Cross-stitching is something I picked up many years ago when I was having some health issues and forced to rest for periods of time. If you know me, I hate sitting around watching TV and I love to keep my mind/body busy so when I […]
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. […]
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, slugs and pill bugs decimating some of the plants. I planted a full packet of green beans and got only one viable plant. I was very bummed about the lack of green beans this year. Fresh green beans off the vine are one of my favorites!
We had a bumper zucchini crop this year with so many grown that I contemplated becoming one of those gardeners that leaves baskets of zucchini on neighbor’s doorsteps and runs but seriously, we shared the wealth with relatives and the local food pantry during the height of the season and my husband became an excellent maker of zucchini fritters and muffins which everyone loves. My goal this weekend is to blanch and freeze a bunch of it and maybe try canning but honestly I am not sure if we will eat it once it has been canned. The PNW is scheduled for our annual September last gasp heat wave next week and once that is over my summer squash plants and tomatoes will be pulled to make room for fall crops. I will miss checking the zucchini plants daily with my kids to see how many we have and how big they are but we are getting just a little bit tired of eating it so it will be nice for a change.
This was our first year growing cabbage with mixed success. My Nappa cabbages were much anticipated but didn’t end up working out. All of the ones I direct sowed into the garden were munched to the base by slugs and the couple that I started indoors were crowded out and then eaten by a variety of bugs and not good to eat. We did however get a couple of nice green and red cabbages although they were pretty small. I have started some more cabbage seeds for the fall garden and hopefully they will work out better with the cooler weather. We had a massive cabbage butterfly problem at the start of the summer and my daughter and I spent weeks scraping off butterfly eggs by hand every day to keep it in check until the cabbage plants were big enough to fend them off which made me pretty sad because we love butterflies but there were literally hundreds of eggs and the cheeky butterfly in question was aggressively laying eggs while we were scraping so I am sure a few made it to the end.
I should probably confess my massive impatience with our potatoes. I may have been super eager to free up some garden space and to see if our potatoes had actually grown and dug them up a little bit early. I probably should have left some of them longer so that we had some larger potatoes but overall I am pretty happy with the harvest. I wish I had measured the pounds of everything we harvested this year but that will have to go on the list for next year. Our potatoes did mediocre for how many spuds I planted. We ended up with about 20 plants and got about 3/4 of a dish pan of potatoes total. I went back through the potato beds a few weeks after our harvest and dug up about 15 more small ones. There were also quite a few starts that I left in the dirt that might sprout next year for some surprise potatoes but if they don’t I am not worried. I am formulating a better plan for potatoes next year. We need to move them to a different spot that is easier to harvest and I need to leave them in the ground much longer. I haven’t decided where to put them yet but I am definitely thinking about it!
Our Brussels Sprouts our growing slowly but surely. This is our first year planting these and we did have a huge slug problem with a couple of the plants but now they are growing really well and I am hoping to be able to harvest in another month or so but honestly we haven’t done these before so I am not sure when they will be ready. I may have over planted these just a little bit with 5 in a decent sized pot but I was running out of space and I really wanted to try them this year. A large part of our garden this year was experimenting to see what works and where to put plants. I am not sure if we will grow these again next year because it was a lot of work and it looks like we will only have a few meals worth of sprouts. Our space may be better off growing something more prolific but I am waiting to see how they turn out once we harvest them. If I do Brussels sprouts again next year they will be in the ground and not in pots though. It was too hard to keep them watered and they need more soil.
We have three pumpkins growing this year. Two of them are pie pumpkins and we got one medium sized jack-o-lantern one whose shape is pretty lopsided. I love getting a bunch of pumpkins for Halloween so we will be buying more from the store or hopefully from the local pumpkin patch if they open. I would love to grow a bunch of varieties of pumpkins but they take up a bunch of space and we just don’t have the room. Our ripest pumpkin should be ready in a couple of weeks and our kids are pretty excited about it. I am really hoping that they don’t get eaten right before I pick them since we have been watching them all summer to see how they grow.
We had mixed results with tomatoes this year. I could not get my cages to fit in the pots we planted our tomatoes in so they were not very well supported and lots of branches were broken. I won’t be doing them in pots next year because the amount of watering needed was ridiculous. I had to water twice a day most days this summer and even that wasn’t always enough. We planted three varieties which were cherry, roma and beefsteak. Our cherry tomatoes are doing well and we are getting a handful every day which the middle child promptly eats. Our roma tomato plant has lots of tomatoes on it but only a couple are ripe. I have been trimming the flowers and I put a sprig of ripening cherry tomatoes over the romas to try and speed up ripening but I am not sure if they will ripen quickly enough. After our heat wave next week I am pulling all of the tomato plants and hopefully any that aren’t ripe will ripen indoors.
We have one sad small beefsteak tomato on our plant and I am not hopeful that it will be remotely ready in the next week. For some reason this plant did not flower until a few weeks ago even though we used the same type of soil and fertilizer as the others. It was actually the healthiest plant but only produced leaves. I am doing more research into tomatoes for next year and hopefully we will have a better crop next year. Everyone in our area struggled with tomatoes this year though so I am not surprised our crop wasn’t that great.
Our spaghetti squash crop has been surprisingly great this year. I almost pulled the vines in late June because they simply weren’t growing but I am really glad I didn’t. I have harvested 4 or 5 good sized squash so far and there are several more on the vines that should be ready in the next couple of weeks. We also lost probably 4 or 5 smaller ones to squirrels and slugs which was pretty sad and I am harvesting the last few a little bit smaller so they do not get eaten. I had better luck with the squash that were up off the ground this year, even though in the past it wasn’t an issue, so next year I am planning on trellising these somehow. We grow spaghetti squash every year and it is one of my favorites. The variety we grow does not get that yellow color you see in the store but once the rinds are hard they can be stored for a up to a few months. I keep them on my kitchen counter so I don’t forget to eat them.
By far our most impressive garden growth has been with one of the five sunflowers I got to grow this year. I planted about two packets worth but most of the seeds were eaten by squirrels and the rest that came up were chomped down by the slugs. I have a few smaller ones that were planted in the kids’ fairy gardens but only one of those will flower in time. I am not sure if our massive one is an American Giant or a Mongolian Giant sunflower since I planted both varieties but I do know that it is so tall I have to go to the neighbors yard to check the status of the flower. I am really hoping it will open soon and we will get a few seeds from it. Next year I am going to start my seeds indoors and hopefully we will get more sunflowers but this year I was late starting my seeds and magically out of sunflower seeds when I went to do my spring seeds. I ordered a bunch more seeds for next spring already in anticipation of shortages again next year.
We are not huge fans of winter squash at our house but I ordered some buttercup squash seeds from Territorial Seeds this year to try. I was low key worried about supply chains last spring and I figured since we were expanding our garden and trying to grow new things that adding a couple of winter squash in there wouldn’t hurt. Seeds were in short supply when I ordered them in March and there weren’t a lot to choose from so I got buttercup squash since they store well and are easy to cook. They are very dense and I have accidentally picked three of them just trying to see how heavy they are. We did cook one of them a few weeks ago and it tasted like winter squash for sure so we may have some difficulty eating these. There is at least one more small one on the vine and this variety is supposed to produce four to five squash per vine that are about four pounds each. I did weigh our largest one and it was about 3.5 pounds which is pretty good. These plants did not appreciate our wet spring and early summer and a large number of the first fruits they put out rotted on the vine. I am going to have to plant these away from the summer squash next year and farther apart so that water on the plants dries faster and to prevent rotting.
We are going to have a decent amount of apples this year mostly because I did not thin them enough. We have a tree from Costco that produces several varieties of apples and it looks like the Fujis are the most prolific this year. I am not really sure when they all will be ripe but we have been harvesting a few and picking up the windfalls and so far I would say we have picked about 5 pounds of apples and there are still lots more on the tree. I am making applesauce out of some of them this weekend and maybe fruit leather. We are having an issue with our apple tree leaning heavily to one side and I have been researching ways to fix it. We cleared out all of the bushes that surrounded the tree and we are going to try staking it to the house as well as doing a meticulous trim of the branches after all of the apples have been harvested this fall. I cut it back every year but it grows so fast that I can’t really keep up. I am going to work on the shape of our tree and thin the apples much better next year so that the tree isn’t so overloaded.
We have had a great time gardening this summer and it has really broken up the monotony of being stuck at home. It has been a great bonding experience with my kids and we have loved eating food that we have grown! My fall seeds have been started indoors including cauliflower, cabbage, onions, kale, and broccoli so I am eager to get those in the ground in a few more weeks. Look for an update after our fall seeds are in the ground and happy gardening!
Helpful links with no affiliation, just things we enjoy:
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 […]
Out last post detailed the first half of our Victoria, B.C. trip last year when we went to Butchart Gardens. June was definitely a great time to go and see all of the flowers in bloom and it seemed far less crowded that it would […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 on Whidbey Island. A better part of my childhood was spent out there walking in the woods with my Grandpa learning the names of the trees, looking for frogs and clearing trails. It is one of my favorite places and I am really grateful that we are able to pass on the tradition with our kids. Many of the trails we made as kids are still there but need some major work.
My grandparents were uber frugal before it was a fancy way to reach Financial Independence. When I was little they built a house on inherited land and set it up as their home base while they traveled all over the country. They bought every thing on sale, used items until they were very broken and heated their home with the wood they chopped outside in the yard. The grandkids would stay out there periodically and we played outside all day long making forts, wandering around in the woods and hitting golf balls into the woods (which we still find today). We had so much fun and learned a lot about how to be out in the woods safely. My Dad and my Grandpa taught us which plants to avoid, which ones we could eat and we helped out keeping the property clear and the trails open.
We went for a walk the last time we were out there and it was awesome to see my Dad interacting with the kids the same way he had with us when we were little. My kids have a set of fresh eyes when walking in the woods. We have not been out to Whidbey as much as I would have liked in the last year because of ongoing sickness and a crazy schedule but being out there recently reminded me of how much I would love to have a wooded retreat of our own to take the kids out to on the weekends. Mr. Oscoey and I have talked about someday buying property with woods and streams and such but “someday” has always been too far out to be tangible.
There is something to be said for spending time walking the same woods over the course of many seasons or even years. The surroundings change as the seasons move forward and plants you may have seen in April will have withered away by August. I remember when my Grandpa and Grandma cleared this path 30 or so years ago. It took many months and lots of help from the relatives but everyone worked together to get the project done. When my oldest daughter was about five I remember seeing a litter of baby coyotes play in the clearing which is one of my all time favorite memories.
One of the best parts of walking in the woods is learning to be more aware of your surroundings. We came across some deer tracks on our walk and the kids loved hearing about how you could tell the age of the track and where the deer went afterwards. We also spent quite a bit of time experimenting with stepping on branches to see if we could get them to snap and make a loud noise. This kind of random fun experiment is one of the best ways to get kids engaged with science without making it seem like a chore. We talked about which branches were better for snapping (drier ones) and how the larger ones required more weight to snap and everyone took turns snapping and helping each other snap branches. The kids had a lot of fun trying it out and they were very tired after our long walk!
We had a great time walking out in the woods and the kids learned quite a bit about their surroundings while spending quality time with Grandpa. I am hoping to get back out there once a month or so now that our schedule has cleared a little bit. We are not afraid of the weather so we will be out in all sorts of conditions! I also want to make more time to spend outside at our house but our kids go to bed so early these days it is hard to find the time.
How do you spend your outdoor time?
In honor of Halloween I thought I would post some pictures from our pumpkin farm visit and pumpkin carving extravaganza. We have been going to the pumpkin farm with the same group of friends for the last five years and our kids love this tradition! […]