A nice spring rain is falling outside, and I am thinking about our garden. Yes, I have failed in the past, numerous times. Yes, I will try again. Instead of a green thumb, I have a thumb in my nose and I’m saying, Nah nah, I’m not weeding, I’m not tending! And though we are only in the planning stage, which I love, we will hopefully keep improving upon past gardens and their keeping. After all, there is nowhere to go but up.

Aliyah is at the library, taking a practice ACT exam. She was really stressed about just doing this, so I hope it removes some of the jitters she might have had for the real thing. I’m sure she’ll do well.

I made a big pot of chili for dinner, a perfect accompaniment to a rainy day. Sundays are good for resting, and for thinking about the week ahead. Tomorrow is track practice for the older four, and I’d like to get a good bit of school done in the morning before that. Then Tuesday is half off day at Volunteers in town. I’ll be looking for Easter clothes and summer wear. Sam is doing a project on ‘outfitting the Civil War soldier’, and is thinking of dressing himself, and one of the little boys, one Confederate, one Union.

Wednesday is TeamKID, our children’s program at church.

Thursday is Good News Club, an after school ministry the older four do.

Friday is free so far, but I may invite someone over for dinner. It is so good for our housekeeping to have people over, getting things done that might normally be neglected. There isn’t much time at church to socialize, so this helps with that, too.

Saturday is another track practice, and maybe someone to dinner, if not Friday. My parents haven’t been up for a while; I might invite them.

I must go turn down my soup, and get back to work. Quieter, laid back work, but still work.

Mr. McGregor and Me

“Now, my dears,” said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, “you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.”
~Beatrix Potter

I got so spoiled at Carol’s house, with those garden boxes up off the ground. Here at the new house we are planting things at ground level, and it is like leaving my most precious valuables out in the yard to be ravaged by the elements and the animals. Just as I’d feared, yesterday the kids came running in to tell me that some of my tomato plants had been compromised. We’d seen a rabbit in the garden the other day, and I suspect that this was the culprit.
Luke is my knight in shining armor when it comes to fencing. C had a phase where he was wandering away from the house, and Luke built me some temporary barriers to at least help slow his progress. Sigh- “My hero!” Not to be outdone, last night he put up a fence around my poor Romas in the hopes that this would give them a fighting chance against the unknown snacker. This morning, I looked out to see a rabbit in the garden again. It was hopping all over the place, apparently confused by the fencing. Big S ran out to shoo it away and check on the tomatoes. “Fourteen,” she came in with the survivor count. I started with eighteen. Yikes.
Seeing that rabbit (I’m guessing it’s the same one both times- he’s found his own Hometown Buffet!) made me think about the Beatrix Potter story we love about naughty Peter Rabbit and the gardener he thwarts, Mr. McGregor. There have been times in my life I could identify best with Peter. Aw, c’mon, it’s only a carrot. He’s got a whole garden full. I’m hungry, and getting what I want is all that matters, right? Lately, though, I am so much more in tune with the gardener, running after that pesky rabbit, rake in the air, angry as anything that he’s getting away. Gardens, and life, take a lot of work. It is frustrating to put in all that effort, only to have it not be appreciated by careless ones around us. Maybe I am getting old and crochety, but planting those tomatoes wasn’t easy.

Oatmeal Rhubarb Cookies

One of the first local farmers’ markets opened last Saturday, and the faithful few vendors were there: my bread maker, Loraine, an Amish family selling doughnuts and cakes, and a sweet old man sitting with a dozen brown eggs and a pile of rhubarb. Slim pickin’s, to be sure. I didn’t need a single thing (we pick up our weekly bread from Loraine on Fridays, and dear Aunt Charley keeps us happily supplied with eggs), but I couldn’t leave the market, or that kind man, without showing my support for local food. So, I bought some rhubarb. Here is my hands-down favorite way to eat it.

Oatmeal Rhubarb Cookies
1 cup shortening or softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups quick oats
big handful rhubarb, diced fine

1. Cream butter and sugars in a large bowl. Add eggs and vanilla, stirring until smooth.
2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, and oats. Add to creamed mixture and stir to make a thick cookie dough. Add rhubarb.
3. Spoon dough onto greased cookie sheets. Press to flatten tops. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until cookies are browned and cooked to your liking.

Okay, I Can Take A Hint…

I really was going to blog this week, Angela. Really. I was all ready to talk about something this past weekend that I had been thinking about, but after reading some other blogs, I lost steam. I discovered that Crystal (Biblical Womanhood, Money Saving Mom) doesn’t have a personal blog anymore, and noticed how Shannon (Rocks In My Dryer) doesn’t blog as much as before on hers. One thought they both shared on making these decisions was that what is necessary is “simply keeping some things to ourselves”. Well- I kinda felt sheepish for even planning the post I was, and promptly busied myself at doing something other than blogging. Yes, I know- balance is key. Not everything need be said, but some things are pretty darn fun to say. Like ‘darn’. But I digress. Must be the weather.
The weather! That is what I logged on here to write about! Is it too early for northeast central Ohioans to start planting things outside? Gee, because all week we should be sporting numbers in the 50s. Yesssss. The past two days we have gotten outside to play, all of us down to A Flat, and it has been lovely. I worked on the garden boxes, pulling at weeds, this morning, while the kids played on the playground. See, this was how it was supposed to work last year- I work right next to them, so I can mediate conflicts and bark orders from time to time. Only last year, C would constantly disappear when I would even try it. He is doing so much better at his ripe old age of two (and toilet trained to boot!), mostly because he now finds whatever the other boys are doing to be perfectly brilliant, and will tag along. There was one instance this morning when I couldn’t see A Flat on the playground, and started to panic. But then I noticed her pink coat hidden by A Major on the glider, and realized that was why I didn’t see her right away. Sweet how they all help out with her. Big S changed her out of wet clothes later after she’d fallen in a puddle. I should have videotaped it- Grandma calls A Flat an octopus, and that is exactly the kind of treatment S got, trying to diaper her and pull her shirt over her head.
Back to the garden boxes- I’m thinking peas, potatoes, spinach and leaf lettuce here at this house. Looks like I can get started Easter weekend. At the new house, Gus should be yielding spears soon. You simply do not understand how thrilled I am to have a mature asparagus plant. I thought about buying a crown or two (their root bed), but even then it would be years before I would harvest. I may go light on Gus this year, too, depending on the size of the spears. I have high hopes for Rhuby and Barbie this year. Oatmeal Rhubarb Cookies, winners of my personal Rhubarb Bake-off last year, are so close I can taste them. And Strawberry-Rhubarb crisp, runner up. Even though I’ll have to buy the strawberries at Meijer because they are not in season yet, it will be something to be savored. I’ll post the recipes when the time comes.
Baby Micah appears to be doing well. We have nine weeks of school left, and are hoping not to have to cut that short. I would be very surprised if she came early, based on how good the last weeks have been going. I’m learning contentment through all of this. How to rejoice with the newlywed couple in the OB office savoring those first few ultrasound pictures, and not throw myself a pity party instead. How to remain strong while the doctors continue to watch both babies, taking measurements of both heads, both abdomens, both femurs. How to remember that I have had the awesome experience of breathing in brand new baby hair how many times? And I get to do it again.

I know how it feels to have wings on your heels,
And to fly down the street in a trance.

All of my memories are happy tonight,
I’ve had [many baby loves] of my own.

~from “Hello Young Lovers” by Oscar Hammerstein II

Growing Things

“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 9: 23-24, today’s timely reading!

We had another ultrasound today with the doctor who performed the laser procedure. I’m very happy to report that this visit contained no surprises, for us, anyway. The doctor was not aware of the ultrasound we had last Wednesday, and was visibly disappointed to hear the news for the first time. Since we already knew of Micaiah’s passing, and all week Micah’s activity reassured me she was doing well, the scan was routine. Micah is over a pound now and very active, doing great. They want me to stay at rest for the next week, so please pray that my loyal superhero helpers (Luke, Carol, my mom) can hold out another few days. I really think at this point that the pregnancy will progress normally, and I will be so grateful to get back to work and get things back to normal.
I’m so glad I haven’t had to be away from the children; they are very therapeutic. Besides loving on them and spending time with them, I’m busy thinking about the things they need as far as schooling, clothing, and not the least: growing spiritually. So much is required to cultivate and lead these lives along. I need to do my part, but I am realizing the key will be how much I depend on the Lord in prayer, principally, for them.
I’ve also been thinking about how a normal pregnancy means we will likely have a garden at the new house this spring. There are so many things I want to grow; I hope we have enough space! I’ll have to brush up on Mel Bartholomew’s square-foot gardening techniques. Of course, I would trade a lifetime of vegetable-growing to have my little “two peas in a pod” again. But just like I am comforted by the work of ‘growing’ my children into who God wants them to be, it will be a balm to see those green shoots in March, to cultivate and lead those little lives along, too.

In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along;
Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,
God leads His dear children along.
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.
~George A. Young

Seasonal Scene: Tomatoes

Through trial and error I have worked to make it so that the tomatoes can cook down in the crockpot instead of on the stovetop. Two batches so far have had that cooked-too-long taste, because I still haven’t reached that delicate balance of cooking off the water but not burning the sauce. Last night’s tomatoes turned out best so far- only a corner of the pot was starting to look dark. I used a different crockpot whose ‘low’ must have been just right for cooking the tomatoes all night. A third will go in this week’s lasagna, the rest in some spaghetti dinner in the future. Yum!

Seasonal Scene: Pinto Beans

Once upon a time, I planted some Aldi pinto beans in quart jars for the children to watch grow. I said to the children, “They might not come up.” A few days went by, and though there was some sprouting of the beans, I still maintained that they might not come up, just because of the nature of the bean we were working with. Lo and behold, they did come up; every single bean grew into a healthy, green beanstalk that climbed my kitchen window. I thought to myself, I gotta try these out in the garden this year! So I planted two rows of them, in between the black beans and green. They were ready to harvest so I picked them and shelled them yesterday. Here’s the amazing thing- they look just like pinto beans! I can’t get over the fact that a handful of beans netted a 2 lb. bagful. Luke has inspired me to keep back this harvest and plant it next year. If all goes well, I get ten bagfuls from this one, I plant two bagfuls and have eight to last me all year. This, combined with tomato and pepper preservation in the coming years should have me swimming in free chili very soon.

Seasonal Scene: Too Many To Mention

Green Beans- We had fun snapping these and putting most up in the freezer.
Green Peppers- I tried one of my pepper varieties and was disappointed with the thin walls and bitter taste. I decided I would let most all of the rest proceed to sweet, colored status and hope for bigger and better taste by then. One of the kinds I planted is called ‘Fat and Sassy’- here’s hoping she lives up to her name. I’m going to miss my frozen diced green pepper, though- the final bag of last year’s harvest went in a casserole only a week ago.
Banana Peppers- I’m wishing I had the equipment to pickle these this year. Nice to know I can produce those fancy pepperoncini jars myself someday.
Potatoes- I think. My friend gave me a bucket of seed potatoes this spring and Luke decided to just pour the whole thing in the box, cover them with dirt, and see what we got. The plants looked lovely, with little purple blooms. Then, one by one, they yellowed and keeled over. A few days later I noticed a beautiful red potato sticking up out of the dirt, and figured it must be new, since it had no sprouts attached to it. Luke dug up a few more for me, and I fried them, diced, with onions. Delicious, and probably the freshest potatoes we have ever eaten. A week later, I thought I would look for more, but the ones I found I couldn’t tell if they were the old or new, with all their warts and sprouts. Let this be a lesson- don’t plant the potatoes so close together!
Tomatoes- I picked one Early Girl a few days ago. Starting tomato plants from seed has been a roller coaster ride; they have finally made it to fruit-bearing stage with many ups and downs. Now I wonder if the fruits will get any larger, or ever turn red.
Cucumbers- harvesting just enough to keep us crunching.
Thank You, Lord, for this bounty.

Seasonal Scene: Zucchini

Where do I start listing the many things I did wrong with my melon/ squash patch this year… At least there is something growing. Last year I picked a totally wrong location, for many reasons, and yielded only one gourd, about the size and edibility of a VeggieTale character. Back in this spring’s golden days of shelf lit sprouts, I had them all arranged neatly and orderly in their peat beds. When time came to plant them outdoors, I got all involved putting them in the ground, forgetting that my only way of identifying each was a little plant pick with their name on it, and all the picks were now swimming in the bottom of the pan! Whoops. So, I’ve got a bunch of big green vines and lovely yellow blooms out there. Maybe I’ll take some pictures and have a “name my baby squash” contest here on the blog.
A couple of plants are showing their colors- that’d be the zucchini, our early summer squash. I’ve gotten one fruit so far, and it has already been consumed in the form of sweet bread. Luke’s aunt has some more prolific plants apparently, and gave us a few for more bread and, I’m hoping, a redo of squash cake. I used a silicone pan for it last time, with sad results. Going back to a metal pan, and loving it.
I believe peeled, shredded zucchini can be sneaked into many different casseroles. I just put it into tonight’s pasta bake and barely noticed its presence. I bet mashed potatoes could hide it, too. Just trying to plan ahead for the year I have it in spades, which doesn’t look like this year.

Seasonal Scene: Peas

I’m not getting to a computer very often, so this is a bit late. I harvested peas last week and wanted to get my notes in on that…
I planted 4 rows of seeds, and probably had them spaced a little too close together, because as they matured, they looked more and more like the Bride of Frankenstein’s hair. Only a very pretty green. I was so inspired by their leaves and blooms that I made several greeting cards with the plants on the front. Luke was kind enough to put up some string to guide them upward and not outward, but soon they all began to tumble over the beets and carrots. Next time it will have to be taller staking. The pods were very sweet in their own right- I’m considering training us to eat the whole thing steamed instead of just the peas. Such a waste! And the work it took to get a handful of peas- like I said, a three by three plot only yielded a cup of peas! But it was kinda fun shelling them- I never knew what I was going to get. One family had three, another had 7. Each one was a different shape and size, too, which I thought was ironic. (the saying, like peas in a pod, makes me think they’d be the same) Excellent activity for the children. I froze this harvest in hopes of them gracing our Thanksgiving table. The rest of my seeds will go in soon for a fall harvest- I think I will plant them the first of August. Luke says, why not now, but I think it has to do with heat and keeping their growing season to the cooler parts of spring and late summer that give success. Although, success is a relative term when we’re talking peas. I’m not expecting to match a 12 ounce bag from the store after it is all told. But I can say I grew them myself, and that is all that matters.