Canning For The Year

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This has been a wonderful busy fall season. It is amazing what a difference one year has made. Those of you who know me, know that I spent last fall recovering from a bout of West Nile.  I was so grateful this year to be busy with canning, spending time with family and friends and just celebrating how good life is.

For me one of the great things of life, especially the fall, is the canning season. Years ago my grandma canned every bit of produce she could get her hands on. She instilled in me a love of seeing the produce come out of the garden, journey through the canning/preservation process and end up on the pantry shelves.

Sometimes Fall can feel like an ending to a season. I am not sure why, but canning does not feel like giving up on a past season. Canning feels like preparing for a fresh start. Lining shelves with the summer’s bounty is strangely fulfilling and highly addictive.

What starts out as just doing some batches of peaches, applesauce and pizza sauce turns into a hunt for a new recipe to try….a new way to try preserve the produce.  Canning is kind of like putting Summer in a jar and opening it to enjoy on those cold winter days.

For me…..canning is hope….hope that you are prepared….hope that you are ready for what comes…..and the hope that by the time your jars run out, you also run out of cold winter days.

Seeing the shelves lined with filled jars gives such a feeling of contentment. I may be weird in that thought but I am okay with that. I love going into my pantry and just standing there looking at those filled jars.

I tried a new recipe this year. We had such an abundance of watermelon that we could not keep up eating them. We gave melons away, I juiced a couple melons and they still kept producing. Even the chickens got to eat watermelon!

So this year I made watermelon jelly. It is so pretty in the jars and really tastes like watermelon in a jar!  I am so excited that in the middle of a cold dreary winter day I can open a jar and feel like summer is not so far away.

Watermelon Jelly
Yield: Makes five half pints

Ingredients: 
5 cups white sugar
5 tablespoons powdered pectin
6 cups pureed watermelon (remove any seeds prior to pureeing)
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice

Instructions:
Whisk together sugar and powdered pectin until they are fully integrated. Combine watermelon puree, sugar/pectin and lemon juice in a large, non-reactive pot.
Bring to a boil and let cook until the temperature of the nascent jelly reaches 220 degrees. This can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes, depending on the width of your pot, the heat of your stove and even the weather you’re having. Check set using saucer test before removing it from the heat, to ensure that it will set.
Remove from the heat and pour into prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and screw on bands. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.
When time is up, remove from canner and let jars cool. When they’re cool enough to handle, remove rings and test seals. You can eat immediately or store unopened jars in a cool, dark place for up to a year.
Notes:
*This jelly can take up to one week to set. Please give it time.

I found this recipe on Pinterest and here is the link:
https://foodinjars.com/recipe/watermelon-jelly-recipe/
My notes: 
I used the low sugar pectin so it would set up better. Also, make sure to boil till you reach the correct temp as this also helps with setting this jelly.
Do NOT omit the lemon juice or use fresh lemon juice.
this is needed to properly acidify the watermelon for safe canning.
I wait 24 hours before removing the rings.

 

I love having full shelves, but I also love to gift some of the bounty to my children and others. It is fun “shopping” my shelves and filling boxes to send home with them.

I love the fact that, for me, those jars speak of faithfulness. The faithfulness of my Creator in providing for every need. They are more than just food….they are a visual reminder.  Those jars are a way to connect with those that I love and a connection to those who have gone before.

Food is our common ground,
a universal experience.

James Beard 
Read more: http://www.searchquotes.com/search/Food_Preservation/#ixzz63Pz248Hn

Summer’s End

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In the past few days there have been several indicators that Fall is fast closing in. Canning season has come to an end. The garden is no longer beautiful and lush.  (It was looking bedraggled and spent so we cleared the debris and my husband pulled a disc through it.) The tall grasses that line the river bank are turning brown and the trees are fast losing their leaves.

The sound of the mornings are even different than a month ago. There is no longer a choir of birds singing at high volume in the gully to the south of us. Wind does not blow softly through the leaves on the trees. It seems to be gaining that winter howl…though I am glad it is not accompanied by snow…….yet!

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An End to Summer Fun

I took the pool down a few weeks back because we were having high winds and they said cooler weather was coming. I figured I should take it down while the weather was nice enough to deal with gallons of water that would probably be landing on me.

It was my concession to the fact that the seasons were indeed changing and I had best be prepared. I had been dragging my feet on that task as I do like the warmer weather, better than snow and cold and ice. It does feel kind of like giving up when I take it down.

I had not really planned on taking a few weeks break from blogging, but it just seemed that every time I was going to sit down and work on a post, another job seemed more pressing. Between the canning, prepping the garden for winter and preparing for the harvesting of our soybean field….time just slipped away.

The neighbor came over and combined the soybeans for us this past week. It is a good job to have finished for the season. There is a comfort in having those bushels safely tucked away at the local elevator.

There is something satisfying about the look of a harvested field. At first glance it looks like an ending. When you take a second glance you see that it is the first step in the preparations for planting next year. It is a beginning.

I love the fact that farming is like a dance. There is an ageless rhythm to the passing of seasons. There is a harmony to the preparing, planting, maintaining and harvesting those fields.

There is a beauty to the golden ripe crops and there is a beauty to the stubble left behind after the combine has done it’s work. There is a rightness to the cycles of the passing seasons and it is so evident as I watch the fields change.

Those fields are so like life….there is beauty in all seasons of life. Sometimes it may seem like giving up as you enter that next season. In all reality it is just a preparation for the next steps of the dance.

Let’s enjoy that change…let’s embrace the ageless rhythm that is life. Let’s open our eyes to the beauty of each step we take. Those endings just might be beginnings…..much like taking in the harvest in order to prepare for planting.

 

“Live each season as it passes;
breathe the air,
drink the drink,
taste the fruit,
and resign yourself to the influences of each.”
— Henry David Thoreau

Joy In The Mail

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This past week has been really busy. After a very long winter and an unreal wet spring, the farmers in our area were finally back in the field.

The river has been behaving again and so have the days. They have been breezy, warm (almost hot) and drying. There are still many wet holes in fields but farmers are now farming around them.

Some farmers do venture close to those muddy areas and do end up getting stuck. It has been a very normal thing this year to see Facebook posts with photos of tractors and equipment up their axles in mud.

The other day, my husband came to the house and said he needed my assistance. He and his tractor had ventured to close to an area that looked fine, but was way too wet. We did get it unstuck without to much trouble and it was decided that area would not get planted this year. (There is probably a life lesson in there somewhere.)

I am also still waiting to finish planting my vegetable garden, but I hesitate to mention it because I need the assistance of my farmer husband and he is quite preoccupied this week.  I know it will eventually all get planted….late…but that is better than not at all!

In the middle of all this odd planting season a bit of joy arrived in my mailbox. The picture above is a card from a blogging friend of mine. (moreinkplease). She knew I had been making jean quilts for my grandkids and she also knew the challenges we were facing with farming this year.

I am in awe of her talent at card making  skills (and yes she does sell them and I hope she puts a link to that in the comment section!) Here is the link for her Facebook page…Late Blooming Designs by beverly. I am also loving how she knew exactly the words to write to ease this farm wife’s heart and soul. She is an amazing example of how a few words can say and do so much.

Let’s finish this week following her example. Let’s encourage each other through the hard parts. Let’s see those who are stuck in the mud holes of life and the literal mud holes. Let’s offer words of hope. It doesn’t have to be big….a quilted card can bring a lot of joy! 

“Be humble,
be simple,
and bring joy to others.”
– Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat

 

 

 

 

Reclaimed Treasures

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This past week was wonderful. We had a few days that were absolutely perfect, weather wise. It was dry and sunny with a light breeze and it was glorious.

I took advantage of those days and spent as much time outside as I could. The lawn got mowed. (Which is more work than it sounds; as we use a push mower for our farm….and it is not self-propelled.) I got a few more things planted in my garden and I had a great time potting herbs. I planted chives, rosemary, mint, thyme and have one pot just waiting for sage.

The pots I used were saved from the junk pile of my in-laws several years ago. They were the pots we all bought in the 80’s that came from Mexico. A couple were slightly charred and one is pretty rugged looking. (I told my husband it had character.) I had some fun-colored spray paint on hand; and set about sprucing them up a bit.

It is always amazing to me what a bit of paint can do for things. It does not completely cover the flaws and that is okay. It does renew those items and I am also good with that!

I have a feeling we are a bit like those pots…at least I am. We might be a wee bit worn or a lot worn. We might have dents and dings, scratches and scars and other flaws but with a bit of paint, also known as love, we are made beautiful again.

It is wonderful to know that with time and love, we are renewed…not like brand new but we are reclaimed. Our lives are still flawed; but they are beautiful and have purpose. It is also good to remember that perhaps we can help in the restoring of someone else.

Like my pots, let’s look for the beauty that may not be readily in view. Let’s allow things to get “messy”….because restoration is messy and takes time….but the end result is worth it. Let’s see the blessing in the cleaning, the painting and planting that makes us reclaimed treasures.

People, even more than things, have to be restored,
renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed;
never throw out anyone.
– Audrey Hepburn

 

The Persistence of Spring

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The last two days have been absolutely beautiful around here. Yesterday we were close to 70 degrees. I am not quite sure if we made it there or not; but it was wonderful. The sun was bright and shining, the winds blew gently (for Iowa) and the mud on the yard and the road was actually drying.

During the last weeks, I have noticed that the tulips I planted in a pot were starting to come up. One even decided to bloom!  I was rather amazed they actually grew. My mom gave the bulbs to me last fall and I never got them in the ground due to being ill.

I decided to try them in a pot. I had planned to put the pot in the garage so they would be cold but I never did as I was afraid they would freeze…..so that pot just sat in the back hallway biding it’s time. I felt rather like a mother hen watching over that pot as the bulbs started sending up shoots.

I also had Gerber daisies in pots in the house this past winter. My husband took them upstairs last fall and placed them by a south window so I could attempt to keep them alive for this coming summer. If it had not been for my husband constantly reminding me to water them…..those daisies would have been long dead.IMG_5575

Yesterday he went upstairs and hauled them back down for me and put them on the deck. There was something so satisfying about working on those pots. I spent time trimming away the dead crunchy leaves, picking out the dead bugs that seemed to have accumulated through the winter and watering what was left.

I love the fact that under all the dead stuff were brand new fuzzy little leaves just starting to unfurl. It was amazing to me how much life there seemed to be and how ready those plants were to spring back to life. They really are very persistant.

Maybe that is what I love about Spring.  It is persistant. It always comes no matter how long or how hard the Winter has been. Spring is life….spring is the hope of abundance…spring is a promise.

Our lives are much like the seasons. We spend time in winter where it is dark, long, cold and just plain hard.  And then comes Spring in all it’s glory. You hardly dare believe it has actually arrived. If you are like me you are encouraged by the signs of life that Spring brings to the world around us and into our lives.

May today find you overjoyed to be in that Spring of life. May signs of new life be evident around you. May you inhale the fragrance of the promise that is Spring.

Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection,
not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time.
– Martin Luther

 

 

 

 

 

Canning time

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Once again we are in the middle of the wonderful season known as canning season. My yellow and green beans seem to be quite prolific this year.

I tried planting them a bit differently this year. I usually do the square foot method – a 4×4 foot square with each  1×1 foot square having 9 plants. I love this method as once the beans are big they tend to squeeze out the weeds….and I really do not like weeding in the humid summer weather.

This year I did a 2 foot wide row. I have found it is so much easier to reach all the way to the middle..much easier than a 4 foot wide row.  (This width still gives me that canopy that squeezes out the weeds.) I am wondering if that is also why I have a lot more beans on those plants this year?

This past week I did not pay quite enough attention to my produce picking and discovered that some of those beans had gotten quite large. Years ago my Grandma taught us to not let those large beans go to waste. She had a wonderful gizmo which she called a snijboontje cutter. Basically, it turned the large beans into french cut beans and made them useful again.

Grandma’s bean cutter was the only one in the family and so it dutifully made the rounds during bean canning season. I remember the aunts asking to use it and once the grandkids grew up and gardened it was passed around to that generation.

When Grandma sold her house, years ago and moved to a nursing home no one could remember who had her bean cutter. I am still not sure where it ended up. As her cutter was no longer an option, I found one of my own while on a vacation to the Black Hills several years ago.

For some reason, every time I use my bean cutter it brings Grandma to mind. Her lessons of thrift and using everything have been ingrained into my gardening and canning. I find it hard to toss food if it can be used in another way or another recipe. Fortunately for me…my chickens never let anything go to waste!!

I also had the thought that our lives are a lot like a garden and canning. Sometimes the produce isn’t exactly what we had hoped for. Those beans have rust spots, bug holes or just plain get too large to use in the way you want.

It is a consolation to me that even when our lives have problems, there is always something God can do with us. Like my over large beans getting run through a bean cutter…God can take our lives and circumstances and make them useful in another way. It is not always comfortable getting run through that “bean cutter” but it sure does turn  something less than perfect into something He can use.

I wonder if I love gardening and canning so much because it brings back so many memories…those lessons of thrift from Grandma and the way she taught them? I also wonder if I love it because it reminds me that God can use anything in my life for His purposes…..either way…..it is a wonderful time of year.

 

Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go;
they merely determine where you start.
Nido Qubein

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/nido_qubein_178331?src=t_circumstances

 

Boundaries and Fences

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I spent a little time this past week catching up in my garden. This included hoeing to get rid of those pesky weeds that seem to spring up the minute you turn your back. It also included picking my beans.

As I was standing in the fenced-in, rabbit proof portion of my garden (at least I thought it was rabbit proof) I heard the noise of something smashing against that chicken wire fence. Every time I looked the animal seemed to have disappeared.

I finally discovered a rabbit hiding in my beans and with the help of my husband; that rabbit was escorted out of the garden. (No he was not harmed in his removal.) I proceeded to finish with my gardening chores and had a little time to ponder as I did so.

It kind of amazed me that a rabbit actually made it through the fence that we had so carefully built and put into place. It also caught my attention that once that rabbit had made it into the enclosure he could not figure out how to get out.

I think our lives can be a lot like that. There are rules/bounderies set in place that are intended to keep us safe….much like the fence was intended to keep my beans etc. safe. I wondered why so many times we look at those “fences” as something that is meant to keep us locked in, rather than to keep the “rabbits” of our lives out, and to keep us safe from those “rabbits”?

Thinking that over, gave me a new perspective on the boundaries that we all have in place in our lives. It made me think of the parent who allows their child to do anything; because they feel that to discipline them, means they don’t love them. It made me think of the friend who is afraid to speak truth in love to a friend because they are afraid it will ruin the friendship and hurt the other person.

Reality….setting boundaries for our children, for ourselves and for each other speaks love. It says we care enough to hold ourselves and others accountable for actions taken and words spoken.

I used to tell my children that if I did not love them I would not give two beans what they did. I also told them, that I would be loving them till the day I died so, unfortunately (or fortunately??) for them, I would be holding them accountable for that length of time. Hopefully, as parents, they now appreciate that logic more than they did when they lived under our roof!

In my pondering I also thought about the fact that even though we do build those fences of protection..life happens and rabbits do end up where they should not be. When that happens….it is always good to get help to escort those “rabbits” right out of your life…..because that is what friends and family are for.

May this week find you checking your “fences” and making sure you have someone to help you with the “rabbits” in your life! May your boundaries be clear and your fences be strong.

Boundaries are to protect life, not to limit pleasures.
Edwin Louis Cole