Archive for December, 2015
With mild weather the last few weeks we’ve been trying to get caught up in the vegetable garden with weeding and planting. Winter offers a good opportunity to grow a variety of vegetables, particularly herbs and leafy greens. Chris transplanted several dill plants that had self seeded throughout the vegetable beds in an effort to make room for planting onions and other crops.
Chickweed had thrived in both the vegetable and flower gardens already this winter. I’ve been pulling tons of it, and yes, I know it is edible. I just haven’t gotten around to trying it, yet.
We’re a little late in getting our onions in this year, at least for us. My brother who lives in DFW doesn’t put his in until, I think, February. Our onion growing has always been pretty successful around here so I don’t think we’ll have any problems with getting them in later this year.
Most of the greens I planted back in early October are thriving. A few need to get a little bigger before I begin harvesting, but some are almost big enough to start harvesting and eating.
I planted two kinds of parsley and was a little unsure of how they would do as both seeds seemed to take their time in germinating.
I am definitely looking forward to kale salads soon. I love massaging it with some vinegar and olive oil as well as a healthy dose of salt. So good!
In addition to the parsley I planted, I also planted two types of cilantro. I know a lot of people down south try to grow cilantro in the summer and always get discouraged when it blooms (bolts) and I’m constantly having to tell them that it is a winter crop, not spring or summer. It takes some getting used to, knowing that our seasons are different than northern climates!
The mini-gardener likes being out of his stroller these days.
Lastly, on Christmas Eve we planted the sugar snap and snow peas. We managed to get Forest to put two peas in some holes we poked for him, so he’s officially growing his very first plants!
As I type this, on Sunday afternoon—readying this for later in the week when you will be reading it—, it is beginning to rain and soon the cold front that has brought blizzard and snowy conditions to far west Texas and the panhandle as well as tornadoes to DFW, will be blowing through shortly. Our mild temperatures will drop back down to a more seasonally appropriate temperature, which makes me a little bit sad. I really love wearing shorts in December!
On our third night of backpacking in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, we took a relatively flat hike over to Eightmile Lake. There were a few rolling areas but it was an easy hike after our climb up and down Aasgard Pass. It was also a very quiet hike. There were a few people camping on the far side of the lake but we never interacted with them, and we saw no one on our hike into the lake.
It might not have been alpine as the Enchantment Lakes were, but it wasn’t without a lot of grand scenery!
There was a very cool old dam near the end of the lake we stayed at and I poked around there for awhile taking photos.
Down the stream bed I went, poking around some more. Following old stream beds is something I really love to do when given the chance.
I’m a fan of mini-ecosystems and the PacNW is chock-full of them! Moss on trees, lichens on trees, fungi on trees….
It’s enough to warrant a selfie with old trees and their mini-ecosystems.
I’m also a fan of the quiet black and white portrait of seemingly simple things. It makes one wonder just how long something has sat in its position in the world.
I wish we could have explore more of this national forest but I don’t think we’ll be back up there anytime soon. Poking around and seeing a habitat that we’re not familiar with was awesome and I loved that we didn’t just have miles to make, that we had time to rest and enjoy the scenery.
It’s taken awhile but I am slowly feeling like I can begin doing my old kitchen experiments once again. I may not be getting wild hairs on a Friday night at 8pm to make homemade pasta (done it!) but I feel like I can tackle some small projects in the kitchen once again. Suffice to say, the last 15 months have been hard, the first 9-12 months of that the roughest. An adjustment period. Some of the more curated blogs and social media sites are very great about depicting the ability for a new mother to keep up with her old ways, or even a mother with a new baby and several other small kids at home, but the messy side is hardly ever shown. The tears, the feeling of being rushed to accomplish some big goal, instead of being able to enjoy it, the frustrations, and the feeling of losing oneself…you don’t see that.
Chris, thankfully, stepped into the role of chef for most of these last 15 months. This was mostly due to Forest’s need to nurse as soon as we got home from daycare each evening. For months and months, until he was probably almost 9 months, he would take forever to nurse and then he would fall asleep as, usually, would I. Chris would make dinner and then after I would do the dishes. I don’t mind doing dishes, I honestly almost enjoy the satisfaction of getting the dishes washed and either loaded into the dishwasher or put into the other side of the sink to wait for loading. But, Chris’ chef hat was getting worn down and so I’ve been pitching in here and there when I can. I still opt for easy because there’s no time for frou-frou stuff at the moment, aside from weekends. And weekends, well, half the time we’re off doing something and still come home needing something easy.
I planted a lot of radish seeds back in October and most were beyond ready to harvest. I’m not a huge fan of eating radishes raw but I thought it would be fun to pickle them. Several years ago when we were still childless and had gotten back into gardening after being long distance backpackers/field workers without a home for awhile, we were canningaholics and canned so many pickles and jars of tomatoes that we never ate all of the stuff we canned. I even canned peppers…that went into the compost later. Yeah, we had a problem.
So, I had the radishes and shredded them up with some onions and carrots—those from the store—and pickled them in the brine that was my grandmother’s recipe. No sweet pickles for me, which is what many radish pickle recipes on the internet call for. After that, I had a hair to make lemon curd. We’d recently recieved a few lemons from two different people and weren’t going to be doing anything with them anytime soon. I’ve been putting store bought lemon curd in my morning oatmeal on occassion and thought that it would be a nice treat. Also, it seemed easy. Something exotic but attainable.
Best of all, I found a recipe that used honey. I put to use some of the honey from our hive.
Five egg yolks, half a cup of honey, a stick of butter, and some lemon juice later, I ended up with lemon curd. Kind of. It certainly didn’t set like it was supposed to, though the blog recipe I followed suggested it might be runnier than a typical lemon curd made with sugar.
It did end up setting a little more in the fridge and I’ll likely have to freeze the extra to use at a later date, because that’s a lot of lemon curd!
The moral of this story is…life gets in the way sometimes but things start to come back. The urge to be how you used to be returns. While the wild ways you might have lived pre-child might not be there, for awhile at least, you’ll get glimpses of it. You might need the help of a cartoon or three, but you’ll get there in between all of the toddler maneuvering.
Coming up on my wild kitchen experiments for 2016: I got a bread making book for Christmas AND a mead making kit!! Bread and wine, y’all.
PS: Episode 3 of the podcast is out!
+In My Head
Another year is just about over. I’m looking forward to 2016 and moving on from 2015. 2015 was a good year but the first half felt quite heavy. I’m not sure what’s going to happen in 2016 but I do know my parent’s 40th anniversary is in June and my dad turns 60 in September, so those are two milestones to be looking foward to.
I had planned to try to work with Forest on potty training/elimination communication harder during this Christmas break but he came down with RSV and has been extra clingy, sleeping like crap, and lost his appetite, so working with him on that has been thrown out the window. I hope to revisit it sometime in January and get daycare to work with me on it, too.
Homeland has wrapped up for the year, with a somber end note. #SaveQuinn just didn’t happen to work…I don’t think. It’s tv, somehow they are going to either really kill him off or through miraculous and fantasmal television workings, get him to live from his sarin gas ordeal. Next on deck is Downton Abbey at the beginning of the year. I happened to see a spoiler the other day after spending all of this fall avoiding spoilers as the final season aired in the UK. Let’s just say it was a pretty big spoiler, too. But, a good one that gives me hope for this final season!
Also, watching far too much Wonder Pets while we’re off for the Christmas break. We can only wrangle a toddler so long before we need some downtime, and Wonder Pets solves that for us.
+Outside My Window
Mid-spring temperatures paired with the beginning of winter foliage/lack thereof…it’s tricked a few things into blooming early. Looks like we’re going to have a pretty strong front come through in a day or two and get back to business as usual around here. I’m not sure how long that will last, though. I really don’t mind having mild winter temperatures…after all, 8 year in Florida will do that to you.
+In The Art Studio
I haven’t done much in the way of my studio this month. I meant to but I spent time in the evenings upstairs enjoying the Christmas tree this month. I’d like to get back over there and get caught up on my scrapbook. I’ve also had a hankering to do a pastel drawing. Maybe I will make a goal for a small drawing a month for the new year? I’m hesitant to even set goals for art because I never follow through on them.
+In The Garden
Trying to get caught up on weeding here and there in the garden. We really need to tackle all of the fire ant mounds that are popping up, as they do when we aren’t vigilant. The other day we went for a walk in the neighborhood, something we haven’t done in a few months, and laughed at the amount of high mounds in a small pasture. It really looked like a scene from the zoo in the anteater exhibit! I’ve also noticed the leaf cutter ants have gotten out of control in our neighborhood, too. We don’t have any mounds in our yard but the mounds we’ve found are quite extensive.
Chris has been working on modifying the fences that protect the trees, making them a little smaller and nicer, while still being effective at preventing the der from destryoing our trees. Down at the pond, the beavers have made a dent, literally, in a few of the sweetgum trees. Chris has put mesh around the trees he wants to protect and left one for the beavers, a sickly sweetgum that needs to come down anyway.
The warm weather has bok choy trying to bolt so I think I am going to pull the majority of it and freeze it for green smoothies. I froze some two years ago and it worked really well to break off chunks of it for my smoothies. We planted onions and peas in the last week, too. A little weeding here and there is probably all I can hope to do for the next few weeks.
In the last week I read Called Again by Jennifer Pharr Davis, about her 46 day supported thru-hike record in 2011. Scott Jurek broke that record this past summer by 3 hours. As I read her book and remembered that she only broke the previous record by a day, I really believe that it will be awhile before someone else breaks Jurek’s record. The stars really have to align for everything to go well and have that record be broken. Overall, this book was much better than her first. I saw some people criticizing this book for being very general in the description about the trail but the book wasn’t about that. It probably helps that I’ve hiked the trail so I could get a good feel in my head already for where she was at any given moment. There were times I was annoyed with her attitude but honestly, she was probably right to be feeling some of those things, re: her unorganized husband, too chipper friends, hiking mentors pushing too hard. We all have our own mental battles, and feeling how we feel and her expressing the truth, well, I can’t fault her for that, especially in her particular situation. The one thing that did stand out was her mother. I just couldn’t get over the fact how her mother did not support her at all on any of her hikes. It seemed a little selfish, frankly. Sure, her mom finally showed up when she summited Springer Mountain at the end of the 2011 hike but it wasn’t without side comments.
I picked up The Gift of Imperfection once again. I need to work my way through a bunch of books I’ve already started, however a comment that Elizabeth and I talked about on the most recent recording of our Dragonfly in Amber read-along has me wanting to pick up the Anne of Green Gables series and read through the entire series, something I haven’t done in years.
Angry Orchard hard cider and Ruta Maya coffee, plus some Kona blend coffee that I got for Christmas.
Almost two weeks off of work! It wasn’t supposed to be this long but I ended up taking two sick days earlier in the week because Forest was sick, and we were also given from Christmas Even through New Years off of work. I’m also loving this mild and warm weather, though it appears it will be changing soon as a front is supposed to blow through.
What’s up in your world?
We first hiked this loop back in late March when Forest was almost 7 months old! This time we opted for a clockwise route instead of the counterclockwise route.
The trail is the orange line on this map.
It was a little chillier than I expected when we set out that morning and I was thankful that I had a hoodie on my fleece jacket. The sky was overcast and while there were some storms west of us in Austin, we didn’t expect to be impacted during our hike.
There were lots of prints in the first creek crossing we visited, some we could identify and others we couldn’t. Chris mentioned wanting to keep one of those laminated track guides in our packs for reference in the future.
For the most part the trail were rather quiet but we did encounter several different groups of people, some even in the farther reaches of the loop.
This was kind of cool to see at another stream crossing, the merging of a muddier stream with a clear, tannin colored stream.
Finally, a nap for the little dude!
When we got to the west end of the lake at the dam we opted to cross over the dam as there was no water flowing over the spillway and a few other people were already on the dam playing around. It cut off maybe a half mile for the day.
Need some water hyacinth?
We took a lunch break a little over halfway through the hike. Forest woke up from his nap and needed a diaper change. Chris checked the radar and it looked like showers were cropping up so we opted to eat quickly and book it for the trailhead.
On the way back we found a grove of short-leaf pines, Pinus echinata. They are small and cute pine cones!
We were almost back to the car when the sun poked out for about 15 minutes. The sky lightened and the storms that might have appeared, never came.
Overall, it was another great hike on the loop!
It’s official, we’ve let the toddler loose in the garden! Ok, well, not without some heavy oversight!
“No, don’t pull the garlic.”
“Mom, how about these radishes?”
“Yes, those probably need to be pulled, but just pick the leaves for now.” -Me
“Ooh, this dirt-mulch is fun! I wonder what it tastes like?”
“These marigolds are past their prime, Mom!”
“Hey, the pediatrician had these in her office the other day! I know, these can go in my mouth!”
As seen from I-90, heading west
If you’ve been reading here long enough you know that Chris and I went to Seattle and the Cascades for our 10th anniversary in 2012. I never actually finished sharing the photos from that time and since I don’t always have a lot of excursions and adventures to share these days, I thought would try to finish sharing those photos over the next few weeks.
If you missed any of those posts you can flip through them here.
The big chunk of time we spent in Washington State, the primary reason for going, was to hike in the Enchantment Lakes. We had a permit for the Core Enchantment Zone which allowed us leeway to camp anywhere in the permit areas within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. We spent two nights in that Core Enchantment Zone and descended down Aasgard Pass on the third day in the Enchantments to camp elsewhere. The photos give a glimpse of the steepness of the terrain but it is really hard to accurately show just how arduous it was! It seems as if the top of the pass *is just right there* but that’s a good false summit you’re seeing!
As I was processing these photos I was really missing our backpacking day. We’re hoping to get out and do a night or two with Forest this spring but it definitely won’t be as majestic as this place!
When we installed the compost bin in early 2013 we knew that because we were using natural, untreated materials that we would eventually face rotting and need to come up with a different design. The compost bin is sill functioning but it is definitely in a state of slow decomposition. We’re going to have to come up with another game plan in another year or so.
Here’s a chronicle of the pile over the last three years, with related posts near the bottom.
Pre-compost pile, October 2012
The Future Compost Pile
Compost Bin Complete
Compost Bin Update
Last Friday was our work Christmas party and we were able to go home a few hours early after the festivities. Chris was out of town in southern Louisiana for work, a four day trip that turned into 12 days. The weather was unseasonably warm, low 80s, and so I opted to take advantage of a few hours of solo time in the garden while Forest was still in daycare. It was glorious to get some uninterrupted gardening time in but I still felt pressed for time, not accomplishing the amount of tasks I would have normally been able to handle pre-kid. It was ok, though, I weeded half of a flower bed and took some time to walk around and take a few photos. There’s still a lot to do but garden chores aren’t ever really completed. As everyone knows, once you weed a flower bed it is time to weed it again!
It felt really good to just sift through the dirt and really get it caked onto my fingers and under my nails. I went into the session with gloves on but I wasn’t able to get a good grip down into the roots of some of the more stubborn weeds, so off the gloves went.
This is the bed I spent the time working on that day. I took down the faded stalks for the Physostegia correllii, Correll’s false dragonhead, pulled out some grass and sedge weeds, and trimmed up a few other items. It looks so much better, definitely a little more tamed.
I’m not sure which salvia this it but it has thrived in this location. I’m sure the tag is tucked away somewhere down beneath the plant.
Leaves have covered the pathway heavily the last few months. I’ve cleaned up one section a few times and need to tackle the rest of them soon.
The ‘Wendy’s Wish’ salvia will freeze to the ground, if we get a good freeze, but has always come back every year. The Passiflora ‘incense’ has sent runners all over the flower bed and has attempted to swallow the salvia a few times. Behind there, in the background, is the beehive. Chris throws an old packing blanket over it when it gets in the 30s overnight.
Thriving in the back of one of the beds is the chiltepin, Capsicum annuum. We have a variegated one that is also thriving despite neglect.
I was excited to see one of the toad lilies blooming over in the side-yard garden.
Also in the side-yard garden is the planter that Chris carved out of one of the pine tree stumps. It is in need of more dirt since a lot has washed out. I guess we will tackle that in the New Year.
I love the flowering maple now that we cut it back a bit. I’m not sure what will happen to it long term, but it has been a long-term bloomer in our garden.
I tried a little reverse lens macro on one of the flowers without my lens mount. I need to dig the mount out and get back in the habit of taking some more artistic photos.
Double purple Datura seeds.
Our butterfly orchid, Encyclia tampensis on the bottom left and on the top is a mount that Chris has been working on for his dad who recently moved into a retirement complex with a greenhouse. I’m not sure what orchid he’s got on top but the bromeliad is the Neoregalia ‘fireball’.
Chris and I recorded a podcast for The Garden Path Podcast the other night and it will be up for the Monday after Christmas!