Good things come to those who wait … for Chickens!

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The chickens can be seen out our kitchen window

The chicken(s) can be seen out our kitchen window

I can just hear you say “Welcome back, Dana!” as you read this post. Yes, I find as I get older that time seems to go much, much faster than it used to, and I just don’t get as much done as I’d like to! But alas, here I am writing a post (finally).

Chicken in the coop

Chicken in the coop

“So, what’s new?” you ask? Well, after waiting nearly 11 years, I am now the proud owner of chickens! It is kind of a funny thing to want, and to wait for, but before we moved to Ireland I had it in my head that I wanted to get chickens. There have been many good reasons why we didn’t get them over the years. But thankfully, there were no excuses this year and we now have 4 chickens and a cute little hen house.

Two chickens in the coop

Yep, we went in their tiny run to get some pictures!

Their current run is small. We intend to build a nice size run for them in the coming weeks. Although we’ve done some reading on the subject, we just wanted to get them and see how it went! Ideally, they’ll get out to roam in the garden, but our schedules are so crazy that I’d rather they have a nice, secure and safe (read: fully enclosed) “back yard” to play in whenever they want.

chicken coop outside view

The girls spend their day alternating between staying inside their coop and going outside.

I live in the country, so to source chickens I simply asked my neighbor, who is a farmer. I quickly had the name and number of a breeder in the next town. Easy peasy. Our chickens are a Rhode Island Red hybrid. They are 23 weeks old, and should start laying eggs in the next week or so, hopefully.

view of chickens from kitchen window

another view from the kitchen window

The girls are quite friendly! Unfortunately, I haven’t spent enough time with them to know who is who. They are all called “the girls” for now, although we do have names picked out for them when we can figure out their personalities!

Hyacinth

Hyacinth

Getting chickens has always been my thing. My kids were never interested in this idea, and wondered why I was so intent on getting them. But all three of them have spent their free time “playing” with the girls. O.K., chickens don’t really “do” anything, so playing with them means watching them, taking pictures of them, laughing at them, and of course, speaking chicken to them! I love it. I think everyone should have chickens!

Viburnum opulus 'Roseum' tulips Don Quichotte and Mystic van Eijk

Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ surrounded by tulips Don Quichotte and Mystic van Eijk

I suppose I knew it already, but this is just another example of the idea that if you really want something, it will be worth the wait, and not to give up hope on getting it!

pink hyacinth in a jug with chicken house in the background

Hyacinth and chickens 🙂

Flowers and chickens, yes, that is what makes me smile! It is the simple pleasures in life that make it all the sweeter!

I hope you have sweetness in your life, too!

In peace,
Dana

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A bit of self care goes a long way

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white Tulips from The Bay Garden

Tulips in The Bay Garden, Wexford (2016)

I had a few choices of what I could do today (lucky me!). As it happens, self care is not something I’m very good at. Doing things ‘just for me’ doesn’t usually happen, which is something I’m working on improving. Today was delegated a self care day! One important part of self care is nurturing friendships. I have really neglected spending time with friends lately. There just seems to always be too much to do and not enough time to do it – and well, sitting down and relaxing doesn’t usually feel like the right thing to do. But sitting down and relaxing, especially with friends, is sometimes the *perfect* thing to do.

Pink Purple Tulips Douglas Bader

Pink-Purple Tulips (Douglas Bader) in The Bay Garden, Wexford (2016)

Today was one of those days where I jumped at the invitation to join some friends for breakfast. How lucky I am to be able to do so. I absolutely appreciate that I have the time to meet friends and enjoy their company. We exchanged parenting stories, life stories, tried to solve some of the world’s problems; essentially we had a lovely time together!

Blushing lady Tulip

Blushing lady tulip, in my garden

After I arrived back home, it was time for more self care: of the “Health and Fitness” variety. This is something that, throughout my entire life, I have stayed on top of. I’m not sure why, but it could be that from a young age we were always involved with sports all year long. Throughout my adult years I’ve tried different fitness programs and different sports. Last year we did a lot of biking. The training was for a challenging 100 km bike ride in September, which was an incredible experience. But when I got on the bike in January, I wasn’t enjoying it, for a number of reasons. So I went back to basics, which for me meant walking.

Ballerina tulips

Ballerina tulips, in my garden

I love walking. I have always loved walking. But even walking is different for me now. Three years ago I was diagnosed with a genetic heart condition called Long QT syndrome (type 2). It has to do with the electrics of the heart. Another time I’ll go into the details of that. But the treatment for LQT2 is beta blockers. I heard a description of what it is like to exercise while on beta blockers, and I have to say it is a pretty fair assessment: It is like trying to run through deep, wet cement. Personally, in the beginning, it felt like someone was placing the palm of their hand on my forehead and preventing me from going forward. It was tough. So basically, when everyone else’s heart rates are increasing to circulate the blood throughout the body, mine is “blocked” to stay at a low rate. But I’m still trying to do the same activity as the person next to me, just not getting the blood circulating through my body like it needs. This = going slow, and sometimes feeling ill while doing so.

Tulip conbination: Don Quichotte and Mystic van Eijk, in my garden

It’s frustrating. I’ve gone through a period of feeling sorry for myself. Yes, I did.  Still creeps in there sometimes. I want to go fast! I want to keep up with everyone else! I want to be the best I can be! But wait, I am still the best I can be. I just shouldn’t compare myself to everyone else. But wait again, I probably shouldn’t have been comparing myself to everyone else anyway… 🙂

Foxtrot Tulips, in my garden

Foxtrot Tulips, in my garden

It has taken me six weeks, but I am finally feeling my fitness levels starting to improve. I had an awesome walk today! I’m not fast, and it still takes me a long time to recover, but at least I’m feeling better during the exercising. Hopefully soon enough I’ll be back on the bike and enjoying it again.

Queen of the Night tulips with a backdrop of Hawthorn trees in flower

Queen of the Night tulips with a backdrop of Hawthorn trees in flower, in my garden

I could probably find a hundred things to do instead of exercise, but just like meeting with friends, it is important to take care of ourselves. I think I’ve written a few times about similar topics, actually, because I need to keep reminding myself of how important it is! The more busy I get, the more important it is to take time out, for me. It helps to keep me balanced. And happy. 🙂

I hope you are making time for your own self care. It’s something we all need.

In peace,
Dana

Parrot tulips, in my garden

Parrot tulips, in my garden

A lifting of spirit as spring nears

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Hi there! It has been a while since I’ve written here. I was still posting pictures on my instagram and Facebook accounts, but I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind for writing here. I recently realized, as the weather improved and the days “lengthened” (being brighter for longer), that my overall mental health hadn’t been great. As the sun was shining more, I could feel the weight being lifted from my shoulders. I’d say that since November, I have had a feeling of being run-down. It is funny to notice that now that the weather is improving, I can feel a “lift” in myself.

Daffodils in an Irish made Belleek vase

early blooming Daffodils in a Belleek vase

There is always something to do in the garden, and as is my way, I do a little at a time, and by golly it eventually adds up to a job well done! Or, at least, it is “good enough”! 🙂

Who needs straight lines when you can have wonky?

This very odd shaped bed is my favorite at the moment. The odd shape is due to the location – it is right in front of our shed. The choice is to either have the odd shape or have a straight line and anything that I plant in that space will be run over by the mower when it is put in/out of the shed. I’ve opted for the odd shape! There is a hellebore plant (frilly Isabelle) in this bed that has just been beautiful all winter. The hyacinth are just popping up now. The lilac shrubs are full of little buds, as is the hydrangea plant. The iris and hosta are still sleeping, but they have plenty of time yet. And last to bloom, at the end of summer, will be the asters. It is still a work in progress, but I love this strip of garden!

lots of pink!

Hellebore Frilly Isabelle

There are two beds of garlic which I’ve also made sure to keep neat and tidy. I really like having something growing over the winter. They should be ready to harvest in July. I’m going to try and grow some flowers down the middle of the beds this year.  We’ll see how that goes!

Our two garlic beds are looking good

garlic up close

garlic up close

The rose bushes were also pruned. I discovered that I am somewhat wimpy at this job, as I probably should have taken off much more than I did from each of the plants. Part of the problem was that I left it rather late, so the plants had loads of buds and growth on them and I just didn’t want to take them off! Note to self: prune earlier next year.

lots of growth on some of the rose plants

There are signs of spring all around the garden. My tree peony has had a rough time in my garden over the past few years. I moved it to a location which I think it prefers to its former home. I’m hopeful that we’ll have more pretty flowers this year!

tree peony showing signs of life

tree peony showing signs of life

open snowdrops

open snowdrops

We must not have had an insect/slug issue this year, as my snowdrops were in top form. They are so tiny and sweet looking!

tree in fog

I took this picture on an early morning walk

I have to admit, the past few months were hard. There were many times when I would have normally gone into the garden, but I just couldn’t (energy, desire, time, …). Even when I did get back into the garden, I’ve had to keep it at a “small job” level. That’s life, I suppose. I’m thankfully feeling better now, although still taking it easy on myself. Things will get done when they get done. 🙂

compost "heap" March 1

Compost “heap” March 1

And some things, like my compost, can work on their own! Although it certainly helps to turn and rotate it, the breakdown of the garden materials takes place even when you “just leave it”. The birds love it for all of the worms. Kitty loves it … to get close to the birds.

Hellebore plant Frilly Isabelle

Hellebore plant Frilly Isabelle

I’m so glad to be feeling better, and getting back into the garden (and writing again!).

Happy first of March!

In peace,
Dana

When things don’t go as planned…

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beds of garlic in the garden

Visual status update on our Vallelado Garlic (image from Jan 22nd)

Well hello there! I confess that I had not expected to take this long to write my next blog post. I don’t strictly follow a schedule, but I usually work as much as possible in the garden, in my free time during the week, and then I write about what I did.

gardening beds weeded and covered in compost

“Winterizing” the beds: completely weeding the bed and then working compost into the soil

But for the past number of weeks, I have not worked in the garden … at all. This is very unusual for me, as the garden is my happy place! Thankfully, though, I’ve recently started to get back into the swing of things, and I’ve managed to spend some time in the garden.

Most of the beds have been cleared, weeded, and had compost added (most but not all!)

What’s going on in the garden?  I’ve tidied up some beds (read: massive amounts of weeding done!) and covered them with compost. I’ve also started weeding one of my main flower beds so that the winter flowering plants have some breathing room (poppy plants are covering every square inch of free soil!).  And the biggest project is to clean up one corner of the yard for my new adventure which I will start this spring!

a "before" picture of a messy part of the garden

This is the official “before” picture of the corner which we are re-working!

O.K., so the big adventure is that we are going to get chickens! I’m planning to get them in April, but I want to make sure this area is ready for them. Look at that mess in the picture above! The stone path, as well as the two beds, are all covered in an invasive weed (which I have not been able to identify).  The only way to clean this up was to clear it all out.

garden beds covered in weeds with cleared path

Progress???

First to go were the weeds on the stones, and then the stones.  The stones in the back section of this corner will probably stay – I’m undecided on this point actually.  I’d like to get rid of them, but not sure where to put them! Oh, did I mention that my son and my husband have been helping, too?  Admittedly, this job is anything but fun. So we’ve been doing it in small sections.

garden beds of soil

definite progress!

Those invasive weeds really worried me.  But we are managing to clear them and their massive roots.  It still needs a lot of work, but we’re getting there!

Hellebore Winter Sunshine

Hellebore Winter Sunshine

What else is on the agenda for this week? Pruning my rose plants.  I’m following my father-in-law’s lead, as his roses are simply beautiful every year (and he pruned his plants last week).  He asked me about mine the other day, and when I started to panic that I hadn’t pruned them yet, he reassured me that I’d have at least another week or two to get it done! 🙂

helleborus orientalis double ellen red

Helleborus orientalis double ellen red

I would like to get a better handle on the weeding, too, or my entire yard is going to have about a million poppies.  I’m not even kidding!

Helleborus frilly Isabelle

Helleborus frilly Isabelle

I’m thankful for the pretty flowers that my hellebore plants are showing off now.  They are really looking lovely, and the 3 different varieties are quite different from one another!  I have made a note to get some more!

snow drops covered in rain water

Snowdrop flowers covered in rain water

I’m so very glad to be back in the garden, and back to blogging! I hope that you have managed to keep doing what you like to do, even if time is scarce!

In Peace,
Dana

 

Thank you!

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Pink ruffle poppy

a poppy with lots of ruffles

I want to take this moment to thank you for reading my blog. I’m so glad for you to stop by and visit! I thoroughly enjoy writing about my gardening adventures, and I especially love photographing every aspect of it. So I appreciate when others share in my journey.  A special thank you, too, if you are following my blog. If you are not yet following, please feel free to click on the link on the left side of the page. 🙂  I would also like to invite you to leave comments, as I would love to know what you think about the different topics that I write about!

pink tulips

some of my most hardy tulips gifted to me when we moved into our home

The garden is one of my favorite places, where I can go to clear my head, be creative, and marvel at how the circle of life in nature promises that the garden, although dormant in winter, will again bring new life every spring time. For me, the garden is a place of hope (there are no guarantees!). Although I will admit that I work quite hard in my garden, it is never with disdain. I hope that you will continue to enjoy my writings!

wild flower garden in July

My wild flower garden in July

I have a few new (big-ish) plans for my garden this year!  One section just really needs a change and 2019 is the year to make it happen.  I have already started on that project, so I am quite excited that it will come to fruition! Stay tuned …

October garden with mums and pumpkins

our garden in October with mums, pumpkins and sunflowers

Finally, I’d like to wish you only the best in 2019: Health, Happiness, Prosperity, and fresh organic compost from the garden!

frosty winter garden

Our garden on a frosty, foggy morning

In peace,
Dana

Reflections on Oxford dictionary’s Word of the Year 2018 – Toxic

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Toxic

Honestly, I don’t usually pay attention to the “word of the year”, but this year’s winning word, toxic, caught my attention. To me, it relays such a negative feeling about the year as a whole.

I’m writing this in December, where for the entire month we prepare for Christmas. We are filled with the Christmas spirit, singing Christmas songs, decorating every nook, and there is simply a wonderful feeling of joy and anticipation in the air! But the reality is that “Toxic” was the word of the year…

Nativity Scene

One of our larger Nativity scenes

According to the Oxford Dictionary website, “the Oxford Word of the Year is a word or expression that is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and have lasting potential as a term of cultural significance.”

stained glass nativity scene

One of my favorites, an antique, stained glass nativity scene

They further explain that, “in 2018, toxic added many strings to its poisoned bow becoming an intoxicating descriptor for the year’s most talked about topics. It is the sheer scope of its application, as found by our research, that made toxic the stand-out choice for the Word of the Year title.”

We have many Nativity scenes of all sizes. This one is only a few inches high.

When I hear the word “toxic” my mind is filled … with images of poison! I don’t want to expand on the many uses of toxic. (Hence, I have filled this post with pictures of what Christmas looks like in our home!) Instead, I’d like to propose that we make 2019 a year filled with positivity. We can even start right in our own gardens! Ditch the chemicals and go organic. Start composting to reuse your kitchen and garden “waste”. It all starts with small changes that we all can make. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Nativity Scene

A rustic, handmade star lighting a Nativity Scene

Stepping out of the garden, I hope we will all be a little more kind; Not just to those we know, but to those whose stories we know nothing about.

And hopefully, by this time next year, the “word of the year” will be one reflecting something positive.

Christmas decorations

Christmas decorations can be found everywhere in our home!

Wishing you much Peace, Joy, and Happiness for 2019 and always,
Dana

Love

Peace, Joy and Love

A pleasant surprise in the Compost Heap

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compost heap under Elder trees

Compost “heap” mid-summer underneath blooming Elder trees

Hello! This post is about the funny thing I “found” in my compost this past weekend. It made me laugh, so I hope you’ll enjoy my story!

compost in a wheelbarrow

Compost from our garden

First, though, I have to talk about Compost, because you could say that I am a tiny bit “obsessed” about my compost. I have written about it here and here, which you can reference for any “how to” questions you might have. It’s just that compost is sooooo good for the garden, and fairly “easy” to make that it makes sense to do so.

enclosed compost tumblers

enclosed compost tumblers for veggies and fruit

My time in the garden over the past 8 years has been one learning experience after another. Compost is no exception! We started by throwing together some pallets to store the compost. Then we began heaping on all of our kitchen scraps (uncooked vegetables, fruit, coffee grounds, tea) and everything gathered from the garden (grass, leaves, weeds).  What.A.Mess. But we now have two enclosed “tumblers” for our kitchen scraps. The idea is that I don’t want to attract unwanted animals, so I try to keep food off of the open heap.  Also, we still have the pallet set-up, but we no longer throw nasty weeds on it.

wooden pallet compost enclosure

We built our first pallet compost enclosure back in 2012

Wow, that was really neat and tidy back in the beginning!

different piles of compost based on different ages

Different sections of the compost are at different stages of break-down

O.K., so I used quotation marks around the word “easy” earlier, when I described making compost, because although heaping on the garden materials is indeed easy, I have found that the compost breaks down best when “turned”.  “Turning” the pile, basically just digging and mixing it up, can be a bit of work. It’s not the most glamorous of garden jobs and quite honestly, I don’t do it often enough. I do turn our “tumblers” every week, which really helps with that breakdown. The goal is to get dark brown, crumbly consistency, broken down compost material.

dark compost

compost breaking down into a crumbly consistency and of a dark brown color

This leads me to my story of what happened this past weekend. I went out into the garden to get my couple of hours of “garden time” and decided that the compost needed some attention. One section is breaking down really well, and is full of worms and is turning a lovely dark brown color. I worked on that pile first, because it was easy to turn! Then I started to tackle the MESS!

broken down compost and unbroken down compost

The left side is well broken down compost while the right side is a huge mess that hasn’t been turned

I started on the right side of the heap, but almost immediately, my garden fork went through something and got stuck. When I pulled it up, I found a huge potato on the fork!

potatoes in compost

Potatoes in the compost heap!

I put the fork down, and used my trowel to gently clear some of the top layers of compost away. Then I just used my (gloved) hands to dig in the soil and I found potato after potato after potato! The soil under the compost was amazing! Of course it was, it was broken down compost.

A huge Sarpo Mira organic potato!

So, what’s the story here? Well, we planted organic Sarpo Mira, main crop potatoes last year. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, it was a disaster, and we ended up digging up the entire bed, without harvesting any edible potatoes. We cleared out the bed and heaped it on …have you guessed? … the compost pile! Those “seed” potatoes, must have enjoyed the amazing organic compost because they grew HUGE!

potatoes in compost pile

Most of the potatoes from the compost pile were huge!

soil from compost heap

A close-up look at the soil the potatoes were growing in

Of course, after my discovery I remembered seeing potato plants and flowers in the compost this past summer, but I didn’t really pay them any attention as I didn’t think they’d really grow. Boy was I wrong!

container of potatoes from compost pile

That’s a lot of potatoes dug up from our compost pile!

It was just the funniest thing for me to find all of those potatoes. We’ve grown potatoes a few different years, and we’ve never had them grow this big. Just goes to show that my garden bed needed a lot more compost than I was putting in it!

bowls of potatoes in front of compost pile

The red bowl is filled with extra large potatoes, the strainer is filled with normal sized potatoes, with the compost pile in the background.

It wasn’t enough to just find the spuds in the compost, though. I had to see if they were actually edible!

potatoes on cutting board and in a bowl

The potatoes peeled just fine and were perfectly firm!

Organic Sarpo Mira potatoes are known to be blight and slug resistant, so it wasn’t too surprising that the spuds were in really good shape. The funny markings on the outside also appeared when I grew them in my beds, and doesn’t affect the taste. I’m happy to say that we ate two big potatoes today, and they tasted delicious!

The bottom line is, of course, that compost is amazing!

Do you compost? 🙂

In peace,
Dana

2nd Place Award for “Easy to Grow & Adds Color to the Garden” goes to Pumpkins!

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pumpkin in vine

A nearly ripe pumpkin still attached to the vine (with all of the leaves removed)

Hello there! This post follows on from a previous post about what I think is easiest to grow in the garden. Since time is precious, we only plant what is easy to grow in our garden. In my view, the first place award of the “easiest to grow” contest belongs to garlic, but this is followed quite closely by pumpkins. We have found them to be very easy to grow, love how they brighten up the garden with their orange blossoms and the actual pumpkin, and especially love cooking and baking with them!

plant pots inside with cat

Potting up our seeds in a sunny hallway in April. The cat *usually* leaves them alone…

In late April, I usually start my seeds inside as we have a sunny hallway where they do well. The seeds are the seeds which I washed and saved from my pumpkins the previous year. The original purchased seeds were organic (of course!). In the picture above, my pumpkin plants on the right are well on their way, while my sunflowers on the left (shhh, those are my 3rd place winners for the “easy to grow” award!), have been planted later as I want them later in the season. Despite Kitty knocking over the plants, they survived just fine.

Four Pumpkin plants (in left bed, the right bed have yellow squash) in early June of our very dry, warm summer this year

a young pumpkin plant

a young pumpkin plant (2016)

bed of pumpkin plants and blossoms

Bed of pumpkin plants and their bright orange blossoms (from 2017)

I have only grown baking pumpkins, although there are many different varieties of pumpkins. Basically, I want pumpkins for soup and pumpkin bread, so I tend to stick to what I like. 🙂

Did you know? There are male and female pumpkin flowers. This one is a male, standing high above the plants.

When it comes time to move your new potted plants outside, it’s important to not just throw them out into the wide open world without first acclimatizing them. It takes about a week. I’ll usually leave them outside during the day and bring them in at night. By the very end of May, after all chances of frost are gone (hopefully!) and we’ve given them their daily-dose of ‘outside weather’ for a week, I’ll plant them in a sunny spot in the garden.

compost in a wheelbarrow

Compost from our garden

Pumpkins love compost. Sure, what plant doesn’t? I work LOTS of compost into the soil. From what I read, they also like water, but I’ve never had an issue with needing to water them any more than other plants (haha! I do live in Ireland though…). We did have a very warm and dry summer last year, actually, and all of my pumpkins matured by the end of August! I’d never had that happen before. They are normally still green in October!

female pumpkin flower atop of baby pumkin

A female flower atop of an immature fruit

After they’ve settled in to the bed, the first flowers to appear will most likely be male. There are normally more male flowers than female, and the female flowers will bloom later in the season. But honestly, I don’t pay attention to any of this (or I haven’t in the past), and everything just falls into place when it should. I’ve always had between 6 to 12 pumpkins per season, which is fine by me.green baby pumpkin

Pumpkins start out (very) green!

small pumpkin hanging from the vine

pumpkins prefer a sunny spot to “hang”

pumpkin growing in an ornamental grass

This pumpkin wasn’t fussy about where to grow… Can you see it in the ornamental grass???  It’s not like I planted it there!

different sized pumpkins

pumpkins grow in all shapes and sizes

Normally, near the end of the season I cut off all of the leaves of the vines to help the sun to ripen the pumpkins from green to orange. This can also happen after they are cut from their vines. To prolong the life of the pumpkins, you should leave them a bit longer in a sunny spot, after cutting from the vine. It is best not to leave them sitting in the soil though, especially at this stage. I’ll either have them sitting on flat rocks or I’ll bring them onto the front porch area.

pumpkins and yellow squash in garden

Pumpkin bed (on left, yellow squash on right) in August

pumpkins and sunflowers

Cut free from their vines, the pumpkins can end up anywhere in the garden for photo shoots! (2017)

Oh! I forgot to say that I also like using pumpkins in my photographs! That orange (and even when they are still green) is just fabulous!

pumpkins, apples, pears, sunflowers in the garden

Our fall garden (2018): pumpkins, apples, pears, and sunflowers!

pumpkin in sunlight

Isn’t that beautiful?

pumpkins and red apples

I love the colors of the red apples and orange pumpkins!

I really like having pumpkins in the garden. It is great fun to see how many we’ll get, and how fast (or slow) they turn orange. Pumpkin is a taste that I think people either love or hate, there is no in between! There is also nothing like the taste of fresh, homegrown pumpkin!

pumpkin cake on a plate

We call this “pumpkin bread” but really, it should be called “pumpkin cake” as it is so delicious!

I’ve linked our pumpkin bread recipe, but I need to update it to include the crumb topping we now always add.  The original recipe is still awesome, it is just that bit more awesome now!

pumpkins in the garden

pumpkins can be found anywhere in the yard for photo shoots…

I keep our house decorated with a fall harvest theme until Thanksgiving.

pumpkins and scarecrow decorations inside house

We have a fall harvest theme in our house until after Thanksgiving!

Only after Thanksgiving do we start to decorate for Christmas.

pumpkins with santa hats

Christmas pumpkins (No way! It’s too soon!)

Haha! Sorry, I just had to use the picture with the santa hats!  🙂 Back on topic; What about you? What do you think are the easiest things to grow in the garden? I’d love to know!

In peace,
Dana

 

 

“Me time” to crochet a Rainbow Poncho

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fingers with red nailpolish, rainbow colored yarn

Having some “free time” = “me time”!

Hi there! We were away at my daughter’s Irish dancing competition last weekend, which meant I had lots of “free time” before and after her competitions. Now that my daughter is 14 and does all of her prep work herself, the free time was really all mine (and better for my daughter’s stress levels when I keep myself busy!). I took full advantage of that time and started a new crochet project.

the first three colors of a poncho

In the beginning… starting at the neck.

This project was actually a long time in the making. The yarn, called “Caron Cakes” in the color palette Rainbow Sprinkles, was bought for me by my husband about two years ago when he was in the U.S.A. on a business trip (isn’t that nice?!). He thought I’d like the colors, which was 100% correct as I LOVE the colors!

Caron Cakes yarn in Rainbow sprinkles color with start of poncho

watching the colors unfold

My problem was that I didn’t know what to make with these colors, and I only had two skeins (balls) of yarn. A poncho seemed the best choice, and I began my Pinterest search of patterns. Lots and Lots and Lots of patterns!

cat on lap with crochet poncho in progress

Kitty was convinced I needed her support while crocheting.

Eventually, I found the poncho which I thought would be perfect.  The pattern I finally picked is called Mountain Breeze Poncho and was designed by Lorene Eppolite.  It is a free pattern (I love those)! I would still consider myself a novice when it comes to reading patterns, so it took me a few go’s to get it right in the beginning.  But once I figured it out, it was rather easy.

rainbow poncho half finished

Mid-way progress picture!

It is meant to sit slightly off of the shoulders, which seems a bit unusual, but I think it works well.  The front “pointy” part and the back “pointy” part are actually different. The front has a pattern of raised lines, whereas the back does not.  A bit quirky. 🙂

the back of the poncho half completed

Here is a look at the back while still in progress.

The yarn is soft and I enjoyed working with it, and the poncho itself has a lovely feel. I used a 7 mm crochet hook which is HUGE compared to what I usually use. That took some getting used to! I’m not able to whip through projects, as my hands tend to cramp up (I hold the yarn too tightly!). But this poncho came together quite quickly.

completed rainbow poncho

The finished Mountain Breeze poncho in Caron Cakes ‘rainbow sprinkles’

I fiddled a bit with the neck. The pattern had a more open neck, and I preferred a more closed neck. I won. 🙂

back view of completed rainbow poncho

A back view of the completed poncho.

I also added on a bit to the outside edging, as I wanted a more defined look. I think I can still wear it with the raised line pattern a bit more on my shoulder, I’ll have to play around with that look!

completed rainbow poncho

Completed Mountain Breeze Poncho in Caron Cakes ‘Rainbow Sprinkles’

I loved that this was a quick and relatively easy project, and that I was able to use these fabulous colors! Back to last weekend’s dancing: My daughter danced beautifully at her competition. It was a big competition, and she didn’t place as well as she’d hoped, which is tough. But she’s resilient, and is determined to work harder.

mom in the garden with her daughter in Irish dancing dress

My daughter and I at her Irish dancing competition

There is a funny story that happened over that weekend when we were away for the dancing. A woman who was sitting next to me, looked at me and my crocheting and said “You don’t like free time, do you?”! I laughed and replied that this was my free time and I loved it! I guess it all depends on your perspective.

What do you do in your “me time”?

In peace,
Dana

 

mom in the garden kneeling at flowerbombed pipe in the garden wearing rainbow poncho

And this is me, kneeling at my yarnbombed (sewer) pipe in the garden. I just like adding a bit of color to life!

 

Garlic wins as Easiest, most Rewarding item to plant in the garden!

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playhouse with geraniums

In 2014 I had geraniums around the playhouse. Today, I have lavender, roses and bleeding hearts because I find perennials easier than annuals.

Hi there! This post is about conveying that gardening doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” past-time. We started out spending quite a bit of time in the garden (read: Every.Spare.Minute.). But as our family is growing-up, and our interests are growing (can you say that?), we are spending less time in the garden. Given how precious time is, it is important that we only grow what we have time to care for. That means that we grow what is easy!  And the top of that “easy to grow” list is garlic.

freshly harvested (Cristo) garlic

Freshly harvested organic Cristo garlic (from last summer)

I am still a stickler about not using chemicals in the garden, and I source organic seeds/plants. Fruit Hill Farm, based in Cork, has been a great resource for organic growing, and I’ve been quite happy with the garlic which they have provided. I’ve only used two varieties: Cristo and Vallelado. I like garlic that is planted in the fall and harvested in the summer. It is nice to have some growth in the garden over the winter, and it requires very little maintenance. The rewards are huge, as the taste of home grown garlic is far superior to store-bought garlic, if I do say so myself. 🙂

organic Vallelado Garlic label

Fruit Hill Farm, based in Cork, is where I buy my organic seeds and plants.

“Winter garlic” can be planted any time in the fall. The rule of thumb is to get your cloves in the ground before Christmas, to ensure (in Ireland) that they get enough time in soil that is cold enough. My husband enlisted the help of our youngest daughter to assist with planting. We’re using different beds for the garlic this year,  and since I had cleared the two beds of weeds following our pumpkin harvest a while back, they could set to work straight away.

bowl of garlic cloves on cleared planting bed

a bowl of organic garlic cloves and a prepared bed

My husband made the holes in the soil and my daughter placed in the cloves (pointy side up). It is nice to get the kids involved. (I hope they think so too!)

soil with holes for planting

not too difficult… although I hope they turned that clove pointy side up!

If you’d like more step-by-step instructions, you can click here to my earlier post about how easy it is to grow garlic. We planted Vallelado this year.  It is good for storing, which I can attest to. After harvesting and drying out in the summer, I keep mine in a paper bag in a closet in our (somewhat cold) utility room. It will last all winter long, and you will have plenty to give away to friends, too.

freshly planted garlic beds

Two freshly planted garlic beds.

garlic and geranium sitting on wall

a throwback to 2013 🙂

Sometimes, I can get all caught up in life in a too serious kind of way. This is never a good idea! There is something to be said about getting older and wiser, though. Thankfully, I do find myself recognizing when I’m getting a bit too serious, and I can work on changing gears. A lot of this has to do with balance, or being out of balance. You know: work/family/house/garden/…me! 🙂 And that is why we only plant the easy stuff in the garden!

wreath made with garlic, dried artichokes and dried roses

Garlic wreath with artichokes and roses

And if I find myself getting too serious, I go and make a wreath with anything and everything I can gather from the garden!!! Because inevitably, that puts a smile on my face.

Will you join me in planting garlic this fall? There are still a few more weeks left to do so!

In peace,
Dana