Mucking it Up in Mud Season…

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When I first moved to the New England 14 years ago I had never set foot on the East Coast.  Yet I had this odd fascination with the East Coast lifestyle.  Somehow that lifestyle seemed much more fitting to me.  Living a majority of my life overseas in Japan, I was also fortunate to live in places like California, Guam and Hawaii.  Pretty awesome, right?  Even with those wonderful opportunities I missed something… I never truly experienced  the change of seasons.   So when I met my husband I was lucky to discover he was from Maine… which eventually led us “home” to raise our family on our beautiful mini-homestead.

Spring is a tricky time in Northern New England.  Yes, spring officially starts in March, although you really don’t reap the warmer temperature benefits until much later.  But, in all honesty, there never really is a true spring up here.  It’s mud season.  This is when all the snow and ice melts. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it snows. More often, we get a wintery mix and erratic swings in climate. Nature is at its most capricious.

Just looking out my door I can see the soft ground peeking through the melting snow.  It’s soft, it’s squishy… it’s mud.  And at this homestead it means a lot of dirt dragging in the house.  Not only from my kids, but the dog and, worst of all, my husband (sorry, honey, but it’s true).  Mud season also means it’s time to put up those heavy winter coats and break out the spring weather wear.  Fleeces for chilly mornings and evenings, rain coats for the slushy mess, and muck boots to trek out in to the yard or, as in my kids case, just play.

Mud season is probably the most dreaded season of the year.  Yes, even more dreaded than winter.  However, it’s the price of living in Maine. Our winter brings fresh snow and bright blue skies; autumn has the most glorious foliage and summer, with moderate heat and low humidity, is perfection. Spring does not really kick in until May, and then everything blooms at once. I love living in a place with all the seasons, even if I’m counting the days to daffodils and tulips.

When I think about it mud season is not all bad. There are no crowds. Days are getting longer. Shovels rest while snow piles shrink. Empty beaches are beautifully surreal. The sidewalks around town are finally clear of ice.  We’ve been hibernating all winter so throw on a pair of your mud boots and enjoy the outdoors!

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This post was featured at the Homestead Barn Hop.

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

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Down with the groundhog I say!

Today is the first day of Spring and up here in the Northeast there is no sign of it… anywhere!  Instead, Mother Winter continues to drop snowflake upon snowflake.  If I’m not mistaken Punxsutawney Phil did say, “And so ye faithful, there is no shadow to see, an early Spring for you and me.”  You were surely mistaken… you… you… you rodent!

Okay, so let’s just pretend Spring is upon us.  We can now start planning and planting seeds for the garden!

In the past our homestead has done a combination of starting seeds indoors and directly planting in the ground from plants purchased at our local garden store.  This year we’re taking a bigger step and starting all of our seeds indoors using grow lights.  It’s probably a good idea we’re doing this since warmer weather is no where in sight.

My favorite part of garden planning is deciding what to grow.  We always do the standard… tomatoes, peppers, radishes, beans, peas, beets, lettuce, cucumbers, spinach, carrots.  We take a further step and also grow potatoes, eggplant, zucchini, squash, kale, swiss chard, pie pumpkins and edamame (soybeans).  In addition, I always like to pick a couple of ‘testers’ crops.  Two years ago I tried okra and got three.  I consider that a success since the okra was forced to grow up here in Maine.  Last year I took a stab at a few artichokes.  No luck.  However, I hear artichokes are perennials, but also hear they can’t survive winter.  We shall see what happens.   I also have tried bok choy, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and hot peppers.

This year I’ve decided on three ‘testers’… sweet potatoes, peanuts and banana peppers.  It is always fun to try out something new in the garden.  Who says you must stick to standard crops you find in the grocery store?  Even if you don’t know what kohlrabi is, or have no idea what to do with bok choy, watching them grow is almost as enjoyable as cooking and eating it.  You can always give them to your neighbor.  Or, better yet, you might find a recipe and a new found love!

If you’re not quite ready to try an unusual crop consider the commonly grown vegetables that come in an array of colors and varieties that you can’t find in the store.  How cool is it to pull up purple carrots?  Blue potatoes?  Zebra tomatoes?

Carpe diem fellow gardeners!  Carpe diem!

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This post was featured at the Homestead Barn Hop.

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May the Force be With You…

DSC_1858 I don’t know about you but I am so ready for winter to be over!  Don’t get me wrong, I love New England and its change of seasons.  But we’ve had a storm every week in February.   I’m done with the snow, the slippery roads, the power outages.  I’ve especiallyhad it with the snowsuits, gloves, hats and boots laying on the floor, surrounded by a pool of melted snow.  Spring, where are you?!?!  Please hurry!  For if you do  not quickly arrive on my doorstep I am afraid I may have to use the utmost of powers… the Jedi mind trick.  You know, like in Star Wars. The mind is a powerful thing.  Perhaps I, Obi-Wan of this homestead, can exude my force…

Mother Nature:  Are you ready for more snow to fall?

Mama Jedi:  *waving hand* There will be no  more snow. 

Mother Nature:  There will be no more snow.  

Mama Jedi:  You will bring us Spring now.

Mother Nature:  I will bring Spring to your doorstep now.  

Mama Jedi:  Move along.

Mother Nature:  Move along.

Okay, so maybe I’ll just continue with wishful thinking.  But, regardless,  I am going to do whatever I must to get the spirit of Spring going!

This week I started on some spring cleaning.  This concept is pretty foreign to me.  Being half Asian, and growing up in Japan most of my life, this type of cleaning happens at the end of the year.  To me, it makes more sense to purge the old at the end of year, beginning a fresh new year.  However, now that I live in New England, I guess I can understand why spring cleaning is a must. You’re holed up in your house all winter, dust bunnies collecting around the wood stove, the air not circulating enough because of the tundra outside, stashing cardboard boxes down in the basement because you dread walking it to the end of your driveway for trash collection.  (Note:  I do not cite these examples based on first hand experience)

I so get it now.

Spring cleaning has arrived at the homestead.  I am getting rid of all the “junk” accumulating around me.  If we don’t use it, if it’s lost in the abyss of my kids closet, it’s gone.  Although I’m sure I could make a decent chunk of change, I am not big on selling things.  Instead, I choose to donate as much as I can to our school, local clothes pantry, local children’s hospital, Goodwill, and churches.  It’s an act that the whole entire family take part in, and enjoy.  There are others out there less fortunate that could use something as simple as a jacket, or great picture book.  The notion that my son gets excited about his once favorite fire truck going to another boy puts a huge smile on my face.

A few more rooms to tidy up.   One last snowman, that is it.   And then I expect the snow to melt away very soon.

Yes, Mother Nature, I am speaking to you.  I’m itching to get my hands dirty!

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This post was featured at the Homestead Barn Hop

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Nemo 2013…

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“Nemo, newcomer of orange and white, you have been called forth to the summit of Mt. Wannahockaloogie to join with us in the fraternal bonds of tankhood!”

The Weather Channel announced last November that during the upcoming winter season they would begin naming noteworthy winter storms.  Their reason:  “to better communicate the threat and the timing of the significant impacts that accompany these events. The fact is, a storm with a name is easier to follow, which will mean fewer surprises and more preparation.”  The Weather Channel also pointed out:

  • Naming a storm raises awareness.  (Really?)
  • Attaching a name makes it much easier to follow a weather system’s progress.  (I’m pretty sure I decided to follow the storm when they said we’d get over a foot of snow).
  • A storm with a name takes on a personality all its own, which adds to awareness.  (Uh, yeah, Nemo, doesn’t sound like a storm to me)
  • In today’s social media world, a name makes it much easier to reference in communication.  (Okay, I guess saying “Nemo” on my Facebook posts was a lot easier than saying “The Blizzard os 2013”)
  • A named storm is easier to remember and refer to in the future.  (You got me on this one… if you say “Nemo” to me 10 years from now I’ll most definitely remember this storm.  But I’m sure I’ll remember it if you also just reference “blizzard”, “snow” and “2013” in one sentence)

So, I’m not really sure if naming this storm that arrived on my doorstep last week helped me better prepare.  What I do know is that when the weatherman says we can expect over 2 feet of snow in blizzard conditions, I’m gonna prepare.  Calling the storm “Nemo” didn’t make me rush to store faster.  Heck, I was at the store buying milk, counting my flashlights, digging out batteries and checking my generator before I even knew this storm had a name.

Nemo hit us hard up here in the Northeast.  In my town we received 35.5 inches.  For me, not only was this my first experience dealing with this much snow and a blizzard to boot, it was my first time going  through a major storm by myself.  You see, husband is still on a grandiose adventure patrolling our waters.  What this means is that I, alone, with three kids and a dog, had to:

  • Ensure the house was set up should we lose power (flashlights, generator, all electronics charged).
  • The kids had enough entertainment to keep them busy… and me sane.
  • Break out the shovel and get ready to burn some serious calories.
  • Remind myself how to plow using our old, yet loyal, truck.

When all was said and done we survived the wrath of Nemo.  It was a lot of shoveling and plowing.  And as much as I wanted to complain about how “easy” my husband had it since he was away and didn’t have to deal with this mess, I didn’t.  I was actually glad I went through this storm alone.  I taught myself, and my kids, that mom is just as tough as dad, and can get down and dirty to ensure the safety of our family.  If that means walking through 3 feet snowdrifts to dig out heater vents in the back of the house, I will do it.  If it means, after a long day of shoveling and plowing non-stop, going out and helping the kids make massive hills for sledding, I will do it.

We would all do it.  Whether it’s a storm or some other hardship we all would do whatever it takes to keep our family safe.

Besides, my worst nightmare would be to be out in the ocean with 25-foot waves pounding on steel.

And, in the end, my reward… a nicely plowed driveway, from yours truly!

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