What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Friday, May 31, 2013

Happy Weekend!

The first two bearded irises bloomed today.  (It must have been the dew.)

Thanks to 'gardening week' my house is entirely trashed...why can't a clean house AND a sown garden EVER happen simultaneously?  Please- nobody stop by unexpectedly  M'kay?!?!  Give me at least a 20 minute head's up to get the waterlogged Judah undies off the kitchen floor and the crumbs left from breakfast wiped off the dining table.  

I put walkways in the garden this morning making it semi-labyrinth-esque which is fun.  Tonight the Mister and his tractor are going to help me put sawdust down on them.

 I planted the summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, (the first batch of) corn, swiss chard, and green beans (and made a trellis for them) so far today.  

That list sounds impressive if you don't think about the fact that I hoped to have the WHOLE garden in by tomorrow- and I don't.  Not even close.  Beets?  Lettuce?  Spinach?  Carrots? Garlic? POTATOES?  Acorn squash?   Better stop thinking about it.....

My husbands' boss (and his family) are coming to dinner on Sunday...not a good time for the house to be trashed.  Saturday is going to be 'disaster clean up' day.  fun.

I have looked in NO LESS THAN TEN stores for kale to plant and I can not find seeds anywhere.  It is frustrating. 

I hate that I didn't order plants/seeds from catalogs this year.

It is 90 degrees and I've been working in the garden all day so guess what we are doing tonight?  BUYING pizza!

I have five loads of laundry to fold tonight during movie night.

I intended to crochet some edging around pillowcases for a(n already late) bridal shower gift during movie night- but laundry takes precedence (again).

I am sweating like a pig and going to head out to go splash in the hose like my children.  Smart ones, they.

Have a happy weekend~

Stay Cool

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real

Well.  I am afraid anyone visiting Renaissance from now on is going to have to endure lots of pictures of growing things and lots of talk about garden chores.  'Tis the season, after all.  Sorry in advance.

I didn't know what to post for Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real today but the idea is, after all, to be intentional with the camera each week- so I knew I had to find SOMETHING to take pictures of.  First thought- go to the flower garden to see what is (or about to be) blooming.  Are you terribly surprised?


And since it was early dawn, there was plenty of dew.  I took more than one picture.  Again I ask, are you terribly surprised?



Blue Flax

A self-portrait.  Can you spot me?

Diamond lily spikes

The strawberry patch is...well, patchy.  But it will fill out in no time.  I am happy because the biggles and I weeded it this past week.  I can't describe to you how horribly weed-ridden it was.  Let's just say that no one would have known there were strawberries in there.  'Nuff said.  It was A LOT of work, but for now, it once again looks like a strawberry patch.


Matt was mowing and Judah followed along the entire time, which is a long time considering the big yard that Matt mows!  I especially liked Judah's "work gloves".  He has to be just like the Papa.


The biggles and I planted roughly 80 tomato plants (brandywine, celebrity, beefsteak, roma, yellow something or other, cherry, grape and a few heirlooms), 40 pepper plants (purple beauty, ACE, sweet italian, sweet banana, jalapeno) and 18 basil plants this morning.  I don't know what I was thinking with the peppers.  40 pepper plants?!?  Sheesh.

Last year I planted well over 100 tomato plants, but like I said, many tomatoes were wasted due to improper staking.  I am nervous that 80 plants won't be enough for us- but, let's hope without wasted tomatoes this year, it will all even out.

Now I am....exhausted.  And hot.   A friend of mine returning from Guatamala brought back with her some of the coolest headband things.  I want to make some for myself and the girls.  They would certainly help keep my punkrocker/shaggydog hair in place while I garden (seriously, it is SUCH a pain not being able to get my hair pulled all the way back...especially when I am doing dirty work.)  She let me borrow it so I could fudge a pattern.  I wanted to do that today too-but I don't think I will.   I think this afternoon I will write a few letters in the shade sipping sweet tea while the kiddos drain our well playing in the hose.

And if I can muster the energy, I will make chicken salad sandwiches for supper.  And smoothies.  Definitely smoothies.

round button chicken

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Garden Thoughts

Last year I fully intended to do a "lasagna garden" after the initial breaking garden ground.  I know the benefit of a no-till garden~ better soil life, better worm life, less replanting of weeds...

I hauled hay bale after hay bale and spread hayfork after hayfork of hay.  And this spring, the garden was STILL crazy weedy.  We needed TWICE as much rotten hay than we had.

Our neighbor, the kind gent who tilled last years' garden for us, tilled the garden again this year for us when I conceded it would be easier on me just to get it tilled.  I hauled all the hay BACK OFF the garden (in retrospect, it probably would be have been easier just to get the weeds out.) and hauled a TON of rocks out- but the end result was beautiful, airy and light soil.

I don't know what to think about lasagna gardening.  In theory, it is perfect.  In practice, for our family anyway, it isn't probably practical.  The fact is- I don't have access to as much hay mulch as I need to maintain this vegetable garden, a strawberry patch, a pumpkin patch and an asparagus patch.  I don't even have as much hay as I would need to maintain this vegetable garden.  Finding free hay is difficult.  Finding transportation for that hay would require borrowing a truck/trailer which is a bother.  Spreading out that hay in the quantity that it requires is hard work.

But hay mulch REALLY helped keep the weeds down last year (which is VERY important to me.)

I am not sure what to do or where to go from here.  I can't depend on the kindness of my neighbor with a tiller tractor forever.  But I can't depend on borrowing trucks to pick up free hay either.  Yeah- we are SO FAR from living a so-called 'self sufficient' life!  HA!

The end result of a plowed and tilled garden IS beautiful, isn't it?

This week we are taking off of formal learning in order to get the garden in.  We are so close to being finished school for the year, I don't mind pushing back one more week at this point.  But, as any homeschooler knows, just because you aren't behind the books doesn't mean you aren't learning.  Gardening is one of the greatest scientific/horticultural learning opportunities there is.  So, yes, there will be learning going on.

Not just for the children but for me too.  Gardening, no matter how many years you have been doing it, is always a learning experience and a constant form of experimentation.  About this time, I always try and look back to see what I did right and what I did terribly wrong from the year before to try and get better results this year.

Last year's garden I purposed to grow more food storage type things...STAPLES, if you will...and it worked out so well!  Not only did I have less canning to do with winter storage foods, I had a constant supply of food with which to cook all winter.  It was very exciting to use my own beautiful onions all the way through to the end of March!  So I hope to do that again this year.

Here are some more thoughts I have come to about this year's garden, based on last years' results:

* The onions were beautiful and stored well last year- but I did run out.  This year's goal is to get enough onions to last until next onion season so we planted about 250 onions (I stored about 140 last year).  That should do it.

* Potatoes didn't do that great last year.  I tried growing them in hay and there were some real beauties- but many of them were half eaten by moles/voles. The end harvest was very small compared to what it could have/SHOULD have been.  We finished our homegrown potatoes within a month or two of harvesting them.  Also, it was a lot of work to constantly be putting more hay on them (and I kept running out of hay).    This year I will try to plant them in hills and see how they do.  If they do well, I hope to next year add to the collage of gardens at Hopestead a new POTATO PATCH.  The long term goal is to have enough potatoes to last through to the next season as well, and that will require a lot more space than I have been devoting to them so far.  PLus, potatoes don't really like neighbors.

* I had a volunteer Delicata sprout up from nowhere and was super excited about it and let it grow.  Turns out, though, that volunteer Delicata's are not that "delicata"- they were hard as BRICKS!  I don't think I will let volunteers grow anymore because the end results are unreliable.

* The carrots grew well but some of them were seriously funky looking because I thinned them out too late.  This year I am going to try this seed tape method and see how it works.

* I didn't grow cilantro last year and I completely and utterly regretted it.  This year I will.

* I forgot to get the garlic in last fall.  Garlic grows much better in the fall than in the spring- BUT, I am going to grow it this spring anyway if only to HAVE SOME.  And come fall, I hope to actually GET IT IN THE GROUND.

* With all the perennial bits and bobs I got at yard sales/ given to me by neighbors, etc.  I have forgotten what some of the names are!  In some cases this spring, it was hard to know what to weed and what was a plant!  I hope to mark them this year.  Maybe using these?

* Last years' tomatoes were AMAZING-but I lost a good portion of them because I didn't stake them up until it was too late and many were fallen over.  I had intended to try this clothesline-type stake but it never got done.  This year, instead of hoping for a complicated, intricate staking system, I am just going to stake them with poles so it actually gets done.

* Cabbage is great fun to grow- and they actually store well too!  I doubled the amount of cabbage I am growing this year.

* Our corn crop was beautiful last year, for the first time ever, but not knowing how to tell when to pick, I often picked it when it was a bit starchy.  I must look into when the best time to pick corn and how to tell when it is at its' best.

* Last year I planted in rows (because rows are pretty!) but this year I am planting in more of a square foot style.  Every four feet I am making walkways, too, in hopes to keep the soil from being trod upon too much. So far, little feet have followed the little paths.  We'll see how it fares over the long haul.

* I LOVED LOVED LOVED having a separate pumpkin patch last year.  If you grow pumpkins and you plant them in your garden, I HIGHLY suggest you try to plop the seeds in a different area and free up some space in the garden.  You won't regret it!

* I need to figure out a good weeding system for the strawberry patch.  It is OVER RUN with weeds and when you pull them, up come strawberry plants!

So I guess that is about it.

For you gardeners out there...  What did you learn from last year?  What will you be doing differently this year?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Full Weekend

Weekends are so full these days...they pass by in a wink-even the so-called LONG weekends.

Since I am feeling chatty~ this was my weekend in a nutshell.

~ I made two pizzas on Friday night, ham and faux pineapple and pepperoni and we watched two episodes of Gilligan's Island for our family movie night.  (We need some more family movie ideas...)

~ I bought tomato plants from an Amish greenhouse.  I have about two dozen of our own plants and I had to buy the rest!  :-(

~ I weed-whacked around my flower circle after breaking down and finally getting myself a weedwhacker with a bit of saved up laundry money.

~ Two days later, my lovely brother Jonathan brought me one of his that he had been saving for me.  (Isn't that just so LIKE me?  I have THE WORST TIMING IN THE WORLD!)

~ Matt surprised me with breakfast on Saturday morning.

~ Is there anything more sexy than a man carving hearts into cheese?

~ We planted the asparagus bed.  (Hurrah!)  There are about 28-30 asparagus crowns in there.  I have no idea if that will be too much or not enough...but we'll find out in three years!

~ Picked stones from garden.  Lots and lots of stones.  Also...a BRICK.  (Who knew.)

~ Andrew and I planted about 250 onions.  Yellow, red and white varieties.

~We began the summer ritual of feet washing again. Only this year we increased the elegance factor with our own homemade lemon verbena soap!

~ I made ham, broccoli and cheddar pockets and broccoli soup.  They were gooooooooood.

~ We visited my niece Samantha at the hospital to see her new little one. Little Baby Lilian Grace is indescribably tiny.  She was just 6 pounds, which for ME, is indescribably tiny.

~ My sister happened to go visiting at nearly the same time we did so I got a picture of her too.

~ Now you get to see a real picture of my new rockstar/shaggy dog look.

~I won't lie.  Seeing Lilian made me pine for a new wee one even more than I have been...and I HAVE been.   A lot.

~ I took pictures at our church for the website I am STILL working on.  I am the slowest website maker IN.THE.WORLD.

~ Bath night.  Wet towels everywhere.  Fresh, clean children everywhere too.

~ Communion bread baking.  The smell of freshly ground wheat baking.  Delicious.

~ I seasoned a cast iron dutch oven.  The smell of burning lard.  Disgusting.

~ We met some of my family at a park for Memorial Day.  It was swarming with people.

~ I made a huge pot of baked beans, a huckleberry peach crisp (that didn't crisp for some reason) and some lemonade.  I intended to bring pickled beets but forgot to grab a few jars.

~ Andrew went off looking for goslings without telling me- so I went looking for him- and then Judah (unbeknownst to everyone) went looking for ME and got LOST.  It was a frightening ordeal which became a million times more frightening when I saw lights and a siren.  After pacing the park like seven times- seeing lights and a siren makes you want to die inside.  Thankfully, he hadn't gotten HIT by a car (my first thought) but had been found by someone and was held safely until we found him.   I am so utterly thankful for that woman who knew to keep him with her to keep him safe.  I was NOT utterly thankful for the cruel and callous police officer that interrogated me (and incinuated I was a horrible mother) afterward.

~ After that, I didn't feel like picnicking anymore.  Like, ever again.

Did you have a happy LOOOOONG weekend?

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Baby Shower

My niece Samantha is being induced today- so I think it is HIGH TIME to get the baby shower pictures posted from, oh, two months ago!

I can't even tell you how weird it is to be old enough to have a niece old enough to have a baby.  I can't think about that...but then again- I was only a year older than her when I first became a mother.  I guess I must face the facts:  I am getting old.

This is her with her mom, my sister Elizabeth.

My sister hosted the shower at her place and I helped her out in any way I could.  We went with a BRIGHT JUNGLE type theme since the nursery is going to be decorated 'Jungle-y' and Samantha's favorite colors are turquoise and green.

Elizabeth made jungle print banners and adorable diaper flower pots, and made a sweet poem to go with some pictures of Samantha as a baby.    She also made an adorable elephant cake.

My children and I made a bunch of tissue paper flowers, and a banner that said LILIAN (It's a girl!) but, after looking at the pictures now, I see the banner was hung to look more like 'Lil  Ian  which is hilarious to me.  I made quite a few snacks (but the READY TO POP popcorn was my favorite!) and was in charge of a game.

The game I chose was relating pregnancy terms to different types of popular candy.  For example: Hospital Bills= 100 Grand. I scoured the internet and compiled a list from several different places and I was super excited about it.  One of the reasons I have taken so long sharing about the baby shower was because I fully intended to get a free printable of the shower game to share here.  BUT, since I know nothing about how to MAKE a free downloadable printable, I never did it.  This one is pretty darn close though, and where I got a lot of my inspiration-and it is free!  (The answers are there too.)

 I thought the answers were HILARIOUS but it proved harder than I thought it would be for a lot of the women there.  I guess if you SEE the answers it is an "OF COURSE!" moment, but without seeing them, it can be hard.

During present opening time:  the girl got some SERIOUS loot!

I thought it was super cute how all the little girl cousins were getting a front row seat to the present opening and chattering all the while.

In case you are wondering, my gift to her was a monkey hat and a certificate for a free newborn photo session.

(As modeled right before the party by POPEYE.)
Needless to say, you will be seeing LILIAN (as opposed to 'Lil Ian) very soon...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real

Pretty~ Bumbly

The lilacs are phasing out (*sniff) but the Rhodo's are popping open and the azalea is looking more pink by the minute!  Yay!

Happy~ Homespun

My (second) very own, home spun yarn!  I got the roving at a farmers' market but had to borrow the wheel from a friend since the wheel I own hates me and won't work.  It is a nice pretty little wheel to look at, but not a very handy one to actually USE.  My friends' wheel though?  BUTTER.

The fiber is alpaca with some sparkle acrylic added in.  I still have to ply it, which I think I will do with a silk thread in order to get a bit more for my bang (and strengthen up the yarn since Alpaca doesn't really hold together well, so I am told.)    I can't wait to figure out what to do with it.  I have a limited supply, but perhaps a cowl could work?  Something entirely frivolous.

Spinning with roving is SO much more simple than spinning with wool you have washed and carded yourself, letmetellyou.  Well done roving is the way to go!  I have a week or so left with the wheel, at which time I will try and finish up the lesser quality handwashed/carded stuff I did but I know it won't be nearly as pretty (or as fun.)

I wish I had this wheel-but you spinners out there know how much one of these babies cost and, well, that ain't happening any time soon!

Funny~ The Dandelion head and the Punk Rocker

She has dandelion hair, she does!

Judah, while giving a long awaited (and less frequent now) glimpse of his cyclops brow, also sports a very trendy dandelion earring.

What is NOT funny is the amount of dandelions in our YARD.  The yard that was mowed on Saturday.

Real~ Exploded bread

I made Parmesan pesto bread and it exploded in the oven.  But the taste?  Ahhhhhhhhh.....sublime.

round button chicken