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The last few weeks have kept us very busy with a variety of DIY projects around the house.  With the absolutely beautiful weather gracing us, my girls and I decided to take advantage, move school outside most days, and just get after it.

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We first needed to fashion a new table for our deck.  Our old table, after weathering many a Midwestern winters, had finally called it quits and we needed another piece on which all of our summer family dinners could take place.  I happened to find a local woman who was selling barn wood, so we ventured to her barn and listened to a wonderful story of a Swedish family who immigrated to the Rockford area with hopes of building a family farm.  They bought property on the corner of Baxter and Mulford Roads and there constructed a home in 1902.  Later, in 1903, they gathered with neighbors to build a barn in which to begin their farming venture.

We brought home three 10-foot boards, washed them, and ran over them once with some sandpaper.  I then applied three coats of //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=makofahom-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B000C011CE&asins=B000C011CE&linkId=96a4608fd8c32411f7f8bbe7d4f64747&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff“>an exterior marine polyurethane to all sides of each board.  I connected the boards with 2 x 4’s in order to create a removable table top that I can bring inside during the winter months.  I then created “table legs” using cinder blocks.  I was so thrilled once the project was complete because I was able to craft a one-of-kind ten-foot table to entertain upon for under $100.

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My girls and I also got busy building a backyard washing station. While visiting Koviashuvik Living School in Temple, Maine last August, I was struck by all the ways in which the Knapp family used seemingly random household objects to craft “new” devices to serve a very sustainable purpose.  Our washing station is not completely sustainable, as we do plan to start our washing process with city water from our home, but our hope is to eliminate one avenue of waste through this process.  (And keep my kitchen cleaner too!) Each garden season we are faced with what to do with the dozens upon dozens of 5 gallon buckets filled with dirt-caked veggies that make their way into our kitchen.  Enter…our OUTDOOR veggie washing station 🙂

We had a random cement slab that was found in our yard when we bought our house and it has been milling about under a tree ever since.  So, with much assistance from my strength-and-conditioning-coach hubby, we moved the cement slab near our backyard water spigot.  I used the old legs from our outdoor table we had just scraped, and attached them to a countertop my dad had just removed from his basement during a remodel.  I then placed a washtub next to the table, with a bucket beneath the drain.  We plan to plug the washtub, dump in our muddy produce, and fill the tub with our nearby hose-water.  Once all the veggies have been scrubbed clean and placed in a strainer on the table, we can drain the tub into the bucket and then use that greywater to water our plants with.  And all of this will happen outside, and now only gloriously clean veg will make its way into my kitchen.

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And last, but certainly not least of our DIY adventures of late, I have created a spot in the garden entirely for me.  I moved around some aimless pieces that had been littering our property and used them as the basis for this new space.  I then crafted prayer flags and stitched each stitch with a heartfelt intention.  So here I stand to greet my morning, in my very own corner of the garden, setting positive intentions for my day.

Wishing you all a productive, yet peaceful start to your week.

 

 

Can You Feel It?

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The chill in the air has finally dissipated, and the sun remains hanging in the sky a bit longer these days.  Can you feel it?  I do believe that summer may just be right around the corner.  After those strange May evenings dipping to freezing temperatures here in Illinois, and sadly losing some of my plants despite the fact that they were covered, I am so thrilled to see the mercury rise into the seventies and eighties.

Our garden seems to be loving these temperatures and this week’s sunshine just as much as we do, and we have wasted no time getting out there and digging in, in the most full and present way we can.  Yes.  Finally.

{A side note:  The pictures in this post are very special for two reasons…#1:  My camera broke last week.  Yes, broke.  I was beside myself.  Then my friend Jodi came to my rescue, and loaned me her fabulous camera.  She is amazing.  Thank you, thank you! #2:  I have been afraid of heights for as long as I can remember.  I am talking palm-sweating-heart-racing-paralyzing fear.  But this week, while my husband was away for work (he is normally my “aerial” photographer), I desperately wanted overhead shots of my garden.  So, I mustered up all the courage I had, climbed onto the top of my shed, and took these pictures.  I. Did. It.}

This Week in my Garden

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It’s crazy what can happen to a garden in a matter of weeks.  For so much of the summer, our garden is green.  Lettuce, kale, arugula, Swiss chard, peas, beans, carrot tops, etc.  But now…now is when the real fun begins.  Color.

The raspberries are starting to produce juicy crimson fruits,  tomatoes are moving from green to a pale red, and blood red beets pop from beneath the surface of the soil.

Join me today for a walk through our garden…

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All Things Garden

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With July now well under way, we find ourselves amidst the heart of our growing season, with a list of chores longer than we could ever hope to complete in a day.  Although I can sometimes get frustrated by this endless to-do list, I am reminded that the jobs of a garden are never actually done, so therefore I need just to work through each day, doing what I can to tend to this growing space of ours.

In honor of this height of garden productivity, I’ve decided to designate this week as “Garden Week” here on my blog 🙂  I hope you all enjoy this fun little adventure through our week of gardening bliss.

To start things off for the week, I wanted to give you a little taste of just what our garden is looking like.  Off we go…

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Garden Tour

Although at a snail’s pace, we are getting our garden planted and the space is looking a bit less like a field of dandelions and a smidge more garden-like these days.  Join me today on a tour through the gardens…

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Tomato Time

Sorry for stepping away for a day, but my garden work kept me detained a bit longer than I thought when I was writing on Monday morning.  The tomatoes are in full swing  and I seemed to have gotten lost amongst the vines for a very long time before resurfacing and realizing that most of my day had passed me by.

This is the first year that we have not planted any slicing tomatoes.  We planted only small cherry-type tomatoes (Juliets and Mexican Midgets) for the girls to snack on, and paste tomatoes (Viva Italias, Speckled Romans and Amish Pastes) to use for tomato sauces and salsas.  What I didn’t realize about these types of plants is how many more fruits they produce compared to slicing tomatoes.  Oh my.  On Monday afternoon while I was picking, I found 4-6 ripe tomatoes, 6-8 I’m-almost-ready tomatoes, and about 20 addition green tomatoes just waiting to get ripe.  That is also not factoring in that each plant still has about 20-30 blossoms.  Apparently the tomatoes have done just fine with all of this heat.

So what to do with all of these lovely tomatoes?  Tomato sauce it is!  I love, love, love making tomato sauce.  I have no idea why I cherish this activity so very much, maybe its my Italian roots, but I look forward to this activity come late July each and every year.

Yesterday I woke up early to begin this favorite task of mine.  I went out to the herb garden, enjoyed the cool damp air from the rain the night before, and spent some time in meditation just picking oregano and basil.  It was a great start to my morning.  Then with coffee at the ready, and ingredients laid out, I went to work.  And what lovely work it was, in the quite of the morning before anyone else awoke to begin their day.  Ah.

My Tomato Sauce

I kind of fly by the seat of my pants with this recipe as (much like with my pesto). I first put a good amount of olive oil in the bottom of a stock pot.  I then add garlic and onion (chopped) and I cook that down until the onions become translucent, but not brown.

I then add my chopped tomatoes and my fresh oregano and basil.  I add a bit of salt and pepper at this point, cover the pot and let it cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes.  I then remove the lid and allow to cook for another hour or so.

At this point, I run a hand blender through the sauce (I don’t strain my seeds.  I know all the Nanas out there may turn their nose at this 🙂 )  Add more salt and pepper to taste.  Then I bring the sauce down to a simmer and leave it for several hours.  I stir it every once in a while to keep the bottom from sticking.  At the very end I add a bit of butter to cut the acidy taste.

I freeze my sauce as opposed to canning it because I find it hard to stick to an exact recipe, which is so very important to do if you are canning.  I normally freeze my sauce in wide-mouth glass quart jars filled about 2 inches from the top of the jar (to allow for expansion during freezing.)