Daytrippers

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At this point in time I can honestly say this has been the best summer weather wise that I can ever remember. We have had a nice mixture of sun, rain, a little heat, and nice cool breezy nights. Perfection. This morning I read that we are going to get some hazy, hot, and humid weather this week. I will try and remember that the summer has been glorious so far.

We biked on Swan Island here in Maine. It was beautiful and quiet. We took a ferry out to it with our bikes and a picnic. The total distance was 9 miles. I felt it towards the end. I was very glad I did it though. Endorphins were coursing through my body! The girls did a good job too. We did rest along the way and took in the sites. At the tip of the island we had a picnic. It overlooked the river. Another day we took a trip to Sebago Lake. We have not camped yet this year. We are daytrippers!

We picked strawberries twice and froze a bunch. I also made 11 pints of strawberry jam! I gave a few away but most will go in the pantry. I also cut and froze some garlic scapes. The garden is starting to produce. We have eaten lots of lettuce, and snow peas. I see a little head of broccoli in there and some tiny squash. I even have a pepper and the tomatoes are getting bigger too. Slow start to gardening this year but it is coming along. This week I need to plant some fall beets, and maybe some more greens. Probably after this week of heat.

I finally got around to seasoning my new wok. We had a colorful stir fry the other day. I cooked it on the side burner outside. I have electric stove tops inside and I thought the gas would be better with the wok. The veggies kept their color and were still a little crisp just the way I like them.

I moved a little table we had outside to the back deck. Not sure why I never thought to do it before. It is perfect for a cup of tea and my knitting or my notebook for planning. I have been spending mornings out there listening to the birds and watching the sun get higher in the sky. I can keep an eye on the deer that are trying to eat my raspberries too. I am working on a sock as you can see. I used double points for the very top and for the heel and gusset and am trying out a size 9 circular for the leg and foot. So far so good.

I hope you are having a lovely summer wherever you are!

Here, There, Everywhere

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The busiest time of the year is here. No other time during the year am I being pulled in so many different directions. I am appreciating each morning here at home because by 10:30 I am out of the house and sometimes don’t return until night time. Suppers are a real challenge. They must be easy, quick and healthy! We did have hot dogs last week though. Sometimes it is the only way. One day this week we may have to grab something out!

I went to visit my son last week at the Carpenter’s Boat Shop and spent the night. It was so nice to see the things he is working on. I even worked on one of the boats!  Everyone was very welcoming and I was quite comfortable.

I went on a knitting retreat in Portland. I had the best time. Who wouldn’t? Yarn, knitting, wine, chocolate. We went out to eat. We knit. I learned how to double knit. We had a party with door prizes and yarn swaps. We knit. We had cocktails together and knit. It was really fun to be around so many like minded women.

Softball season has begun. The girls are on different teams. One is playing through the school, the other through the recreation department. Pretty much every night there is softball. One in the afternoon, one in the evening.

This is gardening season too. I have been out planting early things like greens and peas. I went to the Fedco tree sale and picked up some tomato seedlings. I wanted to get blueberry bushes to replace the ones that were damaged this year but they were all out! My asparagus is up and the garlic too. Next week strawberries are being delivered! So excited about that.

We are trying to keep up on our homeschooling too so we don’t have so much to catch up on during the summer. Both girls are on the last parts of their math. We are reading about the ancient empires right now. Just finished reading the Iliad. Now we are reading the Odyssey. We still have to finish biology. Waiting a bit for that. It is all the summer things like caterpillars and frogs. I went for a walk in the woods last week and found some owl pellets. The girls couldn’t wait to dissect those!

We have started our daily walks again. Last week we even got a bike ride in, dodging all the rain drops. Boy has it been rainy!

This weekend all my sons came home for a visit. One had just got back from a road trip out in California! I wanted to see pictures. I did and it looked like he has a wonderful time. Another son helped me put my flower garden back together. It got ripped up during some pipe work. That is how the blueberry bushes got damaged too. He helped me see that it is still pretty and all will be well.

In between all the running around I have put together a quilt block. Quilted a block or two on the picnic quilt and finished a sweater. I will show that in a future post. I have to make time for my crafts. It is for my mental health.

So things are pretty busy. I know it will settle down after softball ends. And the garden is all planted. Then I can sit outside, with a glass of wine or a cup of tea and relax.

Yea, right.

Nesting

As it is Spring, I have felt the urge to clean, organize, tidy up, and beautify. Many times this hits me in September. It may again. I guess it makes sense, every 6 months or so I need to restart.

I ‘Spring’ cleaned the house. It took me four days. I was battling some kind of virus but that wasn’t going to stop me. It was time. I don’t think I have cleaned the house this well in a few years. I still have to do the outside windows but that will wait until it is a bit nicer out. For now though, the curtains, floors, walls, cabinets, and inside windows got a good cleaning.

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When I say beautifying I mean switching things around, putting out new candles and changing where the plants go. I went outside and found some early blooming flowers and trees to bring in. Every year I fill little vases with small bits of flowers from outside. I love seeing them at the kitchen window. There isn’t that much color outside right now but when I see it at my window it tricks my mind into thinking that flowers are blooming everywhere.

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Dean brought out the table and chairs for the deck. I put out a vase of Forsythia that is just about ready to bloom. It really is quite inviting of a space now. I think we may eat our lunch out there today. Spring really has arrived here in Maine now. I have been in that nesting mood even though there are no babies on the way!

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The girls and I planted some flowers and broccoli last week and many of them are up and thriving. It is time to start the battle of the broccoli! I have a history with broccoli. I will not quit trying to grow it by seed. We eat a lot of broccoli and my dream is to grow enough to freeze it like I do green beans, tomatoes, peppers, and squash. I will succeed!

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I harvested my first batch of spinach last week. I topped pizza with it, put it in a salad, and added it to smoothies. More to come this week. Gardening season has officially started here. I may even plant some peas soon.

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This blog can’t have enough pictures of pizza! One of my favorite foods. I have a lot of favorite foods. By the looks of the pizza I also like cheese.

I feel quite energized right now. Probably because of the warmer weather, I am over my cold, and I have a very clean, beautiful house. Seize the day!

 

 

 

Forcing Tomatoes to Ripen

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I realize the gardening season is pretty much over, at least here in the Northeast, so it might seem weird to be talking about tomatoes still. In the beginning of October I felt it was time to start finishing up with the plants that were not going to be covered up. It has been a warm fall (again) but I knew it wasn’t going to be warm forever and any day we could get warning of a frost and I didn’t want to be scrambling around outside in the dusk trying to pick all my sensitive vegetables.

Even though the tomatoes were not ripe yet I brought them in. Many of the tomatoes did ripen up. We made salsa, sauce, and froze some for future use. For some reason though, this year, many of the tomatoes did not ripen up. I had a lot of tomatoes. It was a very good year. It could have been the heat we had in September. I read that extreme heat can hinder the ripening of tomatoes. They like it between 75 and 80 degrees and the temps were up to 90 during some weeks in September.

I read on a gardening site that you could force ripen tomatoes. I was a bit skeptical. I was quite surprised though because it has worked wonderfully. So far I have only had to throw away 2 tomatoes. I had tons of tomatoes. To only loose 2 is amazing. They don’t ripen at the same time. That is very helpful. Halfway through I made a tomato soup. Enough to freeze! I am about ready to make some more or maybe another tomato sauce. Of course we have been eating them in salad and soups too.

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So this is what I did. Wrap each tomato individually in paper. Place them in a box. Add a few apples. Yes, apples. They emit a gas called ethylene and it makes fruit ripen. Cool, right! Anyway after you add the apples close the box and put in a warm, but not hot place. I kept my boxes right in my kitchen.

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See the difference already? This was after about four days. I took out the ripe tomatoes and put them on the counter. This minimizes rot.

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About a week and a half.

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I took this picture just a few days ago. I started out with four boxes and now I am down to one.

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And a huge bowl of nice ripe tomatoes is sitting on my counter. I guess that is another way to extend the season!

Now off to make some more soup!

 

 

 

 

Slowing Down

The pace of our days seem to be slowing down. It is a natural thing I suppose to slow down this time of year. I am not visiting my garden as often these days. Yes there are things out there still growing but it is a slow growth. The sun is lower in the sky and doesn’t penetrate through all the leaves that are still on the trees. It rises later and sets sooner. Once the leaves are gone the sun will be brighter here but by then the frost would have done its job. I will get out to the garden and put the hoops out soon, but not yet. The chickens are gone so that chore has been eliminated. The wood is all stacked. There are a few leaves starting to change and redden nicely. We have had a few little fires here to warm it up from a morning chill. So cozy, I couldn’t resist.

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The girls are reading more.  We have spent nice days out on a blanket coloring our maps.  I am knitting more and finding lots of time at night to sew while the rest of the house listens to the Red Sox. I made a soup. Roasted a chicken. There is just a nice, slow, cozy feel to things right now. I hope it lasts a long while.

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I am hoping you are finding some time to slow down and get cozy as well!

 

 

Putting Food Up

I have been quite busy harvesting lots from the garden. I find the lengthening of seasons a challenge in some ways but as far as the garden goes I guess it is a good thing. I am getting greens galore now. Spinach, lettuce, kale, and chard. I still have tomatoes and some peppers too. Turnips are still coming as are the late radishes I planted. The only thing missing for a salad is a cucumber. Mine didn’t do well and usually by mid-September they are on their way out anyway.

Right now I have lots of tomatoes and green and wax beans. Still harvesting every other, if not every day. I harvested some beets as well. I did buy a bag at the farmer’s market too. My late beets are not quite ready yet. We will look forward to them when the weather gets cooler.

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Dilly beans and pickled beets were cooling on the counter recently.  My husband was busy a couple of nights last week with his salsa.  He made two batches. It has been a great tomato year.

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He cans some that are a ‘mild’ and then some that are ‘hot’. He cans the mild first then adds the hot peppers for the hot batch.

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There are enough dilly beans now so I froze the rest of the beans. From here on out I will freeze them in bags that have just enough for a meal. I trim the ends, blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes and immediately place in ice water. Then I let the beans drain and dry a bit then bag up. Perfect for a quick veggie. I do the same thing with broccoli. Hopefully I end up with enough to freeze. I also freeze tomato sauce. I broil tomatoes, garlic cloves, onions, and basil together on a baking sheet. When the garlic is soft I take the sheet out and transfer all to a bowl. I stir and then spoon into mason jars. Then I cool them and place in the freezer. Just remember to not fill all the way and also when the jars are in the freezer keep the caps off. I have broke jars by filling, and covering. Everything expands when frozen.

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Canning and freezing are definitely a process, no pun intended, but it is so worth it to not waste all those healthy, fresh veggies out of the garden. You don’t even have to have your own garden. Just visit a local farmers market and buy more than you need and can or freeze it for the winter. It feels so good to eat fresh, farm or garden veggies in the middle of the winter.

Enjoy your day!

 

Our Garden – Part 2 – Fall Garden

It is September second and fall is right around the corner. Just three short weeks away. The vegetable garden is still in full swing. It hasn’t caught wind of the impending season change. I don’t know why it hasn’t since the daylight has sure decreased.

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We have been canning and freezing like crazy. The tomatoes and zucchini and squash are doing very well. My second crop of beans is coming right along and I just know next week is sure to be a time of heavy picking.

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My husband made salsa recently. His famous award winning one. We didn’t make as much, since only four of us live here right now. I will be freezing tomato sauce very soon.

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There is still quite a bit more to do as far as canning goes. I hate to think about it, but I still have to do more dilly beans and pickled beets!

And speaking of beets, I planted my ‘fall’ garden a few weeks ago and things are up and thriving. Even in these dry times we are having. I hate calling it a drought because it doesn’t even come close to comparing with California or other states (or countries) that are having severe droughts.

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This is my third planting of beets. I planted them in a raised bed that is equipped for a hoop house to go over it when the freezing temps start. Hopefully by late November I will have fresh beets. I am hoping the second crop of beets that I planted will be harvested soon. The beets are not very big, because of the lack of water, but they are alive and still growing.

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Greens, Greens, Greens. That is what is in a fall garden. They are growing. Slowly. Look at that dry soil! I even water occasionally. I am mindful of my well though, so not as much as the garden really needs.

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The broccoli! I think, hope, and pray that I finally got the broccoli in on time. It is in another bed equipped for the hoops in case it gets cold before the heads mature. I have been picking off green worms lately. Sneaky little things.

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On the left are the first crop of beans and on the right, the second crop. I am still getting a few stragglers from the first planting and the new ones have beans about two inches long. So, like I said, next week we pick! Yes that is a chicken behind the fence. We haven’t got the call yet for the chicken pick up. So we still have the girls for now!

So our garden is still keeping us very busy. How is yours doing?