Have you ever found yourself intimidated by fashion magazines filled with beautiful celebrities and models who are then photoshopped to remove every little imperfection?

Believe it or not, vegetables can be portrayed the same way in magazines and online.  Articles filled with photographs of perfectly-sized vegetables without a speck of dirt on them can be intimidating to the average vegetable gardener.

Well, I’m here to tell you the truth and reveal two dirty secrets of vegetable gardening with some assistance from my little helper. 
My granddaughter, Lily, was excited to help me harvest the last of my cool season crops.

So we ventured out into the garden and pulled out carrots and garlic.  Then we harvested the last head of broccoli and picked the first of the blackberries from the bushes and cut the parsley.

This is what our harvest looked like.

I’ll admit that it looks rather dirty and messy and certainly not something you would see in a magazine.

This leads me to reveal the first ‘secret’ about vegetable gardening.

“It’s dirty.”
Think about it – vegetables grow in the dirt.  They don’t come out clean.  In fact, it can take a while to clean the dirt away. 

Lily was excited to help me clean the vegetables, so she would fill her ‘My Little Pony’ cup over and over and pour them over the carrots. 

In fact, freshly harvested vegetables leave dirt behind on counters, floors too.

And those shiny, clean garden tools and spotless gloves?  

They don’t exist in a real garden.

Okay, so we’ve covered the fact that vegetable garden is a dirty hobby – it’s supposed to be.

Now, here is the second dirty secret of vegetable gardening…
“Not all the vegetables are the same size and come out unblemished.”

Here are four carrots that I harvested from the same garden.  As you can see, they are all different sizes.

The tiny ones, came from an area where I accidentally dropped a small pile of seeds.  The large one was a result of an area in the garden that received too much water and the carrot was so big that it broke off as I attempted to pull it out.

Of course, any decent photo would display only the ‘normal-sized’ carrots – but that is not necessarily the truth of what a real garden harvest would look like.

Here is another example.  Our crop of garlic was bountiful.  But, notice that there are not all a uniform size.

While the majority of the garlic harvest was made up of normal-sized garlic heads – there were some very small and some giant heads.

But of course, that is not what you see when people typically show off their garden harvest – especially when they are to be photographed.

– First, only the most attractive vegetables are selected – those that are unblemished and a uniform size.

– Second, all the dirt is cleaned off.

– And finally, the decorative dish towels come out for an attractive background. 
I have several decorative dish towels that have never seen a dish.

I use them when I photograph vegetables, herbs, etc.

Here is my ‘perfect’ garlic harvest.  What is interesting is what you DON’T see.

All of them are nicely shaped, roughly the same size and most of the dirt was cleaned off.

Most definitely NOT what they looked like when I brought them in from the garden.

A ‘real’ vegetable harvest is not ‘photoshopped’ and consists of dirty vegetables, some with blemishes and in all sizes and shapes. 

So, when you harvest vegetables from your garden, don’t worry about perfect-looking vegetables.  Remember, it’s the taste that matters!

Today was spent driving from Wisconsin, over the Mississippi River into southeastern Minnesota.

Bridge over the Mississippi River toward Minnesota. *Cell phone + dirty windshield = grainy photo.

You know how people who haven’t lived near the ocean, find it fascinating when they get the chance to visit?

I think it is somewhat the same for me in regards to seeing the Mississippi River.  The immense size of the river is amazing.  

This is the third time that I have seen the Mississippi River and it is still something that I always look forward to.

We arrived into the town of Winona, Minnesota – we drove up to Garvin Heights, where a path leads from the parking lot to a viewing point located over 500 ft. above the river and the city.

Isn’t it beautiful?

Off in the distance, you can see the bridge that we drove over, which connects Wisconsin to Minnesota.

My mother has been enjoying her first smartphone.  During our trip, she had taken multiple pictures of me taking photos of plants and/or scenery.  

It makes me feel happy and special at the same time 🙂

During the first part of our day, we spent some time shopping for antiques.

My mother loves antiques and I like to find old pieces that I can use as planters in my garden.  In the Midwest and Eastern regions of the US, antiques are a lot less expensive then in the west – so we like to take advantage of nice antique stores when we can.

I found a large, old coffee pot (the kind they would use in a chuck wagon for a lot of people) that I plan on using for a flower planter in my smaller vegetable garden.

You may be wondering how I am going to get my coffee pot home.  Well, that leads to a tradition that my mother and I started during our first road trip 3 years ago.  We wait until the last day of our trip and then go to a local UPS store and send our souvenirs home.  It makes our life much simpler and we have less to carry in our suitcases.

Another grainy cell phone photo taken through the windshield.

As we headed toward the southeastern corner of Minnesota, we found ourselves alone on country highways for long lengths of time.

Not that I’m complaining about the absence of vehicles.  I’m sure that after spending a day or two at home that I’ll be wishing for fewer cars on the road.

The weather during our trip has been very nice.  There was some rain, which fell during the night, so it did not affect our activities.

Our day’s journey ended in Lanesboro, Minnesota, which has been the recipient of the Great American Main Street Award.  Lanesboro, is located close to Amish communities and we have seen some Amish folk during our travels today.

The main street is lined with historic buildings that have been transformed into trendy shops and eateries.

Unlike many Amish communities that I’ve visited in the past, Lanesboro has upscale, trendy shops, which I really enjoyed visiting, instead of shops stocked full of Amish souvenirs.

A few of the shops had a combination of both new and old things, like this old antique that was transformed into a planter.

This shop had an interesting planter with a galvanized pipe with flowers sitting in a dish planted with real grass.

A variety of succulents were displayed with old, wooden boxes.

This alleyway was filled with plants and antiques, which I love.

One interesting observation about our travels this day is the popularity of rhubarb.  

It was planted along the main street.

Rhubarb ice cream was also available in many of the shops.

I bet you didn’t know that rhubarb was so popular did you?

I admit that I didn’t try the rhubarb ice cream flavor.  I went for salted caramel crunch – yum!

Remember the cheese curds that I tried on day 5 of our road trip?  They are everywhere.  I usually see them offered fried.

As our trip draws towards its end, here are a few observations in contrast to living in California and Arizona (places that I’ve lived).

– In almost every restaurant, Coke products aren’t offered – Pepsi is the drink of choice.

– In all of our driving, we have only seen one highway patrol car (in CA and AZ you often see one every few minutes).

– Starbucks is a huge favorite of my mother and during our road trips, we usually make at least one stop there each day.  On this trip, we have hardly seen any Starbucks stores.  But, there have been quite a few other coffee shops, including independent ones.

Tomorrow, we will fly home in the evening from Minneapolis.  My husband has been wonderful taking care of the kids and house while I’ve been gone.  

But, I’m not sure about what he has been feeding the kids…

My 12-year-old son posted this picture of his dinner the other night, which consists of french fries, cheddar cheese and bacon.

I protested the lack of vegetables, which my husband responded to by saying, “We each had 4 mini-carrots to round our dinner.”  He then went on further to say, “And we had vegetables on our pizza for lunch.”

I told my kids that I have quite a few dinners planned when I get home that will have lots of ‘greens’ in them.

*Tomorrow, we will spend the day in Minneapolis and I’m looking forward to visiting my friend and fellow garden blogger, Amy of Get Busy Gardening.  I can’t wait to see her and her garden.  I’ll be sure to share my visit with you!
“A walk down a garden path is such a delight that your feet hardly seem to touch the ground.”

*My granddaughter just turned 2 and I just had to share this photo with you taken at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve.  It was taken by my sister who is a very talented photographer.
Yesterday afternoon, I spent some time having my picture taken.
I must admit, that I don’t like having my picture taken much.  I end up feeling self-conscious and start thinking about how ‘weird’ my expression must look (which is why I didn’t mind posing for the photo, above 😉
Unfortunately, I did need some photos for articles and my other blog that I write for.  I had put it off for a long time But I needed to get my kids annual photos taken AND I had obtained the services of a very talented, up and coming photographer for their photos.  So, it made sense for me to get my pictures done at the same time.
You may be wondering what photographer I was able to engage.  Well, I am blessed that my youngest sister, Grace, is a fabulous photographer.  

She takes photos for other families and for some businesses as well.  She also posts great pictures on her blog
At this point, I should mention that we haven’t gotten our kids pictures taken at school for a long time.  I got tired of their ‘fake’ smiles, messy hair and the fact that they looked nothing like their normal selves.  So, I have taken ‘school’ pictures of them every year.
This year was going to be the best because my sister was going to take their pictures instead of me…
 I love this photo of my three youngest.  This will be the photo we give to the grandmas for Christmas.
They each had their picture taken separately and it was so fun to see my sister in action – she is so good posing the kids and making them feel relaxed.

Then, it was my turn...
My sister knows me so well – especially all my ‘quirks’ and hang-ups and the fact that I don’t feel all that comfortable as the sole subject in a picture.  So, she kept talking to me while I was posing – making me feel much more comfortable.

My sister’s dog, Soda Pop, came over to visit while we were taking pictures(Soda is the daughter of my dog, Missy.) 

I had brought some props over from my garden.  An old watering can that I planted annuals in, an antique blue bottle with cosmos from my garden and some gardening tools.

At this point, I was getting more comfortable and we were almost finished; when my sister said, “We need to get a picture of you holding a chicken.”
So, she rushed off to find her friendliest chicken, “Francie”, who is a ‘naked-neck’ chicken.

 I think Francie did better then I did posing for this picture 😉
I am so thankful for my sister’s great photography skills and her ability to work with a ‘difficult’ subject (me).  I might just schedule another photo shoot next year :-)

When you get the opportunity to ‘get away’ for a few days – do you take it?

You would assume that most of us would reply with a resounding “YES!”

Well, unfortunately there are sometimes that you have to say “No”.  

Every year, my husband heads up to Northern Arizona for a conference.  And each time, he invites me to go with him.

Now, it isn’t that I didn’t want to go – but life has a habit of getting in the way of “getting away from it all”. 

But not this year!  I was determined to go.  So last week, we headed up to Payson, which is a small mountain town just 1 1/2 hours away.

While my husband was busy at his conference – I took the opportunity to take some pictures of the scenery around me…

Most of my photo-taking opportunities occurred at sunset.
I love how the sun makes the clouds look rosy, don’t you?
Besides the beautiful skies, I enjoyed the cooler temperatures.
We spent two nights and days.  It really was a wonderful time and a welcome ‘getaway’ from the daily stresses of life.
As we drove down the mountain towards home, I was refreshed and ready for the week to come.
Life is now officially crazy again because the kids have begun school.  (Our school district has 8 week summers and extended fall and spring breaks).
You know what?  Every year it seems that I have to buy more school supplies then the year before.
**I finally came to that realization on Monday after I had made three separate trips to Walmart and then one to Staples.
I hope you are all enjoying your summer and have had the opportunity to get away 🙂
 I enjoy photographing the beauty that surrounds me, especially plants and landscapes.
My youngest sister, is a very good photographer and her focus is usually people.
And then there is my nephew, Kenny, (son of my other sister), who likes to photograph both nature and people.
So what do you do with three family photographers?  Go on a field trip to our local riparian preserve. 
Even in winter, it is a beautiful place to visit…
In addition to my sister and nephew, my son Kai and my other nephew, Josh came along.

Of course, they soon set off to explore on their own…

Now, the rest of us got our cameras out and started taking pictures.

My focus was trying to capture photos of the many hummingbirds who make their home in the riparian preserve year round.

Anna’s Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird

What fascinates me about hummingbird photos, is that although the photos above are of the same hummingbird; you can only see the bright color when the sun is shining directly on the feathers of their throat.

While I was taking pictures of hummingbirds, my sister wanted to practice taking pictures, so she was taking pictures of me, taking pictures.

I must admit that I feel a bit uncomfortable posing for pictures.  But it wasn’t too bad because I didn’t have to pose.

My nephew has a very good eye for both landscape and people shots.

Sunlight and Purple Prickly Pear Spines

Great White Heron

My nephew also caught me in the midst of taking pictures of three mallard ducks.

I know that mallard ducks are quite common, but I have always liked them and their beautiful colors.  I even used to have a pet mallard duck when I was young.

A curious goose was hoping we had some bread crumbs to share.

Another photo from my nephew, highlights the babbling brook that winds its way through the preserve.

Across one of the lakes, we spotted the boys who were visiting some of the ducks…

Soon, the sun was beginning to set and I had to get home to make dinner.

So we started making our way back to the parking lot.

On our way, I spotted some Canadian geese flying back for the night to one of the lakes.

Kai had a little help over the muddy spots on the path…

As we neared the entrance, my sister asked me to pose for a picture – did I mention that I really don’t like posing for pictures?  I feel so self-conscious and am worried that I have lipstick on my teeth or that I will look so ‘fake’ in the photo.

My nephew took this photo and I must confess that I cropped out the bottom part because he didn’t push “the skinny button” on his camera.
Okay, I realize cameras don’t have “skinny” buttons, but I certainly wish they did, don’t you?

We had a wonderful time.

I hope you did too 🙂