Mountains Aglow

This past weekend, the mountains were aglow with color.  Even though the sky was overcast, the colors were the most vibrant I remember seeing in all the years we have lived in Appalachia.  My eyes drank in the beauty of the brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows.  Perhaps if it had been sunny, we could not have stood the brilliance.

In the spring, when the red buds and the florescent green early leaves grace the mountainsides, I always imagine painting the scene; but in this autumn season, I kept seeing the sight as a chalk drawing.  Perhaps someday I will have the hours needed to dabble in the visual arts, but for now I will content myself with photographing the beauty of the mountains.  Sunday after church, I hurried up to the third floor window and held the camera out as far as I could reach.  The camera never quite captures the full effect of the moment, but here are some pictures for you to enjoy.

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Hearty Lentil Stew

The first frost of the season graced the rooftops this morning.  The sun is shining, but there is a nip in air.  During the fall and winter seasons, soup is often what’s for lunch at our house.  It warms the bones and nourishes the body.  One of the children’s favorite soups is a Hearty Lentil Stew from the cookbook Simply in Season.  I enjoy making it because most of the ingredients come from our garden including tomatoes, carrots, onions, and parsley.  Whenever I hear of sickness going around, this is my go-to for loading us up with nutrients.  I figure all the onions, garlic, and parsley will help our bodies to fight off any germs we pick up when we are out and about.

Bowl of Hearty Lentil Stew
Bowl of Hearty Lentil Stew

Here’s the recipe with my modifications.

Hearty Lentil Stew

4 cups water (If I have leftover meat broth, I substitute for half of the water.)

1 cup dried lentils

1 cup fresh or canned tomatoes (or frozen)

4 large carrots, chopped

2 onions, chopped

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

2 tablespoons dry sherry, optional (I sometimes slip in a bit of leftover brine from my fermented pickles)

(I also add 1-2 teaspoons of minced garlic)

Cook together until lentils and carrots are soft, 40-45 minutes.

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

2-3 teaspoons salt (I use 1-1 1/2 teaspoons)

Stir in parsley and salt.  Heat another minute or so.  Serves 6.

We usually have mozzarella or monterey jack cheese on the side.  If I have time, I add cornbread to the meal.  Enjoy!

Lovely October

October- it is a lovely month.  The days are warm but not too hot.  The leaves are beginning to change, so everyday the mountains look more glorious.  The sky is often a blue that only October brings.  The gardening and preserving are nearly finished.  There is a deep satisfaction in having a full pantry and freezer, ready for winter days to come.  These are the blessings and beauty for which I thank the Lord.

Storm rolling over the mountain.
Storm rolling over the mountain.
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A full pantry of canned goods

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Our vines produced four pumpkins- just enough for each kid!
Our vines produced four pumpkins- just enough for each child!
Our pretty morning glories are still blooming.
Our pretty morning glories are still blooming.

Greens, Seeds, and Faith

This year in the garden, it has been fun and rewarding to experiment with different greens and to collect some seeds from them.

Last year in the late summer, I planted kale so I would have some to harvest in the fall.  I did harvest kale, and the plants continued to live through the winter.  They started growing again in the spring, so I harvested kale all summer and now into the second fall.  We have eaten kale and frozen kale for the winter.  I sold some at farmer’s market and have given away bags of it.  I do not know if that is typical for kale, but it has been the plant that keeps giving.  Some of the plants went to seed, so I have harvested and saved seeds to plant in the future.  The seeds are tiny and round- amazing the abundance that comes from such a small seed.

Another hardy plant is Swiss chard.  I planted some in the spring and have harvested all summer, and the plants continue to bear this fall.  I have really enjoyed this green as it kept producing right through the heat of the summer, and the leaves were not strong-tasting like some greens get when it is hot or dry.  Also the chard did not receive damage from slugs or insects like some of my plants did.

A new-to-us vegetable was baby choi.  When I planted it in the spring, it began to flower before I realized it was ready; so I allowed the choi to go to seed and collected the seeds to plant next year.  Some seeds must have dropped though, because several plants came up in the late summer.  So now, we are harvesting baby choi as well.

Another green I tried was mesclun mix.  Planted behind our heat pumps, where the soil is kind of thin and pebbly, it did not produce very well.  I did harvest a few leaves; but because it is a mix, some of the greens began to flower before the others were really ready.  As summer waned, I kind of ignored the plants.  Two weeks ago, I was surprised to find lots of large leaves.  I decided to cut some, and the leaves have been quite tasty in stir-frys.

Last week, I planted some spinach and lettuce seeds, hoping for a fall crop of each.  I was surprised that in less than a week, the seeds had sprouted.  We ate our own lettuce for most of the summer by planting a crop in March and one in June.

Experimenting with seeds, working in the soil, harvesting a crop: these tasks remind me of sharing our faith in Jesus Christ.  Sometimes we see an immediate response in others; but often, the message is planted in what seems like poor soil.  The initial crop may not be much; but then, up springs a harvest.  Some seeds are dropped without our awareness, and then we are surprised with a crop.  Some small seeds produce abundance beyond what we ever expected.  The seeds are the Word of God and our testimony through words and actions.  The crop and harvest are new believers in Christ.  We must do our part in planting, and God will work out His unique plan for the harvest.