Our weekends this Fall have been…nuts…to say the least. Thus, our weekends were difficult to schedule around, leaving October 12th as the only possibility. If the weather ended up being bad, we would have had to reschedule for the last weekend of October, which gets kinda risky.
Anyway, our preparations started the week before, as usual. At this point, we’ve got most everything down to a science, so pulling the bins down from the garage attic and making a list of food possibilities comes pretty easily. Sure, it’s still quite a bit of work to pull off (and having our parents come by helps tremendously!), but it isn’t as heavy a lift as it was the first few years we did this.
Thankfully, the weather held up pretty nicely! It was a bit windier than we preferred, but it was better than it was a few years ago. The temperature was also on the cool side (mid-50s?), but with the Sun out, it just felt like a lovely autumn day. Most of our 35 guests showed up in the 3:00 hour and stayed until dusk, leaving us to enjoy our fire into the evening.
This year, we added quite a few more Christmas lights (blue and white LEDs), as well as a corn hole set from Brooke’s work. She also brought the giant Jenga set home, too, which proved popular with the kids.
Ultimately, it was a great day! We’d be lying if we didn’t say we were happy when it was all over, as the month and a half leading up to Oktoberfest was crazy, but afterward, we could at least sigh and relax for a bit.
At least until the next weekend when I ran another half marathon…
The garden is definitely on the downswing. We’re still harvesting some stuff, but as you can see above, much of the greenery has died off.
The green beans are way dead. We ended up with something like 30 pints of green beans in the end, with quite a few being eaten fresh or given away. I think Brooke had four rows planted and, as usual, they performed admirably.
The soup beans are still going strong, though Brooke has picked quite a few pods thus far. Shockingly, with the heat and limited rain we’ve had recently, there are still some flowers on the plants, so maybe we’ll end up with another small wave.
The pepper plants are still bad, but we have had a few small hot peppers showing up. They’re just now turning red, so we’ll pull those relatively soon.
The cucumbers have also mostly given up the ghost, but much like the soup beans, we’ve got 3 or 4 new ones slowly growing, so maybe we’ll end up with a few more? Probably not.
The sweet potatoes are looking good, though we won’t pull those until November. Brooke’s flowers that she planted have done surprisingly well, too!
The real story is the black beans, which like the green beans before them, have also been solid. Meg and Calvin did some good work shelling soup, black, and rattlesnake beans this past weekend and we’ve definitely got a few meals out of them.
The tomatoes are doing their thing, of course. They’re mostly small, but we’re getting quite a few. Only a few “slicers” so far this year, sadly, so BLTs haven’t been common. Brooke hasn’t canned any yet, preferring to amass a metric ton in the freezer first before she focuses on them (also, waiting for the heat to die down before using the gas stove for hours on end…).
So yeah, the jury’s still out on the tomato crop for the year. We’ve got a lot: just dunno how much, exactly.
I mentioned the rattlesnake beans, pictured in the back, and again, they’re doing they’re thing…and slowing down. The strawberries have done a great job establishing themselves! We’re probably going to expand the patch out next year a bit, so I’ve started making more concrete bricks to spread out toward where the blackberries and raspberries.
Speaking of which, the raspberries are producing again, though the blackberries still haven’t done a ton. We’ll probably pull those at the end of the season, but haven’t decided on the raspberries yet.
Our milkweed is blooming and has had a few visitors! It’s over 5 ft tall, which is quite a bit bigger than we were expecting. The other milkweed plant was encroached on by the mint, so it remains to be seen how well it’ll come back next year. It kinda bent off toward the south and grew, er, sideways…so yeah…
The pears are still looking great! But they’re also still rather solid, so we don’t think they’re ripe yet… But, they’re also bruising a bit on some of the fruit, where they’re too soft on one side, yet hard on the other. Long story short, no idea if they’re ready yet, but hopefully we’ll cut into one soon…
And last but not least, Brooke tore out the bushes on the east side of the house! They were ugly and had to go. Brooke was surprised at how easy it was to remove the roots. We’ve got our landscaping project for next summer lined up, I guess!
That’s it for now! Probably one more update for 2019 coming, once we know how much tomato sauce we’re ending up with.
Well, we’re in the throes of late-Summer, and as such, the rain has been sparse and parts of the garden are dying off. We’ve been harvesting a decent amount of stuff still and most of the plants look good, but the green beans are finally dying off.
The black beans, on the other hand, are coming on strong. Brooke only planted the one row (middle, above), and we haven’t picked any pods yet, but they’re getting full and looking pretty good. The flowers she planted in the background are also looking okay, but they seem to want more water than the other plants seem to need.
On the left, we’ve got volunteer cherry tomatoes that are still producing quite a bit. The cucumber plants Brooke planted are also still producing, giving us at least 10 good-sized cucumbers thus far with some smaller ones still coming on.
The aforementioned green beans are slowing down drastically. That doesn’t mean we haven’t picked a metric ton of them by now, but at least we can stop checking on a nearly daily basis for more to pick.
Could we pick more? Yes. But we’d need to start watering them, and that’s just a bridge too far. To date, Brooke’s canned at least 20 pints of green beans and we’ve given plenty away, and we’ve got 2 gallon-sized bags full in the fridge still yet to be canned. I’ll post a final number once that’s all done, but suffice to say we have our usual green bean crop in 2019, if not more than usual.
As the picture illustrates, we’ve also got tomatoes coming on at a somewhat regular rate now, though we aren’t getting many good “slicer” tomatoes. Some are relatively good in size, but still a bit smaller in diameter than your typical burger bun. Still, they taste good!
There are also two dried bean varieties in the ice cream buckets pictured above: on the right, you’ll find our usual soup beans (that Brooke is starting to pick, but we have a long way to go on those….), and on the left, you’ll find Brooke’s rattlesnake “pole” beans.
It’s really been the last few weeks where the flowers and beans have started taking off, as well as the vines starting to “vine on themselves” at the very top of the tetrapod (not a tripod anymore…we had a Christmas tree between last summer and this summer…). The vines were a bit slow to start this year, but July allowed them to move along quite nicely.
We’ve got a solid number of bean pods on there still, so we’re not sure how many we’ll end up. If it’s like last year, it won’t be a ton, but hey, if you have the space, may as well plant something there…
Other than that, we have a few other incidental things going on. Strawberries are done for the year, but they continue to want to expand, to some degree outside of the bounds we’ve created for them. When I weed the edges, I have to keep training them to keep their “shoots” in their patch. Brooke and I have talked about expanding that entire plot as a “berry plot,” encompassing the raspberries and other things we may want to put there. More on that in future posts, I’m sure. Still, we’re pretty impressed with how the strawberries have been growing, so hopefully that means we’ll get a solid number next June!
The pears look good, too! We’ve probably got 10 pears of various sizes on that tree. Brooke says it’s some kind of “Asian pear” variety, as it doesn’t have the same shape we’re used to getting in our neck of the woods. They’re still pretty hard, so we haven’t tried any yet. Hopefully the squirrels don’t find them, as those jerks ate the apples we had on the tree already…grrrrrr….
I’m not going to bother posting a picture of the beehive as it doesn’t look any different from last time. Brooke got into the hive last week and saw the super mostly filled with honey, so we should be good to go for some harvesting by Labor Day. She noted the frames weren’t capped yet, so the bees were still working on it…
Last, but not least, we didn’t grow this corn, but my co-worker said that her friend had ears of sweet corn that were just going to go to waste, so we could come over and grab some. We ended up with 70-ish ears of corn, the vast majority of which Brooke cut off the cob to be frozen. The flavor was pretty good for the corn, but some of the kernels were a bit smaller (like they weren’t fully grown) and some of them just didn’t feel all that full when you ate them (like, some flavor, but not really full flavor). Still, free corn is free corn, so we’ll be eating on that for the winter. It’s nice to have neighbors who like to share!
Anyway, that’s it for now! Probably only one or two more garden updates for 2019 to go!
This post is part of an ongoing series summarizing each State Park in Missouri that our family has attended. We hope to visit each of 54 State Parks before the kids graduate from high school.
Brooke reminded me that we actually went to another State Park last October and I totally forgot to post about it!
Knob Noster State Park is out near Warrensburg, MO, so it’s a relatively short drive for us. We were looking for a quick hiking trip on a nice day where we could see some pretty Fall leaves, so we made the trip for the afternoon.
Honestly, we didn’t do a whole lot and there wasn’t a ton to see, at least not that I remember. There was a trail that we used to hike around a pretty late, so the bulk of our time there was spent hiking. Calvin was able to get around the whole lake, but he wasn’t particularly speedy…
The aforementioned lake seemed nice and would probably be good for fishing and kayaking, but as we didn’t bring any of that equipment along, we couldn’t make use of it. There’s a campground associated with the park, of course, but we didn’t check it out. It seemed like there were quite a few people there on that particular day, including some groups getting pictures taken with the lake in the background.
Really, the most fun we had was crossing a shallow part of the lake that had some neat rocks for the kids to jump across. Pretty sure we spent 15 minutes just walking across them, back and forth, back and forth…
So yeah, there are a lot of trails there and it’s probably worth revisiting sometime, but hiking and fishing seem to be the biggest attraction to that particular state park. It’s close, at least, so maybe we’ll camp there sometime, but I bet we’ll keep on hitting the other state parks instead!
I kinda buzzed through my lawn care work last week before heading off to Smoky Mountain NP (more on that next time), so I had some catch-up (ketchup?) work to do today. Thankfully, the weather has been pretty mild, so things could have been work for the amount of stuff I had to do…
Firstly, I finally dug up the carrots. We ended up with a overfilled ice cream bucket full of them, and many of them were a pretty substantial size. Others, however, were ridiculously small for how long they were in the ground. Right now, I’m not sure how “worth it” carrots are for next year: we got quite a few of them, but they were planted months ago and took up space that could have gone to other things. We’ll just have to see how they taste, I suppose…
The green beans are about done, too. Brooke has canned around 20 pints of beans this year, which is similar to our usual haul. We’ve also given away some and eaten them fresh, so as usual, the green beans have done wonders for us.
But yeah, they’re not filling as well as they did a few weeks ago, so we may pick a few more here and there, but we’ll probably let them finish up.
The peppers are still growing very, very slowly, so I’m not optimistic on their chances. We’ll keep working on it, but I don’t think I’ve seen any flowers on them yet. Ah well…
I also weeded some of the second plot. Brooke planted some flowers that needed some TLC, so I worked through them first. The black beans she planted are also looking great, but aren’t flowering yet, either. The cucumbers came on pretty quick and we picked two of those the other day. Calvin’s excited!
After that, I tied up the tomatoes. They’ve started producing finally, but we’ve only had a few ripen for us.
We’ve got some volunteer grape tomatoes growing in another plot that we’ve been going after, though we’re still waiting for them to come on strong. We’ve only had, maybe, 10 or 15 of those tomatoes mature.
Other than the ‘maters, everything else is still doing it’s thing. The pole beans are growing quite a bit, but no beans yet. The blackberries produced a few two weeks ago, but we only got a handful (still more than usual…). The strawberries are probably done for the year, but they’ve been putting their shoots out and they’re continuing to proliferate.
The peaches are the real story of the summer, though. A few weeks ago, they started to turn, so Brooke coated them with kaolin clay and I kept hitting them with neem oil, both of which should be relatively bee-safe. Then, we picked a few and tried them out and they were pretty good! Again, this is the first time we’d actually gotten to try some, because the Japanese beetles consistently get them, so we were pretty happy to actually get some.
While I was gone at Smoky Mountains, Brooke picked a bundle of them! Again, the flavor was pretty good, but she found them to be a little “mealy” and difficult to extract from the pit (“clingstone” peaches?), but overall, pretty good.
Well, over the past few days, the beetles have gained a foothold… I’ll probably continue to apply neem oil for a little longer, but we’re thinking the peaches are probably done for now.
Still, we got our peaches, so I’m satisfied!
That’s it for now. The next update will probably involve a metric ton of tomatoes, if all goes well!
I’m still catching up on posting some stuff from the past few weeks because this summer has kinda gotten away from me!
As usual, we spent the July 4th weekend in Hannibal watching some mud volleyball and running in the Hannibal Cannibal. Brooke was able to get off work for the afternoon, so we made it there around 7:30, in time to watch Rachel and Jimmy play a round. The weather was actually surprisingly decent, for once, as the temp was a bit cooler than usual for July.
Another thing that wasn’t particularly “usual” is that Mark and Diana were gone to Alaska this year, so we had the house and swimming pool to ourselves. It made the logistics a little more complicated, in that we tried to be there for more games because they weren’t available to cheer for their daughters and son-in-law, but we navigated them as best we could. It really wasn’t that big a deal: we just coordinated who would bring which food items so we could have things like pulled pork or sloppy joes ready whenever folks would show up at the house. Win-win.
Overall, the mud volleyball aspect of the trip went well. Mallory was on one team while Rachel and Jimmy were on another. There wasn’t much overlap between them, so we got to see both teams play at separate times. They never ended up playing against each other, though that would have been fun to see!
In other news, I got a medal! Second place for my age group in the 10K race this year. I have run the 5K, 10K and 15K in the previous three years and found the most success in the 10K, likely because there’s more competition in the other distances. Still, I was pretty happy with my performance! Calvin did the fun run this year – Meg wasn’t particularly interested. He did well, too, in that he didn’t trip (other kids did)…
We also met up with Brooke’s friend from high school and her family for that Saturday afternoon. They set up a sweet zip line in an old machine shed, so we got to go back and forth multiple times. It got a little scary when the swing hit the end of the line, causing you to bump slightly into the wall, but it seemed relatively safe (so long as you wore a bike helmet). Calvin also had fun driving around on a “Power Wheels”-style Gator.
And last, but not least, we still took care of some fireworks. We got to see some big ones on the actual 4th of July holiday, but the kids didn’t get to do smoke bombs or sparklers, so we grabbed some of those and a few small fountains so they could shoot them off after a dip in the pool.
It was a fun weekend, as usual! Part of me wishes it was a little warmer for swimming, but the trade-off of sitting in ridiculous heat while watching mud volleyball isn’t particularly appealing… Next year, I suppose!
My parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary earlier this year, though the timing of it fell right before we went to Puerto Rico, and in the window after my sister had her second child. I guess they should have thought of that 40 years ago when they scheduled the wedding (“May used to be such a nice month!”).
My sister and I wanted to do something for them, and we proposed a few ideas, but the one they settled on was a weekend with the family together much like we did at Branson a few years ago. We poked around for some Airbnb options around Missouri on one of our various large lakes and ended up finding something on Table Rock Lake that fit the bill. It was further than we’d like to drive, as it took us 5 hrs to get there, but it was reasonably close to my sister’s family that included a newborn, so it was better for them.
By the way, this was back in late June and I’m catching up…sue me.
The house had a nice back porch and a really big yard that was right on the lake. It was pretty hot that weekend, so we didn’t spend a ton of time on the porch, but it was nice to have it in the morning, and to store all our outdoor stuff.
We originally thought about fishing, but the lake water level was up about 7 ft over where it was supposed to be (lots of flooding this year), so the water was up onto the shore…sans fish…
We did take the kayak along, and also bought an inflatable one so we could all head out together. Mom and Dad didn’t go, but Dad got quite a few pictures from shore, so I suspect that was good enough (also, Mom got to hold the baby, so I think she was satisfied!).
The kayak we got was missing some pieces, unfortunately. Two seats were supposed to be included and weren’t, as well as a piece on the bottom that was to help the kayak go in a straight line. As such, steering was rather difficult, and it was also hard to propel myself forward with additional weight. I guess I didn’t get a run in that day anyway, so may as well get the extra exercise…
A lot of the afternoon was spent just hanging out, then. We tossed baseballs, threw frisbees, floated in the lake, and generally relaxed. Some folks got naps in, which is always welcome! Honestly, it was just a nice, calm weekend where the kids could play and we could just hang out with no real agenda. There weren’t any attractions nearby, nor restaurants, so we didn’t have anything else to distract us! We had steaks the first night, then fajitas the next night, both of which turned out really nice!
Overall, it was a good trip! We’ll need to do it again sometime! Seeing each other for Thanksgiving and Christmas is nice, but getting the chance to do it more often is always welcome.
This post is part of an ongoing series summarizing each State Park in Missouri that our family has attended. We hope to visit each of 54 State Parks before the kids graduate from high school.
We had a free weekend and Brooke told the kids that some hiking was in order. I poked around and found a state park about an hour and a half away from us, so we decided to make a picnic afternoon of it.
But first, we should probably start with the picnic. Nothing terribly exciting, but we were definitely ready to eat something by the time we got there. The picnic area is next to a nice lake, along with a 3 mile paved walkway set up for walking and biking.
The lake actually looked really nice! We didn’t see the campground, but we saw plenty of people there fishing and boating. Now that we have a few kayaks, we could see us spending a decent amount of time boating across the lake on a nice afternoon.
We ended up walking about 1.5 miles around the lake, as it was a bit on the warm side that day. Still, we met some nice people as we traveled around and found some well-placed benches for Calvin to sit on.
After we were done hiking, we hopped back in the car for some welcome A/C and headed off to see the rest of the mill.
We next visited the National Historic Site, which had a nice visitor center with some exhibits showing off life in the 1870s. We have seen plenty of these kinds of exhibits in other places around the state, so it wasn’t anything particularly new, however the giant loom they had was pretty cool. They also had a miniature version available for the kids to try their hand at.
Seeing them work on it for a few minutes, I’m not convinced they’ll be next-level textile makers, but it was still an interesting and entertaining experience.
After leaving the visitor center, we walked down toward the mill and the accompanying mansion. You have to pay extra to visit those two spaces, and after spending plenty of time walking around the lake and eating lunch, we just wanted to see the building without actually going inside. It’s probably an interesting tour (they had period-appropriate women waiting outside each building to walk you through it), but maybe next time.
Anyway, we had a good visit. That lake would probably make a weekend camping trip worth it, but the historic site likely doesn’t take all that much longer than we spent that day.
Afterward, we stopped in Lexington, MO for the return trip and grabbed some ice cream. Again, it was a hot day! We’ll keep Watkins Mill in mind for a camping weekend at some point, as it’s a relatively short drive from here, but we’ve probably seen most of the historic material we need to.
Spoiler-alert: Tony Stark dies in the end of Endgame. As Tony kinda sorta became a father figure to Peter Parker in Spider-man: Homecoming, and a big part of Endgame is how hard Tony took Peter’s death in Avengers: Infinity War, it made some sense that Far From Home would have to “tie up loose ends” for Peter (oh yeah, he comes back in Endgame…duh…) as he wrestles with a). the lack of Iron Man, b). the idea of him replacing Iron Man, and c). the fact that he was dead for 5 years and was then brought back to life…but still in high school.
The neat thing about the character of Peter Parker, from the very beginning when he was created by Stan Lee, he’s a relatable young person who is trying to deal with having super powers like any of us would. He isn’t “larger than life:” he’s “just like you and me.” So in many ways, it’s a fitting way to wrap up Phase 3 in seeing how the world is now, through the eyes of a young man who is still trying to find his place in this world.
This movie is set up where Peter and his friends go on a class science trip to Europe over the Summer, but of course, bad things happen and he has to put on his costume to deal with the threat. Nick Fury is back to try and explain to him that he has a responsibility to stand up and pick up where Iron Man and the other Avengers left off. At the same time, he just wants to be a kid and go on his trip! Jake Gyllenhaal shows up as Mysterio, so for a time, Peter figures that the weight can be lifted off his shoulders, allowing Mysterio to pick up the mantle and take care of saving lives until Peter is ready to step onto the global stage.
Of course, anyone who knows literally anything about comics knows that Mysterio is a bad guy, so eventually, Peter figures that out, has to step up, and saves the day.
Honestly, I was a little disappointed in this one. I enjoyed it for the most part, but there were more aspects than usual that left me wanting. For example, the Mysterio stuff looked cool (his power is to cast illusions…and honestly, the way they explained that for this movie without it just being straight-up magic was pretty good…), but there was so much CGI that it got distracting. I know there’s a lot of CG in these movies, but for some reason, this one looked overkill to me. Secondly, Peter is in love with MJ now, all the sudden. He had zero interest in her in the last movie and we haven’t seen her in other movies since, so why the sudden “I need to tell her how I feel?” It just didn’t feel earned with how the last movie was left. Lastly, this movie was pretty predictable. We knew Mysterio would be a bad guy, we knew Spider-man would save the day, yada, yada, yada. I know these MCU movies are probably predictable for many people anyway, but again, this one just seemed more by-the-numbers. Star Trek Into Darkness was also predictable because anyone who knows Star Trek knows that Khan is a bad guy, but they story took enough turns from the original Star Trek II that the viewer didn’t quite know how it would resolve.
Again, it was a fun ride. I definitely don’t regret seeing it. It had some funny moments, some good one-liners, the acting was great (Tom Holland is still an inspired choice to play Peter Parker), the set-up for future MCU movies was interesting (both post-credit scenes were actually pretty story heavy rather than throw-away funny scenes).
I just could have used more twists and turns along the way…
The back yard has been something of a work-in-progress for awhile. The hostas were never Brooke’s favorite, grass wouldn’t grow well close to the house, and it wasn’t really usable space (as in, we didn’t sit there, didn’t throw a ball there, etc.).
Separately, I’ve never been completely satisfied with having my grills up by the garage. They’re fine there, but there are times when we’re entertaining guests and we have to move the car out of the way in order to sit closer to them.
Thus, we had the brilliant idea of putting a patio in that would help solve some problems. We figured it’d be a relatively cheap operation and something we could handle ourselves. We had Lowe’s and Spingwater deliver stuff so there wasn’t a lot of transporting back and forth on our part, aside from a few incidentals we needed to help fill in.
But first, we had to get started…
First, we had to spread things out a bit. We tried to level it as much as we could, but the dirt was pretty clumpy and I wasn’t about to bring Dr. Gault’s tiller over… Still, Brooke spread out the remaining mulch from that spot and worked the dirt around to get a pad started.
Brooke figured out her brick edging system with the storage shed we put up a few months ago, so she put her experience to work with the edging here. She really did a good job with it, leveling each one, digging out the pathway, and stacking where necessary to get them perfect. It took her quite awhile, but got it done! I don’t think her back felt great, though….
In some of the space between where the patio was going to go and the retaining wall, we moved over some of the big rocks we had left over from the porch remodellast year. Mostly, we did this as “filler” so we wouldn’t have to put so much mulch and topsoil down, but while we were at it, we placed some flatter ones around as stepping stones.
Next step, after placing those rocks and adding in some topsoil, was to start laying down the layers under which our pavers would rest. Again, this is the same process Brooke went through in April, albeit on a larger scale. Brooke used the calculator function on Lowe’s website to know how many backs and bricks we’d need and, forthe most part, we think we had enough…but honestly, we could have probably used a few more bags to get the layer a bit thicker.
The sand is where we really noticed it, though. The instructions suggested 1″ thick sand and we simply didn’t have anywhere near that. We hemmed and hawed about what to do, I made some phone calls to local stores, Brooke made a trip out to a few to ask around…but in the end, no one in this town had sand for sale. This was possibly due to the flooding of the Missouri River nearby where sandbags were made, but who can say… We even stopped in Moberly on the way back from lunch with Brooke’s parents and their Lowe’s didn’t have anything for us.
So yeah, I ended up getting a few buckets of gravel from Springwater to try and move the edge of the pavers out a bit. Definitely not ideal, but serviceable. After we got that far, we put down the pavers and the plastic edging that should hold them in place.
The pavers are…sadly…not level… But they’re pretty close and the grills roll over the pads effectively, so we’ll see how it goes. We can always pull them up and add some sand underneath as they settle, so we may just go that route when we get some motivation.
For the last addition, we picked up a post from the local hardware store and some concrete to put in a set of hangers for some plants. Brooke applied a nice stain to it. It’s pretty.
The mulch was the last bit to add. Springwater brought 200 cu ft (because we ordered 100 cu ft last year and I conveniently made a note saying we’d need more than that….and we totally did…). That amount was barely enough to cover the back space of the yard and didn’t make it around to the front.
Brooke also picked up a nice wooden plant holder to put a citronella plant in. I’ll report back if it actually does any good…
The plants look good on the hangers, too! Brooke picked up a few more hooks so we can hang a bluetooth speaker and other things if we find a need.
She also added another step just down from the retaining wall that will transition to the walkway I’m in the process of extending. I’ve got one more pad to install, but we’ll see when I get around to it. Maybe this week. Who knows.
Last but not least, I re-edged the front porch to hopefully make those bricks more stable, and then bought another 10 bags of mulch for the front (and I could probably stand to pick up a few mores when i get around to it).
That’s it! The exterior of the house could still use a good spray-down of the siding, but otherwise, I think we’re going to “coast” for a bit while we work the garden (per usual) and get grass seeded where needed.
Now, I just need to pick up some pork chops and brats and break in the new patio!