Monday, June 20, 2011

Our Garden 2011

Garden beds! Excuse the camera phone photo.

Saturday was a fun day spent at a local farmer's market, strawberry picking, and errands ending with some ice cream. We also worked for a while on the garden beds and bought some plants. Last week we rowed Paddington's Garden by Michael Bond, which was sort of appropriate as we made rock lined garden beds. After church on Father's Day Jacob went to work on our garden, and then on the last minute idea of a pumpkin patch in back. In one bed we planted tomato plants, pepper plants, eggplant, acorn squash & herbs. In the other raised bed W helped plant carrot seeds, lettuce seeds, and cucumber plants. I may move around the herbs to their own area once we see what works, but we have heard it may help dissuade the deer and other animals from eating the blossoms on the vegetable plants. 

We are getting a pretty late start this year due to weather, and it took a lot of hard work on Jacob's part to make the rock lined raised beds. Jacob would also like to add another raised bed or two and extend the garden back, eventually even putting a bench in that area, and fencing in the yard. So for now we will see what works, but this is a big experiment. Jacob used some of his leftover container gardening filler, a mix of vermiculite, manure, and peat moss. See last year's post for more about container gardening. He also made a few trips to the store to get enough materials to fill the two beds.

Our local family of turkeys made a cameo appearance yesterday as well, and Jacob got to see all the little ones which were MUCH bigger, and actually flying up to the trees to roost. This time it appeared that the Daddy turkey was there too. 

More (better) garden photos coming soon and of course updates to see what's growing! :) As you can see the yard is very filled out with hostas, ferns, and lilies. I am hoping to thin these out a bit. One of the next yard projects will be  shuffling a few plants to new locations. I planted a couple of flowers in the yard, and they add a nice splash of color.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Amish Country

During our stay in Lancaster County, we stayed at a busy and quaint B&B in one of the villages. Our hosts had a map of some places off the beaten path for suggestions to see while we were there. We started off at a book shop which sold a mix of authentic Amish-German books, school supplies, cookbooks, and fiction. We found a couple of first grade level writing books for W.

From there we stopped at a variety of shops and farms, a wooden toy shop selling everything from play kitchens to marble and car runs, a wonderful dairy which had excellent iced cream and animals to visit, a farmer’s market, and of course, quilt shops. W & C picked out a Thomas-themed quillow and Cars pillow (they know their audience). They actually did wind up useful in the car ride as well. I bought some chow chow, a delicious mix of pickled veggies, at one of the shops. One of my favorite sights on this trip was a clothes line from an Amish house to a telephone pole, and that was the one line connected to the home. 

cornfields somewhere between Strasburg and Paradise

After visiting a locally renowned quilt shop, we wound up back where we went on our last trip. Lapp’s Quilts on N. Star Rd. in Ronks, PA is a quilt shop in the basement of an Amish home. They have a wonderful selection and a lot of creative patterns with a nice variety of colors. After drooling looking over the many quilts for quite a while, we agreed on a double wedding ring quilt which suits our cozy log cabin bedroom very nicely. Quilts are an expression of art and the craftsmanship of these quilts is superb. If you ever want to buy an Amish made quilt, please do go to the source. Their prices are lower than the shops in the towns and they are more than willing to answer any questions about the products and let you take your time. One tip with shopping this locally: bring cash or your checkbook, many places do not accept credit cards.

The other highlight of our day was the Bird-in-Hand Bake Shop, which offers a variety of baked goods and treats, and is part of a gift shop. Outside the bake shop has goats to feed, a playground to climb on, and gliders to enjoy. We ate local delicacies like shoo fly pie and oatmeal cream pies (way better than Little Debbie’s). This place is well known and during busy times there will be tour buses but we happened to go at a less hectic time and we really enjoyed it. This day was the perfect wrap up to our vacation. I love the rolling farmlands of Pennsylvania, it is very scenic and welcoming. Now we are back at our little house in the big woods of NH and gearing up for summertime and a garden of our own.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Railroad Ride

3 modes of transportation

Earlier this month on our road trip we spent a couple of days in Lancaster County, PA. A couple of years ago we vacationed here and enjoyed it so much we wanted to go back to some of the same places we saw, including the Strasburg Railroad and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. This time we showed up early in the day so we started off at the Choo Choo Barn to see their amazing model railroad display. It is a large room devoted to the intricate display of trains mixed with miniatures and local references.

waving to the conductor

After visiting the shops, we got a picnic lunch of sandwiches and ate at the picnic area near the station before our train ride. We later boarded the train, and enjoyed the pace of the old fashioned “steamie”. We stopped off at the picnic area along the train route which gave them an hour or so to play at the playground. This spot seems to be mostly visited by local Amish and Mennonite families (of which there were many about, we were there on Ascension Day which is a big holiday for them). There were several horses and buggies parked in a special section of the parking lot.

The boys are still mildly obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine (especially C) so they both enjoyed the ride and seeing the trains up close. Thomas wasn’t there in person..or.. uh.. Train, but at the station there was a smaller ride on Thomas they loved seeing. We will be going to Day Out With Thomas next month in NH, so they will get another choo choo fix soon.

a coach like we rode on

at the museum

overview of the RR Museum from a central walkway

We got the train/ museum combined pass which I recommend especially if you or family members enjoy learning about trains. As I was taking pictures of the boys on a train (with Jacob) I had comments that it would be hard to get them down, and it was true, they could have stayed up there all day. The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania had added a large area with a kid friendly play space and displays since we last visited. W & C also got to hear their names in Morse Code and visit an area set up to look like a telegraph office circa 1900.

They both took a big nap after this busy day! More Amish Country adventures coming up in our next post. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


C at the fish pond in front of Monticello

We were able to visit Monticello, home to Thomas Jefferson, on the day we spent driving from SC to VA. We enjoyed getting to see the beautiful Virginia countryside. It was late afternoon, around 3pm when we arrived, but we were able to take a tour through the house and walk around the grounds before closing time (6pm). Sadly, we didn’t have enough time to peruse the Visitor’s Center but we will be planning to take the boys back when they are a bit older and can appreciate and understand the history of Jefferson.

The fish pond outside of the home was used to keep fish until they were ready to be served for dinner. Pretty much every detail was well thought out! Thomas Jefferson was very detail oriented and a logical thinker, and even had his own version of the Bible in which he clipped out parts that he did not agree with. Of course he is best known as his role for founding father and president, or as W knows him, the guy on the nickel.

It was interesting to learn how much the French culture made an impact on Jefferson’s life, including many things which he incorporated into Monticello such as built in bedsteads with closets/walls on the side of the bed to take advantage of the space in the room. He was a tall man and the bed was built just tall enough with a couple of inches to spare. They also have displays dedicated to the Lewis & Clark expedition which Thomas Jefferson sponsored. In the foyer there is an interesting mix of Native American relics and inspirational artwork. 

one of the many butterflies we saw

The grounds of the home include impressive gardens and a walking trail to the cemetery where Jefferson and his family are buried. It was a hot day but the shaded paths were a welcome place for a walk. There are foundations of slave cabins along the garden path, and I was glad that they included this important history in the tour and didn't gloss over it, despite Jefferson's many accomplishments he was a slaveholder his entire life not to mention his connection with the Hemings family.

W views the garden after cooling off in the sprinkler

Charlottesville, VA is a college town, home to the Jefferson-founded University of Virginia, and we drove by and saw his statue there on the way to the hotel. We took the boys swimming at the pool there and then had another early start the next morning to Pennsylvania Dutch Country, aka Lancaster County. More on that in the next post.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Visit to Ft. Sumter

On Memorial Day W and I were interested in going to see Ft. Sumter, and the chance to go on a ferry ride to get there sounded pretty appealing as well. Above is a view of the fort from Charleston. It does not appear very big at all.

View from the top of the fort, all of the crumbling brick walls are original.

It took about a half hour to get there by ferry, and we had about 45 minutes at the fort to tour around. We opted not to listen to the tour guide since it was very hot and crowded, W said he would rather walk around and see and read things for himself.

The building materials for some walls included local shells  

W said seeing the original cannons was his favorite part of our tour

W is a little young to know very much about the Civil War, although we have learned a bit about slavery and the underground railroad this year. We picked out a book about Children in the Civil War which shares some of the lesser known stories of children affected by that war, and it is a good introduction of this part of American History for younger children. 

W enjoying the book on the return Ferry ride

Monday, June 13, 2011

ten turkeys

Taking a break from our trip recaps, I wanted to share a photo I snapped of a mama turkey and many of her little ones (we counted eight in this photo but there was a straggler that didn't make it in the picture). W first spotted her in the yard so we loved seeing all the baby turkeys. Click on the photo to see it larger and see how many babies you can spot.

Middleton Place

While visiting the South we just had to visit a Plantation, so we went to Middleton Place. No relation to the newest British Princess that we know of. Near the entrance there is a large rectangle reflecting pool where a couple of swans reside. 

The “big house” had damage during the Civil War, and was rebuilt only to burn in a fire a decade or so later, so there are piles of crumbling brick but the surrounding gardens were kept up and there are nice walking paths leading to secret gardens and too many varieties of plants to count. Some of the gardens showcase beautiful statues which were donations to the plantation in later years. Along some of the paths bamboo was growing. It is a great climate for it, where rice used to be the primary crop.  

The hydrangeas were in bloom and we saw cranes and turtles as well as a couple of baby alligators. They also had several farm animals on the grounds, a safe distance from the alligators. Spanish moss hung from many of the trees.

look closely... is that a log or an alligator?

We visited the chapel which was built for the slaves and open to the entire community. It was extremely small and it was moving to think of the people that were so grateful for that meager space to worship. There is an area where a house was built during reconstruction for former slaves to live and it is fascinating to think about how the way of life in the region changed so dramatically during their lifetimes. 

Overall we would recommend visiting Middleton Place to learn not only about the history of plantation life but to get lost in the beautiful marriage of European inspired gardens and the nature of the low country.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

South Carolina Low Country

On our recent trip to South Carolina, we visited the city of Charleston and walked around downtown, visited plantations, and of course went to the beach. The late May weather this year was hot, even for SC. I found it comforting that even the locals were complaining of the heat & humidity. Folly beach was beautiful and the kids had a great time. The water was so much warmer than up north! There are Palmetto trees everywhere. The Magnolia trees were still blooming while we were in Charleston, we were excited to get to see them throughout the city.

Charleston downtown is worth a day to walk around and explore. There are no high-rise buildings but lots of cute antique-looking houses and shops (our favorite was the Rainbow Row of houses). You know you are in the historic districts when you are passed by horse-drawn carriages of tourists. The boys cooled off at a water splash fountain at the beautiful water-front park.

feeling refreshed!

During our stay we visited the Charleston Tea Plantation, the only tea plantation in the United States. They have a small factory video tour which was very informative; W enjoyed it way more than we thought he would since he is not even a tea drinker yet. Charleston has the perfect climate for growing tea, and you get to see the machinery that they use to process it. We all agreed that if you happened to be in this area, going here in combination with somewhere else would be worth your while. But it is kind of far from most other places, so would not be a standalone day trip. We ate at The Fat Hen (my favorite meal of the trip food-wise, C could have behaved better, but I loved the BBQ Duck sandwich.) We also visited the Angel Oak tree, which is amazing to see in person.

3/4 of us!

More on our SC trip including a visit to a plantation and Fort Sumter coming soon! :)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Traveling with kiddos

Our recent family vacation was too jam packed to fit into one post, so we will break it down into categories to write about the different places we visited. But before we get to that, as I upload our many photos to winkflash, I wanted to write a bit about traveling with young kids, and how that part of the adventure went.

Starting off, we had a 2 day road trip to SC with an overnight stop in Virginia. Then after a few days in SC, a day in the car back to VA, and the following day to PA for another few days at a B&B. On the final leg of the trip we went from PA (stopping in CT for our niece's birthday party) and back to NH. Yes, this was a bit of a challenge with a 6 year-old and 2 year-old. We didn’t wind up bringing a DVD player for the car ride and we actually survived.  We listened to CDs of their favorite band, the Imagination Movers (thank you guys for the sanity!) I cannot recommend this group highly enough, they are the real deal. Jacob knew a couple of their songs but this trip got him acquainted with their catalog, lol. I am hoping W is still into them as much next year when their concert tour comes around again, W and I saw them a couple months ago in Worcester MA, and next time we’ll bring C too. 

W did some of his homeschool workbooks, and C enjoyed stickers and Color Wonder books although most of those marker caps have disappeared somewhere into the void. We brought several books and a few wooden trains & a couple of Cars cars which helped mix things up. I also have a Kids Mode app on my droidx phone which came in mighty handy at some restaurants in SC and PA. 

With gas prices rising we decided not to rent a larger vehicle for the trip, so our trusty Toyota Corolla held up but it was difficult keeping the back seat organized and involved a clean-out every couple of days of the trip.
One major thing I would do differently: pack lighter! Especially when limited to a small-ish car trunk. I had packed light jackets, sweatshirts and too many long pants but the weather was unseasonably hot even during the Pennsylvania leg of the trip. I know I couldn't foresee this, but probably one sweatshirt/jacket per kid would have been sufficient and assume older children can get a couple wears out of jeans, etc. Also, when planning to stay somewhere more than one night it would be possible to do laundry even though I know it's not the most glamorous thing to do on vacation (many hotels and b&b’s offer coin laundry areas).

Another tip I hopefully will remember for next time is to bring a cooler and start off with enough snacks for day 1, not the whole week (smushed granola bars aren’t appealing to anyone).  We ate out for almost every meal which is very unusual for us. C consumed not much besides chocolate milk and applesauce for much of the trip, so his sytem was a bit.. uh.. thrown off so we were happy when he ate anything. I tried not to stress out over this, afterall, vacation is just temporary. Utilize the rest stops as much as possible, besides the bathroom breaks most of them have a place to run around and stretch your legs. The kids cheered whenever we got to one and W said they were one of his favorite parts of the trip. ;)

Having GPS on our phones was also extremely useful, this was the first long trip that we used this for and boy it made a difference. After this, our 3 hour trek to the White Mountains next month will seem like a breeze! Stay tuned to the blog for recaps of our trip and photos coming soon.