Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A July Garden Update

The warm summer days of July along with the abundant rains earlier in the month have made the garden grow prolifically! As it was planted late this year, we just recently started to harvest the first summer squash and cucumbers which means delicious summertime dishes made with fresh vegetables are back to being dinnertime staples.

Part of yesterday's harvest

Here is some of what the garden is looking like now . . . both the good and the bad. :)

Pole beans, Cosmos, Zucchini and Yellow Squash with Tomatoes way in the back

The cucumbers have done amazing this year! And for the first time ever, way outgrew the trellises that I have always used for them.

A pickling cucumber

When picking the the cucumbers, there is a constant hum of honeybees among the plants . . . pollination certainly isn't an issue this year!



Bush green beans on the left, tomatoes in the back (and the 'red' among the plants is ties holding the plants to the cattle panels) with sunflowers behind them, and then part of the 'bad' of the garden in the front . . . the poor pepper plants! They were hard hit by a fungal disease and have really been struggling. They were also planted in a section of the garden that has poorer soil which we're thinking now is too heavy for them.

Amish Paste tomatoes

The crookneck yellow squash plants which are in the foreground are huge this year! Up past my waist and still growing. Behind them are the cucumber trellises and the bush beans off to the right and the pole beans in the back.

The bush beans are just starting to put on beans

Beets that are ready to harvest and can

A growing watermelon

While this photo looks promising with the melons, this is another not so good part of the garden as just in the last few days, the cantaloupe plants made a dramatic change and nearly wilted away. We're still trying to figure out the cause to that one, and we're thinking it may be a soil borne disease.

A Lemon Yellow Squash

This photo is from last week and is the last of our blueberries. The plants are finished producing now, and the delicious berries either found their way into baked goods or are in the freezer waiting to be used.

Our poor strawberry bed . . . the plants had been doing so well and were tall, thick, and lush. But then a deer decided that the bed would make not just a good snack, but a good full course meal. :) Thankfully most of the plants are starting to rebound!

A few apples are growing! It's exciting that some of our young trees are starting to produce.

 A few of the peaches that the late frost spared us.

With all of the produce that has either reached maturity or is close to it, we'll be starting the first canning of the year this week!

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Visit from Family

Last week my Aunt and Uncle and two of their grandchildren were able to stop by for the afternoon as they were en-route to visit their son and his family, and we were right on the way. It was so nice to see them all, and we really enjoyed our time together! 

Here are few photos that were taken after they first arrived . . . .

Aunt Judy, Sophia, Mom and Leah
 Poor Sophia had broken her ankle just a few days before she went to visit her grandparents so she is on crutches. Even though it is harder for her to get around, she has such a sweet heart and smile despite it!

Tommy, Uncle Jim and Dad looking at the beehives (which you can't see thanks to the prolifically growing garden!)

 Making friends. :)
(Since walking very far was tiring for Sophia, I brought my little doeling over for her to see)
Leah showed her the rabbits, and she enjoyed petting some of the babies

Tommy, Uncle Jim, and Dad . . . both my Uncle and Dad grew up on farms so they always enjoy talking 'farming' together!

Aunt Judy and Leah with both of Leah's dogs

And some of what the pictures don't show is . . .

-- The many stories that were told as my Aunt, Uncle, and parents reminisced

-- Tommy having a first experience helping move a goat (we tie out some of our goats during the day so they can browse/graze so he helped my Dad move one.)

-- Visiting with Sophia about the crafts she likes to do and her face lighting up as she shared about them

-- Sitting around the dining room table visiting and enjoying the dessert my Mom had made

-- The expressions on their faces when they tried their first goat milk! Which Sophia liked. (:

-- The laughter that is always there whenever we get together

-- All of us standing by their vehicle when it was about time for them to leave and talking . . . and talking . . . and . . . obviously not wanting the afternoon together to come to an end! (:

(Photo courtesy of my Aunt Judy)

Thank you all so much for coming!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Blueberry Sour Cream Pancakes

 A few weeks ago when Leah and I were planning the menu, she had been looking through one of my cookbooks and saw this recipe which is one I happened to have marked to try sometime. With having an abundance of blueberries right now, it was a perfect time to do so! So I made it last week, and this simple recipe is definitely a keeper.

Blueberry Sour Cream Pancakes
(my alterations are in italics)

-- 1/2 cup sugar (or 1/2 cup evaporated cane juice)
-- 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
-- 1 cup water
-- 4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

-- 2 cups all-purpose flour (or 2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour)
-- 1/4 cup sugar (or 1/4 cup evaporated cane juice)
-- 4 tsp. baking powder
-- 1/2 tsp. salt
-- 2 eggs
-- 1 1/2 cups milk
-- 1 cup sour cream
-- 1/3 cup butter, melted
-- 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Gradually stir in water. Add blueberries; bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat; cover and keep warm.

For pancakes, combine dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, beat the eggs. Add milk, sour cream and butter; mix well. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened (let sit for a few minutes - if necessary add a little more flour.) Fold in the blueberries. Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls (I did just a little less than 1/3 cup to make bigger pancakes) onto a greased hot griddle; turn when bubbles form on top of the pancakes. Cook until the second side is golden brown. Serve with blueberry topping. Enjoy!

(The original recipe can be found here.)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Ha Ha Tonka State Park

For several months, a good friend of mine, Joy, and I had been planning a get together at a mid-way point between us . . . Ha Ha Tonka state park! We had never been there, but she and her family had visited part of the park before.

Finally the long awaited day arrived, and the weather was simply beautiful for July with a perfect temperature for being outdoors and hiking. My Mom, Leah and I drove down and met her and her oldest daughter, Elyse, at a picnic area along the Lake of the Ozarks and had lunch and visited before beginning to explore some of the trails.

At the picnic area

The first place we wanted to see was the 'castle' so we drove to where the start of that trail was and began the climb upwards . . . 

Leah, Mom, Joy and Elyse . . . we had such a fun time together!


You can tell we're in the Ozarks! :)

Looking down from the trail at the top of the hill

 The 'castle' is the main attraction of Ha Ha Tonka, and as you can see in the sign below, construction first began on it in 1905, it was completed in 1922, and a fire destroyed it in 1942 . . .

Seeing how much this man put into his dream of this impressive earthly structure only to die a year after construction began and never even seeing its completion was sobering. Granted I do not know the circumstances nor his reasons for building it, but it reminded me of the passage in Luke about the man who kept enlarging his storehouses and laying up treasure on earth, yet that very night his "soul [was] required of" him.

And for the man that built this castle, all that remains now of his dream is the shell of the buildings . . .

Part of the large carriage house which once housed 100 horses

Another view of the carriage house

The castle which was huge! I cannot imagine the amount of labor and time and number of workers it must have taken to complete such an immense project.

Joy, Elyse, Me, and Leah
(photo by my Mom)

 Leah, Mom and I
(thank you, Joy, for the photo! :)

 Elyse and Joy . . . we are so blessed to know you both!
(photo by Mom)

Elyse and Leah

Joy and Elyse photographing the inside of the castle

Mom and I looking at the amazing stone architecture inside the castle
(photo by Leah) 

(photo by Leah) 

Inside part of the castle . . . at the bottom left, you can see where a fireplace once was.

Mom took this photo of Joy taking a picture of her . . . meanwhile . . .

I took one of all four of them! 

We all really enjoyed our time at the castle, marveling at the construction, having fun together, taking photos, and enjoying the beautiful views. From where we were, we could see the water tower in the distance . . .

So Joy and Leah figured out where to find the trail that led to it . . .

And then we went in search of it!

And found it :) . . .

It was interesting reading about how it had worked!

(photo by my Mom)

Me, Leah, Joy and Elyse
(photo by my Mom) 

Looking through one of the windows of the water tower


 After our time at the water tower, there were a couple of other trails we were wanting to explore, and one led to a 'natural bridge' . . . .

Leah, Joy and Elyse walking down the trail

A pretty little butterfly that was not very cooperative for a photo!

The natural bridge was so impressive! We loved our time down there exploring and enjoying the many different things to see.
(photo by my Mom) 

If I remember correctly, it was about 100 feet from the base of the natural bridge to the very top of it

 Mom, Elyse and Joy underneath the bridge

The rock formations were fascinating . . . so many layers.

(photo by my Mom)

The trail continued on through a deep sinkhole, and we very much enjoyed hiking it

Joy, Elyse and Leah


The trail was less than a mile long, and it was beautiful along it! Definitely a treat for the eyes . . . and ears :) as there were many birds singing along the way. Once we reached the end of the trail, we decided it would be nice to find a quiet place to sit and visit, but before that, there was one last place I wanted to quickly stop by in order to get a photo of it . . .

. . . the huge stone post office.

It makes me so curious what it was like back when it was first built and in operation! To think of all the many people, letters, catalogs, etc. that would have gone through those doors.

After quickly stopping here, we found a picnic area and sat and visited for hours. It was so nice to enjoy talking about things ranging from faith and family, to homeschooling, to child training, to sharing funny or memorable stories from our pasts, and much, much more. What a blessing godly friends are! Thank you so much, Joy and Elyse, for the wonderful day!