Fourth of July

I realize that Independence Day has come and gone, but I wanted to share some moments from our day.

Our town, once a booming coal mining town, had not had a parade for 30 years.  Apparently in the past, July 4th parades were quite a tradition.  This year, one woman had the idea to bring back the parade as a way of celebrating and bringing hope to our town which has experienced loss of people, jobs, and opportunities.  The plan took on a life of its own as more and more people wanted to participate.  The excitement was palpable as residents anticipated July 4th morning.  We live on Main Street, so it was fun to be able to sit in our front yard to watch the festivities.  Friends wandered by and joined us.  The parade participants consisted of local police, fire trucks, ambulances, antique cars, sports cars, and every imaginable ATV decorated with patriotic colors.  Of course the children enjoyed collecting the thrown candy and prizes.  I really think it was the most fun parade we have attended.  Everyone was smiling: the real kind of happy smiles!

Mayor
Mayor
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Collecting candy!
Horse and carriage
Horse and carriage
Down Main Street
Down Main Street

After the parade, we walked down to the park for a short ceremony which included an address from the mayor, a patriotic song sung by an up-and-coming local singer, and a spiritual sung by a leader in the African-American community.  A gun salute followed the program, and then hot dogs and lemonade were served to all.

At the park
At the park

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Gun salute
Gun salute

It was a beautiful sight to look around and see people of various ages, skin tones, and income levels all joining together to celebrate our freedom and our town.

Children at the park
Children at the park

That evening , we drove out to Shekinah Village for a fun evening of games, food, and fireworks.  It was a great family and community day.

Happy 4th of July!
Happy 4th of July!
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Bounty and Beauty in Small Spaces

In the past few days, here is what has been harvested from the gardens around our house. I continue to be amazed at what can be grown in a few small spaces.

Bounty
Bounty

On a whim this year, I planted pole beans around our front and back porch. It has been fun to watch the plants grow and climb. Every couple days, I walk around and make sure the vines are twining up the posts instead of wrapping around other plants in the garden. Some of the beans we have harvested have been about a foot long. While I haven not been able to pick enough for a meal, the children enjoy munching on the raw beans for a snack.

Pole beans on the porch
Pole beans on the porch
Pole beans and cherry tomato plant
Pole beans and cherry tomato plant

The cucumbers have been quite prolific. At first I wondered what was wrong with them as they were whitish-yellow, not green as I expected. Then I looked back at my seed catalog and noticed that they are a light skinned variety. The cukes taste just fine, although I think I prefer a green color.

Cucumber plants
Cucumber plants

These bell peppers are the first we have harvested this year. I like to let peppers fully ripen to their color of red, yellow,or orange; but I decided to pick these because some are being eaten at by something. I learned a few years ago, if you let the peppers sit out unrefrigerated, they will turn color.

Bell pepper plants and parsley gone to seed
Bell pepper plants and parsley gone to seed

The broccoli plants continue to produce some tiny stalks even though they have not done as well as I would have liked.

Here is one cabbage. Again, something was nibbling at it, making round holes; but I just peeled off and discarded the outer leaves.

The cherry tomato plant has yielded several tomatoes with more to come.

I have a beautiful zucchini plant with lots of blossoms, but the slugs are eating the zucchini before they have time to develop fully. Scattering broken egg shells around the plant has not deterred them; so I have poured salt on three slugs that I have found in the morning. I wonder if that is what is eating the cabbage and peppers too?

A look at the garden would not be complete without seeing some beautiful flowers. The Phlox and Black-eyed Susan are lovely this time of year.

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Beauty
Black-eyed Susan
Black-eyed Susan
More beauty!
More beauty!
Phlox
Phlox

Thank you God for the bounty and beauty of the Earth!

Gleaning Blackberries and Plums

Along with all our vegetable gardening in the past month, we have been doing some gleaning. Here in the mountains, blackberries grow wild. The past few years we have been able to pick some. This year, the berries were especially juicy and sweet. One weekend, we all drove up into the mountain and picked for about an hour. The yield was eight quarts for the freezer not including all the berries popped into mouths as we picked.

Blackberries
Blackberries

This spring, I took a picture of this beautiful flowering plum tree that I pass on my daily walks.

Plum blossoms
Plum blossoms

As weeks went by, we noticed the tree was laden with lots of little green fruit. Eventually the fruit began to turn red and purple. The caretaker of the home said we were welcome to pick the plums. Most of the fruit was too high in the tree to reach, so we gathered the plums that had fallen to the ground. The fruits are about the size of a cherry. The flesh is sweet, but the skin adds a sour twang. I had never seen such small plums, so I Googled to find out more information. The fruit is called a “cherry plum.” I hate to see food go to waste, but we finally had to stop picking up after ten gallons.

Cherry plums
Cherry plums

The plums are delicious fresh; but when I tried canning them, they were just too sour. I did make one recipe of jam which has a fabulous flavor: sweet with a bit of a tang to it. I also made some plum juice which is pretty good. Fill a jar with plums, cover them with sugar syrup, then can the jars in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes. The last recipe I attempted was a plum tart. Our daughter and I are enjoying the pie, but again it is a bit on the sour side.

Plum jam and juice
Plum jam and juice

Gleaning reminds me of Ruth in the Bible and how God provided for her and her mother-in-law in their time of need. I love the idea of using food that would otherwise go to waste. I appreciate the fact that there is no money involved in getting the fruit and that there are no chemicals used in growing it. When we glean, I feel grateful to God for His daily provision and thankful to the person who has allowed us to gather the harvest.

Vegetable Gardening

Summer days are flying by and our days are full with harvesting and preserving vegetables.

In June, I was so thankful for a bountiful pea harvest. We were able to freeze 21 pints. I am always interested in learning new information about gardening. A friend of mine asked me if I was going to cook the pods with the peas. I had never done this and thought it sounded a bit odd. We have always grown shell peas. In talking to several gardeners, I discovered that sugar snap peas are commonly grown here in the mountains. Another friend brought me a “mess” of sugar snap peas to sample. I really enjoyed them. You string them and snap them like green beans. As was suggested, I cooked them with chunks of potatoes and a bit of butter.

We consumed bags and bags of a mixture of leaf lettuces and spinach, fresh cilantro, and parsley. The lettuce and spinach have now bolted and are going to seed. From another homemaker’s blog, I read that if you let the plants drop their seed, you will get a fall crop of spinach and lettuce; so I am going to try that this year.

Our broccoli and cabbage plants were not as prolific as I had hoped. Slugs were doing quite a bit of damage until I scattered broken egg shells around the base of the plants. We have been able to harvest a few small heads of cabbage and a few pieces of broccoli. Those plants were a bit of an experiment this year, so I cannot complain.

Broccoli plants
Broccoli plants

July ushered in the green bean crop. We planted eleven rows this year, and I was praying that the Mexican bean beetles would leave us alone. Last year the insects were devastating. While there are plenty of the little furry yellow creatures on the plants, they have not eaten the beans. I am so thankful! Our first major picking took three and a half hours and yielded 42 quarts for the freezer. It was a family affair with the children helping to pick and break beans. When my husband came home from work, he pitched in and the last bag of beans was tucked in the freezer at 11 PM. It was a record day for us, but I am glad every day in the garden is not that intense. We are now up to 71 quarts of green beans in the freezer. Green beans are our main vegetable through the winter.

Rows of green beans in our shared plot
Rows of green beans in our shared plot
First picking of green beans
First picking of green beans
The children and a neighborhood friend breaking beans
The children and a neighborhood friend breaking beans

The potatoes, onions, and carrots are growing. Some of the corn in our joint patch is beginning to tassel. I believe we have 9 rows that will be shared among several families. The first zucchini and cucumbers are forming. There are green tomatoes and peppers on the vine. Red beets are ready to harvest when I have the time. Butternut squash plants and Lima beans are growing.

Potato plants
Potato plants
Weeding the corn patch
Weeding the corn patch
Cucumber plants
Cucumber plants
Zucchini, butternut squash, lettuce, and beets
Zucchini, butternut squash, lettuce, and beets

I should report on my celery experiment. This year I planted seeds in peat pots. The plants grew; but months after they sprouted, they were still very small and fragile looking. Although I knew they would probably not survive, I decided to plant them in the soil. Needless to say, the first hot day, they fried in the sun. I had also grown two celery plants from the cut-off ends of celery stalks. I planted those. One died, but the other is living and starting to send up new shoots; so we shall see what comes from that one remaining plant.

This time of year, at the end of the day, I am often bone tired; but I would not trade the satisfaction of producing, preserving, and eating our own food. Working in the garden and engaging in the process of field to table keeps us in tune with our Creator God and reminds us of our dependence on our Heavenly Father.

Pole beans and cherry tomato plant
A bit of summertime beauty: Pole beans, cherry tomato plant, and lillies