June Garden Update

We have veggies!

In the last few weeks, we have really seen the vegetable garden thrive.  (“Thriving” is a nice way of saying, “Everything is out of control!”)  Perhaps it’s the heat, the rain, or a combination of the two, but it seems as though some of the vegetables came out over night.  I will let the photos do most of the talking today:

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Then and now

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Green beans

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Heirloom & cherry tomatoes

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Hot peppers & tomatillos

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Zucchini & all the viney things gettin’ crazy

Fun gardening fact:  Did you know that there’s a difference between straw and hay?  We sure didn’t.  Apparently we wanted straw to use as mulch, but we bought hay.  The difference?  Hay is comprised of grasses that still have the seeds and grains attached, which means that when we covered our garden with it to prevent weeds, we actually planted tons of grass seed (you can see it in the zucchini picture above.)  It has really been a joy to pull the weeds that we planted out of the garden. 😉

Despite the weeds, we are so looking forward to harvesting (and eating) all this produce!  We have put in a lot of hard work in the garden, and finally seeing the fruit makes it all worth it.  In fact, after seeing those peppers for the first time a few nights ago, I think Andrew was on a gardening high:

Andrew:  “Is it bad that I want to turn the entire back yard into a vegetable garden??”

Catherine:  “It’s not bad to want that… as long as you know it isn’t going to happen.”

😀

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Softball, Fresh Produce, and Unrealized Dreams

Tonight… I play softball.  I have never before played, with the exception of a few intramural games in college and, of course, gym class, but I have always suspected that had I played growing up, I could have been pretty good.  Just a hunch.  (A few years ago when I told Andrew about that hunch, he said, “I don’t know if you have the size necessary to be really good at any sport.” Dream crusher.)

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Yesterday my friend Evan from work asked if Andrew and I would be interested in playing on our church’s team.  In light of my unrealized dreams mentioned above, I gave him an immediate yes.  Our first game is tonight, so last night Andrew and I headed to a local high school field to play catch–or, as Andrew probably thought of it: give Catherine a crash course in fundamentals so she doesn’t embarrass me tomorrow. 😉

But first, dinner:

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Baked salmon with a Dijon mustard/soy sauce glaze, steamed broccoli, and brown rice.  Quick, simple, delicious… and eaten outside on our new deck furniture, which made it taste even better!

During dinner we spotted a rabbit munching on weeds around the garden.  We see them out there daily, and so far they haven’t touched anything in the garden;  we are hoping the weeds will be enough to satisfy them!

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Hey, bunny… get away from those tomatoes!

Speaking of tomatoes…

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Ours are growing like crazy!  In the photo above, the tomato plants make up the jungle on the left.  Most have flowers on them, and the cherry tomatoes are starting to come out!

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We also picked our second strawberry last night;  last week we put netting around the plants to keep the birds out, so hopefully we will be able to harvest more than one berry at a time now 🙂

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As we split the single berry in half I thought, “Vegetable gardening really does make you appreciate the work it takes to produce food.”  You may be wondering at this point, “Is she going to post a picture of each individual fruit or vegetable they pick?”  The answer is: possibly, leaning towards likely. 😉

After dinner and bunny-watching and strawberry-picking, we grabbed our gloves and a softball and worked on some fundamentals.  As I suspected, I wasn’t terrible:  I caught the ball far more than I missed it, I threw it fairly accurately, and I was only hit in the shin once by a close-range grounder… And once in the knee, at which point I immediately fell to the ground in pain.  I now have a lovely bruise and pain to the touch. 🙂

“If that happens tomorrow during the game, you have to throw the ball before you can think about the pain.”  -Andrew

Thanks, coach.

I am excited to play tonight and hope I don’t embarrass the team too badly 😀

Any last minute advice from you softball or baseball players out there?

 

Fresh Salsa, Drying Herbs, & What Happens When You Grill Turkey Dogs

There are a few things I want to write about this morning, but none of them warrant an entire post, which means this post is extremely random (as you may have guessed from the title.)  You’ve been warned. 🙂

1. Grilling Turkey Dogs–on Monday night, we cooked dinner on the grill.  While evaluating our options at Trader Joe’s earlier that day, we decided on turkey dogs, rather than all-beef dogs, like usual.  I don’t know why, and I regret the decision for this reason:

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Appetizing, huh? 😉  On a positive note, we also grilled zucchini, and it turned out perfectly!

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Zucchini is not my favorite vegetable, so I made a dipping oil to go with it: olive oil + basil, thyme, and oregano from the garden + garlic powder + salt and pepper.  Delicious.  And speaking of herbs from the garden…

2. Drying Herbs–We currently have more herbs growing in the back yard than we can use fresh (though we have been using them often,) so we have started drying them to store for later use.  Last night while I was working on the computer, Andrew said he was going to hang some more herbs.  Twenty minutes later I turned around to see this happening in the kitchen:

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He may have gotten a bit carried away.  Anyone need some herbs? 😉

Speaking of things we’ve picked from the garden, we harvested one small, beautiful strawberry on Saturday morning:

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We had a few more turning red, but they have since been eaten by an animal (or possibly a neighbor.  We aren’t sure which 😉 )

3. Fresh Salsa–Last night (pre herb-drying,) Andrew and I made tacos and fresh salsa, the way my college roommates and I make it, minus the onion:

-6 Roma tomatoes
-2 Large cloves of garlic
-1/4 Jalepeno
-Juice of 1/2 lime
-A few sprigs of cilantro
-Salt & pepper

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I found the most beautiful organic Roma tomatoes I’d ever seen at Kroger–bright red and unblemished.  Unfortunately, they did not look equally wonderful on the inside.  Still, the salsa was very tasty.

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And there you have it:  a 100% random post 🙂

Have you ever tried grilling turkey dogs?  How did they turn out?

Any advice for keeping critters off the strawberries?

 

Garden Update + Homemade Organic Pesticide

Gardens require work, and for two people who are firmly against spraying any type of chemical on their plants, gardens require a lot of work.  We spend hours on our hands and knees pulling weeds.  We chase and yell at squirrels.  I’d like to share a less labor-intensive (and less your-neighbors-think-you’re-nuts) organic method we found for keeping bugs from eating our plants.  But first, a photo update:

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We spread hay last weekend as a mulch to hold in moisture and keep weeds from springing up.

 

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A row of broccoli + tomato plants

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Squash, beets, pumpkin, and strawberries

A couple of weeks ago I walked outside to check on the roses.  They had been looking healthy, and my primary motivation was to see if there were any buds yet.  When I looked at them, however, I saw that the caterpillars, aphids, and some other bugs were enjoying a rose buffet.  They were absolutely devouring the leaves and the new buds.

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I did some quick research and read in a few places that garlic-infused water is effective in getting rid of bugs when sprayed on plants.  I figured it was worth a shot!  Andrew and I crushed a bunch of garlic cloves, put them in a large bowl of water, and let them sit overnight.  The next day I removed as many garlic chunks from the water as possible (or what I thought was possible; apparently I could have done better…), found a spray nozzle, and doused the roses and bugs.

I did manage to break the nozzle, unfortunately.  A small chunk of garlic lodged itself permanently somewhere in the tube.  Andrew asked me if I strained the water.

“I did the best I could.  The internet said to strain it with a cheese cloth.  Who the heck has a cheese cloth sitting around??”

“What about a coffee filter?”

“I didn’t think about that.”

“It even has the word ‘filter’ in its name.”

😉

So, if you decide to try this method, definitely strain the water with a coffee filter.

I am happy to say that it worked!  The following day the bugs were completely gone, with the exception of one dead caterpillar that looked like it had been burned in half by the garlic.  (You’re welcome for that visual.)  While there are obviously still holes in the leaves and some of the buds, we haven’t seen any bugs in weeks.  Crushed garlic, for the win!

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The first rose of the season

We are looking forward to more bug-free roses throughout the summer as well as lots of fresh fruits and veggies!

Do you know any effective methods for controlling garden pests organically?  Have you tried garlic spray?

Friday Cheers, Hay, and Mother’s Day

It’s Monday morning, and Andrew and I had another full, but awesome weekend.

We kicked things off by heading to Friday Cheers–a summer concert series on Brown’s Island in downtown Richmond.  $5 lets you enjoy good music, nice river views, and excellent people-watching.  There are food trucks, and people park themselves on picnic blankets all around.

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(Source)

The bands playing this Friday were The Lone Bellow and Radical Face–I was excited about the former, Andrew the latter.  The music was good, as was the company (we met up with a few of my college roommates but ended up seeing about 30 other people that we know, including my brother!)  The only downside was that, in addition to the food trucks, a cigar store parked its truck on the island (I say that as if it just drove up and decided to stop, which I know isn’t the case;  it may have been a sponsor,) and so many people were smoking.  <Begin smoking rant here> Now, I know smoking is not illegal, and we were at an outdoor event, but as a nonsmoker it stinks to leave a family-friendly event with a sore throat because people decided to light up while standing in very close proximity to other people.  Be kind to your body, but if you aren’t going to do that, at least respect the fact that I am trying to be kind to mine.  <End smoking rant.>

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Playing with the panorama feature on my phone before the concert

Saturday morning I went with a group from our church to work with Shalom Farms.  We spent three full hours putting straw around the potato plants.  That’s a lot of pitch-forking, walking, and squatting!  Also, to add to the week of wildlife I’ve been having, we found a few giant spiders and a nice little snake.  By the end of our time there, I was itchy and never wanted to see straw again.

When I arrived home in the early afternoon, Andrew informed me that he had purchased straw that morning to put in our garden.  Hah.  He had no idea that I’d been doing that all day, but I told him that our little 10 x 20 garden would be a cool down after everything that morning!

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I have no idea how he determined the amount of hay we would need, but he better not quit his day job in favor of farm math;  we used maybe a quarter of one of those… bales?  (I better not quit my day job either in favor of farm terminology…yes, I’m sure that’s a paying job ;-))

Saturday night we went to a graduation party for our good friend Gabe after her graduation from VCU.  The party was held at the Center of the Universe Brewing Company up in Ashland.  We were given a brewery tour, enjoyed time with friends, played Corn Hole, and celebrated Gabe.  We are proud of you, my friend!

For Mother’s Day on Sunday we went to church in the morning with Andrew’s mom, then took her out to lunch to all of our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Vietnam Garden.  Sunday evening my mom and brother came over to our house, and we cooked burgers on the grill.

I posted this photo on Facebook yesterday in honor of my mom.  It’s one of my favorites from our wedding that I think anyone who has taken part in a wedding can appreciate:

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We were all so tired of taking photos, but desperately trying to get the Christmas card shot.  Whitney’s best friend Jeanine was behind the camera trying to make my nieces laugh–or smile… or just look in the general direction of the camera–and her strapless dress fell down, leaving her a bit exposed.  This photo captured everyone’s reaction.

My brother, however, posted the winning photo that captures the coolness of our mom.  When Ross was about ten, he got really into WWF wrestling.  He’d watch the shows on TV regularly, so my mom decided to take him to see it live.  This photo was taken before the show, sporting their WWF t-shirts, and honoring one of Ross’s favorites with the wrestler’s signature move:

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Hah!  Awesome.  Not much else can be said about this one 😀

We had a wonderful day celebrating our mamas and a great weekend with friends!

What was the highlight of your weekend?  

Running: When Dogs Chase

Yesterday… was glorious.  I took my first day off in three weeks, and I didn’t do anything I didn’t want to do.  I slept in (until 7:30,) blogged, ran, used a gift card for a massage, watched Netflix, and had dinner with Andrew when he came home from work.  The most stressful part of my day was my easy, 30-minute run.

I picked a familiar, relatively flat, out-and-back course through the neighborhoods near my house.  About a mile into the run, 100 meters ahead, I saw a woman running toward me with her dog.  Then, another dog–a Collie–ran out of a yard, barking at this woman and her dog.  I heard the woman yelling, “Go on!  Get out of here!” but the dog continued to bark and run alongside them.  Suddenly, the Collie turned towards me and began sprinting in my direction, still barking.  Oh geez.  I stopped immediately, bracing myself for whatever impact I was about the receive–paws, teeth, whatever.  The dog slowed as it came nearer, and at this point the woman and her dog were just across the street from me.  The Collie’s attention shifted back to them, and I continued running, glancing behind me a few times to make certain I wasn’t being chased.

On the way back, at roughly the same place the event had occurred, I noticed movement in my periphery.  I turned to the right and saw the Collie sprinting toward me once again.  Again, I stopped.  This time, he stopped too, and stared at me.  I lunged a bit toward him and said, “Go on!” He barked and ran backwards a few paces.  I continued running, hoping the dog would stay put or lose interest, but after a few seconds I heard, ptptptptptpt (<–the sound of four paws hitting the pavement at running speed.)  I turned around, took a few running steps toward the dog, and again he stopped and barked.  This continued for about half a mile, until he must have lost interest.

While I don’t think this Collie was particularly aggressive, being chased by a dog while running is very scary!  Unless it’s a dog that you know, you have no idea if it’s going to jump on you, bite you, or just keep you company.  Once, a few years ago, I was running on the sidewalk of a major road by my apartment.  It was raining, and I came up behind a woman walking her two (very large) dogs.  I was about to say, “Excuse me,” as they were occupying the entire sidewalk, when one of the dogs turned and saw me.  Because it was raining, none of them had heard me coming, and I must have surprised the dog, because he and his brother both started snarling and jumping at me.  The woman and I both stopped;  I took a few steps back, my heart racing at the near attack.  I think the woman was equally terrified (startled, anyway,) and yelled, “Next time, speak up!! We didn’t know you were there!!”  Dogs.

Aside from that, my day yesterday was wonderful and relaxing.  Plus, we had a super-food dinner:  Salmon, kale, and quinoa with tomatoes and herbs from our garden.

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Yum.

I hope you had a great Monday as well!

Have you ever been chased by a dog while running?  What do you do when that happens?

Youth Stuff and Yard Work: A Full, Fabulous Weekend

Well, I survived the crazy weekend!  Despite the stress I experienced leading up to this weekend, everything went incredibly well.  Here’s what the last two days held:

Saturday morning I went with a group of our youth to volunteer with the Miracle League of Richmond–a baseball league for kids with disabilities.  We “buddy-up” with the players each week during the league’s spring and fall seasons to help them enjoy the great American pastime.  It is an absolute joy to know and be able to spend time with these guys and girls.  Plus, it’s my kind of baseball: everyone gets up to bat, everyone swings until they hit the ball, and everyone makes it home. 😀

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One of our youth, Eliza, and Carrie Rose have been buddies almost every game for about four years!

If you live in the Richmond area and are looking for awesome volunteer opportunities, check out the Miracle League!

When I returned home Saturday afternoon, it was time for yard work.  Andrew was working on the roof installing… something related to ventilation along the very top (not my area of expertise. ;-))

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After thanking Andrew for having such useful life skills, and also having a serious chat about not climbing on the roof when a. no one else is home and b. no one is holding the ladder (seriously, Andrew, what were you thinking?), I offered to mow the lawn.  Now, I mowed the lawn frequently when I was in high school, but the lawn mower we have now stinks.  It just stinks.  The previous owners of the house left it behind, and it works, so we figured, why buy a new one?  It is a full-body exercise to push it across the yard, and only once have I successfully started it by myself.  (Andrew started it for me initially, and then when I took a break after, oh, four rows, Andrew was back on the roof, and our neighbor Gary took pity and started it again for me :-D)

In the garden we thinned the broccoli, Swiss chard, and beets.  I know it has to be done–if two or three plants are too close together, none of them will thrive–but I have such a hard time pulling up little plants that are doing well!

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Saturday night, this happened.  I am scarred.  Absolutely scarred.

Sunday morning was Youth Sunday at church, which meant the youth were responsible for most every aspect of all three worship services.  This was a large part of my crazy-stressful week last week.  Everything came together beautifully, and all our youth did a wonderful job!  I am one proud youth director. 🙂

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Meg was one of two high school girls to offer the sermon…Go, girl 🙂

After following the bulletin closely and nervously for three services thinking, “What did I forget?  Where is there a hole in the service?” I headed home to rest for a few hours before our youth year-end banquet.  I was nervous about the banquet, but all went well!  Okay, I  forgot to recognize and include one of our mission teams from last summer in the slide show…Sorry, LA Team!  (Or as Forrest renamed it, the “Lost Angeles Team.” ;-))  Oops.  Aside from that, all went well. 🙂

We ate, watched the slide show, thanked our parent volunteers, and honored our seniors and some other youth, including our awesome Servant of the Year, Lauren!

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…and the public speaking wasn’t as horrible as I’d imagined 😉

When I returned home at the end of the night, I enjoyed reading through notes from youth and parents.  Thanks to everyone for your kind words…they brought me a lot of joy!  Perhaps the greatest…item…I received last night was this collage from hilarious 9th grader, Courtney:

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Why, yes, she photo-shopped herself into a bunch of pictures and added captions like, “Our engagement photos turned out GREAT” and “I’m so glad we’re married now!”  😀  Andrew and I laughed SO hard.  What a funny kid.  We’ve considered adopting Courtney, but because she comes from such a loving, outstanding family, we don’t think the courts would approve the request. 😉

While I feel like I say this every Monday, this was a full, but great weekend!  Thanks to everyone–youth, parents, Andrew–who stepped up to make everything run smoothly!

Today, I enjoy my first day off in three weeks. 😀