Back in February of 2021, Brooke’s Dad had the idea of tapping a few of his silver maple trees to see if he could get enough sap to make syrup. Always her father’s daughter, Brooke decided to spend the ~$20 on a tapping kit from Amazon to see what we can get out of our sugar maple trees in the yard. Because those were practically the only thing on our property not being harvested for something (hence the title of this post).
We left the trees tapped for a few weeks, but in order to get a solid haul of sap, the temperatures need to be below freezing at night, and warm up a bit during the day. Last year, we had a solid stretch of days like that, but we weren’t prepared for the volume we would end up with. We ended up collecting enough to fill every vessel in the house (a lot of bottles used for brewing, various plastic containers, etc.) and take up a substantial amount of refrigerator space.
We used my turkey fryer that’s usually reserved for making beer (and now making syrup). We went through a few propane tanks in boiling off water and concentrating syrup down to its final viscosity. Brooke had to be careful with this, as boiling over is an issue (and it turns out sap is sticky), and over-concentrating the syrup could lead to crystallization.
In the end, we got 12 half-pint jars canned. It tasted good! More “runny” than I’m used to, but the flavor was shockingly good!
So this year, Brooke set up the rig again, but the temperatures were all over the place. January was warm at various points, we had multiple weeks with at least 2 snow days, so the “below freezing at night” and “sunny and warmer during the day” was few and far between. Brooke even disconnected the piping once to try and prevent mold from growing.
This time, Brooke planned ahead and saved gallon milk jugs. They were easier to store in the fridge(s), and we didn’t have to burn through almost all the glassware we have in the house. She also started the boiling process sooner this time, rather than waiting for the collection process to be done. Brooke figured that she could keep concentrating it over time while still collecting, and for the most part, that worked. But, we ended up collecting way more than last year. She estimates she collected 40(ish) gallons of sap this time around, so accordingly, we also ended up burning through three propane tanks (when oil prices are through the roof….yeah….we made expensive syrup…).
After Brooke reduced the volume down to one pot’s worth, she brought it inside to our gas range where she had a bit more temperature control. From there, she kept reducing the volume as much as she needed to, and kept it at the right temperature (219 F) to can it. This year, we ended up with 9 pints of syrup.
Now, is all of this processing worth it?! Well, our syrup cost $0.43/oz, which feels a bit pricey, but then again, we don’t always keep true maple syrup around. It’s an activity in the winter months, though, when we can’t grow anything outside and don’t usually have other projects going on (2021 notwithstanding…). When the weather is nice, it’s kinda charming hanging out in the garage having a beer while the sap evaporates!
To recap, we had enough snow to go sledding on January 15th. It wasn’t a ton (maybe 4″?), but it was “enough,” and was of a good consistency for outdoor activities. It was cold enough in mid-January that it hung around for a bit, though roads weren’t all that terrible.
Then, February 2nd, we got hit with another 7″ of snow. That time, it dropped some ice underneath, so the roads were a bit more treacherous. We were out of school Wednesday through Friday that week because of the snow and cold temperatures. Meg was supposed to have a competition in Cape Girardeau for robotics that weekend that ended up being shifted to a remote event due to weather.
Then, snow around town is almost melted, and we get yet another round. This time, they were forecasting 10.7″. We didn’t get quite that much, but we hit 9″, depending on where exactly you measured the snow drifts. This time, we were out Thursday and Friday, so more school delayed. I had to record a lecture for one of my classes because we’ve missed so many days already. The kids had a few remote school days, but they’ve exhausted all that they’re allowed for the school year now, so they’re going to have to start taking back Spring Break days, or tack on days to the end of the school year.
Suffice to say, I think we’re done with snow. The weather may not be “done,” but we’re done. I suppose Calvin is still having fun outside, but the amount of disruption this year feels worse than we’ve had the past few years (and that’s considering a pandemic, of course).
Also, the forecast for tomorrow is 54 F, and it’s supposed to be 65 F on Monday. Missouri…..has been a whole thing this Winter….
The new year has marked a change in my exercise routine, for multiple reasons. After I completed my marathon last October, I decided I’d semi-retire from regular running as I had been for the past few years. Mostly, this was because of the wear and tear I thought I was feeling toward the end of training. For most of November, and even into December, I was still feeling pain occasionally when running, usually in my left knee, so that solidified the plan to ease off regular running and shift more into cycling as my exercise of choice.
For four years, since 2018, I ran at least 1000 miles each year, putting somewhere between 400 and 600 miles on multiple pairs of running shoes (pictured above…we got rid of most of them this weekend, as they were just taking up space in my closet!). I decided I still wanted to keep up running, but would cut it down to 500 miles a year (~42 mi/mo). There are some days when I’ve got 25 minutes to spare and running 3 miles is easier than getting cycling gear out, right?
Of course, this is January in Missouri, so the weather hasn’t exactly been conducive to cycling. We’ve actually had some decent weather here and there (the high tomorrow is supposed to be 57 F!), but usually good enough that I want to go for a jog and not suit up for 10+ miles on my bike. That’ll change as the season improves, I’m sure.
After the flood in June, we ended up rearranging the basement a bit. And since we canceled our YMCA membership due to the ongoing pandemic, we’ve missed having access to equipment on rainy/cold days, so we’ve been incrementally upgrading our basement with exercise gear. Brooke’s rowing machine survived the flood, thankfully, but we added a spin bike a few months ago for ~$200 that has been pretty good for me this month. I’ve logged 195 miles on it in January, which is almost 30% of what I biked in total last year. It’s set up so I can have my phone on it, watching Netflix or whatever, or I can just listen to a podcast or something. Brooke usually bounces between the rowing machine and the spin bike most mornings.
A few weeks ago, we picked up an incline bench and some adjustable dumbbells. We picked up a few sets of kettlebells last year, but they max out at 15 lb each, whereas the dumbbells I grabbed (on clearance for way less than that link to Amazon shows….thanks, Walmart!) adjust anywhere fro 5 lb to 25 lb, each, giving us a bit more flexibility on what we can do with them. We even grabbed a few laminated posters to help out with different free weight exercises. Brooke’s thinking she wants to kick up her strength training a bit in 2022: nothing too crazy, but enough to kick that bone density up at a younger age so she isn’t struggling when she’s older.
I suppose aside from 500 mi of running this year, my only main athletic goal is to bike 100 mi on the Katy Trail sometime this Summer. As the weather improves, training for that should get easier, though I’m not all that concerned. The good thing about cycling is that you’re sitting the whole time, so you can just keep on going and you’ll eventually get the distance you’re aiming for (assuming you don’t pop a tire).
All I know is, I’m ready for some consistency in weather…this back-and-forth (which is typical for Missouri, of course) is getting to me…
I suppose the never-ending pandemic has led us all to reevaluate our priorities, causing us to jump back into things we used to do, or try other things we always meant to, but “never had the time.”
A few months ago, I started practicing guitar again with a crew of folks playing at a church here in town. They’re only committing to once-a-month, give or take, so we’ve only actually played at their service twice. Still, returning to a regular practice time each week and getting to play some loud music has been fun! After the flood last Summer, I had to replace a few things, namely my electric guitar amp, so this gave me the excuse to upgrade to something more powerful than what I had before.
Strangely enough, I was approached in early December about joining the Marshall Philharmonic Orchestra. The kids started with a new piano teacher last Fall, and her husband directs the Philharmonic, as well as the Marshall Community Band that plays each Wednesday during the Summer. Through a variety of conversations (including with Meg’s orchestra and band directors), they figured out that I used to play percussion instruments in another life, and it turns out folks with that particular skillset aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, so the director of the Philharmonic handed me their practice schedule and said I’d be welcome to join in: they “can always use more percussionists!”
The Philharmonic has 4 shows a season, taking place during the school year, so they already had two performances last semester. The first practice for this next performance was on January 2nd, which featured a lovely ice storm, keeping many of the rather elderly musicians home that day. Still, I joined up with one other percussionist to do what I could.
Bear in mind that I haven’t done this since 2000! Since that time, I’ve played hand drums and drum set, but that involves improvisation almost exclusively. And when I’ve played guitar at various churches in the past 22 years, it’s been using chords on a sheet of paper. So yeah, reading musical notes isn’t something I’ve had to do much recently! It took me a bit to acclimate, remembering to circle tempo and time signature changes, writing notes to put down whatever I’m holding so I can go over and grab a triangle in time to play it for two notes, only to return back to whatever I was doing before.
It’s been fun so far, and I think I’m getting back into things relatively well. We’ve had 3 practices thus far, and I’ve run through my music with a practice pad at home (the same one I had back in high school!) so I’m at least a little prepared when I get there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m most definitely still making mistakes all over the place, but that’s why we practice, right?
One thing that’s taking me a bit to get used to is the difference between “high school band” and “community band.” Back in high school, it was a class one took, so everyone was there almost every day, and everyone had to practice at least a little bit because they were receiving a grade for their troubles. With a community band, it’s all volunteer, so you’re lucky if people open their music at all during the week – and you’re further lucky if all of the musicians are even present at each practice. The director is having to sing out various phrases of music because multiple key instruments aren’t there to carry the tune, for example.
Still, it’s a good opportunity to revisit a part of my life that I miss from time to time. Meg is playing bass in orchestra now, so I don’t have a huge connection to that, but she also started percussion in band this year, so now I can kind of brush up on my own history while hearing about how she’s traveling along the same path I did 30 years ago.
We hosted Oktoberfest again this year after a hiatus in 2020 (for obvious reasons…). We had a good turnout and the weather turned out to be beautiful, albeit on the warm side. A couple of visitors came by to catch up and we had a lovely chat, but as part of our conversation, we found out they had a cider press they hadn’t used in years and Brooke had been in the market (passively…) for one for awhile.
A week later, they were kind enough to deliver it to us. We wanted to compensate them, of course, but they very graciously wanted to give it to us. We left as a “long-term loan,” just in case they find a buyer (besides us) that they want to sell it to.
We waited a few weekends for some solid weather to be outside all day, and thankfully it didn’t take long. Brooke picked up some cheap apples from Peter’s Market (two half-pecks…which I guess….is a peck…right?) and we prepped to use the press, while also setting up the chiminea for some warmth and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows.
After chatting with a few folks, we thought cutting the apples into quarters would be sufficient, but one run through the mill showed us that wouldn’t be sufficient. We pressed as best as we could, but the structure of the apples was simply too dense at that side. From there, Brooke tried slicing and dicing a bit more and that worked better. At one point, she went inside and brought out the food processor, but that didn’t work all that well, either. It wasn’t a bad idea, per se, but the processor only diced the bottom portion of the container and couldn’t get to the top, so it wasn’t any more efficient than simply chopping up the apples.
Ultimately, she ended up cutting the apples into sixteenths, and that was the most efficient we could get it.
The cider we got we filtered through a collander to catch any remnants of apple (or bugs…) that fell into the liquid. The good thing about cider is that it isn’t supposed to be perfectly “clean” or anything, so it isn’t like we were looking for much clarity. The flavor was surprisingly sweet to me, though I don’t tend to gravitate toward cider, personally. Brooke and Meg thought it was good, though, so I suppose it was a success!
Ultimately, we ended up with just under 3 gallons of cider from that peck of apples, working out to around $20/gallon. Is that “worth it?” I dunno. But we had fun working together and hanging out that afternoon in some beautiful Fall weather, so regardless of the end-product, “the journey” was worth it!
There was a time I said I’d never run a full marathon. I know that because I posted it on this very blog. However, the kids are older now (giving me more training flexibility) and I’m not getting any younger, so I gave myself a goal of running a full marathon by the time I turn 40. Other folks I know that have done this have made it something of a “destination race,” but honestly, I just wanted to get the thing done rather than wrap it up in a vacation.
Thus, I signed up for the Kansas City Marathon: it’s close to home; I have run in the half marathon version before; and it’s in the Fall, so training over the Summer was relatively reliable, as opposed to a Spring marathon, where the Winter months could make training difficult.
Anyway, there are, perhaps, countless ways to train for a marathon? Many of the plans you can download or read about fall in the 12-16 week training range. I went with one offered by Strava (technically made by McMillan Running) that followed a 12 week regimen. Generally, I ran on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, then had a long run on Sunday mornings. The long runs started small, only an hour or so at a time, and then gradually stepped it up until I ran for three and a half hours and did 20 miles (with a lot of stopping and walking along the way…).
The unfortunate thing is that it was just so blasted hot these past few months in Missouri! There were a few weeks where we had a reprieve in temperatures, but even into October, we had temperatures in the mid-80s, and only dipping down into the low-to-mid 70s overnight. There wasn’t much relief, which makes running pretty miserable!
This past week, however, temperatures finally cooled off, just in time for me to not run as much because I needed to “taper” into the race this past Saturday.
I still jogged a bit last week, but gave myself two days off prior to the race. This is partly because it’s just good practice to rest up before the main event, but in this instance, I was also nursing my right foot a bit. My extensor hallucis longus (EHL) tendon on the top of my right foot (which lifts the big toe) was inflamed, causing not just soreness and swelling, but also a solid amount of pain that sets in after about 4-5 miles. I spoke with our exercise science faculty on campus and they said to use a muscle roller and take some naproxen leading up to the race, so I started that mid-week.
We reserved a hotel a few blocks away from the starting point of the race, which was in front of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. It was pretty close to the Plaza, so that gave us some restaurant and entertainment options. We went to dinner at Buca di Beppo around the corner to load up on pasta. After that, we went back to the hotel and tried to get some sleep (spoiler alert: I slept terribly, but I always do before a race).
The race started at 7:00 am. My original plan was to run a marathon in 3:30, but believe you me, that goal was ambitious (which I eventually realized during the training regimen). Instead, I adjusted and hoped to run it in 4:00 or less, which was a bit more manageable. It was 44 F at that time, and would remain in the 40s for the first 3 hours of the race. By the time it would cross 10:00 am, temps were supposed to reach the low-50s, so the temperatures were nearly perfect for a marathon.
There were quite a few people racing! There were 943 running the full marathon and 2,435 doing the half marathon. Folks running the 5K and 10K started at 7:30, so they weren’t at the starting point with us.
Actually running the race is mostly a blur for me at this point, though I remember aspects of it. I made it a little over 15 miles before I stopped to drink anything, so that was a good change from the months of training in Missouri Summer heat. There were restroom/water stations every 2 miles or so, but I had a 20 oz collapsible bottle of Gatorade with me if I needed it.
After 16 miles, though, my left medial calf started cramping up on me. My right foot was still inflamed, but I took two naproxen pills before the race (and two the night before….), and I put some moleskin on the top of my foot to limit friction. The injury I was worried about didn’t end up mattering, all that much, as all focus shifted to my calf for the last 10 miles. About every half mile or so, I had to pause and massage my leg, and stretch it as best I could. I had banked time running faster than I usually do for the first few hours, so it wasn’t the end of the world if I had to stop a few times….but the pain was certainly frustrating! I feel like I could have done quite a bit better without the cramping, but I suppose that’s what happens in a marathon: something’s got to hurt.
Brooke and the kids found me along the route a few times. I had LiveTrack set up on my watch, so I sent the link to a few folks if they wanted to follow along with my progress. Brooke noticed that I slowed down, so she texted some encouragement. The kids made signs, too, and had fun cheering for everyone. I think they kinda “got into it” a little bit, based on what Brooke told me, in that they cheered for other people, gave other runners encouragement, and were at least a little entertaining for the participants.
In the end, I crossed the finish line at 3:58:43, which is just under the 4:00 goal. I placed 44/100 in my age group and 288/943 in the marathon, overall. I was a bit surprised at how not crappy I felt, as the 20 mile run I did a month previous did not have a particularly fun aftermath. Perhaps it was the endorphins and adrenaline, but honestly, I felt pretty good after I was done! My calf finally stopped cramping up after I stopped running (shocking, I know…), and I met up with Brooke and the kids after grabbing a bottle of water.
We chatted a bit and then walked down to the festival for a few minutes. They left to go catch a movie at a theater, while I stayed behind to have a pulled pork sandwich and a beer. Because the hotel was only a few blocks away, I was able to walk back and chill out in the hotel room for a bit, getting some much needed recovery.
Ultimately, I’m glad I did it. The first few days post-race featured a bit of difficulty going downstairs (my quads stayed pretty tense…), but by today, I’m feeling mostly back to normal. My right foot is still a bit inflamed, but that’ll subside. I’m not going to run as regularly as I have, as I’m going to try shifting to cycling as much as I can to help lower the chances of impact injuries on my legs.
But I still have 89 miles to run in 2021 to reach 1000 mi this year. Can’t stop just yet! Onward!
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!!).
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!
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.
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!
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!