Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"The Night Before Don's Birthday......"

The night before Don's birthday, Patrick, Julie, and Abigail drove up to go out to dinner with us to celebrate.  After dinner, we came back to our house where we had birthday cake.  :)  Here are a few photos leading up to that time.

The cooling of his cake......

Butter frosting on his birthday cake........  I poked holes in the bottom layer and dribbled homemade chocolate sauce in them to add a bit more chocolatey decadence.

The finished birthday cake with chocolate sauce drizzled on top.........

Patience is a virtue, right?  We all sat quietly and waited for his wish making and blowing out of the candles......

The moment was captured!

And the enjoyment began!  ;)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

"Dons Birthday......."

We started celebrating Dons "Friday" birthday, Thursday evening, by having dinner out with Patrick, Julie, and Abigail.  We, of course, had a great time.  :)

Friday morning, Don's real birth date, we got going early and headed out towards Empire, MI, stopping at Dilbert's Cafe' ( for breakfast.  After breakfast our next stop was at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park Visitors Center (  We went to buy an annual pass to the park so we'd be able to go anytime we wanted without needing to stop and get an entry pass. is the "kicker".  The regular annual park pass is $20, but as "seniors", we were eligible for $10 LIFETIME PASSES FOR ALL NATIONAL PARKS!!!!   What a deal, eh?  Finally, a real perk for becoming older....besides being able to retire.  ;)

So off we went with our Lifetime park passes and headed to one of the parks shorter hiking trails, Empire Bluff Hiking Trail.  It is approximately 1 1/2 miles long, round trip.  We parked in the trails lot and headed up the trail....and then down, and then up, etc.  LOL  It is a very scenic trail with many ups and downs through woods.  Perhaps about halfway along the trail, an open area was kept trimmed so hikers are always treated to this spectacular view.  Here is the view to the north with South Bar Lake in the distance.  Empire is there, too, but it is harder to see.  ;)

Here are a couple more photos that have been zoomed in a little.....

At the end of the trail a boardwalk and railing are in place, which makes it really nice for feeling safe while sight seeing.  ;)

Yes, we joined the "selfie" crowd......

After arriving back at the car, we drove into Empire and stopped at their Village Park, which is on the little isthmus between Lake Michigan and South Bar lake.  The 2 lakes actually joined at one time, but the channel between the 2 continuously filled in naturally and efforts to keep it open via dredging were found inadequate.  This is what I "remember" but I am not 100% sure about that memory.  ;)

This small replica of a lighthouse sits at the north end of Village Park, while at the south end of the park, sits the remains of where the Empire Lumber Company was located

This photo was taken looking towards the south and I was "supposed" to line up the tip of Dons finger with where we viewed Lake Michigan at the end of Empire Bluff trail.  I didn't do too well with getting his fingertip in the exact place, but you get the general idea....."I hope".  ;)

A photo looking north......

Don didn't take my "just back a little more....a little more" directions very well and stayed put when he stepped onto the piece of ice.  ;)

Driving further up the shoreline, we stopped at Leland's "Fishtown", snapping this photo of the tourist empty wharf.

Continuing north on M22, we ended our northerly drive in Northport, stopping for dinner at "The Soggy Dollar" (, sitting at the very table shown on their website under the Angelfish painting.  :)

It was a wonderful day......perfect and sunny.  :)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Follow Up on Fruit Trees and Seedlings in the Greenhouse....."

I planted 3 of our 6 fruit trees yesterday.  With our soil basically being sand, I amended the "fill in" soil with commercial compost and peat moss, spreading the unused soil from the hole I dung, in the woods.

4 of the 6 fruit trees are self pollinating so could be planted anywhere without regards to needing another tree for pollinating it.  I planted our sweet cherry, "Stella", probably the largest tree when mature, out in front of the house, far from where any snow sliding off the roof could land on it.  ;)

Both of our peaches were planted fairly close to each other, near the arbor in what might be considered "the side yard".

Our "Reliance" Peach is centered in the "stone lined raised bed" and our "Red Haven" Peach is planted in a bed to the right (in this photo) of the arbor.  I never cleaned it out, nor either of the ones on the sides of the arbor last Summer due to the plants having grown so much by the time I started yard work after moving in, that I was afraid I might damage something.......AND, there were ENORMOUS spiders living in the old vegetation.   UGH!!  ;) Here is a photo of 2 of them last Summer, and, as you can see, the one closest, which I have planted the fruit tree in, has several "tree stumps" in it along with many, many iris, day-lillies, and other "unknown" plants..........

I removed all of the tree stumps (planning on using them again, but perhaps not in this bed), raked out the old debris and planted our "Red Haven" Peach.  I'll be working more on this bed later after plants have grown a bit so I can see what they are before thinning them out and/or transplant them. 

I have one sour cherry tree left to plant, which is self pollinated, and 2 apple trees, both of which will pollinate each other.  I will, of course, post an update when they are planted.  :)

The seedlings that I started in the house are spending some time out in the greenhouse.  It has been too cold some days for the tomato plants to go out, except when the sun is shining, but I now leave the broccoli seedlings in it full time.  They are more cold tolerant and can take the dips in temperature on cloudy days and the low nightly temperatures.  I think the 55 gallon drum filled with water has helped keep the temperature from falling too low in the greenhouse during the night.  Each day I open the tops of the doors so the greenhouse doesn't become too warm for the plants........even cool, partially sunny days require the doors to be open because the greenhouse heats up very quickly!

Monday, April 21, 2014

"Sowing New Seeds and Repotting Seedlings...."

Even though I have our "pop up" greenhouse set up on the deck, I am waiting a few more days before moving our seedlings out into it during the day.  I want the water in the 55 gallon plastic drum to have a chance to really warm up by not opening the greenhouse for several days, making the most of the solar gain.  Once I begin setting the potted seedlings in it during the daytime, I will have to have the 2 doors opened to regulate the heat so as not to overheat and bake the plants.  :)

So, below I have some newly planted Heritage Beefsteak seeds (2 varieties) sitting under both Aero Garden lights.  The Lavender seeds I planted (in the plastic cover mini greenhouses) have not shown any sprouting as yet, but I live in hope to see some soon.  I gave up on the Heritage California Bell Peppers sprouting and used those soil filled peat pots for a few beefsteak seeds.

As you can see in the above photo, I have small Marigold seedlings sprouted in little "Jiffy Peat Plugs" that will soon be repotted into larger, soil filled peat pots.  Other seedlings from an earlier sowing have been repotted into larger soil filled peat pots, too.......Basil in the above photo and everything else in the lower photo.

The two oldest of my tomato seedlings (Wild Thyme and Hana) have been repotted into a large container that will be set out on the deck as an experiment in "container growing".  :)

I thought I should add a photo of the Ginger Root, too, that I had planted back in December 2013.  It is sending up more new shoots and I think I will soon be repotting it into a larger pot and have it on the deck this Summer, too.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

"Greenhouse Set Up....."

Yesterday seemed a good day to set up our "pop up" greenhouse.  I decided to set it up on the deck, so instead of using the stakes and tie downs that come with the greenhouse, I went to Menards and bought 8 cement blocks to set along the inside edge of the greenhouse (on top of a plastic lip that goes all the way around the inside), which will also give some mass for solar heat gain, too.

Don, of course, was there to document the set up.  ;)

The day was overcast and somewhat cool, but it wasn't long before I shed the flannel shirt because it was warmer in the greenhouse.  ;) Plus, I was moving cement blocks, expending energy, and I break out in a sweat just thinking about exercise.  ;)

When we moved here, this 55 gallon plastic drum had been left behind by the previous owners and it is now being put into use.  I filled it with water so that when the greenhouse heats up, the water inside will gain warmth, then release it during the night and overcast days, keeping the temperature warmer of the greenhouse warmer than the outside air........"I hope".  :)  That is my plan......between the water and cement blocks, I'm hoping their mass absorbs and retains the solar heat, keeping the inside greenhouse temperature from fluctuating too widely.  This means, of course, that I must open the door to let in air during the day (after the water has heated up enough) when I have plants in the greenhouse so that they don't overheat.  

I also bought a digital thermometer that will allow me to know what the high and low temperatures inside the greenhouse have been each day, too.  It gives a reading of the temperature where the main unit is placed (as of now, this would be at plant height) and another reading of where the other sensor is (at the end of the white cord), which is on the floor of the greenhouse.  I am hoping to hang the main unit closer to the top of the greenhouse, stretching the cord for the other sensor so I will have a better knowledge of the range of temperature from top to bottom.

Here it is all set up and gaining solar heat.  :)  It will take a few nice sunny days to heat up all that water.  When I see that the solar mass has moderated the inside temperature, not allowing the temperature to dip too low at night, I will then begin to move some of the seedlings I've started in the house into the greenhouse so they can grow with better light and also harden off.  The greenhouse came with a mesh shade cloth, too, so that may be needed to help temper the heat as well.

It got so warm inside the greenhouse while I was working I decided to wear a headband to soak up sweat as well as to keep my hair from falling into my eyes.  When Don saw me he called me "Jerry Garcia", so I added a photo of Jerry, too.  I admit there may be a "slight" resemblance if I had more hair on top.....and played the guitar.   ;)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Fruit Trees...."

About a month ago, Don and I stopped in at Garden Goods Nursery ( to find out when they expected fruit trees to be available.  I was told mid-April was when they expected them and they were kind enough to get our phone number to call and inform me when they arrived.  We received a call last Thursday and I drove to the nursery on Friday, picking up six trees!

As I'd hoped, they were all able to be loaded into our small Pontiac Vibe and arrived back at our house in great shape.  Fortunately, Don had not accompanied me because in order for the trees to fit, the back of the front passenger seat had to be put in the flat "down" position, too!

Now that the temperature is rising once again and the recent snow from the past 2 days has melted, the warm air can now continue its work on the piles of snow from this past Winter.  Soon it will be gone and I can begin planting our trees.

As I mentioned, I bought 6 fruit trees.  Not all are dwarf trees but I plan to keep the taller ones trimmed to a shorter height.  Here is a close up of the tags.......

Our 2 apples.......

Our 2 Peaches.......

And lastly, our 2 cherries.......

I look forward to getting them planted so that they can begin to "settle in" and send out roots.  Any fruit that is set this year will, unfortunately, have to be picked right away so that all the strength of growing goes into root growth.  I also will not do any pruning until next Winter, too, so again, all the strength of growing goes to the root system.  This Spring is going to be an exciting one!  ;)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Fermentation for Beginners....."

"Fermentation for Beginners" is the name of the class, sponsored by Oryana (, our local food co-op, that Don and I attended last Thursday night.  We both enjoyed it VERY much with a great group of people.

Don took notes and photos while I did the cutting/slicing and mixing of our quart of sauerkraut.  In this photo, I am slicing the head of cabbage, prior to adding salt and hand mixing, kneading, squeezing.  :)

Here is a close up of my cabbage "slivers".  After slicing around 2# of cabbage, it is then put into a large bowl with a tablespoon of salt sprinkled over the cabbage, then thoroughly mixed by hand until the cabbage releases 1/3 to 1/2 cup of liquid.  When that was achieved, I added a tablespoon of caraway seeds and mixed those in thoroughly, too.  The "sauerkraut" was then packed into a glass quart jar up to the jars shoulder, topped it with a folded cabbage leaf, and submerged under its "juice" by adding the cabbage core last, prior to screwing on the lid.  When we got home, we were to add plastic wrap between the sauerkraut and canning lid so that the sauerkraut did not touch the metal.

Each attendee went home with a quart of sauerkraut that we made ourselves.....I love "hands on" classes!  Here is mine, sitting in the kitchen while it "ferments".  We were told to let it ferment for about 5 days before tasting it.  After doing so, we can either say "OK, this tastes great and I want to keep it at this level of ferment", or......"This is good, but I want it to ferment a bit longer to give it more bite".  :)  If keeping it "as is", it then is refrigerated to keep the fermentation minimal, or left out on the kitchen countertop to ferment longer.

I noticed last night that ours had "worked" quite a bit already because it had pushed some of its "juice" out of the quart jar.

I chose to use only caraway seeds in my jar of sauerkraut but the instructor had curry and ginger root available, too, in case anyone water to have a curried/ginger sauerkraut.  There were samples for us to try, but I went somewhat "traditional".  :)  The curried/ginger sauerkraut was delicious though and I think I will make some of it eventually.

Due to time constraints, the instructor demonstrated how to make Kimchi (a spicy, fermented mixture of cabbage and vegetables and the national dish of Korea), and Kombucha (a food supplement prepared from a symbiotic colony of yeast and bacteria that is added to tea for its health benefits).

Here are the ingredients used in making the Kimchi......

We were all given a "Mother" to start our own Kombacha, too.

As with any class, there was a huge amount of information given out in a short time, so thankfully, we were given handouts with all the recipes and instructions needed to make these fermented "goods" at home.  We had a lot of fun and as I mentioned earlier, our classmates were very nice, too.