Garden Update: 09.10.21

I started writing this a week ago, but I realized I didn’t have any recent pictures of the garden as a whole, so I had to wait until I mowed the lawn and took some more. It’s been awhile since I’ve updated, eh?

As is typical for this time of year, some parts of the garden have slowed their production, while others have been picking up in recent weeks. Most notably, we’re well into tomato season, and this year’s crop has been substantially better than last year’s.

Why that is, exactly, is probably up for debate. On the one hand, we moved the plot from last year, it’s received plenty of sun, we’ve been around to keep it watered, and we didn’t have any major storms come through to drop hail on the plants this year. We also added some compost to each plant. On the other hand, because we’ve been here for most of July/August, Brooke was able to keep an eye on the plants and “trellis” them more appropriately than we are usually able to. That, and she’s trimmed them back a few times. It’s probably a combination of multiple factors, really, but either way…

…the tomatoes are doing fine! It was very hot in mid-August, so Brooke didn’t really want to do much canning, so she’s just been freezing tomatoes wherever we can stick them (as of this writing, we’re supposed to get our new basement fridge today, but we’ll see…we need that in order to make more freezer space available for produce!!).

Aside from the ‘maters, we’ve also got some peppers coming on. We usually don’t end up with a ton of peppers, except for when they’re some weird variety that we probably aren’t actually going to eat. We’ve got some yellow peppers coming on, as well as some small bell peppers. Nothing too crazy, really, but it’s nice we’ve got something coming on.

Otherwise, we’ve still got soup beans on the vine(s). Brooke was going to pick those last week, but then it rained, so we’ll have to wait. She’s picked some already, as well as our other dried bean plants, but there are still quite a few soup beans yet to be picked.

Our sweet potatoes are also there in the background, moving along nicely!

As far as other things on the horizon, we’ve got a ton of apples falling off the tree! Way more than we usually have. We’ll probably pick them tomorrow so Brooke can process them into some applesauce. I’ve only tried the green ones so far, but the red ones we’ve got are new this year, and those came off the tree that fell over in late-June.

The other big news is that we actually got a few almonds this year! We haven’t eaten one yet, but we got a few! Crazy, right?! We waited until their shells popped open, then pulled these out and have been drying them for a bit. Maybe we’ll have Calvin try one, first….

Last, but not least, Brooke pulled 18 frames out of one of her hives last Thursday and we took them to Hannibal for extraction over Labor Day Weekend. We ended up with almost 60 lbs of honey, putting our total for the year close to 90 lbs. That’s quite a bit! We’ll probably have the kids sell some tomorrow, though getting enough half pint jars to put honey in for sales is still a challenge with ongoing supply shortages. Still, Brooke is pretty sure the value of the honey she’s collected this year offsets the purchase of bees for the year, so that’s a plus!

Actually, one more thing: we procured some strawberry plants from a coworker of mine that was wanting to thin their plot out, so we’ve expanded the strawberry patch a bit. No idea whether they’ll “take” or not, but I’m having to water them a bit to keep them happy, as we’re in something of a dry/hot spell this coming weekend. Brooke dug out the raspberry/blackberry “bushes” in the process and I’m going to make some more concrete bricks to line the plot, so we’ll probably just go exclusively strawberries in that space for the next few years. At least, until they die off and we get bored and want to put something else there…

There will probably be one more post later this month or early next month. There isn’t much more growing, but the garden isn’t quite done with us yet!

A Midsummer Night’s Disruption

So, long story short, this actually happened two months ago, but I didn’t want to post anything here until we had new appliances in place. We’ve got two of the three though, so I’m going to count that as “good enough” for now.

To set the stage, on the evening of June 24th, we were forecast to get some rain. Some. Rain. Not all the rain, but some rain.

Instead, we woke up the morning of June 25th (happy anniversary!) to find that we had, in fact, received all the rain. It rained over 10 inches that night, and moreover, we had seen some rain in the days preceding. Suffice to say, 10 inches overnight was not the expectation, so when we went to bed and it was raining, we didn’t think anything of it.

Fast forward to the next morning, when Brooke got up early to go to work and looked downstairs, only to find over a foot of water in our basement. Now, when it rains 4-5″, it isn’t uncommon to find water down there. Usually, we just use the pushbroom and sweep it toward the sewer drain and it’s fine. A few times per day, while also keeping the dehumidifier active, is typically just find to keep things under control.

Not this day! All of the water was in our basement, for reasons we didn’t know at the time. The first issue, though, was where Charlotte was. Brooke came and woke me up when she discovered the basement issue, but her concern was that she couldn’t find Charlotte, and because the water level in the basement was above the furnace and water heater, she was concerned that the water could be electrified, in which case she could have hurt herself if she had touched the water somehow overnight.

We called our fathers and our plumber to get a sense of what our risks were in the basement. It was still pouring down rain outside, so getting into the basement was still going to be a challenge. I put on rubber boots, after being assured that I should be fine, and waded through the water to get to the circuit breaker, cutting power to the HVAC system and the water heater. After I took care of that, I looked for Charlotte.

It ended up taking a few minutes to move about the basement (again…a foot of water down there…that I really didn’t want to splash into my boots…), but I ultimately found her on the air ducts in the ceiling where she would commonly climb around. She’d gotten stuck up there and had a deer-in-headlights look to her, which to this day, we think traumatized her (she has climbed up there since, but it took weeks before she tried that again).

When we first talked to our plumber, all he could tell me was that a). I probably wouldn’t die if I walked in the water, and b). it was an issue all over town, but at the time, we didn’t know what had happened. He called back mid-morning to ask if things had resolved, to which I replied “no.”

Apparently, the water treatment facility on the Salt Fork River had been breached. Water on the river rose above the levee, threatening the treatment facility, so they had to shut it down. When that happened, all of the storm water that would have left the treatment facility and be dumped in the Salt Fork, instead, backed up into everyone’s houses! And when I say “everyone,” I mean just about everyone in town. It depended on a variety of factors, such as how close to the sewer line you were, how high your house was relative to the line, etc. In our case, it backed up a foot into our basement, whereas our neighbor “only” had a few inches. Some others in different parts of down had 3 feet of water, rising up to the top of their beds as they got up that morning.

Once they were able to turn on the treatment plant again, then water receded quickly, with the water level in our basement dropping to puddles by 10:00 am or so. Still, by then the damage was done.

We had a lot of stuff in the basement, some of which was raised off the ground, but certainly not everything. I lost a few guitar amplifiers, some VHS tapes, and an old KitchenAid mixer we weren’t using. Our guitar cases were down there, but in the intervening weeks, I’ve mostly “rehabbed” them (I need to glue the padding back in, but considering I don’t really take our guitars very many places, I figure I’ll see if I can’t use the cases moving forward).

We waited for the folks who installed our HVAC system to come by later that day to check and make sure it would still work, as it was only a few years old. Against all odds, even though water had made it into the system, they only had to dry off the mainboard and get rid of some moisture around the blower and the thing worked! Brooke went and picked up a new air filter, as the one we had was soaked with storm water, but at least we’d have A/C again that night!

Other things, like our chest freezer, survived unscathed. The upright freezer, though, wasn’t getting a good seal. It was cold and keeping things frozen, but it kept beeping at us. After 3 days, the beeping stop and the freezer decided it was fine.

Sadly, our expensive washing machine wasn’t so lucky. It wouldn’t turn on at all. Our dryer turned on and “worked,” but its motor made a whining noise, indicating it was not long for this world. After we set up the insurance claim, we got the dryer ordered in early July.

It was just delivered last Wednesday. Turns out trying to get new appliances amidst a global pandemic isn’t great.

To that end, we lost our extra fridge downstairs and are still waiting on it to come in. Hopefully in the next few weeks, though! We need that extra fridge capacity, as the one in the garage isn’t going to be as usable once cold weather sets in later this Winter.

As far as outdoor damage, there were branches down, but everything was just so soggy, to such a degree that one of our apple trees actually fell over! I had to go out twice that day to prop it up and try to tie it down. Shockingly, the tree has survived and we should be picking apples in the next few weeks!

I went for a run the next day and found this scene at the bottom of Indian Foothills Park. It was blocked off for almost a week after the flooding, as the Salt Fork River passed near this space and encroached on the disc golf course, as well as a shelter. There is still yellow tape up down there to limit people walking around in that area, but at least you can drive through it now.

So yeah, it was a pretty big deal that threw off Summer chores around the house a bit. I finally cleaned up the garage this past weekend, putting away the last bits that were salvageable, and setting up the rest of it for trash this week. It just took time to get things ordered, get things cleaned up and assessed, and put things where they belong. We had tools from our bathroom project downstairs, so we moved those outside to our garden wagon….where they remained until this past weekend when I finally put them back where they belong. It was just a confluence of lots of stuff going on that kept taking up time, so it took awhile to finish up.

Thankfully, things are almost back to normal. We received our homeowner’s insurance check pretty quickly, so getting all of the new appliances replaced was doable, though we had to wait for shipping. The fridge is probably the last piece yet to be resolved, so things are now, finally, closer to normal down there.

Garden Update: 07.25.21

The garden is doing well, though I feel like it’s been a bit less prolific than previous years. We had a lot of rain in mid-to-late June, and now these last few weeks, it’s been mostly hot and humid, so we’ve had to return to watering. It’s not like we aren’t getting anything, but it just feels like we’ve got more “lulls” between harvests.

The beans, for example, are truckin’ along. Brooke’s canned at least 12 pints of beans thus far and there’s still more coming. We’ve picked every 3 days or so and are getting an ice cream bucket’s worth every time we go out.

Again, have we had more than that in the past? Sure. But we also planted shorter rows this year and got stuff in a little late, so it hasn’t been optimal conditions. Still, the green beans are coming in fine, as well as the other beans planted in that plot. We’ve got plenty of pods on there for the beans that need to dry over the next few months and, at this rate, it may only take a few weeks…

The tomatoes are also coming on, but again, slower than I’d like. I guess they aren’t too far behind usual, and we’ve actually got a decent number of ‘maters on there, but we literally have our first reddish one on now, so we haven’t actually had one yet. We’re on track to have some in the next week or two, so hopefully it keeps up. I just need to keep watering.

The zucchini worked alright for a bit, but randomly, 2 of our 3 plants just kinda….died….all of the sudden? Their big leaves went down and wilted first, and then it was just over. We’ve got one plant left that I’m nursing a bit, so hopefully it keeps producing. We’ve had 4-5 good sized zucchini so far this year and, frankly, that’s probably all I really need, but Brooke would still like a dehydrated supply to put in pasta sauces, etc. over the winter.

The zinnias Brooke planted have caught up and are doing a good job entertaining the bees. Honestly, I don’t see all that many bees on there, but it’s what I’m telling myself. They’re attracting butterflies and moths though, so at least other pollinators are taking advantage!

The soup beans are planted between the zucchini and zinnias. They’re doing their thing. We’ll have plenty, as usual, in October.

The more recent news involves the fruit trees. The Japanese beetles are out in full force, not as bad as two years ago, but still pretty terrible. The peaches are just starting to turn, so we went ahead and picked a bunch today.

There’s still a lot on there, so hopefully we’ve slowed the beetle’s appetite a bit by taking the ones they were about to feed on, while sparing the ones that aren’t ready yet? That’s what I’m telling myself at least. As usual, I’m not sure the neem oil is doing anything, but I’m still doing it, anyway…

We’ve got two fruiting pear trees, one of which produces an Asian-variety and has tons on it (but we never know when to pick them….like….every year….), and the other tree has never fruited before until this year! And of the two pears we can see on the tree, one of them is covered in beetles. Ug.

The two apple trees are doing their thing. With the flooding we had a month ago (which, yes, I will post about at some point….), one of the trees fell over and had to be propped up…twice… Still, there are still apples on there and they’re looking good!

And pictured above, we’ve still got almonds! I think we’ve got 7 up there, maybe? Definitely more than last year. Are we guaranteed to actually get to eat them this time? Uh, absolutely not. But hey, here’s hoping!

And last, but not least, we harvested honey a few weeks ago! The “package” hive is doing well and we got maybe 30 lbs of honey from it (plus some excess from the wax Brooke brought back from her parents’ house). The “nuc” hive is a bit more problematic. For some reason, they bees weren’t heading up into the super and didn’t put any honey there, even though it seemed like there was plenty of honey and brood in the bottom, deep hives. It was kind of weird, so Brooke will be getting back into it sometime soon to see if they’ve started pushing upward. With as dry as it’s been, there may be more capped honey in there, but we’re also slowing down a bit as we’re in the “dog days of Summer.”

Hopefully we have more tomatoes by the next time I update things!

Destin(ation) Wedding – Part III

So, the morning of June 3, we were on the beach for awhile in Destin, yet later that day, we were due to hit the rehearsal dinner a few miles from the condo. Again, traffic was ridiculous down there, so any trip back and forth wasn’t trivial. We hit the venue late-afternoon and, considering it was early June and we were all mostly dressed up, the temperature wasn’t all that crazy. Definitely warm, but not unbearable.

The venue was pretty cool! It was a building with plenty of space, and a kitchen (that we didn’t need), as well as another out-building where the bridal party could get ready the next day.

The rehearsal didn’t take all that long, of course, so we got some pictures, met the other half of the family, and kind of went through the motions so we’d be ready for the next day. After we were done, we went to a very nice restaurant called Marina Cafe for seafood that had a lovely ocean view. The dinner was mostly uneventful, but everyone had a great time!

The next day involved a lot of back-and-forth, as Meg and Brooke needed to be with the bridal party at points, so Calvin and I had to shuttle people back and forth, and get lunch to take to them while they were all getting their hair done. Calvin went to the arcade with Uncle Jimmy for a bit, so he was entertained well enough, whereas I just had to field text messages and load stuff up when requested.

The wedding itself was lovely, of course! The weather was (again) surprisingly beautiful, despite being in Florida in June. My one complaint was that there were quite a few folks off partying in the bay while the wedding was going on, which obviously no one could do anything about. The wedding only took 20 minutes or so, but being able to hear everything was a challenge at time. Still, everyone looked and felt great, and that’s what matters most!

Calvin didn’t have any duties for the wedding, really, but Meg was handing out bubbles to folks as they came in, along with the groom’s niece. She was happy to help out, but Calvin was just happy to wear a jacket and tie. And getting super cool sunglasses as a wedding favor was extra special. 🙂

The dinner was mostly standard fare, with the speeches, cake cutting, etc. Rachel’s speech was really good, as was the Best Man’s speech, which was a pleasant surprise compared with other weddings we’ve attended! Again though, the food was good, the cupcakes were good, and everything came out really well!

The reception moved outside for dancing under the lights after dinner was done! Steve and I had gone to Sam’s a few days prior to stock up the bar and, though lots was had that night, we still didn’t go through nearly as much as we bought. I can only assume that they’re still working on it post-wedding.

The next day, we all convened at the beach one last time before we took off. The rest of the family hung out another day or so, whereas we had to head back to Marshall so Brooke could start her new job in a few days!

We loaded up and headed out by noon-ish that Saturday and took off for Tennessee, heading on a different route than we did on the way down. The plan was “speed” this time, rather than a more lackadaisical fashion as we did on the way down. We made it as far as Franklin, TN that day, after stopping at a Panera for dinner (turns out both kids found things to eat there, so we need to add that to the list as a place to stop on road trips).

Sunday, we pushed it and made it home by mid-afternoon, giving us enough time to reset a bit and get some laundry started before Brooke’s new job started the next day. In the end, Yellowstone was probably more the vacation for 2021 whereas Destin was more of a trip, but both gave us a wide variety of experiences within a month of each other! In retrospect (as I’m writing this quite awhile after we actually went…obviously….), we’re glad we took these trips in May/June rather than now, because it sounds like just about everywhere in the US is inundated with tourists. Hopefully it calms down by next year when we go to the west coast!

Destin(ation) Wedding – Part II

So after we left New Orleans, by this point it was nearly lunchtime, so we hopped on the road and figured we’d stop on the way to Pensacola (which we did). Traffic ended up being more of a consideration on this leg of the trip, though. There were tons of cars, all over the place, so we could just feel the population in the region swelling.

It was Memorial Day, after all, so we could tell folks were either heading back to Georgia from Louisiana/Texas, or going in the other direction. All roads led through Florida, apparently.

Now, the original plan was to get to the beach that day in Pensacola, but that beach we were heading to was on an island! Apparently, the bridge to that island was crazy, though. It could easily take an hour to cross the bridge due to all the traffic. The Baumann Clan struggled to get dinner the night before because of how long it took to get off the island to the mainland, and then get back again to where their condo was.

In the end, though the kids were disappointed, we just went to our hotel on the outskirts of town. This hotel, again, wasn’t ready when we arrived, so we had to go to a grocery store nearby to get some food and such. When we got back, the kids went swimming and I went for a run….around the hotel… There were no go running areas around where we were and I was trying to keep my miles up, so I did what I could. And it was rather boring.

This hotel room was pretty nice, though! It was actually a suite, so two rooms that were connected, each with their own balcony, bathroom, and TV. It was a nice break, for sure! So yeah, the room wasn’t that bad compared with other things, but it just took a bit to get in there.

The next morning, we got breakfast downstairs and then left to go to the condo. We got down there soon enough that I could go for a longer run along a trail close to the beach. It was pretty nice, but the wind was brutal!

We mostly hung out at the beach for the rest of the day, then! The crowd had mostly subsided after Memorial Day was over, so it really wasn’t all that busy down there. It was kind of cloudy and it wasn’t particularly hot, per se, but we were pretty comfortable. The sand was nice to work with and Brooke’s Dad made a very convincing alligator.

That evening, we went to Peg Leg Pete’s restaurant a short walk from the condo. They apparently wanted to go there for a few nights, but it was always crazy busy. We had to go down in person to get on a waiting list, then they called when we needed to be there to actually claim our table. The food was great, the atmosphere was very “you’re eating at an open-air restaurant right near a beach,” at overall, we had a good time!

It was so busy, in fact, that we even witnessed three people try to sneak in and claim a table without being seated, so they were politely asked to leave. Again, it was nuts down there!

The next day, we made it to our condo in Destin. This drive also took forever because, apparently, Destin, FL is like the Lake of the Ozarks times a million. Cars everywhere. Stoplights everywhere. People making U-turns where it should probably be illegal.

And, wouldn’t you know it, we got there and our rooms weren’t ready yet. To be fair, this time we were actually pretty early. The condo we were staying had 3 rooms, so the kids got a room, Brooke and I got a room, and Brooke’s parents got a room. The rest of the Baumann Clan got a separate (and similar) condo in a different building on the same premises.

Still, it was a really nice place! The living room area and kitchen were all connected; there were three bathrooms; the balcony wrapped around the main space, so there was plenty of room out there; it was within walking distance of a private beach. Pretty cool! They also had a rec room in our building that I visited a few times to use their treadmill, so that helped. There were multiple swimming pools around the resort, though we didn’t use those and mostly stuck to the beach.

Our room was a good size and had its own bathroom and balcony. It was nice to be able to spread out for a few days, where the kids could go to bed at a reasonable time, and the rest of us could get up and come and go as we pleased. Overall, it was a nice set-up!

The one downside is that there wasn’t much food within walking distance. One night, we stopped for ice cream at the complex next door to our condo, but if we wanted to get dinner, for example, you had to drive somewhere…and turning left out of that condo was mostly a nightmare. We had to take a right and pull a U-turn multiple times just to get to where some things were.

The beach attached to the property was also pretty nice. White, sandy beaches abound, for sure, and a tiki bar of sorts nearby with reasonable prices on drinks and food, so once we got to the beach, we could mostly just hang out there.

The serious downside was the economics of how this beach operated. We had access to the water, of course, but all of the chairs and umbrellas present were at the front, while the “riff raff” like us had to set up in the back

…and as you can see, the view wasn’t exactly “spectacular” from back there. Chairs were $35 a piece (I think?) and you usually couldn’t pick-and-choose the one(s) you wanted. It was first-come-first-serve, so to speak, so some folks would come down early that day to secure their seats, then not even show up until later in the day.

That night, we ended up picking up Mexican from a restaurant nearby (that we had to drive to), which was pretty good. I won’t say it was mind-blowing or anything, but Brooke and I went and grabbed it and brought it back to the condo. When we got there for pick-up, apparently there was plenty of space in the facility, so we could have all gone and just eaten there, but ah well.

The next day was the start of more craziness, though. Stay tuned!

Destin(ation) Wedding – Part I

We found out months ago that Brooke’s sister was getting married (yay!), but the wedding was going to be in Destin, FL on June 4th. Of course, when we found out about this, we’d already begun making plans for our Yellowstone trip. It was a lot of driving (and we ended up with two cracks in our windshield between these two trips, for the record), but made the most of it!

Brooke ended up starting a new job in early-June, so we timed things where she could end her previous commitments and take the time off where we could make our way to Florida without having to do it in one shot.

As such, there was a lot of driving that we tried spreading out over a few days. The first target was New Orleans, but we stayed in Natchez, MS that first night. On the way down, we stopped for dinner at a place called The Dock for some seafood. The experience was….fine, though the folks out on their boat docked at the literal….dock…were rather “impaired,” so we didn’t stay outside very long. The food was pretty decent, though the parking lot could have been better…

The hotel also could have left a bit to be desired. The hotel itself was alright, but it wasn’t the cleanest we’d experienced and, more importantly, we rolled in to find out the TV didn’t work and couldn’t be fixed until after Memorial Day (um…days after we would be there…). So yeah, we arrived late enough that it wasn’t a huge deal, but still wasn’t great…

The next day, the drive to New Orleans took maybe 4 or 5 hours, so it was a relatively short hike for us, giving us some time in Louisiana before we’d head to Florida. When we arrived, we were too early for our hotel to be ready, so we made plans to hit up Central Grocery to grab muffalettas (for Brooke and me….the kids got other stuff we’d brought along…).

We parked maybe 5 blocks away from the French Quarter, but passed Louis Armstrong Park on our way, so we figured we’d return there to actually eat. It was a nice respite from a long drive, and a beautiful, albeit warm, day.

Walking around the French Quarter was something of a rude awakening. We’ve only been around a lot of people a few times in 2021 and, well, New Orleans sure felt like 2020 never happened. TONS of people. Everywhere.

Anyway, after we finished off lunch, we had an appointment just outside of town at an alligator farm, which wasn’t really a “farm,” per se, but more of a preserve where alligators tend to live. We went off on a boat (kind of a pontoon, but not really…) and saw a ton of ‘gators out in the bayou. The dude running the tour was tossing big marshmallows out toward the boat, drawing in multiple alligators and giving us some of the history of the area. Apparently, the tour company bought some acreage in that area, and they try to maintain it in order to privately take folks out while also preventing randos from coming in and hunting alligators (by the way, “alligator season” is a thing down there).

The tour was pretty cool! It wasn’t horrifically expensive and lasted at least an hour and a half. The tour guide definitely had his schtick , but it was an entertaining experience and we all got to hold an alligator (something I never thought I’d say/type).

We returned to New Orleans to get our hotel in order, only to find it wasn’t ready yet (not the first time this would happen on this trip…). We killed 45 minutes by walking to the Mississippi River (pictured at the top) and generally getting our bearings.

After we finally got into our room, we found a restaurant to visit a few blocks away. We went down, found out it would be a 45 minute wait (again, the aforementioned “metric ton of people” in town…), and decided to hang out. Calvin and I walked down to Bourbon St. to grab some drinks to bide our time a bit, leaving Brooke and Meg in the virtual line…

….that ended up lasting 2 hours…. Again, there were tons of folks in town, so just about everywhere had a long line, but this one was quite a bit longer than we were expecting. Calvin and Meg did the best they could, of course, but eating dinner after 8:00 is something they are most definitely not used to.

The next morning, we got up in the 7:00 hour and headed toward Cafe du Monde for beignets for breakfast….and got in line…for another hour and a half!!! We’d been seeing headlines about Yellowstone and how lines were 50% greater than 2019 numbers, but I guess we weren’t expecting New Orleans to be this crazy.

In the end, the kids said it was “worth it,” though. And we ate a lot of beignets.

After breakfast, we headed down the road to Pensacola to meet up with more of the Baumann clan. More on that later!

Garden Update: 06.15.21

The garden’s off to a decent start for the year! We had a relatively mild late-May, but it seems like the sun’s been out for the last few weeks now and we’re already having to water everything to keep stuff growing.

The kale is over and done with, but we left it out for awhile because it seemed like the bees were enjoying the flowers. Brooke planted a few more kale plants that are still out there (aside from that gigantic one on the right that’s very much gone to seed…), but with the heat, I doubt they’re going to last long. We also don’t have any spinach in there either, so I’ll probably just be trying to keep a lid on the weeds until we decide what to put there.

One of the squash plants Brooke put in didn’t make it, but the other three are moving along. The soup beans in the background are moving along, though they aren’t particularly large yet. The flowers Brooke planted seemingly a month ago really haven’t done much, surprisingly, so I’m not holding my breath.

The other bean plants, though, are doing great. They’ve started to flower a bit, but no pods have shown up. I need to do some more weeding around the plants, but if we keep them watered, I suspect we’ll have plenty to pick in 3-4 weeks.

The tomatoes are looking good, too! We’ve got 16 plants, one of which looks to be on the outs, but relatively speaking, that’s pretty good. We’ve also got 4 pepper plants, one of which already has 3 baby peppers on it.

We’re struggling with the trellis system, though. We were going to get cattle panels, cut them, and bend them into cages, but we’re looking at $150 for that kind of an upgrade. This year, we’ll probably still go on with some metal fence posts and string to wrap around the plants as they get taller. There are a few plants that are tall enough that they need some support, so this weekend, we’ll probably get out there get it set up.

The strawberries are done for the year. This past weekend, Brooke went out there and transplanted all of the shoots that had inserted themselves outside the bounds of the border and moved them to the surrounding area. We added some grass clippings and compost to bury them, but now we need to keep an eye on them and keep them wet. Really any additional strawberry plants are a “bonus,” so if anything survives, great! But if now, then ah well.

Brooke thinks we ended up with 15 quarts of strawberries by the end, which is more than last year by a decent amount. She made some freezer jam with it, and otherwise, we just tried sharing them with neighbors. We were gone to Florida during the height of picking, but the neighbors were able to keep tabs on them and make sure someone enjoyed them. They saved us plenty, too!

The cherries have been the next thing to deal with! Brooke made a cobbler with some of them, so now we’re struggling with what to do with the rest. We’ll probably leave some for Calvin, since he really liked eating them last year, but Brooke may try to make some canned cherry pie filling for use later on in the year!

Similar to the strawberries, the cherries were probably “ready” while we were in Florida, though they were still delayed a bit relative to the strawberries. Last year, Calvin would go out daily and just pick and eat them by the handful. This year, he hasn’t been here enough to do that! There’s always next year, I suppose.

Last but not least, Brooke got into the bees last weekend and they looked great! She put another super on the nuc hive, so hopefully we’re ready to start extracting around July 4th. We may take some to Hannibal this year, as we should have a little more time to get an extraction in among the usual mud volleyball festivities. As you can see above, the frames don’t look capped, but there’s plenty of honey in there, so give it a few weeks and we should be good to go.

We probably don’t have much more to harvest until July! Once the beans come on, we’ll be busy with more!

Yellowstone NP Vacation – Part III

For our last full day at Yellowstone, we first took a trip to an area called Artists Paintpots. We were looking for somewhere to hike where there wouldn’t be a ton of folks, so this looked like it fit the bill. We ended up having to park at the entrance to the parking lot because it was still blocked off for winter.

The “trail,” as we’d seen in other places, was mostly boardwalk. Still, the weather was beautiful and we were alone with the surroundings, so it was a nice change compared with what else we’d seen.

The “paintpots” name came from the bubbling pools of travertine (read: calcium carbonate) that looked like a white magma of sorts. There weren’t that many examples, per se, of this particular formation, but the ones we saw were still pretty impressive! They were also relatively loud, as it sounded like bubbling goo moreso than the other pools we’d seen before (again: magma).

After that, we didn’t really have much of a plan, but since the weather was so great, we figured it was worth a return trip to Grand Prismatic. The sun was shining, the temperature was above freezing, and we hoped we’d actually be able to see things a bit more clearly.

First we got stuck behind some bison, though. This was not going to be the last time….

As we’d hoped, the weather was much better, so we could see things much more clearly! Seriously, it was a night-and-day difference.

We did note, though, that crowds were starting to heat up a bit. It was Thursday, by this point, so now we were getting close to the other arms of the park opening up to let in more people. This traffic came in the same way we did, but the line to get into the park each morning was getting longer and longer. Grand Prismatic definitely had more people there than we’d seen earlier that week.

Of all the sites we saw, Grand Prismatic was probably my favorite. Sure, Old Faithful is impressive, but all of the varied colors and pools at Grand Prismatic were a bit more memorable for me, personally.

See? Look at that happy family. 🙂

As we left Grand Prismatic, we were stuck for 20 minutes behind 3 bison heading in the same direction. In our lane. And because we were going around a curve, all of the cars heading in the opposite direction had to slow down and take pictures of the bison…each and every time…. It was truly infuriating. Still, can’t visit Yellowstone without a story like that, I suppose.

The next day, we left through the East Entrance near Cody, WY. We got to pass by Lake Yellowstone on the way out, which still had a great deal of ice on it. We also passed by some vistas where we hoped to see some bears, but alas, we’ll have to try again our next time out. We actually wanted to leave through Lamar Valley, where there should be all kinds of wildlife, but it would have added an hour or two to our trip due to road construction, so we’ll have to do that next time, too.

The trip home was mostly uneventful and took up a lot of driving time, but we did stop in Thermopolis, WY for a few hours that afternoon that we left the park. It’s an indoor and outdoor pool set with a few slides that have hot spring water piped in for patrons to swim in. Pretty neat, honestly, though it didn’t smell particularly great! The kids went down the large slides multiple times (20 times or so for Meg…which may or may not have made her feel sick in the car later that afternoon…). It was a relatively cheap excursion on the way home that will hopefully stick in the kids’ memories for years to come!

I think that’s about it! More happened, of course, but I’m wordy enough as it is, so we’re going to stop there. As a brief side-note, the month of May got kinda busy for us (the kids went back to school for two weeks and I had to prep for my summer classes), and then we went to Florida for another long trip.

More on that later, though. 🙂

Yellowstone NP Vacation – Part II

The next day was Wednesday, which normally back home would be a “distance learning day.” As we were in a different time zone, we brought a Chromebook (or two…) along so Calvin and Meg could join in on their morning calls if they/we were available. It turned out that Calvin was the only one needed that morning. He had a good time telling his classmates about what he’d seen so far, but then he had to do some math problems, so his fun was short lived.

We hit the road to explore another end of the park, aiming for Mammoth Hot Springs. We stopped at a few hydrothermal features on the way, as the brisk, cool air of the morning made for some nice views. There were relatively few clouds in the sky this time, too, so the weather overall was substantially better for viewing the park!

Mammoth Hot Springs provided some interesting rock formations called travertine (which is, well, calcium carbonate…), where minerals bubbled up from beneath the surface for years, leading to neat terraces. There were a decent number of folks at Mammoth, so it started getting more difficult to avoid people. Thankfully, we were outside, so we weren’t all that concerned about the ongoing pandemic.

There was limited hiking around Mammoth, most of which was on boardwalks (some of which got kinda steep), but we did find a trail/road combo that took us away from all the people.

The kids dealt with it well initially, but grew tired as the morning drew on. We were also fighting with the weather changes a bit, where we had layers on like the day before, but this time we felt the heat of the sun, so we had to lose some layers and carry them with us. Not a big deal, but somewhat unexpected given the weather experience from just a day before!

After we finished up at Mammoth Hot Springs, we went into the nearby town for a picnic lunch and some ice cream from the general store. It was a beautiful day, so it was a nice opportunity to regroup a bit and decide what the rest of the day would entail.

While we were at Mammoth Hot Springs, we also finally saw some elk. We saw one when we first approached the initial travertine formation, but we saw more in the town outside of the formations. In all, we probably saw 6 or 7 elk while we were in that area.

While we were out in the northern-ish part of the park, we figured we should head toward the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, which gets its name for obvious reasons. Given that we’ve actually been to the Grand Canyon, the Yellowstone version wasn’t quite as impressive, but we still got some great views in!

Unfortunately, due to the fact that half the park was still shut down, we were limited in what we could do. Brooke wanted to hike down to the bottom of the canyon, but sadly that wasn’t an option. To be fair, the trails around this area were pretty slushy still, so even if we had gone, it would have gotten messy…

Still, the view of the waterfalls was pretty nice. 🙂

That night, Brooke had the idea that we should do “TV dinners.” We had a microwave and fridge, so it provided a relatively cheap option while also giving everyone something, er….different…for dinner on this trip.

Calvin had fish sticks and Meg had a rigatoni dish. They were pretty pleased with this arrangement, though personally, I feel like my chicken alfredo wasn’t all that impressive. It was fine, but…not really as much as I’d want for dinner. Maybe lunch. Not dinner. Ah well.

As with the other nights on this trip, we capped off the evening playing Hearts. It’s a game that I’d played before, though it’d been years, but we figured Calvin would be old enough to handle it. For the most part, he could do it, but keeping his attention (and dealing with strategy…) was still challenging. Brooke was winning by a lot for the first night, but Meg took over and ended up absolutely destroying everyone in the end. She still won’t tell us what her strategy was…

More next time!

Yellowstone NP Vacation – Part I

Last year, the plan was to go camp at Yellowstone National Park in mid-June, and then stay at an Airbnb near Grand Teton National Park for a few days after that. As you know, last year kinda became a whole thing, so our reservations were canceled and we couldn’t go. We’ve still got a vacation timeline planned for the next few years, so if the Yellowstone trip was going to happen, we had to fit it in this year along with a trip to Florida in June.

I’d never been to Yellowstone, but Brooke went many times over the years when she was growing up because her grandparents worked there for multiple Summers. Brooke did the research for this trip and decided that early May was probably our best bet to see things without having to deal with ridiculous crowds. The country is opening up and a lot of folks are ancy to get to vacationing, so Yellowstone (among other places) is likely to get all kinds of crazy as the Summer progresses. Therefore, we opted to leave the day after graduation and take the kids out of school (which, by the way, Meg wasn’t all that excited about because she’d miss MAP testing…that kid is ridiculous….).

We packed up the car on May 1st and hit the road around 6:00 am on May 2nd, planning for a pretty lengthy car ride to get out there. It’s a ~20 hr drive and some of the entrances to the park were still shut down for the Winter, so we had to drive to the Western side of the park in order to even get in. Our ultimate destination was West Yellowstone, MT, but we stopped in Rawlins, WY at the end of Day One to maintain our sanity. That only left a 7 hour drive on Day Two, though we took a bit of a detour into Grand Teton National Park for part of the day. We didn’t get to see all that much in Grand Teton, but at least we can say “we went.”

The only thing we did in Grand Teton was stop off at an old cabin near the foot of the mountains. Granted, it wasn’t all that exciting, per se, but the view was excellent and we got our first taste of the region.

After that, we opted to stay at the hotel in West Yellowstone rather than dip into Yellowstone. We had the time, but figured checking out the swimming pool would be good for the kids’ morale.

The next day, we first hit Old Faithful. It was pretty snowy and cold, though we were prepared for the weather. We weren’t necessarily prepared for the lack of visibility, though. Old Faithful went off like clockwork and the crowds were minimal (like, 20 people? Shockingly minimal….), but because the geyers was hot and the surrounding air was cold, the steam was pronounced and difficult to see through. It was still pretty cool, though! We took a walk to see some of the other features around Old Faithful and tried getting used to the smell of sulfur.

After Old Faithful, we went to the Grand Prismatic Spring. When we arrived, it actually started snowing pretty heavily, so we folded the chairs down and just ate lunch in the car. The snow only lasted a few minutes, so we were able to get out and walk around just in time for lunch to be over. Again, while it looked pretty cool, the cold air caused all the steam to be extra thick and hard to see through. I wouldn’t say it was disappointing, but it wasn’t ideal.

The last thing we did that day was to visit Norris Geyser Basin. By this point, the sun had come out and the weather had improved dramatically, so visibility got better along with it. This basin wasn’t as exciting as the other features we’d already seen, but we’re glad we went because it gave Meg a chance to read the map and describe multiple other features along the basin to us. Both kids were pretty tired of riding in the car by this point (it’s a solid 20-30 minutes between different sites in the park, and it can easily take hours to traverse the whole thing, so two days of driving kind of turned into three. Meg’s mood wasn’t….great….so giving her a job of reading geyser descriptions to us ended up making things better. Again, there weren’t all that many folks there, so we were able to take our time walking around the boardwalk, so it turned out to be a good way to end our first full day in the park.

Stay tuned for more!