I thought I would do things a little differently around here today, since my vegetable garden is making slow progress right now. I don't want to bore you with the same pictures week after week. So I thought I would focus more on our fruit trees/plants/bushes today. Deal?

Our blueberry plants are doing really well in their planters and all three of them have berries on them, just not all of them are ripe. But we have tasted a few and so far so good.

Our apple trees are growing quite steadily and they have for sure filled out significantly in the past 3 years. Unfortunately, we aren't really getting any fruit from them yet. One tree has none and the other only has two apples and they are both already a little worm eaten. Oh well.

I shared a picture of one of our pear trees last week so I didn't retake it. But we do have two new pear trees that we hope will take this time and not die on us.

We have four raspberry plants in the back yard which seem to be surviving. We really need to look into how to maintain them better though, before they go too wild on us.

I just keep dreaming about the day I'll be able to pop out to the back yard for some fresh berries to put on my cereal. Ten more years should do the trick.

Our rhubarb is nearing the end of its season but is still slowly growing so I may get one more picking out of it. If not, I am happy with the amount I have frozen. But it is nice to see how well it has done in the year we've had it.

So that is a quick overview of the other plants we have growing at our place. Maybe next time I need a break from the veggie garden I'll show off my flowers. Not that there is much to show off.

I love berries and this time of the year is one of my favourite because of the abundance of fresh berries. Everywhere you look, grocery stores, farmers markets, friends fridges, there are berries. Yummy!

Last year we picked enough strawberries to last us an eternity. Maybe not quite that long but we picked eight 4-litre baskets and felt slightly overwhelmed by the amount of berries we had to deal with. Not to mention we still have a ton in the freezer. So this year, we wanted to stay a little more controlled when it came to strawberry picking.

Unfortunately we went later in the season so the picking wasn't that great and it took a lot more effort to fill our baskets. But after about 45 minutes, we had filled four 4-litre baskets and decided to call it a day.

We were pretty pleased with our haul and once we were home, we got straight to work dealing with them.

We froze a bunch of them, made jam and ate a lot fresh. Oh and I'm pleased to announce that this years jam actually set! I was pretty thrilled since we are still working on getting through our "strawberry sauce" from last year.

Once we worked our way through the fresh strawberries, it was just about time for raspberry picking. I was determined to get out to the raspberry fields this year since I missed picking last year, having just sprained my ankle. So last weekend Dan and I made our way to a cute little farm where we enjoyed half an hour of happy picking.

We happily returned home with our four small baskets and felt relieved that we hadn't missed the season again. Raspberries are my favourite berry and I desperately needed to have some on hand for munching.

I'm even going to attempt making some jam! I've never tried making raspberry jam before but since it's my favourite kind of jam, I thought it was worth one try. So hopefully this morning's endeavors pay off. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, we're just happily working through the rest of the berries fresh. I've been eating them by the handful or on cereal, while Dan is enjoying them on ice cream. Nothing beats fresh berries. Now to wait until blueberry season is here...

Anyone else get out picking this year? If not, are you at least buying some to enjoy while they're in season? What's you're favourite berry?

For long time readers of my blog, you'll remember this post from last year where I talked about buying a quarter cow from a local farmer. Well, we did it again!

Except for this time, we went bigger and better and ordered a half pig as well! We wanted to branch out from just beef and chicken and add some pork into our diets, for a little extra variety.

This is our second time ordering from Heritage Cattle Company and we continue to be happy with them. Their cows are 100% grass-fed and lead happy lives out in the fields while their pigs are raised in an apple orchard. If I was a farmer, I would want to be like these people.

Our chest freezer we got last year is being tested for space, since we just keep shoving more stuff into it. Currently it is home to all of our new meat, a little of last years meat and 4 chickens. Not to mention, some odds and ends like strawberries and chicken broth.

We're pretty stoked to be eating so much good meat over the next year and I look forward to finding new ways to cook up all these different cuts.

Do you ever order meat in bulk like this? Any favourite recipes you want to share for either pork or beef? Want to come over for dinner?

Yesterday is a day I will likely never forget. And for good reasons this time.

It all started on Monday, when Dan informed me that I needed to set aside a block of time on Wednesday afternoon. When I asked why, he told me he had a surprise date planned and to stop asking questions. I mostly did, other than making a few unrealistic guesses like "flying to Paris to eat supper under the Eiffel Tower" or "going to a Luke Bryan concert".

Wednesday afternoon finally arrived and we happily set out together in Dan's truck. When we pulled in to the Peterborough Airport, I immediately knew what we were doing.

With Dan owning his own business, he gets to meet a lot of different people and in this situation, he knew someone who owned his own small plane and loved any opportunity to show it off. Dan of course jumped at the chance to set up a date of a lifetime.

Dan had never been up in a small plane and even though I had been, I was 8 at the time and didn't really remember much. Could have something to do with the fact I was barely tall enough to see out the windows. Needless to say, we were both pretty excited.

After getting settled in and going over the rules and emergency exits, we were off!

It was so amazing! Being able to see so many familiar sights from the sky was pretty cool. We even got to fly over our house and see what the birds see.

After being way too delighted about this, we headed over to Rice Lake. It was really fun to see it from this view since we had just spent last Saturday cruising it by boat.

It was at this point that Dan got to try his hand at flying, while I remained calm in the back seat.

He was actually pretty good at it and I was impressed with how relaxed he was. I would not have handled the pressure that well.

We flew back and forth across the lake until we ran into some storm clouds. It's pretty cool how when you're in the sky, you can just decide you'd rather be in the sunshine and turn around and leave the storm. At least you can when you're not going any place in particular.

After escaping the storm clouds, we did one more pass of the lake before heading back to the airport.

Once we landed again, we thanked our pilot profusely and took the classic picture of us posing beside the plane.

So basically, one of the best dates I've ever had. I've got the best husband in the world.

Have you ever flown in a small plane? Is it on your bucket list? How about a helicopter? I'd love to have a ride in a helicopter.

Another garden update for you guys, although it's not too exciting since we're not really eating much from it yet. Oh well, soon enough!

Things are growing quickly and it's time for me to get back out there and do some more weeding. I (meaning Dan) also need to build something for the cucumbers and zucchini to climb. Maybe before next Wednesday?

Giant tomato plant
We did get around to staking up the tomato cages since they were tipping with the weight of the gigantic tomato plants, but you can't see them in the above picture because the plant is so big. And yes, that is mostly one plant.

The beans are about to flower which means it will soon be time for fresh beans. I can't wait!

This one specific pepper plant is doing awesome, with multiple peppers already on it. Hopefully the other six plants catch up soon.

Like I said, not too much has changed since last week but I know that things are actually growing, whether we can tell the difference or not.

Oh and we do have more growing things on our property! Our two pear trees that we got last fall didn't survive the winter so we finally got them replaced last night. Look at how good one of them now looks. It even has little pears on it!

And for the record, What's Growing Wednesday posts will probably always be a little late going up on the blog since I have started up running again and by the time I get back from that, shower and take pictures of the garden, it's a little later than usual.

You'll forgive me though, right?

Sorry for the lack of post yesterday, I was recovering from the fabulous weekend I had with my sister Cora. It was the perfect summer weekend and I wanted to share some of the highlights with you.

Cora makes it to our house for a visit at least once a year (sometimes more) and this past weekend was the traditional summer one. We couldn't have asked for better weather, with the sun shining almost the whole time and nice warm temperatures that didn't make you feel like you were going to die. Like I said, perfect.

The weekend started out on Thursday night, when Cora arrived and we got Muddy's Pit BBQ for supper. Cora and Dan enjoyed pulled pork sandwiches while I ate a fried egg sandwich I made at home. A little disappointing for me but what can I do.

The next day Dan had to work so Cora and I spent the day in town shopping and we had a blast. We hit up two thrift stores, two grocery stores, a bathing suit store and New York Fries for lunch.

We spent lots of money but bought awesome things, so it was a successful day of shopping.

Saturday was the best day of all, since we went out on the boat. We usually go up the river and through the locks but this time we hit up Rice Lake.

We went swimming, sped around the lake, read/fished, and ate tasty sandwiches, chips and cherries.

I think I can safely say it was one of the best days I've ever had on the water.

Upon returning home, we had kebabs for supper and then went to the free concert in town.

Sunday was a quieter day of playing games, getting ice cream and reading. It rained in the morning so it mellowed us out a bit.

And then Monday Cora returned home and I took a nap. It was a really great weekend and we had a ton of fun together. Until next time Cora!

What was everyone else up to this weekend? Did you get to enjoy summer weather or was it gross where you live?

If you read the newspaper or blogs, listen to the radio, or watch TV, chances are you have been bombarded with the term sustainable living, possibly without ever hearing its actual definition. Sustainable: able to sustain; living: one's way of life. If you type sustainable living into Google, this is the definition that pops up: a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual's or society's use of the Earth's natural resources and personal resources. If you are able to live in relatively the same way for your entire life, your lifestyle is sustainable for you, although it may not be sustainable for the world (i.e. you live within your budget and can keep up with the maintenance needs of where you live). If you and the next three generations could live the way you are living now, then it is probable that you are living fairly sustainably (i.e. you grow your own food; if you cut down a tree, you plant a new one). Buying a new smart phone every couple of years, using lots of beauty products, and keeping your house at sub-zero in the summer, are unfortunately not sustainable long-term. It is a huge challenge to live sustainably in North America; our continent is rich in natural resources which makes it easy to forget that those resources will run out if we continue living the way we do at present.

When it comes to living sustainably, many of us feel caught between a rock and a hard place. The rock: the environment; we know that the world is taxed and that we are responsible for the problems we cause or the help we give. The hard place: our lifestyle; whether you are a single woman living in a small downtown apartment, or a retired grandfather working on a hobby farm, you need to provide for your needs and the needs of your family. It is easy to become overwhelmed at the thought of pollution, over-consumption of resources, and poverty; it is natural to feel that we can never do enough. The truth is, however, that even the smallest effort is useful. Focusing on changing one small thing in our life is much more productive than trying to take on the world's problems all at once.

Four things you can do this summer to live more sustainably:
1) save energy: keep lights turned off until dusk; sweep your house instead of vacuum; open your windows at night to cool the house
2) save water: wear your clothes more than once before washing; capture rainwater to use on your garden; turn off the water while you brush your teeth
3) use fewer chemicals: wash your sink and bathtub with baking soda; wash your floor with vinegar and water; cut one hair-washing session from your week
4) buy less stuff: use up half-full bottles of shampoo, moisturizer, etc. before buying more; cut out a few products from your beauty regimen; give handmade gifts

Alma is wearing her homemade leggings from Jennie, and her homemade scarf knit by her then 7 year old cousin

Alma loves the blanket Jennie made her for her first Christmas
Want to do more? Here are some more ideas:

energy consumption
small change: don't turn on lights until it is dusk/dark; sweep instead of vacuum
medium change: unplug computers, TVs, entertainment systems as they use energy even when they are turned off (easier: get a power cord with an on/off switch and turn it off when you go out/are in bed)
large change: when making pasta- boil the water, put your pasta in, bring water back to a boil, cover with lid and remove from heat, let sit for 20 minutes and you will have made pasta using a small percentage of the energy it usually takes

heating in the winter
keep the thermostat lower/don't go through all your wood in a week while remaining comfortable in three easy steps:
1. invest in a good wool sweater (I found my favourite sweater at a second-hand shop for $7, so it need not break the bank)

This sweater is in nearly every picture from November to April
2. wear wool socks and slippers
3. wear long underwear, tights, or leggings under your jeans

cooling in the summer
keep yourself cool by doing three things:
1. open all the windows at night to let the cool (or sometimes not so cool) breeze flow through your house
2. close the windows and the curtains first thing in the morning to keep the heat out (I always hate doing this because I love sunlight in the house, so I often opt to sweat it out instead)
3. wear loose cotton clothing; avoid synthetic fibres (like polyester) on the hottest days as they will make you sweat even more

small change: take shorter showers
medium change: take shorter and fewer showers
big change: take fewer showers and learn to turn off the water while you suds up

brushing teeth
instead of leaving the water running while you brush your teeth, use a cup of water to rinse your mouth and your toothbrush

capture wasted water
anytime you turn the tap on and let it run, waiting for the hot water to kick in, put a container under the tap to catch the otherwise wasted water - water your plants; rinse your dishes; wash fruit and vegetables; fill the dog's water bowl

small change: rather than filling your whole sink, fill a bucket with soapy water to wash your dishes
medium change: better yet, fill two buckets - one for washing and one for rinsing
large change: use the leftover rinse water to clean the sink, the bathtub, or cloth diapers

save your vegetable water (from boiling potatoes, steaming carrots, etc.) to use for soup, rice, lentils

small change: wear your clothes more than once - wear them multiple times if you can get away with it
medium change: wash your clothes in a front-loading washer that uses less water than top-loading
large change: go naked (just kidding)

small change: capture rainwater in a barrel to use for watering your garden or lawn
medium change: use the rainwater to wash your car
large change: use the rainwater to wash yourself

small change: water your garden/lawn with rainwater

Watering the garden is pretty cheap entertainment when you are a toddler
medium change: place mulch around your plants to keep the soil moist
large change: learn about polycultures and how different root and leaf systems can work together to conserve water (for example: one draws water from deep within the soil while another covers the soil to prevent it from drying out in the sun)

small change: buy second-hand gifts or re-gift (just make sure you don't re-gift to the person who gifted it in the first place)
medium change: use cartoons or newspaper as an alternative to wrapping paper for Christmas and birthday gifts
large change: make all of your gifts or give "experiences" rather than objects (i.e. a trip to the beach, a date at a nice cafe, a scavenger hunt of household objects with personal notes attached)

Homemade maple syrup (that's Jennie's brother in the picture)
personal care
small change: use up your beauty/hygiene products before buying more (don't toss that bottle of lotion that is still 1/4 full even though you are sick of it and want a new scent)
medium change: cut back on the amount of beauty products you use (it is amazing how easily you can get by with a bar of soap and a bit of lip balm)
large change: make your own hygiene and beauty products (click each item for link): homemade toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo/conditioner, soap, mascara, lotion, sunscreen, shaving cream, hair gel, sculpting wax, and mouthwash

cleaning your house
small change: use up your cleaning products before buying more
medium change: use multi-purpose cleaners instead of using a different cleaner for each task
large change: make your own cleaning products: all-purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, floor, bathroom cleaner, disinfectant

Want more ideas? Check out these great resources:

Tara is my sister-in-law and is currently living out a pretty sustainable lifestyle with her husband and daughter in their yurt they built themselves. To read more about their adventures, check out Tara's blog girl in a tree.