Making My Peace With Summer

It’s probably abundantly clear to most people who know me well that summer is not my favorite season.  I have very little tolerance for the heat, and as for the bugs, well.

But it wasn’t always this way.  My dislike for summer is fairly recent – it started about 15 years ago when we moved to central Virginia from upstate New York.  Most of my summers as a kid were spent on lakes or rivers in a place where most people still don’t have central air.  If they do, they don’t need to run it more than a week or two a year.  We run ours nearly non – stop from May through October.

Of course we save on the heating bills come winter.

My point is summer used to be fun, full of swimming and fresh garden vegetables, drive 0 in movies and soft – serve ice cream.

My kids rarely get to see the outside world until late afternoon, once the sun is not so intense and it’s not too hot to swim.

This makes me sad, and I am trying to make sure we have a better summer experience than years past.  We’re still enforcing the “no being out in the sun if it’s over 100” rule, but having the pool makes it easier to have some summer fun.

The garden is also helping me out with my summer malaise.  Good fresh tomatoes and basil and cucumbers go a long way to cure the “I miss winter” blues.

I’ve been conquering some of the heat by reminding myself that without me being out there to manage it, the garden wouldn’t thrive.  Every day I am out there to water it, pull weeds and take care of the squash bugs that have yet again invaded.  The best way to control them without chemicals is to crush the eggs whenever you find them – and find them I do.  It’s pretty gross, and I usually find a few mature bugs to deal with as well.  All in all, however, this daily attention has saved me the infestation levels I have suffered in other years.  Plus – the rewards are many.

Like this beauty, not too far from harvest-ability:

It’s a Dixie Queen Watermelon, and I hadn’t even realized it was there until today.  There’s several little ones around it.

I am so excited for them to mature fully so we can enjoy them!

There’s some pie pumpkins beginning to orange (not enough, but hopefully we’ll get a few more before the vine stops producing), about 6 or so acorn squash getting darker by the day, and about a bajillion butternut squash – several of which look close to done.

This fall we’ll have plenty of my butternut squash and apple soup.

With cucumbers I picked from the front garden today I made 4 jars of refrigerator pickles and then picked fresh basil to make pesto for dinner.

This is what saves summer for me.  I’ll try not to whine so much about the way the humidity deflates my will and the heat saps my motivation and instead I’ll savor some freshness from my garden.

But I’ll still quietly look forward to fall.  Just sayin’.

Summer Baking

I know, I know.  Considering it’s been dangerously hot out for the last week baking doesn’t seem quite like the thing to do.

Thankfully Paul doesn’t mind that I keep the AC set to 70.

There’s been so many zucchini from the garden and there’s local peaches for sale at our Whole Foods Market, so I was itching to do something.  Plus my computer got virused and I couldn’t get online for a few days.

Not that I honestly have wanted to do anything while it’s been this hot other than lay around and nap (the pool water’s been into the 95 range, so we can’t even swim) , but I couldn’t let all this goodness go bad.

First up was a twist on plain ol’ Zucchini Bread that I found while wandering around Pinterest.

Zucchini Blueberry Bread. (Click the link to go straight to the recipe)

Fortunately I am also swimming in an abundance of eggs so I got to use of some of those as well.

Grated zucchini plus plump fresh blueberries in a sweet and cinnamon-y batter.  Yum!

I can tell it’s awesomely good, but I can’t tell you much more because Neve’s  barely let me have any.

Clearly it’s excellent summer snacking for the 8 year old crowd.

Next up is Peach Cobbler from a Country Living article a summer or two ago.  It’s made in a cast iron skillet, which I find incredibly charming and rustic in a fruit dessert.

You can go right to the recipe by clicking on it above, but basically you get a bunch of fresh peaches, scald them in boiling water to soften them up a bit and make the skin slide off nice and easily.

You make a luscious topping with your dry ingredients (plus a hint of dried ginger) and toss your sliced peaches in a bowl with sugar and vanilla.  I added a bunch of cinnamon as well.

Throw it in your cast iron skillet, top it with your chilled topping like so:

Throw it in the oven and bake it and enjoy the magnificent aromas that will fill your kitchen.

Then it will disappear with alarming speed, I guarantee.

Just like peach and zucchini season will disappear before we know it as well. So go forth and enjoy the fruits of summer while they last!

Butternuts & Baby Chicks

We have been thoroughly enjoying the last two days here.  A cold front has apparently pushed through because it’s been in the lower 80’s with low humidity.  Just gorgeous!  If this was what summer was like here I’d have no cause for complaint.  It does make me wish we lived back up in New England but then we’d be complaining about the bitter cold all winter, so yeah.

We have had some sad moments – two of our new chickens, Squeak and Arwen (both gotten this past spring as babies) were taken by a fox two days ago.  I saw the fox from inside the house and ran outside screaming and clapping my hands and managed to scare it off, but it (or an accomplice) had already gotten two of our girls.  There was a trail of Arwen’s feathers off into the woods and no sign of Squeak.  It’s very sad and frustrating, but we are determined to build them a Fort Knox style enclosure soon – one that they can’t fly (or climb, as those dummies have been doing) out of, because there will be a roof.  If we had 4 or 5 dozen chickens then missing a few here and there wouldn’t be so bad.  But we have just about 2 dozen.  Enough that it’s noticeable.

However, at least one industrious hen is looking to help out in that regard.

Our Blue Copper Marans Hen, Amelie, has gone broody.

She’s sitting on a small cache of 7 eggs, hopefully all of which are fertilized.  I’m still counting down the weeks (maybe months) until our 3 remaining Ameraucanas (Arwen was the 4th)  start laying their blue eggs.  It will be nice to have those again.

I am also counting down until I can harvest the butternut squash, which is going gangbusters right now.  I spied a few squash beetles that I am going to have to deal with and I hope all the squash can mature before the bugs get the better of them.

The Jack Be Little pumpkins are starting to deepen in hue and I am seeing the beginnings of my Acorn squash, yellow crookneck and sugar pie pumpkins.  There’s also the start of some Blue of Hungaria pumpkins.

My Sugar Baby watermelon vines are looking fantastic but so far there’s been no flowering.  Hopefully it will happen soon!

All of the seeds I planted this year came from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

I’m excited to be growing these rare-ish old – fashioned, non GMO seeds.  The selections were beautiful and interesting to look at.  I’m looking forward to when I can have a much larger garden and grow more than enough for us.  My summers will undoubtedly be slammed with canning at that point, but come January, it will be worth it.  Hopefully this winter we’ll still be enjoying the slow roasted tomatoes from this summer.  If they ever ripen.

No, I’m not impatient.  Not one bit.

Nope, not at all.

Beating the Heat

We’ve been dealing with some nasty heat here in central Va.  It’s been so hot that even the pool is not a good idea during the day.  The water in it is up to almost 100 degrees.  That’s the one downside to a smaller pool – the water heats up fairly quickly in this brutal weather.

It’s been real work making sure the chickens have plenty of water and keeping the garden from frying up to nothing.

As for us, the lighter the food, the better.

I brought home some local peaches last weekend with the intent to make a cobbler but never got around to it.  Then the kids snacked on a few, and before I knew it I had too few overripe peaches to do much of anything with.

But what I DID have was a new popsicle mold sent to us by our lovely friend Jen.  I also had a big tub of Greek yogurt that was nearing its expiration date.

Et voila!  Just like that an idea was born.  I threw the peeled and chopped peaches into the blender along with the yogurt and a splash of vanilla extract and whipped them up.  Then we poured it into the popsicle mold and stuck it in the freezer.

No recipe required, and Oona approves!

Burgeoning Bounty

Last evening when I went to check on the squash and do some weeding I was greeted by the pleasant discovery of one fresh zuke ready to pick and the rest of the squash plants exploding.

My little pickling cucumbers are still very tiny but are promising plenty of yummy refrigerator pickles in the coming weeks.

Butternut squash!!!

I’m super psyched to see my Jack Be Little Pumpkins are well on their way.  They’re just about the right size but they need to darken up a bit before they’re picked and dried for fall.

Then there’s the tomatoes we’re salivating over.  I have roughly 18 tomato plants starting to fruit right now.  They’re all heirloom varieties: Bloody Butcher, Money Maker, Tigerella, and Amish Paste.  The bulk of them will be slow roasted and then frozen to provide us with a taste of summer all year.  Many more will be eaten straight off the vine.

I am so hungry right now.

Car Care With Paul

Caroline and Zac will soon be making a road trip with some fleeces and so Caroline hopped over today so Paul could do a quick once – over on her car to be sure it’s up to the trip.

Caroline couldn’t resist climbing under the car with Paul to get a look at everything he was checking  out, and managed to learn quite a bit about it.

She was so enthusiastic about it that it made it fun.  (Normally I stay far away when Paul does these things).

How often do you get to get a good look at what’s going on under your car along with a lesson in things you should be looking for?

As quick a study as she is, soon Caroline will be adding “auto maintenance and repair” to her long list of skills!

And The Winner Is…..

Happy 4th everyone!  I loved reading everyone’s favorite things to do for the holiday.   I am going to be doing what a lot of you plan to do : relax!  It’s a great holiday – no big fancy meals to prepare, no presents to wrap, no costumes to make.

And so, without further ado, the winner, selected via random number generator is:

Louise Edsall.

“Wow beautiful Noro. Favorite fourth activity is storytelling pantomimes by sparkled light. My dad started this tradition and I love it. Of course this has followed a BBQ, homemade ice cream, s’mores and a trip to watch local fireworks

Congratulations Louise!

Send your address to amykaraszAThotmailDOTcom and I’ll get that package right out to you.

Have a great and relaxing holiday everyone!!!