A bit of beauty from the week…
Cherries are a beautiful fruit and a rare treat. It was a blessing when our neighbor on the trail offered that we could pick cherries from her trees. My husband and I picked the first time. The fruit was so ripe that many of them left their pit behind when plucked from the tree. While we were picking, the birds scolded us, reminding us they were waiting for their turn. After removing the seeds, I put away four quart in the freezer; plus we ate about a pint mixed with plain yogurt. Later in the week, the children and I picked again. This time I managed to slide all the way down the hill on my bottom while holding the bucket and not spilling any cherries in the process! We gained another quart and a half to make two pies for our summer staff supper.
The last few weeks have been full with finishing the school year and preparing for our summer season of volunteers; but it was fun to arrive at camp and find the peas, potatoes, and greens we had planted in April pushed up through the soil. I was able to harvest a few radishes and salad greens, and we have pulled enough strawberries for the six of us to each have a few.
The iris, which is my favorite flower, were in full bloom. I found a wild one blooming at the edge of the woods.
The children and I got the summer vegetables planted: beans, corn, several varieties of summer and winter squashes, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers. Teamwork made the job go quickly. Our oldest pulled back the wood chips with a hoe. Our daughter and I planted the seeds, and our two youngest boys took turns covering them up. At the end of one row, we uncovered a salamander which the kids found to be a fascinating diversion.
Later in the week, after all the vegetables were planted, we were grateful for a lovely, soaking rain.
One morning, the clouds were rolling in over the camp; and I had to stop and thank the Lord for the beauty of the sky.
That same morning, I admired the colors of our breakfast fruit salad.
Our oldest spent quite a bit of time in the shop working on wooden creations. This was his first chiseled piece. Later, he made another and was excited that someone bought it.
A few snapshots from the week!
In January, we tapped three maple trees at the camp. We knew this would be an experimental year for us but were optimistic that we would be able to produce some maple syrup for our use. Thus far in 2017, there have been several days with weather that is conducive to a sap run which is below freezing temperatures at night with above 40 F during the day.
Of the three taps, only one has produced any sap. After consulting with friends who are more experienced, we learned that some trees produce more than others. Some trees do not produce at all, and even different locations on the same tree can produce different results.
One day, we did collect a cup or so of sap; so I decided to boil off the water just to see what the results would be. After cooking on low for several hours, about a tablespoon of syrup was left. We all enjoyed tasting a bit of the sweet stuff. I think I should have removed the pan from the heat sooner, as the syrup was pretty thick. While we may not end up with much syrup this year, it is fun to realize the potential for producing a valued product.
Here in the mountains of Kentucky, all in one week, the weather has swung from colder than average and snow to spring-like temperatures and rain. During the below-freezing days, we were using the woodstove to heat the house; so I decided to try my hand at cooking on it. I was amazed at how fast I was able to prepare our supper.
Using the “Autumn Vegetable Soup” recipe from Simply in Season, I sautéed onion and garlic in butter on the woodstove and then added the other ingredients which included cabbage, carrots, kale, turnips, tomatoes, black beans, barley, broth, and herbs.
Cornbread seemed like a nice complement to the soup, so I searched the Internet for instructions on how to prepare it on a woodstove. Surprisingly I did not find much information, but one person had tried it; so I gleaned some tips from her. First I melted the butter in a frying pan on the woodstove, then I added the cornbread batter and put the lid on the pan. After cooking for a few minutes, I put a cooling rack under the frying pan to keep the bottom from getting too brown.
When I returned to the house after about an hour, the aroma of soup greeted me; and the cornbread was finished. The texture of the bread was smoother than usual, and the flavor was delicious. Curiously, the taste reminded me of homemade communion bread.
The family savored simple, but hearty food on a cold evening; and I was gratified to know that, were we without power, we could still prepare a meal.
Thanksgiving Day was lovely: spending time together as a family, doing a bit of work and a bit of play. My parents journeyed down and arrived by evening to spend a few days with us. Our days were spent in a variety of ways. The men accomplished some electrical and renovating projects. Grandma and granddaughter sewed a felt ornament and began an embroidery sampler. We celebrated two fall birthdays, went for walks, played some games, feasted, and attended the Mountain Masters craft fair.
One activity that the children look forward to is decorating sugar cookies for Christmas. This year, we baked with Grandma in the camp kitchen: some cookies for us and some to give away. We had some creative artists!
One night, we admired a beautiful sunset.
Holidays: a time to reflect, rejuvenate, and reconnect.
Somewhere along the way, Gourmet Potatoes became a tradition at my mother’s side of the family’s gatherings. With anticipation, I would look forward to Grandma’s delicious, rich dish of potatoes at Easter and Christmas get-togethers. Eventually others in the family began to make them too, and a tradition was born. With sour cream, cheese, and butter, the potatoes are not what I would consider everyday fare, but they make special treat occasionally.
Over the years, our children have learned to appreciate Irish potatoes prepared in almost any way; but sweet potatoes have been a struggle. I have tried roasted, boiled, stir-fried, even in waffles; but the reaction ranges from tolerance to tears. A while ago, my husband suggested trying Gourmet Potatoes made with sweet instead of Irish potatoes. Recently, I finally had all the ingredients on hand. What a surprise! Everyone enjoyed them. So here is my revised version. The original recipe calls for cheddar cheese, double the amount here. I have also reduced the salt and sour cream. Enjoy!
Gourmet Sweet Potatoes
6 medium potatoes
1 cup shredded Monterrey jack cheese
1/4 cup butter
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Cook potatoes in skins. Potatoes should be firm, do not let them get too soft. Cool, peel, and shred.
Blend cheese, sour cream, and seasonings. Melt or cut butter into small pieces. Fold potatoes, butter, and cheese mixture together.
Place in greased 9×11 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with paprika if desired.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 350 F
Just an aside, at supper I said to my husband, “I’m glad you suggested this idea.” He replied that he meant the kind of potato dish where you cut them in circles. “Oh, scalloped potatoes.” There is another idea: scalloped sweet potatoes. Sounds interesting!
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.
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!
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.
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.