Sunday, July 31, 2016

Alternative Weed Killer

Little Abe has a new favorite past time. Honestly though he has a million favorite past times.

Just recently crab grass has come out in full force. I do not like to use or purchase poison or many chemicals but all the crab grass and other weeds in the driveway and sidewalk cracks have become unsightly. I've seen the natural weed killer suggestion online before. It's a mixture of vinegar, original dawn dish detergent, and salt.

I wouldn't go so far as to call it natural. There are chemicals in Dawn dish detergent but the blue stuff is used not only to wash our dishes but also to clean oil off animals after oil spills. It's used to strip cloth diapers from residue build up. And I add it to little Abe's water table sometimes so that he can play with the suds. In other words it's a million times safer than say if we tried to clean animals off with Roundup.

I had not tried this weed killer before but figured it was worth a shot, knew it wouldn't cost that much to make up a batch, and really liked the idea of killing our weeds with basically vinegar. The results are in and it not only does a fabulous job of killing weeds but my kid loves the task of spraying them.

I can't imagine the ratio matters all that much because you'll find a ton of different ones on pinterest. I used about 1/4 cup salt, 1/2 cup of Dawn and 1 gallon of vinegar.

These pictures are not from the same spot but the weed in the second photo that is clearly dying was full force green yesterday just like the one in the first photo. Everything that little Abe sprayed with the alternative weed killer has browned up and died within one day. I'm super happy with the results and again, I personally feel way better about using this then if I bought weed killer from the store. I feel safe dumping this concoction down our drains, unlike regular weed killer. I feel safe letting my four year old son use the spray, unlike regular weed killer. And I don't have to worry about my dogs or my son walking on any freshly sprayed spots, unlike regular weed killer.

The cost for 1 gallon of this alternative weed killer is about $3.50. I'm pretty sure that traditional weed killer costs quite a bit more then that. Another win here from trying something new.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Pickles and Parade

I've been meaning to make sun pickles for most of the summer. Someone at work told me how great they are and how he and his wife make several batches each summer. My husband and son are enormous pickle fans so obviously this was something I needed to try out. (I've never made pickles before today but don't sun pickles just sound extra special?)

Little Abe and I headed off to the local farmer's market this morning looking for cucumbers and dill. There were cars EVERYWHERE. Every street was lined with cars and all the parking lots were overflowing. I kept saying, "what is going on?" until I noticed a few blocks away that there was a parade in progress. I mentioned to little Abe that I didn't know the parade was today (I thought it was next weekend) then of course he got excited and expressed his desire to go see it. Our farmer's market run was delayed as obviously we walked over to view the parade. He highly enjoyed himself, collected a few pocketfuls of candy, and the pickle adventure became much more grand.

The farmer's market had some (not the freshest) dill and nice cucumbers. After stopping to watch some local fishermen filet freshly caught fish (they were huge fish at that) we were on our way home to make sun pickles. Yes, we live less than a mile from the lake and the farmer's market is directly on the riverfront that runs into the lake.

The pickles will take a few days to sun themselves but I'm posting the recipe I "followed" right now in hopes that they'll turn out spectacular. I'll write back if they end up less than ideal.

6 1/2 cups of water
3 1/4 cups of vinegar
3/4 cups of canning salt
for five minutes
set aside to cool

Fill five wide mouth quart jars with (each):
3 to 4 cloves of garlic
1 head of dill
and quartered cucumbers (enough to fill)
I added one halved jalapeno to three of the five jars for spicy pickles
Pour the pickling liquid into each jar and place the lid on top

Set outside in the sun for three days
Then place in refrigerator for one day before opening

We'll see.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Backyard Edition, July 27

This morning I slinked along. Ever so slowly I accomplished all the essential morning chores before I grabbed a cup of coffee and two slices of toast with blackberry jam. Since the heat wave hit I've been battling some serious sinus pressure and congestion but despite the incredible heat little Abe and I headed out back with our morning treats. He sat in his little green chair and I in mine. My tan little boy wore a simple pair of navy shorts, no shirt. He looked like every wonderful moment I can remember from my childhood; sun kissed skin, golden tinged hair, and the look of a well lived summer all over him.

We sat in the hot morning sun listening to the gentle breeze rustle the leaves on every tree. The birds were at work singing their morning tunes as usual despite the unusual temperature. The tomato garden in all of it's splendor spread out before the both of us and neither he nor I mumbled a word as we sat and ate.

I realized in that moment that I was experiencing perfection, pure simple wonderful perfection. A quite hot summer morning just relaxing with my son. Both of us enjoying the fruits of our labor, having fought the blackberry bushes together to collect the treasure. We then turned the fruits into the delectable jam. And now here we were, silent, together, enjoying the treat on such a splendid summer morning right alongside the garden we've so diligently tended to all summer long. These moments don't last long, but in them I find myself overcome with pure joy. I am forced to stop and think, to smile greatly, and to realize again each time, "this is life at it's finest!"

And now I document the garden growth.

First tomato turning red

Pie pumpkin plant in front.
Bidwell Casaba melon in back.

One of two bean plants.
I planted the seeds a little late this year but they should still do great.

One month of sunflower growth.
These are two different plants.
The photo in the upper right had corner is the first
sunflower sprout just over a month ago.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Blackberry Jam

My husband's grandma has a giant patch of blackberries in her backyard. Little Abe and I spent a good deal of time in the hot hot heat last Sunday filling a bucket full. Those plants are ferocious! They guard their treasure with swords drawn and ready to stab. You can see little Abe and his papa wearing long sleeves despite the heat as a sort of pathetic guard against the prickers. I refused to put on a long sleeve shirt or jacket and treated the whole endeavor like a game of operation. I was rather successful with the exception of one incident where a branch attacked my left hand and arm. Yowzers!

I haven't ever been a huge fan of blackberries but I couldn't pass up the offer of free berries, a fun adventure, and little Abe getting to spend time with his papa and great grandparents. Our bucket full of fresh berries soon became four jars of blackberry jam. I made the three ingredient kind with no gelatin or pectin. A lemon is used to help the jam gel. RECIPE HERE It turned out a little too lumpy (I couldn't get the berries to break up as much as I would have liked) and I wasn't sure that little Abe would like it very much BUT we've both been vastly enjoying it on toast these past few mornings. I also had a chance to try a second go at canning. Last year canning the green tomato chutney was my first try. I think I'm getting the hang of it. I may actually can some of the tomatoes from the garden this year instead of frantically trying to use them all up as they ripen. The entire adventure turns out to have been a win, win, win. Except for the one pricker attack.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

July Perfection

This month has been summer at it's finest. 
Sunshine never ending.
Lots of beach time, barbecues, outside fun, water fun, ice cream, and warmth all day.

Friends from all over the world have come home recently and there's been tons and tons of visiting. Just this past week we've had the immense privilege to visit with childhood friends who've moved to Oklahoma, Arkansas, Montana, and New Zealand; I mean what are the chances they'd all be home at the same time!?!? It's been so heartwarming to watch our children playing together.

The harsh, cold, dark month of February is at the top of my list for months of the year that drive me insane. But if someone can figure out how to bottle a little of July please let me know. This month has been nonstop busy and perfect!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Happy Place

I'm in my happy place today, a lazy cool Sunday as the weather insists on switching back and forth between sunshine and a light drizzle.
  • I've harvested some of the first tomatoes and have green tomato chutney cooking away on the stove. 
  • A wonderful friend who lives in New Zealand is visiting for the first time in eight years and I was able to spend some time with her and her family yesterday (and tomorrow). 
  • One of my very dearest friends delivered her first baby the other day; she's now a mom to an absolutely perfect baby boy and I am over the moon happy and excited for her. Welcome to the world little blessing!!!
  • I don't work today, have compounded happiness from all the wonderful blessings, and am loving every minute of mine and little Abe's lazy day together.

This is this year's first tomato, the first to blossom, the first to form and the first to be picked. I love the ugly beast! And he (along with four smaller green gems) will make this year's heavenly batch of green tomato chutney, a treat I discovered last year after my dog trampled my tomato plants.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Bidwell Casaba Melon, July 16

The one surviving melon plant now has upwards of ten little melons on it. That fuzzy dew covered thing is a small melon. The only thing I have to compare this new venture to is the watermelon that I grew last year. That plant produced one melon that grew rather quickly but it kept making tiny melons, about this size that would just shrivel up and die. Now, looking at these ten plus tiny melons that do not seem to be growing I'm getting so anxious to see what happens.

I'm happy that there is definitely the potential for fruit, as the plant has clearly produced baby melons but my lack of patience is terrible. Although it seems like these fuzzy little darlings aren't getting any bigger and due to the "lovely" Michigan weather I'm in a race against the clock I have two things consoling me. 1.) This is the exact size that my one successful watermelon was on August 8 of last year. Which means I should probably not be as anxious about the clock as I've been. (One of the reasons you see so many gardening posts from me; I love to be able to quickly go back and compare from year to year). 2.) According to everything I've read, watermelon plants do generally only produce a few full size good melons, whereas casabas or muskmelons generally produce around a dozen. I think we're right on track folks. The Bidwell saga lives on!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wednesday Home

Today I'm working on a backwards to-do list. Little Abe and I are trying to accomplish as much as possible (well sort of; we've been watching TV for the last hour) and then I'm adding each accomplishment to the backwards to-do list.

I don't work Wednesdays which equals: I love Wednesdays but I tend to think of this middle of the week random day off as a total veg day. Add this week's heat and I knew today would be completely unproductive if I didn't have a mission.

So far on the backwards list:

water and weed the garden
trim the tomato plants
read books together
go to the library
eat lunch in the backyard and watch the bumble bees
second thinning of the carrots
(there are about 50 carrots left in our bin now that should be able to reach full size)
play with play-dough
laundry (of course)
take the dog for a walk around the block

Well, I'd best get back to the list making or today will soon be over.

Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Today greeted us with carrots

I started the first thinning of our carrots today. The orange carrots are lagging behind but the purple carrots were ready to thin and offered us some small but delicious veggies. I only pulled enough for a salad so we'll thin another row and have more backyard treats tomorrow but how exciting that the garden is starting to feed us.

Do you see any carrots on this salad? There aren't any because my kid ate them all before I had a chance to use them. But it's my first carrot top salad of the year and it was summer perfection!

Friday, July 8, 2016


Do you ever have to make yourself a to-do list that looks something like:

wake up
make coffee
eat food
get dressed
remember to drink all of your coffee
finish list later

Like, would I really need to remind myself to wake up?
Sometimes it seems like it. Having one of those days for sure! Don't get me wrong, things here are great but where the heck is my brain!?!?!