A blog about family, food and fun!

Tag: cooking

Uber Frugal Month January 2018 Wrap Up!

Uber Frugal Month January 2018 Wrap Up!

We have come to the end of our Uber Frugal Month Challenge and we were pretty successful! We kept to our super low grocery budget, were mindful about our purchases and had some great discussions about where we want our life to head and what […]

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 4

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 4

We are entering our final days of the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month Challenge and it has been a great refresher for us to get back into our frugal habits. I am finally caught up on all of the emails and they really made us think […]

Gardening Goals for 2018

Gardening Goals for 2018

Last week I posted a sort of list for our financial goals for 2018. Today I wanted to lay out some goals we have for our garden.  We learned a lot last year about where the best light is for our small vegetable patch and this year we will definitely be making some changes. This year is our third year working on the garden and every year we learn a little bit more and improve our garden space.


Some things that worked for us last year were squash, green beans and pumpkins.  Our pumpkins took up way too much space though so next year instead of planting four plants I will just stick with two and I am going to put them in the side yard so they can grow all the way down our hill. We loved our green beans and squash but I am embarrassed to say we did not eat all of it in time. Since we didn’t get enough each day to make a meal out of it or to freeze in a decent sized batch, some of our beautiful produce ended up in the compost bin.  We still have one pumpkin, two decent sized spaghetti squash, and a few tomatoes that slowly ripened on our window sill left but other than that everything is gone.


Spaghetti Squash!


My plan for next year is:


1. Organize my garden planning with a garden journal

This has been on my list for the past two years and I just haven’t followed through. I even bought a beautiful notebook and colorful pens to make wonderful drawings of all the plants we will grow but besides a few lists of what we planted (I think) it hasn’t been touched. I am pretty sure I wrote down what I planted at the beginning of the season but my notebook has been collecting dust since last spring so at some point in the next week I will get it out and start recording for this year. This year I want to have some simple diagrams of where we plant things for crop rotation and a better list of what grew where.  I absolutely love how organized Annie over at 15acrehomestead is. She has tons of great posts for organizing your homesteading projects. I especially love this one where she lays out how to plan your projects for 2018.


End of season harvest.


2. Plant enough zucchini, green beans and peas to freeze for the entire year

This one is a little ambitious. We did not plant peas last year so I don’t know how well they will do in our space but I am hoping to find somewhere they do well. We need probably two more zucchini plants for a total of four to grow enough for the winter. I am the only one who eats it so we don’t need a whole lot but the challenge will be getting it processed every day. Last year we got quite a few green beans but the way I planted them made them hard to harvest and we did not inoculate at all (whoops) so I think as long as we get enough plants growing at the right time and I stay on top of picking and processing them we will be able to produce enough green beans to feed us all year. I am really excited about the possibility of green beans from our garden next winter! It turns out they are the only green beans my son will eat and it was a sad day when I cooked the last of them and then he refused the ones I bought at Costco as a replacement.


English Ivy climbing our tree.


3. Remove the ivy from all of the trees in our backyard

We got a good start last summer pulling English Ivy off of the trees in our backyard and this year I would love to finish.  I would also like to remove all of the ivy off the ground which is doable but it will constantly grow back so it will be an ongoing battle. English Ivy is a horrible invasive species here in the Pacific Northwest and many of the trees in the greenbelt behind our house are covered in it.  If we don’t girdle the ivy on the trees near our house at some point the ivy will weaken the trees enough to cause them to topple over in a windstorm.  We have frequent windstorms in our area so the possibility is definitely real.  Every day I drive down the street behind us and look at these giant trees that are covered past their lower branches with a ring of ivy at least 3 feet thick all the way around. I know some day soon at least one of those trees will fall and completely block the road. I am really hoping that nobody gets hurt when it happens.


Ornamental plants in the front yard.


4. Continue to replace our high maintenance ornamental bushes with food producing ones

The lady that lived here before us densely planted these gorgeous ornamental bushes that are very pretty but require constant pruning and I am sure fertilizer.  They also require a large amount of water in the summer which is pretty wasteful to me.  The one thing I love about all of our flowery bushes is the healthy bee population they support.  All spring and summer our yard is buzzing with friendly bees that easily pollinate our fruits and vegetables.  The amount of pruning and watering they require is too much for us though so we are slowly replacing them with lower maintenance native plants.


Blueberries on our bushes.


5. Continue to keep our berry bushes and fruit trees in top shape

We love our fruit at this house! Last year we planted some raspberries, a pear tree, a blueberry bush and some strawberries in addition to the apple tree and blueberry bushes we already had.  At this point we really don’t have room for much else without a major front yard overhaul so our goal is to keep them healthy and producing throughout the summer!



We have really enjoyed having a yard for the kids to play in. The back is pretty steep though and requires some skill to navigate safely so this year will be the first year our son is able to walk around back there on his own.  The kids had fun helping me pull ivy last weekend and I introduced them to the cool space I found underneath a bush that could definitely be a fairy hideout.  I am looking forward to spring and seeing the yard come alive again.  What projects are you working on this year?




Dried Banana Chips

Dried Banana Chips

One of the easiest, cheapest and healthiest snacks I make my kids is dried banana chips. My son absolutely loves them! We buy a couple of bunches of bananas at Costco for $1.39, slice them up and put them into the dehydrator and at the […]

Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Baking chocolate chip cookies with the kids is one of my favorite family activities. When we had to go dairy and gluten free I was a little upset but I found a way to make chocolate chip cookies with some easy substitutions. Back when we […]

Blueberry Picking 2017

Blueberry Picking 2017

We have had a super busy summer and I was really bummed that we missed the July blueberry picking season. Our bushes are only a couple of years old and don’t produce anywhere near enough berries for us to freeze. They were eagerly eaten every day by the kids with very few to spare. I was super excited to hear from another mom at gymnastics that there was a local U-pick farm that still had blueberries! We cancelled our plans to try an easy hike with the kids and headed out to pick as many blueberries as we could manage.



The farm we went to was super close and I am really glad I found it because the blueberries were delicious! My blueberry hating husband even liked them and actually ate a few. The kids of course ate themselves silly and enjoyed every moment of it!



We grabbed a couple of smaller buckets and one gigantic 5 gallon bucket to consolidate our berries into. It was a pretty hot day and we were worried about the kids overheating so we picked at lightening speed. Luckily blueberries are much easier to pick than raspberries or strawberries because you do not have to be super careful about placing them into your container.  I just placed my bucket underneath a large blueberry covered branch and let them fall into the bucket as I massaged them off of the branches.  It took us less than an hour to fill our five gallon bucket with over 20 pounds of blueberries!



The biggest issue we had was the fear of losing one or both of the kids.  The bushes were overgrown and touching each other in many places so you could not see down the rows at all.  We split up with one kid each and made the kids wear their hats for both eye protection and visibility.  I highly advise buying your kids neon hats and jackets so you can easily pick them out in a crowd of people or when you are outside with them.  It was really easy to keep track of my son’s bright orange Tigger hat even when I couldn’t see the rest of him.



I don’t remember what type of blueberry we picked but they were not organic (which I found out later on). Next time we will try and find an organic blueberry farm to pick from or I will see if the farm we went to has some that are organic.  There were tons of them on the bushes though and we did not have to walk very far to pick all that we needed.



We did however come home with two half flats of berries and I am super excited to eat them this winter!




I immediately started freezing our berries in batches on a cookie sheet.  We froze about three gallons total and I still have a half flat left.  We have made blueberry jam in the past but we typically do not eat enough of it so we decided not to this year.  We also have tons of raspberry jam which will be plenty of jam for us!



All week we have been eating blueberries on our cereal and our ice cream and the kids and I absolutely love it! We haven’t decided what to do with the rest of the berries yet and we may try to dry some of them in the dehydrator but I am really hoping my husband will make his famous blueberry peach pie!


Did you pick blueberries this year? What are some of the ways you prepared them?



Guest Post: Toum (Garlic Sauce)

Guest Post: Toum (Garlic Sauce)

Hello, Mr. Oscoey here. If you don’t love garlic, you should probably just move on to the next post. If you love garlic as much as my family does, or you have a vampire problem, read on.   This site participates in affiliate links and […]

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Banana Bread

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Banana Bread

Banana bread was one of those things I always meant to make but never got around to. We would put bananas in the freezer and inevitably forget about them. I have tossed so many bananas into the yard waste I can’t even remember. Part of […]

Garden Update July 10th 2017

Garden Update July 10th 2017

We have had a busy week in the garden! Lots of flowers are in bloom and we spent many hours pulling ivy along the property lines in anticipation of our fence measure this week. We are very close to being done with the fence line and once that is done we will start clearing the center of our fenced area. I am really excited to finally be able to use our back yard. That ivy has been staring me in the face for almost two years. Once it is out we will be able to start working on landscaping the back and possibly adding our chickens.



North property line before ivy removal.



North property line after ivy removal. We took out a 3-4 foot buffer so that the fence company could measure. We don’t have room in the yard waste for the massive amounts of ivy we removed so we moved it towards the middle of the ivy patch where it wouldn’t be in anyone’s way. Next week I am doubling our yard waste pickup so that we can fill up two toters every week. That may still take us all summer to slowly add it but it is our best option at the moment.



View of the north property line from the bottom of the hill. The slope is moderately steep here. There was also quite a bit of native blackberry mixed in with the ivy and I am looking forward to checking it later in the summer for berries. There is a huge patch of it on the slope below my neighbor’s house on the public part of the ravine.



We also spent some time removing ivy in the south east corner. This area is behind a landscaped section and was pretty jungle like. I found a large amount of holly back here which I am pretty bummed about. It looks like the previous owners chopped down a pretty big holly tree at one point but left the stump which promptly sent out dozens of runners.  I am not excited to remove them.  We also cut down some of the lower hanging branches on the hemlock trees in this area since they would have interfered with the fence and were pretty dead looking. I did not get a picture of those before the light gave out but it looks much better.



In the ivy jungle I found an abandoned bird nest. It was pretty cool to find it and I am really glad the birds weren’t using it any more.  One of the reasons we are pulling ivy out is because it provides shelter for rats to live in.  I do not want to encourage them to live near our house, especially if we get chickens.  The ivy behind our house has seriously damaged several large trees and needs to be pulled down so that the trees can recover and not fall on our house in a windstorm.  English Ivy is nasty stuff and it will take many years to remove it from our yard but many of our neighbors have neglected their large trees and I am really concerned several will come down in the future.





In anticipation of a new fence we cut some of the lower branches off of  one of our hemlock trees. They were starting to grow over our path down to the ravine and parts of them were very dead looking.  Basically they were hair-pulling spider havens so they had to go.  We were told last summer that we should cut some of them out to allow more light into the back yard and quoted $500-600 for them to come out and remove them.  It took my husband 30 minutes with a ladder and our tiny chain saw to cut four or so branches down and open up the pathway.  He spent a little bit longer cutting up the branches a bit and burning some of the smaller ones but we do that sort of thing after every winter storm so it wasn’t a big deal.  It really goes to show that if you have a little know how and a willingness to work you can save a ton of money doing as much as you can by yourself.  I grew up cutting down trees and clearing land and I am really enjoying working out on ours. We will have to hire someone to remove trees since they are so close to the house but we can definitely handle the smaller stuff!



On a more positive note our gigantic hydrangea bushes are in full bloom.  They are absolutely gorgeous. I love hydrangeas and I am really glad our house has such beautiful ones!



Some of our other plants are finally blooming. Our butterfly bush has a few blossoms and the fuchsias are just starting to flower.  I am really glad the flowers are coming out because I am having a problem getting my squash flowers pollinated.



Because my vegetables aren’t getting pollinated very well I went out and bought some lavender plants to put next to the vegetable garden. I am going to take out our boxwood hedge and make a lavender hedge instead.  I am hoping that will solve my squash problem.



My daughter also wanted me to take some pictures of her fairy garden. It is growing very well. Everything is blooming and growing fast.  I may have to talk her into moving it to a larger pot next year.  She checks on it every day and we talk about how the flowers are doing.  It is really sweet to see her take ownership of her plants and care for them so well.



Our fruit garden is doing well. The apples are growing and looking very healthy.  We have been picking a handful of raspberries and blueberries every day. Thanks to my kids they never make it inside but they have a lot of fun picking them and eating them.  My son is not a fruit person but he will eat fruit from our garden!



Our tomatoes still have a few fruits on them. Many of the other gardeners in my local community are having trouble growing tomatoes this year. Last year we had such a bumper crop I am not surprised. We had way too many tomatoes last year so having way fewer is totally ok with me.



My sunflowers were doing so poorly after being attacked by slugs that I went out and bought a dwarf sunflower to plant near the squash. I am hoping it will attract some bees as well as grow enough so that we can get a few seeds from it.  Of course after I planted it my other sunflowers started taking off but that is ok. They are nowhere near close to blooming so I think it will help to have them blooming at different times.



I have one large yellow zucchini but there are also now some smaller ones so I have a little hope! The new ones happened after I planted the sunflowers and bought the lavender and I can’t tell if they have been pollinated yet but keep your fingers crossed!



There are two spaghetti squash out in the garden and this one is getting pretty big. It is about the length of my hand right now and it has doubled in size over the past few days.  I love spaghetti squash so I am really excited about this one!



There are a few female pumpkin flowers. Most of them shrivel up shortly after blooming. This one was closed mid-day so I am hoping it has been pollinated.  I tried hand pollinating another one so that we will get at least one pumpkin this year.  Hopefully it worked!



My squash are completely taking over my beds. I have had to corral the pumpkin ones several times. They keep trying to escape to the neighbor’s yard. I honestly didn’t think many of them would grow so next year I will know and plant only a couple of them.




Our bush bean plants are doing very well.  They just started flowering and I did see a couple of bees on them this morning so we should get at least a few beans out of them.



Our green beans are still struggling. They were pretty eaten up by slugs but are recovering.  I need to put some netting over our bamboo poles to help them climb.  I changed the watering system around a bit so that they are getting more water and they seem to be doing better now.



Our freeloading ground cherries are thriving despite being stepped on almost daily. A few of them even have a few fruits on them so we are excited to eat some and see if they taste as good as last year’s.



The carrots have finally started taking off.  They have really been putting out a lot of greens and I am excited to try drying the greens this year to add to recipes.  I found this excellent article on A Modern Homestead that details how to use carrot greens in your cooking. I am really excited to try some of her ideas!


Whew. A lot went on in our garden this week! I am really excited that our vegetables are starting to take off and hoping to start harvesting some of the squash this week. We will be spending a bunch more time on ivy removal and clearing up what we can from the back yard. I am already thinking about projects for next year and what we will do differently in the vegetable garden.


What is happening in your garden this week?




Easy Vegetarian Burritos

Easy Vegetarian Burritos

We have been trying to eat both healthier and cheaper in our house and besides beans one of the ways I have been trying to do that is to add more squash into our diet.  I love squash.  I am really excited about our zucchini […]