Tag Archives: summer

late summer icons

peaches mullet and watermelon watermelon apple eating apple goldenrod summer sun

Nothing says late summer in the mountains of NC like baskets of peaches, watermelon, the first apples, and goldenrod.

I have canned some peaches, and will likely can one more batch.  Then, I’ll freeze the rest, peeled and sliced, for smoothies all winter.

The watermelon came from our garden.  The first watermelons I’ve ever grown – and they were delicious!  I think I liked them the best though.  The children are used to seedless watermelons and William says he is not a big fan of watermelon, but I enjoyed them.  I cooked mullet one night, rubbed in salt and rinsed.  Coastal NC tradition says to eat fresh salted mullet with watermelon.  It really was a good combination.  I like the flavor of mullet, but . . . my, they are bony.

The meadow is full of goldenrod, cardinal flower, ironweed, and Joe Pye Weed.  It is beautiful, and so iconic of fall here.

The first apples are ready and I have a bushel sitting in my kitchen.  I really do need to make sauce because the apples have a lot of bitter rot and won’t last long.

Nights have been cooler recently and it is less humid than normal Augusts.  One thing I notice about nights in August, though, is that they are loud.  Cicadas, katydids, crickets are all making the most of the last warm-ish nights and sing all night long.  It is a chorus, or a racket – depending on your opinion – but I am always surprised at the noise level in the middle of the night from outside.

 

 

summer vacation

Since the children are now in “year round” school, our summer break is quite a bit shorter than usual.  We only had 6 weeks of break, which seemed like a fair amount of time, but which also flew by quickly.  Summer always does seem full, no matter how long or short it is – of work, play, gardening, adventuring, vacations.  It can feel too packed, too full – can-you- really-relax full.  Sometimes I want to have everyone stay at home and just be.  But, I also feel the urge to get out and do – while we can and the weather is good! Three (!) children start school on Monday and we’ve filled this last week with those perfect summer activities (tubing on the river, hiking, waterfalls, friends) and balanced it with days and home and quiet evenings.

Summer is one of my favorite seasons, and summer break is a special time.  I get slightly anxious thinking of all the things I want to accomplish each summer, all the places I want to visit, all the activities I want to do or have the children do.  It can be overwhelming.  But, this summer, though we did not travel much, we made it to some special places.  First, the three oldest went to Elizabeth City with my mother for a week of YMCA day camp.  Anne was supposed to have surfing camp but it was canceled due to the shark attacks (fyi, you are more likely to be killed driving to the beach than by a shark at the beach).  They had a great time at camp, though, and playing in the river each afternoon.

Then, the girls went to manners camp again this year, or ,as the incredible 85 year old director calls it, “House Parties for Young Ladies and Gentlemen”.  Their cousins (my cousin’s children) go to manners camp with them each year, and it is a special time.  Manners camp was delightful, as always, and I know the girls enjoyed it.  It is certainly a Southern Experience.

We left from manners camp to drive right to the Chesapeake Bay where my cousin and her husband have a house.  We spent nearly 4 days there and thoroughly enjoyed it.  We played in the water and on the beach everyday, walked, biked, paddled, and ate great food.  I think this was the most relaxed I’d ever seen William on a vacation.  We’ll need to do it again!

That weekend capped a great summer, not too exciting, but pretty perfect.

In pictures:

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Figs at my mom’s were just getting ripe.  We ate some everyday – just perfect.

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William and the boys fished on my aunt and uncle’s bass pond in Elizabeth City.  They caught 4 good sized bass and had a great time.  The little spiderman rod has pretty good action!  I sat and watched them and realized we were sitting, on a summer afternoon, in the shade of a trailer, fishing for bass in a pond, drinking cold beer from a can – it was a perfect Southern moment – and was just wonderful.  Fiona, a cousin who is visiting from France enjoyed it (not the beer, though).

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We did not see the girls for nearly 2 weeks, since we arrived in Elizabeth City after manners camp started, which may have been a bit much for them.  When we arrived at camp for the graduation tea, Anne burst into tears when she saw us, hugging us and sobbing (while smiling, I may add).  These girls are so sweet and I love the pastels and bright florals on everyone at this camp-closing ceremony.  The house and setting are beautiful and I’m glad they’ve had their time there.

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White sandy beaches, on the edge of a Nature Conservancy property, with mild shallow ocean – had to beat.  We ate great food (including steamed fresh crabs, cleaned further than “Yankee” clean – thanks Will), had great (and plentiful) drinks.  Lots of family fun time on the beach, on walks, bike and golf cart rides, and paddling.  And, a salt marsh at sunset.  It was a wonderful time.

 

 

summer doings

Whew!  Summer has been going strong and full.  We only have a 6 week summer break from school, and it has been packed.  With work, fun, gardening, harvesting, canning, play, camps, (sewing, for me), and all kinds of other things.  I’ll give a sample here – showing much of the things I love and cherish about summer.

lighting bugs

 

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  • Catching lighting bugs, of course.  The best kind of fun for a late night kid (it stays light until nearly 9 in mid-summer here).
  • Time for playing games.  Of course, the chess board does tend come out right when I ask for some help cleaning out the dishwasher or putting away laundry.  “But mom, we’re right in the middle of our game.”
  • Campfires and marshmallows (at least for the children).  It is a fun way to spend a long evening, especially with friends.
  • Hammocks and cousins.  Hammocks hung to relax in, take afternoon naps in.  And, cousins from out of town were here for a few weeks and we all loved seeing them.  Our three oldest children went to the farm camp for a few weeks and had a blast, playing with their cousins and friends all day, riding horses, making art.  Coming home tired and hungry and very happy.
  • Hythe, who would wear shorts and no socks nearly all winter, puts on sweatpants and a sweatshirt and plays in the yard on the hottest days of summer.  “What are you doing”, I say.  “I’m a gray wolf, mom.”
  • Picking flowers from the meadow and from my garden.  I love the fresh arrangements – large and small that I can scatter around the house.
  • And, I love them on the dinner table.  We have a 16 year old cousin from France visiting for the month (and helping out, too).  One of the wonderful things she does for every meal is to set the table beautifully, with plates at each place, napkins, flowers, glasses, pitcher of water, salt and pepper.  That sounds so simple, but often when I am getting ready to put a meal on the table, I am scrambling to get the food, plates, condiments, etc. to the table and I have to keep jumping up from the meal to fetch water, salt, knives.  Evva is usually in charge of setting the table, but often it is done with the perfunctory fork and knife, though occasionally she will find a napkin or two and put them out.  I have explained what I would like to have her do (put out the glasses, water, napkins, etc.), but see the note above about when I ask for a chore to be done (“but, mom, we are in the middle of . . .”).  We’re working on a solution!
  • Handsome husband sitting across from me at the outside dinner table while eating a great meal of fresh food from the garden and meat from the farm and washing it down with a cold local beer.  Contentment.
  • Lots of porch sitting and playing.  It is the perfect place to read a book, take a nap, or play cars.  Steven has been at without siblings for the past week (they are with my mom on the coast), and while he has enjoyed more undivided attention from parents, he misses his playmates.  (William and I miss them too.)
  • Picking berries.  While I love picking blackberries because they are free berries that I don’t have to do any work to raise, they have the most vicious thorns, and usually I have to get hot, sweaty, and thoroughly scratched up to get them.  This year though, the blackberry vines have grown right up to our back deck, thick with the largest wild blackberries I’ve seen.  So, I can stand on our deck, in the shade, and pick berries with minimal wounding.  And, I got enough to make jam.
  • Fresh jam.  So far, I’ve made sour cherry, mulberry, and blackberry.  We did not have enough jam to make it through the year last year, so I am trying to make more this year.  I’ve never made mulberry before, but William, Fiona (the cousin), and the children picked so many that I had enough berries to jam.  It is quite good.  And, jam jars are so pretty.

 

summer is . . .

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. . . swinging

. . . s’mores

. . . eating outside (nearly every meal)

. . . lots of sitting, and reading, and working (and some relaxing) outside

. . . playing/wrestling with daddy in the lawn after supper

. . . hikes for the view from Tom’s Rock

. . . hammocks

. . . tree climbing

. . . fruit picking

. . . and lots of other things (namely water playing) that aren’t photographed here – but it’s a start!

in the garden 6-4-15

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Everything in the garden is growing like crazy.  The potatoes look really great, but there are still some potato bugs (Colorado Potato Beetle) on them, so Hythe has been helping me pick them off every other day.  He likes to drown them (rather than smash), and I agree – they can be a little gross to smush.  I am now working to get the potatoes mulched with straw.  I am half-way there and will finish this weekend, I hope.  The straw fills in for the second potato hilling and works quite well.   I love the potato blossoms.  They are so pretty, and with five different varieties, each flower is a little different in color.  I told Hythe we could start getting some potatoes from the ground when they starting flowering, so he has been reporting to me each time a variety starts to flower.  I have only dug a few little baby potatoes, though – they still need some time.  It is a pretty time in the garden.

The snap (or English) peas are producing lots and lots of peas right now.  We’ve been picking (and eating) every other day.  I have a stock pile in the refrigerator for lunches and snacks.  I will try to freeze some tomorrow because we finally have grown enough that I can feed everyone who wants peas, and have some left over.  My family far prefers to eat the peas raw, and they end up on plates and in lunch boxes in the pod to be split open and snacked on during the day.  I have also been shelling and throwing them into salads and soups every chance I get.

Lettuces are still growing, though some are starting to bolt.  I need to do my “next” sowing of lettuces, carrots, beets, and beans.  Maybe this weekend.

The squash and watermelon are growing well and are all now mulched with straw.  I hope to have zucchini soon.  The beans are getting ready to flower and the okra is about 3 inches tall now.

And, we have (or had) cherries.  Lots of cherries, so many we could not possible pick them all.  Plus, they were at the top of some tall-ish trees and we could not reach them all.  Nor, would I have had the time to pit them all.  But, we did get a couple of gallons.  We ate lots fresh, then I pitted a lot and made jam, a pie, and froze the rest.  While I love cherries, I am ok with the season being short.  We’ve had so much rain that the over-ripe ones in the tree are mostly split and moldy now.  I am grateful for all the fruit we have.  Strawberries are just finishing, cherries have come and are nearly gone, but while we were getting the last of the cherries tonight, Evva came up to me with the first black raspberry!  And, soon there will be blueberries.  And, the boys have been finding some ripe mulberries.  So glad to have all this fruit!

The garden work is continuous, and for now, still enjoyable.  Hythe enjoys helping me, and I love it when William joins me in the garden to pick or mulch or weed.  The girls have not been so enthusiastic.  Well, they are enthusiastic about the theory of a garden, but not in practicality of it.  They cheer on the great food coming from the garden, but rarely participate in the work.  I should probably encourage them more, but I don’t want to nag.  And, they often have their own passions and interests they want to pursue while I pursue my in the garden.  But, I came home from a run last weekend to find William had set up Anne with the weed wacker and she cut all the weeds around the garden and near our house.  She had fun and felt grown-up and useful.  It was wild to see her from a distance as I came home from my run, wondering who the teenage boy (or old man?) was who was weed wacking our garden, only to realize it was Anne.  Looking strong and capable.   While I never would have set her up with that machine (I can barely run it myself), I was glad William had.

garden update: into the fall

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We might have one more pumpkin in the field left to pick and a few winter squash.

Flowers are still producing well–and I enjoy getting down to pick them–nearly all zinnias this year. Such cheerful flowers.

We’ll probably pick the popcorn soon. Hythe is nearly desperate to do it and points out each time we are near the garden that “the corn is dead”.

The first turnips have been picked. Look at those greens–so many and so beautiful! I froze the greens to eat this winter, but I’m planning to cook the turnips tonight with bacon and onions.

Hythe got the first carrots out of the garden. Little baby ones, which he disdained after tasting. They are a little bitter at this point. But, it helps to thin those carrots a bit.

We are eating salads from the garden again (and still outside)! Lots of arugula and a little bit of leaf lettuce so far. I hope the rest of the lettuce I planted comes up. I put in a large row of an unknown lettuce seed (which I found at the bottom of my briefcase), but I am afraid the seed was not good. It has not come up.

The radishes are huge! They grew so fast with the wet warm weather. I’ve picked nearly all I planted and not knowing much else to do with a lot of large pretty radishes, I pickled them! These pickles are so delicious, especially with meat (especially BBQ pork), and they will last all winter in the refrigerator. Not only delicious, these pickles are beautiful, but they are a bit smelly (pungent-good smelly, but smelly). Recipe below.

Also, my ginger lilies are blooming. They don’t always make it here with our cold weather, but I’ve found a protected place for these with full sun and they are happy. The scent is heavenly! Plants, thanks to Nita (an almost-aunt) who is one of my gardener inspirations.

Recipe for Pickled Radishes (update):

Put in a jar:
3.5 cups sliced radishes
1 sweet onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic

Make brine and pour over radish mix:
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 star anise
1 tsp coriander seed
1 bay leaf
3 tsp kosher salt

August is flying by

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This month has been unseasonably cool (though this afternoon’s humidity and mild heat make me almost not write the former), with lots of rain and grey skies. When the sun does come out, we seem to want to be out in it as much as possible–enjoying the green-ness and summer while it lasts. We are eating many meals outside, playing games outside, working in the garden, playing in the sandbox, swinging, playing in the creek. Well, our children are doing most of the sandbox and swing play, while William and I do most of the work in the garden (and mowing of the grass).  I love to look out and see these little ones playing, being silly, and enjoying the freedom of childhood.  Hythe will give his silly smile, wrestle his little brother.  Most play outside is rambunctious, but occasionally I will see a few of them in quiet play–like this chess game.  After Evva won, and they forgot to put the game away, I caught Steven having a wonderful time sitting at the board and throwing all the pieces, one by one, into the grass.  We are now down a few more chessmen.

We went to a family wedding this weekend when William’s cousin got married on the farm. It was a lot of fun, and one of my favorite things about it was the outfit Evva chose to wear (seen in top pic): polka dot dress (“polka dots are supposed to be for fun parties”), a red straw hat (my grandmother’s), a fashion-knit scarf (hand-knit by someone–not me), and her new umbrella (gift from Daddy for the large rain storm that was predicted to happen during the outdoor wedding).

Tuckaseegee summer visit

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We finally got up to the semi-remote property that my husband’s great-grandparents bought in the 1920s, and is now owned by his family and extended family. This property is on the headwaters of the Tuckaseegee River, with lots of National Forest land around. It is a beautiful spot, with no cell phone reception, TV, or phone line. There is electricity, but staying in the 100+ year old “lodge” (which was built by loggers, and probably not intended to stay upright for more than 20 years), is really glorified camping. The wooden floors lean, the mice outnumber the visitors, and the doors barely shut (or else don’t open). But, the kitchen has a great gas stove, which is fun to cook on, and the rooms stay dark so that children (and hence their parents) sleep in, there is a new mattress that does not smell musty, and right now, the roof does not leak–plus there is a flush toilet(!).

Anyway, we always have a fun time–fishing and splashing in the river, hiking, roasting marshmallows, and playing games (baseball or board games, depending on the weather).  We, or I should say they, did a lot of fishing, and we had an epic game of Monopoly.

Though usually, we visit with friends or extended family, this weekend, it was just us. A few people told us they planned to come up on Saturday, but the weather ultimately kept them home.  We enjoyed the river in the morning before the rain and board games on the porch during the rain.

We are hoping to get back this fall for close to a week, rather than the usual weekend. It is quite a lot of work to stay there (bring your linens, food, pillows, clothes, towels, etc.–and then wash them all when you get home), so it will be nice to spend more time. And, get to explore more places with the little ones. They have not experienced all the trails, lakes, and interesting things in the area, and William and I are looking forward to being with them to do it.

mind your manners

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Our girls (and two of their cousins) spent this past week in Perquimans County at Ms. Nancy’s House Parties for Young Ladies Gentleman, or as we call it “Manners Camp”. This sounds a bit old-fashioned, and it is–in the best way. This camp has a beauty and sweetness about it that reminds me of the best of the South, politeness, hospitality, and sweet tea in summertime.

Ms. Nancy, camp director, is 89 years old and her graciousness, kindness, and talkativeness make her seem vivacious and young–and she has a beautiful Southern accent, darlin’. Ms. Nancy and her young female counselors teach the 14 children who come to spend 4 nights at the beautiful 1812 plantation house about correspondence (the old-fashioned paper kind), setting the table, table and telephone manners, and general politeness. The children also have swim, tennis, and canoe lessons, Bible study, and a flower arranging lesson. They have room inspections every morning and must be “dressed” for supper each night.

They love it!

At the end of camp, Ms. Nancy, the counselors, and the children host a tea for the parents and grandparents. The children all do individual recitations and sing songs as a group. The recitations are sweet (and a little impressive), and I love that my girls know our state toast, a Bible verse, and an etiquette quote by heart.

If you want to see some great videos of the camp, The Southern Documentary Fund produced a documentary about Ms. Nancy and her camp, and you can view clips on their site here and here.

As a side, Ms. Nancy talked a little about the history of her beautiful home on the first day of camp, and it prompted me to do a little family history research while we stayed in Elizabeth City when the girls were at camp. I traced multiple family lines back to the 1660s–all in the small area of northeastern NC. I realized how related everyone (including myself) in the area is to each other by blood or marriage. For so many years, not many families moved in and few families moved out of the region. A distant grandfather actually built Ms. Nancy’s house (and built the one where my great-great grandfather lived in Pasquotank County, and in which William and I lived for about a month). I discovered many Quaker ancestors and learned more of the history of the region where I grew up.

All of this gave me more of an appreciation for the area and people, and how connected to it I am by family and history. I do miss it at times.