Look to the Future: A Letter To Stressed Moms

pexels-photo-568027.jpegHi Momma Bear,

If you have young kids, I bet today you got thrown up on, or pooped on, or peed on, or had a booger rubbed on you. You probably had to deal with a meltdown (or three). That coffee you had likely wasn’t enough to get you through the kind of day that awaited you. You aren’t sleeping well. Your nerves are shot. Your sex life and social life are suffering. Your hair is going on who knows how many days without being washed. You never understood how anyone could want to kill their own child until the first time your child drove you to near insanity with their refusal to nap when you desperately needed some time to decompress. Maybe you’re the mom of an uptight, hormonal teenager who makes poor life choices and thinks you’re an idiot. It isn’t just you, sister. I think it’s safe to say that basically every (normal) mother has been or is there.

If these things are all basically inevitable, where is the silver lining? How do we (and our children) survive this? I think besides the obvious things like making time for yourself whenever possible, making time for you and your spouse/partner whenever possible, and knowing when to just put your screaming child somewhere safe and leave the room for a while to prevent losing it are extremely important things, but I think that a bigger answer is that you have to look to the future.

When I have been in the darkest place I could be as a mother, the thing that got me to keep my sanity is that I thought about how quickly this time will have come and gone. I think about how one day I will actually MISS the times my kids wouldn’t leave me alone for five seconds because they needed to ask me a million questions about why the sky is blue, or when they came home from school discouraged and needed emotional support. There’s going to be a day when I’ll regret the times that I was so tired and grumpy that I didn’t give my sons a hug or kiss before bed. Obviously You wont miss the days of babies crying all night, changing gross diapers, having to physically drag your toddler out of a store because they straight up had a meltdown in aisle 7, or being told you’re the worst parent ever because you said no to your teenager. The point is that we tend to live only in the here and now, and it’s when we can’t see beyond our difficult days that we suffer. Remember that no matter what, this is just a season of your life. You’ll wake up one day in the future (faster than you think) and your kids will have grown up. I’m willing to bet you’ll look back on those times with more fondness for the sweet memories than you will disdain for the difficult days. So grab a glass of wine (even boxed wine, i’m not judging), kiss and hug your kids no matter how annoying they’re being today and remember that you are not alone. Everything is going to be ok.

 

 

 

How to Juggle a Crazy Life

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Let me open this blog post by stating that I am not an expert. I’ve simply learned through trial and error how to juggle a busy life as a wife, mom, business owner, friend, equestrian, gardener, blogger, vlogger, (temporary) nanny, and more without losing my damn mind.

1.) If you have a family, family comes first. Whoever you consider family. There has to be balance between everything we do that fulfills us as individuals and what we do that keeps us connected as a family. Those relationships are what last when everything else has run it’s course.

2.) Make it a point to only take on projects and activities outside of work that fulfill you in some way. If you’re like so many people, your job takes up a lot of your time and whether you love your job or not, the time you have outside of work is very valuable. Fill it with things that make you happy. Volunteer at an animal shelter or rescue, work with a charity that’s near and dear to your heart, or teach on a subject that you have a lot of experience in. The list goes on.

3.) JUST SAY NO. This one is probably the most difficult, but it can be the most important. If you are asked to do something for someone that you just don’t feel good about doing, or that you really don’t have the time to do, just say no. There is no rule that says you have to say yes to everything everyone ever asks of you. This is part of why so many people live in constant stress. They never learned to say no. People are more understanding than we give them credit for. You’d be surprised at how infrequently the world falls to pieces because you said no to a request.

4.) Take care of yourself. This looks different for everyone, but in general you should just remember to do something nice for yourself from time to time. For some people that means indulging in a favorite sweet treat, or getting a massage, or going rock climbing, or going fishing. Whatever feeds your soul and refreshes you, make the time for that. No matter how small of a thing it is.

5.) Do something physical. I’m not talking about going to the gym (unless that’s your happy place). I’m talking about getting outside in the sunshine and doing an activity that you really enjoy. Maybe it’s going for walks around the neighborhood, or playing a sport, or taking your dog to the dog park, or gardening. Whatever you can find a little time for to keep your body moving and getting some fresh air in your lungs.

6.) Know when it’s time to move on from something. This is up there with saying no. There comes a time for a lot of the things we get invested in when we need to let go of it and move on to something else. For example, I started a small henna tattoo and face painting business back in 2011. It was fun while it lasted, but I got to a point when I knew it was time to move on from there. Letting go of that, which had clearly run it’s course for me, allowed me to find the next important thing in my life. Remember that change is good.

7.) Weigh the pros and cons of things. If you are thinking of taking on a new project, job, hobby, etc. weigh the good and bad things that go along with it. That will help to teach you what are things you can live with and what things are deal breakers. You’ll be surprised at how many things you will wisely reconsider with this tip.

8.) Write things down! Whether you are venting in a journal after a difficult day at work, or visualizing your future plans, writing things down can be very powerful in manifesting the things you want, or helping you work through things that are tough to deal with.

9.) Lastly, but possibly the most important thing to remember, LAUGH. If you aren’t laughing a little every day, you’re missing out. Laughter can change your whole day and remind you to not take things too seriously. Always remember to look for laughter throughout your day. These are a couple of books that my husband and I discovered that always make us laugh, Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, and Emails from an Asshole: Real People Being Stupid

Sometimes the best answer to juggling a busy life is to just make it less busy by dropping some things that just aren’t serving you any longer. I hope that some of this advice will find it’s way into your thoughts and you can apply them to lower your stress levels and more effectively juggle your crazy life.

Our Story: Why My Husband Left the Air Force Academy

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My husband and I have been together for a long time. We met at 14 years old and started dating just before we turned 15. Things took an unexpected turn less than a year into our relationship though. Aaron (my husband) between our freshman and sophomore year of high school had the opportunity to attend a military high school in another state to help his chances of getting into the United States Air Force Academy when he graduated. Before we knew what hit us, we were in a long distance relationship.

If you aren’t already aware, new relationships (especially when you’re a teenager) are very fragile. This made things all the more difficult. Despite my insecurities and the heartache that comes with long distance relationships, we held on for 4 years while he completed high school and a year of junior college at the military school. The next phase of our lives would be when Aaron finally got accepted to USAFA. It was a bittersweet moment. When he got into the academy, I knew that it meant another 4 years apart, but at least now he would only be about an hour away from me. It was an improvement over the 9-ish hour drive it took to see each other for the previous 4 years.

The plan was simple. When Aaron graduated from the academy, we would get married right away and go wherever he was stationed. When you’re accepted into any military academy, you can’t have any legal dependents (wife, kids) for the duration of your time there as a cadet. You are dedicating those years to your training to become an officer in the military. You live, eat, sleep, and learn at the academy. That’s your whole life until you graduate. While Aaron was in school, I was going to work and live with my parents or in an apartment during that time. I couldn’t wait to get married and be a military family when it was all over. I mostly just couldn’t wait to not be separated from Aaron anymore. Our plan was simple, and then everything changed.

A little over a year into Aaron’s time at the academy, we found out that we were pregnant. Now we had both been raised very conservative and so this was not only a big no-no in our families, it meant Aaron could face being kicked out of the academy and his dream would be over if they found out about it. We were terrified, but we told our parents (who thankfully didn’t kill us) and with our families we decided that we could make it work. I would continue to live with my parents and they were going to help me raise the baby while Aaron had to be away until he graduated and we could get married. It could work. It had to.

I stopped visiting Aaron at the academy once my belly was too big to hide the pregnancy and Aaron made it to as many of my doctor’s appointments as he could. When the time came, we chose to have my labor induced one week before the baby’s due date in order for Aaron to be at the birth. The day came and our son Asher was born. Aaron was able to make it to the hospital shortly after I’d been induced and he helped me through labor and the delivery along with my Mom. Only a few hours after the baby was born though, Aaron had to get back to the academy. I’m sure it was one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do. I’ll never forget that day.

We hid the fact that Aaron had a child for several months. Aaron just started coming home every weekend that he could so that he could be with Asher and I. My parents were amazing and helped me with the baby as much as they possibly could. We were making it work! Just a couple more years of this and we can finally stop hiding, we thought.

The blow came out of nowhere. Aaron was called into the office of his A.O.C. (Air Officer in Command) one day. The officer asked Aaron if he had a child and proceeded to tell him that he shouldn’t deny it because they had received an anonymous phone call from someone (all he told Aaron was that the person was male and probably in his 50s or 60s from the sound of it). The man told them that he had information about a cadet who had a child, and that he thought since that was against the rules something should be done about it. Aaron told the truth and the officer in charge of the situation went on a mission to basically destroy Aaron. He wanted to stick him with an honor violation and a dishonorable discharge that would require him to fulfill his commitment (pay back the government for the education he had received). It was the most stressful time in Aaron’s life. He went a couple of days without sleep and had to go to the infirmary. After working with the on-base lawyers who fought to prevent the worst from happening to Aaron, ultimately the best they could do was give him the option to either disown our son and continue his education, or leave the academy with an honorable discharge. Aaron chose to leave the academy.

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This was 10 years ago. He left the academy in 2007 and we were married in 2008. Though it was devastating at the time and Aaron dealt with a few years of resentment for what had happened and how things were handled, we realize that it gave us the freedom we really wanted. Aaron has a great job and we are very happy. Does Aaron still wish he could have become a pilot? I’m sure he does. At the end of the day though, we know that what happened to us happened for a reason and even without the Air Force Academy, Aaron has made something of himself that we are very proud of. Not to mention Asher came into our lives, which made life so much sweeter. So I guess the point is that sometimes situations that seem horrible at the time are actually for the best. It taught us to accept change in our lives and look for the positive.

DIY Easy Minecraft Grass Block Cake

My son is turning 6 in a couple of days and he wanted a Minecraft grass block cake like his brother had a few years ago. Thankfully this cake is easy and inexpensive to make and it really looks like dirt and grass. Mine is a German chocolate cake since I used coconut pecan filling for between the layers. Here is how I made it!

Minecraft Grass Cake

The stuff you’ll need :

3 – 8″ x 8″ cake pans. I got mine from Dollar Tree in the kitchen supplies section.

1 box chocolate cake mix (plus ingredients to make cake according to package instructions)

1 container of vanilla frosting

1 container of coconut pecan frosting

1 cup of sweetened coconut flakes (or unsweetened if you prefer)

Green food coloring (I had blue and yellow food coloring, so I used a mix of those to create green)

Step 1.)Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare your cake pans with cooking spray, or butter and flour so the cake doesn’t stick (it probably will still stick a little, but this helps).

Step 2.) Make cake batter according to the instructions on the box (mine called for 3 eggs, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 cup water)

Step 3.) Divide your cake batter as evenly as you can between the three cake pans. Release any air bubbles in the batter by lightly picking up and dropping each pan from a couple of inches above a hard, flat surface a few times.

Step 4.) Bake the cakes for 23-25 minutes, or until you can poke the middle of the cakes with a toothpick and the toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes rest until they are fully cooled (I let mine sit out on the cooling rack for about an hour and then covered them with foil overnight since I made them in the evening).

Step 5.) To release the cake from the pans, use a butter knife and go around the edges of the cake to release the sides from the pan. Next, flip the pan over onto a flat, clean surface (like a cutting board) and pat the bottom of the pan to release the bottom of the cake. If your cake doesn’t release in one piece, DON’T PANIC! Just carefully scrape the excess cake that was left behind with a small spatula and place it back in place on the cake. You’re gonna frost that anyway!

Step 6.) Begin to build your block. Place the first layer of cake top side down on the surface that the cake will be presented on (I use a spinning cake pedestal). Put a generous dollop of the coconut pecan frosting in the middle of the cake (about half of the container). With a butter knife or frosting spreader, begin to work the frosting out towards the edges of the cake, but do not go over the edge onto the side if you can help it. Try to be gentle with this part because the cake will want to fall apart of you spread the frosting too aggressively. Repeat the process with the second cake layer.

Step 7.) Once you are ready, place the final layer of cake on top, but this time place it top side up. You can take a serrated bread knife and gently level the top of the cake if you desire, but this can easily become frustrating if you accidently make it uneven. Using a clean hand or by placing a sheet of parchment paper over the top of the cake, gently press the cake layers to level them and compress the layers together a little.

Step 8.) Add a few drops of the green food coloring (or equal drops of the blue and yellow food coloring) to the vanilla frosting container and mix until your desired level of green is reached. Next, mix the green frosting and coconut flakes together in a large bowl.

Step 9.) Drop the frosting and coconut mixture onto the middle of the cake and very gently work the frosting out towards the edges of the cake. If you are feeling extra artsy, you can also use a toothpick to create more texture to the “grass”, but the coconut does create some texture on its own.

There you have it! This is a great way to create a minecraft inspired cake for your kiddos that looks good and tastes good. The cake I made is for a party of about 10-12 people so you can always make your cake larger or double the cakes if you need to for a larger party. You might also find some cute minecraft figurines to add to the top of the cake if you like. Do it your way and enjoy!

DIY Boy’s Haircut

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Back when I finished high school and I thought my husband and I would be moving around as a military family, I chose to get licensed as a Cosmetologist so I would have a job no matter where we lived. I worked in a handful of salons over the years and ultimately decided I wanted a career change.

Even though I don’t take clients anymore, I do still cut my own family’s hair at home. It saves us about $60 a month (based on an average $20 haircut cost for my husband and $10-$15 cost for each of my sons, plus tip). I wanted my blog/vlog to be fun, but also to teach people things, so I made this tutorial on how to do a basic and easy boys haircut. This can also be a very short men’s haircut if you wish, but I’m showing you how to do this haircut on a kid.

Supplies You’ll Need:

A haircut cape (or towel)

Clipper (I used the Wahl Designer

)

Trimmer (I used the Wahl Peanut Trimmer

)

Clipper Guards (I used the #3 and #8)

Blending comb

Regular comb

Watch the video for the full haircut tutorial 🙂

Birthday Freebies!

birthday-cake-cake-birthday-cupcakes-40183.jpegI just made a video on my channel about how to get free stuff (Heather of All Trades Vlog).

I touched on one of my favorite subjects. Getting things for free during the month of your birthday!

I calculated once that the value of all the free items that I was able to redeem during my birthday month was well over $100. That was only the stuff I redeemed! Not the total amount of coupon value I received. So if that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will!

I’m going to provide a list of places that are pretty much all over the U.S., but if you have local businesses near you that aren’t anywhere else, visit their website and find out if they offer a rewards program. MOST BUSINESSES HAVE SOME TYPE OF REWARD PROGRAM, you just have to dig for some of them. Remember that if you don’t enter your birthday when you first sign up for a reward program, you may need to sign in to your profile on the business website and enter that information there.

If you have mostly small, local businesses where you live, check out the Fivestars App. This is how I get rewards through the smaller, non-chain stores and restaurants in my area.

BIRTHDAY FREEBIE LIST (in no particular order):

Starbucks: Free beverage (any size, any variety, any add-ons that you want), or any food item. Just register a Starbucks card in the app and you are on your way to earning rewards!

Panera: Free pastry.

Krispy Kreme: Free donut and coffee.

Jamba Juice: Free small smoothie

Auntie Anne’s Pretzel & Wetzels Pretzels: Free pretzel

Einstein Bros.: Free egg sandwich (with any drink purchase)

Jersey Mike’s Subs: Free regular sub AND regular fountain drink

Firehouse Subs: Free regular sub. According to the email, you just show your i.d. on the day of your birthday for this reward

Sonic: Free Small Classic Shake

Good Times Burgers: Free small spoonbender with any purchase

Rubio’s: Free entree (with a drink purchase)

Noodles & Co.: Free Crispy Treat

Del Taco: Free premium shake

Ben & Jerry’s: Free scoop of ice cream (cup or cone)

Baskin-Robbins: Free scoop of ice cream

Godiva Rewards: Free $10 gift certificate. You can use this on anything in the store. Love this gift!

Redbox: Free 1-night movie rental

Charming Charlie: Free $5 gift card (best to use when there is a BOGO sale on clearance items if you can! That way you get a lot more bang for your gift!)

Sephora: Free makeup or skincare item to choose from (for men or women)

Ulta: Free makeup item (This one can be tricky. I’ve gone a couple of years where I never received my coupon via email for the gift, but I did get it last year )

Those are just some of the freebies that you can get in most of the U.S. Keep in mind that you are more likely to get your birthday freebies if you sign up for them at least a month before your birthday month. There will also be years that you might not see a coupon that you were expecting. Always check your spam folder just in case, but remember that computer systems have issues and reward programs change regularly Try and keep up to date on changes so you know what to expect.

Enjoy!

 

Horse Ownership: The Good, the Bad, and the UGLY.

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Almost any 8 year old girl will tell you that horses are her favorite animal. I was one of those 8 year old girls. I thought there couldn’t be anything better in life than owning a horse. I was only half right.

I’m 32 years old now and I’ve owned 5 horses now over the course of about 9 years. This is what I’ve learned.

THE GOOD:

1.) There’s something really special about owning your own horse. It gives you freedom in a way. An outlet for when life gets you down and you need to escape it for a little while.

2.) Horses teach you. A LOT. Whether it’s a lesson in patience, gentleness, firmness, or even bravery, you will learn things from a horse. A lot of those lessons will go beyond the horse world.

3.) Working with your horse can be a blast! It gives you a chance to build skills for both yourself and your horse that will add to your enjoyment of working with them.

4.) Horses can help build up your confidence. When you get to the place where your horse really truly trusts you and looks to you as it’s leader, you’ll have a great feeling of accomplishment.

5.) Working with horses can be a great form of exercise. Between riding, cleaning stalls, feeding, watering, blanketing, lunging, etc. you’ll feel the burn at some point!

THE BAD

1.) Horses are expensive. There’s just no way around it. Even if you get a horse for free, it’s not going to be free to take care of. There are board costs (or feed and water costs if they live on your property), vet bills, farrier costs, the list goes on.

2.) They can be dangerous. Horses are big, flight animals. This means that if you’re in the wrong place when they get scared by something, you can easily end up in a bad spot. No matter how well you prepare for them, accidents can still happen when working with such large animals. There’s a very true saying that goes, “It’s not a question of IF you’ll fall off a horse. It’s a question of WHEN and HOW BAD.” I’ve been bucked off, bailed off, fallen off, cold-cocked in the nose, been bitten and nearly kicked by horses over the last 10 years or so. It’s just part of the gig.

3.) Horses require your time. They’re high maintenance animals when cared for correctly. Even a retired horse has requirements that need to be met in order to give them a good life.

4.) They get hurt. Sometimes a lot and in ways that will leave you puzzled about how the hell they did it for months. This is why the vet is a very important person to have on speed dial. Our beloved equine companions are talented in the art of injury.

THE UGLY (truth)

1.) For as big and sturdy as they may seem, horses are fragile creatures. Things like colic can take them from us unexpectedly. Though they can live to be about 30 years old, many horses don’t live that long. Like all of our beloved pets, we have to cherish them for as long as we have them.

 

Bringing the Farm to Your Suburban Home

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If you’re like me, although you live in the city, your heart belongs in country living.

Here are a few ways that you can bring the benefits of the farm to your own suburban backyard.

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1.) Chickens and ducks! This might not be possible for everyone, but if you do your research you might find that these birds are allowed to be kept in your backyard! Chickens are easy keepers and you can raise them for both meat and eggs if you choose. Ducks also lay yummy eggs and can be used for meat as well. Ducks are also relatively easy keepers, however they are much noisier than chickens and because they really love to play in water, they are much messier than chickens! If your city doesn’t allow backyard birds, you can be a voice in getting them to change the law! We just recently won the battle to have backyard chickens where I live in the last few years, so it can be done! Please also keep in mind that even if your city allows backyard birds, if you live in an HOA neighborhood you will likely have to ask them for permission.

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2.) Goats! This one is a little less common, but there are some cities that do allow you to have small breed goats on your property, even in the suburbs! You can keep these fun loving animals as pets, or use them for their milk. Keep in mind that you must have proper fencing for goats because they are little escape artists. It is also recommended that you have at least two goats since they do not tend to do well on their own. Just like the backyard birds, even if your city allows them you will have to get permission from your HOA if you have one.

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3.) Pigs! Again, this will depend on your city and neighborhood laws and rules, but if it’s allowed, you can actually own pigs in a residential area. Some people own pigs as pets, others keep one or two a year for meat.

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4.) Rabbits! Most areas allow you to keep rabbits as pets. Rabbits are also good candidates for children wanting to try out 4-H programs because you can show rabbits through 4-H. Chickens, ducks, goats, and pigs are also 4-H project animals.

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5.) Gardening! This one is probably more obvious, but it’s a great way to feel like you’re living the country life. Everyone can grow their own food, even without a backyard. All you need is big enough pots and an area where your plants can get sunlight. Do your research to find out what grows best in the climate you live in and enjoy not having to buy all your produce at the store!

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6.) Learn how to make your own staple food items. Most people buy all their food from a store, but you don’t have to! With the help of the internet, friends, and family you could learn how to make things yourself like bread, jam and jelly, peanut butter, regular butter, etc! It’s a great feeling to learn how to make more of your own food at home. Not to mention you know exactly what is in your food that way!

Hopefully this gave you some ideas to help make your farm life dream more of a reality!

Horses, Donkeys and Goats!

29572311_10155395903107227_6524768053684920137_nI live in suburbia. It isn’t where I necessarily dream of living my whole life, but it works for now while my kids are in school. If you read my original posts you might know that I own a horse. She’s a rescue and I love her to pieces. Obviously I can’t have her in my backyard, so I board her at my best friend Tiffany’s house that is about a 35 minute drive for me out into the country. I currently board my horse at her house in exchange for watching her baby 3 days a week until the fall when baby goes to school. It works.

24862665_10155112315877227_4571226146630181012_nWhat you don’t know is that on top of owning a horse, I also have a Nubian goat named Guinness. He lives on the farm as well with his two half siblings (Chandler and Buttercup). Our husbands give us a hard time about the goats, but Tiffany and I love them. They’re sweet, friendly, entertaining animals. What’s not to love about that? In order to satisfy her husband’s need for all the animals on their farm to serve a purpose, Tiffany plans to breed her female goat this fall in order to get milk from her. This you’ll want to stick around for because A.) BABY GOATS!!! and B.) I’m going to be learning how to milk a goat and make goat cheese which is bound to be at least a little comical.

29571004_10155393807697227_6433458189300964772_nOn top of the horses and goats on the farm, there is a MINI DONKEY. This little creature is just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. She’s been a lifesaver for us because she keeps my horse (Kindle) company. See, Kindle is the lowest one on the horse totem pole. This isn’t good for her because that means she gets pushed off of feed and just generally picked on by the other two horses. Enter the mini donk, another rescue animal. Now Kindle has a little friend that wont push her around and that she can have some companionship with. It’s a perfect match!

 

Gardening: What will I plant this year?

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Picture of my garden last summer (2017)

So today was the day I started getting real about what I’m going to plant in and around my house this year. A couple of years ago my dad was nice enough to build some garden boxes in the backyard, and last year he added a couple more. They work great if I actually stay on top of weeding them and harvesting things before they get out of control. My dad went a little nuts on planting things last year and I honestly didn’t use most of it (shameful, I know). SO this year my plan is to A.) not let my Dad plant things in my garden, and B.) Only plant things that I know will get used or that I’d freeze and use later.

This year I hope to plant some things I haven’t tried to plant before like beets and sweet potatoes. We are also going to plant our first fruit trees! Very excited about that. We should have planted some when we moved in 4 years ago so we could be enjoying them now, but oh well. Things that I will plant again this year will be several herbs, one (and only one) tomato variety, and pumpkins. Pumpkins are a must for me, but I have a problem. Powdery Mildew.

For the last two years now I’ve been fighting that crap. I start the seeds, the seedlings grow nice and I put them into the area we designated for the plants to grow, the pumpkins get to be about cantaloupe sized and the mildew sets in. It covers the leaves and spreads like wildfire so I don’t get good sized pumpkins. So frustrating. The solution? I’m not going to plant in the same spot this year. Instead we’re going to remove some of the soil, till, and rest the ground that I had the pumpkins in last year and put them somewhere else. Where? I have no idea yet. I am somewhat limited on where they could go at the moment, but I have to have my pumpkins for the fall.

Also on my list this year is to plant raspberry bushes. Growing up I always remember the huge raspberry bushes at my Grandma’s house. Nothing tasted better than a handful of those berries in the summer. Anyway, pictures of my garden progress to come!