This is Camping

DSC08753 DSC08757 DSC08758 DSC08759 DSC08760 DSC08761 DSC08764 DSC08765 DSC08769 DSC08773There is something about camping that brings us out of our shells. Camping means relying on and living in close proximity to others. If you are lucky enough to find people who like to camp like you do, then you are set.

Did you know a place this beautiful and not at all like a desert exists in southern Arizona? Did you know that it’s okay once in awhile to have “all the things smore’s” (albeit all the ingredients were gluten free and vegan)?

I dare  say that the best conversations happen around a campfire late at night with owls hooting, a stainless steel glass of wine in your hand, and a million stars in the sky.

It’s places and trips like these that stop time. That make this one precious life so worthwhile.

I’ve loved camping since I was child. We went camping like this every summer. It looked slightly different depending on which parent I was with. If it was my dad we camped in the back of his truck under the camper shell. He always brought a watermelon and would put it in the river surrounded by rocks to stay cool. If it was with my mom we would camp out in her 1970’s orange canvas A-frame tent. We had a gas stove and kerosene lamp that lit up the whole woods around us. No matter how we camped, it was always fun.

What does your camping look like?

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In My Garden

DSC08729 DSC08730 DSC08731 DSC08732 DSC08733 DSC08734 DSC08735 DSC08736 DSC08737 DSC08738 DSC08739In June a desert garden is a desperate place. Both plants and animals (humans included) are in a fight to survive. The plants need water daily and lots of shade to survive the heat before the rains come. I recently learned that tender plants like those in a vegetable garden can actually get too much sun, making it hard for them to keep up with proper photosynthesis, so they need shade. Unlike more northern places where it’s not necessary to shade plants.

The birds have been desperate for water and food. They come and eat all the tender leaves. I’ve let them have the one kale plant and one chard plant and given up on the sunflowers and zinnias. I’ve seeded again this weekend so hopefully I’ll have flowers come August.

This is not to say that things aren’t going well, they are. We had our first monsoon storm this weekend. My rain barrel harvested 25 gallons of water in less than an hour. The plants were ever so happy about all the rain. I’ve harvested 18 1/2 pounds of tomatoes! The season has barely begun and all those tomatoes already. There are lots of beans and basil, we harvest 8 pounds of apples from our trees. I know it feels a bit early for apples but we are at such a low elevation that they ripen early.

I’ve been harvesting potatoes. This is my first year growing them. Oh these little spuds are delicious. There don’t seem to be many potatoes in the ground. I’m waiting till the plants die back but I’m still not finding as many as I thought from the way they grew. Which makes me think growing them in a big barrel might be better. Easier to keep the soil moist and to mound up the soil around the plants.

This weekend the girls and I did three sisters monsoon planting. It’s really more like 5 sisters, that being: corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and amaranth. This is an experiment I’ve not tried yet. My hope is by planting with the rains, I will have planted late enough that the squash bugs are done, there is more wild food for the birds to eat, and lots of water for the plants.

With Summer Solstice come and gone we are now in full swing of summer. Wish you slow happy days!

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In My Garden

DSC08667 DSC08692 DSC08695 DSC08696 DSC08697 DSC08698 DSC08699 DSC08700 DSC08701 DSC08702Well apparently this has turned into a garden blog for now! Honestly, with the arrival of almost summer, most of our normal homeschool activities are coming to a close for the summer season and saying goodbye to friends moving away and getting to know new friends, I’ve hardly had time to sit down at the computer.

But this weekend I was outside a lot and so I thought I would do a garden update.

I harvested chili this past week and made a batch of my dear friend Lisa’s pickled hot sauce. I also made a jar of fridge dilly beans.

Growing in the garden right now are:

  • bush beans
  • chili
  • bell peppers
  • lettuce
  • chard
  • kale
  • zucchini
  • carrots (the last of them)
  • tomatoes
  • garlic (almost ready to come out of the ground)
  • potatoes
  • dill
  • basil
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • lemon balm
  • chinese chives
  • thyme
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • terragon
  • sunflowers
  • apples
  • figs
  • mulberries
  • okra
  • strawberries

Ok, this list is getting crazy long! But great news is, I grew enough tomatoes last year to make it through to this season! I did not buy canned tomatoes from the store this past year. There are already tomatoes ripening on the vine.

At the end of June I will plant for the monsoons. Here in the desert you plant in late february/early March for a May/June harvest and then you plant or seed again at the end of June for a September harvest.

I have never done monsoon planting so I thought I would try it. I’ve been saving all the water hungry plants for this time. I bought all desert adapted seeds for this as well. I’ve got Navajo melons, hopi corn, amaranth, tohono o’odham pumpkins and sunflowers. I also bought a packet of monsoon season wildflowers, which I plan to seed in the backyard around my ugly cinder block walls.

It’s a really good time to be in the garden right now!

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Morning in the Garden

DSC08652DSC08654 DSC08655 DSC08656 DSC08657 DSC08658 DSC08659 DSC08660 DSC08661 DSC08662 DSC08663 DSC08664 DSC08665 DSC08666DSC08651The weather these past few weeks has been idyllic. We have had daytime highs of 78 and a slight breeze. The garden is loving this and so am I. While it lasts I have been vigorously tending to all the tedious parts of being a full-time gardener such as adding mulch, fertilizing where needed, pruning staking plants that are falling over, and removing any heat intolerant plants. The heat is coming this week with highs of 105 at the end of the week. Whew, I’m already pulling out all my popsicle and no bake recipes. Time for my oven to retire and the grill to come out of hibernation.

I can see the summer produce growing already, tomatoes on the vines, figs, cucumber flowers, green beans, and even sprouting zucchini. I’m ready for summers bounty!

For mother’s day I spent a good part of my afternoon getting a garden manicure, complete with black dirt under my nails. I would say one of the better smells in life is that of well-rotted compost.



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In My Garden

Before we left on vacation, my garden looked like this. Now my garden looks like this!


DSC08600 DSC08601 DSC08603 DSC08604 DSC08605DSC08607 DSC08608 DSC08609 DSC08610 DSC08617 DSC08622 DSC08624 DSC08626All in all, things are going really well in this spring garden. I harvested 6 pounds of shelled peas, 3 quart bags of strawberries, 3 pounds of carrots, a dozen or so heads of lettuce, countless chard leaves, a dozen beets and a fortune’s worth of eggs.

The herb bed is doing really well. Basil is coming in nicely all over the garden. I haven’t really kept track of how much I am saving by growing my own veggies, all I know is it has greatly turned my eating habits towards a mainly plant-based diet. I eat veggies from the garden at almost every meal.

Coming up is chili, green beans, tomatoes, eggplants. I recently planted zucchini and okra. We’ve had very mild weather recently, and so I’m not sure how long it will take that okra to sprout. I think this year I will forgo popping corn in favor of sweet corn and pumpkins for butternuts. The popping corn is so tiny and takes so much water and the pumpkins, well, I’d need to expand the garden another 30 feet just to make room for those!

Also, today is Beltane or May Day! We’ve made to the halfway mark between spring and summer. We’ll spend today outside, first at the farmer’s market then in the garden to play and plant things and finally we’ll have a bonfire and small feast. We’ve even made flower crowns for the occasion!

Happy Beltane everyone.

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DSC08336DSC08329DSC08335DSC08332DSC08334DSC08333Il Pozzo di San Patrizio is one of the neatest places to visit. It’s a very deep well, started in the 1500s, that is 62 meters deep. It has a double helix staircase that you use to climb down to the bottom and back up again. 248 stairs down and 248 back out again.

DSC08457Tomorrow we are traveling home. It has been a lovely three weeks, but we are already to get home. My garden is waiting, so is my bed. I miss my own bed. (Don’t tell my mother in-law but the guest bed is horrible and it gave me a sore back and bruises on my hips.)

DSC08358We saw so many little towns and had picnics whenever we could. Yes, there was whining and complaining and a few tantrums here and there by parents and kids alike, but we are coming home with lots of good memories and so many books! We’ll miss our family for sure but it was a great trip and we look forward to our next adventure!


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When in Rome…

DSC08109 DSC08120 DSC08129 DSC08135 DSC08145 DSC08153 DSC08155 DSC08159 DSC08167 DSC08182 DSC08187 DSC08189You could live your whole life in Rome and never see everything. We took the train to Rome and met up with friends. We saw lots of famous things from afar as it was (coincidentally) a special day where all the monuments and museums that you normally paid to get into were free. All of those monuments were mobbed with Romani and tourists alike. So we just zoomed by them, sticking instead to tiny side streets and having lunch in the old Jewish Ghetto. Carciofi alla Giudea, think artichoke “potato chips”, one of my favorite roman foods.

Of course there was gelato eating to do and art appreciation. These girls don’t even realize they saw three Caravaggio paintings and a Michelangelo sculpture in person!

We’ll be back to Rome on calmer day. We’ve got more monuments to see… and gelato to eat.

Ciao a tutti!

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Postcards from Italy

pictures from Italy by Kathryn Pagano DSC07977 DSC07980 DSC08003Ciao! We are in Italy for three weeks! We are here to visit family and travel a tiny bit. I have very erratic internet access so join me over on Instagram. Yes, V is holding a chunk of parmigiano larger than her head. :)

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Welcome Spring!

DSC07849 DSC07851 DSC07861 DSC07864This past Sunday we celebrated the Spring Equinox. The spring egg hunt was much anticipated this year. All of February and much of March I felted eggs in secret at night. Not a burden by any means. Needle felting is the best kind of therapy! Before the big hunt we wet felted eggs as well.

On the morning of the Equinox they hunted for eggs the felted eggs with such glee. They also found a few organic chocolate eggs as well.

Then we had yummy lunch of fresh veggies harvest from the garden.

Happy Spring to you all. Sorry about the radio silence lately. I’ve got a huge surprise coming up next week. Check back here on Wednesday of next week or on Instagram if you just can’t wait. (no it’s not a baby!)

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In My Garden

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Gardening season is in full swing here. I’ve taken lots of pictures but I thought it would be fun to take you all on a little walking tour of the garden as well. Click on the video above to walk through my garden or scroll down through the pictures.

DSC07816 DSC07817 DSC07818 DSC07822 Chili peppers and basil sprouts in the greenhouse.

DSC07825 Tiny Dorset apples just beginning to grow.

DSC07827 The north garden. I still need to run drip lines here before summer. Oh and finish painting the fence! So close. DSC07829 Lettuce and brassicas. DSC07831 Blossoming thyme.

DSC07832 The acacia tree in full bloom. There are hundreds of bees in this tree right now. You can hear the hum of their busy wings. Makes it seem like the tree is hum a tune to spring.

DSC07838 DSC07841 Everytime I peep in here and see a chicken I feel like I’ve opened the bathroom door on someone by accident.


Everyday we eat something grown in the garden. It’s a euphoric feeling to go out into your own space where you’ve put so much time and effort to tend  a plant to maturity and then harvest it and use it to nourish your family. There is no room for boredom in a life that includes a family food garden.  Whether it’s looking for earthworms or watching the bees and butterflies gather nectar from the flowers there is always something going on in the garden.

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