I really just want to dive right into what we’ve been up to as a family unit this past year. There’s a time to hmm and haw about the goals that 2020 seemed to unravel— but instead I’d rather focus on what we did do.

Local campgrounds were a popular destination with limited space this summer, so we didn’t get to do our regular camping adventures. But hiking and exploring was still on our agenda. And the majority of our free-time was spent outdoors at home.

The Barr Garden Update

As this blog-history would reveal, we have been slowly working on making our backyard garden our “own” since we acquired it over 4 years ago. This year, like many others, we decided to venture into the world of vegetable gardening. We said bye-bye to our hops and built a gardening space with room to grow.

Let’s just say, 2020 was the year of homemade salsa for us.

gardening buddy
Image By: Ray B. — Our daughter posed in front of the ridiculous amount of tomatoes we grew, as well as our pepper & herb garden box.

Homemade Garden Boxes

Somewhere among the early phases of our state re-opening, we were able to reunite with my parents and borrow my dad’s expertise in building things to put together two humble cedar garden boxes.

Being concerned that a lot of work would yield little results, we opted to plant 6 tomato starters (2 yellow pear, 2 sungold cherry, and 2 oregon cherry) in one box. Somehow I also fit a jalapeño and habanero plant as well. The sungold’s absolutely took over. Thankfully they were a fan favorite, and made for a wonderful sweet and spicy salsa.

We also planted a variety of herbs, ground cherries (small tomatillos), and some large sweet peppers. We have a lot to learn but for a first-year garden we were quite pleased with it!

This spring we plan on adding a few more boxes, including one for our daughter to be able to pick her own seeds & starters and learn to care for them. She was already a huge help with harvesting, although sometimes a little over eager. Between her and our puppy, many green tomatoes met an early fate.

New Path

Our other garden project this year was planting more flowers, and designing a new rock path after tripping on the old brick one too many times. We have reused most of the brick we pulled out to make new walking paths by our house and hose areas where it was formerly just a lot of mud!

Image by Ray: Before path plus bonus picture of our dog and new puppy when he was still little.
Image by Ray: New path before grass! And so obviously in the middle of summer without rain. We will be redoing the centerpiece in the coming year.

We were very fortunate to have resources to build our own garden, and we were encouraged by efforts in our are to build more community gardens. The nice part about not being able to travel, is the chance to really look inward and see where energy can be put within our smaller eco-systems!

blueberry picking buddy
Image by Ray: Blueberry picking at a local farm.
hiking buddy
Image by Ray: Blackberry Picking Hike- napping on the go.

Our summer was full of neighborhood and local hikes, blueberry and blackberry picking, and a couple of beach trips (within our county). I am grateful to be in a more rural area during this time. Our desire for the busy style of the city has all but faded away since spending the past 9 months on a smaller scale life.

A Bleak End to Summer for Oregonians

Unfortunately, for many in the PNW, the outdoor summer season came to an abrupt end. Devastating forest fires engulfed the valley in the worst fire season we’ve ever seen. We were fortunate to not be in any evacuation zones. Our friends and family who did evacuate from the Holiday Farm Fire, Santiam Fire, and Almeda Fire were unharmed and able to return to their homes for restoration.

We have small jar ash I collected from our front porch as a memorial to the lives lost in these fires— and as a reminder of how delicate our earth can be. It’s impossible not to recognize how literal climate change and deforestation is impacting our environment in the PNW.

How to Help

You can donate to the Oregon Red Cross relief efforts to support families that have been displaced due to the fires here: https://www.redcross.org/about-us/our-work/disaster-relief/wildfire-relief/2020-wildfires.html .
The McKenzie River Trust is also a great resource to give to here in Oregon. They were featured in a recent article we published!

A List of Things We Are Doing to Be More Sustainable!

Alright, to wrap up 2020, here’s a short list of things we are doing at home to be more sustainable. Basically, this is a short outline of all the blog posts I should have written in the last two years.

  • Cloth Diapers for the win! Daunted by the upfront cost? Check Facebook Marketplace and consignment stores that sell kids clothes for gently used, and sometimes like-new cloth diapers. Even the ones that don’t look great can still work well (and a little sun-bleaching can liven them up).
  • Ditched paper towels/napkins for cloth! Our choice: Paper(LESS) Towels from SCP.
  • Started using reusable sandwich and snack bags. Our choices: Cloth Snack Bags from SCP, and Large Silicone Bags from Stasher
  • The majority of my daughter’s clothes are from consignment shops and hand-downs from cousins/friends! If you are shopping for an expectant parent, I highly recommend finding local shops and checking out their inventory. Many have started posting inventory on their social media pages for easy at-home shopping. Companies like Thred-Up are also making it easier to buy used no matter where you are.
  • Learned how to crochet! Shopped small as much as possible and supported Local Yarn Shops and Indie Dyers. Learning how to make reusable items like produce bags, face wipes, reusable “water balloons” and more!