March of the Elderberries.

On Sunday we drove a little distance to engage in what has become a yearly tradition–picking elderberries. The shrubs are generally 20′ tall or more, and they like to grow over an embankment, so picking is often a bit of an adventure. Thanks to the Dearliest, we have an advantage in the form of an extendable tree trimmer, and especially when used from the bed of his F-350 (like we did 2 years ago), reach isn’t as much of an issue as it could be.

wp-1471985049689.jpgAnother advantage this year is three helpers! Arc did try, but most of his berries ended up in this mouth and not the bowl. Sadly, he ended up greatly regretting that later, although he hasn’t seemed to have learned the lesson because I’m still chasing him out of the few clusters that are left.

I have been processing the elderberries in batches, and I hope to have everything canned and cleaned by tomorrow. It seems elderberry syrup is really popular on the internet, but I prefer to make straight juice. Nothing added but water.

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ELDERBERRY JUICE

1) Fill a pot half full with elderberries that have been rinsed (lightly mashed or not, doesn’t seem to make much difference near as I can tell).

2) Add water to the berries to within an inch or two of the top of the pot. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.

3) Turn off the heat and let it sit until cool enough to handle (don’t tell anyone, but I often just let it sit overnight if I do the first boiling in the evening when it’s not, you know, 100 degrees out).

4) Using a colander lined with cheesecloth or some other fine mesh, strain juice into a second pot. Wrap the berries in the cheesecloth and twist, squeeze, and squish the life out of them.

5) When you’ve gotten all the juice out that you can, discard what’s left of the berries. Bring the juice to a boil a second time (this is also the time to sterilize/ prepare your canning jars, lids, and rings). Keep juice at a simmer until ready to can.

6) Using a funnel and ladle, fill your hot jars with the hot juice, screw on the lids, and let them rest in a place free of drafts until cool. Label, store, enjoy!

* No, you do not need to use the water bath canning method. Because the juice is boiling hot, it self-seals. I have never had any trouble doing it this way!

* We like to use elderberry juice primarily as a flu deterent, but there are other benefits to it as well.

Swimming in cucumbers.

IMG_2656_resizeAnd other garden tales.

It’s hard to believe how quickly the garden grew over the summer. It seems like just yesterday the Dearliest spent several weekends breaking ground and preparing the garden for all the plants we started in the greenhouse.IMG_2937_resize

 

A few months later we had an established thing going, followed shortly thereafter by the initial harvest of snap peas, which was so prolific I only managed one picture in between pickings. It was kind of overwhelming, and I gave away bags and bags.

During this time a family of quail moved in (one parent is barely visible in the photo). They had 14 chicks, and they took regular refuge in the plants. The kids learned a lot about quail, their sounds, and their habits.

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Shortly after the Great Pea Fiasco, we entered the Age of the Cucumber, which we have been in for several weeks now. Once again, I gave away bags and bags.

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The average daily cucumber haul.

Some days ago the tomatoes and jalapenos decided to join the cucumbers in their efforts to take over the garden, but so far their numbers are relatively minimal.

 (As an aside, the Age of the Cucumber also marked the Rise of the Chicken, and they remind us of it daily.)

 Soon the artichokes and sunflowers will raise their own formidible army, and no doubt a fantastic battle will commence with watermelons and potatoes as the ammo of choice.

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Here’s to the first truly successful garden we’ve had in years!

 

Jumping back in.

It’s difficult for me sometimes to pick up where I left off, especially if I left off a while ago. Hence, I have wanted to write a blog post for nearly a week, but after several starts and deletes, I just gave up.

In such times, there’s only one thing to do: Let the pictures speak for themselves.

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Unless, of course, they can’t.

Humor has been important to me these last few weeks, and the Foglings never fail to deliver in copius quantities.

One day, LK was too busy to deal with a bloody nose, so he improvised.

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Another day, I hit my head on something while taking laundry down to the basement. There, hanging 5 feet in the air, I saw…

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…Pokado had been there and left a calling card.

The now-toddling Princess offered up her own humor by following the dog around commanding “Sit! Sit!” in an attempt to attach a pair of suspenders to his collar as a leash.

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And ever loyal Arc is ever ready to give me his signature smoulder.

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Then there’s the Dearliest’s efforts to humor me:

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I can’t tell you how much I love and hate this.

Until next time!

 

 

 

A story worth telling.

One day, my darling Pokado came to me with a picture she had drawn.

“It’s you and Dad on a walk with all of us!” She said.

“Why do Dad and I look so unhappy?” I asked.

She pointed to a small house in the corner, and in it was a swaddled infant. “Because you left the baby at the house and you’re sad and worried.”

“But all five of you are here, on the walk.”

“I know. This is the next one.”

Then she pointed to a figure on top. “But you don’t have to worry, see, because this is God, and he’s telling you not to worry. He’s saying he’ll take care of your baby.”

*

The next day I miscarried at 6 1/2 weeks and Pokado’s picture…well, I latched onto it. We hadn’t yet told anyone I was expecting, not even the kids, and I couldn’t help but feel God had given Pokado something precious. Once she’s older I’ll tell her.

I want to thank my family and the Dearliest’s family for all their support, and for being there to help during the hardest days. Thank you also, dear readers and friends, who have kept us in your prayers and thoughts. 

Things are getting better, slowly, one day at a time.

*

My soul still remembers, and sinks within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”

 Lamentations 3:20-24 (NKJV)

When life throws you a curveball…

….just keep on swinging.

I’m not a huge fan of baseball, even less so of sports metaphors, but that has been my motto for the last two weeks. Life continues on, and it’s my nature to try to stay positive, even in the face of something that looks impossible to overcome.

Two weeks ago my life stood still with a new kind of heartache, and if not for the support and love of the Dearliest and my dear family, I would not yet be far enough along in the healing process to write about it. Or mention it, I should say, as despite my years of blogging, I am a private person and really have no desire to get into more specifics.

Friends used to call me the Queen of Vague, and I have actualy tried quite hard to not be that way as I grew older (and grew up). I purposed I wouldn’t put something on the blog unless I was truly going to share it.

So, apologies for the vagueness, but it is necessary right now. After more time, I hope to share more, because there is at least one related story that still leaves me marveling at God’s grace, and those kinds of stories are definitely worth telling.

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TheFreckledFox, my unknown neighbor, and all the others

I know I’m posting a little more often right now, but I don’t feel like I can put this one off, and scheduling it for later just doesn’t seem like the thing to do.

I have been living the last couple weeks in growing solemness.

A little over a week ago, I learned about TheFreckledFox, her husband’s losing fight with cancer, and their 5 young children. Today I learned he passed away, and even though I’m a complete stranger, I’m feeling it in ways I didn’t expect. I’ve heard other cancer stories, and I’ve prayed for the people in them, but for some reason I really felt this one.

Perhaps it’s in part due to the neighbor of ours I don’t know. Three evenings ago I braved the rain to harvest snap peas from the garden, thinking something casual like, “What a nice addition to the dinner salad.” I heard voices coming over the fence, and I saw the grandfather talking to who I think was the granddaughter (maybe high school age?). Another young woman was there, and she seemed tense, steeling herself for something.

A moment later the granddaughter erupted into the most forlorn wails of utter anguish, and I nearly dropped all my snap peas in the wave of agony I felt from her. Something had happened to her mother, and all my mind could manage was, “Pain that stark can only come from death.”

I don’t know that for sure, but as I walked back to the house I sent up prayers for the family, because whatever happened, they needed comfort.

I want to hold my children tighter. I want to keep the Dearliest in sight. I want to tell my dear friends and family all the things I love about them before “I’ll do it tomorrow” becomes “Sorry, too late.”

Life is precious, and when I think about friends who have recently (or even not so recently) lost their loved ones, my heart aches a little differently now. I know I cannot imagine what it must be like to lose a spouse, a child, or a parent, but I do understand a little about emotional grief. As I grow older, no doubt I will grow in understanding too.

And, even though this post is mostly about the pain of losing, I cannot end it without mentioning the amazing strength I see in TheFreckledFox. It’s a strength not her own, and I see the way God has held her hand and is providing consolation and the courage to carry on. I see it in the blogs of other women who have lost their husbands, children, in the faces of men who’ve lost their wives, and I rest a little easier. There is a hope, and a faith, and a belief, and we know death is but a physical thing. Our lost loved ones are with our Heavenly Father, free from the pain, and one day we will see them again.