Friday, July 29, 2016

Shoe Surprise

The boys leave their shoes all over.  I find shoes in the strangest places.  And they frequently are left lying all over the yard. 

One morning there was a big commotion when I was in the shower (because I can never take a five minute shower in peace).  It turns out Reid had gone outside to grab his Crocs and when he put his foot in, something was in there.  At first, he thought it was dog poop.  Luckily, it was something much cuter.

You'd think this would be a good lesson not to leave your shoes lying all over the place.  You know, to put them away where they go.  If only...

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Canning Season - Carrots, Wineberry Jam, and Turnips

I've finally started to do some canning.  I'm still intimidated by the pressure cooker, but if I get everything prepped Paul doesn't seem to mind hanging out with it on the porch while the jars process through. 

Paul and the boys picked a bunch of wineberries from our land, and I made nine half pints of jam.  These are the staple of the pb+js that the boys like in their lunches during the school year.

Then I spent a couple of sultry afternoons in the garden digging up carrots.  I don't know why carrots don't just pull up from the garden like beets or turnips.  But I had to dig every single one out, and broke quite a few in the process.  Regardless, I got a good number, and ended up canning 27 pints of carrots and 5 of turnips.  I only did a small batch of turnips because I couldn't find anyone who'd actually tried them and I had my suspicions they might be gross.  So I did a test batch.

So here's the scoop on canning turnips.  They become more pungent and the texture (while they do stay intact) becomes a little spongy.  So they really don't taste so great.  On a brighter note, I discovered that if I make a big batch of mashed potatoes and dump in a jar of canned turnips to the mash, no one in the house is any the wiser.  So at least they won't be going to waste.

The carrots and the wineberry jam turned out wonderfully, and we'll be enjoying those this winter.  Hopefully there will be some green bean canning in my near future.  Canned green beans are my favorite!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Crash Test Dummy

I picked up a costume at a thrift store for $1.99.  It's been quite popular with the boys.  I don't know how they can stand being completely zipped up in the thing.  It's mesh, so they can still see out and breathe, but I think it would creep me out.

I think this is a crash test dummy costume.  What do you all think?  They used to be kind of popular when my middle brother was a kid. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Renaissance Camp

You may remember that a couple of summers ago, the boys and I spent time studying the Renaissance.  It's one of my favorite time periods.  Pierce had the opportunity to go to a Renaissance camp this summer. 

It was a creative camp.  He got to do leatherworking, cake decorating, and bridge building (although he refused to test his bridge with weights because he didn't want it to get busted).  He also make a simple game using clay and beads.  But his favorite thing, by far, was that they got to play around with building Renaissance architecture with Minecraft.  Pierce just adores Minecraft.

Here's Pierce with a cake he made.  He said it's the first round table for the knights. 

Readers, do you have a favorite time period in history?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Foraging in the Pastures

Things are  in bloom in the hills around our place.  Reid and I went for a walk to the far pasture one night to gather some ox-eye daisies that I had noticed during my morning run.  They are very similar to chamomile.  While we were picking daisies, we stumbled upon a lot of red clover, which also makes a nice tea and is useful for skin conditions like psoriasis. 

Once we got back to the house, we spread our flowers out on paper towels for a few days to dry out.  I will label them and store them with other herbs we have been gathering.  We'll either use them to make teas or salves during the winter months.

Soon, I will be harvesting the calendula planted in my garden.  It's doing much better than the batch I did in a pot. 

Readers, what's in bloom at your house?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Where's Cort?

I gave Cort a book by Cornelia Funke (her Ghosthunters series) and told him he might like it.  I was doing a bunch of chores around the house and realized he was missing.  Things were so quiet. And quiet moments in my house are few and far between. Reid had been working at a coloring project at the dining table, and Pierce was at Renaissance camp.

I called for Cort.  There was no answer.  So I had to track him down. 
Cort was so wrapped up in his book that he didn't even notice when I snuck a picture of him with Bobby.  Cort is Bobby's chosen person, so I tend to always find the two of them together.

An hour later, Cort emerged, and asked if I could order him the second book in the series from the library.  You bet, Cort! 

Friday, July 15, 2016

What Not to Wear When You Meet Your New Neighbors

Recently some neighbors moved.  We were really bummed, because we'd gotten along with them so well.  New neighbors moved in.  Paul wanted to go meet them.  Being the introvert of the family, I skipped out on that, but sent over some cookies with him.  The boys wanted to tag along.  Here is what Reid was wearing:

What's so funny about this is that we aren't a family that hunts or even generally wears camo.  I had gotten the shorts for 'camo day' at school, which they seem to have at least once a year.  The jacket I picked up at a yard sale for the boys' costume drawer.  The hat we got from an outdoors store that was closing down and had everything on 80% clearance.  And he is also sporting knee high Halloween crow socks with water sandals.

I wasn't there, but I'm pretty sure he must have made quite an impression! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Perfect Peach

When I was a kid we used to drive up on the Blue Ridge parkway to a little picnic spot with my grandparents.  On the drive home, we'd often stop at the Bent Mountain farm stand.  They've been there since 1981.  They always had the best peaches.  The type bursting with flavor and juice.

We aren't over that direction very often, but a couple of weeks ago we were driving by it.  I stopped.  They had peaches.  Perfect peaches.

It's so perfect it doesn't even look real.  Peaches are my favorite fruit, and I was giddy when I smelled this one.  The fuzz was so fine you could barely even see it.  And they flavor?  Just as perfect as the appearance!

Readers, what is your favorite fruit?

Monday, July 11, 2016

Too Much Watermelon

Yes, friends, as it turns out, there is such a thing as TOO MUCH WATERMELON.

You might have eaten TOO MUCH WATERMELON if you fall down on the deck with a groan and gaze vacantly at the sky. 

That might be a good indication that it's time to cut yourself off.

Readers, do you love watermelon THIS much?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Backpacking with Kids, the Blooper Edition

As on any hiking trip, not everything went perfectly when we took the boys on a 13 mile overnight Appalachian Trail hike.  We had a few challenges along the way.
This picture made me laugh because Reid looks like he is running frantically from the grazing wild ponies.  It was really just a photobomb.

As you may remember, I had a crazy hiking boot incident recently, and as a result I decided to wear my old tried and true Lowe hiking shoes.  They have always been comfy and fit well, but I hadn't worn them in a couple of years.  Everything started off well enough, but about 1.5 miles into our trek the soles fell off BOTH shoes!  Just FELL OFF!  Turns out they had dry rotted sitting in my closet unused for so long. 

I used duct tape (some borrowed from other hikers, thank you, and some ours) along with some yarn and string to tie things up the best I could. 
We were just barely into our trip - I wasn't sure how hiking the rest of it in my salvaged shoes would go, but I was hoping for the best.

Not 5 minutes after my shoe hack job, I went into a privy and got stung by a bee.  On my butt.  Sorry, no pictures of that!

When we got to the campsite, we discovered that our tried and true water filter was not working correctly.  So it took ages to filter enough water for our hike the following day.  It hadn't been used in a few years either, so perhaps it ran into similar issues as my shoes.

The temps dropped significantly on top of the mountain, and we discovered that somehow Reid's jacket hadn't made it into his pack.  It was nowhere to be found (somehow, it was in another bag in the car).  He borrowed Paul's jacket for the evening.

I brought a really nifty mylar bag set up for making coffee the next morning, but Paul forgot his coffee mug.  He ended up improvising by cleaning out an empty Mountain House meal packet and using that. 

After a lunch break the second day, the boys all had meltdowns.  It seemed that all three of them wanted to be the leader at the same time.  I told Paul that instead of feeding them Cup O' Noodles we must have substituted Cup O' Drama.  I think they were all just feeling tired. 

The hike down the next morning was very rocky, and the improvised shoes only lasted about a mile or so.  I ended up tearing off the soles and hiking down in what remained.  Which was basically like hiking 5 miles over rock in socks.  My feet were a little tenderfooted by the end, but it wasn't so bad as I thought it would be.  Here's my shoes when I got home (they went straight to the trash):
The challenges of backpacking trips like this are actually part of what makes it fun.  You learn to improvise with what little materials you have, and you can make plans for how you can do things better the next time out.  Paul and I were a little rusty since we hadn't backpacked in so many years.  But it is an activity we both love dearly, and now that we know we can take the boys, we hope to have many more trips in the future.  One last thing we learned?  We're a decade older and even though we both are active with running and biking, carrying a backpack up a mountain is a game changer.  We were both very sore the next few days!

Readers, have you ever tried backpacking?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

First Backpacking Trip with Kids, Part 2

After a long day of uphill hiking (slightly over 6 miles), the shelter at Thomas Knob was fairly crowded for the night, and we had packed tents anyhow, so we looked for a quiet spot to set up camp.  The view from our campsite was just gorgeous.

Once the tents were up, we set to work boiling water to make some Mountain House backpacker meals.  I got a great deal at a yard sale on these - $1.50 a piece, and they weren't expired!  For freeze dried food, Mountain House really does have good flavor.  I didn't know if the boys would like them or not, but it turns out they loved them.  They sampled spaghetti and meatballs, beef stroganoff, and Cajun beans and rice.  It was cold on top of the mountain, so they had to bundle up to eat dinner.  It got down to around 39* that night.

Now, as promised, here is what makes the Grayson Highlands area different from other regions of the Appalachian Trail - wild ponies!  We saw them many times during our hike. 

Here's a young one that came into a clearing where we were taking a break.  These wild ponies are a little too friendly because hikers keep feeding them granola bars.  When they hear plastic rustling, they come too close and even act aggressive.  Granola bars and other sugary treats are not healthy for horses and ponies anyhow, so if you go to the region please don't feed the wild ponies!  Just enjoy them from a safe distance and treat them as part of nature. 

Our final stop for lunch on the second day - one of the typical Appalachian Trail shelters.  This was about 1.5 miles from our car.  I think this is going to be one Father's Day that will be hard to top! 
Be sure to come back on Friday to read about all our trail bloopers - they are sure to make you laugh!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Our First Overnight Backpacking Trip with Kids, Part 1

We had hoped to do an overnight backpacking trip with the boys last fall, but we never managed to find the time.  We finally made it happen a couple of weeks ago, for Father's Day weekend.  We drove the boys down to the Grayson Highlands region of the Appalachian Trail.  It is so beautiful there. 

The boys used the backpacks they got for their last birthdays.  They each carried their own sleeping bags, food, snacks, water, headlamp, and a change of underwear and socks.  The first day all of our hiking was going up.  Here they are taking a break about 3 miles in. 

Paul pointed to our final destination for the day - another 3 miles or so from this meadow, on Mount Rogers.  This is the highest mountain in Virginia. 
Cort did get a little tired with so much climbing.  He has the shortest legs of the bunch, plus he has asthma, so it's genuinely more difficult for him.  Paul took one for the team in carrying Cort's pack in addition to his own for a while. 

We made it to the top and set up camp at one of the most beautiful spots around.  The view was phenomenal. 
Stay post I'm going to show you pictures of what makes Mount Rogers so unique compared to other parts of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.  Plus, on Friday, I'll be posting a special bloopers edition that will be sure to amuse. 
Have a safe and fun Fourth!  

Friday, July 1, 2016

Cast Iron

With my Christmas money last year I bought a couple of cast iron skillets.  I hung them on the wall by the wood stove.  Not everyone has cast iron hanging in their living room, but I do.

This summer, I made the mistake of taking Pierce to a yard sale with me, and I seem to have created a monster.  Now he wants to go to ALL THE YARD SALES.  So every Saturday we seem to be going to yard sales.

At one yard sale, a guy had three brand new cast iron skillets in a box, unopened.  He sold them to me for $5.  They aren't as high quality as my others, but it will be nice to have some smaller options in size if I need it. 

Do I cook with my cast iron?  Absolutely.  I've done cornbreads and frittatas and fried eggs.  Once I made German pancakes.  Just last night I did an egg, potato, and kale torte.  It was delicious.

Nope.  I don't really mind if Pierce drags me to yard sales every Saturday.  There are usually good finds to be had.