Mini-Post: What’s growing on?

I felt like it was time for a garden update. Our garden did not go as we had planned way way back, during the winter. That fun breakfast with my sister-in-law planning, how my husband and I drew up a blueprint of where we wanted things, then…lockdown. Then, my husband’s broken elbow. We had beds never dug, seedlings that never made it into the ground – but we persevered, and started again. We had to cobble a garden together in parts, my brother kindly came over and rototilled a few spots for me, we planted in containers. And while we didn’t plant anywhere near what we had intended, it felt good to just get some seeds in the ground.

My pumpkins are my favorite. I have always wanted to grow them, and they have taken off like crazy. Literally, they stretched out across our entire yard. I have a long term plan for our little pumpkin patch – if Halloween is cancelled, which I am feeling like it will be, we are going to do a Charlie Brown Halloween and wait for the Great Pumpkin to arrive while sitting in our pumpkin patch, next to a bonfire. And I am sure I will be drinking cider and eating stew or chili. So grow pumpkins grow! Although, I am a little concerned. Some of the leaves are a little funky! I need to google that, unless someone here knows what is happening?

My cucumbers are utter chaos. Like seriously it is anarchy in their corner. Weeds grew up along the fenceline and the cucumbers attached themselves to them, while also refusing to climb the trellis Billy built. And maybe we will get a cucumber or two? I planted seeds late, so whatever we get I will be happy with. They look pretty though, even among the chaos.

We transplanted our strawberries to this bed as well – they were living in a strawberry planter that got knocked down by strong winds and shattered. They are alive and kicking though so I am looking forward to what they do next year. Cabbage lives here too, along with the dill that the black swallowtail butterflies love so much… and grasshoppers. So many grasshoppers.

Our experimental peanuts are doing ok, I think? I can’t tell. Our radishes did fabulous! They were delicious on baguettes with butter. So yummy!! My carrots did fairly well too. My beets however, failed spectacularly. I am going to replant and see how a fall crop does.

In the front of the house, we have flowers, lavender, lemon basil, swiss chard, and our raspberry bushes. The lemon basil is enormous – almost as tall as me! I am turning it into flavored salt this week. The raspberries are so sweet and delicious, and it is so fun to run out there and pick a few to eat. We don’t have many, just enough for a little treat. And I have learned I don’t like swiss chard.. that was a substitution at the nursery. By the time I felt comfortable going, the lettuce and spinach was gone. I grabbed a few swiss chard but I am not a fan, which I didn’t realize.

What about you all? Any successes? Failures? Things you would do differently? I would love to hear!

A Day of New Life!

Yesterday was a big day around here! We had 6 of our 9 butterflies emerge from their chrysalis – and they couldn’t have had better timing.

It is butterfly week here this week, and Wyatt and I had just settled in to do some work after reading the book Butterfly Birthday. Butterfly Birthday celebrates the beginning of spring and also the birthday of all the butterflies that eclose in the book during the party. So, we read our book, got situated on Wyatt’s lesson, and I glanced down to see a butterfly! Our first butterfly made its appearance minutes after reading our book. Lol. We had to take a break to celebrate – with cake!

We just happened to have some left from Mother’s Day – strawberry with vanilla frosting and sprinkles. Yum!

It’s so cool to us that you can see them as fully formed butterflies within the chrysalis before they emerge. Nature is so amazing! This was the first one born – the one in the chrysalis was the third.

It was a day for new life all around – my seeds are starting to sprout, also something to be excited about! I am most excited about my pumpkins today – I have always wanted to grow our own mini-pumpkin patch. I hope they make it!

My little sprouts! Pumpkins, watermelon, squash, lettuce, and basil all have made their appearances. Outside, the radishes are doing well! We are still waiting on some but this is a great start!

Spring was certainly making itself felt around here yesterday, and with it, a happy hopeful feeling as well.

Rolling With It

We had big plans for our garden this year. You wouldn’t think that we would have had those plans sidelined by COVID, but we did. With Wyatt home 24/7, Billy being an essential worker, the crazy weather (snow in April anyone?) and the rules we had in Michigan for a while regarding gardening supplies, it made it hard for us to get moving. I had started seeds back in March, but then they got too big and I couldn’t transplant them and they died. I had never tried that sort of production before and I obviously need to work on it.

But! Despite all of our setbacks, we are going to keep trying and rolling along. We finally had beautiful weather over the weekend, and we spent those days holed up in our backyard, organizing and planting seeds. I don’t know how this will work as we are getting a late start, but I am hopeful regardless!

I am super excited about getting Wyatt involved this year. One thing that we planted this year are peanuts! When I was a kid like first grade or second, my uncle planted them one year and I thought it was so cool! I remember taking them in to school for show and tell. I was kind of a nerd even then I guess! So this year, inspired by those memories, Wyatt got to plant peanuts. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they grow!

We had a beautiful plan for a potager garden, with every section planned. Now we are going with a different approach for this year – we planted root vegetables in cloth containers, and then we are planting the seedlings that I hope shoot up quickly into the beds we already have dug from last year, which were intended more for flowers than food production but hey, we are rolling with it! I now have seeds started for a variety of vegetables – carrots, beets, radishes (and some radishes that I actually got into the ground and are doing great!), peanuts; then we have basil, lemon basil, thyme, Ice Queen lettuce, cabbage, yellow squash, Tom Thumb peas, pumpkins, and watermelon seeds all started. Tomorrow and the rest of this week I am going to try and get our flower seeds started, then hopefully over the upcoming weekend we get the areas ready for the beans, cucumbers, and snap peas I want to plant. And I found another use for the masks I bought! The pollen count was off the charts practically here this weekend and I wore my mask to filter how much I was exposed to as I worked outside. So bonus?

So although we are looking at a whole different idea, a more scaled down approach to our garden this year, it is a start and it is something. Maybe as things (hopefully) loosen up and become easier later this summer we will be able to work on getting the yard where we want it and ready for next year. We are already guessing vacations are out for us this year, so Billy’s vacation time will be spent at home – we are talking about knocking out some projects that we are usually to go-go-go to actually get to. We are learning to roll with it and regroup, and are moving along as best we can.

***And as I finish this up this morning (I started this post yesterday afternoon) the weather is reporting record low temps again this week! Looks like I will be moving my little starter babies inside again for a bit!

A Sunday of Foraging and Gathering

After a week of not feeling well, by the time Sunday rolled around I was feeling well enough to get out. And I wanted to. Needed to really. Cooped up for so long at home we all needed to stretch our legs and breathe in some fresh clean air. Greenfield Village is closing for the season in two weeks, and we wanted to get a last trip in before they close. We have had so many fun day trips there this year that we wanted to take a last walk around. And I knew it was decorated for their Halloween event so it was bound to look pretty cool too!

The air was brisk and cool, the day was a bit overcast, but it all added to the moodiness of the moment, with the jack o’lanterns lining the streets as far the eye could see, the hay bales, the spooky scarecrows – we felt like we had entered some sort of creepy children of the corn type town this trip.

We meandered our way over to the gardens, which in the summer time is bursting with blooms and busy bees, little birds darting here and there, and elegant butterflies floating from flower to flower. A garden in fall can be just as beautiful, but I think they are in spite of the lack of life. The beauty is a stark one, a lone candle in the window, if you will. The colors shine so much brighter, mimicking the colors on the trees around. There is glory in the brightness of fall, the last flare before winter.

Billy is naturally an outgoing person, and he and Wyatt strolled around that red house while I poked about in the garden. He ran into a friendly gardener who gave him two seed heads, from a sedum and a blackberry iris. She told him that if saw anything in the garden that we liked that was either off the plant and on the ground, or had gone to seed, we could gather and save for our garden next year! I usually have my seed envelopes with me because I am a nerd so we spent some happy time gathering seeds from flowers that we will plant in the spring. Wyatt enjoyed playing among the rows like a little bunny, some of the flowers taller than him. He is such a sweet kid, smelling the flowers and enjoying time in a garden.

Needless to say we found some things. We harvested seed pods and black walnuts, just a few and left the rest for the squirrels, and nicked a few blooms that had been already been bent practically off by overzealous wildlife, or perhaps other people, or their purses and bags or strollers. We felt so lucky leaving with our bounty!

It was nearing lunchtime so we picked one last spot in the village to visit before heading home – Daggett Farmhouse, my favorite. It makes me think of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and it was so perfect to visit so close to Halloween.

If I could move into the village, this is the house I would pick. I love it so much. The colors, the simplicity, the squareness, the big garden, and the windmill next door. Lol. So very New England. It was built before America was America, this house, can you believe it? We poked around outside and headed inside where the reenactors were sitting down to a lunch of pies and cabbage. It looked delicious honestly. Wyatt really enjoyed the mention of pie – I am pretty sure he is going to dig our month or so of pie making. Or at least the eating of them.

We headed home to our lunch soon after, bowls of warm chicken lemon rice soup, which I think did much magic for our colds. It was a good day!

A Girl’s Day Out in Midland

Last Saturday a small group of my friends and I took a little trip away, just for the day. Away from our families and responsibilities for a few hours and it was simply perfect, hanging out together, having new adventures, and eating some pretty excellent food.

We do this every year and while usually we head to the West Coast of Michigan, this year we ventured north, to Midland. Most of us had never been there or really ever heard of it, but Jill had been there and said it was cool so, off we went. However, we went without much plan or direction which could have derailed our journey but luck was in our favor and we had an amazing day.

We started our day with coffee from Starbucks for the drive, then ate when we arrived. Tip for visiting Midland – make reservations before you go. We had no clue that we needed reservations for pretty much everything. I guess we were not aware that it was such a hot spot or tourist destination so we were unprepared to walk into Cafe Zinc at 10 am and be told there were no seats until 2pm. We ended up asking to sit at the zinc bar, which worked out perfectly. Three out of four of us ordered these Nutella and Rhubarb compote crepes, which were out of this world. Seriously delicious. We drank and enjoyed our food, and made our plan for the day.

After filling up on food, we shopped downtown, picking up this and that, whatever caught our eye. I am not a big shopper so I ended up leaving with a new blank journal and some special Halloween candy for Billy and Wyatt. Jill bought a few wooden quote signs that were adorable, Chrissy got a little purse and some candy, and Kelly was the winner of the day when she bought a hanging mobile made from a branch with a hundred paper cranes dangling from it. It was very delicate and beautiful hanging from the ceiling. I am excited to see it up in her house!

From here we headed to the Dow Gardens, a place I have been dying to go for months! I ended up waiting in the Forest Cafe while my friends walked around the woods and through the canopy though, since I had just had my big asthma scare the previous day. I still had fun sitting in the cafe drinking coffee and reading my book, with the woods as a view though. And I was able to get the lay of the land for a return trip there with my guys! Everyone told me the gardens and walk were really pretty – but cold!

The timing of the end of their walk coincided with almost the beginning of the tour of Alden Dow house, which we wanted to try to get in on, despite not having reservations. (our fault for not planning better!) So we scrambled over to the house, Kelly worked her magic, and voila, we got to go on the tour! And it really made the day. It was such an awesome tour!

The Alden Dow house is a fantastic mid-century modern space, designed by Alden Dow himself. 14,000 square feet of house, with two tour groups of twenty, and we never saw the other group once after we started. This house is gorgeous, y’all. Dow wanted a house that was like a seamless oasis of home and garden, believing that “gardens never end and buildings never begin..” And he accomplished this goal, as the outdoors and garden is reflected in every room, and is never far away. Huge windows that open onto terraces and gardens, a floating conference room that is 18 inches below the pond level, so you can literally open a window and be in the water. It felt like being in a boat, the pond and room were so connected. It boggled our minds how the water doesn’t get into the house, but it has never been an issue according to our tour guide, who was the nicest guy.

Dow also built this house with security in mind. It was built after the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, so he installed a safe room in the basement, that is unlike the safe rooms we think of today. It was a huge space, with a place for play for the kids, a fireplace, a plush bright carpet and huge comfy furniture to sink into. Not a bad place to have to hide out if necessary! And it also had its own terrace over the water so you could go outside and enjoy the outdoors as well. I’m assuming that would be if it was a non-emergency situation though! Lol. The terrace was also not accessible to people from the outside so it kept the security feature too. Besides the safe room, Dow situated the bedrooms along one hallway, on one side of the house, the pond side. The windows opened from the bottom and not wide enough for someone to gain entry, and the doors to the rooms did not open from the hallway. They were all in a row with connecting doors, so you could start at one room and head into all the rest locking doors behind you until you were all in one room at the end as well. It was really cool. From the master you could head into yet another room, a morning gathering room that I loved. It was cozy and warm, apple green and wood, with a view over the water and woods, a big fireplace, a table for breakfast, and bookshelves. That would have been the room I was in the most often, had I lived there.

We were not able to take photos of the inside, but I took a bunch of the outside! This tour was the highlight of our day, and I definitely recommend it to anyone in the area. Just do better than us and make reservations ahead of time!

After our tour, it was almost time for our dinner reservation (which Jill made at breakfast, having learned our lesson here) so we headed back into town. We had a quick drink at Whichcraft Taproom, and then bopped over to Gratzi for an early dinner. And omg, what a feast we had! The food was amazing, seriously. Chrissy had mushroom pasta, Kelly had Pollo Mostarda, Jill ordered the Mezzaluna a Costine Corte, and I had the Alfredo da Tavola. Mine actually was prepared tableside in a gigantic wheel of Parmesan cheese, that had been aged near the sea in Parma, Italy. It was quite an experience and I want to eat it again. I want everyone to eat it actually, it was so delicious! However, I was too full for dessert after eating it! It was a sacrifice I was happy to make though, as it really was one of the best things I have eaten, ever, maybe. Lol. The meal concluded with a splash of limoncello and we trudged happily and tiredly, full of carbs, back to the car to ride home.

Midland was a great choice of places to visit – I love being a tourist in my own state, and seeing new things about it. It kind of has a little something for everyone, outdoor adventures, home tours, shopping, good food. If you are ever nearby, I suggest popping in for a day! Just remember to have reservations first.

Saying goodbye to Summertime Snippets…

As summer is ending and falling into fall, school is back in session, and the easy breezy summer days are no more for this year. And that is ok, there is a season for everything. I can see the change of seasons in my photos, as summer images give way to autumn.

Late summer meant trips to the aquarium, summer music class, visits to Greenfield Village with grandparents. ..

Family nature hikes, surrounded by a canopy of green, the last of the water lilies dotting the water (they were gone the very next week!), Sandhill Cranes before they leave for warmer climates..even a woolly bear caterpillar spotted on a little leaf. Don’t worry though if you are not a fan of snow, this woolly bear says we are in for a mild winter!

Playing in the dirt everyday all day, ice cream on the lawn, ground cherries that we found growing in our back garden, and spontaneous hugs from my kiddo.. (those aren’t seasonal though!)

This week we are getting ready for the harvest moon! I feel we have officially reached fall!

Mini-Post: Feeling Peachy!

peach 1

“We are going on an adventure!”

This is what I tell Wyatt every time we leave the house, even if it is just to head up to the store. You never know what the day will bring! Sunday started out dreary and overcast for the third day in a row but we were not letting a little gray sky darken our day. I had a surprise up my sleeve! As I piled the car up with picnic type foods and rain coats, my husband was a bit confused, but he is game for anything so just kind of shrugged before taking the wheel and heading south.

I navigated our family to a favorite spot of ours, Erie Orchards, an orchard my family has been going to since I was a little girl, probably around Wyatt’s age. It was peach picking time! We picked up our bag from the adorable weather-beaten barn store, and rolled our Jeep on over a few dirt roads back to where the peach trees grew.

We could see people over in the blueberry patch, but we weren’t here for blueberries. We had the peaches all to ourselves. And Wyatt had a blast! Some of the trees were small enough for him to stand under and reach the peaches right off the branch, which he thought was the best thing ever! He happily snapped them off and deposited them into our bag.

 

Look at that look of concentration, and he even said peach for the first time!!

We had a wondeful adventure on a day that looked like it was going to be a bummer. The sky was heavy with clouds, which made the day cooler, and their was virtually no humidity. Add a small cool breeze and it was actually pretty perfect.

You just never know where a day will take you.

And now we have 8 lbs of peaches to use. A small thing though for such a fun day!

Anyone have any good peach recipes to share with me?

Feet in the Snow, Heart Dreaming of Gardens

I always wait for the snow in January to begin planning my garden. For years, this meant gathering my catalogs, shucking on my winter gear, and braving the snow-covered roads to meet my uncle for coffee, doughnuts, and conversation about what we were going to plant this year. He recently hung up his shovel and rake,  passed on his secrets and some gardening tools to me, and is enjoying retirement from the garden. After a lifetime of some eighty years, tilling the earth, planting the seeds, and tending the small new plants as they grow, he deserves to be able to sit back now and just let others do the dirty work. 

Last night it snowed. I woke up to a winter wonderland, the kind that dreams are born of. This time though, I have my coffee and my cats while my little son sleeps warm and snug in his bedroom. Instead of catalogs, I am armed with my Pinterest board

This year, I am whittling down my garden a tad, which seems contrary to my goal of seeing my own food chain and practicing some self-sufficiency. I am trying to however, be realistic, and grow what I need, with maybe a little extra. I don’t think that this year I can start many of my own seeds. I also want to make good choices, and utilize all that I grow. I already have talks of a family and friend veggie co-op in the works to trade extra harvests and possibly even homemade food items, like canned veggies, dehydrated fruit, jams, and bread. This year, I want to be more mindful of what I am planting, and why, instead of being the kid in the candy shop who wants it all.

So this year, I am keeping it more simple. 
Herbs for sure. Potatoes, butternut squash that runs the length of our fence line and down the alley of our neighborhood, and the neighbors can keep what grows on their fences. Pumpkins. Peanuts. Kale for my little second cousins’ bunnies. Sugar snap peas, because I love them. Cucumber, and a salad garden. Green beans on a trellis. A few tomato plants because no matter how hard I try I can’t grow a decent tomato. Garlic and chives, because chives look so pretty and purple fluffy. Carrots grown alone, in fine dirt that allows them to grow big and strong. And flowers – lots of flowers. 

I want a bench added this year too. One where my uncle can sit, holding my son, and enjoying the warmth of the summer sun. 

If I close my eyes, I can picture it perfectly.

How about you? Any plans for gardens in your future?