This Garden Life - Late August

The harvest season has begun in earnest and our counters are overflowing with vegetables. Some plants are fading back into the dirt and others have found a second life. I'm looking forward to more green beans, sweet peppers, and greens! I'm sad that the color is starting to fade from green to brown. There are empty beds on that side of our house that I can't wait to fill with flowers. Once we install gutters there, that is. For now they are thistle beds.
 Most of the work has moved from the garden to the kitchen. Baking, freezing, canning. I have yet to make any baby food, but it's definitely on my to-do list. Every year we have more tomatoes than the last and our potato harvest this year was awesome! I'm behind on baking, but so grateful that we now have a freezer in the basement to fill. I have to convince Brent to start making some of his amazing soups. Since he doesn't use a recipe I wouldn't know where to start! I bought a soup mug last year so I can reheat soups at work too.
I am sad to see this garden season winding down, but already excited to plan for next year. Mulching from day one for weed control. Planting more densely to yield even more. Trying new herbs and drying them for future use. Trying new veggies and tweaking old methods. MORE compost! Seeding indoors early (though I have to think this one through logistically). It's been a good year so far.
[Ezra with the biggest Yukon Gold we've ever seen!]
I post tons more photos of our goings on in the garden on Instagram if you want to follow along!


What I Read - July Edition

I first read Louise Erdrich in an American Lit course in college. While I hated the course and most of the reading material, I loved her book Tracks. This is the fourth book of hers I've read and it did not disappoint. The story begins when Faye Travers, and estate appraiser, discovers a painted drum. Recognizing its significance she makes a rash decision to steal the drum and return it to its rightful owner. The book tells the tale of the drum from before its inception to present day.

Erdrich has a wonderful ability to create rich, deep characters that find their ways throughout many of her books. Their lives are intertwined through family and heritage, their stories varied and complex. She is able to make you both love and despise a single character in the same chapter, by capturing their total humanity. She earnestly writes about both their best and worst qualities. I love stumbling on the life of a character I've read about before and learning how they are also tied to the new characters I've just met. I highly recommend picking up any book by Louise Erdrich.

This book is all about football and Texas, two things I cannot relate to in the slightest, so this shaped my opinion dramatically. Shea Rigsby is a lifelong football fan, so much so that she works for the sports department of her alma mater where her best friend's father is the head football coach. Throughout the book her life revolves around the sport: her job, her free time, her dating life. She makes some choices that turn her life upside down and has to figure out how to put it all back together again.

I struggled to get through the book, not connecting with any of the characters and not buying how they related to each other either. I did want to know how it ended but once I found out it was almost too perfect that it was just plain boring. One of those "the whole mess magically fell into place and everyone lived happily ever after" endings. While I love most of Giffin's earlier novels for beach reads, I would recommend letting this one pass you by. Even if you are a football fan, the character development is so poor it's still not worth your time.

A few months ago Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, sent me [and everyone on GoodReads who read his book] a personal message urging me to read this book. Who was I to argue with the recommendation of such a close, personal friend? Fifteen year old Laurel is given an English assignment to write a letter to a dead person. She starts with Kurt Cobain and continues on with Amelia Earhart, Amy Winehouse, e.e. cummings, and more. It is through these letters that she deals with the death of her older sister May that had happened the year before. She shares her first love, family problems, and fears with these dead icons who she finds inspiring in some way.

While the format of the story was very similar to Chbosky's novel, it was still a very sweet coming of age novel of a girl in crisis. Her sister gone, her family fallen apart, she did her best to find her voice and her place in the world. I fell in love with Laurel and through her her older sister May as well. This Young Adult novel is definitely worth checking out.  

[Disclaimer: If you click on the above Amazon links and purchase anything I receive a small commission from Amazon. Like a few cents, which I appreciate greatly. Buying from Amazon is awesome, but your local library or independent book stores are pretty cool too.]


This Garden Life - Early August

Somehow it is August and I realize that I wrote ONCE in July. And I haven't written a garden update since June. We've been living in a sea of change the past few months and it takes all of my energy and then some just to keep my head on straight. I find myself retreating to the garden any chance I get, no matter how short, and it never fails to center me. I can walk out there pulling out my hair and when I walk back into the house I feel renewed, ready to tackle whatever is next. Even with rampant perfectionism gnawing at me gardening really is my sweet spot.

We continue to learn more each year and I love it. And hate it. But mostly love it. We've battled deer for the first time this year, but no Japanese beetles. Our tomato plants are growing so heavy with fruit (yay!) that they are falling over even with cages and breaking (boo!). Next year we're going to forgo cages and plant them along some fencing and tie them up there instead. We're planting a second crop of many things just to see what happens. I'm actually writing down the dates I planted things now so we have better reference points in the future. I've been meaning to all summer, but those good intentions were buried somewhere in my sleep deprived brain.

We've canned 7 pints of cucumbers using a new dill pickle recipe this year. I've made carrot zucchini muffins and zucchini bread. I'm so glad we have a deep freeze we can utilize this season so we have more space for everything. We haven't been composting all summer and it's breaking my heart a bit. We didn't have a sustainable set up so I've got my eye on a few compost barrels that may become ours before too long here. [If you don't have a Fleet Farm or similar outfit near you you are missing out. Seriously.]

So there you have it. The garden is growing. We have a potato/tomato patch that is growing like mad. The jury is out on the onions, but I learned I planted them poorly. Oops. I will be planting garlic this fall for next year. We have no basil yet, so our pesto may be farmer's market supplemented. The sugar snap peas are the best I've ever had. The crabgrass is still a pain in the ass, but the newspaper/hay combo has been a huge help. I'm loving the whole mess of this thing called gardening. 
These ladies benefited from our mistake in planting WAY too many greens all at once.


Liebster Award

A few weeks ago the lovely Danialle of Mama Chirps nominated me for the Liebster Award. You can read all about it here. To accept the award I answer Danialle's questions and then ask my own while nominating five other bloggers I love. The award is meant to be a way to help promote the smaller blogs that you love. Here goes nothing!

1. What does your post-writing process entail?
     I am a fly by the seat of my pants blogger. The only thing I really plan are photo updates (baby, garden, etc) and my monthly book updates. Other than that I just write when the feeling takes me and I can find the time. These days that time is fewer and farther between, so I have a lot of what I want to say floating around in my head. I'll sit down with some music playing and type it out. I'm usually too excited to hit "Publish" to spend much time editing, a habit I'm looking to change.

2. If you could go back in time and change something, what would it be?
     The SCOTUS ruling on the recent Hobby Lobby contraceptive case. [Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissent starting on page 60 is fantastic.]

3. What blog do you find most inspiring?
     Hands down Girls Gone Child. Rebecca's blog is an awesome combination of great photography and thoughtful writing. Her outlook on parenthood is refreshing and she doesn't hold back on sharing the ugly parts of life. She's the first blog I started to follow and I look forward to each of her posts still years later.

4. What is your favorite book?
     This is a tough one for me, but I think it's still Green Was the Earth on the Seventh Day by Thor Heyerdahl.Thor and his wife Liv sailed to and lived in the Marquesas, a dream I've had for a long time. They got married and immediately left Europe. This book is about the beauty in the simplicity of life in places such as these, the connection with nature and the serenity it brings.

5. What is your most prized material possession?
     Of course mine would be books: I have really old copies of The Ra Expeditions and Aku-Aku by Thor Heyerdahl. I haven't even read them yet because I don't want to finish all of his works any time soon. And a beautiful copy of Easter Island by Alfred Metreaux that Brent bought for me our first Christmas together.

6. Which one of your posts are you most proud of? Share the link.
     I'm pretty proud of this one AND the band read it too: Things I Learned From Saves the Day

7. What is your favorite coffee (or tea) beverage?
     Dr. Pepper.

8. Describe one of your earliest memories.
     When I was three I went bowling with my aunt's and met their friend Danny. I had a massive crush on him instantly. One of my aunt's told him about my crush on the phone in front of me and I was devastated. I felt so betrayed. I was three. And apparently wicked intense.

9. What is your favorite quote?
     "Love falls to the earth, rises from the ground, pools around the afflicted. Love pulls people back to their feet. Bodies and souls are fed. Bones and lives heal. New blades of grass grow from charred soil. The sun rises." - Anne Lamott 

10. Do you follow recipes exactly or create your own version of it?
     I am a recipe follower. My husband is magical in the kitchen, I just get by.

11. What is your favorite season of the year?
     Fall. Spring in Minnesota is pretty much non-existent, summer is filled with the stress of making each day count, and winter is cold and bleak. Fall is cool but not cold, days are long enough still, and there is a calm that settles in the air.

11 Random Facts
1. I didn't really have hair until age 3.

2. I can play the piano but get extremely flustered practicing in front of an audience so I rarely play.

3. I don't think I can live without at least one pet. I even had 1 or 2 in college.

4. One of my life goals is to knit myself a sweater that I can snuggle up in on chilly fall mornings.

5. I have wanted to write a book for as long as I can remember but didn't settle on a meaningful enough subject until about two years ago. Now I just need to dedicate time to putting it all on paper.

6. I threw up from the stomach flu once prior to having children. Since having children I've lost count how many times it's happened.

7. I regularly rock out to Garth Brooks' Greatest Hits even though I'm not big into country music.

8. I love data analysis. I just do.

9. I started college as an Anthropology major, then changed to Psychology, then changed to Sociology. If I were to go back to school ever again it would be in the field of Psychology. Making life decisions at 18/19 is such a great idea!

10. I subconsciously pick up things with my toes when cleaning the house.

11. I am in love with formline art. Lawrence Yuxweluptun is my favorite artist.

Blogs I Nominate
Adventures of an Artist, Wife and Mom
Where My Green Grass Grows
Words Under Words
A Little Black Cloud in a Dress

Questions for the Nominees
1. Share a self portrait of any media.
2. What is your dream job (money not being an object)?
3. What blog do you find most inspiring?
4. Who is your favorite author and why?
5. If you could see any band play dead or alive, who would you see?
6. What is your favorite food?
7. Who is your biggest "celebrity" crush?
8. East Coast or West Coast?
9. What is your favorite summertime activity?
10. If you had not chosen parenthood, where do you think you would be right now?
11. What is your favorite quote?

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