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Owen Park, July

July 20, 2014

DSC_0527Same park, different month, different kid.DSC_0488

While Kyle took Pea on a bike ride to the union, Tea and I went hiking at Owen Park, which I enjoy because it has both prairie and wooded trails.


Hiking stick. Grrr.



Tea was patient while I photographed a few things (while yearning for a macro lens) and I was patient while he quietly observed the 87 bunnies we encountered along the trail.  He never wanted them to feel scared, so we’d sit and wait and wait and wait until they hopped on.  Sometimes another hiker would pass, startling the bunnies into the brush, and Tea would pout.


Tea watches a bunny through binoculars


Bunny, take a lesson from your brothers – you should not let us get this close to you


kid legs in summer


We hiked both the prairie and the woods, as Tea was in an exceptionally accommodating mood.  “We can walk whichever was you want, Mama.  This trip is for you!”  Where he got that idea I don’t know, but given the sometimes (often) challenges of too-much-together-time-in-summer, I embraced the cheerful attitude.DSC_0455


We also spotted turkeys, including a hen and three poults (that’s baby turkeys to you uneducated people who didn’t just use Google, like I did).  Many turkey feathers were collected, which were later used to fletch arrows.  Obviously.





Veggie Garden, mid July

July 15, 2014

It’s a little surprising to be writing a July update for the garden while wearing a sweater and sipping hot tea, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the cool temperatures from the polar vortex even if my tomatoes are not.  Are you excited to see 47 pictures of my vegetable garden?  Of course you are!


Kyle and I (OK, mostly Kyle) moved 7 yards of mulch into the backyard to do some major weed control in the flower beds, but also to add a 3′ border around the vegetable garden fence. I want to move the rhubarb over from the flower bed and add some pretty herbs like lavender, calendula, chamomile, and anise hyssop next spring. We also created a large bed between the garden and the neighbor’s service berries. Instead of mowing the grass in an area the boys don’t use, we covered it in cardboard and mluch, and in the spring I hope to plant some bushes that will provide fun edibles for the birds and us as well. I’m considering elderberries, gooseberries, and Nanking cherries.DSC_0030

I think my garden is still behind, either from the cool spring or a lack of fertilizer, but at least it’s looking like a garden now, and we are eating from it daily. Last night was a salad with our lettuce, green beans, parsley, and basil. We have a lot of lettuce. I find the “freckles” variety adorable.




I have two patches of arugula, one that has bolted and one that will soon. We’ve enjoyed tons of arugula pesto, fritatas,and salads. Next up: arugula pizza.



We have lots of basil, dill and parsley.  The cilantro was slow to get established, but we finally have enough to harvest.  I love the dill that has popped up all over the garden – it looks like fireworks.


Pea’s grape tomato plant continues to be the most prolific. He’s harvested a few already and has kindly ensured everyone has gotten a taste.  My 3 varieties are coming along slowly but surely.  This morning I noticed the first teeny tiny Brandywine tomato just starting to grow.  Hopefully we’ll get a few ripe ones before the frost.


Pea’s tomato




The pole beans are up over the top of the 8-foot trellis and are delicious. The scarlet runner beans sweetly gifted from my neighbor are starting to show signs of flowering.



The first planting of peas is just about finished, but the second planting, made on the shady side of the trellis, is just starting to spit out peas. This is good, because my boys eat as many as they can find.  The kale, shaded out by the rogue bleeding heart, might give us a harvest some day.


The over-crowded cucumbers (3 varieties) are finally really starting to scramble up the trellis, and I hope we’ll get some baby cukes appearing below those flowers soon.


Zucchinis and other squash are sooooo close. I could pick some now, but I’ll give it another few days.  And knock on wood, no sign of my nemesis, the squash vine borer.


Sadly, the asparagus (the original impetus for starting our first veggie garden 4 years ago) has attracted asparagus beetles in it’s second month above the ground. The good news is I’ve seen the little parasitic wasp that preys on them around. I hope they’re really hungry. Meanwhile, I am keeping a pail of soapy water next to the bed and pay the boys a nickle a beetle and a penny a larvae for each one drowned. (I think I should reverse this payment system, however, as the larvae are far grosser to pick off the plants.)


The nasturtiums around the fence are getting bigger but no sign of flowers yet.


The volunteer cup plant next to the asparagus is growing like crazy. I’m sure I waited too long to transplant it and will either kill it when I try, or forever, forever, forever have cup plant in the middle of my garden path. Oh well. There are worse plants to fight – like Asiatic dayflower and bindweed. Gaaaah! I spent two hours pulling them out of the flower beds yesterday and I could hear the little bits of roots left behind howling with laughter. They will be in this yard for eternity.


There are okra, bush bean, eggplant, Brussels sprout, and ground cherry plants all limping along, wishing for warmer weather. I’ll be happy if half of them get around to producing something this summer.


bush beans and okra


ground cherries


Brussels sprouts and (too small to see) eggplant

And since I can’t leave you with a picture of a pathetic Brussels sprout, here is a guy I saw this morning.  He wouldn’t budge.  I think he’s frozen.  Hopefully the sun comes back out soon.


This *was* my garden

June 30, 2014

I intended to document the veggie garden half-way through June.  These pictures were taken 2 weeks and 7 inches of rain ago, so they don’t really resemble the current garden.


Arugula and lettuce were the only things we were harvesting, although the peas were getting close.


The basil and parsley were OK but the tomatoes were spindly little things (except for Pea’s plant, which isn’t shown because it is truly unfair how HUGE and healthy his was while mine were NOT.  Especially since all were purchased from the same grower and planted at the same time.)


A bleeding heart that must have previously hidden in the old dill forest popped up in the middle of the kale and okra seedlings.  It was the healthiest thing around so I couldn’t bear to pull it out, even though I can’t eat it.  I might try to transplant it this fall, but it’s roots must be all the way down below the raised bed, so I’m a little afraid of killing it.


The pole beans were climbing but the cucumbers had barely broken ground.

Dill was volunteering everywhere (no surprise), the cilantro was taking its sweet time, the eggplant seeds failed to germinate, and the squashes were all hiding under row covers (trying to avoid the squash vine borer).


And the rabbits were hoping we’d forget to close the garden gate.


Cherokee Marsh

June 19, 2014

Trying to take advantage of free-admission-to-state-parks weekend, we drove over to Governor Nelson State Park a week or so ago.  Eighty-six bazillion cars parked along the highway and bikers zipping by with race numbers pinned to their shirts reminded me that there was a triathlon in the park that day.  Oops.

We checked the smart phone for other nearby hiking options, and ended up at the south unit of Cherokee marsh.  We didn’t do all 3 miles of trails, because the mosquitoes were threatening to drain us dry.  What we did hike, however, was very pretty, and we were jealous of the paddlers putting their boats in the river at the landing.  (Note to self – buy a vehicle that can transport your canoe!)

DSC_0041We had to hustle the boys along to retain a few pints of blood.  They were very interested in finding spittle bugs and making leaf hats.  (Thank you, Rachel Kesting, for teaching them this trick!)DSC_0009

Tea decided killing mosquitoes was fun and tried to entice them to land on his arms so he could slap them.  What a turkey.DSC_0026


The trail curves above the marsh so you can look down on it, but most of the trail was actually through prairies and woods.  I love prairies, and enjoyed seeing many different flowers in bloom.  I’m sure we’ll be back to see it in other seasons.



My last quiet cup of coffee

June 12, 2014

last day of school

The boys are off to their last day of school for the year.  Pea blew a kiss from his seat on the bus.  After today he’ll walk to school.



We are starting to think about all the fun things we wan to do this summer, so we wrote them down to help us remember.  Summer has a way of slipping by in a humid haze.  We wouldn’t want to wake up in September and discover we’d forgotten to go “geowcashing” or missed out on the “splash prak”.  Moon Beach Camp was the first thing they wrote down, followed by “play with frends”.  We might not get to everything in the list, but those two are a given.


For now, I have firm plans to sit on my deck with coffee and a book.  This might be the last quiet morning in 82 days.  Not that I’m counting.



June 11, 2014

A black streak flew past me while I was gardening, disappearing into the rhubarb.  I didn’t catch a very good glimpse of it, and tried to coax it back out into the yard.

A cautious ninja peaked out at me, pants wound around his head for a mask, shirt backwards in order to be dressed entirely in black (well, from the front, at least).


Enough rhubarb to feed the city


Tea wore this improvised costume for most of the day, darting through the yards of neighbors who were kind enough to declare, “Oh my!  Who IS that ninja?”

Pea joined him for awhile, but didn’t have the stamina to wear a hot mask of pants around his head for long.  But Tea was dedicated.  He practiced his sword fighting moves.


Note the katana tucked down the back of his shirt. I was sure he was going to fall and puncture an organ.

He hid quietly in the garden for ages.  (No pictures of this, because, you know, ninjas.)

He practiced stealthy tricks.


A Photoshop Wizard, I am.

And finally, after a long day as a ninja, he sat next to me, unwrapped his head, and said, “Don’t you just want to see my beautiful face?”  Absolutely, sweet boy.




May 31, 2014

The boys did a mud run a few weeks ago.  They ran a 1.5-mile course with obstacles, the last of which was a crazy-insane-watery-deep-slippery-goopy-squelching mud pit.  It was the same mud pit that the adults had at the end of their 5K.  It was insane.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The boys started the course happy to bounce in potato sacks, jump hay bales, and clamor over a tire pile.





From there, they snaked away to a section of course that we couldn’t see.  After the race, we saw pictures online of the boys crossing a river that was frighteningly deep for little Pea.  (Race organizers have since assured me there were adults just out of the frame, making sure no one was swept away.  Let’s hope so.)


sg1_8978 (1)

They rounded a corner at the end, took one look at the huge wall the adults (and some braver, older kids) were climbing, and wisely ran around it to the bouncy slide.  At that point, Pea was wet to his armpits from the river, and cold, but still smiling.

They proceeded to the aforementioned mud pit.  Tea dove in and rolled around like a happy pig, taking as long to get through it as possible.  Pea entered and his face was transformed with a look of pure horror.  It was cold.  It was deep.  It was muddy.  It was thick and very hard to move through.  He started to cry.



We convinced Tea to backtrack and help his brother.  Since that involved more time in the mud, he was game.




Tea tries ekes out as much time as possible in the mud


Kids struggling to exit the pit

The wall to get out of the mud pit was so steep and slippery, kids were struggling to exit the pit, and an adult volunteer was there to help push the kids out.  The man saw the look of terror on Pea’s face and got him out quickly.  Tea kept his distance so he could “struggle” for as long as possible.


He might forgive us some day


The boys finally sloshed and glopped their way across the finish line, Pea shivering all the way.  I cursed my lack of squeegee and rubber gloves, but once Kyle and I wrestled them into clean, dry clothes, Pea’s outlook improved.




Pea claims he wants to try this again when he’s seven.  But since it took me more time to rinse mud off their clothes enough to put them in the clothes washer than it took the boys to run the course, I don’t know if I’ll be ready in only 24 months.  We’ll see.




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