Posts

Vacations are a time that I love to spend with my family doing things that we don’t normally have time for with the busyness of school and work that predominates throughout much of the year. This summer, we spent a couple of weeks in Michigan visiting my oldest daughter and her family. In planning our trip, we list what we want to do and number one on the list for our summer adventures was going to a farm and picking our own strawberries and cherries.

So, on a sunny Tuesday morning, we headed out along a back country road and visited Kiteley Farm ready to pick strawberries. 

I must admit that I have never picked strawberries, other than in my own garden, and couldn’t wait to experience to harvest them myself. Initially, my 15-year-old son couldn’t figure out why we were going to pick them when it was easier to buy them in the supermarket. But, I told him to just wait and see – I promised him that he would change his mind afterward.

 

We were given instructions on where the strawberry fields were located and grabbed our boxes, ready to fill them up with sweet, delicious strawberries.

The entry to the farm is flanked by blue bachelor’s button and the orange flowers of honeysuckle.

 

The strawberry field was very large and we all got started, hunting underneath the leaves for glimpses of bright red fruit.

It’s no surprise that the strawberries that you buy at the store are often large and not particularly sweet, which aids in transporting them to the store without getting bruised. However, berries at pick-your-own farms are smaller and incredibly sweet. 

My granddaughter Lily got right into picking strawberries.

The edge of the field was shaded by tall trees and we discovered that the berries were larger in this part of the field.

The key to finding the best berries is to look at the lowest berry which is usually the ripest.

After about an hour, we had 11 pounds of strawberries. Not bad for amateur strawberry pickers.

Next, it was time to pick cherries. Michigan has a large percentage of the cherry growing market and because cherries don’t grow in my neck of the woods, I always take advantage of being able to pick them whenever I visit in July.

There are several farms where you can go and pick your own cherries and all you have to pay for is the fruit you pick.

The trees were heavily laden with bright red cherries, which were easier to pick than strawberries as we didn’t have to bend over.

Lily was just as good at picking cherries as she was with strawberries.

At the end of a busy morning, we had plenty of fruit and I was excited to take them back and make sweet things with them.

For me, the best part of that morning was when my son said, “That was so fun. We need to do it again next year.” 

Don’t they look delicious? And perfect for…

…strawberry shortcake!

*You don’t have to grow fruit (or vegetables) in your own garden to be able to enjoy the experience of picking your own produce. No matter where you live, there is likely a farm nearby where you can experience the fun of picking your own!

 

As summer begins to wane, my thoughts start to turn toward fall planting and upcoming holidays.


But, before I put summer “to bed”, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of our summer adventures.



The highlight of our summer was spending a week in Williams, AZ.

Every year we head up to this small Route 66 town, which is the known as “The Gateway to the Grand Canyon”.

We travel up to this special place along with my mother, siblings and their families.  A collection of small, rustic cabins house us for the week.

This small mound of dirt is called “Danny’s Mountain” by the boys (Danny is my little 4-year old nephew to the right).

It’s a place where smartphones and video games give way to playing outdoors with cousins finding new places to explore.




My niece Sofie and my daughter, Ruthie.



Teenage girls discover the delights of pushing each other on a tree swing.

Little army men toys replace video games as battle strategies are discussed and put in play.
5-month old Eric having fun with his grandpa.
As a grandparent, it is also a special time for my husband and I to spend with our two grandchildren.
Lily
My granddaughter, Lily, was busy picking flowers for her ‘collection’.  She loves flowers and keeps them in her jewelry box.  
Dare I hope that she follows in her grandma’s footsteps and becomes a horticulturist?


Of course, what’s summer vacation without delicious food!
Before, you ask…no, I didn’t eat all these pies myself – I shared with them with 15 other family members 😉
Fourth of July found us in the pool, waiting for fireworks to begin.
My daughter Rachele, who is in the Navy, was able to come visit with our newest family addition, Eric.  This was his first time swimming and he loved it!
Ruthie, Sofie and Gracie
At the beginning of our summer season, we had a special visitor.
My daughter, Ruthie, was adopted from China when she was 9 years old.  Her cousin, Sofie, came from the same orphanage and so did their friend, Gracie.
These girls spent their early childhood together, creating special, sisterly bonds with each other in the absence of having parents.
Now that they are all adopted and living in the U.S., they have kept in touch.  Gracie flew in to spend a few days with her ‘orphanage sisters’ and we had so much fun with her.  
Pillow fights, baking sweets, enjoying good Chinese food and playing board games filled much of their time together.
Walking along State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, CA
A quick trip to Southern California was taken in the beginning of June to visit Rachele.  We were able to stay in her townhouse on the Navy base.  
Whenever we visit her, we take time to travel up to picturesque Santa Barbara, CA, which is where my husband and I met almost 30 years ago.
Ruthie learned how squirmy little babies are when you try to get them dressed…
This summer, we went through a truly wonderful experience together.
We traveled to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ.  Both adults and kids were looking forward to seeing planets in our solar system.
While I did expect to see some great things through the telescopes, what I didn’t expect was the beautiful flowering perennials growing throughout the grounds of the observatory.
My brother, kept teasing me as I kept stopping to take pictures of the flowers.
My son, Kai, looking at Venus
Outdoor telescopes focused on Jupiter and Venus.  
I don’t know who was more excited, the kids or the adults.  It was almost incomprehensible that we could view these faraway planets.
My nephew, Dean, loves flowers and kept asking me what the names of them were.
I must admit that I enjoyed the flowers almost as much as I did the planets.
My mother, helping my daughter as she looks at Saturn.
Believe it or not, we were able to see Saturn and its rings!
We had a wonderful time at the observatory and learned so much.  I highly recommend visiting this or any observatory near you.  It was an unforgettable experience!
The last part of our summer fun occurred at the Hummingbird Festival, where I was asked to be a presenter.
I have two separate talks on small space hummingbird gardening and had a great time meeting new people.
One of my favorite parts of the festival was touring many beautiful gardens in Sedona where the festival was held.
I came home from the festival inspired to create a garden space dedicated to plants that attract hummingbirds.  I can hardly wait to get started this fall, which is the best time to add new plants to the garden.
In the meantime, we have increased the amount of hummingbird feeders in our backyard and have seen three hummingbirds at a single feeder 🙂
************************
Well, that was our summer fun in a nutshell.  The kids are now in school and my eyes are focused on  the fall including the upcoming Garden Writer’s Conference in Pasadena, CA in September.
 **What did your ‘summer in review’ look like?  Did you travel to any new places, see old friends or have any new experiences?**


Did you have the opportunity to get away for awhile this summer?


Our summer has been a bit tough this year.  The reason is that my son, Kai, had hip surgery (his 5th) and was confined to a wheelchair this summer.  He was in quite a lot of pain for the first few weeks, which thankfully subsided in July.


We were blessed to go on a family vacation toward the end of July before school started.  Every year, we go on a trip with my mother, my siblings and their families.  This year, we decided to go to Pinetop, Arizona.


We got on the road and started heading east from Phoenix.  The mountains of the high desert were beautiful along Salt River Canyon and we could see swimmers below.

Believe it or not, I have never been to the Eastern part of our state even though I have lived here for over 27 years.

Parts of the highway wound back and forth.

As we neared our destination, I began to see the pine trees that promised cooler weather.


We finally arrived at the cabin that my mother had rented for us all to stay in.

It was quite big – 7 bedrooms and plenty of bathrooms to go around for 5 individual families.

We stayed on the bottom floor so that Kai could get around easily.


A few of our mornings were spent going for walks.

We love to walk outdoors, but in the summer it is tough because of the heat.  So this was a real treat for us.  
If I were at home, I would be busy writing, gardening, managing the kids and/or consulting instead of taking a walk outdoors on a beautiful morning.  Pure heaven!


There were some beautiful gardens in the surrounding neighborhood.


This was my favorite garden. 
Did you know that you can grow these flowering perennials in the desert?  It’s true.  The only difference is that they will bloom in spring rather then in summer.


We didn’t see any wild animals, but did pet a friendly cat and saw a horse getting new shoes.


This kids favorite house had a model train track set up throughout the entire front yard.


The kids were interested in the model trains and small buildings while I like to observe the miniature landscape plants.



This is one vine that you probably will not find growing in the low desert.  This is a lovely Clematis vine and I have grown one before years ago when we lived in Phoenix.  The problem was – it never flowered because it was too hot.

I haven’t grown one since.  


We passed this bountiful vegetable garden.


I love this terraced garden, don’t you?


You don’t have to rely solely on flowers for color in the landscape.  I love the trailing ivy underneath these oak trees.

Besides our walks, there was fun to be had back at the cabin…


The kids had fun racing monster trucks down the driveway every evening after dinner.

It was nice for Kai to be able to participate in racing without having to run.


Gracie enjoyed sitting on the porch and reading her favorite book.


On rainy afternoons, grandma kept the kids busy with art projects.


During the week, each family was responsible for making dinner for everyone.  It was nice only having to cook once the entire week.

After dinner, the big kids would carry Kai and his wheelchair upstairs to play.

They would ‘charge’ the bad guy armed with a plastic gun and a cushion for a shield.


They usually triumphed over the villain.


Of course, we made sure to spend time fishing.


My husband kept our fishing line untangled and our hooks baited.


We spent quite a bit of time enjoying the peace and quiet of fishing.


Unfortunately, there was a little too much peace and quiet since we didn’t catch any.  Not even a nibble.


On our last day, we hiked around the lake enjoying the beauty of the woods.

We had a wonderful trip and 2 days after we returned home, it was time for the kids to start school.

**Thank you for letting me take you along on our summer vacation.**

NOW FOR THE WINNER OF THE “MINIATURE GARDEN BOOK” GIVEAWAY

And the winner is….

Junk Loving Girl!!!

Thank you all for entering.  If you didn’t win, head over to Timber Press where you can enter to win a copy of the book AND a miniature garden kit!