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Well hello, friend!
Each time a new month rolls around, I claim it as my favorite. But when it comes to October, it may finally be true. As someone who loves to garden, I often feel bad saying that. Gardeners are supposed to yearn for eternal summer, right? But I’m simply not one of those gardeners.
I’m a mix of someone who loves the outdoors and the indoors. When I’m forced to go in the house, with nightfall coming earlier each day and cool weather sliding in, I realize I definitely enjoy my indoor time. I love having a hot coffee in the evening, wrapping myself in a blanket, holding Kip (my French bulldog), and… decorating for Christmas. I love that I can forget the mundane tasks of watering, weeding, and planting for a little bit and just dream about doing it instead.
You may be like me and love that you can read this in the dimming light as evening sets in earlier. Or perhaps you’re someone who wishes summer would never end. I understand only some enjoy cold weather and snow. In either case, I hope this letter finds you able to enjoy something warm (or cool) to drink so we can chat about all the things that have happened in the last month. Let’s discuss!
Let’s talk about the garden.
While the weather has been cooler, the vegetable garden is not quite barren yet. There’s actually still some green growth in my raised beds. The Lacinato kale is still standing tall, which is to be expected since kale can take a decent amount of cold weather. We’ve dipped as low as 21 degrees, and I’m still able to get out and harvest. This is excellent since I love to make my favorite kale salad no matter the time of year.
The carrots still need to be dug, but I’m not worried. My mom has always waited until a few freezes occur, so now I do as well. In fact, many people believe that carrots become sweeter in cooler weather. I like digging them in cooler weather, so it’s a win-win! Once ready, I dig the carrots, cut off the greens, and wash them. Then I store them in plastic bags with a damp paper towel in the refrigerator. Root vegetables, like carrots, last for months when stored properly; usually by spring, mine are almost all gone!
Leaves have been falling from the trees, and as much as I enjoy seeing them in the yard, I don’t allow them to stay for long. I started picking them up recently with my riding lawn mower, which has an attachment that gathers the chopped leaves in a bag. But lest you worry, the leaves do not go to waste. I use them on top of my newly planted garlic. Mulched leaves are a great way to insulate garlic and protect it over the winter.
The leaves would be great to chop up and leave right on the yard as a way to feed it. But in addition to my garlic, I want them for my compost. I stack them on my compost piles along with manure and green material from the yard and gardens. Monthly, I try to stir them, and in a few years, the pile will turn into black, loamy, rich compost. I keep two to three stacks going at once so I can use up one each year while having a constant supply in reserve.
In the coming week, I still have a few outdoor to-dos that need to be checked off the list:
- Place tree guards on my young trees. I position white corrugated tiles around the trunk of each tree. If you have deer, you may be familiar with these as they help protect the trunks from pests who rub against them. And while I don’t have deer, I do use the guards to keep the trees from getting frost cracks on the trunks. Even with this protection, I did lose two trees to frost cracks this last winter, so it’s unfortunately not 100% protection.
- Protect my new Japanese maple. The maple is Zone 5, but I still worry that the west winter winds will be brutal on the tree. To protect it, I create a burlap enclosure with stakes.
- Keep watering all new plants and trees. Since we’re in a severe drought here in southeast Iowa, I also need to watch out for any shallow-root established plants.
- Put up outdoor Christmas decorations. It’s early, but I find it much more enjoyable to do this when it’s more temperate outside.
The garden may be winding down, but I love knowing everything is just dormant, waiting to spring up again next year.
Let’s talk about some fall-time food.
With the colder temperatures, I’m entirely into cool-weather food. I’ve said my goodbyes to summer produce and embraced the bounty of butternut squash.
My go-to weeknight meal will forever be a version of squash soup, and right now, my favorite is my curry squash soup. I love the coconut milk poured in at the end, which brings in just a hint of sweetness and some additional flavor. If curry is not for you, my harvest squash soup is a classic option.
For comforting meals, my recipe for beef and noodles (which I’ll wager is the best beef and noodles 😆) definitely hits the spot. So many of you have tagged me in pictures on Instagram and Facebook showing your beef and noodles creations. I love taking a classic dish I grew up with, like this one, and updating it. This version has the same staple ingredients but with a welcome punch of flavor. It’s nice to know that many of you agree.
As we turn to heartier foods, I’ve posted some of my favorites this month. Some are super quick (like the sloppy joes), and others take just a bit more time. In case you missed any of them, here they are:
- homemade goulash
- savory squash hand pies
- easy turkey quinoa chili
- tomato tortellini soup
- classic sloppy joes
- pumpkin coffee cake with cheesecake swirl
I love seeing how you all enjoy these recipes! Keep tagging me on social media, or leave a comment (and a rating) on the website!
Let’s talk about Kip.
In every newsletter, I give an update on Kip, my 4-year-old French bulldog. As you probably know by now, he’s been doing very well since becoming paralyzed last year. Recently, the struggle was a nasty bout with colitis. Still, he’s been doing fantastic since the start of a B-12 vitamin regimen.
After last month’s check-up with the doctors, we decided to decrease one of the immune suppressants that was causing some issues in his blood work. At this point, this pattern will likely be the new normal: checking and adjusting medications as needed to ensure Kip is healthy. I’ll also have to watch to ensure any changes do not cause regression in his ability to walk.
Drumroll, please! The big excitement is that I may no longer need to drive to Champaign, Illinois, each month! For over a year, we’ve been traveling for Kip’s immune-suppressant treatment, but we can finally have some of these treatments administered closer to home. Starting in December, we’ll be able to stay home and only go to Illinois every few months. This feels like such a blessing, given the 4-hour drive.
Honestly, I’ve never complained or even cared about the extra time Kip requires. As he sits beside me while I write this, heaving a satisfied sigh every so often, I realize he’s given me some of the most joyful moments in my life. And seeing him doing so well gives me comfort. Aren’t our pets amazing?
That’s all for October, which for me, felt like the first actual month of fall. Wherever you are in the world, I hope you enjoyed this month. Whether it was filled with joy or a real struggle, let’s all know we’re in this together.
Until then, take care!
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