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This year has proved to be an ‘Adventures in Gardening” sort of year.

A couple months ago I got five yards of dirt dropped off, which was an event early Saturday morning that made me feel like a 4-yr-old boy. So much excitement for a dump truck!

I’m fairly certain it was larger than me. It took about two weekends to shovel all that into the six raised bed, but it was actually just the right amount. We had none left over.

The next big challenge: Groundhogs. Big mama groundhog and her babies that she kindly birthed under our deck.

I probably planted the same plants multiple times, before and after we put up the fence. I know I planted strawberries about three times and I think kale, broccoli, and cauliflower just as many.

That’s me, showing off our lovely fence. Which, much to my surprise, did not keep out baby groundhogs. They don’t dig under or climb over (like the internet said they would), instead they go right through the squares in the fence.

However, in mid-June, once we were in overhaul mode on the new deck, the groundhogs were MIA. I blame the whirring of all sorts of saws.

We decided to go with the Trex decking in “Saddle” color since it matches our front deck the closest. I really like how the front deck looks and I have no problem with the back being similar. All we need to do now is decide on the type of railing we want and how to do the skirting.

Ever since it seems like the groundhogs were scared off, the garden has been coming along well, sort of.

I haven’t had much upward growth on the beans, probably because they got eaten by the groundhogs and had to be replanted, maybe too late. The tomatoes and tomatillo plants are huge, but many of the paste tomatoes have blossom rot and it doesn’t look like any of the tomatillo buds are going to be fruit. My cherry tomatoes are going crazy though! Lots of tiny green tomatoes right now!

I never re-planted kale (maybe a fall crop?) or any broccoli/cauliflower. However, I did leave some squash in after the groundhogs partially at them and they’re growing a little bit. I don’t expect any fruit from them but I’d like to see what they do.

Some of those seem a lot more empty than I had planned on them being. My next line of defense I am thinking of is getting a 2ft tall roll of chicken wire and putting that along the bottom of the fence. I also have grand illusions of putting in some smaller raised beds or even some sort of wooden structure that I can do hanging pots for tomatoes/etc from.

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2012 Goals

We had a bit of a weird start last year, moving in halfway through the warm season. The outside of the house only got a little bit of love and the inside really only got organized.

We haven’t been up to nothing though.

We had some fancy dinners.

We assembled an IKEA couch with minimal yelling.

We almost perfected our pizza crust recipe.

As for this year? This is what I would like to do…

Get the garden started: Ordering some topsoil/planting soil hopefully this weekend.

Figure out what to do what that unruly front lawn: Yes, it looks green. From a distance. If you squint. Really it’s just green colored patches of weeds. I’m so lucky we don’t live in suburbia, we’d be landscaping outcasts. I’d love to just cover it with planters.

Fix the back deck: Rip off the planks and replace them with Trex composite decking. We have that for our front deck and it looks great. The goal would be to make the back deck just like the front (colors, design) since we already know that it matches well.

Now I just need to think about what to plant!

Landscape 101

Let’s get a few things out in the open:

I am not an architect.
I am not an interior designer.
I am not a landscaper.
I have poor spatial visualization skills.

Our yard is pretty much a blank slate. I can do whatever I want with the landscaping (great), but I have no guidelines to follow to show me exactly what I could do (not so great).

I was told that I should hire a professional landscaper.

FOR SERIOUS??

It was along the lines of, ‘you don’t know what will look good’ or ‘you don’t know what grows well in this zone’ blah blah blah.

I’ve lived in Michigan for 25 years. If I haven’t paid enough attention to my surroundings in that time to not know what sorts of plants grow and don’t grow in Michigan, then that is my own fault. I don’t need someone to tell me to plant an apple tree and not a mango tree.

I want my yard to be designed by me.

My Goals for the Yard

  • color
  • native plants & flowers
  • planned design, but not perfection

I have a stack of that paper with the little square grids on it, a mechanical pencil, tape measure, and a blank canvas. I can figure this out.

Week number one of the October Unprocessed Challenge is over today and I have had a successful first week. I managed to not have any pop all week, only water, coffee, and watered down juice and I also did not eat out for lunch or dinner all week. This is quite the accomplishment for us. Just to note,  I am “fully” participating and the husband is only “semi” participating. I weighed myself last Saturday morning and this Saturday morning – the difference being 4.5 pounds. 4.5 POUNDS. Holy Biggest Loser, Batman! I have been in a stalemate with my weight for a while now, it just wouldn’t budge. I exercise about 4-5 times per week and I’m training for a half marathon, but still no downward movement.

I really think that changing up my diet was the key factor. Especially eating my own lunch each day at work. That definitely helped.

Saturday, October 1st
Breakfast: scrambled eggs with broccoli, bacon, toast, jam from Jampot, Roosroast coffee (locally roasted)
Dinner: BBQ beef ribs, baked squash, green beans

Sunday, October 2nd
Breakfast: fried eggs, toast, jam from Jampot, Roosroast coffee
Lunch: leftover spinach, sausage, and orzo soup
Dinner: Pork roast, couscous, garlic green beans

Monday, October 3rd
Breakfast: Vanilla yogurt (local!), granola, dried cranberries
Lunch: Leftover sausage, spinach, and orzo soup
Dinner: Stir fry with rice, broccoli, carrots, leftover pork roast

Tuesday, October 4th and Wednesday October 5th
Breakfast: Vanilla yogurt, granola, dried cranberries
Lunch: Leftover cauliflower and potatoes in red pepper sauce, couscous, applesauce
Dinner: Homemade Lasagna

Thursday, October 6th
Breakfast: Vanilla yogurt, granola, dried cranberries
Dinner: Roasted cauliflower with sea salt and paprika, quinoa with shredded zucchini and curry powder

Friday, October 7th
Breakfast: Vanilla yogurt, granola, blackberry jam
Lunch: Leftover cauliflower and potatoes in red pepper sauce, applesauce, cashews, and dried cranberries
Dinner: Beef and Noodle Stew (recipe below)

Pork roast, couscous, garlic green beans

Stir fry with broccoli, carrot, leftover pork roast

The beef and noodle stew is a really easy dish that I make every once in a while. Normally I make it with lamb, but I wasn’t able to get to the farmer’s market this last weekend to get any lamb, so I used some chuck roast we had frozen from the quarter of a cow we bought.

Beef Stew with Noodles, from Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook
Ingredients
1 lb beef stew meat (or lamb)
1 med onion, sliced
3.5 cups water
.25 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil)
1 tsp italian seasoning (or other herbs)
.25 tsp salt
.25 tsp pepper
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup green beans
.75 cup bow tie pasta
15 oz tomato sauce

1.) In a large saucepan, brown meat and onions.
2.) Add water, sun-dried tomatoes, herbs, salt, and pepper. Bring to boil, then simmer for 1 hour (beef), 45 min (lamb).
3.) Add mushrooms, green beans, and pasta. I usually need to add more water here. Bring to boil, simmer for 15 min.
4.) Add tomato sauce and cook another few minutes until tomato sauce is heated.

This makes about four servings or so, but we can usually get about five out of it. I don’t necessarily measure any of these ingredients aside from the water, so it’s a bit hap-hazard.

Exceptions to the Rule
So, everything I eat might not be totally unprocessed, but I’m trying. I’ve cut out some things, like soy milk, and made a few exceptions.

White rice: I love white rice. End of story. We buy it in huge probably 20 pound bags and I just bought one in September, so I’m not going to buy brown rice just because.

Free sample: Unless it is undeniably over-processed, I’ll still take a free sample. So the orange chicken at the mall is a no-no free sample, but the maple-glazed mahi mahi I sampled at Whole Foods today – not so worried about that.

Also, I might have to eat at Applebee’s tomorrow. We have another new employee at work starting tomorrow and that is our “Employee’s First Day” lunch. I managed to get out of it this week, since it wasn’t announced in time and I’d already heated my lunch. I can’t escape this coming Monday most likely.

With the past couple of months being dedicated to moving to the new house, being busy at work, half marathon training, and generally everything else I’ve been doing so far this summer and fall, it’s been hard sometimes to avoid eating out and/or eating crappily. I don’t stay up late on work nights, generally not too much past ten, so once I am home from work, exercise, shower, and eat it is pretty much time for bed. Usually, since eating is the last thing I do it gets pushed aside a lot and I have no much time to cook dinner.

The other day decided to jump in and sign up to the blog Eating Rules‘ “Unprocessed October” challenge. It’ll be good to get back on track and also maybe be a little bit of a processed food detox heading up to the half marathon on October 16th.

I’ve been thinking a lot of what this will mean for October.

  • no Kashi cereal for breakfast
  • finding a new soy milk (or not using it)
  • no eating out for lunch at work
  • more excessive menu planning than I already do

So the plan for the weekend, besides the stick shift driving lessons, is to make some granola and plan out next week’s meals. I checked and the bread we buy from a bakery in Saline certainly passes the kitchen test, no weird or unpronounceable science ingredients at all. I could bake it at home, that is, if I wasn’t horrible at baking.

Now that summer is finally over and the days are a bit cooler, I’m starting to work more on the landscaping. I was able to find some graph paper at work and have been working on graphing out the whole yard recently.

We had a pretty “mreh” looking raised flower bed on the side of our front lawn and since I wasn’t sure exactly what type of flowers/plants/weeds were in it, I decided just to get rid of all of it and start new.

Stray kitty likes to hang out in our neighborhood. This was probably right before kitty ate a grub and I was thoroughly disgusted.

Right now all that I have planted in it is a very tiny Alberta Spruce which I was assured by my mom and Grandma that it would not become gigantic.

This afternoon’s big project was building raised bed garden boxes for the backyard. I had originally mapped out four 4’x10′ beds however once we realized exactly how big 10′ is, we called a friend from down the street and changed the plan to 4’x8′, and the 8′ boards fit almost perfectly in his car. We used 2x12x12 since I wanted to make sure it was deep enough for any carrots or other root veggies.

The end result—

Living and Dining

We’ve been living in the house for almost a month and a half now so it’s really been a while since I have posted anything but aside from getting furniture rearranged there haven’t been many photo-worthy events… and I’m sure I don’t need to take pictures every time I cut the grass.

I’ve given up on weeding the lawn this year, it’s just all weeds and I don’t think there is much I can do to help it. If I pulled them up it’d probably be all dirt.

Last weekend my Mom and Gramma stopped buy and brought me a weed whacker they bought for me (battery electric, no cords) and she is letting me borrow their power washer so I can get the front porch cleaned. I didn’t notice just how gross it was until we got part of it done!

For now though, I will leave with some pictures of the to-be living room and dining room. Hopefully unlike most living rooms there will be at least a bit of living done in mine. At least, there will be living in it once there is sufficient seating.