September happenings

I can’t remember if I mentioned to you that our oldest son and his wife are having an adventure this fall. They took a leave of absence from their jobs and are traveling Europe for several months. If you would like to read about their adventures, their blog is here:

Just for fun, here’s a picture of my garden at the beginning and end of the season.  As you can see, things went kinda nuts.  We’ve had all the tomatoes and cucumbers that we can eat, as well as a fair number of peppers, both hot and sweet.  We’re still waiting for the rest of the watermelon to ripen.  Here’s a video to see the rest of THAT story!  🙂

Beginning and end of summerThe biggest problem of the season turned out the be the dog taking a liking to both tomatoes and cucumbers.  I am thinking of installing an invisible fence next year, since that seems like the best way to keep her out but still allow us access.  Not sure how much those things cost tho….maybe we will end up with some kind of mesh fence…

Finally, if you haven’t seen what’s up with the beach house, go check it out!  We have WALLS, and are planning a trip next weekend just in time to see the roof going on.  Woohoo! You can subscribe in the pop-up to get updates on the progress.

Summer goodies


We’re savoring the tail end of summer, including all the yummy things that come with the season.  There’s no better time of year for a good BLT.  At this time of year I’m usually awash in cucumbers, so I love to slice those cucumbers thin and add them in instead of the typical lettuce. Good bread, toasted, is the way to make these sandwiches really shine.  Since mayo is not my thing, I like a dab of mustard or some nice spicy hummus on my sandwich.   Yum!  I want one right now!


Peach Jam is another goodie from last week.  I honestly wasn’t planning on canning a .thing. this year– I’ve had such a LONG running of August canning craziness that I’d decided to take a year entirely off.  But then my sister’s neighbor was giving away peaches off their loaded tree.  How could I resist?

I brought home nearly a bushel of lovely peaches, some of which I gave away.  But I ended up with a dozen nice jars of jam also.  With the help of my youngest two daughters, it didn’t take us more than an hour, counting the time it took to process the jars.  Easy peasy.

SO easy, in fact, that I’m finding myself hunting down other canning recipes.  (Once a canner, always a canner?)  Here’s a recipe for peach mint salsa that has me intrigued, since my mint is going absolutely nuts and desperately needs taming.  Of course I’d have to buy peaches.  Hmmm… or maybe this one for tomato mint salsa???  I have LOTS of tomatoes, along with some incredibly fiery jalapenos.  Maybe that will be my next project!



Check out Owlhaven Vacation for the latest beach house updates if you’re interested in such things.  And by all means, weigh in and help me choose a backsplash for the kitchen!


The garden is coming together!

I’ve had such fun seeing how much garden I can fit into this tiny back yard of ours!  (The answer: quite a bit)  I now have a total of 6 raspberry canes, 5 tomato plants, four peppers, four strawberry plants (Julianna had to have strawberries!), three cilantro plants, two cucumbers, and one watermelon plant.  Oh, and mint.  I have two tiny baby mint plants.  See?


Instead of planting everything together, I chose to spread things out. I love the idea of fruit and flowers growing all together. Here you can see my cilantro in with my flowers.

CilantroIt is doing so well it is threatening to take over the containers.  Guess it’s already time to chop some up and do some guacamole.


I’m not quite sure how the part-sunny places in the yard will do for the tomatoes, so I decided to try them out in a few different places.

Here’s the bed against the house– it gets tons of morning sun, but is shaded by 2 PM or so. I put a couple strawberries in this bed along with tomatoes and flowers.  Hoping I don’t kill the azalea in the middle.

BigTomatoesI majorly splurged on the two big tomato plants in this bed.  Bought HUGE ones in April, which is why I already have half a dozen or so green tomatoes.  My dollar/tomato ratio is terrible at this point, but I’m hoping good yields all summer will eventually justify that $15/plant (eek) cost.  Maybe.



Since this bed against the house doesn’t have sprinklers in it, I added a soaker hose on a timer.  For a couple minutes John and I were puzzling over what to do with the bit of soaker hose that was hanging over the concrete next to the spigot, not really wanting a big puddle there.  But then we thought to put the pet water dish under it. Now the cats and dog get a fresh refill twice a day.  The dog loves it, and runs to get a fresh drink each time she hears it turn on.


And just in case you’re wondering about the writing on the wall in that previous photo, here’s a shot of my husband’s latest project– a shed addition built onto the side of the house.  He is a woodworker and since we’ve moved in has had tarps covering his woodworking materials, since there’s not enough garage space to house it all.  No more– all that wood is safely under cover now, and he has a good place to work on projects as well.  He is looking forward to the arrival of the siding so it will start looking like part of the house instead of an add-on.


This week he also built the little fence you see in the photo, to separate the ‘working’ part of the yard from the entertaining space.  It also gives us a place to put the dog when we’re entertaining, so she won’t continually have her nose four inches from guests’ plates, begging for bites of their burgers.  I am planning on whitewashing that new bit of fence so that it will match the gate.  (Do you remember that gate from our old house?  We couldn’t stand to leave it.)

I think the plant below is called a spirea.  I am excited to see all the buds that mean flowers are coming soon!


On the south end of the yard (the far end in this photo– you can’t really see it in this photo, but it’s there) I planted bamboo, intermixed with more strawberries.


The tall fence next to it give it continual shade, which I am hoping will help the bamboo thrive.  The variety I chose is called Fargesia rufa, which is a clumping type which means it is less invasive than some other types, and is supposedly an evergreen in Idaho.  I am excited to see how it will do.  Hopefully I won’t kill it.

Then here are some photos of the main portion of my garden.  I’ve sheltered it against the fence behind the firepit area so that pets and kids are less likely to run through it.


Here’s the east ‘leg’ of it, with freshly planted tomatoes and sweet peppers.  I opted to give cages even to the peppers, since our cats tend to lie down in fresh plantings.


As you can see, I am doing landscape fabric and bark to decrease the weeding time.  This first year I’ve spend a fair bit of time establishing all these new beds, but I am trying to lay it all out so that it will be reasonably easy care all summer long.  Love, love, love the fact that this yard has in-ground sprinklers.  A simple thing to most people, but something that we didn’t have at our other place, and when I hear those sprinklers go on, I can’t help but smile.  Ahhhhhh…..

Here’s one last shot of the garden.  This is the north side of the yard.  It gets sun almost all day long, and here I’ve planted a watermelon, a jalapeno, two tomatoes and two cucumbers.  Once again, I protected almost everything that’s small with tomato racks or bamboo stakes– our cats just love to lounge wherever I’ve just been working.

Here I’ve also planted a few flowers and a pampas that is supposed to get 10 feet tall.  (Eeek!)  If it really gets that big it may overwhelm the space.  But I am hoping for a nice sheltered feeling to the firepit area.  I will try to update you later in the summer when things have had awhile to grow!


Food that protects your skin from sun

Playing in the sun

Most of my kids are dark skinned enough that they rarely burn, and usually I’m not outside long enough to worry about burning.  But when we go camping, or go to the water park like we did yesterday, I do break out the sunscreen for some additional skin protection.  But to be honest, the more I read about sunscreen, the less thrilled with it I become. (See the articles I linked to at the bottom of this post).  Of course it’s wise to keep sun exposure moderate, and to wear a cover-up when you need to be out more than an hour or so.  I wore a t-shirt and shorts over my swimsuit much of the day yesterday. But did you know there are also foods you can eat to increase your body’s ability to fight skin damage? Here are some highlights from a bunch of different articles that I read recently.

  • Foods such as salmon and supplements such as fish oil load you up with Vitamin D and omega-three fatty acids that help your skin fight sun damage. A specific type of omega-3 fatty acid called eicosapentaenoic acid (or EPA) may help prevent sunburn and decrease DNA damage in the skin.  It is also good to consume mineral rich foods from both plant and animal sources. Bone broths and organ meats like liver are particularly balanced in trace minerals.
  • The polyphenols in green tea may help stop sunburn.  You can drink it or put it directly on your skin.
  • Eating tomatoes and watermelon every day will give you lycopene which has been shown to protect against sun damage. A suggested serving is 3 tablespoons of tomato paste per day, which will give you about 16 mg of lycopene.
  • Work on adding healthy saturated fat to your diet, such as coconut oil and butter. These foods nourish and help regenerate skin cells and protect against sun damage.  Rubbing coconut oil into your skin both before and after sun exposure can speed healing and decrease skin damage. Not only does coconut oil block about 20% of the sun’s rays, it also releases powerful antioxidants into the skin.
  • Carrots, red peppers, mangos, melons, apricots, and sweet potatoes all contain beta-carotene, an antioxidant that may help prevent sunburn.  This hypothesis was tested by folks eating five servings a day for 10 weeks-  a higher dose than most folks could manage, I suspect. But it makes sense to add even some of these foods to your diet.
  • Citrus fruit contains vitamin C, which repairs damage done to cells by UV rays. Vitamin C works best with Vitamin E, and even a single dose before you go out in the sun can offer some protection.
  • Good news! Grapes, blueberries and red wine contain proanthocyanidins and resveratrol which have been shown to protect from sun damage.
  • And the best news of all is that chocolate contains flavenoids–  antioxidants that help protect the skin!

It’s also good to keep in mind that avoiding foods that cause inflammation (vegetable oils, sugar, and processed foods) will give all the above healthy foods the very best chance at helping you be healthier.


Additional reading about sunscreen & sun exposure

A study about sunscreen and melanoma

How a common sunscreen ingredient reacts to sun

A dermatologist who’s not afraid of the sun

Why you might want to steer clear of sunscreens containing oxybenzone

Buzzing around here

Look what we spotted in the tree above our swimming pool this morning! Anybody know a beekeper in the Treasure Valley area who might be interested in taking them off our hands?


the down side of naming calves

This spring we brought home 5 adorable bottle calves.  They had names the very first day, which I kinda thought might go by the wayside.  Except they didn’t.  We bottle fed them for 6 weeks and got to know their faces and their personalities.  Mo had an underbite.  Moola had the longest eye lashes. Frank, my personal favorite, was pale blonde with a perfect dishy Jersey face. Lou was the beefiest. Tiny, later known as T, was a serious complainer and he liked to suck on the other one’s ears.  He was also Julianna’s favorite.Baby Calves

After a few months Mo and Moola ended up going to live at my dad’s house.  Julianna was okay with it because they weren’t her very favorites.  The other three spent the rest of the summer grazing the pasture at our house.  The girls brought them garden rejects from the house so often that they’d come to the gate when the garage door opened.  And when we went for a walk, they’d follow us hopefully down the fence line.

Now that it’s fall, the pasture is beginning to look lean, and we’re thinking about winter.  The plan all along had been to sell two of our three and keep one.  We also need hay, so when we saw that a friend had hay for sale and wanted a calf, we arranged for a trade.  Since T is Julianna’s favorite, and the big boys are hoping to make some cash from selling Lou, my favorite, Frank, went off to my friend’s house in exchange for a ton of hay.

T (in front) and FrankI stayed inside while they were loading him into the trailer.  Julianna and Em watched sadly. They were glad to still have two calves here for now.  We were all glad he was going to a friend’s house, and John consoled the girls by saying we’d stop by to visit one of these days, and bring him a pumpkin to eat.  But I think we’re all pushing away the thought of next year, when we’re going to have to face the fact that these guys weren’t bought to be pets.


Next time we really shouldn’t name them.

How to freeze corn

Corn (1)Every fall we devote a few hours to freezing some of our abundant corn crop.  It’s a fairly simple project, but after three people in two days asked me how we do this, I thought it might be worth offering a brief tutorial here.

Start by husking the corn and removing all the silks.   My kids have discovered that rubbing a dry washcloth gently on each ear assists greatly in removing the pesky silk. Then the corn needs to be blanched.  Fill the biggest pot you own about 3/4 full of water, and let the water come to a rolling boil.  Once the water is boiling,  set as many ears of corn in the pot as can be submerged, and let it cook for 3-5 minutes.  Remove the corn from the pot.

At this point the official wisdom is to immediately plunge the corn in ice water for a minute or two, to stop the cooking process.  If you only have a moderate amount of corn, no problem.  But we tend to have such ridiculous amounts to process that I run out of ice quickly, and frankly, I don’t see any problem with the corn continuing to cook for a few more minutes.   So I simply set the hot corn on the counter on a nice absorbent bath towel, and let it cool.

Corn (2)

Once it is cool enough to handle, slice the kernels off the cobs.   You can use a special doohicky if you have one, but I find that a nice sharp knife works quite well. About 6 passes of the knife down the length of the corn cob, rotating the cob a little with each pass, does a great job of removing the kernels.  You want to go deep enough to get most of the kernel, but not so deep as to cut into the sharp membrane kernel-holders stuff deep in the cob– you know, that stuff that gets stuck between your teeth if you bite too deeply into an ear of corn.

I find that it works well to cut the corn onto a cookie sheet or casserole dish, because the lip of the dish keeps the corn contained. Another option is to set each ear on the center post of a bundt pan so that the cut kernels of corn fall into the pan.  Once you have a good heap of corn cut, you can transfer it to whatever storage containers you’ll be using.

CornThink about what constitutes a reasonable amount of corn for one meal for your family.  The year I chose to use gallon size ziplocks, I regretted it.  Packaging was easy, but the quantity was just too much to use in one meal.  This year I froze some corn in 3-cup plastic containers, and the rest in sandwich size zip-top bags that hold about 2 cups of corn.   I’ll need to thaw a couple bags for a side dish for a meal for my family, or maybe just one bagful if I want to add corn to a winter soup.

Once the corn is packaged, with as much air removed from each package as possible, simply put the bags or boxes in the freezer.  You’re ready to enjoy late-summer corn goodness all year round!

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Our cucumber kid (plus a grocery update for August)

Our little Ranger is going to be a big brother any day now– we’re so excited! When Erika asks him where the baby is, he alternately pats Erika’s tummy and his own tummy– could be he’s not quite grasping the concept. 🙂  But it will be really neat to see him with the new baby. His cousin Ascher is adjusting quite nicely to his little sister.  He calls her ‘Ona’ (short for Wilona) and is good at gently patting her head.

Here’s what Ranger did when we handed him a cucumber from our garden.  Do we have another cucumber lover?

Looks tasty!


Ack!  My tongue!

Maybe not.


Cucumber variety: Armenian (despite the expression on his face, it’s almost never bitter)

And if you’re wondering about our August grocery spending, we ended up at $635. Not as fabulous as I’d hoped– I gave in to a few more impulse purchases at the grocery store than I really needed to. Coconut coffee flavoring– come to mama! And watermelon, lots of watermelon.  We won’t be eating it in December. I also spotted a few meat sales that I really needed to grab while they were there– $1.88/lb ground beef is HARD to find these days! But considering that money fed 8 people for a month, and included several Sunday dinners for a crowd of 14 or more, that’s not bad. I’m going to try to stay in the $600 range for September too. I’ll keep you posted.

How did your August go?

Healthy ways to fight the flu


For years when my kids have the flu, I’ve treated it with a few hours of rest for the tummy, then a bit of Sprite.  If that stays down, we then we try some dry toast, maybe with a little more Sprite.  If the bug seems long-lived, we’ve occasionally bought Gatorade to help restore the electrolyte balance.  Thankfully kids usually heal quickly.

But with my increased interest in healthy food, I’ve become more and more uncomfortable giving sick kids drinks laden with sugar and food coloring.  (Did you know that sugar suppresses immune function in your body?) Recently I did a little online research and discovered some healthier options to try when kids are not feeling their best. (Please use good judgement and consult with your doctor regarding any illness that lasts longer than a day or two, especially in a child younger than age 2.)


Homemade pedialyte is incredibly easy to make.


Homemade Pedialyte

Mix together:

  • 1 quart water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


Coconut water  is another easy alternative to pedialyte.  It naturally contains all sorts of good electrolytes.



Don’t forget the power of the BRAT diet to help settle tummies plagued with diarrhea.


R- Rice

A- Applesauce

T- Toast

For added power, season the applesauce with cinnamon– cinnamon fights all sorts of bacteria, including e. coli.  And spread the toast with a little coconut oil, because coconut oil also has antibiotic effects.


Here’s a smoothie that combines most of the above ingredients into a tummy-soothing treat.

Tummy-Healthy Smoothies


  • 3/4 cup of rice milk 
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp of raw, local honey
  • 1/2 tsp of coconut oil 

Combine everything except the coconut oil in a blender.  Then melt the coconut oil and add to the mixture slowly while blending.


Also be sure to read this great article by Healthy Jasmine.  That’s where I got several of these ideas.  Do you have other healthy ideas for dealing with kiddos who have to flu?  I’d love to hear about them. 

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Four healthy-eating bloggers I enjoy

Gorgeous veggies at a market in Chile

I was raised by a momma who routinely fed us things like raw milk, homemade bread and yogurt, liver and granola. And my dad gardened and had beehives in our back yard. Truthfully, I wasn’t always a fan of my parents’ healthy-eating practices as a kid– the liver just about finished me off, and I really loved Cap’n Crunch.  But in college I found nutrition class interesting enough that I wondered briefly about becoming a nutritionist myself.

John and I have always gardened, which automatically boosted our family nutrition, even during the years that I served lots and lots of pasta.  Lately I’ve been reading lots more about nutrition, am getting more healthy fats in our diet, and am gradually edging towards paleo-style eating.  A true paleo diet is basically plants and meat, with no grains.  I aim for lots of plants, eggs, and meat, with just a dab of rice, barley, or non-wheat bread here and there.  My family still does wheat, but I’m trying to make it a smaller portion of their diet.

Here are some of the healthy-eating bloggers I’ve found most helpful and most inspirational lately.

Healthy Home Economist —  Here’s a good article about the safety of raw milk.

The Spunky Coconut  –These banana coconut pancakes look lovely.

Wellness Mama — Here’s a recipe for carrot ginger soup I’m looking forward to trying.

Nourished and Nurtured— I also have it on my list to try this blueberry custard cake recipe.

What healthy-food bloggers do you enjoy?