Morning in the backyard

Now that’s it cooler in the mornings, I think the kids and I will go wander around outside before we start school. There are so many things to see.

Our backyard has two areas: what we call the inner yard that is fenced off really well and the outer yard that is still fenced but is mostly wild and not great for playing in (but great for hiking!).

There is so much land here that I haven’t walked it all yet. Josh has.

The inner yard is a great place for an almost two-year-old who loves rocks. And putting rocks in toy dump trucks is even more fun!

A dove is nesting in a cactus right by our front porch. She has two babies. Fortunately, she doesn’t seem to mind us too much. We check on her every time we go outside.

We will see what new surprises we find tomorrow morning!

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The New Geek Homestead – Part 2

I mentioned in my last post that we had news to share.  If you follow Josh and The Geek Homestead on Twitter though, you probably already know this.  About a month ago, we moved to the Tucson area of Arizona from California. It took us a while to get here, and there is quite a bit of backstory to our move. Hope you are ready for a bit of a read!

When we moved from Washington, D.C. to San Diego back in 2008, Josh and I stopped in Tucson overnight when we drove cross-country (We only had two kids back then! And they were already with our family in San Diego.) I don’t know what it was about Tucson that appealed to us, but when we left the next day to continue our drive, I remember thinking that we needed to come back someday for a vacation.

We finally did make it back to Tucson for that vacation in November 2016 for Thanksgiving. We found that we liked the area even more and thought about trying to move to Tucson.

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Five of our kids at the Saguaro National Park in 2016. Now we live about 30 minutes from here (and have six kids lol)

In November 2019, we began packing to move out of our house so that we could prepare for selling it. In March 2019, we moved in with my parents while waiting for our house to sell.  Two weeks later, we accepted an offer on the house and then closed escrow the end of April. By this time, Josh had already moved out to Tucson.

In July, we opened escrow on a new house in the Tucson area. At the end of July, we walked from that house because of some appraisal issues. A couple of days after we walked away from that first house, Josh went to an open house for a place that I had noticed on the market in June but it had been out of our price range then. When I first saw it, I mentioned it to Josh because it seemed like the perfect house for us. It dropped in price in July (while we were still in escrow with the first house). After the open house, Josh was sold on the house, we put an offer in, and we closed escrow the end of August. And we have been living here for about a month.

We went from a 1,300 square foot house on about half an acre in San Diego to a 2,700 square foot house on 4 acres in Marana (about 20 miles outside Tucson). God has definitely blessed us because we were not expecting to be able to find a house quite like this one that was in our price range. We were expecting to buy a 2,000 square foot house with maybe a garage. Instead, we found not just a larger house, but a house with a 2-car garage, a workshop for Josh, an observatory shed, a greenhouse, a rainwater harvesting system, beautiful landscaping, 3 porches, and gorgeous sunrises/sunsets and night sky viewing.

Our new home surprises us almost every day with something new. We live in a rural area now that is about 20 minutes from the freeway. Even though it takes a while to get anywhere, we still love it.

We have seen roadrunners, bunnies, woodpeckers, doves, ground squirrels, and vultures, but fortunately no rattlesnakes or scorpions (yet!)  We have so many interesting plants and cacti on the property that I couldn’t possibly name them all.

A few nights ago, I stepped out of our van after church and looked up at the stars… And had a hard time going in the house because the stars seemed to go on forever.

We are loving living in Arizona so far and look forward to sharing our new adventures here on The Geek Homestead.

-Lynn

The following pics are of our new home. Some are from the house listing and the others are ones we took in the past month. Sadly, monsoon season is mostly over so we probably won’t have much rain for a while.

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View from the front porch
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The observatory shed. We’ve only been in here once. I need to pick up our telescope from my parents’ house and bring it out here to try it out!

 

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Flowering barrel cactus
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Mexican bird of paradise
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Flowering Fishhook pincushion cactus. It took me a while to find out what this was! A visit to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum helped me out. But that’s for another post!
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Two of the saguaros in our backyard at sunset.

 

Preserving Beans By Freezing

 

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This year the green and wax been plants have done very well.  We have ate beans much more often then the children would prefer.  I have also given bags of beans to my parents.  However, there were still multiple gallon zip lock bags of beans in the refrigerator.  Since we had so many beans on hand I decided to freeze some of the beans.

The first step is to clean the beans and remove any damage sections.  I had a few beans that had some spots where bugs had helped themselves to my beans.  There were also a few beans that had touched the ground, and had sections that didn’t look nice.  This is also a good time to remove the ends of the beans were they had attached to the plants.

For me the second step is to cut the beans into smaller sections.  I make them as close to bite size as I can.  Since these beans were fresh, I was able to just snap them into pieces.  You could do this at the same time you remove the unwanted parts from the beans.  I don’t do it that way because I have a way of mixing the unwanted parts with the good beans.

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Breaking the beans into pieces
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Beans broken into sections

While you are breaking up the beans you can start some water boiling.  You will probably need a big pot if you have a large number of beans.  Put enough water in the pot to cover the beans you are going to put in it.

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Boil the beans for about 3 minutes.  This process is called blanching.  I don’t fully understand the science behind this process, but somehow it helps the beans preserve better.  It helps preserve the color and texture of the beans during the freezing process.

After 3 minutes, remove the beans from the boiling water and quickly but them into ice water.  This stops the cooking process, so the beans don’t get over cooked.  You still want them to be mostly crispy when they are frozen.  This will give them a better texture when cooked later in the year.

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After the beans have cooled, they need to dry.  I usually just leave them in a strainer for awhile.  They can also be laid out on a cookie sheet.  They don’t have to be totally dry, but you don’t want to put them in the freezer soaked.  If there is a lot of extra water, then you will end up with ice.  To much ice can cause freezer burn over time.

I separate the beans into bags based on how many we will use for a meal.  Remove as much air as possible from the bag, seal the bag, and place into the freezer.

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Beans are an easy vegetable to preserve, and the process doesn’t take much time.  At the end it is satisfying for me to be able to save some of what I grow for later.  That is less vegetables we will need to buy later  the year.

-Joshua

Wednesday In The Garden: 07/05/2017

It is hard to believe that 2017 is now over halfway gone. We are now entering the hot season. It isn’t as bad as some places, but most days will be in the mid 80s to upper 90s for the next few months. This is still a great time of year because many of veggies are ripening. 

I don’t have a ton of pictures today since I was busy making ice cream yesterday. 

My first pictures are of passion fruit flowers. The passion fruit vines were one of the great surprises when we moved in. We had no idea what the fruit was at first. Thankfully, Google makes it easy to find things like that out. 

The vines originated in one of our neighbors yards, but we were able to reap the benefits of their plants. Sadly, the other neighbor next to them built a huge ugly retaining wall which killed the passion fruit vines.  

Over the last year or so, the passion fruit neighbor has been bring back the plants. He started from seeds, and put about 10 plants along the fence line. Those plants are growing well this year and have started to flower. Hopefully those flowers turn into passion fruit this year. 


I also have some pictures of our pumpkins which have started to ripen. One of them is inside the pallet I used as a trellis. I just hope I can get it out without causing damage. 


I hope you all have a good week in your gardens. 

-Joshua

Wednesday in the Garden: 06/28/2017

Our weather in the past week has been a bit of a roller coaster.  For instance, on Monday the temperature was around 100 degrees F and today was 78 degrees F.  I think these ups and downs are going to have a negative effect on some of the plants.  I know that the really hot days made a few plants unhappy.

In spite of the weather changes, the garden is growing well.  We have a number of things that we are harvesting and eating right now.  In particular we have green and wax beans to pick just about every day.  We also have more chard then we can use, which is nice because I have been able to share quite a bit of it with my mom.

My daughters flowers are growing well, especially the snap dragons.

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The pumpkin plants are over spilling their area and growing everywhere.  I don’t think they like the heat very much, and are starting to look fairly wilted.  Hopefully a few cooler days will bring them back to life.  I think I could get some pumpkins out of the plants right now if they died off.  However, I would prefer to allow the pumpkins to ripen on the vines.  Last year we had our pumpkins ripen towards the middle of July, so that is what I am aiming for this year.

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I am thinking I will be able to pick some of the Desi Squash in the next couple of days.  They taste quite a bit like zucchini, but are round rather then long.  I do have to be careful not to let them sit to long, because they quickly go from good to tough and woody.

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I think these plants seeds came from a packet that was marked as Desi Squash, unless I planted the wrong thing.  However, they are very different looking plants.  As you can see from the picture above the Desi Squash is bushy in nature.  They plants below are vines and want to trail up things.  I am wondering if they are some kind of melon.  I guess I will just have to be surprised at what we get.

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We are getting many green and wax beans. I have been able to give quite a few to my parents, while still having enough for us to eat often.

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The 3 apples on our Anna Apple tree are getting to be a good size.  I don’t know how long they take to grow and how large they will get.  I am having fun watching them grow though.

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My 10 year old son’s garden bed is doing well.  I have been able to get quite a bit of chard from his bed, and a couple of carrots.  I probably picked the carrots to early, but they tasted real good.  Store bought carrots are not nearly as good as home grown.  His melon plants have gotten very large, and have started to put on melons.  He is excited about those, because he really likes melons.

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Our 13 year old son’s garden bed is still doing well.  His flowers have done well, and have a number of beautiful blooms on them.  His corn has ripened and we picked it today.  I will have a few pictures of that later.

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I picked the rest of the beats and the corn from my 8 year old’s garden bed.

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I hadn’t realized that our corn had gotten ripe until last night.  I was probably a couple days late picking the corn, but it was really hot this weekend so I didn’t get around to checking.  Unfortunately, most of the ears had a caterpillar in them.  The caterpillars hadn’t had much of a chance to eat the corn yet, so I squish them and then cut of the chewed up parts of corn.  The unaffected parts look really good and I can’t wait to eat them.

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I have harvested some things throughout the week, but today I did a pretty good sized harvest.  My parents are watching the oldest two boys tonight, so I wanted to give them some things.  I was able to pick the corn, arugula, chard, beans and mustard leaves.

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Tonight for dinner Lynn made pancit using all vegetables from our garden.  There was garlic, red and orange carrots, green and wax beans, and kohlrabi.  I get a feeling of accomplishment from growing enough plants to do a whole dinner.

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-Joshua

 

Wednesday in the Garden: 06/07/2017

I was negligent in posting garden pictures last week.  I have some animal, I think an opossum or racoon, that likes to dig in my garden beds.  It seems to be going after beetle grubs that live in them.  Unfortunately, that means a lot of uprooted plants and seedlings.  Last Wednesday, it dug a lot.  There were a number of destroyed plants so I didn’t feel like taking pictures.

This last week, we have had typical beautiful San Diego weather. The May grey I spoke about last time has continued into June Gloom.  I am sure you will all feel very sorry for us.  It has been a bit overcast with temperatures in the low 70s.  Very gloomy I know.  It is ,however, perfect plant growing weather.

First I have tomato pictures because my mom really wants to have fresh tomatoes.  The second picture isn’t very good, but it is a Wagner Blue Green tomato.  I grew those last year, and they were a favorite for every one that ate them.  I think this is my only one that survived this year though.

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Pay no attention to the weeds in the background.  All the extra rain this year has made the weeds go crazy.  I have cut them much more then I have had to for years, but they keep coming back.  In this garden bed is green beans, peppers, purple basil, and some flowers.  The crazy plant in the back is our New England Sugar Pie pumpkins.

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The pumpkin plants are spreading all over the ground, and already have pumpkins growing.

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This bed has more beans, Desi squash, patty pan squash, carrots, and some cauliflower plants that is still hanging out.

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The Desi squash is a lot like zucchini, except they grow round rather then long.  They are at their best when they are about the size of a baseball.  We are starting to get a couple of Desi blossoms.

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This week I picked 5 wax beans.  Mostly there are just blossoms on the bean plants though.

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Last week, my 3 year old daughter and I picked out some flowers to plant.  She wanted to be like her 3 biggest brothers and have her own garden bed.  Her favorite color is purple, so there is a number of purple flowers in her bed.  She also went with some pink since that is also a nice color.

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My 13 year old’s garden bed is going well.  He mostly has corn and each of the plants has some healthy looking ears on them.  His plants are pretty short though, so I am hoping that is just due to the type of corn.

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My 10 year old’s bed is doing well.  He has been dug up multiple times, killing many of his plants.  Finally, it seems like his plants are getting ahead and growing well.  In particular his Madhu Ras melons are doing well.  They have blossoms on the plants right now.  He is really looking forward to eating the melons. I added some Swiss Chard to his bed to replace some of the plants that were dug up.  Between his chard and some others I plants, we will soon have chard coming out of our ears.

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Everything in my 8 year old’s bed is growing well.  He is very excited about how tall his corn is.

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The last pictures will just be some random ones from the beds.

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I hope that all of your plants are growing well right now.

-Joshua

Black King Pansy

I figured this flower is pretty enough for its own post.

Black King Pansy

It is called a Black King Pansy.  I bought the seeds at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  This is the first time that I have grown pansies from seeds, and this flower is well worth the effort.

-Joshua