Wednesday, October 11, 2017

My Garden Journal

I write this mostly as a journal for myself to record what I planted and how it went, as well as lessons learned. If anyone has gardening tips to share, please do!

Our garden moved this year from the back hill to the flat front yard. We were able to build five garden boxes. They have been doing amazingly well, considering I've had a black thumb of death when it comes to plants. They only thing I've successfully grown in the past is tomatoes and zucchini. This year we planted lettuce, green beans, peas, bell peppers, Fresno chilies, padron peppers, carrots, shallots, white onions, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, cantaloupe, mini watermelon, butternut squash, and sugar pumpkins.
This is what it looked like when we started. Green beans on the left, peppers in the middle, and peas on the right.

Our boxes aren't really deep enough for carrots, so we got itty bitty carrots. But, they were the rainbow variety so it was fun for the kids to pull them up and see what color they got.
The peas did great and had really pretty flowers. I pulled the plants out about a month ago and just planted fall lettuce in their place.

The green beans did great! I only bought a six-pack of plants and we got a lot of beans. Chris doesn't usually like them, but he's enjoyed the fresh ones. Now that they're out of the ground I planted broccoli. I've never grown broccoli, so we'll see how it goes. Something is eating holes in the leaves already. :(
One of our first harvests of beans. I still have a bag of them in the freezer

The three varieties of peppers looked sad at first and we didn't think they were going to make it. Turns out we planted them too early (in April). We had a cool May and they just didn't want to grow. But once the heat showed up they took off and we've gotten lots of little bell peppers and lots of the chiles. The padron's haven't produced quite as well but we can try again next year.

The garden mid-summer. In the left side of this box are the zucchini plants, and the yellow squash on the right. The tall bushy plants in the back are the tomatoes.

The tomatoes have gone crazy! The variety six-pack I bought from Home Depot didn't have a tag, so I don't know what varieties we have, but I do know they are indeterminate because they very quickly grew beyond their cages and are so heavy the cages bent and tipped over. But, we've gotten some beautiful, delicious tomatoes. We've had so many I made this recipe of tomato sauce (that requires six pounds of tomatoes) three times. It's delicious! I also found a recipe from America's Test Kitchen for Torta di Pomodoro (which sounds better than Tomato Tart, Chris was skeptical when I called it that). It was a hit and is now in the tomato recipe rotation. We also like to make fresh bruschetta. It's best on homemade bread. I also made my first attempt at canning crushed tomatoes and was successful (I was terrified of messing it up and giving someone botulism!). I'll save them for soup in the winter. Canning tomatoes is a lot of work though.

The zucchini and yellow squash are producing abundantly. We only have two yellow squash and three zucchini plants and at the peak we were harvesting at least one or two squash a day. I've made lots of zucchini patties, zucchini bread (a modified version of this recipe), and a casserole that uses yellow squash. I've also chopped and frozen it in portions for a vegetable bean soup to make when it cools off. It's also great just sauteed.

The cantaloupe had zero fruit. Lots of flowers, but no fruit. I finally pulled it out the other day. The watermelon had one softball-size fruit, and the rind never got hard. Any tips for doing better with cantaloupe and watermelon next time?

Last year, we got one butternut squash on our plants. I blame the deer, they kept nibbling at the leaves and vines that grew out of the fencing. The advantage of the front yard is the deer can't get in there so my butternut squash plants are happy. There are several squash that look ready to harvest, and the plants are still setting new ones. Yay! Lots of butternut squash this year. :) My favorite way to prepare it is roasted with shallots and thyme. And the next day the leftovers make great soup.

Tucker likes to hunt for lizards in the rocks next to the butternut squash

And I finally grew sugar pumpkins! We picked four little ones and there are two more growing. Hopefully they will ripen before the first frost. I have lots of pumpkin recipes: muffins, cookies, cupcakes, pumpkin spice lattes, and of course pie.

There's more to come, I'll be planting onions and garlic in November. Once the summer crops finish out I'll let the chickens in there to eat up what's left and then prepare the beds for winter. I've been reading up on cover crops. When we started these boxes in the spring, I figured it was a seasonal venture. I'm learning it can be a year-round project to have a garden, but I'm enjoying it nonetheless.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Summer Update

Well Hi! It's been my goal all summer to get a new post up on the blog. And here I am, the last week of summer before we start school next Monday. Did you know I procrastinate?
It's been so long since I posted on here I'm not even sure what to write. I'll start with just an update from the things I wrote about in my last post, which was over a year ago. Sad.

Our fruit trees are still going strong. We've eaten some nectarines this year and they were delicious! Small, but delicious. The peach has some fruit that should be ripe in August. Our Golden Delicious apple tree is loaded with beautiful little apples, so hopefully I can get a crisp or a pie out of them. The pear tree was full of tiny little pears, and then dropped them all. That was pretty disappointing. We've also added another plum tree, so someday I'll be able to make lots of jam, something I've come to really enjoy.

In my last post I also wrote about our newly acquired chickens. Well, since then I am sad to say that we have lost one, Daisy. We've seen a fox a couple times on our property and think it got her while they were out roaming the yard. Hannah found a pile of feathers. :( Since then we've now added three new chickens: Nellie, Nugget and Popcorn. They are too young to lay eggs yet, and are still getting acquainted with the two big girls (our older chickens), meaning they are still terrified of them.

Buster is still an avid hunter, although he did have to take a break for a while after getting a puncture wound in his hind leg and tearing a ligament. We were supposed to keep him inside for six weeks and I think we made it three. He also had to wear the Cone of Shame (Cone of Dunshire?) for a while. He was not happy.
When he's not hunting, he's napping

And Tucker is the same. People still think he's a puppy despite the gray on his chin.

The kids have grown quite a bit. Hannah is now nine and starting 4th grade next week (How does this happen???). She completed her first year of 4H and raised a lamb named Gracie which she sold at the Salinas Valley Fair in King City. I am so proud of her and all the hard work she put in. I certainly never did anything like that when I was nine.
Hannah and Gracie

Caleb is five and finished preschool in May. Next week he will be starting kindergarten at the same school as Hannah. It was sad for me saying goodbye to the preschool teachers, as we may be completely done with the preschool phase of kids. On the upside, the kids will be at the same school and on the same schedule, yay! I will get more than three hours to myself a week which I am looking forward to. And Caleb is excited about going to his new class, but not excited about having to do school at home too. Everyone tells me teaching kindergarten for homeschool is easy, but I'm still nervous about it. I just don't know if he's going to sit still long enough to focus. Pray for me.
Caleb's 5th birthday. He decorated his cake.
Caleb and his preschool teacher on a field trip to the beach
Preschool Graduation

Other highlights from the past year:
Camping in Yosemite

Skiing at China Peak (Caleb's first time)

Hannah got baptized on Easter by Chris

Exploring the Carizzo Plains in the spring

Family trip to a Giants game

Our summer was full and as usual flew by. I got to go to Kauai for my sister's wedding (amazing!). I've convinced Chris we need to go back so we are saving up for that. The kids went to two VBS's and took swim lessons. The absolutely love the water. We made trips to visit family, went to the fair, played with cousins, and boogie boarded in Cayucos. I'm sad to see summer go, but also looking forward to some routine.

I hope you've had a great summer as well. Thanks for reading. I'll try to post again within the next year. :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Hello! Welcome back to my blog. I didn't realize I had taken such a long break. Maybe it's because these two goofballs are keeping me busy.

 Just a little update here on our family farm. Well, we aren't really a farm, but some in my family think so. Our property is almost an acre, on a hill studded with oak trees, quite a change from the suburban landscape of my upbringing. Chris has taken advantage of the hill behind the house to plant our own little orchard. We've got a nectarine, two apricot, peach, fuji apple, golden delicious apple and pear tree. Most are blooming and it is beautiful. These pink blossoms are from the nectarine tree a few weeks ago. Currently the apple trees are showcasing white blossoms.

The nectarine tree was covered with small fruit, most of which we had to pull off because the branches aren't strong enough yet to support it. Here's Caleb showing off a baby nectarine.

The men checking on the trees

The other reason my family considers us a farm is because of our most recent animal additions: our three chickens, Daisy, Penny, and Lucy.
It took a while, but now all three are laying eggs. The kids love checking the coop for eggs and feeding them treats, until the chickens try to see if their fingers are treats. 

And besides the chickens, we still have Tucker and Buster. Buster has proven to be a serious hunter, catching mice, gophers, lizards, and even an occasional bird. He likes to let us know about his hunting success by leaving "presents" on the porch. Gross. 

Now that the weather has warmed up, Tucker's favorite outdoor activity is chasing lizards. He has even killed a few mice himself. Here is the happy dog leaping through the grass to chase something.

We also just added a vegetable garden, this year I'm trying tomatoes, butternut squash, zucchini, yellow squash, sugar pumpkins, watermelon and cantaloupe. I'm am hopeful this year will go better than last, since the beds are protected with chicken wire to keep the gophers out.

And this is the view from our hillside. Gorgeous. I love where we live and am beyond grateful that this is our home.

Coming soon, some inside pictures of our house. As of the end of March, we've been in our house a year and Chris has done an amazing job of transforming it in to a home.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Young Lady

So as of November 8th, I have an eight-year-old. How did this happen??? My little girl is growing in to a young lady. It is so bittersweet to watch your kids grow up. I enjoy Hannah at this age and the things we can do together now, but I still miss my baby too. 

Hannah got an extended birthday celebration this year. It began with a shopping, dinner, and a sleep-over with a good friend. Then on Saturday, the day before her birthday, we had a big family party at our house. One of the perks of where we live is that we're able to see family more often, and that was definitely the case for Hannah's birthday. All six grandparents came, as well as five cousins and aunts and an uncle. 

This is what the three boys did, drive around the yard in the jeep and pull each other in the wagon.

Hannah and her girl cousins on the Vanoli side

Hannah wanted a s'more cake for her birthday. I found the recipe from America's Test Kitchen. It wasn't as hard as I anticipated, except for the part where you put it under the broiler to toast the marshmallows. The first try ended up in flames and charred marshmallows. Thankfully we had more and the second try was a success.

We tried to get a nice family photo, this is as close as we got

On Hannah's actual birthday, we made pizza and had Jammie Family Movie Night in the living room, topped off with more birthday cake. 

Hannah is such a sweet, loving, compassionate, adventurous young lady. I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for her future. (But I still miss my baby too!)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Daily Thoughts

I'm diverging from the usual family update post and sharing some personal thoughts. We're eight weeks in to Hannah's school year and have noticed I am enjoying the home school days more than last year. I am thankful for this, and have felt more content lately with being at home. 

At the same time, sometimes my days feel very insignificant or mundane. The other week I was writing an email to someone I haven't seen in a while, and was giving them a brief update on our happenings. The kids are easy to write about: school happenings, activities, cute things they've said, the like. I realized as I was writing, I had nothing significant to write about me. Nobody really wants to hear about your days when they involve wiping dirty faces, cleaning up messes, giving kids (more) snacks, doing laundry, cleaning the bathroom, etc. That realization left me feeling a bit discouraged, is what I'm doing meaningful? 

Right after journaling/praying about this, I opened up to chapter three of my devotional, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full. Chapter three is all about keeping an eternal perspective as we are raising our children. The author writes, "When the mundane looms larger than eternal life, we forget who God is, who we are, and who our children are." It was such a good reminder to not be fixated on the temporary, daily challenges but think of our kids in light of eternity and as little image bearers of God. I'm so thankful when God leads me to a word that I need in that very moment.

And that evening, in the mundane of brushing teeth and getting ready for bed, Caleb paused (mid-brush) and said, "I love Jesus!" And I reminded him that Jesus loves him too, and so do his Mommy and Daddy. It felt like a reminder from God of what I read that morning, that even in the mundane and the teeth brushing, there is room for eternity. So I'm trying to remember, that though on the surface my days may look unimportant or inconsequential, there is more going on than I can see. These kids are a gift, entrusted to my care for a short while, and I want to make the most of these days.