Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hey Good Lookin'

The kids like to get a hold of my glasses when I'm not looking and break them just about as soon as I get them home so I decided to find some cheap pairs of their own to wear instead. I found these at the dollar spot at Target. Funny how long we have had these glasses. My last pair lasted all of 5 minutes. We've had these for two weeks and counting!

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Few Ticks and an Aching Back Later... the Monday Garden Club (a little early)

For a little background on our site improvement projects you can check out these posts here, here, here, and here.

Nick using the loader.

We poured our hearts out this weekend getting our yard screened in and things are really starting to take shape. I ordered 12 large pine trees last week from a local wholesale nursery and had them delivered on Friday to fill in the wide swath of forest the previous owner had unnecessarily taken out. These trees will help screen our reforesting project (nicknamed by a neighbor as little Arlington Cemetery) from our neighbors. While it only took us an hour to get all the material off of the delivery truck (which I'm very proud of considering our little crew of 3 including myself), it took us two entire days to get our 6'-8' tall pines fully planted in the ground. My MIL had the task of watching the kiddos all weekend while Nick and I experienced a few days in the lives of day laborers.

View of the pines from the yard.

View of the pines from the road.
(I apologize all the photos were taken at the end of day and are very shadowy.
)

We recruited our neighbor and his tractor (with fork attachments) to get the trees off the truck and in the ground. Our neighbor has back issues so Nick and I were on our own to get the holes dug out and filled back in. Nick dug out the holes with our rented back hoe but we both had to hand shovel it back in with a mix of existing soil and amendments. It was a nasty task. My back is still aching.

For the most part we were able to be gentle, however, one poor tree was not so lucky and its guts spilled out when one of the fork attachments slipped and the tree fell through. I was absolutely devastated. I was checking it out today and it didn't look too happy. I do not expect it to survive the ordeal but am hopeful it will. I'm a bit of a nervous wreck about all of them. Though they weren't expensive, they did cost a bit of overhead in rental equipment and sweat equity.

Sunday, with the enormous task of the evergreen trees behind us, we worked on putting in the minimal landscaping around the house. I purchased only a modest amount of materials for the front understanding that we will slowly fill it in with time and as our budget allows. We will install these plants through next week.

I tried to stay native when possible, using Mountain Laurel, Eastern Redbud, Allegheny Serviceberry, Bearberry and Azaleas, etc. Some plants, however, I chose simply because they make me happy. I love lily of the valley (muget) because it reminds me of my time in Paris. I chose to use some Russian Sage because it reminds me a very special time in our lives (when we started our family in Albuquerque). Your landscaping should make you feel happy.

Hopefully we will get everything installed this week.

A lot is happening in the veggie garden.


The beans have sprouted.


We had our first arugula salad! YUM!


The broccoli is getting HUGE!!


That's all I can muster right now! I'm going to go take a hot shower and freshen up so I can get dirty all over again tomorrow. Happy Gardening!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday Garden Club

There is so much to report this week!

I'm happy to say that Spring has indeed sprung here and the trees are beautiful and green. I think the foliage arrival occurred earlier than usual thanks to our 90 degree weather a few weeks ago. Most everything started to come out big time last week but now all but the Oaks are holding out. It's good to see everything out of dormancy again!

Yay! (taken Saturday)

Nick got home after a very, very long week in Idaho. He left on Sunday for a business trip and did not return until 2 in the morning Saturday. The kids and I spent the week sick and miserable (so did he) . Luckily, we were all better by the end of it and I have an awesome MIL who watched the kids Friday night so I could get a much needed break for a night out with the girls. Thank God as I very much needed it for my sanity! Ever heard of plum wine? I hadn't before Friday, but let me tell you it's great stuff!

On our way home from Northern Virginia, Nick and I picked up some tomato plants at a local nursery and planted them. We planted three tomato plants including a roma, a 'super fantastic' and a grape tomato. Next year, my hope is to have tomatoes from seed. Nick made fun of me for securing them with a seat-belt on the way home but he ate his words because this method worked out really well! They arrived safely despite my erratic driving tendencies and curvy roads.

My precious tomato plants riding shotgun.

I'm the ONLY person who eats tomatoes in the house so 3 plants should cover us (though even Nick can't resist my yummy tomato basil soup... good thing I grew several basil plants from seed earlier this year, YUM!). I can't wait!

The newly planted tomato plants.

We have tiny little blueberries forming on our blueberry plants. I'm so excited about that. I hope production continues in future years. I'm a little worried about them doing well because our lot is wooded. It's ideal to have these plants in direct sun from dawn to dusk. I'd say our garden gets direct sun from about 9-5 mid-summer (about 7-8 hours or so). I hope that's enough. I'm thinking that they should do OK, the fruits just might not be quite as prolific.

Nick worked on widening the upper garden terrace by tilling an extra 8 feet of row. I had planned to add the upper terrace next year but realized I had no room left for the squash so we were obligated.

Before. We had already expanded it to be double last year's size.


After.

Later, I would regret all the planting I did this weekend. I had looked at the forecast well in advance of this week and all looked well (i.e. no frost). I viewed the local forecast again while in Northern Virginia (NOVA) and again there were no warnings. NOVA is a little colder than our region, so I figured we were pretty safe.

Yesterday, after a day of working in the garden, I thought it had gotten chilly out so I figured I should take another look at the forecast just in case. Though we only have a 10% chance of frost after April 16th, it turned out that we had a frost warning last night! We were in the 10%! I went frantic.

Me: "Nick, cut up some 2 liter bottles so I can put 'em over the broccoli!"
Hubby: "I'll throw a trash can over the tomatoes!"

How our garden looked after we finished prepping it for potential frost.

We came up with some clever solutions on the fly. Nick covered the bean seed with moving blankets. I placed the slip n' slide tarp over the squash while protecting them from getting crushed with bricks.

I hope this is the last close call because that was a lot of work! In the end, everything turned out fine. Only one of my tomatoes looked a little peeved, but she sprang right back up today. Turns out she needed a bit of a water.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pricked

Nick left out some sewing needles he had used to sew a button on his shirt. It was not one of his best parental moments. Anyway, you can imagine my surprise when I found Ladybug doing this to her beloved babydoll. Poor babydoll.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Earth Day

Earthbound Farms is giving away their reusable bags again in honor of Earth Day, April 22. They are giving them away all throughout the month and lucky me, I just won a bag. I won one last year also (it's not difficult).

I loved it so much that even when the handle broke because a special grocery employee put one too many 2-liters in the bag, I took the time to sew the handle back on. I felt so thrifty and cool. As long as you don't put 5 or 6 2-liters of diet soda in it at once, the bags really holds up. It holds way more than the average reusable bag at the grocery store.


Last Year's Bag.

These bags are made from recycled bottles and absolutely awesome. We are big recyclers here at Them Sticks (see our recycling stack below). It's neat to think that maybe a bottle you recycled is coming back to you in some form (though OK it may be a little far fetched as these babies are made in China.) It still makes me feel good inside to recycle.


Our recycling bins.

My favorite reusable bag of all though is the bag below (pictured below in Orange.) I bought a set of these while in France on vacation because I was tired of paying for bags. They are nothing fancy and I bought them for a whopping Euro which at the time was less than a dollar. I wish I could find bags of this design in the States. This bag leaves the average reusable bag in the States in the dust because it's capable of carrying an entire week's worth of groceries without breaking or showing wear (provided of course that you yourself can carry it) . I have even tested these with 8 2-liters of diet soda (kind of embarrassing to admit, but it's my husband, I swear.) What I love about these is that I'm not guessing how many bags I need to bring in a store. Two of these and I'm most certainly covered even on big trip days.


To take the quiz and get your Earthbound Farms bag, go to: http://www.ebfarm.com/earthday If you become a FB friend you will be in the know when the next giveaway is. They have them just about every day.


PHOTO by: Earthbound Farm

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mindless Suburban Transplant Babble

I'm in bit of a daze today. I'm still under the weather and a little loopy on cold medication. At one point this morning I thought I was about to lose it. Tired, sleep deprived and aching to the core, my kids got into their closet for the 40th time and had taken every single piece of clothing out of it while I made breakfast. Really kids?! I just don't have any energy for this sh*t today!?!!!

A couple breaths....

in...

and out...

A moment on the porch amongst the swaying trees watching the clouds roll in.

Slowly, I returned to my calm self. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. The entire contents of the closet being thrown about the floor no longer seemed to be a big deal.

I never got the country life as a kid. I'd have told you that anyone living in the country was a crazy loon. Back then, I didn't care for suburbia either. I had spent too many summers stranded without a car 4 miles from the nearest store. My parents were busy working parents and we were left alone most of the summer bored out of our minds. We lived in a large gated community in Stafford County, an affluent suburb of Washington DC called "Aquia Harbor." The only place I thought that could be worse than the suburbs was the country. I used to think that if I'm this bored here in the suburbs, imagine how boring it must be in the country?! I felt kind of sorry for country folks.

I obviously couldn't have been more wrong. I almost feel sad that I wasn't at least able to recognize and appreciate the beauty of this lifestyle. Now that I'm here, I'm delighted to know first hand that life in the sticks is anything but boring. It's quiet, it's peaceful, but never boring.
How could we ever be bored with so much to observe and do?! It simply never gets old.

That's not to say that there aren't plenty of electronic distractions out here (blogs included) but I'm lucky to have a husband that will reel me in when I get a little too self-absorbed. He regularly tugs me out onto the porch so I don't get so wrapped up in unimportant matters that I miss the opportunity to hear the rain pitter patter in the forest before a storm passes. We all are responsible for keeping each other grounded here and I think this land we live on in the middle of nowhere makes it a little easier to do just that.

I came across an awesome blog the other day of a woman who is a city transplant who now lives on a big ole ranch in Oklahoma. I have fallen in love with her blog. She has a lot of cute stories, beautiful photos, and tasty recipes. Take a gander if you wish:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Monday Garden Club

Isn't it ironic that when you need sleep the most, it's the most elusive? Everyone in our family came down with a nasty cold this weekend. My kids are miserable and I can't seem to sleep myself. So, here I am, up at 5 in the morning waiting for the sun to come up.

Despite how terrible I feel, I'm am just loving that there is so much going so early this year in the garden. It's nice to be a little more on the ball this season. The basil, squash, eggplant, and peppers appear to be thriving. Last week, I neglected to mention that I transferred the seedlings into Jiffy pots. It's been a REAL pain in the ass but I've been bringing the heat loving peppers and eggplant in and out of the house to insure they get enough heat and light but aren't subjected to evening cold. Note to self: get our mini green-house lit and heated next year.


I mulched the strawberry beds with straw this week and planted some more carrots, parsnips, and mesclun mix (as I will continue to do every two to three weeks as required for a longer harvest).

The peas are really doing well. I took this photo toward the end of last week and they have been making great progress even since this photo.

The potatoes have popped too (see below) . I'm looking forward to some blue potatoes!


My first planting of carrots have finally popped too but they aren't substantial enough for photos. I understand that parsnips take a while to show themselves. They haven't popped just yet but I'm hopeful we'll see some progress there soon.

This week I went ahead and planted some green beans. As of April 16th, we have a 90% chance of no more frost. When I looked at weather.com it looked like we weren't going to have anything under 45 for a low with highs averaging in the upper 70's, low 80's up to that date so I figured I'd go ahead and get a jump start. All we have to lose is a little bean seed and I can always run out and protect seedlings with a row cover if need be. As luck would have it, since planting, the forecast has changed. Now we are expecting temps to dip in the 60's mid-week (but the lows will never get below freezing). I'm not terribly worried. It's a bit of gamble, but bean seed is pretty cheap and I have a lot of seed I saved from last year's crop. As far as I'm concerned that isn't much to lose when we have so much to gain. We love vegetables!

For more Monday Garden Club fun, visit Ali's page here. Happy Gardening!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tilling Accidents

Above are some of the grape hyacinths (Muscari) that I planted in late October. Unfortunately, they look tortured because Nick tilled over them this Spring when we were trying to clear the beds for some foundation planting later this month. I tried to save what I could but they aren't what they were. I think my friend Ali can sympathize. Such is life... or well intentioned men, lol. :)

Don't get me wrong. I may seem to have been hard on Nick the last week, criticizing his questionable choices in TV shows while the children are awake and his giving away my European chocolate bars to his co-worker. Truth is, the good so far outweighs the negative, it's unbelievable. If I didn't have something to pick on, he wouldn't be real. Yeah, I've got it good.

Anyway, it's hard to believe but it's mowing time again. I spent an hour doing the push mover on the steeper sections of lawn and the more tedious sections around the house this morning. Now it's Nick's turn to finish with the rider. I think I totally get the better half of that deal. Riders are just so boring. At least I get some exercise with the pusher.

Dogwood in bloom.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's HOT!

Nong, my brother's wife, made Ladybug a beautiful traditional Thai outfit that we received at the end of the season last year. It was a little too cool at the time to use it so I had to stash it in the closet until warm weather was upon us again. With the temps in the low 90's, it was time to get it out! I have to say, she looks adorable!!

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Ladybug in her traditional Thai outfit made by her Aunt Nong.


I love this weather. I'm sure my eggplant and peppers are loving it too. My poor broccoli, please persevere... you'll have your cool weather back in just a few days.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday Garden Club

Amazingly there is a lot to report. The asparagus has sprung out of the ground. I highlighted it with some fancy Photoshop tricks for your pleasure. I assure you, it is even more amazing in person. Ta-da!


We buried the spears a couple inches deeper this weekend. Apparently, we are supposed to do this every 2 to 3 weeks until we fill a 6" trench. The deeper you bury asparagus the thicker the more robust the spears. Even next year we can only lightly harvest them or we will reduce future yield. It'll be a good two years before we have a good crop. Asparagus is the 2nd favorite vegetable in our house despite what it does to our pee.

I've been watering the broccoli a good amount with all the heat we have been getting and some seem to be doing better than others. Below is one of the better looking ones. We are going to have 87 degree temperatures tomorrow and Wednesday before it cools back down to the mid-60's. Crazy.

Packman is the broccoli variety to grow in VA with a quick 50 day sow-to-maturity date.

Below, the strawberries are poking out. Apparently my step-dad Mike use to have acres of strawberries on the farm where he grew up on in Kentucky and he gave me some pointers including making sure we mulch the beds with straw and to take off the buds this year and to not harvest them the 1st season.


Our onions, garlic, and shallots are continuing to do well. They have really taken off. Below is a pic of the onions. Our peas have shot up quite a bit but I will hold on taking a picture of that when they are just a bit more substantial.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!!

Below are the pics of our Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday as promised in the last post. Words can not express how tired and sore we were that day but we managed. G-ma was limping along as well as she was nursing a leg injury. It was a good thing we had a 3 to 2 adult-kid ratio that day to keep up with the kiddos!

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After that we took a brief siesta and then got dressed up for dinner alfresco on the downtown mall. I am a huge fan of pistachio gelato so of course we had to stop there as well...

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Easter Sunday has been a big day. First the Easter Bunny had given us a visit. Ladybug wasn't sure she wanted the "giant", "humongous" or "gigantic" bunny to come by but she was pretty pleased with the baskets he hid around the house. After opening the baskets we had a big pancake breakfast with real maple syrup and sliced strawberries. Yum!

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Later that day, Papa and Grandpa came by and we sat and chatted and had an early Easter dinner together. I made a big ole ham, some asparagus and biscuits like usual for a holiday meal but I altered our traditional mashed potato recipe for one of Jamie Oliver's I saw on Oprah. I didn't measure or anything but I mashed the potatoes with the skins on (keeping all those wonderful nutrients) and added a bit of salt, olive oil and some garlic I had roasted in the oven. It was delicious and heart healthy!


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In retrospect maybe we should have taken off the new shirt G-pa and Papa had given him.



Saturday, April 3, 2010

Charlottesville 10 Miler and Egg Coloring

Above: Easter egg coloring we accomplished earlier this week

What a glorious day!!

I'm happy to report that Nick and I finished our 10 Miler. Nick did really well again achieving a 8:00 minute mile pace. He said he felt like he was going to puke at mile 3 but managed to overcome it and hit it hard the rest of the way. I wish I was such a masochist, but alas, I am not.

I did not push myself to the point of wanting to puke but I did push. I was doing great until mile 8, accomplishing a 10 minute mile at that point. Then I hit a wall and try as I might, I slowed down quite a bit. If I ran like Nick there is no reason I shouldn't have been able to accomplish that, but I am a wuss. I wish I could report our chip times (I'm guessing it'd be about 10:45 miles which isn't terrible for the hilly terrain and the lack of winter training) but unfortunately there seems to be some sort of glitch in the system and the gun and chip times are showing as the same. I know it took me at least a minute to cross the start line so I'm disappointed I can't see my actual time. Oh well!
(***Update, they fixed it (apparently they uploaded the wrong file and my chip time was 10:48 miles... NOT cool.)

After our race I had no energy, but we managed to get out with the kiddos to try a local Easter egg hunt. The kids had such a blast. I will publish another post soon with some photos. Ladybug was ridiculously fast. We caught her more than once taking green eye's eggs when he wasn't looking. After that, we came back home for the kids to take a nap and then ran back out together for dinner alfresco. Oh Spring, how I love thee!