What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Always These








































 


 The harvesting season is my busiest season of the entire year.  Having certain daily constants means I can depend on a few things being ever present on my to-do list.  Cheese-making, for one thing. Garden harvests and canning days, flower bouquets and tomatoes...lots of tomatoes.

It's to these constants that my mind has found itself wandering.

The constants of this season of the year consume me and my days.  I remember last year I was incredibly overwhelmed and even (dare I say?) depressed as I canned up the abundance from the garden and worked to make cheese, butter, yogurt in order to make use of the milk from our cow before it would spoil.  I was exhausted and stressed.  I felt like I was drowning- not even able to tread water.  This lifestyle and my abilities didn't seem to match up.  Then pregnant, knowing a needy little Tiddle would be added to the mix by next harvest season had me even more worried.

Looking back at the list I put up last year, I was amazed to find that where I canned 28 quarts of tomatoes last year- this year so far (yes, there is still more) I have canned over 160 quarts of tomatoes!

I spend an entire day canning tablefuls of tomatoes and then, when it is finally empty it is time to send the children out to harvest more and fill it up again.  And yet, I have felt much less overwhelmed, much less stressed and not at all depressed.  That is an insane amount of canned tomatoes and yet, as each batch comes out of the canner I find the thanksgiving comes instead of the suffocation.  I feel a bit like Joseph, storing away the abundance and can't help but feel like there may be a time in our life when I will be even more grateful for those tomatoes.   Perhaps the Lord is filling our barns without us even knowing the need.

I am not sure exactly why I am better able to cope with the increased load than I was last year (pregnancy hormones, maybe?  Practice?  Sheer Endurance?  God's mercy? All of the above?) but I am especially grateful that it happened.

Of course, in the case of fallish-chores, knowing that a break will come on the cold winds and first frosts of fall certainly helps.  It won't be long until there are no more ANYTHINGS to bring in from the garden- and so we eat and bottle up in gratitude.

Two niceties this year?  The harvests find themselves plopped on the porch instead of in every cranny of the kitchen.  A productive and busy kitchen is much, much less so when you first have to move crates of produce in order to find space enough to do anything.  And though the to-do remains in the frontlets of my eyes, I can surely do without them on my counters.

I've also been working in the shade of the porch on the canning instead of the hot summer sun of my makeshift summer kitchen, which is all the more pleasant.

And since getting electricity on the porch, I am able to simultaneously cut bad spots out of tomatoes and listen to The Eight Essential Tools of Classical Pedagogy or Teaching Boys And Other Kids Who Would Rather Be Building Forts or the other CiRCE lectures online while trying to wrap my head around another impending year of home education. These are the things that are working for me.

What is not working for me is the fact that I have run out of both canning jars AND space to put the (filled) canning jars!  The canning was at a stand still for a bit until I got the brilliant idea (a friends suggested it, actually) to paint a sign and hang it out front, hoping anyone driving by might have a bunch of old jars in their basement they want to get rid of but haven't yet bothered to.  I wasn't holding too much hope, but with the price of new canning jars these days, I admit, I was hoping.

Within the week, two kind souls cleared out some cupboards and dropped off jars for me and a third canning jar angel delivered two brand-spankin' new cases of quart jars anonymously!  I couldn't believe it!  I wish there was a way to tell that wonderful person just how much of a blessing that was to me.  I hope they know.

And so canning has begun again in earnest after a very short reprieve.  I haven't figured out what to do with the jars after they are filled, but the filling can continue!

It's a good thing too- the beets are more than ready to be harvested.

PS.  Did you know you can make a pie out of four ingredients? I was so impressed with this pie, I just had to tell you about it.  One particular weekend I was in charge of bringing sundry victuals to several places- 5 gallons of ice cream to a reunion, bread for communion and a meal for a church picnic, a meal to a neighbor, lunch for friends who were coming over and two pies for a firestation festivity.  I was feeling a bit pressed in on all sides and had no idea what sort of pies to make.  Nothing expensive (pie ingredients can be), preferably made with things I already had on hand and I was not using our limited but precious fruit supply I had just frozen when I discovered this recipe online.  From the depression, it uses only sugar, flour, cream and a pie shell.  All of which I had on hand and were not expensive at all- including boxes of frozen pie shells that I had bought after Easter at Aldi for .25 each for just such a need.  (I added vanilla and cinnamon to mine as well.)
It was impressively delicious topped with billowing homemade vanilla whipped cream.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The 2015 "Put 'Em Up" List


I've been hastily scribbling my canning list on a sheet of paper on the side of the fridge after a late night (or full day) of canning for quite some time and now the paper is filled with scratches and scribbles.

Now would be a great time to get my sidebar up to date with the 2016 canning tally....which means I need to get that out-dated list outta there.  

Here it is, for posterity.  (Expect the new one to be put up and added to shortly!)


~Canned~("jars" unspecified means I used a variety of sizes)

* Volcano Pickles, 8 qts
* Green Beans, 14 qts
* Three Bean Salad, 7 pts
* Zuke "Pineapple" Tidbits, 8 pts
* Vanilla Peach Jam, 18 jars
* Tomatoes, 28 qts
* Pickled Peppers, 6 jars
* Turkey Soup, 7 qts
* Zucchini Relish, 9 jars
* Cinnamon Pickles, 11 pts
* B&B Spears, 8 qts
* Pickled Beets, 12 qts
* Applesauce, 37 qts

~Frozen~

* Huckle/Blueberries, 34 lbs
Peach Wedges, 6 gal.
* Corn, 15 qts.
* Asparagus, 6 bags

~Dried/Dehydrated~
* cucumbers
* Apple slices

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Diversions




The boys found a few birch trees nawed down by some beavers so they dragged them to the house.  Apparently, the yard needed a birch tree smack dab in the middle of it.




On nice days, you take the sewing OUTDOORS.









I particularly love the butcher knife in front of the baby seat in this photograph.




  Ineke inevitably wakes up for a drink of some nice, warm milk while I am in the barn milking.  She has good big sisters though, who snuggle with her until I can get inside.  Even though they are half asleep themselves.  Her brothers on the other hand?  Not even a stir.


Someone (Matt) once said you don't need to squint into the sun, you need only to open your eyes wider.

That is true only if you want searing pain in your eyeballs.  Or to cry.  Just ask Corynn.


I asked the children to help me can tomatoes one day.  I gave Andrew the job of washing jars.  The next time I walked into the kitchen, this is what I found:


And approximately two jars washed.  Needless to say, I did the washing and I sent him out to wash/cut/squish tomatoes with the other children.




I realize those two photos of Ineke are almost identical.  But must I choose one?










Funny conversation overheard between my sister and her daughter at the public pool where we met to swim one day:

Christiana to her Mama, in a voice filled with confusion and surprise: "Mama!  Nobody here knows that Adele' lives on a farm!"

Her Mama to Christiana, trying to understand what she was saying: "What do you mean, honey?"

Christiana to her Mama: "Well- they don't know she lives on a farm because she is wearing a bright bathing suit just like everyone else!"

She was genuinely surprised that no one knew our dirty little secret!

Remind me next year to invest in all brown swimwear for my children.  Apparently it is required for farm kids.  HA!

It was an adorable exchange in real life (words don't really do it justice) and it made me chuckle.












Matt has been travelling in New Mexico/Texas/Colorado for the last two weeks for work.  Which left me flying solo for two weeks.  And particularly excruciating-- he was gone over the weekend as well. His being gone is a nightmare for me.  Chores are maddening when the cow needs to be milked at the same time that the baby wakes up to be fed.  Milk duties seem all the more bothersome when I had to be a part of the entire process- from milking, to cleaning up, to milk-making, to cleaning up, etc. etc.  The garbage, the grass, the everything.  And on top of that, caring for children who miss their father and trying to fill the vast void Matts' absence creates in our lives when all I really feel is the void his absence leaves in mine.   More than chores or children, I hate Matt's being gone mostly because I love him so dearly and, being one, a huge piece of me is gone too.  My confidant, my sanity, my little bit of adult conversation at the end of the day, my comfort when I feel overwhelmed, the laughter when I need it most.  My best friend.  The one whose hugs and kisses make everything alright.  Without them, it doesn't feel right. It isn't.

I can't sleep when Matt is gone either.   I stay up until midnight or 1 in the morning, willing myself to fall asleep, but staring as the bright glowing red digits pass from one to the next on the alarm clock across the room.  My contacts are out and I am blind as a bat so I don't know what time it is- only that another minute passed.  In this case, it is better to be blind.

I did his laundry at the beginning of the week, put the clean clothes on his shelves and then they stayed there.   Gathering round the supper table in the evenings lost its' joy, Saturday seemed off the whole day, singing in church without his voice bellowing beside mine was painful, falling asleep outside of his arms was impossible.   I would drive home in the evenings and, as usual, I would crest the hill and my eyes would search our driveway in the distance to see if his car was there- if he had beat us home only to realize how foolish that was to think, to do.

I knew it would be hard.  I knew those two weeks would drag on.  I didn't know how I would be able to do it.  So I did what any insane person would do.  I scheduled some distraction, some diversion for every.single.day that he was gone.   For two weeks straight.  I should have thought about the fact that this is busy canning season for me and the garden is chucking rotting tomatoes at us like a bad comedy show or that (possibly) I could use some downtime considering, well, I don't sleep when he is away.  But I didn't.  I just scheduled away.

We went swimming, we went to a cheap second-showing movie matinee of The BFG (loved it!!), went to picnics, hosted parties, went visiting, ate ice creams, plenty of swimming.  The children went to the fair.  I have wonderful friends who are very good at helping a girl divert her attentions away from her long-lost husband.

It worked out that these diversions saw me (and the children) through the daytime and I canned well into the night each evening because I wouldn't sleep anyway...with the occasional old movie thrown in for good measure.  The time did pass pretty quickly that way.  So, as insane as it was to do something every single day for two weeks, and as ridiculously UNRESTED and stretched thin as I feel at this moment, I guess it worked out just the way I had hoped.  Two weeks later and in just 3 minutes it will officially be Friday, the very day when my love walks through that door and I get to remember what his kisses taste like.

I survived.  I can't wait to sniff his neck.  And I most assuredly can't wait for that kiss.

** I realize that my whines and struggles are laughable compared to the struggles of separation that some people face~ military families, unwilling separations, hospitalizations or care homes, widows...  I certainly don't mean to elevate my situation to something truly dreadful like one of those situations.  I have a whole new appreciation and empathy for what those individuals must go through though my experience pales in comparison.  Poor souls! They have my deepest respect and admiration.   I can say I have prayed more in these two weeks for the likes of those people than I ever would have thought to before, having just a taste of the bitter pill of separation.**