Friday, September 25, 2020

filling the larder

“That last summer, the kitchen reeked of pickling spice, anise seed and juniper berries. Watermelon jam, lavender jellies and crystalized fennel cooled on the pantry shelves. Jars with mango pickles and pickled onions, an old habit from his days in London, were set aside in the wine cellar to cure. Honeycombs were stacked in bowls on the sideboard, draining, waiting to be melted into candles mixed with olive oil and pressed into soaps. Thunderstorms were canned along with plum jam. Memories seeped onto the pine floorboards.” 

― N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter


My larder is becoming stock full and I am so very thankful for His provision. It has taken me several months to get to this point in which I have been working hard to achieve in filling my food stores for the year.  Many foods such as wheat berries, oatmeal, popcorn and rice were ordered in bulk from Azure Standard and are now safely stored in buckets with gamma seals. Other food items have been canned, pickled or preserved. Glass mason jars are filled and are holding things such as beans and other ordinary staple items. 

I have not canned this much since the days we lived on the farm when our garden was huge with long rows of green beens and field peas, rustling  rows of tall corn, row after row of tomato plants in many varieties, and open plots of growing beets, cucumbers, squash and okra. Yes, every year we sowed and  every year we reaped. Canning and preserving food was a necessity as not to waste the fruits and homegrown vegetables; we planned our garden with the intent to preserve what we grew and our summers were busy with putting food up. Sure we got tired from the long days of hard, ongoing work, picking, washing, preparing, canning and freezing our produce, but that feeling of  observing the preserved foods on the larder's shelves was and still is extremely rewarding.  And we ate from its stores all winter. Our children too had the added benefit of helping and learning gardening and preserving foods. Witt even entered some of his canning efforts in the state fair.

Since our garden this year is small due to space limits from living in town, most of the food have been bought at local Farmers Markets or ordered from Azure Standard. The evening I came home with 20#s of cucumbers, 25#s of carrots, 20#s of beets and several cabbages it was like the house was on fire as we wasted no time in beginning our preserving, especially the cucumbers which were the most perishable. But we are already feasting on opened jars of bread and butter, spicy sweet, and fermented dill pickles.

And with all the jams and jellies put up, homemade buttermilk biscuits spread thick with them with be a literal feast this winter. I had been wistfully mentioning to my husband that I would love to have some pears in order to make a batch of pear preserves. Remember the fig story? I was wanting to gift the owner of the figs a jar of the fig preserves one afternoon last week. She said, "I have pears too, help yourself." 

He does hear, which makes me think I must remember He also hears my grumbling and complaining. How patient He is, and how kind and good. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

sun tea


This is the summer of sun tea brewing. It has become habit forming.

About every other day I fill a gallon sized Fido jar halfway with water, add about 1/2 cup of sugar, and plop in one large black tea bag. It brews outside in the sun for at least 5- 6 hours. We have discovered it has the most mellow yet vibrant taste of  Just Right Sweet Tea, the kind even I enjoy drinking. I have thought of that special  jar my mother had years ago when this was "the thing" to do! Do you perhaps have memories of those jars too?

Monday, September 7, 2020

cooking on a rocket stove

Camping essentials, and that must most certainly include cooking campsite, have never lagged around in my thoughts if ever at all. I camped once when I was in high school and that was enough for me to make a personal decision that camping would not be one of my pursuits in the present or future. And I married a man that while he had camped more than once, it was not exactly something he would be disappointed to leave behind if necessary. Maybe I just gave him the excuse not to camp, that one I will leave alone.

But I do delight in the joy of cooking outside either around a fire or on some other sort of burning wood stove. Enter the rocket stove...I'm inveigled. How did I ever live this long without one? It is super cheap to build, quick to assemble, and it takes only bits of twigs and small wood pieces to keep it roaring; hence the name, rocket stove. 

Last night we christened our backyard model by first heating water in a kettle, which took about five minutes to get to the boiling point, with that success under our belts we were on to frying bacon and eggs, eaten outside just before dusk. 

You can have one for your very self  by just watching a few videos on YouTube. As the season changes and autumn brings the cooler weather I plan to be frequently outside enjoying my rocket stove, stirring meat and vegetable soups, simmering pots of beans, flipping sourdough pancakes, and boiling kettles of water for coffee and steaming mugs of tea.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

feeling figgy

A tall, verdant fig tree abides in the very far corner of my backyard. I glance at the three-lobed leaves outside my bathroom window as I draw the blinds every morning. Alas, this tree is "figless". I have read that it might take six years for a tree to produce fruit, if this is true this tree has one more year to prove itself.
 On the farm we had a fig tree that sat in front of my little white spinning house. Every summer it produced a most outstanding fig crop. What a delicious treat to pick one of those luscious sun-warmed figs off the tree and bit into its fleshy sweetness.
             This is the only photograph I could put my hands on quickly to show our fig tree there in the background.
                   That's four year old  Rose with Tar in front.
A fig tree grows on the side of the road where I have walked  for many years. I've watched figs bud, mature, and grow ripe year after year. Memories of eating fresh figs tantalized my taste buds every August. No one has ever gathered these figs, they were simply food for the birds, or they just sadly rotted on the branches. This year I decided I would try to find the owner of this tree. One day she was in her yard and told me to help myself. And I did! I believe fresh figs might perhaps be an adult taste, but if you enjoy the taste there is nothing quite like them.

And today I made a very easy fig preserve. I do wish you could taste them. I wiped the pan out with a bit of bread and I had to close my eyes as I slowly chewed its figgy sweetness. These jars of fig preserves will be a taste of late summer this cold winter.
And there are more figs still waiting for me to pluck and bring home to make even more sweet goodness.

Monday, August 17, 2020

fermenting cucumbers... become the best pickles in the whole wide world!

Deliciously salty, garlicky, dilly...oh, my mouth is bouncing alive just typing these words. You would not believe how amazingly simple these pickles are to make and have as your very own to eat.
And I have found the absolute best way to keep them crisp...oak leaves! Yes, something that is readily available to most of us. All I have to do is go to the garage, carry the green step ladder out to the cement driveway, hold my breath and pray as I step up several steps on the ladder gingerly reaching up to the lowest branches of the overhanging boughs, pinch a few of the sturdy green leaves, bring them inside to wash before layering them between the cucumbers, tucking two on top beneath the smooth river stone weight.
I make a brine of one quart water per 1 1/2 -2 Tablespoons of salt, truly its to your taste, but I prefer to have the pickles more on the salty side and I have found it will make a better ferment in the long run. I like to add  black peppercorns, cayenne pepper flakes, fresh garlic cloves, fresh dill, and bay leaves. After a few days I taste my pickles and if they are the right taste to my liking I will store them in the refrigerator, but usually I will give them one or two days more....a total of about five days usually does it for me.

My few cucumbers plants have produced a good crop of cucumbers  for me this year. I have been able to eat them raw almost daily plus fermenting several batches as well as pickling a few jars of bread and butter pickles for the pantry shelf.

Friday, August 14, 2020

castles in the sky... part one

"Dreams, hopes, or plans that are impossible, unrealistic, or have very little chance of succeeding."

                                                          EARLY JUNE

 I do believe it is a rather fitting name, Castle in the Sky, for one of my newer laid gardens, the one my husband helped me create back in the spring. 
There lays a certain shadier area in our backyard lining up on the backside of the house. A row of holly trees and a small spinney face out behind it. Every summer we have struggled with growing grass on the sloping area and for years it was to me, a place of waste and neglect. 

But I had dreams, hopes, and plans for this particular space. I could visualize it in my mind, what could be.
The day we tackled this particular garden space began by us cutting out some of the thick holly trees and planting ligustrum which we hope will provide a privacy wall as it grows. Ligustrum is one of my most favorite hedges smelling perfumy sweet in the early summer and attracting busy bees.                                                            



Since I've always envisioned a pretty bench at the end of the path, we decided that the purchase of this bench would hail a wonderful anniversary remembrance.
  This garden certainly has plenty of room for continual growth, the addition of plants and even get down and get dirty toil...I am still visualizing what it will become in future years. But this I can say, it is well on its way and I am loving it!  Hydrangea bushes will be bowing their heady blooms and blushing Lenten Roses will be nodding gracefully as I meander down the stone path. To the right of the bench are the beginnings of oak-leaf hydrangeas, to the left a bed of bright red bee balm and 
along the back mounds of sweet- smelling lemon balm. 
                                                                   EARLY AUGUST
The bench provided a moment of conversation for Charlotte and Breanna one afternoon.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

cultivating appreciation

"Cultivate a sense of appreciation. Love your work, trust your work, keep in touch with today. Teach yourself to be practical, up-to-date and sensible. You cannot fail"
-Henry van Dyke
The chorus of the cicadas is loud and intensifying, rising up and dipping down, reminding me somewhat of labor pains...the rising and falling that is. I hear the breeze in the gentle tingling of the chimes and I see it in the movement of the cucumbers plant leaves. The wind stirring the ninety-three degree heat,
 I sat on the back porch, the porch I swept and straightened up after lunch, shaking the debris sprinkled cushions and fluffing the saggy pillows. I love summer afternoons when I am able to sit a spell outside, to read or perhaps sew a hem, such as the binding I am sewing on this 1920 apron, a pattern made from directions found in this book. I had finished my daily chore of ironing and thought a spell of rest and sewing before the preparations of supper began could be done outside. I brewed a teabag of Yorkshire Gold and laced it with unfiltered apple cider. 
The addition of a slice of chocolate-chip banana bread seemed sensible to me too!

Including beets in your diet and drinking unfiltered apple cider make an excellent tonic for gall bladder and liver health. It is good to treat these organs to a tonic from time to time and this is a simple and easy way to do so.

The finished apron being modeled by Theodora.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Yarn Along in August

Calm knitting sometimes in the evenings, but for the most part knitting seems to be on furlough these summer days.  I knitted a pair of these mitts  with the enticing name of  "Fetching" several years ago.  They are a favorite hand mitt of mine to wear in the winter, hence I decided to make a pair as a Christmas gift for someone in my Smocking/Sewing Guild. (We are to make a gift this year for an exchange.)

My daily reading habit never stops, but it sometimes takes longer than I intended to finish a book. I find myself nodding off many a night when I had hoped to get an hour or so of reading done before bedtime.
I am almost finished reading Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. After seeing the BBC movie adaption, I was planning no ill affects leading to a less enjoyable read. While the movies are usually wonderful to watch, the books are just better and worth reading above all.
 How Should We Then Live? by Frances Schaeffer, a book on my bookshelf I felt destined to read some time during my lifetime. This book gives a broad overview of Western Civilization beginning with the Roman Empire including areas such as art, history, music, science, and philosophy, written with Schaeffer's strong  Biblical worldview. I am greatly looking forward to getting to the chapters of the modern age, understanding it to have significant impact.
The third book on my stack arrived in the mail last week because "I could not help myself" and ordered it one afternoon on a whim. I loved reading Marta McDowell's book, The Gardening Life of Emily Dickinson immensely.  A book of this nature adds beauty and calmness to a soul. And who does not need more of that these days?

Joining in with Ginny's Yarn along...

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Fried Green Tomatoes...appetizer or meal

 As summertime gets rolling along many southerners look forward to a certain delicacy that expresses a taste of summer perfectly.  Therefore,it was a wonderfully pleasing and good thing to have plenty of firm green tomatoes on my vines to pluck and bring in to flour, dip and coat before frying those green jewels in a cast iron skillet of hot coconut oil.

 I  personally think you should at least try them once in your lifetime if you have not. You can fry them in whatever oil you prefer, any type of oil works just fine, I happen to prefer healthier oils such as coconut or avocado.  Fried green tomatoes may be served as a tasty side dish to any meal and they will add wonderfulness as a fixin' to a hamburger. But I believe I have settled the question of what is the absolute best way to eat them. Go into the kitchen a bit earlier than your normal supper time, fry up a batch, drain them on paper towels, sprinkle liberally with salt and enjoy them while hot, even while standing at the kitchen counter, a delicious appetizer. In this way there is absolutely no competition with other foods and usually it is when you are your hungriest so the enjoyment of eating them is even greater. And you might just decide it is enough to make them a meal in themselves.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

a borscht lunch setting

The coop (Azure Standard) truck arrived in the Walmart parking lot one afternoon, the sun was high in the sky and blazing hot while the asphalt in the parking lot only intensified the heat. Some of us felt comfortable enough to unload and place all packaged boxes, bags, cans and jars in separate piles for the others to pick up and put into their cars. I was especially thankful for this delivery because in this particular order were some organic beets and cabbage. The beets were outstanding and delicious as was the cabbage, and since I had an adequate supply I decided to make borscht soup. The main ingredients are onions, garlic, beets, carrots, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, and spices. You may prefer to make it entirely vegetarian and use vegetable stock but I used chicken stock in this day's batch.
This soup involved quite a bit of chopping and shredding, yet the cooking time was no more than an hour. But like so many other soups the taste only becomes richer and tastier as it sits in your refrigerator. The soup may be eaten cold or hot. Now my husband is good about trying new things, even some of my healthier concoctions, but as long as I warm this soup before serving it, he enjoys it and even calls it very good! I topped mine with a dollop of plain yogurt, too lazy to run out into the hot sun and snip a sprig of dill to garnish.
You may use your imaginationšŸ˜Š 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

goldfinches dining on the hyssop plant

The kitchen table sits with a wall of large windows on one side, these windows look out onto the paved patio and some of the gardens. From this place backyard nature is observed and recorded.

At least twice a day, I sit at my kitchen table and while I am eating my meals I witnessed the most wondrous sight. The goldfinches come to the hyssop plants and dine on the seeds of the flowering spikes of the hyssop plants. A bright spot of yellow radiating amidst the green leaves and lavender blossoms. They bounce and flit from one spike to another.

And many times the shared meal of a couple will romance the moment. 

filling the larder

“That last summer, the kitchen reeked of pickling spice, anise seed and juniper berries. Watermelon jam, lavender jellies and crystalized fe...