I said a few weeks ago that this stay-at-home spring feels a lot like the first few months as a homeowner. A lot of this is because that was the first — and last — year that I tried starting my garden from seeds instead of purchasing seedlings from a nursery. As soon as my employer told me, in mid-March, that we’d be working remotely until at least the end of April, I thought “well … I would finally be home to water seeds!”
And so, friends, I jumped in with basically no plan. I visited the neighborhood hardware store the weekend before Minnesota’s stay-at-home order went into effect, and I grabbed a bunch of seed packets, seedling trays and a grow light. It wasn’t until a month in that I realized my grow light situation was probably only 1/10 of what the seeds really needed … like I said, no plan. But it made me feel better about giving them a try, since spring weather in Minnesota means we don’t plant outdoors until between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day.
I’m excited about the herbs and veggies for sure, but I’m especially hopeful about the perennials. Buying a packet of seeds for $3 could yield dozens of plants that otherwise cost $15 or more apiece from a garden center. I know that’s because they’re time-intensive to nurture, so we’ll see if it works out in my favor by the end of the summer. But if I can fill my side yard with bee- and butterfly-friendly flowers that will come back year after year, I’ll be happppppy.
It’s been almost five years since I logged in to update this blog — as many of you know, I hit a major speedbump in 2015 with my health and have spent the last few years recovering. Throughout, I’ve been so grateful for this wonderful house to shelter and comfort me (especially when I was spending hour upon hour on my living room couch, enveloped in those gorgeous teal walls). At the same time, remembering how much energy I had “before” and how much work I used to do on the house, well, it made me feel pretty low by comparison. So, I took a little break from house projects and the blog, which turned into a long break. “Comparison is the thief of joy” never felt truer than during the years I spent recovering. So for the most part, I just lived here and enjoyed it and tried to spend increasing time away from the house as a measure of success in healing.
And now, it’s March 2020. I’m back to good (maybe great) physical health, and spending all my days inside the little farmhouse … thanks to the coronavirus. I just spent the 10th anniversary of home ownership conducting my day job responsibilities from a desk I’ve set up in my dining room, and raking last autumn’s leaves out of the garden beds. One benefit is for certain: my garden has never looked better, and it’s barely even spring yet.
So, I’m dusting off the blog to document a few highlights of this, the 10th year. It’s already proving to be an unexpected one. But there have already been more than a handful of deja vu moments that have transported me back to the first year. Similarities like the earlier-than-normal snow melt, the mid-March signs of spring, the stock-up trips to the grocery store and hardware store, the hours upon hours spent alone in the house tackling projects, the sowing of seeds, and the excitement of all I can cook and make in my very own kitchen. I have some more time to cook, which means revisiting recipes from my early years of the little farmhouse, and trying some new ones like a gluten-free sourdough starter (started it today … we’ll see!) And, I’ll fill you in on the few projects that I did tackle in the last five years.
Whoever might be reading this — you’re probably at home a lot these days, too. I hope your home is safe, I hope you’re able to spend quality time with people you love, and I hope you’ll reach out if you want to connect.
The farmhouse turned 115 this year, and I hosted a big backyard bash in July. It was amazing to have so many friends and family members show up to help celebrate. I’ve had the idea in my head for a few years, and have been dreaming up party food ideas all year. Some awesome girlfriends helped me bring the idea to life, preparing party fare from every decade that the house has been around. It was so much fun. We rounded out the menu with home-smoked pork from my awesome cousins, Maggie’s famous German potato salad, and the most amazing ribs from Smoke in the Pit (a neighborhood BBQ place).
1900s: Jell-O salad (yeah Rachel!)
1910s: root beer floats
1920s: Rice Krispies treats
1940s: deviled eggs (thanks aunt Mary!)
1950s: Chex Mix (great job Brianna!)
1970s: cheese ball (way to go Mary!)
1980s: 7-layer dip
1990s: Bagel Bites
2000s: Millenium cupcakes (amazing job, Sarah!)
2010s: the best kale chips ever (thanks mom!)
And, by popular request, the white sangria recipe:
4 bottles vinho verde
2 L. club soda
1.5 c. Triple Sec
2 cans frozen lemonade
3 oranges, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
2 peaches, sliced
Bags of frozen fruit (1 of each): raspberries, strawberries, pineapple
//combine and pack dispenser in ice or refrigerate for a few hours prior to serving//
So much <3 to everyone who showed up and made it a party. xoxo
Some of you have noticed I took a bit of a break from blogging this spring. Between work travel and some family things to attend to, I really haven’t been home — much less, cooking, crafting, gardening and fixing! But I managed to get a few things in the ground recently, and despite the torrential rains we’ve been getting, they’re doing great so far.
It’s going to be a low-key summer for the garden this year. I took out some trees in the backyard last November, and I am looking forward to seeing how that changes the light in the garden. A year of observing and waiting, and maybe next year I’ll make some big changes. Oh wait, you thought that was a metaphor for life instead of my garden plan? Funny…
Parsley, Basil, Lemon Verbena, Chives, Peppers and Raspberries on the north side of the garden
Mint (three varieties), Thyme (two varieties), Oregano, Cilantro, Sage and Tomatoes on the southeast side
Annuals in the whiskey barrel out front — a purple and coral theme this year, which I’m loving so so much
Some beautiful Bleeding Hearts that have spread out in the front garden beds
No, I’m not moving. But a lot of my friends are/have been lately, and although I love my home and life here, sometimes I get that niggling thought: “Is it time to move? To change again? To keep growing somewhere else?”
And then, yesterday afternoon, I was putzing around in the kitchen. And something happened. A corner of my kitchen was illuminated by light in a way I’ve never seen before. Almost four years here, feeling now that I know this place so well, and here was something new. Something new that I didn’t create or design.
It was just the angle of the sun setting. A result of the precise rotation of the earth and the placement of the house across the alley. It was so beautiful that I almost didn’t take a picture, knowing I could never truly replicate the moment.
And it reminded me that new surprises are almost certainly right around the corner, coming from where you least expect, even when you are just hanging out happily in a place you know well + love.
It’s been both a great season in the garden and a meh season. From a late start planting to another drought, my grass and trees are struggling while my squirrels get the best tomatoes! But this summer’s growing experience did convince me it’s time to cut down a few trees in the back to allow more sunlight in the garden. And my lawn has looked great most of the summer thanks to the fancy new mower/mulcher! You win some you lose some.
Here are a few pics from this weekend’s casual harvest. I got a number of tomatoes and peppers a few weeks back, and a lot of the plants haven’t yielded anything (lemon cucumbers, broccoli, chard, brussels sprouts, beets).
nasturtium, oregano, rosemary, lemon verbena, sage, thyme and basil
a great showing for tomatoes and herbs by the back door
poor pathetic lemon cucumber plant (nothing like past years’ monsters)
healthy tomato plants but lackluster basil, beets and brussels sprouts
wimpy basil + weeds
patchy spots in the perennial bed — to be tackled next year
the part of the garden I habitually ignore (and notice that the window box greens didn’t make it, either)