Hamil-Ween

Have I mentioned how obsessed with Hamilton we all are around here? It’s been the only music played at home and in the cars for months now. We’ve also devoured the book, and though we haven’t actually seen the play, it feels like we know it cold.

Since my children perpetually have Halloween on the brain it was no surprise really when Neve and Oona announced they wanted to go as the Schuyler sisters this year. Since there are 3 – Peggy, Angelica, and Eliza – they insisted that I must go as Eliza. Twist my arm, why don’t you?

Oona was happy to be Peggy (I don’t know, I kind of thought no one would want poor Peggy’s part), so Neve is going as Angelica.

For me, the fun in all of this will be making the costumes. It’s been ages and ages since any of the kids wanted my help sewing their costumes. Neve wants to make hers on her own, but I will be making Oona’s and my own.

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I’m looking forward to a lot of time in my craft room, working on all of the projects I’ve had in limbo. Like the Washi dress I’m halfway through.

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So much sewing, so little time.

If you haven’t hopped on the Hamilton bandwagon……DO IT! Start with the soundtrack; you won’t regret it!

Jamming in the Summer

Lately I’ve been craving jam. A lot. I think it *may* have something to do with my friend Sarah in Canada who keeps posting pictures of all the delicious jams she’s been making the last couple of months. But, as I don’t at the moment have a ready supply of fruit to use (some people around here keep eating it all before it can be used for anything…..), I turned to what I DO have: tomatoes. Tomato jam is incredibly delicious. You can use it in place of ketchup, or slather it on some french bread with chevre  (the yumminess!).  I also wouldn’t judge you for eating it out of the jar with a spoon.

The recipe I use comes from the fabulous Food In Jars by Marisa McClellan. Chopped tomatoes get cooked down with cinnamon, cloves, red peppers, lime juice, ginger, and sugar to make a zesty, sweet/savory, tomato-y jam that will deliciously haunt your dreams forever.

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I can’t wait to put this on everything!

The downside is how wonderfully fall-like it made the house smell, what with the cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. We’re struggling hard to enjoy every last bit of summer before we have to close the pool and pack up our sun dresses and sandals for the year, but the light quality is already changing and the nights have gotten noticeably cooler. Enjoy this last bit of summer, everyone. It won’t last long.

The Pancake Queen

Oona has always been our pancake fiend. Since she was old enough to take her first bite, she’s been completely obsessed. Every morning she’d have pancakes (or “panic-cakes”, as she called them) if she could. The problem is, I don’t necessarily want to make them every day.

Neve is pretty proficient with them, but Oona has also had trouble convincing her to get up early to whip out a batch for her. So recently, Oona decided to take matters into her own hands. She searched around Pinterest until she found a good, easy recipe she could put together on her own. Then she went to work.

Over the past few months she’s gotten good enough that she can make a batch of perfect – if plain – pancakes on her own. I decided yesterday it was time she upgraded to a better recipe.

Now, there are lots and lots of pancake recipes I like, but I decided Oona would love the recipe from New England Farmgirl, by my friend Jessica.  Using maple sugar in the batter charmed Oona right away, and I knew we had a winner.

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She’ll need to practice folding in the beaten egg whites before she gets it just right, but she’s ready to jump in and try.

We decided to use blueberries this time, and the results were just what we wanted: light, fluffy, perfect pancakes.

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I had to restrain myself so as not to eat the entire plate. Before I know it, I’ll be waking up to these beauties more often than not. And how can you start a day better than that?

Escape!

There have been several escapes going on here lately. Firstly, the unintended escape from this blog I apparently had!  I have no real excuse, other than it’s summer, and busy, and yet somehow lazy at the same time.

I’ve also started working very part-time for friends who opened a new business downtown. It hardly feels like work; being in a fun place with your best friends makes the time fly and feel more like you’re socializing than working. It’s my next “escape” that’s been going on: Cville Escape Room. Have you ever been to an escape room? I never had. There are three rooms so far, each with a unique, completely immersive theme. When I’m there, I’m typically greeting people and re-setting the rooms after a group has “escaped”. It has gotten me out of the house and downtown a bit, which is my favorite part of Charlottesville.

My third escape? Book club weekend in Virginia Beach! Believe it or not, my camera didn’t come out with me this time. I felt the pictures were getting redundant, and I always worry about sand and saltwater getting in it and mucking it up. But, I do wish I had captured a group image this year, because we have two new members: Victoria and Maddie. Maddie! Yes, she’s finally official, and finally legal to come with us. And I couldn’t be happier, because she’s recently made an escape of her own. She and John moved into their own place up near D.C., where they’ve both got wonderful jobs. I’m so proud of her and how far she’s come.

But what about farm life, you ask?

The garden has done quite well this year, despite the massive amounts of rain drowning everything.

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Bumper crop of cucumbers, anyone? Before the dreaded wild morning glory weeds choked them out while I was away, the cucumber plants went mad with production power. So much so, that I have more pickles than I will ever need, have been eating them daily for lunch, and didn’t care when they were finally taken over.

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A mere fraction of what is in my fridge.

The zucchini and yellow squash didn’t fare quite as well; the squash bugs made a comeback mid-season. But, I did get enough of both to make it a success anyway.

The tomatoes have been the real disappointment. We had hundreds of fruit set on the vines and then we had several damaging issues. First, deer jumped the fence and trampled the plants, stealing many of the green tomatoes right off the vine. Then, the rain came and made the ground super soggy, causing a lot of wilt. And third, tomatoes in general are very late this year for everyone. So although I still have several healthy plants, the tomatoes are still very green and not wanting to ripen. I’ve gotten a mere handful of red ones.

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Better than nothing, right? I do still count them as a success, because I managed to do everything right: the soil, the mulch, the diatomaceous earth. If not for deer, rain, and mother nature, I’d have more than I could handle.

Then there’s the pumpkin patch. It’s gone insane. HUNDREDS of orange pumpkins. I needed the tractor to carry them all up to the house. Then I spent two damn days washing them in bleach solution to keep them preserved. In addition, I’ve pulled a dozen giant white flat pumpkins, several blue jarrahdale pumpkins, 6 big, beautiful butternut squash, and 2 giant acorn squash. The squash bugs and vine borers got to the field mid-season as well, and since the squash flowers were blooming and buzzing with pollinators, I didn’t want to treat for pests.

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The pigs have enjoyed quite a lot of pumpkins that I couldn’t save from the bugs.

The dogs, sheep, and goats are trying their best to fend of the humidity and the flies. Despite many generous applications of fly repellent and ointments, poor Sabine’s ear is rather raw. She’s gotten squirrely on me now, and if she sees me with anything at all in my hand, she won’t let me near her. She’ll be happy once fly season is done.

Piper is recovering from getting her foot stuck in the joint of a tree trunk. She’d been stuck there all day when I found her, and it took some doing to get her freed. Her skin above her ankle tore down to the bone (it’s very thin there anyway), but she was patient as I cleaned her up and got her sewn back together. The wound itself is now cleanly healed, though she’s had some secondary swelling in her hoof off and on. She’s walking just fine again, regardless.  My main concern is flystrike for everyone, though, so we’ve been keeping a vigilant eye out. I still get no shortage of enjoyment out of seeing them out there every day, and coming to the fence to beg for treats.

And, of course, I can’t help but try to infect everyone else with my enthusiasm for my fibery babies.

wooltags

Enjoying Summer

It seems I took a longer break from this space than I intended!

We spent a week in town for the kids to attend theater camp with Missoula Children’s Theater – they performed Alice in Wonderland this year – and then they brought home terrible colds for us all to share. In other words, for the past two weeks we’ve been either rushing around like mad or spending our days feeling like grim death. Not a single marshmallow was roasted, nor a single swim taken.

But today! We are all on the mend, and the weather promises sun and warmth. Today we begin our summer vacation in earnest (well, you know, aside from the farm chores that never end).

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The garden is producing plenty of summer squash and cucumbers. Today I’ll be working on pickling the cukes.

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There are dozens upon dozens of pumpkins in various shapes and sizes in the pumpkin patch. I couldn’t resist grabbing a few of these little guys.

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Only about 10 corn stalks made it, but they are taller than me now.

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I’m crazy happy with the army of sunflowers I have growing out there among the winter squash.

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Churchill

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Charlie

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Darby

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Perivale

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Lyra

There’s plenty of work to be done – the dogs need a good brushing again, and there’s a crazy amount of weeding that seems to never make a difference – but I’m also finally finding time to relax with some reading or my knitting. I’m hoping in the next few days to find my way back to the sewing machine as well!

At the very least, there are marshmallows with Oona’s name on them, and she’ll make sure they get taken care of this evening.

Sun – Drenched Solstice

Happy (officially) summer!

We celebrated with fresh-picked peaches, berries, our first pesto of the year, and s’mores.

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Aren’t they just little globes of sunshine?

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Speaking of sunshine…..my sunflowers are starting to bloom!

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The berries are really starting to come in now. I’ve been putting at least as many directly into my mouth as into the basket as I pick them!

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Maddie brought Twyla along to pick peaches; she had a blast meeting new people and smelling new smells. The poor little thing completely passed out from all the excitement in the car and slept for a few good hours afterwards!

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Peach slushies are a must!

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We brought home 25 pounds of peaches, and I went to work to preserve those that weren’t going to be eaten right away.  I couldn’t wait to put up a batch of this peach salsa from Marisa McClellan’s  Food In Jars, which is among my favorite cookbooks ever. While cooking, it made the house smell heavenly!

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Post-dinner wine for me, s’mores for the kids.

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We stayed out and played Mad Libs while waiting for the full moon to rise. The temperature was perfect and for once it wasn’t too buggy. I can’t think of a better way to have spent the longest day of the year!

When Summer Comes

The solstice may not be until next week, but it is summer nonetheless!  We are winding down our school year (it just never, ever feels finished!) and will be done just in time for our yearly week with Missoula Children’s Theater at the end of the month.  The kids are burnt out, I’m burnt out. It’s going to feel great to be on summer vacation (then I can listen to the Hamilton soundtrack ALL DAY LONG without guilt!).

We HAVE been swimming already, and we have been busy making s’mores in the evenings.  We’re hoping that the weather will cooperate so that we can go peach picking for the first official day of summer. I’m dreaming of peach chutney, peach salsa, peach cobbler, and fresh peaches for mid-afternoon snacking. We’ve already stuffed ourselves silly with cherries this season – though sadly we had to buy them at the grocery store, as our local orchard lost their crop this year due to the early heat followed by a late frost.

As for my own fruit trees, it’s a mixed bag. I still have 3 cherry trees chugging along out there, growing, but very slowly. The challenge here has been deer.  Three of our apple trees are HUGE and doing really, really well (though I can see that I will eventually have to break down and spray them with fungicide….ugh), and one is puttering along at its own leisurely pace. As for the peach trees – one remains.  Most likely I will try and put more in this fall; I’m not giving up that easy!

My grapevines on the other hand….they are not only growing, they are THRIVING. With luck, one day I’ll be flush with concord grape jam!

This year has been a bit trying for the vegetable gardens, as well.  Such a prolonged, wet, and chilly spring meant that the hot weather veggies took longer to grow, and not all of my seedlings survived. However, those that did seem to be loving the heat lately.  The early and generous coating of diatomaceous earth helped a bit as well, but not quite enough (we really do have quite the epidemic of squash bugs here), and I was sadly compelled to use a permethrin powder on the summer squashes.  Fortunately I was vigilant and aggressive this year and I was able to apply the powder well before the flowers grew and opened, thus avoiding problems for the pollinators. As a result, we may yet have a pretty decent squash harvest.

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I planted about 32 tomato plants this year, and I have just over a dozen doing well now.

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Cantaloupe sprouts!

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Watermelon

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Little tiny cucumbers!

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Pumpkin plants as far as the eye can see!

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Acorn squash!

I am amazed every time I go out to the very back garden, where all the pumpkins, winter squash, and corn are planted. It seems to quadruple every day. It’s not a well organized garden, as this year was more of an experiment to see how a garden out there would fare, but it sure it growing like mad!  Next year I’ll have to spend time tilling it and spreading out the earth into more even rows.

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I’m feeling really optimistic about this year’s progress. I’d better get the pressure canner ready!