Tag Archives: spring

in the garden this week

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More and more is happening in the garden space this week.  We’ve had consistently warm days and not-too-cool nights.  We had a great heavy rain from a spring storm which made up for the 10 days with no rain.  All that means perfect growing conditions for the garden.  The peas have started to bloom.  The favas have tiny little pods on them, but the plants are a little yellow and aren’t looking very happy (too warm?  not enough water? normal?).   Lettuces are growing, and the cut-and-come-again patch seems to never end.  We are eating salads nearly everyday.  But, speaking of salads, the spinach has decided it is too warm.  All the leaves started to point up and the plants are ready to bolt any moment.  I think I am going to pull them all out and plant beans there this week.  We have so enjoyed the spinach patch – in salads, mostly, but I made a risotto with spinach, tomatoes, and sausage the other day that was good (though, of course, 3 out of 4 children boycotted it).

I’ve had my first ever radish crop failure!  How does that happen, you might wonder?  Aren’t radishes the easiest things possible to grow?  They should be.  But, the poor radishes were at their very tenderest when the last frost knocked them back.  Then, it got quite warm and those that made it through the frost just got woody.  Maybe it was the variety (Easter Egg – which can be very pretty, but can tend towards the woody).  Anyway, I composted all that remained.

The tomatoes seem to be growing and are putting out a few flowers.  I mulched them with straw to keep down the weeds.  I need to stake them (really soon!).   Potatoes are all up and growing rapidly.  A friend looked at our potato patch this past weekend and said, “Now that’s some food.” That’s what I think too, when I see that patch.  Those potatoes will (hopefully) feed us through the fall and winter.  I am looking forward to new potatoes, and I know the children always like everything I make with them.

I put a wheelbarrow load of compost in the garden, then got some okra planted (2 varieties: Clemson Spineless and Burgundy).  Okra is a favorite in our house, so I hope they do well.

I did something different with the cucumbers, winter squash, and melons.  Instead of planting them in mounds, like last year, I planted out seedlings I’d grown in the farm greenhouse.  I planted them in an alternating pattern in the same area as the okra.  I hope they will cover the ground well and have enough room.  We’ll see if it works out any better than the mound system (which was fine, too).  I mulched between the plants with straw.  And, the cucumbers (slicing and pickling), I planted with the peas, hoping they can also climb the trellis and will be thriving when the peas are dying.  I put in the cucumbers randomly with the peas wherever there was a break in the peas (i.e. where a few plants did not come up) and at each end of the trellis.

I still want to plant a few cantaloupes, but I am not sure I have any more room.  Hythe is a little indignant that I did not plant his beloved pumpkins or corn.  But, I just couldn’t justify planting crops that take up so much room with little return food-wise per area.  I probably need to make a little space next year for him to plant what he wants.  Maybe a new garden space.

Finally, my peonies have large buds that the ants are working on.  So exciting!

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spring silly-ness

william steven anneThe warming weather has brought about some distinct behavior changes in all of us.  We are certainly gravitating toward the outdoors.  Meals are taking place more and more outside, the younger ones(especially Hythe) spend lots of time in the creeks around the house hunting salamanders and crawdads.  I am spending much more time in the gardens – vegetable and flower – weeding, planting, hoeing, watering.  William cleaned off all the porches yesterday (and we got some new furniture to lounge on the porches – thanks Mom!) and they are now even more inviting.  This long season of warmth means that we sometimes neglect the inside of the house.  The table is piled with papers, projects, and leftovers from lunch.  The office work piles up.  Laundry accumulates on the couch before it is moved upstairs.  The floors are definitely dirtier as tramping form outside to inside to outside happens frequently (and totally unconsciously of the muddy shoes).  I won’t post any pictures of those things :).

Just like farm animals (picture frisking lambs, leaping goat kids, frolicking foals), the children have gotten a bit sillier since the weather has warmed.  There is lots of chasing, wrestling, gymnastics, and tickling.  There have been fits of uncontrollable giggling at the dinner table, which I try to be disapproving of since it does not fall in the category of good manners.  But child giggles are cute and potentially contagious, so we adults succumb to it or put up with it.  We know it won’t last.

I do love to see them playing with each other, laughing with each other, enjoying the spring.

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what’s growing

The garden is growing.  Peas are starting to creep up the trellis, fava beans are almost 8 inches high.  We are picking lettuce and spinach to eat now which is such a treat.  We are also pulling up some of the walking onions to eat.  They are so pretty this time of year – and also delicious.  The regular onions (Parma) are growing quickly too. I planted potatoes two weeks ago tomorrow.  We got a good bit of rain since then and some warm weather.  I dug up one of the potatoes yesterday to see how they were growing and was disappointed to see the little buds only about a 1/2 inch long.  So, they are growing slowly right now and I have to keep up with those very fast growing weeds until they do pop out of the ground.  By the way, I planted my potatoes with a little compost and organic fertilizer.  Anybody have any good potato growing tips?  And, yes that is a basketball in the garden.  The garden is downhill from the house and basketball goal, so this is where balls end up sometimes.

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The trees are growing leaves!  This is my favorite part of spring.  Dogwoods are in full bloom and the trees on the mountain have a more subdued color autumnal cast.  Almost the reverse of fall, as a dull rust gives way to light greenish yellow then to spring green then to dark green – day by day marching up the mountain.  We have some black gum trees around the house, and this under-appreciated tree is one of my favorites.  In the spring, it puts out its tiny leaves, pointing them strait to the sky in little clumps so that they look like tiny green stars.  Unlike most trees, black gum branches set out from the trunk at 90 degree angles (for the most part), so those tiny stars are perfectly placed to look like celestial bodies held out over the earth.  This week, the black gum leaves have grown a bit more and little flowers are being set.

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And, the children are growing.  Anne is determined to ride horses as often as possible, loves playing soccer, and her excitable spirit is sometimes challenging.  Like the other Anne (of Green Gables) she has high highs and low lows, but she recovers quickly.  Her joys and sorrows and angers run hot and fast.  Evva, due to a small scare last week, seems a little more precious right now.  She is reveling in the spring flowers and growth, and is outside as much as she can be – making fairy houses, decorations, and soil/flower mandalas.  Hythe, like a stereotypical boy, wants to go fishing, dig for worms in the compost, and sled down piles of manure at the farm (he and his cousin call it “poop sledding”).  In other words, he likes getting as dirty and smelly as possible.  Steven wants to do anything his brother is doing, but also wants to go anywhere anyone else is going; “I go too” he is always saying as he runs for the door.  He is talking so much now and says cute things like “Sit a me, mom” (sit with me, mom) or “I go fishing now”.  He also says, “go way, mom, go way!” when he is thinking of doing something that might get him in trouble.  Spying a bag of chocolate chips on the counter, he glances at me, back at the chips, then looks at me and says “go way, mom!”  He is still making big messes in and out of the house while becoming more capable!  Yesterday he dumped William’s tackle box upside down and took all the tube worms out of their bags.  I came home last night to find he had dumped three entire jars of spices into a pan on the stove (garlic powder, dill weed, and cream of tarter – yuck!).  That meant he opened the spice drawer, picked out the jars, took them over to the stove, climbed on the stool, unscrewed the caps, and dumped them out.  Quite capable.  He got so tired the other day, that he fell asleep sitting up while we were watching  a video of Dado talking about WWII.  It was pretty funny and cute.  While they all have their challenging moments, they are fun, loving children, and it is a joy to see them grow.
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in the garden 4.9.15

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It is all about the flowers this time of year.  Our favorite tree on the property is a huge pear tree, leftover from someone’s homeplace many years ago.  It produces those huge, hard pears that are perfect for cider.  But, in the spring, she is majestic in full bloom, and we call her the Snow Queen.  The daffodils are fading, but my few tulips are blooming.  The apple trees are in the “pink”, as they say, but some are just starting to bloom.  They all make for perfect little arrangements to have on the table.

Dandelions are blooms plentifully – everywhere.  I was weeding my mother’s garden with a woman from Kosovo this week and she said that she used to make “dandelion honey”.  She described how she made it: 150 dandelion blossoms, some water (probably a quart), a sliced lemon or two, and sugar.  Boil this for 20-30 minutes and strain.  It sounded to me like what we might call dandelion cordial, but I think “honey” was the literal translation from Albanian.  So, I made some dandelion honey this week. It was quite good and would make a great lemonade.  I probably used too much water (2 quarts) because I thought it was a little weak.  I am putting a little in sparkling water and enjoying the sunshiny taste!

The fava beans, peas, garlic, and lettuces are growing well and quickly.  I finally put up a pea trellis, which I have not done in years, just letting the vines cover the ground.  But, I thought I would try to have a neater looking garden this year (we’ll see . . . ).  We’ve had plenty of rain and a bit of warm weather.  I need to replant radishes, beets, and lettuces – second sowing.  And, I can do that now because William tilled the whole garden this week.  We also have our seed potatoes, but have not planted yet.  Usually, I try to follow tradition of this area and plant potatoes on Good Friday (why?  because even if hit by a frost, they will “rise again”).  I plan to plant them that by this weekend, though.  I am excited to fill this garden up again.

What’s going on in your garden?  Is it still full of snow?  Do you see signs of spring?

 

spring break

The girls have two weeks off for spring break this year, and leading up to the break, other mothers would ask me, “What are you doing for spring break?”, or “Do you have plans for spring break?”.  My answer was, “No plans.  When is spring break?”.  “Umm, next week!”

So, we were slightly unprepared for spring break.  I let it sneak up on us, with vague notions of getting away without any hassle or spending any money when it arrived.  The week before spring break, William and I frantically talked about what to do in the spare minutes we get for conversation.  We decided to go to Tuckaseegee . . . then not to go to Tuckaseegee . . . then to go camping . .  then not to go camping . . . maybe we’d go out on a lake, or go fishing, or go bike riding.  Finally, we decided to not make any plans but to stay at home and do some area activities depending on weather conditions.  A friend called this a “staycation”.

William took off most days from work last week, and I did the same, though we both spent a few hours a day checking in and typing on computers.  I took the children to the WNC Nature Center one day – a visit they always love.  Another day, we went biking in Dupont State Forest, where we also met up with Aunt Elizabeth and a cousin and played on the shore of a small lake.  it was a gorgeous day, but I did not bring a camera.  We went hiking one day, looking for wild flowers, and the children had friends over to play quite often as well.  And, on Friday we rode bikes at Biltmore Estate.  We rode right up to the gardens and walked around looking at the flowers – one of Evva’s favorite things to do (again, no camera).

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There was also lots of playing at the house and in the yard.  I worked in the gardens a bit, and the children had free time to do what ever they wanted–read, build fairy houses, swing, look for salamanders, walk to the barn to help on the farm (they helped deliver a baby goat one day!).  I loved that they all had time to play together, which they do surprisingly well most of the time.  Steven has reveled in the attention he gets from his sisters when they are here.  They read to him, carry him around, get him dressed, build train tracks for him.  He is going to miss this when they go back to school.

We had a fun Easter, with egg hunts at church and at the Big House.  And, so much candy that I think it might have been Steven’s sole dietary intake of the day, despite my best efforts.

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Steven stuffed a powdered doughnut into his mouth right before the hunt at church (so maybe he did eat something other than candy this day).

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Instructions from Auntie Annie on where to hunt for eggs at the Big House.

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This has been my first “staycation”, and I really enjoyed it!  We have one more week of spring break, but William has gone back to work this week, and lessons and practices are back on this week as well.  We don’t have nearly as many plans this week, so we will slowly work back into a school schedule.  We will probably work on learning some life skills like doing your own laundry, making grocery lists, gardening.  But, playing and working at home will be fun with these guys around for the week.  I will say, however, that while everyone helps out with chores and cleaning, the house can quickly become a disaster with all these guys at home all day!

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in the garden, 3.26.15

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Spring days are here!  I can see a faint blush of color on the lower slopes of the mountains where red maples are blooming and setting seed, spice bushes are starting to flower, and a general awakening seems to be taking place.  The grass in the lawn grew a few inches this week, but the garden is a bit slower.  Lettuce seedlings are still quite small, but the peas have come up strong.  Hythe was in the garden with me looking at everything that was coming up and I noticed a short row of strange looking peas.  He, of course, told me that they were not peas but funny beans that he planted – and I remembered that we planted a few fava beans there.  Well, those are up too.  The garlic has grown a little, the onions a lot.

In one of my other garden places, I am enjoying some wonderful daffodils that I planted (with Hythe’s help) in the fall.  I took recommendations from an article in Taproot Magazine by Erin Benzakein (you should check out her site – it is beautiful) this past fall.  She suggested a few specific varieties of spring flowering bulbs for cut flowers, which I ordered from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.  The double flowered is called Bridal Crown.  It is beautiful with small flowers and the fragrance is amazing.  I cut a few and put them on the table and every now and then catch a whiff . . . heavenly.   The other blooming now is called Pink Charm (I think).  My goal has been to plant enough bulbs that I can have cut flowers inside as early as possible.  I want to enjoy flowers outside, but want to have enough that they can also be enjoyed inside.

Not garden related, but Hythe has been a little daredevil on a bike lately.  He rode down our dirt road on a kick bike the other evening and William nor I could keep up with him (and he couldn’t stop).  It was a bit scary because he was going so fast that if he wrecked he would have been hurt (not to mention if a car had been coming up the road!).  We had no idea what he could and would do.  So, he has a ban on riding on the dirt road again until he has proper padding and has one of us at the end of the road to stop vehicles coming up when he is riding!  I took him, Steven, and a cousin to a pump track in South Asheville instead – so he could be a daredevil a little more safely.  Also, I love how he rides his pink, flowered, hand-me-down bike with pride!

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quick trip to the coast

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We made a quick trip (that seems like an oxymoron since the whole visit seemed quick but the travel there and back seemed quite long) to the coast this past weekend.

The weather was beautiful on Saturday, but a bit chilly.  The children played and splashed in the river, and then begged me to let them go swimming!  Hythe was quite angry with me when I told him that, no, I had not packed his swim suit.  It was hard to convince them that getting in that frigid water on a cool day would quickly make them hypothermic (words, of course, they did not understand!).

We celebrated Anne’s birthday a few times over the weekend since we spent most of her actually day driving.  She loved all the attention and gifts.  And, they all loved playing with their cousin.

Sunday was a cool, cloudy day and we took a ferry over to Knott’s Island on the very northeast corner of NC.  The ferry ride was very cold, but fun for everyone.  On the island, I was impressed with the marshes.  The marsh grass was a golden brown and tall.  Blue water wove in and out of patches of the grass and the whole scene was just beautiful.  We visited a historic duck hunting lodge that is for sale, situated near the edge of the marsh.  The place was very odd, but interesting — so much potential, but so much work for whoever buys it and fixes it up.  The barn has 12 bedrooms in the upper floor!  It reminded me very much of the Whalehead Club on a smaller scale.  What could a place like this be used for now?  Private hunting/fishing lodge or home?  Summer camp?  Retreats?  The property (and buildings) have conservation easements on them.  I love the history of properties and especially the history of northeastern NC, so I enjoyed seeing this little part of history – and the whole trip was a bit of an adventure, even if it did mean that we got home about 3 hours later than I’d hoped!

birthday party round up

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We had a joint birthday party for the two girls on Sunday afternoon at the Big House.  It was outside old-fashioned fun on a glorious warm spring day.  About 30 children showed up, as well as a few parents.  William and I (and one other awesome parent – seriously she was so good I thought she ought to hire herself out to organize kid games at birthday parties) organized easy games for the kids.  They played perpetual tag first, then we had a series of races/games: egg toss (those farm eggs are hard – eggs were literally bouncing across the yard multiple times without breaking), egg and spoon race, hula hoop relay, and sack race.  Then we had snacks and cake and ice cream.  I made two cakes, one for each of the girls.

Finally, we did pinatas – 2 of them – one for 9 and up and one for 8 and under.  The girls made their pinatas from paper grocery bags and decorated them with tissue paper and glue.  I doubled up the paper bags which made them surprisingly strong – everyone got at least two turns whacking the pinata.  I did not put a lot of candy in them (put in more stickers, tatoos, and a few simple toys), so the kids were disappointed and the parents were grateful.  By the second pinata, though, the candy had melted (note: don’t use chocolate in a pinata on a warm day) and was mushy – those kids basically did not get any candy (again: kids disappointed, parents grateful).  But, the pinata was fun and exciting and a favorite part of the party.

I consulted with the girls before the party and we decided that it would be better to ask friends not to bring presents.  For a number of reasons: we have plenty already, it would be too much (there were so many friends coming), and parents would feel obliged to buy two gifts.  That was perfect because all the focus was on having fun and playing with friends.  A few really close friends brought some very small gifts, and the girls got quite a few handmade cards that were really sweet.  So, it was very nice.

After the party, the children had a great time running down to see the chickens and horses, jumping on the trampoline and playing.  William and I cleaned up.  My biggest fear for the party was that I would lose someone’s child (which is highly likely at the Big House).  And it did happen.  About an hour after the party was officially over, I got a text from a dad asking me to bring his children to the farm store.  I had not seen those children for at least 45 minutes and had assumed their parents had picked them up.  Sure enough, I came across them a few minutes later, finding them under a boxwood bush building fairy houses.  Then, another dad showed up.  I had not seen his child in about an hour.  But, pretty quickly she came running around a corner with Evva.  They had been playing and running all over the grounds.

Kids got dirty, laughed, played hard – a good time was had by all.  We will probably do this again!

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