Pink Procession

Solanum lycopersicum

Solanum lycopersicum

This week marks the beginning of one of Coralee & my favorite parts of summer: the ripening of our German Pinks!  According to the Seed Savers Exchange catalog, this Bavarian heirloom (Solanum lycopersicum) is one of the founding varieties of Seed Savers, cultivated & donated by the founder herself, Diane Ott Whealy.  Coralee saved the seeds from our crop of German Pink tomatoes last summer as part of her fall homeschool science project.  She germinated the seeds in wet paper towels on top of the refrigerator this spring & we transplanted the leggy ladies into the garden in May.  It looks like we have a fairly average crop of fruit growing this year from two plants (I’m guessing about 12-15 tomatoes total).  Each heirloom weighs between 1-3 pounds & is so much fun to hoist off the vine!  We use only four of these lovelies to make our special ‘orange & honey’ tomato soup.  Recipe next week!

Fourth Grade

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Merritt, our second-born, started fourth grade today. He struggles a lot at school. He has diagnosed ADHD & Tourette Syndrome (motor tics only, vocal tics have subsided) & is not medicated for either condition–our choice based on MANY factors. He tests at the “Mensa” level in terms of IQ. He is creative & interesting & has a very, very large vocabulary….but he hates school. He tells everyone he hates school. The only part about school he will admit to enjoying is PE class. This year, due to where we live & the fourth grade schedule, he has to board his bus home halfway through PE class (along with two other students from his grade). So he will miss half of the only class he claims he enjoys. He knows this & seems surprisingly okay with it. He woke up this morning wishing school and summer were one whole year long EACH. Morning is often a very volatile time here for Merritt, but after telling me his wish, he proceeded to get ready for school with no fuss. He even let me style his hair (aka: comb his hair) without any complaints. He ate his breakfast of a bagel & cream cheese, took his fish oil pill, & then asked to finish a homework paper on division he had neglected to work on all summer. WOW. Way to go, Buddy. You started your first day of fourth grade like the amazing guy we all know you to be–thank you for a wonderful morning.

Happy First Day of School!

{Please ignore our front stoop–gosh, I did not realize how awful it looks until after I took the photo!  At least I managed to hose the chicken poo off last night.  Winning!}

Yarn Along {with Martin the Monarch}

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Joining in with lovely Ginny today. This is my Stone’s Throw scarf knit in Quince & Co Lark in the colorway Honey; I’m roughly halfway through the project. Lark is a thick, springy, cushy & squishy 100% American Wool.  Highly recommend it.  My new Cascade 220 (for all you knitters out there reading this).  I started the scarf over the past winter. It is such an easy knit, not sure why I haven’t finished it yet. I hear the Midwest is in for a cooler-than-average fall this year. The news seems to have spurred by knitting.

All three of my children (even June!) have been hand-rearing Monarch butterflies this summer by collecting eggs from Common Milkweed at Koutny as part of our work with the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project. Merritt’s last monarch emerged from its pupal state yesterday. It’s a male & he named it Martin after his favorite character from the PBS show Wild Kratts. Martin has a bit of a wrinkle in his lower right wing & has yet to venture out into the world….hoping he finds his way. Merritt thought he made a nice addition to my scarf progress photographs today. I hope you agree!

Currently reading The Red Badge of Courage as I prepare for Coralee’s History studies this year as a homeschooled seventh grader….my 33rd birthday is this Friday…how did the time pass by so quickly…

Musings on the Garden in July

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The garden is going strong as July winds down. I harvested about a third of our carrots today & the cherry tomatoes are progressively beginning to ripen.

I seem to have squashed the squash bug uprising by disposing of any leaves harboring their shiny, copper-colored eggs & squishing as many live bugs as I could find {too morbid? apologies!}. We continue to reap about one yellow zucchini/squash per day.

The Waltham Butternut squash seem to be doing well, hidden among the tall grasses that invariably grow in & around our squash/pumpkin patch every year. Coralee planted what we thought were mini “spinning top” gourds, from seeds she collected herself last fall….these “mini” gourds are now the size of bloated softballs, bright yellow-orange, & basically look nothing like her original…more on that mystery in the days ahead, I’m sure.

Our two dwarf Honeycrisp apple trees have been in the ground here for going on six years. We finally have apples this year…THREE apples, to be exact, & only on one tree. Coralee hand-pollinated the one tree using crab-apple blossoms we pilfered from a tree in town {gasp!!} this spring. She says she dusted at least fifty blossoms….not the greatest payout, but I’m just thrilled we finally have something to show for our apple-tree-planting efforts.

I made Carrot Top Pesto with the green mound of tops I had left after I cleaned the carrots this afternoon {no, I do not consider carrot tops poisonous}. I had never made this pesto before, but I feel so wasteful just throwing out all those greens every year to the chickens. I froze two small Mason jars of the pesto and kept a third in the refrigerator. I plan to try it on toast/crusty bread tomorrow as suggested by the recipe.

Summer is sailing swiftly by here at the Bodeker House.

Yarn Along

Kit Camisole

I am currently in the doldrums of my Kit Camisole. Lots & lots & LOTS of stockinette in the round, briefly interrupted by a handful of half-linen stitches across the back. I had high hopes for this knit. Hopes that I would be wearing its silky smooth linen most of the summer. Not likely at 6/7 stitches per inch & over 300 stitches per row. I’m just not that fast of a knitter. I also think I probably cast on one size too big which will make this a camisole worn exclusively under a cardigan (per my usual, I suppose). I’m using Quince & Co. Sparrow in the colorway ‘Truffle’ which I thought had a slight metallic purple to it, but it is basically in the deep grey family.

So many books are stacked up in my reading basket, waiting to be waded through…instead I find myself poring over my three newest pocket guides. I am determined to find myself fluent enough on our hikes through the Iowa countryside to identify most of the wildflowers I see. We spend a lot of time at Koutny Pond as the (unpaid, amateur, default) land stewards and thus I want to be well-versed in the prairie plants, too. Growing up in Wisconsin, I was able to identify most of the flowers in the Northwoods. I seem to have lost most of that knowledge, sadly.

Joining in with Ginny this week. Check out her wonderful blog for more knitting/literary inspiration!

Golden Zucchini {Squash} Bread “by” June

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My name is June. I’m three years old. I dressed myself today. I love Ninja Turtles. My mama let me help bake zucchini bread (first time!) using two of the (she says) “fifty million Golden Zucchini squash” we have growing in the garden right now. There are squash bugs taking over the patch. She said tonight we will go out and try to squash a bunch of the squash bugs before they devour anymore squash. I measured & mixed, but my favorite part was holding the eggs (probably from my favorite chicken Margaret or maybe her sister Marianne). But I really liked putting the chocolate chips on top. (I shared some with my friend Nora who is here visiting today.)

I ate my delicious bread next to a vase of flowers my mama picked yesterday. The End.

An Overdue Thank You: Catalina Mountains, AZ

Back in May (May!), Coralee, June & I flew to Mesa, Arizona to visit my parents (snowbirds) and attend the wedding of my cousin. We had never visited their new home near Tucson.  {Merritt stayed in Iowa with Brian (dad/hubby) due to his severe motion sickness & Brian’s need to work.}  The girls had never been on an airplane before & they fared perfectly!  There was quite a bit of turbulence on both our departure and return flights due to massive thunderstorms over Iowa.  At one point during our flight from Iowa to Mesa, as the plane was rocking & tossing, June (age 3) started HOLLERING, “I don’t want to die!”  Yikes!  She wasn’t really scared, just loudly making a point.  The passengers around us were fairly amused, thankfully.  The first set of photos is from our time waiting at the airport in Cedar Rapids, IA.  June was beyond giddy at the prospect of flying.  She is a relatively fearless child. {Click on any photo to view it full-size–looks much better that way, too!}

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Landing in Mesa near midnight! It is such a neat experience to both depart and board a plane outside in the night air. June was looking out the window for my parents, her Nana & Papa Hammond. She couldn’t quite understand why they weren’t sitting right there on the tarmac.

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The next day we set out with my parents early in the morning to see all the wonderful natural areas that surround their community. The (Santa) Catalina Mountains rise up just beyond their neighborhood. Stunning. The birding was excellent. Coralee added many birds to her Life List. As my father (an avid birder), Coralee, & I looked for birds, my mother & June hiked behind us playing in the sand & just generally enjoying one another. We saw many Saguaros (the tree-like cactus species that is found throughout the area). Those stately beings are truly impressive.  Massive trunks of water.  We also hiked a trail that showcased some of the area’s archaeological treasures.

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Who’s that hiding on the desert floor? ;)
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My parents’ front door with a family of Gambel’s Quail trailing across the bottom. We saw Gambel’s Quail EVERYWHERE around their community. The chicks with their tiny topknots are so captivating.

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One of our favorite activities was relaxing in my parents’ backyard “spool”–a hybrid pool and spa.  I could have stayed in it forever!  June wore a life-jacket and decided she is now a fish. It was difficult to coax her out.  She just kept swimming back and forth across the tiny length.

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Coralee took this photo of a female Black-chinned Hummingbird approaching the feeder. She spent close to two hours on Thursday, perched just beyond the hummingbird feeder, watching silently as the many different individual birds paid a visit. She took dozens of amazing photos with her iPod & identified five different species of hummingbirds.

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Friday morning birding along a trail that runs the edge of my parents’ community (at the base of the Catalina foothills).

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Yes, this is me. I was here, too!
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On Friday (we landed in Mesa late Wednesday night), we headed toward Phoenix to a golf resort for my cousin’s wedding. Coralee, my father, & I went hiking early Saturday morning in the foothills behind the resort. The bugs were awful. We scampered back down once we reached the top of the trail very quickly.

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A Cactus Wren & my new favorite bird.  I’m not exactly sure why, but I just fell in birder-love with this species.  The biggest wren in North America & Arizona’s state bird.
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June & Coralee ready for the wedding Saturday night. Coralee still LOVES to match June’s outfits & June, of course, loves to match her big sister.
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I must admit that I threw quite the adult pathetic hissy fit when my parents started living in the Southwest during the coldest winter months. I fought visiting them (in Arizona) for several years. I am so glad they gave my girls & I the opportunity to fly down & experience the breathtaking beauty that is the Santa Catalina Mountains. I cannot wait to return! Thank you immensely, Mom & Dad!
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Arizona May 2014