Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bring on the blueberries

Sorry I didn't start this post with some awesome shot I took of fresh blueberries. I meant to do that all summer, and well, I just never took the photo.

So we bought a farm. And now it's time to farm. Blueberries. 
(and maybe some organic dairy- but that's later).

Charlie's been interested in growing his own blueberries for more than a handful of years. He's done a lot of research, so what I share will be a dumbed-down version of what he knows. Maybe I can talk him in to blogging about the process some time. 

Now that he's finished building the house, it's on to the blueberries. He loves blueberries. I love blackberries. He's going to grow a couple acres of blueberries and I get a couple blackberry bushes (I don't know, do blackberries grow on bushes or vines?). 
He started his research with this fellow, Larry Martin, at Bluegrass Blueberries. He is awesome and so knowledgeable. Charlie talked with him on the phone a couple times and then we paid him a visit in August (on our way to Alabama in the last road trip in the Corolla). We were pleasantly surprised to find him so eager to share his knowledge with us. He has got to be the best resource in Kentucky (and maybe anywhere) on blueberries.
the wild ones hoarding all the wagons at Bluegrass Blueberries
From there, we had a long journey to the Gulf Coast ahead of us. Between baby feedings, brothers fighting and eating chicken nuggets, we dreamed and planned blueberries. I love that feeling- dreaming and finding a way to make it happen. There's a lot of that going on around here. 

I think it's a sickness I have. Dreaming isn't enough for me. I have to make it happen. And it isn't about money for me, either. It's about the dream, and living it!

Back to blueberries:

Before we went on our trip, Charlie took soil samples from the place he was sure to be planting them. 
He was also sure that we had plenty of room there. He underestimated. 

Earlier this week, we actually went out to that plot and measured it. What we thought was more than two acres was actually much less than an acre. And Charlie wasn't too thrilled.

He wished he had sampled a larger area and a couple different areas. So that's what we did. He grabbed his 100-foot measuring tape, that he scored at a yard sale for $1, and his clipboard with his acreage measurements. We all jumped in the truck and surveyed the farm for the right spots.

And when the boys got bored, they pitched in, too.

The last place we measured and marked turned out to be the best place, with the most room for growth. We have almost 24 acres, but most of it is a steep hillside. There's plenty of spots for blueberries, but only one spot, it seemed would accommodate a two-acre plot.

He took a soil sample from the new plot and rushed it to our cooperative extension office in the hopes that we'll be able to plant these puppies this fall.

Liam hands off our dirt for the soil test     

 We're hoping to get the results back within two weeks and find out if we need to add anything to our soil before we plant them this fall.

taking a break to feed the neighbor's horse    
Hopefully, blueberries are in our future and in our ground this fall.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

coming to a close...

...our wonderful summer...

Well, my wonderful summer. Liam started Preschool last week which marked his official end of summer. But these are the last days of my summer. A maternity-leave summer. 

So, we're filling the last days with some fun and here are some examples:

eating pudding

finger painting and clean up

being a monster

 learning about David & Goliath (bottom) and learning to spell family names (top). This was the day I learned that Liam could spell his name. I suggested we work on writing his name, so he agreed, but wanted me to draw the letters. "If you tell me what letter to start with," I said. "L," he said. And when I was done he went on, without being prompted. We were both so proud after he finished. Then he sat down and traced over each one. YAY!

Liam says I make good pizza. Well, thanks Liam. The thing is, I used to make good pizza and then I got a job and had kids and haven't made homemade pizza since. This was halfway homemade. The bread crust was a Jiffy Mix- which was super easy, super good. He helped me make it, too. And I took pictures. But I thought you'd gag if you saw his dirty fingernails (I almost did). He did wash his hands, but I didn't supervise. Next time, I'll be more prepared for the photo shoot.

And here is baby Tristan enjoying his play mat while Brothers #1 & #2 are outside with Daddy. Nice, a bit of peace and a bit of quiet to the tune of whatever that star plays with the blinking lights. 

Other summer reflections:
celebrating Walker's 2nd birthday on the front porch

 Meeting the "third arrow" (more to come on that later)

And then just 5 days later, taking the whole lot of them to see Toy Story 3. You know how it is: you bring a baby home, you're crazed with no sleep. You're weepy all day for four days, then you wake up with renewed strength ready to conquer the world and three boys- so you take your brood to see Toy Story, with more adults than children-

 And you find that four adults is not enough- the 4-year-old was rocking the chair in front of him, the 2-year-old whacked the kid in front of him with his Woody doll, while the newborn SLEPT through the loudest movie of all time. And what did I do? Cried like a baby. I left there thinking I should just drive Liam on to college and get it over with. My sister was mortified at her nephews' behavior. But, I thought they did pretty darn good for their first theater movie. You can see in the above sequence a small glimpse into our everyday, all-day routine- smile, steal toy, Dad drops the thunder- rinse, lather, repeat!

But on went the summer...with a lot more first for our boys...
Charlie bought his first tractor, which is a 1961 John Deere 4010. 
I was shocked at how much a more-than-forty-year old tractor holds its value. 
And, I should note: we had the t-shirts before- all collected as gifts for the boys at one time or another. 
We were lucky to have one to fit each of them (I even had a pink one on).

 Skating for the first time at Club Arena Skating Rink. They weren't too sure at first, but manage to stay on their feet with these nifty skates (pictured above) even with their thumbs in their mouths most of the time.

 Liam was in his first wedding- Charlie's brother's wedding. Lake Mills, Wisconsin. A long way from here. With three kids, one of whom was four weeks old, this trip was lotta work with little sleep. 
Liam was so good and didn't suck his thumb the whole trip down the aisle, so he got a James tank engine. 
Next time, we won't promise such an expensive reward. The other boys were also very good, as you'll see below. Good enough for me to grab some photos like the above and below.

Walker happily wore the hat I picked for him. 
He has to have a hat on, most of  the time and this one is much better
than the Lightning McQueen hat.

Liam really enjoyed playing with his cousin, who lives in California. They had so much fun. 
And they danced the night away at the reception. 
The best memory I have of the whole trip was when the deejay played my request as the last song of the evening, "Life is a Highway" from the Cars movie. Both the boys were exhausted, but when they heard the tune, they couldn't help but move. The dance floor was empty while the crowd moved to see the couple depart. So Charlie held the baby and Liam moved and grooved on the floor. I held Walker and we danced and spun circles. I'll never forget his overjoyed face as the room was spinning in vibrant colors beyond us.

The next day:
Their first trip to the zoo. The Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin. It was a great zoo and it was free! if you're in or headed to Wisconsin, check it out

 Each one had their first carousel ride, including the baby who I was wearing in a "frontpack". 

And then a stop at  Ella's Deli and Ice Cream Parlor, a child's delight with a carousel out front and enough noise inside that your child goes unnoticed even in high volume...very kid friendly...check it out sometime. My boys shared the Teddy Bear Pancakes.

Liam and me splitting a chocolate malt at Ella's Deli. I was tired. Can you tell?

We had a two-week down, of sorts. Then on to the beach to visit my sister before Liam was off to preschool and I headed back to work.   It was a first for Walker and Tristan.

If I can give you four tips for a Gulf Shores, Alabama-beach trip with kids, here they are:
1) Photograph them early---at 6:30am just after sunrise! The light is better and the kids are happier.

2) Go to the The Hangout and let the kids play in the massive sandpit with tunnels and get 
pictures of them in the bubbles! (I hope yours do better than mine did. 
They were too enamored with the bubbles to smile.)
3) Go to Lulu's. Also super kid friendly and the food is outstanding. 
There's a live band playing that drowns out noisy children, but the kids love the band. Lulu's also has a sandpit, but this one with a neat water feature that had mine thoroughly amused. We had to wait 45 minute at Lulu's, but it seemed nothing with the kids having fun. Note: I do not usually dress my boys to match, but I knew there would be lots of other kids here, so I needed to spot them easily.
"Mom, those girls won't let me dump water on their castle!"

And 4) Don't leave without having your family photo, or at least the kids' photo,
in the shark's mouth at Souvenir City. This place has been there since before I was a kid. 
And if a shark's mouth doesn't suit, there's an octopus mouth just next door 
(though it's only been there a few years).

Gulf Shores is an amazing place for the family. I've been going with my own family since I was 7, I think.
My sister actually lives in Orange Beach, home to the Wharf. She blogs here Canal Road Kelley.

Charlie proposed to me on the beach at Gulf Shores, so we celebrated our 10th anniversary by visiting that spot on the beach. Then we had dinner at the Original Oyster House. AMAZING! I had the Mahi Down on Da Bayou...oh, my, gosh!!!! If you go there, get that! And a glass of sweet tea! We ended the night with a Ferris Wheel ride at The Wharf.
Are you still reading this? My two followers? You know who you are... 

And just like that...Liam's fabulous summer was over...
and to me, it felt like his childhood was over when I saw this

"Hey, I'm Liam. What are you guys building?"

And if you're still reading this- Stay tuned....really. There's some misadventures about to happen around here. 

And now that the summer is ending and the days full only of the children are winding down...

Up next: the chronicles of blueberry farming, some neat features of our new house 
and maybe some sweet tea on top.