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Monday, August 12, 2019

Free Fun Activities and All Close To Home

We live in an unincorporated part of our county, but I would not exactly classify us as rural, or suburban, but something in between. Leo, IN is just a couple of miles south of our home, it is a small suburban community, it has many nice sub-divisions, a number of businesses, is well run by it's council, and with a good tax base it is a great community with a couple of really nice play parks for children. Each summer over a weekend close to July 4th, Leo puts on the Freedom Festival, there is a 5K run, food trucks, vendor booths, bouncy castles and other child friendly activities, live music and the finale is an awesome fire work display around 10 pm. As a family the fireworks have become a tradition, we all go, it is a fun and enjoyable time. And throughout the year the park hosts a number of festivals that are all well attended.

A couple of miles east of Leo is Grabill, another small town, again well run, with many amenities including a small grocery store, bulk food store, hardware store and our doctor's office. There are two nice play parks and a branch of the Allen County library, and a large antique mall. Each September the town hosts Grabill Days, a community festival with lots of good food, lots of craft booths, and live music, the festival is very well attended, it began in the about forty years ago and is still going strong. 

The road that connect Leo to Grabill, a distance of 2 - 3 miles, has an awesome bike/walk path running beside the road, it is in constant use with walkers, joggers, and cyclist and a very nice amenity for the local residents.

Just south of Leo there is Metea Park. The 250 acre park run by Allen County has trails, a swimming beach, a nature center, and a nice woodland with the Cedar Creek running through it. The park does have an admission fee, but instead of paying each time I visit I decided to purchase an annual pass for Dave and myself and the grandchildren. At 55 I am considered a senior, so it only cost $25, that seems quite a good deal and is good at all Allen County run parks.

A few weeks ago I took Ralph and Masen to one of the Grabill parks. As a community project some years ago a long wooden train was built at the park, it has an engine, and six or more carriages, it is a wonderful attraction for small children,  perfect for their size and all children love playing train. There are picnic tables, mature trees, softball diamonds, slides and swings and climbing frames. Off to the side of the park is a paved trail that meanders a mile loop around a recreated wet land, and prairie land. A recent walk along the trail, on a beautiful summer day was so enjoyable, butterflies were enjoying the wild flowers, crickets chirped and other than insect sounds it was peaceful and so beautiful.  Ralph and Masen enjoyed the walk, it was a prefect distant for them.

Picnic at Grabill Park

Standing by wild flowers on the Grabill Park trail

Last week I took six grandsons to Metea park, we spent about an hour "hiking" on the trails in the woods. Again it was a beautiful summer day, low humidity with a pleasant breeze. We went up hill and down hill, and looked a the creek, and the boys collected acorns, it was a very relaxing and enjoyable time. When we finished our hike we stopped at the play ground for a few minutes and then headed home for a cold drink, and the boys all enjoyed an ice-cream sandwich treat.

The fun begins with a nice downhill trek

Enjoying the woods, they all wanted to find a stick to carry

Enjoying the view

Last Friday we took a trip to Leo to visit the Splash Pad and Rock Creek. What a glorious place for kids to play. The boys love the Splash Pad, and once they had their fill they moved on to the Rock Creek, a fun place to climb over and feel like you are having quite an adventure. Once finished with rock climbing we moved over to the play area, they went down the slides, played on the swings and dried out as they played. Then over to the music garden, a lovely area, with over sized instruments to play with. There are chimes, bells,a xylophone, and bongos, a fun area for kids and adults.  After our fill of music making we walked along the trail, it winds around the park and along the side of the St. Joseph river, towards the end of our walk the boys took a rest on a bench by the river. Afterwards we headed home for a cold drink, and again they enjoyed an ice-cream sandwich.

And, sometimes, after a fun afternoon out we need to take a little nap to recuperate. Little George made it almost five minutes into the movie we chose to watch, The Sandlot.

It is so nice to have a variety of fun activities to do that are all withing a few miles of home, and it breaks up the day for the kids, they can have lunch, a nice afternoon activity, and then home for a snack and a movie, or nap, and then it is time to go home. But most importantly are the memories made, and the fun I get to have with all of these wonderful kids.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

End Of Summer Vacation Fun

A week ago was my last day to watch our granddaughters for a while, their new baby brother is due next month so our daughter-in-law stopped working so she can spend some time with the girls before school starts and get ready for the new baby. The new baby still doesn't have a name so I call him Boris, I hope they come up with a name soon.

Anyway, on the last day I watched Alivia and Aubrey our daughter Emily called to say that there was a kid friendly event in the parking lot of the YMCA in Auburn, IN, called Touch A Truck, she would help transport grandchildren if we wanted to go. Of course we wanted to go. So Emily and I surrounded by nine happy kids enjoyed a pleasant Indiana summer afternoon watching them all explore many, many big vehicles. There was an ambulances, fire truck, snow plow, tow truck, cement mixer, mobile command office, back hoe, lift truck, and of course police cars. There was a DJ playing fun oldies, free bottled water and hot dogs for the kids, and a bouncy castle and inflatable slide. Each child got a slap bracelet, they really like them, and grandma got a free insulated reusable grocery tote bag. 

What a wonderful event, all free, so that is a plus, but a great way for children to explore and learn about different jobs grown ups do, and to really see what the vehicles are like. I must say they really had the most fun in the police car, they were allowed to play with the loud speaker, and all we could hear booming out of the police car were little children shouting things like, Let's go to McDonalds', or, Your under arrest and going to Dairy Queen. It was rather amusing.

Here are some pictures from the day, and you can see by the big smiles that everyone had a great time.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Garden Bounty - Sure Wish We Had Planted More Veggies - and Thoughts on Self-Sufficiency

Enjoying the bounty of our garden and it is wonderful. The tomatoes are ripening nicely, each day I pick more, I may well end up canning some as the plants are loaded with fruit. The cucumber and zucchini plants, one of each, are keeping me well supplied. And the pepper plants just give and give and give, I love peppers, so the bounty is appreciated.

I have a crock of cucumbers on the kitchen counter, they are well on their way to being dill pickles. I made a brine, then added a few garlic cloves and some fresh dill, popped in the cucumbers and covered the crock with a piece of cheese cloth and now they are left to ferment for one week. On Saturday I will move the pickles into a couple of jars along with some brine and then store in the refrigerator. Refrigeration halts the fermentation process. Fingers crossed they turn out nicely and have remained crisp. My next batch of pickles will be sweet, but I will probably use zucchini instead of cucumber, a nice sweet pickle is a fabulous addition to any sandwich, or so my taste buds think.

My only regret, I wish we had planted more. We haven't really done a garden properly for several years, this year we did it right but on a very small scale. I have kept up on the weeding, watered when needed, and generally tended my plants. It was much less daunting having only a small garden, but I know next year I will add kale, onions, rutabaga, radishes, and do more than one each of cucumber and zucchini.   But, I still want to keep it small scale. Gone are the days of planting fifty tomato plants, lots of potatoes, a large patch of corn, rows and rows of green beans and peas, and anything else I could fit in. I can't believe I used to keep up all the weeding on three huge gardens, and canned, froze, or stored all of the garden bounty. I would have a hundred plus pints of green beans canned, eighty plus quarts of tomatoes canned, corn, some canned, some frozen, peas always frozen. Potatoes and onions and other root veggies stored in mesh sacks in the basement. And with our four children home it all got eaten. Then I would can jars of grape jelly and make strawberry jam using our grapes and strawberries. And lots of applesauce from the fruit of our apple trees. One year I made some fabulous brandied pears. It was a satisfying way to live, but a lot of work.

I feel pulled back to my old ways, I am back to baking all of our bread, and although vegan, I miss having laying hens, and sometimes feel tempted to have another flock. But the cruelty of the hatcheries is beyond belief, and the poor little chicks are a day old and sent out in the mail, it is all rather horrendous. My motives are different now, I am trying to create less waste, so baking our own bread avoids bringing plastic bread packaging into the house. Baking cookies and other goodies for the grand children and family also avoids bringing packaging into the house. I was able to purchase thirty pounds of blueberries at a very good price, and they came in cardboard packaging, win win for me. I froze half of them for eating, and the other half Dave is going to use to make blueberry wine.  I like doing things myself, so does my husband, so a certain level of self-sufficiency is satisfying.

But in regards to self-sufficiency, it is a nice dream, but it is not really doable. Sure I can bake my own bread, but I don't grow and mill the grain for the flour, I don't know how to make yeast, I have to buy sugar and other dry goods. I can't make my own canning jars and lids for them, there are always things that we use that we cannot supply for ourselves, and I am okay with that, it is the way the world works. I think the main goal of those who desire self-sufficiency is to do for one's self as much as possible and to be good stewards of the earth and the resources provided to us. Some want isolation and separation from society as a primary reason. I would say my husband and I are quiet people, we keep ourselves to ourselves and the friends we hang with are our adult children and their partners and our fabulous grandchildren, that is our circle, and we love it.

The other benefits we reap from our way of living are enjoyment, feeling in touch with the seasons,  with nature and with the cycle of life. We find it brings great satisfaction to our mind, body, and spirit.

On another topic, today is a Triple Birthday in our family, my husband is 61, our son Ben is 28, and our grandson Peter is 5 - how cool that three generations in our family share a birthday. Tonight Dave and I will celebrate alone, and on Saturday we are having a family party, as on the 10th our daughter-in-law Taylor is 26, she is Ben's wife, and our son-in-law Brad, Amber's husband, is 34 on the 14th.  August is a crazy birthday month, our oldest grandson Henry will be 11 on the 26th, and my mom will be 80 on the 27th.  Our newest grandson, is due to arrive on September 7, but if he comes early he too could add to the August craziness!