Sun – Drenched Solstice

Happy (officially) summer!

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

06.19.16a

Aren’t they just little globes of sunshine?

06.19.16b

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

06.19.16c

06.19.16d

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!

06.19.16e

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!

06.19.16f

06.19.16g

06.19.16h

Peach slushies are a must!

06.19.16i

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!

06.19.16j

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

06.19.16k

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.

06.16.16a

06.16.16b

06.16.16c

06.16.16d

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

06.16.16e

06.16.16f

06.16.16g

06.16.16h

Cantaloupe sprouts!

06.16.16i

Watermelon

06.16.16j

Little tiny cucumbers!

06.16.16k

06.16.16l

Pumpkin plants as far as the eye can see!

06.16.16m

06.16.16n

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.

06.16.16o

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

All That Summer Holds

We are so close to all things summer. We’ve had a few campfire nights with marshmallows, we’ve cleaned off and fired up the grill, and the animals have had their summer haircuts. We’ve even prepped the pool for opening. All we need now is to be done with school and we can really dig into blissful warm-weather activities.

I’ve been pushing hard to finish our materials, but it’s likely going to be a few more weeks before we are done (if you’ll remember, we didn’t start until after labor day, so we are actually right on track).

The gardens are going well, so far. I’ve given up on the peas – they took forever to sprout and now I fear it’s gotten too hot for them. Everything else seems to be thriving, more or less.  I’ve had to replant my cantaloupes, cucumbers, and watermelons due to voles, but tiny sprouts are coming back up and I’ve sprayed some gross organic garlic and egg stuff around that’s supposed to keep rodents away.

Of the 32 tomato plants I put in the ground, 28 are still going strong. I’m calling that a win.  I’m also calling my basil a win – I grew it all from seed this year, and we have about a dozen plants now. With luck there will be an abundance of pesto this year!

We’ve got several different herbs going strong, and I’m hoping to propagate more from them soon, to spread around.

The sunflowers and the corn are nearly knee-high, and the winter squash plants seem to love the composted hay and manure in the back field.

06.01.16f

The wild blackberry bushes are loaded with new berries.

06.01.16g

Little flowers on the tomato plants.

06.01.16h

I’ve spread A LOT of diatomaceous earth on the squash, and a little on everything else, as well. I’ve seen this method work wonders for friends, so watch out, squash bugs!

06.01.16k

The pumpkin plants are getting HUGE. They’ve grown a ton of new leaves since I coated them with DE  last week.

06.01.16i

Down at the stream.

06.01.16j

The back pasture has become downright meadow-like!

06.01.16l

06.01.16m

The ducks are all ready for hot weather, too:

06.01.16d

06.01.16e

Aside from school, working in the garden, and taking care of the various animals, I’ve started making yogurt again.

I used to use my crockpot, which worked out very well, but it was big and unwieldy and didn’t fit in the dishwasher.  I also had to be very attentive with it, keeping a thermometer clipped to the side and wrapping it in towels to keep it warm after adding the culture (the “warm” setting on it was too hot for the yogurt).  Recently, though, I bought a bigger rice cooker (now that we have two extra people here, our little 2-cup machine wasn’t cutting it), and I specifically got the model that also has a yogurt setting. I don’t have to do a thing, AND I can put it in the dishwasher afterwards.

06.01.16a

I’ve been doing 2 quarts at a time, and it’s been setting up much firmer than with my old method.  This is good news, because I don’t need the greek yogurt strainer to have a good consistency yogurt. But….

06.01.16c

I do love a good, thick yogurt.  I’m already deciding what various fruit purees I can make to mix in, now that making yogurt is virtually zero work.

The BIG news around here, though, is Maddie and John’s new little meatball. Or chicken sandwich, if you will. Or even Nacho. All of the food-related nicknames you can imagine.

For this:

06.01.16n

Her name is Twyla, and she’s a 6 month-old Pekingese/Chihuahua/Dachshund-ish mix. We are enjoying her so much while they are here (until late August, or so).  All of the other dogs are just fine with her, and the cats are more or less unconcerned, so long as she leaves them alone. Only Widget seems to have an issue with her, but considering she did try to chase him, it’s understandable. Of course, he outweighs her by a large amount, and his being afraid of her is rather ridiculous and entertaining.

06.01.16b

Oona is going to enjoy every moment of it she can.