Saturday, August 22, 2009


I'm hoping this year to can some tomatoes as, well, tomatoes.

Mostly, I can tomato juice/sauce. It's just so much easier.

Clarence picked all the ripe tomatoes he could one night this week, in anticipation of a coming rain. He wanted to get them before the rain made the skins split. It wasn't a large harvest, but more than we would eat fresh before they spoiled, so he got out our Presto "Food Strainer and Sauce Maker". Dandy sounding name, isn't it?

The girls have always loved helping with this job. I'm kind of surprised that their enthusiasm hasn't waned much as they've gotten older. I guess there's just something about throwing tomatoes in the hopper, cranking the handle, and watching the sauce come out while the seeds and skins spit out the end. Or maybe we're just easily entertained.

A few years ago Clarence started lining a mesh colander with cheesecloth to catch the sauce. Some of the excess water drains into the cake pan he sets below the colander. We scoop the tomato sauce into a stock pot, cook it down a little more, and then I can it.

This batch of tomatoes yielded about 6 cups of sauce so we put it in the fridge. We'll add it to the next batch we get and cook it all down at once.
I'm sure Allison can hardly wait since she didn't get to help with this batch.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Flowers for fall

Kathy is always busy crafting one thing or another. Julianne has given her some crocheted flowers to use for her crafts and a few weeks ago, Kathy requested some flowers in fall colors.

Julianne is taken with black pansies this year. She planted some and is really enjoying how striking they are. Somehow, I wasn't surprised to see one among her crocheted flowers.

Julianne indulged me by making the sunflowers because I think they are so cute. Kathy was looking for the larger flowers for a project she has in mind.

She is taking these to Kathy this week so I thought I'd post a picture of them before they get away.

Now, back to summer! I am not ready to move on to fall yet.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

More harvesting and preserving

We're starting to get a few more tomatoes but so far have only had enough to enjoy fresh. Unfortunately, we'll be racing against the blight that seems to already be started. I'm low on home-canned tomatoes so I'm really hoping for a good harvest before the blight takes over.

The first of our cukes are finally ready to pick. As with the tomatoes, Clarence grows them on fencing so they can climb, rather than spread all over. It's fairly effective, although the tomatoes, in particular, still seem to spread out quite a bit.

This is the strawberry tower, planted with beans this year. Clarence and Allison picked the beans last night and enjoyed picking them while standing.

Last night's harvest wasn't huge, but I was able to can 5 quarts of beans. It's a start.

Yesterday I also made a batch of bread and butter pickles. I'd never made them before but the girls' adopted grandparents shared some with us a few months ago and we all loved them.

Wednesday night they gave us a couple bags of cucumbers so I tried using her refrigerator pickle recipe, but followed the instructions in my Ball Blue Book to process them as I don't have a lot of refrigerator space to store them in. Hopefully, they will still be good. I'm afraid they won't be very crisp after being processed. Anybody know?

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sock It To 'Em

You probably don't recall, but in May we went to a homeless shelter with our small co-op group.

The girls and I were talking on our way home that day and decided to start trying to collect socks and underwear for the clothing ministry there.

As we were telling a friend of ours about it, she said "Oh, Sock it to me!" and, finally, a name was chosen for our endeavor.

We asked for permission to collect at Family Camp and it was granted. I went to the office to purchase an ad in the daily newsletter and they graciously ran it free all week.

The girls stood at the back of the auditorium before and after every service with their sign and collection bin.

One evening, I happened to see Allison as she got ready to grab the bin. She was wearing shorts and a pair of yellow and tan striped knee socks that were mine in high school. (Mom came across them and gave them to the girls a while back.) They didn't match any part of her outfit and I did a double-take. I said "You are not wearing those to church." She headed for their tent to change without saying anything but when she was almost to the tent I stopped her. "Are you wearing those because of the sock drive?" Of course. "Wow", I thought, "she's willing to dress weird in order to draw people's attention to the sock drive. How cool is that?"

Little did I know, Julianne had the gray plaid knee socks I wore in high school to go with her outfit. Well, not actually to "go with". She didn't match any better than Allison did. But I was so proud of my mismatched girls.

People have been amazingly generous. We have a huge box, the bin pictured above, and a couple store bags full of socks and underwear to take to the shelter. They are off to a successful start and have also been given permission to start collecting at our church. I love watching their excitement and enjoy the feeling that we are doing something tangible to help others.
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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Beans and Zucchini

I did my first canning of the season this week.

Usually, by now, we'd have several canners worth of green beans on the shelves in the basement but this year the harvest has been later and, so far, not very plentiful.

With our first picking of beans, I made dilly beans. One jar is different because I ran out of beans and Clarence suggested I try using snow peas.

This is the first year I haven't had to buy dill to make these. I've tried growing it in the past, hoping it would self-seed like it did for my mom when I was young. I've never had any luck, though. When I managed to grow some, it was never ready at the same time as the beans.

Last year, Clarence started some dill on a compost pile. It wasn't ready when I wanted to use it and went to seed later in the season. This spring, he spread the compost out in the hoop house and we had several dill plants come up in unexpected places. I thought it was a particular blessing that it was ready when I needed it. So much more convenient than having to find it for sale, too.

The zucchini has continued to thrive. We've enjoyed Honey Roasted Zucchini several times but a couple got quite big so I shredded them to use in baking.

I tried Blueberry Zucchini bread from Finding Joy in My Kitchen and was able to use up the fresh blueberries I had on hand, as well as the huge zucchini. I highly recommend her recipe and appreciate that she makes changes similar to what I like to do, such as using whole wheat for part of the flour, and applesauce for part of the fat.

The tomatoes are starting to ripen but we don't have enough for canning yet. The pole beans are starting to blossom, so I'm hoping for bigger harvests of beans in the coming weeks. No cucumbers yet. The corn may be ready soon. The potato vines are starting to die so we'll have to see how our lasagna-garden-style experiment worked.

Clarence is gearing up for his fall gardening already. I think he plans on putting in more snow peas, romaine lettuce, and spinach this coming week.

You can follow other gardeners participating in the From Seeds to Harvest challenge by visiting Teaching Good Things.
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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More catching up

Both girls' birthdays are in July. The girls' "adopted" grandparents had us over to celebrate when their daughter was in town for a visit. She is a special friend to the girls (me, too), even though she's my age.

Julianne spent the day with them and got to decorate the cake. They put 26 candles on it (14 for Julianne, 12 for Allison) and the girls blew them out together.

Allison's actual birthday came during Family Camp.

This year, Clarence was home on both of their birthdays so they opened their presents first thing in the morning, rather than having to wait for dinner time.

In our family, when they get a gift, someone holds it over their head and asks "Eat it, wear it, or play with it?"

Julianne crocheted this hat for Allison. When Julianne made one this spring, Allison told her she wanted one for her birthday. Lucky for her, Julianne remembers things like that. Unfortunately, the flower on the side isn't very visible in this picture.

Allison is our pie maker around here. She didn't realize until recently that pie crust shields existed. Once she heard of them, they went on her wish list. She says I can borrow this if I ever actually make a pie.

We also gave her some cash. With her birthday falling during Family Camp, she can use it to take an hour long trail ride on horseback, which, I believe, is her favorite gift every year.
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