Category Archives: garden

Tomatoes Four Ways: How to Make A Delish Dish

The end of summer means the tomatoes have popped. We have so many tomatoes I don’t know what to do with them all!

tomatoes

But we’re giving it a try. And I think you should, too.

#1: Easy Peasy Tomatoes:

DSC_0032 DSC_0034Tomatoes, a dash of Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper, Basil. Simple and delicious.

#2: Easy Garlic Bread Caprese

DSC_0057Cut french bread or a ciabatta loaf in half. Spread Garlic and Butter. Liberally. Add chopped Basil.DSC_0060 Add Mozzarella Cheese. Liberally.DSC_0065 Add those fresh Tomatoes.

Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melting into yummy goo.DSC_0082 Add Balsamic Vinegar, if you like.

Die happy.DSC_0085Like, real happy. Thank you, Cassie, for feeding us this. And Two Peas & Their Pod for original post.

#3: Homemade Tomato Sauce

Since tomatoes only comes once a year, it’s worth the time in the kitchen.DSC_0095 Score the Tomatoes (I started with about 30 perfectly imperfect ones).DSC_0102 Pop them into a pot of boiling water for 1 minute-ish. Look at those beautiful colors.DSC_0097Spoon them outDSC_0096 Plop them right into a pot of ice cold water for 1 minute-ishDSC_0100 The skin will peel right off! Put in separate bowl. Feed to chickens later?DSC_0099Give the Tomato to your child. Have them squeeze out the juice and seeds. Oh, they’ll like this part! You now have three bowls: skin, tomatoes, juice and seeds. DSC_0113Now, add Olive Oil to a pan and saute Carrots, Onion, and Garlic. Add Salt and Pepper. The kitchen will smell divine by now. Our children are more likely to eat sauce that isn’t chunky so we put our sauteed deliciousness and Tomatoes into the Vitamix for 20 seconds. Done.DSC_0128Simmer that sauce for a few hours until it’s no longer watery. Add Basil and Oregano and 1 Tablespoon Sugar.

So. So. Good.

Use for pasta, lasagna, or store in the freezer for those cold winter nights.

#4: Freshly Squeezed Tomato JuiceDSC_0116All the juice and seeds couldn’t go to waste! We added some Salt, Pepper, and Celery and gave it a whirl in the Vitamix. Done.DSC_0123And have been guzzling for days.

May the tomato force be with you.

Happy Weekend. xo.

 

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Fresh Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Maple Syprup Walnuts

Keep reading. Beets are known to be perfect for wooing.

I love when a friend brings a healthy, fresh dish that’s so good you follow them around begging for the recipe. Thank you, Molly, for this gem of a salad! beets beet2

Molly wrote down the recipe right in my kitchen; it’s that simple and she’s that nice. I three-hole punched it and slid it into the cookbook binder as I knew it would be a salad staple.

The fresh beets, goat cheese, and candied maple syrup walnuts have been a huge hit with guests and family all summer. We even served it at a wedding party dinner.

You’re sold, right?

If not, I understand. Beets used to be the very last vegetable on my childhood wish list. I thought they grew in a can. Blech! But times have changed, my friends. Beets were the underdog and they’ve made a comeback.

A few months ago I began eating beets only because they were healthy. I drank them raw, in smoothies, with the edible greens; beets make every smoothie pretty.

Over the last few months I’ve eaten beets boiled, roasted, chilled, and grilled. And now sing beet praises. With enough exposure (and improved cooking methods!) the palate changed and adapted – so can yours!

Full of antioxidants (cancer fighters), vitamins, and minerals, beets also help detox the liver. They are huge for endurance because of the sugar/carbohydrate content (making them excellent sources of energy), but because of its high fiber, the carbohydrates are released slowly into the blood sugar. Versus chocolate.

Need one more benefit? Yes, beets are also known to be aphrodisiacs. Who knew?

So. Let’s dig in. Literally, or find those beets at the grocery store or farmer’s market.

Wash fresh beets well and cut off greens (edible!). Under no circumstances are you to use canned beets. Promise me.

You can boil the beets in a small amount of water (save the leftover liquid for smoothies!) or even microwave them, but my favorite way is roasting. Cut beets in half, skin on, and roast with a tad bit of olive oil. About 40 minutes. When soft, let cool, and rub off skin.lettuceSnip mixed greens from garden. If your grocery store isn’t on strike, you can buy lettuce there. Wash, dry, and put in salad bowl.DSC_0237 Next, over medium heat, put 1 Cup Chopped Walnuts into a frying pan.DSC_0235Pour 1/4 Cup Pure Maple Syrup into pan. Stir. In mere minutes, walnuts will caramelize and become like coated candy. Divine. Watch carefully, stir often. Scrape immediately onto greens. If you leave them in the pan for later it will be a hardened disaster.

salad Just like this. Beautiful, no? Tasty, yes?

DSC_0060 Add beets and small spoonfuls of fresh goat cheese. No, I have no goats to milk or cheese.

That’s it. So simple. But we do need a dressing:DSC_0241Combine 1/4 Cup Olive Oil, 1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar, alt and Pepper. Stir & pour just before serving.DSC_0250 It’s a monster hit.goatcheese

Fresh Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Maple Syrup Walnuts:

For Salad:

Mixed greens

2-3 Fresh Beets

8 ounces Fresh Goat Cheese

1 Cup Walnuts, chopped

¼ Cup Maple Syrup

Dressing:

¼ Cup Olive Oil

¼ Cup Balsamic Vinegar

Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Wash beets, cut off stems, cut in half. Roast in oven for 40 minutes or until just soft. Let cool.

2. Over medium heat, add 1/2 cup walnuts and 1/4 cup pure maple syrup. Stir constantly until walnuts caramelize. Put on greens.

3. Rub skin off beets, cut into small pieces, and put on mixed greens.

4. Add goat cheese

5. Add dressing.

Enjoy! And swoon.

Last night as I was laying down with the girls at bedtime, Brynne whispered…”I just want to go to sleep…and eat some beets.”

Looking for more salad ideas? Try these:

 

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With Market Basket on Strike, I’m Glad For a Garden

I always thought my grocery store relationship was unique. Special. It’s like my boyfriend. I mean, I really really love my Market Basket (I’m particular about location.) I know the aisles like I know my house. I can cheerfully direct traffic to the correct aisle. I watch the sales. I brag about the produce seconds. I’m awed by the quality cilantro, delighted that every single variety of apple is always 99 cents/pound. Not to mention the 4% always taken off the bill. Just because. MB loves me like that.

I’ve long raved about my great Market Basket love. And if you haven’t heard or don’t follow east coast grocery store drama, Market Basket is in trouble with a capital T. You can meet the players HERE. A few weeks ago, a family feud forced out a beloved CEO, Arthur T. Workers demanded reinstatement. Employees refused to work. Trucks stopped delivering food. Now, instead of stocking shelves, employees stand outside with signs – HONK FOR SUPPORT.

I always honk. I admire the pluck. And I admire a CEO who can garner such support from his troops. Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels love and loyalty.

But I’m struggling. How long do I hold out? We’re on the last loaf of our Market Basket 12-grain bread (2 for $4!) And even if bread is stocked, am I supporting “corporate greed” by shopping there? I just want a loaf of bread. I’m holding out, mostly because I’m too ashamed to walk through the throng of protestors without covering my head with a blanket or wearing a Sydney Bristow wig. Which actually might be awesome.

The last time I shopped at Market Basket was like a Tom Cruise Armageddon movie. Shelves looked ransacked. Except for a few measly and less-than-appealing apples, the produce was gone! The few cashiers left, asked me to sign a petition to bring back Arthur T. I signed…and prayed for deliverance! Whatever it takes – bring me back my Market Basket.

It’s been eye-opening. If there were no grocery stores, we might starve. We have food storage, but our meals are completely dependent on what other people supply. And you know, a food crisis can happen within days – shelves can be emptied in mere hours. We could be subsisting on dandelions.

I dragged my feet this past spring when it came to planting a garden. But now? I’m very thankful for the bounty.DSC_0046Freshly picked strawberries and rhubarb from a neighbor’s garden. Here’s my first attempt. It wasn’t pretty. The crust? Sure, I could grind my own flour. I have a vitamix and a wheat grinder, but I’m mostly dependent on flour from the grocery store.

peasThe peas were the first to pop.

DSC_0605And a beautiful thing it was.

DSC_0355I was scared to plant cabbage. But it grew!

DSC_0169And was turned into our first homemade slaw. It was delicious!

DSC_0214And used in a variety of ways.

IMG_3034Green beans

beetsBeets! Glorious beets.

Here’s one of my workers…I wonder if they would protest if I was fired?DSC_0130

DSC_0064Another worker weeds. The teenagers finally got out of bed after multiple threats from their beloved CEO 🙂 and weeded the blueberry bushes.

DSC_0342 Tomatoes are the slowest, but they are slowly making their way up toward the sun.

blueberriesBlueberries popped this week. If we can keep the birds away we’ll actually have a bumper crop.DSC_0323Nectaries were procured from grocery store. They were pricey even though they are in season. White nectarines? Oh my goodness delicious. This is what I’m overdosing on every day: Full fat Greek yogurt with fresh blueberries and nectarines. Satiating and so tasty.

DSC_0266Kale from the garden. Easy and delectable: Saute with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. It’s so good! And for Grandpa’s birthday we gave him a kale bouquet. Cause cookies don’t grow in the garden…but kale does.

kale bouquet

IMG_3036The most delightful surprise this season was the potato!

DSC_0199 Beautiful, purple, fingerling potatoes. We’ve eaten so many potatoes the kids say NO MORE POTATOES PLEASE! DSC_0148 Potatoes grow right in the dirt. You just have to dig for them. And plant them, of course.DSC_0154 The bounty.DSC_0228The purple taters were made into a colorful and tasty potato salad accompanied by our chicken eggs (have you ever noticed how YELLOW farm fresh yolks are?)

DSC_0036Spinach and our first carrot. We were so proud I almost sent out a birth announcement. Morning smoothies have been…adventurous.

DSC_0230 Colorful carrots are tasty any way you slice ’em.DSC_0136 And come out of the ground with such character!DSC_0089Gardening and photography are not naturally compatible – it’s messy! But I could not resist.DSC_0068I thought this was a melon. Sadly, it’s actually some sort of squash or zucchini I don’t recall planting. I’m delegating it to the husband.

IMG_3035My mouth is salivating for these babies to turn red. Tomatoes are the real reason I garden. I’m such a tomato snob that they’re hardly worth eating unless they come from the garden.

DSC_0164 This represents work.DSC_0153And reminds me that everything starts messy. In this case? Worth the mess.DSC_0142It’s worth it even when you can’t account for all the bugs, birds, and roaming deer who are going to eat your hard work.

Grocery stores are a great luxury I used to take for granted. For our family, gardening is a personal hobby, not a necessity. But will it always be like this? If my garden didn’t grow, I’d be incredibly frustrated, but I’d hop skip and jump to the grocery store.

I’ve always been able to depend on the store for food – until I couldn’t.

Though the Market Basket strike is annoying, I’m grateful for the pause. Our food supply is the best in the world. Who else but Americans can always find blackberries, raspberries, and exotic peppers at any time of the year? Real people are growing food for us. But if they disappear, there is no food. And then what? I have a feeling we’d all care a lot less about our Twitter following and a lot more about the wheat harvest.

This summer, when the food disappeared from my grocery store, I could drive to Hannaford or Walmart or Shaws. But with no Market Basket, even they were having a hard time keeping shelves stocked. I felt the panic.

I turned to the garden. We ate local. Real local. Like right from the back yard.

Food is a precious commodity that can be yanked at any moment – leaving us in a precarious situation if we’re not prepared.

I don’t have a garden all year round and I’ll still continue to buy honey rather than keep my own beehive. But if I had to, could I? Could you?

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Starting Seeds and Boston Bound…

Today is the day I allow myself to watch television during the DAY.  Because you see, it’s the Boston Marathon.  Oh, I’m so excited.
Even with Boston inspiration, my long run this weekend was a flop.  Warning:  Do not mix cold medicines and then think you can run 10 miles.  If you saw me wandering cow pastures doped up on something, that’s b/c…I was.  Must try again with less substance abuse.  Ay.
We had a little winter storm on friday.
Again.  Our mailbox always goes missing in winter – all those PLOWS of one sort or another.  The other day it was just – gone.  I went digging in the snow bank but then thought better of it and bribed Brynne with a dollar when she got home from school.  No luck.  It was greatly distressing as our mailman couldn’t deliver the mail – the obvious highlight of my day.  I mean, the water buffalo and cows are great and all, but…MAIL?  I love the mail truck.  I think you should send me a real letter.

Many digs later, the mailbox was found…in the garage…and is now duct taped on for the sixth year in a row.  We’re classy like that.  

We are lucky though; the snow melted quickly and the sun is shining this morning.  Spring may come after all.  
Brynne, my little gardener, was very excited when the mailman delivered seeds from Gurneys. 
We tend to be a little zealous when ordering seeds, but seed catalogs are just too much fun.  Did I just say that?
When they arrive, on the back of your seed packets you’ll see instructions for three different varieties:
1.  “Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before planting”
2.  “Sow seeds in ground as soon as the ground can be worked”
3.  “Wait to plant until all danger of frost has passed”
In New Hampshire, all danger of frost is not until Memorial Day, the last weekend in May.  I have learned this lesson the hard way…several times.  WAIT.

Brynne has her own little plot of earth and planted some tendersweet carrots.  Carrots, spinach, kale, lettuce, and sweet peas can all go in the ground right this very minute!

Watering is my children’s most favorite activity.  They could run the hose all day long.  See all that brown grass?  In mere weeks it shall be green.

Brynnie, Brynnie Win-Win, how does your garden grow?
Until a few years ago, I was frightened of gardening.  I didn’t know what to DO, it was TOO HARD.  You know how you learn?  You just start.  You learn as you go, make many mistakes, and then try again.  This is an easy way to start – a pre-made seed starting kit.  

We also bought this, and some dirt

And planted almost 100 tomato plants.  ZEAL.  I haven’t had much luck with planting tomato seeds right into the ground; our growing season is just too short.

Here is the dirt we bought.  One year I bought “potting soil” and lost all my tomatoes.  Seedlings need very specific dirt to get a good start in life.  They’re like babies.

An excellent family activity, especially before hair has been brushed.

Fill containers with dirt, poke a hole, drop 2-3 seeds, cover up.
Water.  THAT’S IT.

After watering the pods, they will swell and you can drop your seeds in.

Black Krim Tomatoes

After planting, cover and put in a warm, dark area so the seeds can germinate.  We keep ours on the dryer which isn’t very warm, dark, or quiet, but it still works.  Keep out of direct sunlight until you see a little sprout.

All sorts of tomato seeds this year…Brandywine, Delicious, Golden Rave, Chocolate Cherry, Beefsteak, Roma…

And then.  Year after year, it never fails to amaze…they sprout!  That little seed grows into a plant!  Miraculous.

See how two little sprouts are coming up?  Thin them immediately.  I had a hard time doing this in the beginning, but you must be heartless – only one plant can grow per square or they will be competing for nutrients and both will be weaker.  It is survival of the fittest around here.  There is no equal opportunity!  Fight the urge and THIN.
What else did we start inside?  Pumpkins, watermelon, cantaloupe, and zinnias.  Zinnias?  I just felt like it.
You need not live in the country to start a garden.  Melissa in New York City grows tomatoes on her balcony.  Some of my friends have seed-swapping parties for more variety.  You don’t need to start tomatoes from seed.  I happen to think it’s fun, but when it’s not fun or worthwhile, you can always buy the plants and start later.
Or find a Farmer’s Market.
When Memorial Day comes, we’ll be out in full force planting the zucchini that no one likes, beans, and potatoes that everyone likes.  Gardens are a wonderful thing, but lots of work.  The upside is that it’s a great way for a family to spend time together, exercise, and enjoy the beautiful world.  The loud world feels very far away when I’m outside in the garden violently thrashing at New Hampshire’s black flies.  
I fight the flies and weeds because gardens are so healthy, fresh, and an extremely satisfying way to make dinner.  Then there’s the fresh produce smoothie love.  (happy clapping)
What about you – are you going to play Farmer this spring and summer?  What are you planting?
TTFN.  I’m off to thin carrots and watch some history happen on Heartbreak Hill.  Happy Monday!

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Starting Seeds (it’s so easy)

Materials Needed:
1. Cups
2. Seeds
3. Dirt
4. Water
Poke a little hole in the dirt and put 2-3 seeds in.  Cover.  Water.  A little.  Even if your little girls drowned the poor seeds, they’ll manage to sprout anyway.  

Little tomatoes.  Every year I wonder if it’s really going to work.  And it always does!
I don’t love the egg shell containers – there’s not much space to grow, but I ran out of cups.

Little seed grows into little plant grows into big plant grows into lots of food.  
Even when inside, these little living things all ready grow toward the light.  I like to turn them around and watch their heads swivel, bend, and seek the sun.
It’s not too late…to get your planting on.  Some vegetables are just really Cool.  (Words I just never really thought I’d say.)

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On a Monday

1.  This morning we got a phone call.  It was a beautiful fall Monday morning, but the caller said, “No school today; someone vandalized all the buses.”  So we are home and I keep thinking, Who does things like this?  It makes no sense, is so destructive, causes so much anxiety for parents trying to work or get their kids to school or rearrange childcare.  It’s such a complete disregard for someone else’s property.  Err.  It really bothers me.
The kids were happy to stay home; it’s like an unexpected summer day.  Hmmm…it’s only 7:45 a.m.  now what do we do?  I think we may go apple picking and feed the water buffalo up the road.  I’ve got to get a picture of that; it’s hilarious and a little scary!
2.  I made bagels the other day.  They were so yummy – find the recipe at allrecipes.com or go see Sarah on Clover Lane.  She has the bread rise in the bread machine which I do not have.  Mine didn’t turn out quite as perfect; I’ll have to fiddle with recipe, but they were a big hit.  Sprinkle onion, poppy seeds, and sea salt and you’ve got an everything bagel.  I’m excited to make again soon.
3.  Did you know peanuts grow in the ground?  Come on, admit it…you didn’t know either!  Ok, maybe I was the only one who didn’t know.  As I went out to clean up our very overgrown garden I was mad our peanuts didn’t grow at all.  I dug up the plants and ta-da – there were those peanuts!

Can you just eat peanuts?  I was worried I might get poisoned.  They were a little mushy.  I put them in the oven and they were a little better.  Here’s a great way to grow protein in your garden!

4.  In other exciting garden news, we have grown our first pumpkin.  Isn’t it so cute?  Two more are growing and hopefully we’ll have some big’uns for Halloween.
5.  After we got back from vacation this summer, my garden motivation was lacking.  We lost so many tomatoes due to my neglect.  Actually, I should say the family’s neglect since this is supposed to be a family garden.  We have to do better next year.

But we did have some good cucumbers!
6.  There are FIVE days until my 1/2 marathon.  I will be running on the New Hampshire marathon course, the scene of my 1st marathon, and the course that persuaded me that I would never run a marathon again.  I’ve heard they’ve made some changes and supposedly, my 1/2 is a “net downhill.” 
I need to do some important things this week:  Get enough sleep, eat well (no cake for breakfast), run just enough, and have good mental talk.
7.  Enough sleep.  Goal accomplished last night.  I laid down with the girls at 8pm and never got up again until the alarm went off at 6:30 this morning.  Poor Gregor.  We are ships passing in the night.  However, I feel GOOD today!
8.  I really really want a PR.  Really.  Bad.  PR is run talk for “personal record.”  I can do this, right???!
9.  We loved Grandma Alice.  She passed away a week ago Sunday.  She was Grandma Heather’s mother and was just here in New Hampshire giving puppy nose kisses to Paige and burying her husband, Grandpa Dan.  The same week she died, our new niece, Sydney Jolene was born:
Ohhhh…I want her bad.  Isn’t she so sweet and perfect?  I’m so happy for Pete and Al!  I like to think that there are spirits constantly passing…some coming and some going home.  I like to imagine what they say to each other….Good job down there…Remember who you are and why you’re going…I’m so excited…Do I really have to be potty-trained?
10.  To get a laugh out of your Monday morning, check out Cass and Eric’s blog HERE.  I hope you laugh and don’t throw up 🙂
Happy Monday!  
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Rain, Beauty, and Black Flies

Though it looks dry in this picture, I assure you, for the last NINE days it has rained.  Finally, on the brink of madness, sun came out this afternoon. (And if your not sure what to get for a child as a gift, umbrellas seem to be one of those magic presents.  And flashlights).

I wish I could take pictures like this…sigh…but this is what rain has brought to New England:  Spring, in all its glory.  It’s beautiful.  We are so blessed not to be homeless from tornadoes, tsunamis, or other tragic events.  It’s just spring and beautiful.  There’s just one thing that would make it perfect…
And that would be the extinction of the New England Black Fly.
Brynne came home today and said they read a book about animals in school.  “Did you know that everything in the world is our brother and sister?  All the animals, the frogs, the fish, everything!” she said.  And then she skipped outside for a little frolic.  
A bit later she came back in scratching behind her ears.
“Mom!  My brothers and sisters are biting me!” she said.
Yes, they sneak up on you in droves, bite, draw blood, and produce the most horrible scratching and clawing you’ve ever done to your body.  Ever since the body butter incident (long story) the black fly and I have been sworn enemies.  I hate them.  I do.  Where or where can I turn for peace?  
I garden, I pull weeds, I scoop mulch, I dump it, I rake, and all the while battling this insistent pest.  
“With all this rain the black flies are going to have a field day breeding,” Gregor said.
A spring in New England is one proof that there is opposition in all things.
Happy Spring anyway.  Glad you’re finally here.
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A New Favorite Toy

About a year ago my domestic friend Kate introduced me to this great contraption:  The Food Strainer.  Then she showed me how to make applesauce.  I was hooked.  It was soooo good and I don’t think I’ve bought store applesauce since.
As Fall approached this year I couldn’t help myself.  I bought one too.  And I got a great deal!  Free shipping on orders over $25 at Amazon.  This Back to Basics Food Strainer was about $50.   

Before apples were ready we had our first trial run using tomatoes.  So many many tomatoes.
And I almost broke the darn thing.  I spent hours trying to get some pieces apart.  Had to wait until Gregor came home to pull the big pieces apart.  You see, it does pay to follow directions. 
So I did.  Read the directions again.  And my little helper painted.
Once you get it, it’s very easy.  Here Paige turns the handle.
Ta da – tomato sauce!  The strainer just removes all the seeds and skins.
I only did this for one batch.  The rest of the time I just dumped the big batch of tomatoes in a pot and boiled with spices.  Then froze.
But now I know to use this new toy.  And I have two bushels of apples sitting outside, just waiting…would you like some applesauce?
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In Bloom

As I write this, the pollen, the birds, the wind, the…everything is changing and growing. We moved to our home about 3 years ago.  The original owners did a tremendous job with some big stuff:  evergreens, forsythia, lilac, and birch trees.  This isn’t any small feat.  You plant a tiny maple in the wrong place and you’ve got a huge problem down the road.  The first concern Gregor and I had were the smoky stained walls, ceilings, and carpet.  The inside.  My mother’s first concern:  the yard.  Perfect. We divided to conquer.

If my mom had the energy, she’d design gardens and pick out the perfect plant for the perfect place.  She hired two Proctor boys, Christian and Scott, when it became apparent that we needed more muscle.  They dug up a  serpentine shape the same shape as the brick walk-way.
I like potted plates.

After the initial hire, that was it.  We were on our own.  My mother took me on reconnaissance missions around the neighborhood and nice places of employment.  I won’t tell you where!  
But she wouldn’t just look.
She’d “borrow” a piece of the plant.  That’s how we got most of these plants in the front.  “Sharing” with those around us.  I had to put my foot down a couple times, refusing to skulk around at midnight only to get caught digging in someone’s front yard.
That’s how I learned how to split plants.  It’s easy and it’s free.  If you don’t split some plants they get too big.  So really, my mother was looking out for the other guy.  Thanks mom.
I’m terrible at remembering what exactly is planted in our yard.  I think these are iris.  As I write this they’ve already gone into bright purple bloom.  
The front has been tricky with a lot of shade.  These will be big by the end of summer.  
Hostas are one of my favorite plants because they’re beautiful, fill spaces, and are easy.  You can split them like crazy and have 5 more plants instead of 1.  They grow really well in shade.  This area had nothing when we came and it’s fully grown in now.
I like having plants bloom at different times.  The forsythias and lilacs have already come and gone.  The hollyhocks here will bloom late July and August.
The rododendrums are just about to burst.  I gave them a major pruning and they came back healthy and beautiful.  A good lesson:  PRUNE.
Foxglove and mammoth hosta
An area to get to this summer or next.  Not sure what to do here.  I love peonies and Gregor is voting for hydrangeas.

Fresh lilacs
A “before” shot.  I love working in the yard.  It’s much less overwhelming to me than home decor inside.  I’ll be asking for your help in that department soon.  But I guess this is what I’ve learned:  
1.  Start with good dirt.  Fertilize on occasion.
2.  Buy perennials.  They come back every year without you having to do anything!
3.  Mulch.  We’ve tried a lot of methods on this one but mulching saves HOURS of weeding time.
4.  Anyone can do this.  You’ll learn as you go.
5.  Ask your friends and neighbors if you can have pieces of their plants.  I think most would be thrilled to share.  In fact, I need to split a bunch and would love to see them in someone else’s yard.
6.  Gardening is extremely satisfying.  It brings me so much joy to go outside and see beautiful flowers and plants beginning sprout and bloom.  
7.  It does take time to upkeep.
8.  It’s worth the time for the great beauty it will bring to your home.
The “after” shot.  Except for the 2 rododendrums that flank the sides, none of these plants were here.

Starting out like Brynne:  Small.

Hopefully my backyard will look like this someday.
Now I must trot off for Sunday nap.  A big weekend still ahead:  cousins arriving today, family bbq, and some good rest tonight.  Tomorrow is the black fly blitz.  It’s a PR day.  I can feel it.
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