The harvest is beginning

The garden has been doing extremely well this year, due in large part to a very wet June. July has not been as wet, as it’s been over two weeks since any measurable rain at my house. I am very glad the drip irrigation is in as it is making the watering much easier than past years.

Almost two months ago, the grandkids were helping us plant the garden with peas, two kinds of beans, lettuce, and spinach.




Here is what the beans and peas look like now. Yesterday, Denise and I harvested beans and snow peas, and after keeping some for upcoming meals, froze ,most of the beans.



Denise cut off the ends of the beans and when she was done, the harvest filled a large colander. I rinsed the bean, and after taking some out for a couple of meals, moved them into the boiling water to be blanched.



I blanched the beans for about three minutes and them moved them into the ice water to stop the cooking process.



I had laid out a towel to dry the beans before vacuum sealing them, and they ended up covering the entire towel.

You can see the vacuum sealer in the background.


Here is the finished product. Only four bags of beans for all the effort, and about one bag’s worth of beans for eating. These will taste very good once the fall and winter have set in.



We froze the beans because we have an electric range with a ceramic cook-top, that won’t handle the high heat necessary to pressure can the beans.

So glad all the hard work from earlier this spring is starting to pay off. The only down side will be all the work to process it for storage, but when we eat it later, it will all be worth the effort.


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What I did on my Spring vacation

The last few years, I’ve taken off a week in May to get the garden in and take care of other outside jobs that need warm weather to complete. This year has been challenging, as we have seen rain most days this past week. Denise and I did get all the bedding plants in early last week, during the two days we didn’t have rain.

I also added two new beds this year, one 30 feet long and 18 inches wide, and a second 20 feet long and 18 inches wide to practice the Mittleider method of gardening. In order to add these beds, I had to rent a rototiller to chew up the area being added to the garden, as seen in this picture.


The tiller was large and did the work very quickly. I also used it to clear the area for my greenhouse, and till around the outside of the garden fence line so Denise can move some perennials to that area to make way for another project.  A third 20 foot by 18 inch bed will be added later this week.


I used 2×8 boards to give some good depth to the soil. I put about a two inch layer of compost over the cardboard at the bottom (to stop weed and small tree growth) and then added organic top soil bought at a local big box store. Each 10 foot section required 10 bags of soil, each weighing 40 pounds, so I’ve had quite a workout this past week loading, unloading, and moving those bags around until they are finally in place. This bed was planted with bean, peas, and the far section has pole beans, and will have a A-frame trellis over it, as soon as I can get it built. 🙂

I’ll let you follow the link to learn more about the Mittleider type of gardening that has been used around the world for over 40 years to grow vegetables in some of the most difficult environments. I first started using this method last year, to grow tomatoes, which is why you will seen the posts in a T form in some pictures. The indeterminate (keep growing taller unless you pinch them off) tomatoes grow up and around the small ropes and produce more tomatoes per plant the regular methods.

Yesterday morning, the forecast was for rain to begin by 10 am, so I hustled Denise and the munchkins (who had spent the night) out to finish filling and planting the last beds. We finished just as the rain began. They planted the pole beans, spinach, lettuce, and a variety of melons. The 3.6 inches of rain really helped get those seeds jump started, as well as the sunshine and very warm temperatures we’ve had this afternoon.

Through all of this activity, Princess was close by to lend moral support and catch a quick nap. The chickens were usually around, and were a real hassle when I was planting beans and peas, as they would jump up on the bed, start scratching and trying to eat the seeds. I finally had to have Denise stand guard until I was finished planting and we could put up a temporary fence.

All in all, it’s been a good vacation, and am looking forward to the vegetables growing and providing us with lots of fresh produce this year, as well as some to put up for over the winter. Next big project is the greenhouse, and I’m sure constructing it will take a good part of my “free” time this summer.

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A Saturday with the munchkins

Denise, #2 daughter, and granddaughter are off at a fund raising function called Tables of Plenty. The object is to create a table setting based on a theme, they chose wedding, and then other people their will visit, sample the food and drink, and then try another table. This is an annual fund raiser for our parishes youth group.

Yesterday, Denise and our granddaughter worked together to make a Norwegian Wedding cake (Kransekake). This type of cake became a wedding tradition when my mother first made one when Denise and I were married, nearly 36 years ago.

My sister-in-law will be making one for our oldest daughter’s wedding next month, thus carrying on the tradition.

Here is what the cake looks like when it is finished and put on their table at church. I’m anxious to hear how it worked out, and the people’s response to this unique cake.



Meanwhile, back at home, the boys and I did some work in the garden, and getting plants ready to be put there over the next couple of weeks.

Our first job was to get the three varieties of potatoes set out so they could dry a bit before planting. I chose one small red, one yellow, and one russet variety for planting this year. I had to take over one part of the garage to put up a piece of plywood to use as a drying table.


Our next big job was to work on installing the drip irrigation system for the garden. I hope to have less weeds and grass growing in the garden area this year, as I won’t be using a sprinkler to water the raised beds.

While I was getting the parts and pieces put together for the irrigation system, I kept the boys busy chopping small shoots trying to grow from some stumps in the garden. I first had to show them how to safely use the hatchet, so they could return home with all fingers and toes attached.


We got as much of the irrigation system installed as possible, but not as much as I had hoped to. While some of the runs of 1/2 inch mainline go straight from bed to bed, I decided that some of the runs would have to be buried, so I could maneuver carts around and also not trip over the pipes.


When it’s all done, I’ll run a water line to the garden and set up a timer, so the watering will happen without me having to turn it off and on each time. The system will take a bit of tweaking to see just how long the water needs to run to adequately water the garden.


The next big adventure for today is a trip to Brainerd for shopping, especially for some herbs and other veggies. With all of the time spend caring for Denise, I was not able to get anything more planted than the original flats of tomatoes and peppers. I’ll pack up all the unused seeds, seal them up, and put them in the fridge for next year, so maybe later this year try some in the greenhouse. Looking forward to being on vacation in another week and really getting the garden in, greenhouse up, and all the other work that needs doing around here.


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Colors of Spring

The crocus are blooming, the first big sign of Spring. Hopefully, the deer won’t notice them for a while, so we can continue to enjoy them. Our tulips are also pushing up and should bloom within a week. Almost all of the other perennials have appeared to survived the mild winter. We do have some shrubs planted last summer that will need to be replaced. The Spring has been fairly wet, which is helping all the plants get a good start for this growing season.


Whenever I’m out in the yard, some of the chickens will follow me around, curious as to what I’m doing and looking for more plants and bugs to eat. They are producing 3 to 5 eggs per day, which is keeping us and the munchkins in fresh eggs this Spring. Hopefully, they have done a good job of fertilizing the perennial beds to help those plants do well this year.

Tomorrow, we have new poultry being added, two turkey chicks that were delivered today. The person who ordered them will bring mine to work and I’ll get them settled into their new home after work. Still working on names, and am considering Thanksgiving and Christmas, Brined and Roasted, or something along those lines. Will build a separate coop and run area for them, as chickens and turkeys can share diseases. And, since they won’t be long term residents, it won’t be fancy. I’m sure the munchkins will find them very fascinating.

Denise is continuing to recover from surgery and is doing well. She drove a car for the first time in two weeks today, and that is a good sign. Tomorrow she takes Princess to be groomed, and then will meet me for lunch. With the forecast looking very good, I’m sure she will spend some time on the deck relaxing.

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And so IT begins again

Passing the five year mark without cancer reoccurring is a milestone each cancer patient yearns to achieve. This past December, Denise passed that milestone, but only for a few months. Now we are facing the possibility of her being diagnosed with cancer (IT) again. She composed the letter below, which is on her CaringBridge site:

Here we go again …….Five years ago I went in for that first routine colonoscopy and my doctor who was doing his last colonoscopy prior to his retirement had to tell his last patient that the path report had came back positive for cancer. However no matter how that diagnosis overwhelmed both Rick and I, it was caught fairly early and surgery was done quickly to remove that section of the bowel. Since there were two lymph nodes identified with cancer cells, meant 6 rounds of chemotherapy as well.

I just had my five year follow-up appointment and Rick and I celebrated with dinner out and he sent a plant to my office. I was finally able to say “I am cancer free”.

But this last year I had some post-menopausal bleeding. I want to say – run and do not walk to your GYN provider if you have any bleeding post menopause. My PCP referred me to GYN and I was scheduled for an ultrasound. This showed changes and a D&C procedure was needed with the resulting path report negative for any abnormal cells. We breathed a sigh of relief, but within two months I had another episode so the routine was repeated. Part of the discussion however was with two episodes; we might as well plan to do that hysterectomy. However the second path report came back with complex atypical endometrial hyperplasia. Instead of surgery with my own doctor and local hospital, I needed to have a Gynecologic Cancer referral. This is where both Rick and I said to each other, “here we go again”.  Poor Rick, he will be getting his job back as a caregiver. This time around he will have some help, as Kristin and the kids are close by.

So Rick and I traveled to the University of Minnesota and the Gynecologic Cancer Clinic for a surgery referral. Surgery is planned forThursday, April 19th.  We were told that 40% of patients with this diagnosis are found to have Stage 1 cancer. With my past history of three C-sections and colon resection, the physician is planning to do an open abdomen procedure. If they find cancer cells that have invaded the wall of the uterus, then they do cancer staging where they will remove the lymph nodes.  I am to expecting a 5-7 day hospital stay.

My prayers are that I am not in that 40% and I remain cancerfree, the surgery goes well and he does not have all the difficulties he expecting and I have a good recovery.

And so we begin another journey, with another cross, asking for the Lord’s help and guidance once again. From here on out, I will likely be the one posting updates on the CaringBridge site, as I did five years ago. This time I will compose the posting on my blog, post it, and copy it to CaringBridge. I won’t have any updates the day of surgery until the middle of the afternoon, which is when her surgery should be complete and the doctor will have had a chance to update me on his findings.


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A quick and easy hoop house for garden beds

Almost a month ago, I was writing about the very warm temperatures in the middle 70’s. My how the weather changes up here. It’s almost 4 o’clock and it is only 35 degrees outside and the lows forecast for tonight and tomorrow night are the low 20’s. The two 4×4 beds I planted with garlic and shallots last fall have been sending up green shoots, and I was concerned the very cold temperatures would kill them off, so I purchased the necessary supplies to build a hoop house to cover the two beds the next couple of days, until it warms up again.

The supplies were inexpensive and easy to obtain at the local Home Depot. I used six 1/2 inch PVC pipes 10 feet long, a one inch PVC pipe 10 feet long, 12 one inch clamps, and part of a roll of plastic to cover both beds. All total, about $20, and everything can be used again.

I started by cutting the 12 six inches pieces from the one inch pipe, and then attaching three on opposite sides on each 4×4 bed, using the clamps shown.



Next step was to insert one end of 1/2 inch pipe into the one inch pipe, and slowly bend over the bed and insert the opposite end into the one inch pipe on the other side.



Last step was to start at far end and unfold plastic wrap, and slowly work it over both beds until they are covered. I left extra on both ends to help pull it taught and put rocks on the excess to keep the plastic in place. The picture shows you the finished product.


If you look close, you’ll see the chickens near the end, scratching around and looking for something to eat. I have left the garden area open this spring, so they can get in there to root around and even do some fertilizing.

All told, the entire project, minus the time spend shopping for supplies, was a 1/2 hour. Now the plants are protected and will give me some wonderful garlic and shallots later this year.


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Update on Spring activities

For the first time I can remember, the first day of Spring actually had Spring weather. I am really enjoying the snow being gone, grass getting green early, and trees starting to bug out. The only negative is the wood ticks and deer ticks are already out.

Two weeks ago, I ordered a greenhouse kit from Steves Greenhouses. When finished, the greenhouse will be 10 feet wide, and 20 feet long.The kit is sitting in my garage and I hope to have it up by the end of this month. I checked with the City, did some measuring with the help of munchkins, and found I have plenty of room at the north end of my garden to put up the greenhouse. I’m going to build a real wall up about 32 inches on the north side and insulate it to help retain heat next winter. I am looking forward to getting plants out of my office and into the greenhouse so they can have natural light to continue to grow.

This weekend has been a great one for getting work done outside. I have the grandsons available for a good part of each day to help with Spring chores. Yesterday, we started moving downed branches and small trees to the back of my property to build a hedgerow that can provide cover for some furry woodland creatures. We’ll continue to work on that project on upcoming weekends.

Today, they helped me clean out the chicken coop, put away Christmas decorations in the garage, and putter in the garden. I turned two piles of compost into one, and added the fresh litter from the chicken coop to hopefully increase the decomposition. Also did some work on the garden beds to undercut weeds, and clean out some other weeds, so they don’t get too far ahead.

Finished off this afternoon by planting two flats of tomatoes and peppers. The flats each hold 72 plants, so that should give you an idea of how many tomatoes and peppers I’m growing this year. I have heated mats underneath the flats to keep them nice and warm and aid germination. I’ll keep starting more seedlings as the Spring moves along so I’m ready for planting the week before Memorial Day weekend.

Now it’s time to relax for a bit, while the turkey finishes cooking in the oven, and get ready for another week of work.

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Spring in March

Today the temperature reached 74 degrees. At 9 PM it is 62 degrees. Hard to imagine on the 16th of March, we are experiencing such warm temps. Tomorrow appears to be the same weather and I’m looking forward to spending the day outside working in the garden and doing other chores usually reserved for April, or later. Hopefully, we will get some moisture this week, as the past winter has not given us much snow.

It was very weird to drive around today with windows down and wearing short sleeves. Usually, we are waiting impatiently for Spring and for the snow to go away. With the rain forecasted for next week, we could see green grass in March. Need to adapt to the changes and make the best of them.

On a different note, looking forward to granddaughter’s birthday this Sunday. All of the grandchildren are growing up so fast. I am so glad we moved back four years ago to be able to see them grow up and to spend as much time as possible with them.

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Another Groundhog’s Day without tacos

Earlier today, my daughter posted on Facebook, that she didn’t celebrate Groundhog’s Day while in college, but decided it that she would have a beer today to honor the day. I added a comment “and a taco”.

The reason for the comment, comes from a very long standing tradition among some friends of mine, of getting together on Groundhog’s Day, and one of us buying tacos for the rest. Many years ago, we actually did eat tacos on Groundhog’s day, but over the decades, it has become a running joke, instead of lunch together.

Considering we’ve all been friends for over 40 years, you can hopefully understand how long we’ve kept this idea alive.

We first discovered tacos and hot sauce when Paul and his family moved to Fargo, ND, after he graduated from high school. On one of our first visits up there, he took us to Taco John’s, and we fell in love (with tacos) and their hot sauce. Eventually, Brainerd was gifted with a Taco John’s, so some of us didn’t have to travel a long distance to burn our mouths and throats. Over the years, we’ve become accustomed to their hottest sauce (only jalapenos minced up), so that now I use it for dipping sauce. But in the old days, it would put a mighty burn in our mouths, which we did enjoy.

I also remember during high school, and beyond, visiting Taco John’s late at night, when one of our friends was working as a taxi dispatcher. We would buy a load of tacos, and then hang out with him until late a night, eating and talking. Now, most of us are in bed fairly early.

So, perhaps some of you can start your own Groundhog’s Day tradition, and be able to carry it forward for several decades. You won’t know, until you try.

Since no tacos were offered today (show sad face) I’ll have to content myself, and Denise, with roast chicken, and whatever extra items I put together, once this is posted.

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Women are jealous of me

I thought the title of this posting would generate some interest. If for no other reason than to find out “why?”.

Growing up without a father, from the time I was six, the biggest influence to my life were my mother and grandmother. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my grandmother, helping her cook and serve food. By the time I was in sixth grade, I could brew a good pot of coffee, and have it ready for my grandparents when they returned from shopping. Of course, that shopping always included some pastry for the afternoon coffee, usually a Bismark or something else as sweet. My grandmother, the one who didn’t have diabetes, could cook wonderful food. We usually had Sunday dinner with them, as well as holiday dinners, and the food was always great, even though she had a small kitchen. It was the love she put into the food that made it so tasty.

Given the background just described, it’s little wonder that me, as well as my brothers, like to cook. For over 11 years, I have done essentially all the cooking. My wife likes to bake, which is a good compliment to what I like to cook. Emeril put it best when he calls food “love”, as that is what my grandmother and mother put into the food they prepared.

The reason this talent make women jealous, is that women I run in to have husbands who don’t or won’t cook. I was talking with a nurse taking care of Denise a couple of month’s ago, whose jaw dropped open when I told her I needed to shop for groceries for supper. She does all the cooking and would really like it if her husband would cook once in a while (hint to husbands).

The traditional saying is that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I would add that the one of the best ways to show your wife you love her, is to cook for her, and for extra points, to clean up afterwards.

I served Denise breakfast in bed the Sunday before last, and frequently serve her supper while she is snuggled in her chair by the gas fireplace.

Men – turn off the game, put down the video game, and get into the kitchen. I do neither, and can tell you from over 35 years of experience, that serving your wife is the best thing you can do to keep the love alive in your marriage.

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