra (2)
- Knucklehead (1)
- Lumina* (9)
- Sugar Pie* (9)
- Jack Be Little* (9)
- Magic Lantern (1)
- Watermelon (all from seed, waiting to see what survives)
- D'Avignon (all from seed, waiting to see what survives)
- Atomic Red
- Petite Sweet
- Basil, Genova (1)
- Basil, Rubin (1)
- Basil, Sweet (2 plants, 2 seeded)
- Basil, Italian Large Leaf (1)
- Onions & Leeks:
- Mexican Sweet Yellow (6)
- Mexican Sweet White (6)
What's in YOUR garden right now?