2020 30-Day Minimalism Challenge

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Late summer glory...

Credit for this photo of a dewy dragonfly belongs to my dear friend, Lynne - whose old gate captivated me when we visited in early August.  Lynne sent this picture to me (several weeks ago now) with a note that I had "reminded her to look for everyday beauty".  A wonderful compliment!

Thank you, Lynne!  I'm sorry it took me so long to post it.  Though I know you know I've been a bit distracted in recent weeks.

Oh...  And just for fun...  turns out flowers in at least one Walmart are intentional.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Summer garden is closing...

September started out busy and full, but it's coming to a screeching halt with hand surgery today.  The surgery I'm going to have is CMC Arthroplasty.  It's to relieve basal joint arthritis in the thumb.  I'm having the left hand done first.  If it's a success, then in a year or two I hope to have the right hand done too.  Surgery has felt like long time coming, and yet it's amazing that now it's here already.  Why is it always that way?

By the time you read this, I may actually be finished with surgery and home!

While I've been quiet online these past few weeks, it's been busy here.  Finishing up a 2021 tax return for my brother's estate, and an amended return for 2020 has been an excruciating experience as I've worked with an accountant that has been a serious disappointment.  But all of it is finally on its way to the IRS and to the State, and I'm relieved to have that task finished.

Other than that, what has occupied me is the stuff life. I've enjoyed gardening this summer, and doing some food preservation.  There was a real push these last few days to finish up whatever I could since I won't be able to do that kind of thing again 'till my hand heals up.  We ended up giving a bag of cucumbers to friends on Monday because I had other things I wanted to do the day and night before surgery.  I doubt I'll be posting anymore for the rest of the month (unless I can find a draft that's ready to post).  I'll try to visit my blogging buddies in the upcoming days, but if I'm able to type comments I imagine they'll be short and sweet.

Tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, and Marconi Giant sweet peppers have been a regular sight in the kitchen.  I can't believe I've failed to take pictures of it all during these last weeks especially.  While I regret that, I'm happy to be putting away the canner, and unused jars, and all the paraphernalia that goes along with preserving the fruits of summer.  

Here's just a small glimpse into what was happening around here the last few weeks.

These few pictures do not capture all I've been up to.  Because the green beans were ready for picking in too small of batches to can, I froze all of them as I picked them.  What we didn't eat fresh, that is.  Sweet peppers, zucchini and squash were either enjoyed fresh, or were frozen for future use.  And while the last pictures show what I canned, it's just part of what is in the pantry.  

Making pickles was a totally new experience for me.  Dill pickles were fairly easy, but Bread and Butter pickles were a challenge.  The first batch I made I thought were good, and I even shared them with some friends, but after that I just couldn't get the taste right.  I admit I've thrown out almost as much pickled cucumbers as I've ended up with.  One of these days I hope to have a taste test of the batches I've saved with my sons who like B&B pickles.  I'm hoping to find there are a few jars that are worth eating. 

Oh, and I almost forgot...  yesterday I dehydrated a bunch of walking onions for future use.  A large bowl of them were cut up and after dehydrating were reduced to a mere pint-size jar.  My dehydrator (that I hadn't used in many years) didn't appear to be working very well, so I finished them off in the oven.  I should have just started with the oven - I would have saved myself so much time.  Unless these onions are just amazing dehydrated, I don't know that I will do this again in the future.

And that, friend, wraps up a summer of gardening and food preservation.  With strawberries and cherries frozen in the spring time, then peaches in August, and the garden produce "put up" during the last weeks of summer, I'm looking forward to fall and winter and cooking with these things we grew.  

And lastly, while I'm not about to post a picture of myself right now - mostly because I recently got a perm, thinking it would make a great wash & wear hairdo while I'm limited to one hand for a few weeks, nevermind there is nothing wash & wear about it...  I thought I'd look for some old pictures of the first garden Hub and I had.

We rented a small bungalow house when were first married, and the landlords owned a lot with a tilled-up patch behind our house.  They offered it to us to plant a garden if we liked, and we went to it.  Looking at the pictures, I'm amazed at how large it was.  I don't remember if we planted that whole thing, or perhaps just the freshly hoed ground in front of the fencing material behind us.

 Just for fun, this is 22 year-old me, 
and 27 year-old Greg
putting in our first garden.

And me with one of my first jars of home-canned green beans:

I remember being so proud of those green beans.  And proud of being brave enough to use a pressure canner.   I had never canned before that summer, but I grew up hearing the rattling of the pressure regulator on my mother's pressure canner and that was enough to give me courage to give it a go.  I know now there is a rubber safety plug that would have blown out had the pressure built up too much to be dangerous, but I didn't realize that back in 1981.  The canner in the earlier pictures is the same canner I used in 1981.  I believe it was a wedding gift.  I haven't canned in over 20 years, but even for a 42 year-old pressure canner, I was able to easily replace the gasket and an overpressure plug, and it worked perfectly for me.

This is a wrap!  I hope your summer is winding down nicely, and you're looking forward to autumn.  I sure am.  This is my favorite time of year. 

Saturday, September 3, 2022

After a rainstorm...

About the time when the daylilies were fading this summer, I realized sunflowers were growing in front of them from seeds dropped by our feathered friends feeding at the birdfeeders.  I decided to let them grow and enjoy the show.  

While we temporarily removed the bird feeders for a few months since the birds really weren't needing the seed, it was a fun surprise to watch nature unfold outside our bird-watching window while the birds were finding their food elsewhere.

Finding joy in little things, I have enjoyed watching a different view of the cycle of nature this past year.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

I sure like low maintenance...

I've had a lot on my plate over the last several weeks and am looking ahead to more of the same into the next month, so anything low-maintenance and pretty gets special mention.  

For a plant that went completely neglected all spring and summer, this clematis certainly didn't seem to hold a grudge.

Late in the spring it treated us to a beautiful flush of purple flowers.

Then it seems like I remember looking at it about mid summer and noticed the blooms had all died off.

Then just last week I noticed new blooms and all these wonderful seed heads.

While I love when something so pretty is low maintenance, at the moment I look forward to paying this plant a little more attention next summer.  

We'll see if I actually do...

Thursday, August 25, 2022

An unexpected simple pleasure...

Restrooms and Walmarts (especially restrooms in Walmarts) aren't natural blog fodder for me, but this moment was a perfect example of capturing "everyday aesthetics" where it could have easily gone relatively unnoticed.  

Walking into the restroom at a local Walmart recently, I didn't expect to be greeted with sweet smells and pretty, fresh flowers.

In fact, I'm sure I would have forgotten all about it had I not told myself as I was leaving to turn around and snap a picture.

As I went to get a cart, I stopped and told the greeter how surprising and nice the flowers in the restroom were, and she smiled like the whole thing was her idea, though she said she'd relay the message to management.  Whosever idea it was deserves to know it was a lovely thing.

It was all so unexpected, it honestly had me smiling for the duration of my shopping trip.


Edited to add...  I dropped into this Walmart again recently, and decided to visit the restroom for the sole purpose of finding out if the flowers above were intentional or just a happy, maybe even accidental bit of serendipity.

Turns out it's intentional:

Yay, Walmart!

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Forty-two years ago today...


Sisters and middle niece on the left

Pillowcases embroidered by Greg's maternal grandmother.

Today (more or less):

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Hmmm ...

Normally I'd have instantly thrown a piece of rotten fruit away, but these days I find myself stopping to study a thing.  Not sure a rotting tomato is actually aesthetically pleasing, but if you stop to really look at it, it is kind of fascinating.

For a moment, I thought maybe I was just becoming a little too weird with this whole looking-at-stuff-with-a-different-eye thing.  

Am I employing  an artist's eye?  

I went looking for an answer...

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Finally turning...

Mid-August. After a week of more moderate temperatures than we've had all summer, the tomatoes are finally ripening.  So excited!

Friday, August 12, 2022

Garden games...

 Picking green beans and cucumbers is an almost daily game of Hide and Seek.  

The above picture doesn't show any of the plant's stem, but the stems that support the main part of the plant look very much like the green bean itself - with something that looks like the dark "spine" in the middle of the green bean.   It's kind of fascinating how similar the two parts of the plant look, but it makes it really challenging to find the mature beans sometimes.  I've been fooled a number of times reaching for a green bean, only to find myself grabbing hold of a stem.

I circle around and search through each bean and cucumber plant two or three times before feeling reasonably confident I've found all that are the right size for picking, and a couple days later I almost always find a giant cucumber I missed.  When this happens, they are always so large (like 7 inches or more), I wonder how on earth I must have missed it several times.  It starts to feel like the plant is playing pranks on me.

While I try to harvest the pickling cucumbers before they get over 5 inches long, it's important, I've learned, to never let a cucumber grow so large it turns yellow.  At that point, the plant will likely stop producing fruit and think it's time to die.  So evidently, as long as I keep picking while the fruits are young, the plants will keep producing.  But if I let just one go too long, and get too old, it's Game Over! 

I have to say when I decided to plant cucumbers, this was not a game I anticipated.  

I also have to say... the Bread and Butter Pickles I canned earlier this week are worth it all.  Mmmmm.  I was so happy with them, I gave some to friends who came over for supper last night who'd never tasted Bread and Butter Pickles.  I hope they like them as much as I now do!  

Monday, August 8, 2022

Healthified Egg Salad...

I've had a hankering for an egg salad sandwich for a little bit now and when Hub came home with a box of small croissants (marked on clearance) yesterday, I new I needed to give into my hankering.  While there is nothing difficult about making egg salad, since it had been a while since I'd made it I went looking online for a recipe to make sure I didn't leave out some important ingredient.

I'm so glad I did!  Somehow "healthy egg salad" popped up and I was inundated with recipes that replace the mayonnaise with plain yogurt.  After skimming different recipes I decided to just wing it with whatever I had in the kitchen that I thought would be good.   I don't have an exact recipe to offer you, but I'll pretty much tell you how I made it.

First some notes:  Of course, I used Skyr (in place of the plain yogurt, which is in place of mayonnaise) but if I didn't have that, I'd have used plain Greek Yogurt in place of mayonnaise.  I think regular ol' plain yogurt would be too runny for this.

I chopped up everything real fine (except for the egg white - that I chopped medium-size-like), and mixed the following things together so that it tasted more or less like my regular egg salad:

Chopped hard boiled eggs (I used 8, but only because I made the salad it too thin and I needed more egg to balance the liquid-y texture).

Finely chopped celery

Finely chopped onions (I used my Walking Onions)

Mustard (a lot of recipes suggest Dijon, but I didn't have any, and I'm not sure I'd like it, anyway)

Plain Greek yogurt (amount is up to you) go easy until you get the consistency you like.

Spices:   Your choice

I put in Salt & Pepper to taste.  And Mrs. Dash Original Salt-Free Seasoning.  I know...  I already put in salt, but I love this stuff.  It always goes in egg or chicken salad here.

And because after all that it still needed something, I put in a dash or two of bottled lemon juice (bottled is all I had).

Because by this time I had made it too runny, I boiled two or three more eggs, and by the time I mixed those in, it was too dry, and at this point I added about a tablespoon of Hellman's Mayonnaise to see if it stepped up the taste a bit.  

Now, I'm not going to pretend this didn't taste different.  It did.  And I thought for sure Hubs would look at me funny when he took a bite.  But he didn't.  He said it tasted good. 

Honestly, I'm not sure that little bit of Hellman's made any difference, so I may skip it next time.  I would prefer to try adding more/different spices until the flavor zings for me.

But really...  except for putting my healthified egg salad on a croissant (a very small one, mind you), this is a pretty passable healthy substitute for egg salad made with mayonnaise.

I'm curious if others of you have ditched the mayo for Greek yogurt in your egg salad.  Let me know in the comment section.  And feel free to let me know what you put in your egg salad - healthy or not.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Captivating grace...

sweetness, charm and age
through weathered transformation - 
captivating grace

Pictures taken at Mike & Lynne's house

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

A clean start...

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins 
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”    1 John 1 : 19

Monday, August 1, 2022

Art in my everyday...

Inspired by the artists at Feather Garden, Salty Pumpkin Studio, and Field and Fen, I am doing something totally impromptu and somewhat spontaneous, and have decided to challenge myself to look around, see the "art" in my everyday spaces (and maybe the not-everyday-spaces), and try to capture it in a photo.  The point is not to capture actual art, but to see the everyday things around me through an artist's eye, so to speak.  As best I can, anyway.  I'm not sure I have an artist's eye.  But I think this is about developing it, so we'll see if that happens. 

Actually, in thinking about this more, I'm adding this paragraph to say, I think what I'm really after is to recognize everyday aesthetics that often go unnoticed, most definitely undocumented.  Regularly documenting everyday aesthetics isn't what's ultimately important, but recognizing them is.  And this practice of documenting them will surely raise my awareness, and even cause me to look for them when I might otherwise move through my space and time too much otherwise occupied to notice or stop and appreciate them.  While I think it will become apparent, I'm also going to mention that seeing "beauty" isn't what this is about.  It's really about seeing things that interest the eye.  That spark an emotion even, for example... of delight or even sadness, or confusion...  We'll see what presents itself.

I have the idea that I may try to do this every day for the month of August or maybe just when it strikes my fancy.  Maybe I'll peter out before the month is over, or maybe this will last beyond this month.  As I begin, I am giving myself no guidelines for this challenge - only to try to capture in a picture something of interest - though I'm allowing for the interest to be in the style of the photograph at times, perhaps even more than in the item photographed.  We'll see what happens.

Beyond this first post, I will try to keep these posts short.  Even wordless at times - hoping the picture speaks for itself. 

To keep track of these pictures, I've created a tab just under the header at the top of my blog.  If I decide to remove the tab, I may make a link in the sidebar.  Clicking on the tab or link will bring all the posts together in one spot.  
If you visit me, frequently or occasionally, I hope you'll leave a comment about what you see in these pictures.  

For example, in the second picture I'm kind of enthralled with the brown staining, and what looks like a worn edge on the lid.  In person, I barely notice it, but in the photo (which is easily twice the size of the actual box) this lid edge adds character to this little box that sits on our computer desk.  This box has sat on the computer desk here and in our old house for possibly most of two decades.  At times it has held paper clips, at the moment it holds nothing.  It's granted space on the desktop totally on its own merit.  I don't recall where it came from (probably found at a thrift store), and it's become so much a part of the scenery I hardly ever notice it.  Maybe that's what this challenge is about, too - noticing things that have undeservedly become unremarkable.

Ok, ok...  I think that's enough explaining.  Can you tell I'm figuring this out as I go?

I hope you'll check back and see where this takes me!

Friday, July 29, 2022

Garden update...

These pictures were taken a week or so ago, and frustratingly, I can only report that the trellised pole beans don't look nearly so nice at this point.  It just so happens we have some critters that love the leaves of green bean plants.  Early in the week I came out to check on things, only to find withered leaves at the top of these Kentucky Wonder pole bean plants.  "That's weird", I thought for a moment.  Then I traced the vine down to a spot where something had chewed through the plant.  Sigh.  Then one evening, as I approached the garden, I saw two cottontail rabbits hopping off toward a group of trees that line the back of the neighbor's yard.  My first thought was, "How cute!"  My second thought was, "YOU are the thieving culprits!"  

Honestly, I wouldn't  really mind if they ate to their hearts' content all the leaves from the bottom of the bean plants - as high they could reach.  But it was disheartening to see that they had chewed through the plant itself - killing it and, frankly, ruining any future meals for themselves.

And the above plant shows how some small bush bean plants were totally decimated - except for two little green beans left on this one.   For some reason, the rabbits have left two larger bush beans alone.  They are being held up by tomato cages, so maybe that has been a small deterrent somehow???

I sprinkled some blood meal around the remaining green bean plants since that's supposed to be a rabbit repellant, but I don't want to overdo blood meal since it's high in nitrogen and I don't think these plants need a lot of nitrogen at this point, so I don't plan to repeat that very often - if at all.  

I also read online that human hair might repel rabbits.  The timing was uncanny as I had trimmed my hair the same day I read that, so I took the little garbage liner bag that still had my hair clippings in it, and sprinkled it around the base of my green beans plants.  I hope I don't gross anyone out with this (I think I grossed a friend out when I told her), but the hair was clean and there was nothing else in the garbage liner so I don't know why this is any grosser than any number of other things I've had my hands in recently.  Besides, if it helps someone else, why not share?  I don't know what was most effective (the hair or the blood meal), but it's been several days and I haven't noticed anymore green bean leaves disappearing.  That said, I'm all but giving up hopes of green beans for more than a few meals this summer.  I need to do more research as I clearly need to be better prepared for rabbits next year.

Fortunately, rabbits don't seem to care for my pickling cucumber plants (pictured above).  They are going gangbusters - having climbed these cages to the tops as of this writing.  I was thrilled this week to finally have a few large enough to pick.

I set to work finding canning directions and a recipe for simple dill pickles.  Lots of people online have lots to say about making and canning pickles, and keeping them crisp, but few (if any) that I came across takes a person step by step from slicing to canning (with a recipe for canning in pint jars) - and that's what I wanted.  So I looked at a number of recipes, watched several videos, learned about the low-temperature pasteurization method (which many claim will produce crunchier pickles), and once I understood that method, I found a simple brine recipe and canned my first pickles:

I've tried to find the recipe I used, but I only wrote down notes while watching a Youtube video and I can't seem to find it now.   I understand the low-temperature process now, so really I just need to experiment with some recipes. Since I go through quite a few jars of dill pickles in a year's time, I figured dill was the first to try.  I need to give these a few weeks before trying them, but my hopes are high and I'm already planning on planting dill in the garden next year!

And while I wait for these pickles to... what?  Ferment? "Ripen"?  What exactly am I waiting for?   I'm not sure, but I'll look it up while I wait for more cucumbers to grow large enough to harvest.   

And I'm waiting for the tomatoes to turn red.   They've looked  approximately this color for weeks now: 

Curious why it's taking them so long to ripen, I looked it up.  Seems our weeks of sustained 90+ degree weather may be responsible for halting the ripening process. Who knew that?  I sure didn't.  I thought tomatoes thrived in hot weather - the hotter the better.  Evidently, not so much.

It's been a few decades since we've gardened (three to be exact), but I seriously don't remember it being this complicated.  We hoed the ground, stuck seeds in the dirt, watered the garden from time to time, and things just grew.  Or so it seemed.  I need to find some pictures and remind myself of what our gardens looked like if I can.  I know I've got at least one picture of me happily holding my first canned green beans.  Or maybe it was tomatoes.  Regardless, we actually produced things without all this hubbub.  And without the internet at our fingertips to answer every question we had.  And questions we didn't have.  When the temps get back into the 90's, I'll go digging through the photo albums and see what I can find.  

Anyway...  I might be disappointed, but I'm hoping the tomatoes ripen by mid-late August or early September so I have time to preserve them.  I have hand surgery scheduled for mid September - at which point, my canning/freezing days will come to a halt for at least a few weeks.  While I enjoy being generous, I confess I hope we don't have to invite friends over to pick and take home tomatoes in September, like we did with our strawberries in June.  

There are certainly worse things that could happen, though, I suppose.

Oh yeah...  and there's this:  

A peach tree we didn't realize was a peach tree!  And suddenly, it's full of fruit.  I thinned the fruit today (I learned last night that should have been done when the peaches were less than quarter size), but we never saw these coming!   We may have missed our opportunity for helping this tree produce decent fruit this year, but it's kind of fun having just discovered it loaded down with beautiful peaches. They're kind of small, but they're purty.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about having a peach tree.  I say we should give it another year and see if we can manage it, but if not (or if it doesn't produce fruit worth picking), I know we'd rather not deal with having to clean up falling fruit, and the insects it will attract.  It will be interesting to see what happens with this tree over the next few weeks...

More and more, we're seeing our job with this new place is to simplify the landscape.  There have been some cool things to discover, for sure, but seriously...  no one is going to be unhappy with this property when it comes time to sell if we've tamed it and made it more manageable.

And that's a wrap for another week.