Summer Wrap Up

Howdy! I know it’s been two months since I’ve stopped by to chat so get ready for a serious brain dump.

(warning: this may be the longest post ever. After my ramblings — there are FIFTY pictures of our summer!! WOW)

First — there’s a few reasons why I’ve been so absent. One being that Alex was getting ready to deploy and we spent the summer trying to soak in every moment we could together. I don’t want to say that I was just too busy to write, because that’s not entirely true. Mainly, I think that since it had been so long I felt like whatever I came back to say needed to meaningful. I kept sitting down to write, jotted a paragraph or two and felt that it just didn’t do such a long break justice. Delete, delete, delete. The words just weren’t there. I have some half finished posts that I’m hoping to salvage and get them up.. we’ll see!

Alex left this past week and now that I don’t have as many distractions, I spend a lot of time alone with my thoughts. It’s time to get them out! Writing is therapeutic for me and more importantly, if Alex is able to catch some internet access here and there, I know he really appreciates getting caught up with what’s going on at home and seeing pictures of our boys (aka dogs, whatever — they’re children to us).

We had a great summer full of weekend trips, parties, weddings, grilling, kayaking, visitors, gardening, golf (him), canning (me) and truck projects (him). One thing that really stood apart from previous summers is that we didn’t overload it with house projects. Of course we still have things we want to do with the ol’ house, but we’re definitely slowing down. We’re getting to the point that we mostly have bigger projects left (new wood floors, remodeled kitchen, basement+hall bathroom remodels) and we 1. ran out of steam for such big (months long) projects and 2. didn’t really have the time since we knew some deployments were on the horizon. We actually spent money on ourselves this summer (yay! kayaks!) rather than dumping it into the house. It felt good.

A lot of people ask me about this when I see them and I know it’s uncomfortable for people to bring up, so I’ll just keep you all in the loop. Another thing that changed this summer is that we pretty much hit our breaking point and finally decided to stop trying for a baby right now. Well… considering that Alex isn’t even in the country that’s not hard to believe, right? 😉 Anyway… I didn’t like who I had become. It consumed me. I spent hours and hours every single day researching things; furiously googling supplements, symptoms per day past ovulation, the average amount of months it took for someone to get pregnant after an ectopic. It was bad. I compared myself to everyone around me and constantly felt like a failure. I tried some fertility medicine for a couple months and I was super unpleasant to be around – happy, crying, angry, moody… you never knew what you were going to get. I gained weight, my skin my broke up, I had headaches and was hot all the time. Yeah.. it wasn’t pretty. My breaking point came when a very good friend of mine told me she was pregnant (for various reasons they weren’t sure they could ever have a baby on their own). Of course I was happy for them both, but I was just sad for me. I locked myself into the bathroom at work and did the always attraction silent sob (you all know what I’m talking about). That night as I cried myself to sleep, I had a conversation with the man upstairs and basically told God that I had nothing left to give and that if I was supposed to keep trying right now, I needed some kind of sign. The next morning, Alex had a very open, honest (and brave!) conversation with me and told me that he thought it was a good time to take a break from trying.

So, I took that as my sign and just STOPPED. I stopped going to all my websites, I stopped obsessing and worrying and envying and crying and JUST STOPPED. Can you even imagine the pressure that has been lifted? Probably not. All of the sudden, I’m just not worried anymore. Sure, the want is still there – I’m not sure that will ever go away. But you know what… one day we’ll be parents. It might not be right now, it might not be in the next year… but we will. And now we can focus on us and it feels fantastic. Props to the husband for being willing to have a conversation that he knew would hurt, but would be for the better.

Whew! That felt good to get that out! Let’s see… what else has been going on? Well, the garden was phenomenal this summer. Even in September, it’s still trudging along. To this day, I’m still getting buckets of tomatoes, peppers (jalapeños and bell), carrots, a few cucumbers and even some yellow squash. We built the beds up a bit and added probably 25 bags of new soil. We also tilled the soil and mixed in lots of plant food.

I could go on all day chit chatting, but I think for now — I’ll finish up with some pictures from the last few months.

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Wow! Did you make it through those?? I hope to be posting way more regularly! If not, I’ll have a very disappointed husband when he gets back!

PS — WHO IS EXCITED FOR FOOTBALL TODAY??

Have a great Sunday!!

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Garden Planning: Prep Work

Considering the frost on the ground this morning and how the threat of snow is not completely gone, I know it’s a little early to start prepping the garden for the spring. However, it’s the perfect time to start planning this year’s crops (can I really call them crops?) and start a timeline of when certain tasks need to be completed by.

This will be our third summer in our house and with the garden, considering it was one of the first things we added. To say that I’ve been a diligent or perfect gardener is pretty laughable. In past years, I’ve been very gung-ho garden at the beginning of the season. I pulled all my weeds, I watered my plants daily if it was boiling hot with no rain and I picked all my produce at the right time.  On the other hand, once it’s a million degrees outside (can you tell that I’m slightly dramatic?) and all of the bugs are ready to feast the moment you walk out of the door towards the end of summer, my garden duties begin to slack off. I weed less and I don’t always pick my 600 tomatoes the day I should. Food gets wasted… it’s a sad, sad day.

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Every year I say that I’m going to be better and every year I’m not. This year though… this is the year when I’m really going to be on my garden game. I’ve spent a lot of time researching garden tips and tricks, as well as what I can be doing within the next month to get things ready. Here are some garden reminders –

(sidenote: these tips assume that you already have a garden. If you’re a first time gardener, you can check out how we built our garden here and here. You can also review how we prepped our garden last year here. There’s also a TON of great resources available online to help get you started)

First, you want to find out which one of the 11 US zones you live in. (You can do that here if you don’t know already – you just need to enter your zip code).  (editted to add: I apologize to everyone outside of the US! I’m sure there are similar sites for your countries, but I’m not a worldwide gardening expert. In fact, I’m just learnin’ as I go… not an expert at all!)

Most of Maryland is within zone 6 and considering that’s where my garden lies, as well as, most of my family and friends’ gardens – some of my information will be geared towards that zone.

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picture from here

The College of Agriculture at University of Maryland has some really great resources available online. I would definitely suggest checking them out if you happen to live in the area. (Check out this main site, this one and this one too). They also offer gardening classes in different areas throughout the state. (Check out this page to see if there are any classes near you that you’re interested in) Most of my information comes from these sites – however, I’ll link to specific sites if needed throughout.

So, we figured out our zone, now we need to reflect on how the garden produced last year. For me, my tomatoes completely took off and really stole the show. My strawberry bed, zucchini, and squash definitely showed up to the competition as well. However, my cucumbers were pretty crappy. I tried a new variety and well, I won’t be trying them again. They kept growing and growing but never turned green – very disappointing, especially considering the ridiculous amount of cucumbers that I had the year before and the jars of pickles that ensued. What surprised me the most was my romaine lettuce that I started from seeds. It was so easy to grow, the lettuce was delicious, and it really took off! Romaine lettuce is definitely on my “grow again” list. What plants really took off for you? Did you have anything that disappointed you?

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Towards the end of the month and into March, you’ll want to finish planning your beds and purchasing your seeds. As I mentioned before, the romaine lettuce was my first from seed plant (all of my others I had purchased at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or a local nursery as transplants). I loved the result and will be trying more plants from seeds this year. (I’ll probably buy them from this site or this site, but I’ll let you know when I make that decision).

So far, I think my crops will look something like this: strawberries, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, lettuce, spinach*, tomatoes (early girl, cherry, and beefsteak), peppers (jalapenos, bell, and one other variety), broccoli*, carrots*, onions, and garlic*. I’m also considering planting cantaloupe and beans or peas, but will need to do a little more research first. Additionally, I will be moving my herb garden away from the actual garden and into pots to free up another bed. My herbs will include: rosemary, cilantro, basil, oregano, mint, chives, parsley, and thyme. (All items marked with a * will be new additions to the garden this year) – Have you planned your crops for the year? Will you be trying anything new?

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Once the weather warms up a bit and it’s time to start prepping your soil, remember to allow your soil to dry out completely before turning it over and tilling. You should be able to make a ball of soil and bounce it in your hand a few times. If it breaks apart, the soil is dry enough to turn over or till; if your soil stays together then it still needs to dry out. Tilling the soil while wet will cause damage to the soil and will become brick-hard when it dries out. This will also be a good time to mix in 2-3 inches of compost into your soil (I need to get on this! We haven’t started composting; I’ll need to find some in the area). However, in the meantime—go ahead and clear out everything the winter storms have left in your garden (i.e. leafs, sticks, weeds that didn’t freeze, any and all debris)

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During this waiting period, it’s also a good time to purchase any supplies you may need for this year. Do you need new supports for your tomato plants? (I’m pretty sure we need at least one new support) Are you planning to use trellises for your cucumbers or other vine-y plants? Are you going to buy them or make them? Does your sprinkler still work? Or do you want to try soaker hoses? Are you thinking about expanding your garden? Have you mapped that out and made a list of what you’ll need? How many bags of soil will you need?

I have a lot more information that I’m dying to share, including how to avoid some of the common pests, when to fertilize, freezing/canning techniques and so, so, soooo much more. The good thing is we have a ton of time to discuss all things garden before its go time, so we’ll have to hold off on that until another day. (And I’m pretty sure this post is wordy enough as is).

In the meantime, tell me a little bit about your garden aspirations. Are you a new gardener or a long time pro? Do you have any questions or topics that you want me to cover in my next garden post?

Psssst – as always, I have no affiliation with the sites that I mentioned. UMD isn’t paying me to boost their website stats. I’m just one little UMD grad that loves her school and her home state, so I’m always willing to do a little Maryland shout out. And it doesn’t hurt that I found their information tremendously helpful!