Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Spring and Summer of Preserving: April - July 2015, a picture gallery

First thing to harvest in the spring as
always are dandelions
for jelly and, this year, MEAD!
These garden beds were totally FREE!
I built them with my own two hands from the scraps of other projects,
and lined the bottoms with hardware cloth left over from my father,
and the soil came from our neighbors compost pile.
Of course the three more I build  after this I bought the lumber new.
April and May were spent mostly building things, weeding flower beds, and planting late spring veggies.
My sad little broccoli.
The main head was smaller than the
side shoots I cut a month later.
I was very unimpressed.

June brought strawberries, rhubarb, beets (grown for me by my dad), and black raspberries. Store bought sweet cherries also made an appearance for preserving because they were such a great deal this year.

The first strawberries of the year were
delicious and only lasted about 2 hours with
the boys here.

Rhubarb cobbler was really big here this year, everyone
but RAT really enjoys it.
My rhubarb, of which I have 6 plants, went crazy this year.
I gave away two plants to neighbors,
3 gallons to friends and family and still froze over 4 gallons. 

Oh, and I used it here.
And here, Rhu-berry Jam, or strawberry rhubarb jam.
In total, I made and canned 14 pints of this yumminess.
(MAT was a big helper with the stirring, the for-e-ver stirring.)

Then came the beets.
Last year my father started growing these for me.
This year, I brought home 30-ish pounds worth,
or a keg tub full.

I scrubbed and scrubbed and trimmed and trimmed.
About an hour later I had a big ole bucket of beets to roast and can,
and an old wash tub of tops to blanch and freeze.
I also found a recipe for Beet Wine that
 uses the reserved cooking liquid...but more on that later.

Beets and Rhu-berry Jam

Then the black raspberries came on, and it was a glorious season. Unfortunately, when we were digging out dirt to put in our pool, I didn't mention the pool yet, but we have one...where was I? Oh, right, When we were removing fill, Mr. T thought MY black raspberry patch looked like a great place to dump 1 ton of fill. So MY raspberries were shit this season. Thankfully my parents had an abundance of raspberries free for the picking, so the boys and I made the trip and made off like bandits.

Just about 2 gallons of black raspberries picked by MAT and myself one mild June morning.
This made 8 pints of jam and 8 pints of black raspberry syrup, which is SINFULLY good.

About two days after the raspberry picking, sweet cherries went on sale at the grocery, so I bought 25 lbs. I made sweet pie filling, danish sauce, and syrup.

I have made a lot of syrups this season, partially because MAT, being 10, has found a love of making pancakes, which I wholeheartedly support, because he's better at it than I am. And partially because I have found a love of mixing homemade syrups with Seltzer water.

Also, have lovely syrups to drizzle over things encourages me to bake things, like this poundcake.

The syrups were fresh off the stove and absolutely the best breakfast we had all summer...I mean...yes we had cake for breakfast, and we don't regret it. Sometimes, moms and sons need cake for breakfast.

It was SO good.
Yes, I did lick the plate and spoons after I snapped this photo.

Then it was July, and it brought the heat and stopped the rains, which started in April and fell nearly every day, yes, really, for months. But it did stop, finally.

One particularly lovely morning, before it climbed above 80, while my kiddos still slept, before I drank coffee, I threw on my long sleeves, jeans, big boots, and hosed myself down with bug spray. I grabbed my baskets and went off to forage. I have been learning a lot about wild edibles over the last several months and have been paying closer attention to what grows on our property and the unsprayed local roadways. Staghorn Sumac grows with abundance EVERYWHERE around here. It lines the roadway both north and south of our property as well as growing along our own tree lines.
I picked about a half bushel all together. Slowly dehydrated it over several days. Then pulled the berries off and stored them in 3 quart jars. I plan on using them for spice and flavoring various dishes. Wild foraging is a new passion of mine.
It's totally free food! 

Oh, and I made sumac-ade, or cold sumac tea, or Indiana lemonade. Whatever you call it, it was sour and tasty...and I am totally making mead out of it too.  Just soak the berries in cold water overnight...or three days because you forgot about it, strain out the tree bits and you have this lovely pink sour yumminess that is great with a dollop of honey, then ice, on a hot day.

One day, about midmonth, my "Naked Neighbors" (my 60+ gardening wiz neighbors down the road, who garden only in bathing suits, and call on me to garden sit or take extra homegrown goodness often. They are a hoot! and very generous. I keep them stocked with honey.) called and told me they had two rows of beans that needed picking, so I went and picked all the beans. It was very appreciated because our beans did diddly squat this season. 

DOT is a VERY helpful garden helper this year. Really.
He truly helps with every task. He's growing SO fast. 
And that concludes our preserving from April-July 2015.

Sorry it was fast and dirty. Maybe next year I will be on it and be able to get you the individual play by play.

And now, before I return to my  very abundant apples and Naked Neighbor pears (also, silly style abundant this season) I leave you with some gratuitous kiddo photos. Because they grew a lot in the time I've been away, and they have new tricks!

MAT, at 10 and 1/2, cooks a variety of delicious things including eggs, pancakes, grilled cheese, soup, and spaghetti.
RAT sticks to only breakfast classics.

And DOT, Mr. T, and I, reap all the benefits.

Be prepared, apple, pear, and honey harvest posts are coming.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Don't call it a comeback...

Really, just don't.
I'm not sure what this is.
I'm... dipping my toes, testing the water, absolutely NOT diving in head first.
No guarantees, no promises, no expectations.

If you are still here and a subscriber, thank you.
I didn't mean to be away so long.
I don't even know why I was.
There weren't any life changing things.
No catastrophe that kept me away or off the interweb entirely.

I just...haven't been here.

I retreated into many many spectacularly good, and bad, books. Which isn't a bad thing on its own, but what I was doing was avoidance of reality, for no particular reason.

I read, did the absolute bare minimum of housework, fed my family far too much easy junk food, and abandoned my writing.

In June, when school let out, and the boys were home, I realized how much I had checked out as a parent. How much I was not being the parent I wanted to be. How much I wasnt being the me I wanted to be. And that sucks. So I worked on myself all summer. Reconnecting with my kids and husband. Reconnecting to my inner Ma Ingles. Reconnecting to the frugal, involved, do it myself woman I was and want to be, always.

I am going to try to blog regularly and write regularly, again. To finish my forgotten and abandoned writing, crafting, cooking things regularly. I have been working all summer to grow, make or preserve as much food for my family as I can.
I haven't done much of any of that in, oh, almost two years, and I am looking to remedy that and get back.

But don't call it a comeback, because, well, I've been known to be full of empty promises before...