Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Warmer days bring....


     Warmer days find me spending extra moments in the garden, searching each plant, seedling, and sprout. Today the stroll between the rows brought a basket of berries to the kitchen. Despite the chickens and my farm boy, a full quart of beautiful fresh berries are waiting.. just waiting for one of us to munch them, jam them, or top a cake with them.. stir them in yogurt or whir them in a smoothie. All this berry abundance brings me to return to last spring's post on berry jam. After all, no respectable home stead can thrive without their very own jam recipes, right?

Fresh Fruit Jam Flex-recipe

For every 2 cups of fresh fruit:
½ apple, chopped and peeled
1 ½ cups sugar

If you are using berries, mash them in a heavy bottom sauce pan. Other fruits should be peeled and chopped into bite size pieces before placing in the pan. Add the chopped apple and sugar. Cook fruit over medium low heat until the sugar dissolves; stir frequently. Simmer and stir approximately twenty minutes. Test jam by dropping a spoonful onto a chilled plate; if it gels the jam is ready for jars. This jam freezes well and is excellent when processed in a water bath canner for seven minutes.

Want to add a little whimsy? Try adding fresh chopped herbs such as rosemary or mint..a vanilla bean, or even chopped citrus peel. Our last batch had cardamon..and we plan to try anise. Jump outside the box and test some nontraditional flavor.
Note. to help seedy fruits such as berries, run the jam through a mill or fine strainer.

   Whether the harvest is great or small, whether spring berries or fall figs, there is no reason not to enjoy them in our favorite treasured treats. All we need is a little flexibility to work with what we have and enjoy them as they come in. If you would rather wait and use a full recipe, simply freeze your fruits as they are harvested.
 
     In case you are wondering, our most recent berry jam was strawberry vanilla; distinctly reminiscent of church services where my little ones were given vanilla crème savers to enjoy as they sat quietly through the services. Stay tuned, we are testing a few recipes from a new book recently purchased!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Distractions.....


     Events these past several days drive me to the need for distractions; activities to pull my mind, body, and soul from dark and haunting places. The need to distract brought me to experiment with strip piecing- something I have never done before. While I admit, reading the lengthy directions for the strip method drove me to a catatonic state, eventually the blurred lines came together formulating a plan.
     Earthy tones spatter the blocks of a seriously simple quilt design- and simple.. I need right now. As the pieces come together, my mind is drawn to another recent place of distraction- my garden. Warmer days cause me to pull away the brown leafy winter cover; the dark colors of the quilt. There in, the beauty of new life is found popping up; the muddled blocks. Along the path, crocus blooms where roses are starting to bud; leafy greens and pretty blues. White snow drops are long gone, but the berry bush blooms burst stately against the rest of the landscape; white blocks scattered about.
     With the small quilt top complete, I ponder the quilting needed- a scattered wildflower, maybe, to remind me of sweet little wildflower weeds that dot my garden rows (many of which I left in place just because their perseverance). Sitting here tonight, I gaze at it realizing it was something I needed and something I have been missing; creative outlet. Among the work, the worry, the tears and the grief I seem to have lost my wonder.. my outlook of amazement... my creative chaos... and I miss it.
       In years to come may I look back at this small bit of fabric and recall the strife, the struggle, and the deep darkness in my soul that brought me to this fabric at this time in this way- may it cause me to smile. God has brought me to it. He will bring me through it. He has pointed me in a right direction and is leading me as I go. Thank God for distractions!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

We Say Goodbye

     It has been a long, trying week and weekend. Without much warning, and without obvious reason our dear Hadassah has passed on. Low activity and an upset tummy are all we have to go on; she was alert and responsive seeming only to be rather slow moving. We awoke Sunday morning to realize she was gone- looking only as if she had gone to sleep.
     Good dogs are hard to come by; she was a good dog and a great blessing. Herding, catching, protecting and befriending, Hadassah will be terribly missed and equally hard to replace.

Goodbye, Hadassah Rose. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

We Salute...

The #4H Military Partnerships Grant supports over 50,000 military 4-H youth on installations and communities worldwide. Today, we #PurpleUp and celebrate those youth and military children everywhere.  

Thank you for your sacrifice. 

[Source:http://bit.ly/QnhvcR]
 
My family is a family of veterans. Today we proudly wear purple to salute and support military children and their families.
 

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Bounty of Spring

   I spent as much time as physically possible in the garden this weekend; so many chores needed done. The appearance of well rounded cabbage heads brought to mind my grandmother's old crock which we filled to the brim every year.

   Down in the garden Grandma has a knife in hand and large buckets to fill; spring cabbage is ready for harvest. Pulling back the large outer leaves, she cuts the large firm heads. My job is to load them into the buckets as she chops them but the fresh spring air and warm sparkling sunshine keep distracting me.
   Back in the big farm kitchen the cabbage heads are washed before the hard cores are cut out. One by one the cabbages are shredded into fine pieces and sprinkled with plenty of fine salt. Worked and wrenched the salty shreds fill bowl after bowl all around the room. Time for the big brown crock to make it's way to the garage....we're making sauerkraut.
   In the coolness of the garage, Grandma fills the large crock with the salty wet cabbage shredded the day before..the wooden 'plate' is set in it's place to weight the cabbage under it's juices. It takes forever for cabbage to become kraut! Yet, as we daily 'churn the kraut' our minds wander to the various things she will make with this tasty treat: kraut and hot dogs, even my favorite sauerkraut pizza!
   Day after day we wait for the kraut to be just right..then packing and canning and setting on the scary basement shelves.

     In my own very southern kitchen, kraut is made in much smaller quantities; I am the only one who eats it. It seems no matter what, when I start the process it always brings my heart back home.