Relief From The Heat!

Todays Weather:

75 degrees, mostly cloudy, winds 10 – 15 mph, and absolutely no humidity!

What a difference a day can make. Yesterday it was 95 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, no wind, and humidity about 300% (okay, that last part was a slight exaggeration, but it sure felt like 300%).

Finally a day I could spend in the garden and not worry about heat stroke, sun poisoning, or dehydration and I took full advantage of it. I cleaned up the zucchini (check out my post at Simply Grateful Gardener Taming My Zucchini), pruned all 72 of my pepper plants, clipped more of the cucumber vines to the A-frame, and weeded.

The best part of the day though was being able to harvest my first 6 zucchini and first 3 Romanian Bell peppers!

DSCF5199

Last year I harvest more than 1,000 peppers from the garden with less than half of the plants I have now. I wonder if I can top that?

Tomorrow the weather is supposed to start getting warmer again, but still bearable. Next week…well that’s another story. 90’s all week and humidity again. Oh well, at least the garden will enjoy it, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Advertisements

Oh Crap! Another Beautiful Day!

Well, it’s another not-a-cloud-in-the-sky day here in Michigan with temps hovering in the mid-80’s. This is not what I need, or rather not what the garden needs. Where or where is the rain that was predicted? Where are the mostly cloudy skies? Where is a little reprieve for my struggling seedlings I planted too soon outside?

I guess it’s just going to be one of those years. I checked the weather forecast again this morning and now they say there isn’t really any rain expected until Saturday. A full three days away. Well by that time my plants will either be acclimated to their new environment or dead. I wish it would just happen already and be over with. At least if they all died I could take things from there. As it is I’m stuck here in limbo wondering if the plants will survive this wonderful weather and embrace what should be the best thing to happen to them since being planted.

The one good thing about the weather being so warm and sunny is that I’m stuck inside. As I get older I just can’t take being in the sun for more than a few minutes with a hat on, sunglasses shading my eyes, and clothing covering every inch of my too sensitive skin. Gee it’s fun getting old.

With this time in the house though I was able to make a few blog posts. Actually this really made my day. I long for the days when I could make a blog post nearly daily and still get everything done. Now everything seems so much bigger in my life that finding time for half of what I want to get done doesn’t even come close to happening.

Today I shared some pictures of my Pea Garden 2016 (one of the few successes thus far in the garden this year) and another post with a recipe for Thai Peanut Chicken (a new addition to my recipe arsenal). Check them out if you get a chance.

For the rest of the day I’ll be moving all my plants that remain in the greenhouse out to the patio once the sun shifts, moving them back into the greenhouses before going to bed, and reading some cookbooks. Dinner is in the oven, making the house hotter than it already was (I really should have rethought making a roast for dinner on the hottest day of the year so far) so relaxing is the only way to go, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Fresh Air!

Three days ago at this time we were getting a snow storm! It began around 11 in the morning while Hubby and I were at the gym and didn’t let up all afternoon. Then it turned into freezing rain and things got really fun out on the roads.

DSCF3706

Where did that come from? It wasn’t in the forecast and with predictions for temperatures in the 70’s by the end of the coming week, who’d have thunk?

Well, that’s Michigan for you!

Anyway, after a few “too chilly to set foot in the garden” days, today I finally broke out of the house and headed to the garden to get my hands dirty. It was glorious. I spent nearly two hours planting a few bulbs, turning over the new designated pea garden, and watching as Bell rooted around every nook and cranny in the backyard as if she’d never been out there in her life.

DSCF3735

Bell rootin’ around.

DSCF3740

Everything seems new and exciting to Bell.

Hubby was at the gym with his man-friend, Zeb was at the gym with Gramps, and Grace was still at school. Finally — time to myself.

Those couple of hours out in the fresh air truly cleared the cobwebs from my head, reset my perspective, and improved my mood tenfold. The weather is only supposed to get better as the week progresses and I plan on making sure I get outside at least an hour each day — by myself. This might require getting up a little early, or perhaps sneaking out when no one is looking, but no matter what it takes, I’m outta here.

DSCF3741

The new pea garden in progress.

Hubby came home before I finished turning over the garden I was working in and wanted to know why I hadn’t waited for him. Okay, now I could have answered him in several ways, reminding him about how the garden is my “thing” and for the past two years I have done all the gardening by myself. Granted this wasn’t necessarily because I wanted to do it all by myself, but with him working pretty much 24/7 away from home, there was really very little time for him to dedicate to gardening. Plus, when he was home, I certainly didn’t want him to have to work. We had to spend some time together after all.

But, rather than bringing anything up that might make him feel bad I just smiled at him, gave him a kiss, and told him I was almost done, he could help me finish tomorrow and then I could plant the peas. Still, his guilt was palpable and this really bothers me. I don’t want him to feel guilty about me gardening or anything else that he wasn’t around to help with. I enjoy being outside with my hands in the dirt and know he really doesn’t. He thinks now that he’s quasi-retired, he should be doing all the things he was never able to do before. I keep telling him he doesn’t need to, but at the same time don’t want him to not have any purpose. Everyone needs to be needed.

This is just yet another bump-in-the-road on our journey as we adjust to his retirement. For so many years I’ve been responsible for everything here at home, asking for help only on the rarest of occasions. It was how things had to be. I didn’t always like it, but after 23 years of it, I had to come to terms with it or go crazy. I did the “going crazy” thing the first few years of our marriage and didn’t really like it, so I finally came to terms with it. Now I’ve got that same choice again.

I can either come to terms with Hubby needing/wanting to help out with things around here or I can go crazy. So, have I learned from past experience enough to forego the “crazy phase” and skip right to the “coming to terms” one?

Doubtful.

With the promise of warmer weather and lots of fresh air in my future though, maybe I won’t stick with the “going crazy” phase as long this time and perhaps transition into something like a “simply irritated” phase instead. But then again, this is the Simply Grateful blog, so that wouldn’t be very sporting of me, would it?

Anyway, it was beautiful here in Michigan today — the weather was perfect, the sun was shining, Hubby was home nearly all day — and for all these things I truly am Simply Grateful.

An Early Taste of Spring

Michigan weather has got to be the most fickle weather around. One day we can have three inches of snow on the ground and temperatures below 20 degrees and the next it’s sunny, not a sign of snow left on the ground other than the quickly drying melted puddles, and the temperatures exceed 60 degrees. This was the case this past weekend.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday were all beautiful and borderline warm. The highest temps were reached on Saturday when we hit a balmy 62 degrees late in the afternoon. Kids were outside playing, some even in shorts; dogs were being walked; joggers were tearing up the pavement; and I spent some time working on my garden plans for this coming spring.

Of course the weatherman has now predicted that between tomorrow and Thursday we are supposed to get somewhere between 8 and 12 inches of snow. Really!? But then again, why should I be so surprised, this is Michigan after all.

Oh well, at least when it’s cold and snowy I can try to play catch up on blog posts and laundry, that is if the family isn’t up for a family movie night or something like that. Either way, I can definitely whip up some https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/quick-easy-chocolate-lava-cakes/ to warm us all from the inside out. Check out my latest post at Simply Grateful Cooking.

Cold and snow once again on the way and spring is still a little ways off, that’s okay. Michigan weather is a lot like life — always changing — and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Seedling Update #4 – The Waiting Game

For more than a week now I’ve been working on transplanting the seeds I sowed nearly a month ago.  I have far more plants than I anticipated, but cannot bring myself to pulling any of them yet. Who knows if all my transplants will make it or if the other seeds I’ve sown are even going to sprout.  At this point I want to cushion the garden so I have enough plants, even if they are all tomato and pepper, to fill every square inch.

DSCF8041 DSCF8042 DSCF8043

My broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and pumpkin plants have all sprouted, but for now they are going to hang out in their original pots.  I’ve found lots of information online on how to transplant tomato and pepper seedlings into larger pots before planting them in the garden, but have not been so lucky when it comes to these other plants.  I figure I’ll wait until they have another week or two of growth and then try transplanting a few of them to see if they survive the shock and continue to grow.

This afternoon I planted three new varieties of peppers that I ordered online.  These peppers will be for canning.  For the past four years I have bought a bushel of peppers from a local farmer and canned them.  This year my goal is to grow my own.  I bought Szegedi, Romainian, and White Cloud peppers.  All are sweet and either yellow or white with a very thick flesh — perfect for pickling.

I am so excited for the weather to warm up so I can get out and start preparing the gardens for incoming plants.  Being in Michigan however, there is no telling when that might be.  Just to give you a little taste of what it’s like here:  Two days ago it was 54 degrees and sunny outside, one day ago we woke to 3″ of snow on the ground, and today it was 52 degrees and sunny again.  Not the best track record for getting outside and making any progress.

I have a few more plants that I will be able to transplant in a few days, but then it becomes the waiting game.  There won’t be a whole lot to do with the plants until they start growing and the leaves begin to multiply.  Already some of the tomato plants are getting a new set of leaves, giving me hope that perhaps some of these will actually make it to the garden.

I have big plans this spring/summer and truly hope my efforts will be rewarded.  For now, I am enjoying the smell the plants growing in the dining room and the dirt under my nails, for this I am — Simply Grateful.

A Taste of Spring Under A Sheet of White

Earlier this week I was seriously considering running amok with our snow blower and clearing away the snow in the gardens to get a head start on my gardening.  The day I had finally reached my breaking point, it snowed — AGAIN! This has got to end.

Although the snow is beautiful and all…

DSCF7402

I seriously considered bundling up and sitting out in my lounge chair this week. Being cooped up in the house all these months is really taking its toll on my better judgement.

DSCF7396

I’ll trade icicles for popsicles anyday!

DSCF7400

The garden has so much snow on top of it, you can barely see it at the back of our property.

DSCF7404

The plum tree looks so barren, it’s hard to believe that in a few very long months we’ll actually have flowers on it — I hope.

DSCF7406

If I do end up bundling up and heading out to my lounge chair, I’ll have to unbury the fire pit too!

I can’t say I am going to miss it when it’s gone.

Well, I didn’t snow blow the gardens, sit out in my lounge chair, or dig out the fire pit, but I did have Grace paint some pretty white daisy’s on my nails to remind me that spring is coming and made myself a fresh bowl of fruit salad. A combination of winter and summer fruits, was the perfect topper to a light lunch.  Banana, strawberry, grapes, clementine, and cantaloupe helped pull me out of my funk.

DSCF7626

Not exactly the spring I was hoping for, but for now, it will help me get through these lingering winter days, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Taming The Jungle

This is what the back garden looked like just two weeks ago, August 26, 2014:

DSCF3942 DSCF3943 DSCF4029 DSCF4030 DSCF4031 DSCF4032

Then we had a heat wave and I didn’t work in the garden other than to harvest.  I can’t take the heat and especially can’t take the humidity.

Here is what the garden looked like yesterday – September 7, 2014:

DSCF4262 DSCF4263 DSCF4264 DSCF4265 DSCF4266

The tomatoes grew to a point of bending or breaking their bamboo stakes and then the sweet potatoes grew right over them, nearly smothering them.

Note to self:  Don’t plant sweet potatoes around tomato plants for 2015 — they need their own garden, and a big one at that!

Seeing as the tomatoes were practically buried under the sweet potato vines, I had to do something.  I spent a couple of hours trimming the sweet potato vines and pruning and re-staking the tomato plants.  The tomato plants were so overgrown that I had to use shepherds hooks that Hubby cut down for me to hold the over flowing vines.  There were some plants that were more than five-feet tall.

This is what the pruned and trimmed garden looks like, September 8, 2014:

DSCF4282 DSCF4283 DSCF4284 DSCF4285

I can actually see the dirt around the tomato plants now, not to mention I found a few plants that had been completely covered by the sweet potato vines that would have been lost forever had I not gotten in there to tame this nearly out-of-control jungle.

The hot and humid weather was great for the garden and gave it one last boost before the cooler weather of fall begins its reign, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

After The Storm

Two days ago Michigan had a reign of storms go through that left terrible flooding in its wake.  Our basement suffered minimal damage, but many people that we know have basements with several feet of water.  Roads were covered with water, sometimes so deep that cars were lost.  Rivers and streams overflowed, carrying mud and waste far beyond their banks.  Unprecedented rainfall, something good for my garden, but not so much for so many other reasons.

Last night, after the last of the rain finally headed east into Canada, there was one last squall while the sun was fighting to regain control of the skies.  The resulting rainbow was beautiful.

DSCF3708 DSCF3709 DSCF3711

Unfortunately my pictures do not do the wonder of this sight justice, but the glory of nature cannot be denied.

The storms are gone, the sun is shining, my garden won’t need watering till possibly Saturday, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

A Summer Passing – Rhubarb & Strawberries Farewell

The humidity is not letting up here in eastern Michigan and the temperatures are at or above 90° depending how many clouds block out the sun. My cucumbers are climbing the a-frame and some tomatoes are showing the first signs of orange.

 

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Roma Tomatoes

Roma Tomatoes

The plum tree is so thick with leaves that finding any plums is a challenge, but they are in there and getting big. Hubby’s been eating them green, but I’m waiting for August when they’ll be ripe and purple.

It’s hard to believe that July is upon us and half the year is gone. In just a few months the winds will start to howl from the north and bring fall and all it’s beauty to our doorstep. With fall comes harvest, which based on the heat and humidity plaguing our days, should be bountiful. The sweet potatoes are spreading, the beets are flourishing, the peppers are blooming, and the kale is thick and lush.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Beets

Beets

Peppers

Peppers

Kale

Kale

Strawberry season is coming to an end far too soon. I wish the sweet ripe berries could last longer than a few glorious weeks.

My strawberry plants

My strawberry plants

Rhubarb, too is starting to wilt. Be it the heat, the humidity or just it’s time, I fear these two will soon be gone for another year. My rhubarb is still small and young and I have no idea what to do with it. Not having grown it before, I’m wondering if I should harvest the tiny stalks or leave them until next year. My plants are nothing like the huge plants I harvested out at the orchard. Do I cut them down to the ground or leave them be until next year?

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

With some of the rhubarb I picked a few weeks ago I made a luscious Rhubarb-Pineapple Jam that truly was the best of both worlds — tart yet sweet.

Rhubarb-Pineapple Jam

DSCF2676

4 Cups Finely Chopped Rhubarb
1 Whole Pineapple Pureed
4 Cups Sugar
5 Tbsp. Clear Jel dissolved in 1/2 Cup Water

Combine rhubarb, pineapple, and sugar in large stock pot. Add Clear Jel dissolved in water. Bring to low boil and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often. Increase heat and boil hard for one minute. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.

Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space, seal and screw on bands. Process in boiling water bath 10 minutes.

The end of the week should bring some relief from the heat and maybe once again we can bask in the glory of summer instead of hiding out in the air-conditioned house. There is much to be done before fall, many days to enjoy, activities to pursue, and places to go. As winter was unrelenting and confining, so too has summer become — but this too shall pass, I’m sure of it, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Mixed Summer Berry Lemonade Thirst Quencher

The heat and humidity of summer is in full swing today in Michigan. A good day to stay inside, allowing the garden to flourish out in the heat, and catch up on housework. As much as I love summer, I am definitely not a fan of humidity, but I know the garden is lovin’ it.

Days like today are perfect for mixing up a batch of Mixed Summer Berry Lemonade. I came up with this combination last week when I was down to my final eight cups of strained strawberry juice and wanted something quick and easy to can. Building off a recipe for blackberry-lemonade concentrate, I thought combing various berry juices would intensify the flavors and truly make this drink pop. I was right. I’ve been looking for a recipe for fruit punch concentrate to use for smoothies. This recipe is exactly what I was looking for.

Mixed Summer Berry Lemonade Concentrate

DSCF2646

2 Cups Blackberry Juice (strained)
1 Cup Strawberry Juice (strained)
4 Cups Lemon Juice
5 Cups Sugar

To juice berries, place in microwave safe bowl and heat on high for five minutes. Remove from microwave and puree with stick blender. Heat in microwave for additional three minutes. Run puree through food mill to remove seeds. Do this with both blackberries and strawberries.

Measure blackberry and strawberry juice and put in stock pot with lemon juice and sugar. Bring to boil slowly until it reaches 190°. Remove from heat, ladle into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch head space, clean rims, place lids and secure bands. Process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.

To reconstitute: Mix 1 part concentrate with 1 part water and serve over ice. It might be necessary to dilute this concentrate a bit more according to taste.

For the most part I try to serve only water, raw milk, and home-made juices to my family. Occasionally though it is nice to give them a special treat of something refreshing and sweet. This concentrate is perfect for that and for this I am — Simply Grateful.