The last few weeks have been rough on everyone’s gardens in the Seattle area. There has been no rain and we had a massive heat wave a bit ago with temperatures well over 100 degrees which is super unusual for this area. I watered like […]
Hello and welcome to the first gardening update of 2021! This year my goal was to expand our vegetable garden and add in more pollinator friendly plants. My usual spring garden supply budget was much larger than usual because we ended up needing a large […]
We are about 10 months into dealing with Covid and things don’t seem to be letting up any time soon. I was looking back over pictures from the year today and I was struck by how sudden everything was last Feb/March when everything shut down. I have pictures from my office from mid-February and then by the second week of March everyone in our house was home and we were adjusting to the chaos. This virus took us by storm and the last year has been extremely difficult all around.
The first few months of Covid for us were all about adjusting to spending LOTS of time together and figuring out how to do work and school at home in a relatively small space. We were all crammed into our living room which is decent sized but with four people on computers in meetings all day it got really loud and difficult to concentrate. We also just happened to be at a natural low point with our groceries towards the end of February and were slightly scrambling to find some much needed items. We tend to eat down our pantry every February and were out of everything, including staples such as soap, TP, paper towels, laundry detergent, rice, flour and beans. We ended up waiting until large bags of our favorite local legumes went on sale and did without for some of the fresher items like tofu for a while. We are mostly vegetarian in our house so the meat shortages didn’t really affect us much.
The hardest part for me was adjusting to working with two loud children at home every day and our oldest moving back home at the same time. My kids are loud and the youngest is still pretty high needs as far as attention goes but he did get way better about playing by himself last spring. We have saved ton of money on daycare costs this year and had almost no summer camps lined up so I made the executive decision to spend a little bit of that savings every month on activities to keep the kids busy. I bought a lot of lego sets, art supplies, coloring books, dig kits and other items to keep them busy on their own. We also tried Outschool this summer with mixed success. I used it mostly for social interaction so that the kids were used to taking instruction from other people and focusing similarly to the classroom.
Staying active while at home has been a challenge for us. We don’t have a back yard that is great for the kids to be out on their own in and our street is pretty busy so they aren’t allowed out there by themselves either. We have been walking our trails nearly every day and bike riding has become a thing in our house with one child learning this summer. Luckily our oldest daughter has time a couple of days a week to take the kids on longer bike rides and that has helped tremendously. Mr. Oscoey and I do not own bikes which I know is probably unheard of in the personal finance realm but neither of us been super into it although I am seeing a need for us to get at least one so that we can go on long rides with the kids. We also splurged and bought a bouncy house which has been a lifesaver! It takes five minutes to set up and about 10-15 to take down (which is mostly time waiting for it to deflate) and wears out the kids fabulously. I bought a bouncy house just small enough to fit in our living room so we have even had lots of opportunities to bounce as the weather has gotten colder. It is pretty loud but I am able to work with it running and since it is pretty contained I could sit inside and work with an eye outside to the kids while they were bouncing this summer which was helpful.
We have tried over the past year to find Covid safe activities in our area but honestly we are pretty cautious and it has been hard. We went to Shadow Lake Bog which was nice but the hike was way shorter than we thought and it ended up being too easy for the kids. We did learn a lot about the bog and saw some amazing things but it was not the rigorous hike I was hoping for. The way they had it set up was you could reserve one of two parts of the bog and then hike it for an hour. We reserved the smaller side and it was about a mile round trip which is how far we walk most days in our neighborhood so for our kids it was not very challenging. The drive out there was almost not worth the hour we had the bog reserved for. I would recommend it for smaller kids or for people that live closer and aren’t spending 45 minutes in the car to get there. I would however love to go back when they have opened up their nature center and we would be able to see both sides of the bog on the same day. There was tons of nature that we don’t see every day and it was really cool to see.
Now that the weather is colder we have been trying to find indoor activities to keep our minds busy. The kids have been doing lots of art, Legos, pretend play, book writing and robot making on their own so I decided to try doing a cooking activity with the kids on the weekend. The first few weeks we baked brownies and made desserts but those don’t take up a lot of time and the weekends were starting to get long so a few weeks ago we tried out making a formal tea for lunch. It was a massive amount of fun! We didn’t dress up but we did get out the good china and practiced our manners at the table and the kids loved it. Everyone helped make fancy veggie bowls, fruit, sandwiches, salami “UFOs” and dessert. We cut our sandwiches into shapes and came up with interesting combinations which most of us tried.
We had a lot of fun with our tea time and I am already thinking of some ideas for the future. We will probably do some more smaller teas but in a couple of weeks I want to do another larger one. The kids and I have been talking about what we will make and thinking about new sandwich combinations. I found some gluten-free digestive biscuits and once they come in the mail we are going to try making the Queen’s favorite dessert which is a chocolate cake made from them. I am sure at some point we will get tired of it but for now, finding something to look forward to and plan for is super important for everyone’s mental health. The days have been blurring together and I realized we were just sitting around all weekend. Doing tea for lunch on Sunday gave the kids purpose for the day and a sense of schedule that we really needed so we will continue to do them every week or two until we tire of them.
Although we have not been out there nearly enough, we are incredibly lucky to have woods to visit on family property out on Whidbey Island. It is great to go out there and walk around in the woods without having to worry about Covid. For the most part we have been maskless except now that cases are skyrocketing in the Seattle area we are wearing our masks to protect my Dad. We have one kid in person at school and we really don’t want to pass anything on to him. We have been super cautious and barely seen any of our friends and family but for us it is worth it if everyone stays healthy.
We spend our time out on Whidbey walking in the woods while my dad shows the kids around. He has found several hiding spots for the kids to play in and has great plans to add cabins to the raw land. Hopefully by next year there will be power and water and we will be able to stay longer than a couple of hours but for now our kids get overtired and antsy after a couple of hours so we head home. Our last trip was about a week ago and it was getting a little bit too cold out to be comfortable so we may not be back for a few months. We saw a bunch of mushrooms this time out which was pretty neat to see.
Covid has definitely made the last year way worse than we ever anticipated but I am incredibly grateful that those around us have been staying safe and we have not lost anyone close to us yet. Just in the past couple of weeks we have been hearing of friends who have been in contact with others that have had it but so far nobody in our inner circle has gotten sick. I am certain however that is because we most likely all had it back in January/February when we all got this horrible sickness that fits Covid symptoms before it was even reported in the U.S.. We are continuing to find ways to keep ourselves entertained at home relatively cheaply and I am hoping that by next spring we will have a little bit more freedom.
Stay safe everyone.
As the nights get cooler and the days shorter our summer 2020 garden is winding down for fall. This summer our vegetable garden stepped up a notch and I planted way more than previous years. We also had a huge pest problem with rodents, ants, […]
This year is the first one in a while I have been excited about my garden. Working from home for the past few months due to the Corona virus has greatly reduced my commute time from 3-4 hours a day to nothing and this means […]
Last April we took a road trip to Walla Walla, Washington for a kid-friendly attempt at doing a bit of Wine Weekend. We have been saying for many years that we would love to go to Walla Walla to pick up wine and this year due to our Declaration of More Family Travel we just went ahead and did it. We left on a Saturday and came back Monday afternoon and it was quite a bit of driving but our kids did pretty well.
Our kids are pretty little still and there is not a whole lot to do in Walla Walla so I did a bunch of research and came up with a few frugal family friendly activities as well as made sure to book a hotel with a pool. We had such a great time swimming in the hotel pool (which we had all to ourselves by the way) that booking a hotel with a pool is now a requirement on family vacations. It was really easy to just pop down to the pool for a quick 30 min swim after dinner before heading back to our room for movie night and the swimming tired the kids out enough that they slept very well in strange beds. I highly recommend it!
Our main activity for Sunday morning was hiking the loop around the McNary Wildlife Refuge. The loop is about 2 miles long and includes a bird blind, many interpretive signs and several benches to rest on. There is an environmental education center at the refuge but it was not open when we were there although we did read many of the signs and learn a lot about the wildlife and plants that are in Eastern Washington.
We took a couple of hours to hike the loop around the ponds because we stopped very often to look at the many birds that were there. The kids learned a lot about what birds live in Eastern Washington, what the seasons were and how local farmers were helping feed wildlife in the winter. It was their first time in Eastern Washington so we also talked a lot about how different it was on the other side of the mountains. The little one was probably to small for a lot of this but it is really important to me that my kids appreciate nature from an early age. My parents took us out on hikes and to different areas of Washington when we were kids and I still remember a lot of what they taught us. I am also a firm believer in giving kids full, more “grown up” explanations to any questions kids ask about their world around them whenever possible. We rarely tell our kids they are too young to understand something and I am always surprised at how much they remember months or even years later.
For lunch we went to a BBQ place that Mr. Oscoey wanted to try called Porter’s Real BBQ. The food was really good! We were all hungry from our hike and the kids took a nap when we got back to the hotel. I am strictly gluten-free and was a little bit worried about finding places to eat since it is such a small town but we had pretty good luck. We also went to Red Robin for dinner the evening before and our hotel had free breakfast which included many gluten-free choices (even muffins!) so my worries were pretty unfounded and there was plenty to eat.
We had a swimming lesson that Monday night we had to get back for so on Monday morning we went for a quick early swim and headed back towards Seattle. I wanted to stop at the Ginko Petrified Forest in Vantage on the way back and do a little bit of hiking. Unfortunately the weather was super cold and windy and everyone was tired so we walked around the visitor center a little bit and headed back.
The kids were mildly impressed with the many petrified logs lying around and we tried reading the signs so they would learn at least a little bit but everyone was tired and just wanted to get back in the car since it was so cold. I definitely want to go back when it is warmer out and the visitor center is open. Since Vantage is so close to Seattle it would be an easy day trip to head back out there again and do some hiking. There are some fairly level hikes in the area that I think the kids could do at least part of and next time we head out we will try one.
One of the coolest things about our stop was looking at the Petroglyphs that were all around the visitor center. The kids really liked looking at them and we talked about how they got there and how old they were. Before we head back there we should probably check out some books on petroglyphs from the library or maybe do some online research. I love the idea of learning as much as you can about local history and visiting the places in person makes it so much more real for kids.
We had a great time on our trip to Walla Walla! We definitely need to head back to Eastern Washington again sometime to visit when the season is a little bit different. It might be cool to visit four times a year and create a nature journal or something like that where the kids do drawings and write about what they see. We could then compare it to previous visits and notice how things change with the seasons but I am getting a little bit ahead of myself since only one of them is able to write a little.
What local places have you visited with your family?
I don’t have any affiliations with any of the places listed below, they are just where we ended up visiting and had a great time.
In case you go:
Mr. Oscoey and I have always loved San Francisco. We went there once many years ago by ourselves for a whirlwind 18 hour trip and had always wanted to go back but never found the time or money. Last fall (while I was laid off […]
Travelling has always been something that we have wanted to do as a family but we have never actually done much of. Before we had the youngest we took 2-4 small trips a year spread between Oregon, the Washington Coast and Vancouver, BC for a […]
It has been a while since I have done a gardening update so I though I would take a few pictures and talk a little bit about them. Our family has been super busy with travel, kids, work and the frequent birthday parties that happen this time of year so not much gardening has been going on. I have made an effort to do some weeding and mulch some areas of the garden but time is limited and the garden is still rough around more than a few edges.
Our Peonies came up beautifully this year. They seem to be recovering from their accidental stomping the first spring we lived in our house. We bought our house in the fall and a large number of dormant plants popped up during our first spring that we had no idea were there. This particular plant was stepped on as it first started emerging while we were digging our asparagus beds. Last year it had one blossom and this year there are several which are very beautiful! We have two Peony plants and honestly even the second year one of them was so damaged I didn’t really see it until much later in the season. Strangely one only one of our Peonies is blooming and almost done. The other has several blooms ready to pop, and even the bees are trying to get inside but they have not opened yet and it has been a couple of weeks. It is pretty interesting how these plants are probably about 20 feet away from each other but they each have their own micro climate and are blooming at different times.
Our strawberries are coming along nicely. We planted one of these Alpine Strawberries we inherited from the neighbors a couple of years ago and now we have several plants along with many, many June bearing plants that have all taken over one area of our garden. These tiny tart strawberries were our son’s favorite last year and the only fresh fruit he would eat. So far this year he has not been as interested but hopefully he will come around eventually!
Our gigantic bush that shades our front door is blooming beautifully this year. In the afternoons it is buzzing with the hum of dozens of bees.
I finally got around to planting annuals in our gigantic pot. It is really heavy and under the cover of the roof so every year I plant annuals in it since watering can be tricky. I also filled most of the pot up with Plastic milk bottles before I added soil to cut down on the soil used and to keep the pot from getting too heavy.
We did official fairy gardens this year for both kids. My daughter had only a couple of hens and chicks left in her pot and some of her fairies were broken so we added a couple more to her pot, some more hens and chicks (a girl after my own heart) and some annuals. I like to do annuals in the kids’ fairy gardens because they love choosing plants every year. Since we use smallish pots there isn’t a lot of room but it is nice for the kids to have a little piece of their own gardens.
My son got to make his own fairy garden this year. He was too young the first year and last year we never got around to it so he was very excited. He picked out mostly pink and red flowers and they look really good. He also picked the red gnome because he looked like Santa Clause which was really cute.
I bought some vegetables for the kids to plant as well. They picked out some squash, snow peas and cantaloupe which is tricky to grow in the PNW. I fully intended to plant them immediately but when I got home I discovered that my garden beds are missing quite a bit of dirt and are at best half way full. I am going to get more soil this weekend so I can get these in the ground before I forget.
I should probably show you a few of my weeds that popped up despite the mulch I laid down. Next fall my goal is to lay down cardboard and mulch and try to keep the weeds in check for next year.
Most of the gardening I have gotten to has been in the front yard. This picture is of my side yard…there is supposed to be a path through there but clearly it is super tiny and mostly non-existent. This area was way over planted by the previous owners and is prone to weeds, despite mulching and regular weeding. I have taken out about half the plants but everything that is there overcrowds. At some point I will probably take out everything on the right hand side but I am hesitant since a lot of those plants bloom later in the year and they feed our resident hummingbirds and healthy bee population.
Despite my lack of time to garden ours is flourishing. How is your garden going this year?
Since being laid off I have been trying to spend time with family and friends. My Dad is nearing retirement and has some free time as well so I have been trying to get the kids out to see him on the family property out […]