May 28, 2009

Canning

Alden and his manic smile.
This is another picture from our trip to New Hampshire, at a BBQ. It made me realize the three of us do not have that many pictures with us all thgether. Alden loved swinging in the hammock, if I had two trees close enough together I would get one...We did some canning on Tuesday. Karen came over and we made a batch of blueberry strawberry rhubarb jam and a batch of rhubarb ginger sauce. The catalyst for our project was our bountiful rhubarb in the backyard. We still have more of the stuff then we know what to do with. We need to figure a way to harvest it and store it for a month while our raspberries ripen... then we'll be living in Pie City.

We have been talking about canning for several months, but had nothing to can. Finally the stars lined up with our rhubarb and Karen coming over with frozen blueberries and us having the jars, and discovering some old strawberries in the back of the fridge, and a canning book from 1951 in the basemant. Good stuff.

The process was a lot of fun and is basically boiled down to boiling down ingredients and jars over and over again. The jam is tasty and the sauce is awesome.

Jam =
8 cups rhubarb
1 cup strawberries
1-1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 lemon (zested and juiced)
3 cup sugar


Rhubarb-ginger sauce
1 lb rhubarb(chopped in 1/2" sections)
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 orange (zested & juiced)
2 tsp fresh ginger (zested)

May 26, 2009

Tractor ride

A perfectly fine use for a gallon of diesel.
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May 25, 2009

Adventures on the Farm

My Dad recently built a barn where his old basketball court used to reside. It's quite an impressive space - a natural cedar plank barn with 3 large sliding doors, lots of natural light provided by reclaimed windows he and Lydia picked up years ago and a small cupola lit with an old chandelier. The barn is currently occupied by 2 hens (Red and Buttercup), 6 chicks (all about 2 months old) and an impressive assortment of John Deere farm equipment (a tractor, a winch, and another piece of heavy machinery I couldn't identify, but it had several menacing digging and prodding parts). We went out to see this new barn and introduce Alden to chickens and chicks, creatures which, until this weekend, have existed solely in the cardboard pages Alden's books and in plastic caricatures. Alden enjoyed watching the birds scratch in the dirt and chase each other around the yard, but the biggest hit was the tractor! Alden's favorite toy is a self-propelled, musical version of this very tractor that's hooked up to a cart carrying 5 plastic animals - a gift from my wonderful Aunt Kay. Alden recognized the real thing in the barn instantly and begged for a closer inspection. We were having fun just bouncing up and down in the seat and spinning the wheel in the barn when my Dad offered to start it up and take him for a spin. Alden ate it up in a way I've never seen. His little eyes darted from nobs to nob, from wheels to shifters, studying their every movement and assigned action in the tractor as feverishly as a student during finals. By the end of his first ride, Alden had figured out how the wheel worked (and insisted on steering with my Dad) and how the shifter to the right made the bucket loader rise and fall. He loved manipulating that stick and then watching for the bucket loader to appear over the grill. I think ride itself was a somewhat inconsequential when compared to all the fun trying to figure out just how the thing worked!! Alden was saying "trah-ter" by the end of the day and took several rides with my Dad and Kerstin.
I think my Dad might have enjoyed the rides only slightly more than Alden, but maybe only half as much as the spectators!A beautiful new barn in the background.

May 23, 2009

Frost Scare - New Plot

At the top of last week... a week ago actually, we had our (hopefully) last frost scare of the season. The weatherman said the temperature at night would be down in the thirties. This means us over-anxious gardeners who planted before Memorial Day had to soak our plants and cover them with straw, plastic tarps, damp newspaper, and whatever else we had to keep them from dying. Fortunately the temperature did not dip down enough to create a frost, and we removed all the cover the following morning.

We covered our herb garden with a tarp and our vegetable garden with a tarp and then inividual seedlings with extra plastic containers we had, including the clear plastic boxes in which you package salad-greens. Unfortunately the irony was lost on the plants.
The rain/sun mix this spring has been really good for growing. Last year it was too wet and plants had a hard time getting started. In an effort to prevent deer from munching my trees I hung dryer-sheets from the branches with clothes pins. Similar and easier than the soap I wired up last year, I hope the smell will deter our forest friends.


Here is the plot of the additions to the garden/orchard experiment for this year. Not too bad from last year. Everything looks healthy and happy except my peach trees which had a hard winter and died back to a few sad branches.

May 17, 2009

Rock me Momma, like a wagon wheel

Spring is here and we are spending as much time outside as we can. The garden is planted and the birds, bees, groundhogs, turkey vultures, and neighbor's dog are all out enjoying the mild weather with us. The great thing about Comet is that he's dependable kiddie entertainment, is up for fetch anytime, and when you're done with him, you can just send him home! All the fun of doggies without all the mess...
Know what the kids are down with these days? Two diaper boxes loosely fastened to the Radio Flyer with some random rope we happened to have lying around. Yup, it's ghetto, but it's also irresistible. Evelyn thought it was way better than her stroller. Above is a picture of Alden and Evelyn having a ride two weeks ago. This weekend our friends the Precourts came over for a barbecue with their children (Will, 2 and Charlotte, 5) and got a whole lot of enjoyment from it. While Alden is content to move about in the wagon at a leisurely clip, stopping at landmarks in the yard or to inspect fruit trees, a mostly digested cloth frisbee partially hidden in the lawn (thanks, Comet) and the like, the Precourt children picked it up a notch, shouting "Faster!!" and "Run over there!" Alden seemed slightly concerned about our joyriding at first, but he came to really enjoy it by the end of the day.
Peter at the helm. The thing I love the most about this picture is the tiny, frolicking Charlotte in the distance. She looks like a little purple pixie.
Alden and Will get along very well. Will is our vision into the future, since he's about 6 months older than Alden. He is a full-fledged little boy, it's amazing what a difference a few months can make.

May 12, 2009

He Walks!

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Behold, the toddler! Here's a somewhat lengthy video of our little guy on the move. Over the past month Alden has gone from being a crawler to a toddler, and he has the head injuries to prove it. He still does not like to walk on grass with his bare feet, but beyond that he is pretty keen on bipedal locomotion. He's also very keen on stroller rides, which is what we did after shooting this video.

Alden has always been very chatty, but it seems to have been heightened over the past month. We didn't think it was that unusual until we noticed his daycare friends and other babies his age were not nearly as verbal. This kid has a lot on his mind, I guess. 

May 11, 2009

Another round with the drum machine

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The drum machine has 99 preset songs to practice to, but Alden prefers the demo. He set the machine to repeat and rocked-out/ learned-out for 20 minutes. Over and over and over. That blank stare he gets is his learning look.

May 5, 2009

Sickies

The reason for the lag of blog entries in the end of April was partially due to Alden and Ilana both being sick. Alden had a wet cough for about a week before we got him medicine, and then it took a week for it to go away. Ilana had a sinus infection at the same time, getting her medicine at about the same time as well.

I have been doing time sensitive springtime house and garden projects. I know this is not the strongest defense for not updating this thing, but if you don't get your veggies planted at the right time they won't grow properly.

After two seasons of half-assed gardening we are going at it this year with our whole ass. A new fence dug into the ground will deter gophers and we even put lawn edging plastic around the base to prevent weed creep. We also think the garden will get at least 30% more sun now that we cut down the White Pine.
When Ben was still here we knocked down our old compost bin, it was ugly, falling down, and wasn't being used properly. I built a new compost bin behind the wall of shrubs so we don't have to look at it from the house.

The new compost bin is made from cinder blocks I found around the property. The good thing is I can expand the bin in the future if I need to by getting more brick.

May 3, 2009

Box Crazy

Alden has always been a huge fan of boxes, but lately it's become a favorite part of his day. Any box, be it too small (above) or too large (below) is to be entered into head-first with great enthusiasm. The box is then to be filled with favorite toys (he seems to prefer the Angry Rabbit, blocks and balls). Once his passengers are secured inside, the box is to pushed around as fast as possible. There's a speed trap in the living room, with a police car staked out behind the wood stove. Alden usually refuses to submit to the authorities and after an initial pursuit, makes a beeline for the kitchen, which is beyond living room cop's jurisdiction. It's all very Dukes of Hazard.
The box is also a great way to keep Alden contained in the Radio Flyer. Since he's still rather top heavy and more than willing to lurch to one side if he sees the neighbor's dog or a bumblebee or a stick or any other object of interest. He's finally gotten over grass phobia and does a pretty good job walking around on our ridiculously uneven lawn by himself. He still prefers to travel by box, if possible. This contraption was cobbled together by Karen and Kerstin to make his favorite mode of transportation a little easier on our sore grownup backs.


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Karen pulling Alden in his box-wagon as we mow the lawn (background audio).