This January we have had some cold days. A bowl of warm soup seems like a good idea to counter the cold. Yesterday, with snow falling steadily and the prospect of a free evening, I decided to put together a pot of soup using a variety of items I had on hand. Taking ideas from three different soup recipes in my favorite cookbook Simply in Season, the following recipe was created. The soup is filling, slightly creamy, and flavorful. I asked our children for ideas for a name for the soup, and so “Green Potato Soup” it is!
Green Potato Soup (Serves approximately 12 people)
4 medium potatoes
2 celery stalks
2 garlic cloves
handful of fresh parsley
bit of fresh oregano
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
1 can cut spinach, 27 oz.
2 cups brown rice, cooked
1 cup loose sausage, browned
1-2 T. pickle juice
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 can evaporated milk, 12 oz.
Put potatoes, turnips, celery, carrots, onion, garlic, parsley, and oregano through food processor until minced. Place all ingredients except for evaporated milk into a 6-quart pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer until vegetables are tender. Add evaporated milk and stir. Serve and enjoy. We had cheese toast with it. The children had two and three bowls each, and we ate the leftovers for lunch today.
It has been an eventful holiday season, one with a variety of experiences and emotions. Over Thanksgiving, my parents and brother spent several days with us. The men worked on projects including siding and electrical around our house and the camp. The women and children baked Christmas cookies, some to eat and some to give away. We feasted, played games, opened some birthday presents, hiked around looking for wild horses, gazed at a beautiful water fall, and had some good discussions. The time was extra special because my brother had just come out of prison after three and a half years. He talked of taking pleasure in the simple things of life: working hard, spending time with family, and enjoying nature. He seemed really well, and we all had hopes for a fresh start. He returned home, found a job, was working hard and long hours, and spending time with his children.
Early December 11, my parents called to tell us that the coroner had appeared at their door, that my brother had been found dead, most likely of a drug overdose. He was thirty-four years old. The shock was profound: life forever changed, hopes dashed, family altered. Over the next few days, plans were made; and many people reached out. There was the hustle and bustle of visitation, the funeral, and the burial. Various emotions came and went: sadness for what could have been, grief for what has been lost, anger for wrong choices, questioning addiction and how God looks at all of this, comfort in God’s mercy and the peace He brings, joy in the love shown by family, friends, and acquaintances. In some ways, it all still seems a bit surreal, like a bad dream from which one hopes to awaken.
But life goes on: December 18, our oldest turned sixteen. For several years, he has been anticipating learning to drive. A few days later, he passed his permit test. A new adventure begins!
Christmas this year was spent with my husband’s family in Ontario. We enjoyed reconnecting with his parents, siblings, and their families. With the temperatures in the single digits and several snow falls, we surely experienced winter. We quickly realized our shoes were of no use and ended up wearing boots the rest of the time there. The children and their cousins enjoyed indoor hockey and volleyball, sledding, and riding around on GT snow sleds connected to an ATV. Some of them shoveled snow and helped with farm chores as well. The snow made the towns and countryside look beautiful, but my husband was glad to leave all of the driving in it behind!
Today, as we are on the verge of a new year, I am thankful for God’s grace and provision through the past months. There have been joyous times, and there have been days of sorrow as well. Through it all, I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good.
I am grateful to report that our gardens produced well this year. The green beans and tomatoes have been especially plentiful resulting in a level full deep freeze. We were also able to enjoy lots of fresh lettuce and greens and some carrots. There were enough peas to put some in the freezer and a decent crop of potatoes and onions. Herbs included mint, parsley, oregano, cilantro, and dill. A variety of squash and a few cucumbers were harvested. Peppers are still waiting to be picked. I am hoping they will turn from green to yellow before the first frost. Lima beans are still flowering and filling out in the pods.
At one point in September, when I had run out of room in the freezer and felt we had enough for our purposes, I decided to join our farmer’s market for the day. Farmer’s markets are something I enjoy visiting, but I really love setting up a table. There is a joy in providing a product that other people desire and in sharing knowledge of produce and cooking ideas. People seem to want to share their stories: both customers and vendors talked of life’s sorrows, tough times, and joys. Our daughter came with me, and we had a great day. We had small amounts of beans, herbs, squash, tomatoes, and flowers. We sold some of everything, but the real surprise was the hydrangeas I had cut on a whim. They sold out quickly. Next year, I hope to participate more often in the market.
A few days ago, I noticed the beauty and variety on our cupboard counter. The vegetables came from our gardens, most of the canned goods were a gift, and the nuts, we picked up on the trail. Gracious provision from our Creator!
After full weeks of hosting summer volunteer groups, I was feeling spent; so having a time of relaxation and renewal was a blessing. As a family, we experienced spiritual refreshment at Roxbury Holiness Camp, relaxed as we experienced Chincoteague and Assateague, and reconnected with family in a variety of settings.
At the ocean, the children frolicked in the waves both with and without boogie boards and created sandcastles on the beach.
My husband and I enjoyed the water and sitting under an umbrella. There is something quite soothing about the sound of the waves on the seashore.
One morning, we climbed the winding stairs to the top of a lighthouse. The view was amazing. I felt dizzy as we peered over the railing.
After a time away, it feels good to be home. I was so glad to see that the gardens are still producing. We picked green beans, corn, tomatoes, carrots, beets, squash, a cucumber, parsley, and various greens. Fourteen quarts of beans were added to the freezer.
Tonight we enjoyed a crock pot meal made of many ingredients from our garden including potatoes, onions, squash, tomatoes, parsley, and oregano.
The garden is yielding its bounty. After several harvests, there are twenty-eight quarts of beans in the freezer.
The red beets should have been harvested sooner. Even though they are pretty large, I plan to make some fermented pickled beets with them.
I was going to wait to harvest the carrots, but I decided to pull the ones that were poking up through the wood chips. In the four places we have gardened, I have never grown carrots this long. I am thinking the wood chips really helped to amend the soil.
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.
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.