The day started out gloomy and rainy. But after a couple of hours the sun was out and we were ready to make our annual visit to the pumpkin patch. It turned out to be a beautiful day for a drive with the grandkids, plus, it was my husband’s birthday. The kids didn’t know where we were taking them, just that it was somewhere special.
It is a little drive in the country, about 60 miles, but it was a beautiful day for an outing. We saw some Amish people putting up corn in shocks, the old fashioned way. I remember my grandfather doing it that way. And passed a lake with many water lilies and swans. Farms with donkeys, goats, cows and some big, big fields. Some farmers were already harvesting. The leaves are just starting to turn colors.
We arrived at the pumpkin patch before the big weekend crowds. I expect many people were a bit put off by the weather, or maybe we were visiting earlier than we have in the past. Cornucopia Farms is so well-organized. In addition to their large offerings of pumpkins and squash of every variety, they offer mums, fresh flowers, good things to eat, lots of activities, such as, hay rides, a corn maze, and so much more.
But we were on the hunt for that special pumpkin. Of course, we found many, many. They mostly charge by the pound for the special varieties, but flat fees for others. It doesn’t matter. I seem to lose all sense when it comes to this seasonal decoration.
After pulling our wagon (provided) around, it was full within a short time. We got the gnarly ones with warts, the large orange ones, the little white ones, striped, speckled. You name it. Plus some yummy things to eat later.
Last year I painted several paintings from my pumpkin patch adventures but I’m not sure I can do so this year. I’m just so busy with other projects right now. But I’ll try to post some more photos later of our day’s adventure.
If you’re looking for a fun fall activity for the family, I highly recommend a drive through the country and a visit to your local pumpkin patch. Enjoyable for all.
It’s that time of year in the garden. I have been picking tomatoes by the five-gallon bucket load. The freezer is full and we have just about run out of room.
We have been growing tomatoes for decades. We try different varieties. Some years we like this one, another year we might like another one. This year I decided to make a semi-scientific analysis of the different varieties that we usually gravitate to.
First of all, I don’t start any plants from seed anymore. Been there, done that. I can usually find a good variety in the local stores and garden centers. Also, we don’t use any sprays and rarely fertilizer (none this year.) But I do rotate the crops in the garden so the same thing is not planted in the same place each year.
This year I planted fifteen tomato plants (not counting the five that I planted in the spring garden). I have planted as many as sixty-four plants in the past but that is ridiculous. The varieties that I planted this year are: Goliath, San Marzano, Roma, Better Boy, Pink Brandywine, Red Beefsteak, and Park Whopper. Not counting the cherry tomatoes (Sweet 100 and Yellow Pear). I did all the planting on May 15th because we had a very late freeze and SNOW earlier. We had plenty of rain earlier but not too much since mid July. Sometimes we’ll water, especially if the plants are little but usually not. I planted the seedlings very far apart, about five feet, so they had plenty of room and we could get down the rows with the tiller. We also put them up in cages with stakes and ties.
I have lost track of how many tomatoes that I’ve picked but in just one day last week, I picked three five-gallon buckets and gave one away. I have to pick about every three or four days. Our freezer is full.
So let’s go down the list.
Goliath. We’ve liked this tomato in the past and it started off well but slowed down. I paid a lot for just one plant so will probably not plant it again next year.
San Marzano. This is supposedly the king of Italian tomatoes. VERY prolific. I can pull the tomatoes off the vine in handfuls, like grapes. But they seem a little dry and have quite a bit of white/green core which is not tasty.
Roma. We’ve grown these before but they really produced this year. Much larger than the San Marzanos which was a surprise. Very meaty but sometimes a little black inside which is probably blossom end rot from uneven watering.
Better Boy. Good but nothing to write home about. Will probably pass next year.
Pink Brandywine. These were a real surprise. The tomatoes are huge, at least six or even seven inches across. A beautiful pink color and low acid. Really tasty and very meaty. One slice is enough for a sandwich.
Red Beefsteak. Very meaty but knobby. Difficult to use for a slicing tomato but pretty good for canning. However, not worth the trouble even though they are so large and produce well.
Celebrity. We’ve grown these before but for not for the past few years. VERY good producers. The tomatoes just keep coming. Great for putting up or eating just plain.
Park Whopper. We were told by a friend that this is his favorite tomato so we thought we’d give it a try. Very consistent shape, good taste, but not very large. And they’re petering out, even in mid-August.
The final verdict? We’ll definitely plant the Pink Brandywines, Romas and Celebrities next year. But….depends upon what other options catch my attention.
Meanwhile, back to the salt mines…er ummm….the garden. And don’t talk to me about beans and corn. Ha!
The summer is speeding past and life has been busy here in Southern Indiana. We’ve had lots of company this summer. I think everyone was ready to get away, out of the house, just go somewhere. Always enjoyable to reconnect with old friends and family. Of course, the grandkids have kept us busy, too. We didn’t get to do nearly as many activities as we had wished but we did have some fun.
The past few weeks we’ve been busy with the garden. Plenty of rain earlier in the season so the produce is coming in. The corn is past. Peaches and cream variety, first planting late April. Second planting a few weeks later after the late freeze. This is a delicious variety, full ears with no bugs or flaws. We ate what we could fresh, then put up the rest. After picking and husking, we ended up with four five-gallon buckets of shucked corn. I do the picking and husking; my husband does the rest of the processing. Plenty of corn in the freezer.
The green beans (variety Jade Bush) have been very prolific. I keep up with the picking and the beans keep coming. Of course, I planted some more which I don’t know why.
We planted several varieties of tomatoes this year just to remind ourselves why we like some better than others. With the freeze that we had in early May, they’re just now coming in. The Goliath, Celebrity, Beefsteak, and German Pink are great eating tomatoes. Lovely on a sandwich or just with supper. For putting up in the freezer, we have San Marzanos and Romas, and the Park Whoppers are very prolific. We use a lot of tomatoes so these will keep us busy for the next several weeks. The cherry tomatoes are Sweet 100 and a cute little yellow pear, both of which are very prolific. The kids just graze on them as they pass by.
I’ve got some herbs in the food dehydrator out in the shop. Best to remove the machine from the house so the whole place doesn’t smell like basil. Will probably do another batch or two this season. I’ll miss fresh herbs when they’re gone.
So, you might ask, why go to all this work just for some vegetables? It certainly doesn’t save any money when you consider all the time, labor and expense that goes into planting, picking and processing. I guess the real reason is that we like fresh. We know what’s in the plants and what isn’t. We use no pesticides. Not everything turns out perfect and beautiful. We’re willing to live with losses. The zucchini and squashes have been beset by squash vine borers the past few years. I may give them a pass next year. And as the joke around here goes, you lock your car doors in Indiana in the summer as you’re likely to find someone has filled it with zucchini.
Lots more stuff going on around here. The flowers are beautiful – several varieties of sunflowers, cosmos, and zinnias not counting the potted plants. I sold a lot of artwork with my Super Summer Sale last month, both online and locally. Still need to make more room in the studio. Still paint nearly every day. Lots of visits to the library and arts center. And spending some evening time on the patio with a cool drink and a book.
So how has your summer been going? I love reading your posts and comments. Keep cool!
I had the great pleasure of hand delivering my painting Bread to my friend Miriam. She was so delighted to be able to buy this. “Making this bread was the best experience of my time during the COVID pandemic.” Miriam used my bread recipe for no-touch sourdough bread. I heard back from so many friends and blog followers that they loved this recipe.
July Fourth has always had a special meaning for me. Far beyond the picnics and bands, the fireworks and family gatherings. There is just something about the holiday here in the United States which makes me proud and excites my sensibilities.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a marching band in person or even a fireworks display, although I love both of those things. The big booms reverberate in my chest all the way to my toes.
And I love the family gatherings. In our case, not quite reunions but a group of friends and relatives who show up to spend a pleasant day in the country. This year is especially poignant since we haven’t seen many of these folks for over a year.
The kids will run around, sneak blackberries from the bushes, and whine about when they’re going to eat. The adults will swap tales and events. And the young men will regale everyone with some awesome fireworks. (Fortunately, we’re not in the super dry western states where fireworks are banned these days.)
But I often reflect on the meaning of the day. Independence Day. The declaration of our split from our English heritage and ruler, King George. What a chance our founding fathers took! What moxy! What great beginnings, too. I wonder what they’d think of the form of government they started nearly two and a half centuries ago. Would they be proud? Astonished? Perplexed? Maybe all three.
I hope that you have a great day, an enjoyable day, and perhaps can reflect on the meaning of this special day here in the United States. Be kind. Be safe.
Life out here on my 90 acres has been so busy this spring. Making some progress tackling my three page list of things to do (yes, really!) but there are still plenty of things left to do.
We got a late start planting the garden this year on May 15th. I did manage to plant the first crop of corn on April 27th. It is now as tall as I am. The freeze in early May delayed planting but we got to everything else in one day. Then we had about a week and a half of hot, dry weather so I had to haul water.
The past few weeks have been pretty wet but at least not gully-washers as sometimes happens. I planted really wide rows to allow my husband to get down them with the rototiller. This is after I hoe around the individual plants. As you can see, everything is really established now.
The cicada invasion has been here and gone. Finally! Hundreds of thousands of the bugs. The birds, toads and lizards are full. A week and a half ago, the noise was deafening. Today, barely anything at all. Wait another seventeen years. And, no, I did not eat any. Blech!
Other chores which needed attention. Trimming out the lane (1/3 mile) both on the sides and overhead. This is a several day job, particularly during the extreme heat and humidity.
Then I started on other tasks: trimming bushes, digging flowerbeds, potting flowers, etc. And those are just the outside chores. There are many other tasks, cleaning the greenhouse, attics, closets, preparing for company. Taking the grandkids on road trips or to art classes. It’s always something.
But, I am still able to get out to the studio, mostly in the afternoons. (Outdoor work is reserved for mornings when it’s cool.) Recently I created a small series of sunrise paintings. Who doesn’t love a beautiful sunrise? Every one is different. And contemplating my next big series. Just some ideas rolling around but I’ll get there.
How’s your summer going? I hope you’re having some fun, seeing some friends and family as things open up now. Still cautiously keeping safe but a little freer.
It’s not quite the end of this dreadful year but we’re close enough that I thought I’d spend a little time reflecting. This is what I learned about myself.
I am happy to be a hermit.
I’m a sociable person and enjoy visiting with friends and family, but actually, I am happy spending time alone. Never lonely. Just alone. Quite a difference. I didn’t even notice this until my husband pointed out that I hadn’t left the property for over a week. And the problem with that is? Fortunately, he loves to do the grocery shopping (yes, really!) so I only have to venture out to the big box store about once a month for other supplies and necessities. And the post office and library.
I would rather eat Cheetos and drink wine than exercise.
I am not proud of this. I used to exercise every day and ride my bike about ten miles a day, in nearly any weather. This year, not so much. It’s just so easy to sit on the patio with a good book and some crunchy snacks and my favorite adult beverage. This will be remedied in 2021.
I love my libraries.
This is really not any news, but my local libraries have gone above and beyond the call in order to supply books to their patrons. I could order books online and they would be delivered to my tiny local library within a few days. This saved me about 50 miles round trip. Yes, books are this important in my life.
UPS delivers (and FedEx and USPS).
Except when they don’t. Isn’t it so nice to be able to order practically anything you want online and it will be delivered to your door? In this rural area, I see the same delivery people all the time. My mail carrier has a personal relationship with my “big scary dog.” These are really hardworking, conscientious people.
But…as an Etsy seller, I did have some trouble with deliveries this season. I would mail out the package – usually within a day – take it to the local post office. They would get it out the same day. And then….where did it go? Many of my shipments ended up in a great black hole. I was so embarrassed as I truly believe in providing good customer service. Fortunately, everyone was very understanding. All but two packages arrived before the holidays but it was still disappointing.
Where’s your mask?
Last spring when the pandemic started ramping up and masks were difficult to find, I dusted off the old old sewing machine and whipped up a few. Well, about 200. I sent them to friends and family. No charge, just be safe. I was even considering creating a fund raiser for local food banks but by that time everyone had jumped on the band wagon and masks were easy to find. That’s good. I decided that I didn’t want to spend all my time sewing. I mostly want to paint.
But…I can’t believe how mad I could get when I saw people who weren’t wearing masks. Either they flunked science or were sleeping in the back of health class. Didn’t they know that masks could prevent the spread of germs?! Grumble grumble grumble.
I’m really really tired of politics.
Not only did we have the challenge of the pandemic, job losses, no fun activities, no vacations, but we were inundated with political ads and pundits. It was totally crazy. But my husband and I decided to vote in person because it feels real. I even reregistered just so my signature would match the 35 year old signature on record when I first registered here.
I miss live performances.
After spending so many years as Director of a performing and multi-discipline arts center, I never realized just how much I would miss live performances. Where people are sitting shoulder to shoulder, enjoying some live music on stage. A real play or comedy routine. Even the Chinese acrobats! I can’t wait to get back to some live performance venues.
I miss my family and friends.
We’re used to hosting family and friends for major holidays or summer get togethers. Not this year. I haven’t seen my father who only lives about a hundred miles from me since 2019. And when I visit my son who just lives a few miles away, it’s usually outside and socially distanced. An elderly friend who’s been a guest at our table for over 35 years is staying home these days. But we have been taking meals to her when we can.
Living in the country is the best!
It has been such a bonus that we can get outdoors. We can go for a country drive. We can sit by the firepit and not see another soul. My heart aches for all the children who are stuck in apartments or in the city with no outdoor space. This is no way for humans to live.
I am so proud of all the people who are helping to make our lives better….or at least tolerable.
I am grateful for the food servers and grocery store workers. For the many medical field workers who put their lives on the line every day. For the public employees who still take care of the streets and water and sewers and the lights. I’m grateful for my postman and the people who are still driving trucks across the country to deliver the necessities to people in need.
I try to keep focusing on the good things in our lives. On the opportunities, not the troubles. On the smart people who are working so hard to make the vaccines and medicines which will help us all.
This has been a trying year. Yet, despite our differences, we are able to find common ground. To still remember that we are all humans who are just trying to get by. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
But I really must work on eliminating those Cheetos.
The photo above shows what happened when a tractor ran into the side of my car last week. Yes, driven by my husband, too. Bummer. I had run up to town to get a few books from the little library – none of them for me, by the way. I waved to my husband as I left. He was out on his old Allis Chalmers brush hogging the edges of the fields after the farmer had harvested earlier. He likes to get things tidied up before winter.
On my return, I saw him in the front field but he didn’t see me. As I was coming down the long drive, he took a sudden turn right into the side of my car. Ten seconds either way would have avoided the accident. I tried to turn out of the way but was blocked in by some trees and a telephone pole.
You know, it’s a pretty helpless feeling when you know what’s coming and you can’t do anything about it. But….I haven’t had an accident since I was sixteen the first time I drove on ice so I really can’t complain. It’s just the aggravation of taking care of everything that is so annoying.
So, I picked up the pieces of the crushed mirror and came on up to the house. Then I decided that I needed to do a little contemplation with an adult beverage on the patio. It was a sunny, balmy day and my dog Mikey kept me company in his chair.
It’s only a car. No one was hurt. We have insurance. It could have been a whole lot worse. (There wasn’t a scratch on the tractor.) As I sat looking up at the trees, I decided to count my blessings. This always helps me to put things into perspective.
Thankfully, no one in my immediate family has been brought down by the COVID. (Although I have lost a friend and had some other acquaintances who have had the illness.) We live in a place where we have plenty of freedom to get outside, work to do, books to read. We’re not rich but the bills are paid and we can sleep at night.
Thanksgiving is coming up and we’re so fortunate that we have plenty of food. Others are not so lucky. I usually have a big spread for the holiday with lots of friends and family. That is not happening this year. I haven’t seen my father since last Christmas and he lives less than a hundred miles from me. But…I am still fixing a big meal. We will be delivering it to my son’s family nearby and a friend across the county. She’s in her nineties and still lives on her own. She’s been a guest at our table for over thirty years. I love to send people home with care packages of another meal or two.
So, a little annoyance this past week. But I still have much to be grateful for. I expect you do, too. I hope so anyway. Be careful out there and count your blessings.
I have often posted my favorite things about living in a rural area. Although I tend to focus on the positive, living in the country is not for everyone.
A little background. My husband and I were living in the northern climes where we were faced with nine months of winter and three months of mosquitoes. Fighting three and a half million people to work every day. And leaving for work in the dark and returning home in the dark. So after many long discussions, we decided to pack it all in and move to southern Indiana. A milder, four-season climate and definitely away from the rat race.
This was not a sudden relocation but was accomplished with much planning and research. Like driving up and down the Ohio River valley, checking out small towns here and there. We finally settled on our area when we drove into town and realized that it looked prosperous, neat and clean, and there were no boarded up buildings on the main square.
But these are some of the things you need to keep in mind if you are considering moving to a rural area. It isn’t perfect and there are challenges.
I remember asking my grandmother one time what was the greatest modern convenience she had seen in her lifetime. She didn’t hesitate at all but said, running water! Carrying water up the hill for a large family was a never-ending task. So one of the things you need to consider is what is the water source?
We were very fortunate that city water had just been installed along the road where we live about three months before we bought the place. Will you have city water? A well or cisterns? Or will you have to haul water in a big tank on the back of your truck? (You might get tired of that in a hurry.)
Also under utilities comes electricity. We’re fortunate to have a rural electric co-op and they’re very diligent about getting out to fix downed powerlines, no matter the weather or time of day.
Internet, telephone, TV. No cable out this far but we do have satellite internet and TV. Can’t really do streaming, though, so there are tradeoffs.
How will you heat your home? No natural gas lines out here. We have propane for the furnace, water heater, and stove. An alternate wood furnace, the beast in the basement, which provides toasty “free” heat. Not counting all the labor that goes into it.
Solar panels would work, too, but they’re probably not on our horizon. And it’s not consistently windy enough for a wind generator.
We didn’t have children at the time we moved but if you have kids, that would be a consideration. How far to the schools? Reputation, etc. Fortunately the schools around here are pretty good but you’re probably not going to get that new class in Japanese that you might want for your kids. And sports are always big everywhere, it seems.
Do you enjoy your own company or do you require a lot of contacts with your neighbors? Frankly, I’m really happy that I can sit outside and not see another house. But I know they’re there. Neighbors pull together and you will generally get to know your neighbors for a wide radius. But they’re usually not in your business either.
Well, it’s twenty-five miles to the nearest good grocery store, in a couple of directions. On rural roads, that’s twenty-five miles in twenty-five minutes. I remember living in the city when it used to take me twenty minutes to go two miles due to traffic. Of course, there’s the local dollar store for bread, milk, eggs and other items that you may have run out of. You learn to do better planning when you make the long trek. And nearly everyone has a deep freezer, too.
Shopping for other items – clothes, household, garden stuff – ensures that you plan better and bundle several errands together. For even bigger things – malls, department stores, book shops – we go to the city. That’s about fifty miles in one direction and about seventy-five in another. Again, you make a day of it. And you don’t buy as much.
And, of course, you can buy nearly anything over the internet these days and it will be delivered right to your door. Even an international airport is only about ninety minutes away.
Most services are available out here that you would find in a more urban area and the suppliers are used to the further distances. One of my particular favorites is the local and regional library system. If they don’t have it, they’ll get it for you.
This is very important to some people. We are fortunate to have some great doctors and a hospital only a half hour away. It should be noted, however, that emergency care may be more difficult. Twice I’ve had to drive with my lights flashing to meet with an ambulance. They could have found our place but we were just saving time by meeting them. And there are always the bigger cities for more specialized care.
Frankly, most rural people I know have some kind of personal protection, probably firearms. (It may take a long time for an official to show up if you call.) This could be for racoons in the sweet corn, coyotes stalking the hens, or one time, a couple of feral hogs that were particularly unpleasant. A story for another time.
Anyway, I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few things. But I’ve had a tendency to paint a rosy picture of living in the country and that may be a little overblown for some. It suits me fine but this isn’t the life for everyone. There’s a lot of work involved in keeping up the garden and property. On the other hand, we can do it at our own pace and inclination. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have about living in a rural area and I’ll try to answer.
View of Madison, Indiana, from the inn. It’s a quaint, arty little town about forty minutes up the river from Louisville. I wanted to get a photo of the sunrise in the morning but the whole river valley was fogged in. Couldn’t see a foot in front of myself.
The soft days of autumn seem to be sneaking up on us. From temperatures in the 80s a week ago, to lows in the 50s and even 40s now. I love autumn with the smell of wood smoke and newly fallen leaves. The golden sunshine and the reds and yellows of the leaves. Everything seems to be winding down…but not quite yet.
This is the view from the Clifty Falls Inn. That is the Ohio River and Kentucky on the other side. Another week or two, and those hills will be ablaze with color.
My husband and I visited Clifty Falls State Park in Madison, Indiana. This 1400 acre park sits on the banks of the Ohio river and boasts some beautiful views of the river scenes, foliage, and the town of Madison. There is some great hiking here, too. Unfortunately, with the dry September, the falls weren’t running so we’ll have to plan a visit for another time.
The variety of pumpkins and gourds at the farm was amazing. I could have brought home three times as many. But they provide a little fall color for the season. And in the end, get tossed into the chicken pen. The ladies are very appreciative.
We just spent one night at the inn but it was a pleasant getaway. On our return, it seemed as if the leaves had begun changing colors overnight. We stopped to buy pumpkins at the Cornucopia Family Farm. This was our first visit but apparently they have many visitors from a wide area. Whole families were there for the hayrides and popcorn, children’s activities and, well, to buy pumpkins. I have never seen so many varieties. I wanted them all but had to restrain myself.
We discovered this beautiful little country church as we were looking for the pumpkin farm.
As we drove home on the country backroads, we saw little churches and just enjoyed the day. There were several Amish buggies on the roads. It was Saturday, after all. Just so relaxing to be out and about.
Late garden harvest of loads of peppers and a few tomatoes. Plenty more peppers to pick, too!
Summer tasks are winding down here on the farm. The garden has about had it but I’m a hold out for the last green bean. Still have plenty of peppers to pick as well as the sweet potatoes. And the zinnias which I grow for cutting are still vibrant. Some of them are taller than me!
Firewood. This is nice, dry and seasoned firewood and splits easily. The basement is already stacked but there’s plenty more wood to split.
It’s time to put away the fishing gear. Although, really, does the season ever end? The impatiens and coleus are getting a little leggy.
The leaves are starting to turn and drop. We usually just grind them up with the mower for mulch. And our stack of winter firewood is growing. We share a log splitter with the neighbor which is great for gnarly old pieces of wood. But the boys actually like to split the wood by hand with a maul. There is a lot more skill to this than it looks, requiring just the right swinging rhythm and twist of the wrist. It’s nice of them to come out and help the old man out once in awhile.
The zinnias that I use for cutting are still going strong. Some of them are taller than me! In the background are the desiccated stalks of the sunflowers that the goldfinches have stripped. And those poles on the left hold motion sensitive lights which help scare away the night critters. Sometimes.
The next month will find me out tidying up the place before it gets too cold. Maybe sitting by the firepit with a hot beverage and a book. I hope you have a quite place to retreat, too. Enjoy the season.
The last rose. Well maybe, maybe not. Sometimes I bring this little beauty inside in the winter just to enjoy the beautiful perfume on a cold day.
I'm a professional artist, retired director of a performing arts center, bona fide book addict, and enjoy the quiet life...most of the time. I'd love to hear from you or get your ideas for future posts. Come back soon!