Consecration Acres

"If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy."


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Change

Some are gradual and some are sudden. Fall arrived quickly—90+ temperatures one week and our first frost the next. We tarped the peppers and eggplants and row-covered one row of tomatoes and they weathered our first frost quite well. The uncovered tomatoes suffered some frost damage, but kept on growing. We had pulled out some of the uncovered tomato plants and hung them upside down in the bonus room when we saw that frost was approaching. They have continued to ripen, but, unfortunately the grape tomatoes fall off and roll down the stairs as soon as they turn red. There have been some casualties when people go up the stairs without looking down first… This week we will see lows in the 20s and there is no significant rise in sight, so we hung a bunch more tomato plants up in the bonus room and harvested all the remaining peppers (a five-gallon bucketful!), eggplants and frost-tender herbs. It is a mess up there now, but one that makes me happy.

We also started digging up the sweet potatoes. The frosts had started to kill the vines and I read that if they were left in place then they could spread rot to the sweet potatoes, so I went and yanked them all out. When I did so, I saw a lot of evidence of voles in the bed and so I started digging. I got about 1/3 of the way through the section of the bed that we have been digging from already and I have a heaping 5–gallon bucket. I expect that I will dig up another 2-3 bucketsful before I am done.

The carrots are early harvest size (we are perhaps a little impatient) and the radishes have been fun to look at and eat. We planted a watermelon variety with a pale green outer skin and pink or purply-red inside. They are mild enough to eat plain. We are also nibbling at the lettuces. The Ben Shemen variety is my favorite so far—mild and buttery. We also have one good-sized Pak Choi that survived from the first planting surrounded by a lot of babies from the second, a bunch of spinach, chard and beets on their way, peas in need of taller supports and green shoots from the garlic and onions filling their allocated bed.

In the barnyard, we butchered our first batch of chickens and need to get to the rest ASAP. And we will be boarding Penny and Margo in a stall next to our neighbor’s buck beginning early the week after this so that they can be bred. The roof is finally on the stall. We have gotten rain since then and, oh my, how wonderful and dry it is under there!

And so things plug along here. Oddly, we will not be here to see the completion of some of these cycles as my husband has accepted a job in Utah and we will be moving early next year. I have frequent moments of panic. We have worked so hard here and have been greatly enjoying both the fruits of our labors and the unearned blessings of a generous God in this place. I will submit to His will, whatever it may be, but I so hope that we will have land and the ability to do this again. I have so loved it.

And so, expect infrequent posting for a while—until we are settled again.

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Pre-winter preparations and wildfire

The beginning of this week saw the departure of my husband and Elijah for a three-day backpacking trip, as well as a return to triple digits. As Grace reeled without her Daddy and the rest of us tried to make up for their absence in various ways (and got really sweaty), we missed them a lot and were glad to have them return on Wednesday afternoon.

My husband took the rest of the week off. While broiling temperatures prevented much outside work past about 10am, we managed to take a trailer load of trash to the dump (just from the garage!) and a giant load of cardboard to recycling on Thursday. The following day, my husband and the two older boys hauled 5 cords of wood onto the place and got pallets to stack it all on. If we have a typical cool and rainy El Nino year, we should have about twice as much wood as we need. If we the drought continues, we’ll have about four times as much as we need…we are hoping and praying for the former even if it means we’ll use more wood!

I have continued to hack away at the eggplants and now peppers as well. I finished the makdous. My husband ate nearly half the first jar as soon as he got home. I haven’t tried them yet…still gathering my courage for that. The tomatoes are looking crispy and stressed after this week, but I am still hoping that they’ll come around and that I’ll be singing the song of too many tomatoes before our first frost hits.

And I canned chicken for the first time. The chicken (boneless, skinless breasts were on sale from the store) was pretty dry going into the jars and I’m pretty sure 75 minutes in a pressure canner did not improve it, but I’ve got my feet wet on the meat canning thing and I’m happy to add those 7 jars to my stash.

The craziest news is that we will likely have another baby born at our house—but that this is not THAT type of announcement. Just as I was thinking that we had nearly gotten through wildfire season without anything near us burning up, a wildfire started just an hour away on Wednesday and absolutely exploded. This morning they are reporting over 72,000 acres burned and nearing 150 homes lost. Yesterday I stayed home from Church with the three youngers who were sniffling and coughing (we couldn’t tell if it was smoke-related or colds, and so we played it safe), but my husband talked to a friend there who was really worried about a family they knew who had been evacuated with their three little boys and the mom 42 weeks pregnant. They had been planning on a home birth and now had no home. Long story short, they are here now. Back even before we moved here, I started feeling prompted to gather supplies for mommas and babies—birth kits and things for newborns. The scripture “woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days” (Matthew 24:19) has always made me so achy-hearted. Anyhow, I did a little here and there, but the expense if it all held me back from getting it finished, until early this year I couldn’t stand it any more, bit the bullet and did it. I felt peaceful right after it was purchased, but as I sorted and stored and sorted and stored, I looked at the ark I’d built in the middle of the desert and prayed and prayed that I’d know how the Lord wanted me to use it. I looked a little bit into donating it, but it didn’t feel right. Anyhow, here we are. I am grateful that I listened and that we can make this all a little less awful for them.


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Treats and surprises of all shapes and sizes

Biggest news first—we have goat babies! Ella had been moaning and groaning since last Friday and so we’d kept them all in the stall and had been watching and listening to her via goat cam (otherwise known as a video baby monitor), but not much else was going on besides noisy goat-ness. This Friday I woke up after a hard night with Joseph and was told that both Daddy and Isaiah thought she was going to have her babies that day, but Isaiah was upstairs and everyone else was eating breakfast and no one was out with Ella. I couldn’t see or hear her on the monitor, so I pulled on some jeans and a sweater and slipped my bare feet into my shoes for a quick check. As I walked out the other goats were milling about and seemed agitated, but I assumed they were just tired of being in the stall. I saw Ella resting in the shelter and then, as I came closer, I saw something behind her. Then I recognized that it was a baby, completely enclosed in its amniotic sac and not moving as Ella sat there clueless. I ran in and yelled to the kids through the monitor to come quickly and to bring the birth kit. I broke open the sac and pulled out a skinny and entirely floppy black and white kid. I cleared its mouth and nose off as well as I could, held it upside down by its back legs and then started rubbing its neck and chest and talking to it “c’mon baby, you’re ok baby, breathe baby” again and again and again, praying and rubbing and talking and rubbing and talking. At some point I thought to bring it around to momma goat so she could help out, and she did, licking and licking and I rubbed and talked. I don’t have any idea how long it was, those odd adrenalin-saturated minutes, it may have been a couple of minutes, maybe more like fifteen…eternal…then, maybe a gurgle? maybe a front leg moved? More rubbing and talking, checking its mouth again for missed membrane. Ok, yes, a definite gurgle, a splutter, “good baby, good baby!” another prayer, more rubbing, now baby’s starting to move its head to the side, its eyes are open, good grief my legs are jelly! I laid the baby down and kept rubbing and talking until it was looking sufficiently resilient that I felt I could leave for a moment, then dashed back to the house to call the children (who were still not monitoring the monitor!) and to grab the birth kit. The children came out just as Ella was starting to yawn and strain to birth the next kid. A good-sized bubble appeared and I burst it with a piece of straw (an un-burst bag of waters had been my enemy just a moment before) and immediately regretted it in case the next kid needed the water to be able to reposition, but all was well and the second birth went smoothly—a quick clearing and right over to momma who now had the whole licking thing down pat. Excellent! We checked genders—the first was a girl and the second was a boy. Fantastic! And then she yawned again…Ella only had twins last year and I was looking forward to only having two this year as well. Surprise! Another girl!

With the exception of Angel, who was all white, the goats on the Acres have all been brown, so this little black and white girl was remarkable. Elijah kept trying to come up with a name that would emphasize her zebra-like coloring, but I happened to look down as he was suggesting and I saw this in her white belt instead:skunk

“or a skunk” I said. Everyone laughed. “We could call her Flower.” Everyone liked it. At some point we decided on Blossom for little sister and Elijah offered Bud for the boy. Perfect.

Flower

Flower, still getting a back rub as she was a little shaky and weak

Flower2 And for the sake of record-keeping:

Ella was due 5/23/2015, kidded 5/23/2015:

Flower, 6.5 lbs, abt 8:40

Bud, 7.5 lbs, abt 9:00

Blossom, 7 lbs, abt 9:10

Bud

Bud

Bud and Blossom

Bud and Blossom looking for milk

Spectators

Spectators and assistants in the maternity ward

Flower in her sweater

From left to right: Penny waiting to be milked, Jordan growing her new front teeth, Bethel caught mid-blink, Flower in her sweater (she finally stopped shivering) and Isaiah swatting flies double-fisted.

One more goat birth down and two more little girls…do we keep? do we sell? Time to get registered with the ADGA and learn to tattoo ears one way or the other!

Not to take too long a babymoon, my husband went out yesterday and bought about 175 lbs of cherries. We gave some away to friends and neighbors who have shared and helped us out, or who we thought might enjoy some cherries, but the kids and I processed close to 30 lbs yesterday and we must tackle the others over the next couple of days. All Saturday’s went into the freezer, but we also need to make some cherry butter/preserves and I think I’m going to try drying some as well. I don’t think that it’s physically possible for us to have so many cherries that we won’t blow through them well before next May arrives.

Other kitchen projects include a batch of Kimchi bubbling away in a very lively fashion in the cupboard and a batch of sauerkraut as well. The last batch of sauerkraut was awful…I didn’t monitor the brine well and, although the heremes jar prevented mold from forming, it didn’t prevent the cabbage from drying out and wrecking the batch. I also made rhubarb butter. Note for the future: ½ cup sugar+2 Tablespoons of SteviaPlus is too sweet for 1 ½ lbs of rhubarb and overwhelms the distinctive rhubarb tang. I cut the sweet down substantially (it called for 2 ¾ cups of sugar!) but it needs to be still less.

Also, I have declared the sourdough starter I stuck in the fridge a month ago, officially dead from neglect. My kitchen has little masking tape reminders all over the cabinets where my ferments live—currently, Kimchi, sauerkraut and sourdough. Apparently, I need to put masking tape on my fridge as well when I start another batch hibernating there. I’m teaching a sourdough class at some point in the future and so I’ve got to figure this whole hibernation thing out as, apparently, not everyone eats an entire loaf of bread every day. I know, shocking!

Things are going well in the garden. Most of the potatoes came up beautifully, the beets and peas are close to harvest and the squash are coming along. We’ve got something going on with some of the melons. I’ve finally figured out the Mittleider weekly feed, finally, so we’ll try that first. Also, The Intelligent Gardener suggests doing a foliar feed when you suspect a deficiency. In his experience, within a week the foliage will either show improvement (yes, you have a deficiency of that nutrient) or no change (no deficiency or not that nutrient). That will be step two. I also set out most of the sweet potatoes this week. They didn’t fill as much of the bed as I had expected, so we should have room for a bit of corn after all. Also, Isaiah finished the second 18” bed, so I’ve got to buy and plant a bunch more tomatoes. It will be nice to have the beds done and to be able to start our own seeds next year.

And the chicks arrive by Friday! Ack!

Lately, there are a couple of scriptures that I rehearse in my head as I go about my days. The first is not to be weary in well-doing. I think of this on bleary mornings and energy-crash evenings when I really don’t want to be reading picture books, or preparing another meal, or sorting socks for the billionth time, or re-training kids on chores again, or working through potty-training issues, or cleaning banana out of Joseph’s ears and eyebrows. This is my work and I need to do it as well and energetically as I can. Also, I think that the Savior’s direction to forgive even seventy times seven applies extremely well to parenting. It reminds me to keep from labeling a child who struggles repeatedly with certain mistakes, to be soft on these young, developing characters.


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Slow week

Slow it was and the weather was cool and perfect for gardening, etc. More the shame, but sometimes one can’t do exactly what one would wish. It seems the more ones are involved, the greater the likelihood of this occurring. I imagine, though, that it is good for me to set my preferences aside and that the One who set up this whole system, will take care of the garden and trees in my absence.

The kids and I went up to the orchard where we bought all those oranges for a sort-of picnic just before our dentist appointments. We decided to eat our lunch at home, as Chickpea Curry would have been a mess with a bunch of kids on a blanket, but we bought oranges and apples there. We held our morning devotional on their lovely lawn and then nearly finished our book before we had to leave. I wish we had not been so rushed—it was so, so beautiful. When I look out over our little orchard, beginning garden and bare/weedy yard, I see this place in my mind’s eye. Mature fruit trees producing an abundance of food, and a clean, beautiful and orderly place to live, work and enjoy. Some day! Truly! I just have to hope that if I keep hacking away at it, eventually I’ll get there.

I finally got the front porch cleaned off. The kids had let cardboard and packing materials accumulate and between that, the potted blueberries (which are now all planted except one) that had been repeatedly de-mulched by the cats, and the handiwork of thousands of spiders, it was looking pretty awful. Now it looks bare, but clean. I’d really like to get the door painted and the planters refilled with something heat and shade-loving and preferably useful for food or medicine. Searching…

I’ve also been cleaning and organizing our bonus room. We had stashed the low-priority boxes up there when we first moved so we could deal with the more urgent things. Unfortunately, the kids got into them and broke, lost and scattered their contents all over the room. For anyone wondering, having a big house definitely has some disadvantages. A-number-one is that you can be blithely living your life in one end of it, thinking that all is well, while the house and its contents are being destroyed at the other and you have no idea until it is too late. Anyhow, a couple of giant cardboard bonfires and six or so weeks of slightly overstuffing our trash can and we’ll see the end of the trash. Then I’ll just have kids’ clothing, camping supplies, old paper files and three memorabilia boxes to sort. I’ll just keep remembering how impossible it once seemed to fill up all my canning jars…

Speaking of canning jars, I bought another box so I could try out some strawberry-pear butter. Directions so I can replicate or tweak next time: 7-quart slow cooker filled with pear puree, cooked down to 2/3rds, added 2 lbs of strawberries, cooked down to about ½ full, added a few dashes of salt, a couple Tablespoons of vanilla, ½ lemon, 1/3 cup sugar and then finally immersion-blended in another pound of fresh strawberries as things just weren’t coming together. It turned out fine, but apple seems the way to go if you want to stretch strawberries.

I need to spend some time building cardboard lids and dividers for jars so I can get them out of my kitchen. Once upon a time canning jars boxes kept your jars clean and from rattling into eachother. No more. So, I build my own out of the abundance of cardboard we always seem to have. They are sturdy and protective by the time I’m done, but I hate taking the time out of my day to do it. I wish these weren’t so expensive!

The garden and orchard are great right now. Thing are sprouting and blooming, fruitlets are forming and bees and butterflies are everywhere. Grace always wants to come with me when I go out to work. I always put on grubby clothes and take my little soft-side toolbag that has my gardening things in it. On Monday, Grace came out with me wearing a pink dress with a ruffled hem, her blue “straw” hat with a flower, and a little princess purse. When we got to the garden, she unzipped her purse and got out her pink, flowered gardening gloves. I thought we made quite the pair.

Our second bed if built and mostly filled. It just needs fertilizing and mixing now, and just in time! Our seed potatoes are still waiting and our sweet potatoes are very aware that it’s Spring and are growing in earnest. I finally broke off some of the longer sprouts to root in water and discovered that one already had an abundance of roots. We need to plant soon. Oh, and the one sweet potato that hadn’t grown anything yet, finally sprouted leaves…underwater of course. I think they are mocking me.

And we finish up the week sick again (just colds), looking forward to General Conference and with rain forecast. Pray, pray, pray. We still have only about 1/3 of what we need to keep from deepening the drought.


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Planting, caring for plants and learning about Motherhood

We have had our first 80 degree day now and the land shows it. The grass is growing thick and high, the blossoms are now beginning to drop and leaves are bursting out everywhere. This is really the prettiest couple of months we have here and I am trying to enjoy it. Summer appears long, hot and dry in the not-too-distant future.

The fruit trees are also leafing out. As they do so, I see my pruning errors in stark-er relief. I also realize that entirely skipping pruning the pomegranates was probably a bad idea. They looked so small, but they are up and at this whole growing thing and could use a little clarifying. I am hoping they will not be past remedy come next winter. I may need to research summer pruning of pomegranates. We fertilized all the trees, got the moldy hay spread around their bases and topped it with some bark mulch as well. I really wanted radial hardwood chips, but could only do so much. I have found permanent tree labels that should work—time to get them ordered.

We did a lot of work on the berry rows this week. The raspberries, blackberries and kiwi are all in, so we just need to plant grapes this year and put in the supports. We are using t-posts and wire as per this method. I have read that there is a type of wire called berry wire. It is supposed to be “softer”. I am not sure what soft wire might be like…  I need to research and determine whether it is worth the price. I am trying to keep my OCD side from having conniptions right now. When the boys heeled in the plants, they took the blackberries out of their containers, so now I don’t know what is what and, of course, I could not plant varieties together. Another issue, of course, is that my plant guarantees are pretty much useless since I won’t know what something is if it happens to die. Also, the rows are not straight. Aaaaaaaaaah!

Grace and Jordan helped pick rocks from the holes before we planted. Grace exclaimed “It’s a rock!” every time she found one, and Jordan expressed doubt that it really was a rock whenever she found one. Elijah and I just had a good laugh as we worked.

Bethel, Jordan and I spread compost and straw on the strawberry beds. The chickens had gotten into the beds and done a little “thinning” while looking for bugs and trying to find an adequate dust bath spot. They made kind of a mess, but I wonder if it might help a bit. The beds have been quite crowded (between not feeling well and “when to do dormant-period maintenance if one’s strawberry bed never goes dormant?” inaction) and I could see this sparser arrangement being better for them. Even if the rows are not straight.   Aaaaaaaaaaaah! There are a good number of blossoms and developing berries. I am hoping for a good harvest.

The blueberries have gotten their 1st helping of cottonseed meal and are awaiting their mulch. I am thinking about planting these potted ones out with their new compatriots. We have a spot that should get some afternoon shade and that has been acidified by a nearby pine tree. I will probably still need to figure out shade cloth for the hottest months, but I think they all have a reasonable chance of success and happiness over there. I am also planting a variety of serviceberry over there that is supposed to do well in our zone. We shall see!

In the kitchen this week—a batch of dill pickles and three more quarts of marinara sauce. The marinara has never been as good as the first time. I think it is just due to the tomatoes, but I am considering using my mom’s recipe next round. It should be about the same processing time in the canner.

And we have only one in diapers now! Woohoo!! With the other kids, potty training has ended up waiting until the child gets sick of diapers and does it themselves. When I wanted them out of diapers it was just an endless parade of tears, tantrums and accidents, but as soon as they decided, it was over and done with. But just to throw a monkey wrench into my expectations and modus operandi, Grace is an extremely patient child, including being patient with yucky pants. Attempts at encouragement and having her try to go on a schedule were completely unsuccessful and so, this week, we just took off her diaper. She was a little sad at first, but settled down to being patient again. A few issues, but she’s doing great and handled her class at Church today (1st time out of the house) like a champ. Tomorrow we’ll attempt a short road trip as we go to pick up a food order.

I received some rather bad news about a friend of mine this week. She is my age, a mom of twelve children (the youngest just turned one in January) and has just been diagnosed with a cancer that modern medicine hasn’t really been able to get a hold on. We are praying for a miracle. I met her and another mom-of-many back when I had three children and was unsure how much longer I should/could keep going with having babies. The two of them had much in common and would sometimes sit and talk about their experiences and insights while I listened and tried to pretend that I had a clue. The things I learned from them changed how I looked at motherhood.

  • I learned that they didn’t have children because it was easy for them to do so, but because they were obeying the promptings of the Spirit. Upon learning that my friend was pregnant (again?!), one rude young relative asked my friend, “Was this planned?” My friend answered, “This is part of His plan.”
  • I learned from them that each child brings both blessings and challenges essential for the growth and perfecting of the mother. My other friend said that as each child made her a bit better, she figured Heavenly Father would need to send her 100 in order for her to become perfect.
  • I learned that we don’t necessarily see what is missing before a baby is born, but their importance is plainly evident after birth. When rude people would assert that my friend had too many children, my friend would ask, “Which one should I not have? Look at my children and tell me, which one would we be better off without?”
  • And after hearing their stories of how hard it was to announce their pregnancies to family and friends, I learned that a pregnancy, no matter how inconvenient, how quick on the heels of the last, no matter which number, no matter the age or circumstances of the mother is always a reason to rejoice and congratulate. Yielding your life to God is never an easy thing, no matter how many times you have done it in the past and being given the stewardship of one of His children is no small matter.

By the end of a couple years of being friends with them I had decided that these wonderful women were not so odd, that they had clear vision and good reasons for the choices they made, and that their reasons could be mine as well. I pray that my friend will recover so that she can continue to share her love and wisdom with her family and others whose lives could be changed by her influence.

What greater gift dost thou bestow,
What greater goodness can we know
Than Christlike friends, whose gentle ways
Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.


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Goat and garden news and multiplying marmalade

I’ve given this week my all, and perhaps some. Joseph has not been sleeping (I don’t know if it’s teeth, introducing solids or something else) so there’s not been much to draw on, but it is all thoroughly gone now and I am ready for a Sabbath. Sunday is such an interesting day. By intentionally limiting my activities that day I find that I am not only refreshed heading into the week, but even quite anxious for and optimistic about Monday morning. “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath”, indeed!

Bad news first: Penny is not pregnant. Our vet came out and ultrasounded her.  I was not surprised.  Though her body condition’s improved, she is not round and wide like we’ve seen her pregnant now twice in the past. So, no babies for her this year. We’ll milk her through and try again next year. Can I tell you how incredibly grateful I am that I saw Ella flagging back on Christmas Eve? That was such an answer to prayer. We would have had two un-bred goats otherwise.

And now the good news: our home soil test kit arrived and the boys checked the pH of the soil we had our neighbor haul up from the creek bed and it’s NEUTRAL!! After hearing stories of horrible alkalinity hereabouts, my berry loving heart leapt. Yay! All our garden crops should be fine and the berries will just need some monitoring and nudging rather than extreme measures. Elijah also checked nitrogen—very low, but no surprise. That and phosphorus are both typically low in our area and situation. I’m more curious about potassium levels as they are supposed to be high around here, just typically unavailable due our overabundance of magnesium. We may find at some point that we can just supplement N and P and go without the K for a while.

I bought some onion sets from a guy out in AZ. I kept reading that, in our area, you could plant onions sets in the Spring, but I couldn’t find anyone who actually carried them. They all just looked at me funny and said that they only had them in the Fall. Anyhow, I am glad to get ahold of some as I am anxious to get some experience curing and storing them under my belt. There are a bunch of things we are planning to grow, not only because we enjoy eating them, but to learn how to store them. This is a big year for gardening school.

And we are still waiting on gypsum, which has proven harder to get ahold of than we anticipated. We hope that it gets here before summer gets more of a foothold. It was seriously warm here today.

Aside from taking the kids to the dentist (an all-day event) I spent a good chunk of every day canning or preparing to can. I made more marinara sauce (not as good as last time as the tomato seeds were awfully bitter!), a batch of sweet pickles and then I started marmalade yesterday. Having an abundance of good oranges and a penchant for marmalade, I wanted to make a lot. My recipe yield was six ½-pints. I wanted twelve pints, so I quadrupled the recipe. That math makes sense to me. Anyhow, as I sliced fruit and added quart after quart of water, I had to keep switching to bigger pots to accommodate the bulk (note to self: slice finger near the end of the process next time not on the fourth out of twenty-eight pieces of citrus—ow) and finally set it to boil in a fairly full 20-quart stock pot. After two hours of boiling, the bulk had reduced somewhat, but was still impressive. I was tired, so I stuck it in the fridge to finish today. This morning I pulled it out, sweetened it and set it to boil again. As I can’t do much sugar and the recipe relied largely on the sugar candying for thickening, I added some gelatin to help it along. Half an hour later it had reduced a little more, but was still a rather giant vat. It was also still extremely runny, so added more gelatin, mixed it well and then started ladling it into jars. I ladled and ladled and ladled, ran out of clean pint jars and started filling quart jars. When it was finally empty I had 13 pints and six quarts—more than twice what I was anticipating! I have reviewed the recipe numerous times to see if there was something I missed…I simply cannot figure it out. So, in two weeks (the minimum aging period for this recipe) we will start eating vast quantities of marmalade…or perhaps marmalade sauce, if it doesn’t set…

Also in the kitchen this week, I started a new batch of sauerkraut. The last one that I made a couple of months back tastes a little odd and no one ever wanted any. This one tastes better, but it started off funny. When I went to check the brine level at the end of the first 24 hours (I prefer self-brining, it possible, but will add water if it’s low at that point) the cabbage had reduced in volume by about 1/3 overnight! I’ve never had one do that before. Fermentation mysteries.

I’m taking advantage of cheap apples (40 lbs for $15) and made an apple crisp. Lovely. I really think one ought to be thoroughly sick of whatever fruit is in season before moving on to whatever is next, and I have not gotten my fill of apples yet. I’ll give it a good old college try this month.

The sweet potatoes are growing, if slowly, in the windowsill. I lost one of the original ones to rot, so I started another from that same batch the next week. I read that typically slips are grown from potatoes around 2” in diameter (not the 4” monsters that were sprouting in my pantry), so I have a couple of jars with some smaller ones as well. Nothing growing on those yet.

And I found a flea on my bed this afternoon. One of our houses was infested with fleas when we moved into it, so I am well-acquainted with the nasty little things. Time to keep Joseph away from the kitties and review the instructions on treating fleas with DE.

Never a dull moment.

 


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Scrambling

So many weeks out sick means that we are incredibly behind on everything. We started the flu with all our planting just ahead of us. We end it with, “rats…is it too late to…?” I am trying to just keep working through it in a reasonable way, but I often feel like my head is going to explode. Still, being crazy beats being sick!

I finally went out and finished the orchard pruning. Bethel seems to have a knack for it. When I was undecided, she would advise, and did so well. I asked her how she knew what to do and she said that she’d seen well-pruned trees before. And I spent hours reading about it! She’s such a many-gifted girl. I hope she can learn to delight in the good work that her gifts could lead to.

One of our peach trees is oozing gelatinous stuff. I have read that it could be the result of bacterial canker, borers or “growing pains” in young trees. I am really hoping for the third option.

Also, I really need to sharpen my pruning shears. Those last cuts were far from beautiful.

I went out and picked up our bare root trees as well as some grape vines. I was hoping to buy a couple more cherry trees while we were there, but they were long gone. The good news was that the grapes were ½ off, so I was able to get a couple more than I had planned. We are just waiting on the last mail order now. We sure have a lot of planting to do…

Garden bed building is stalled out for now until my husband can scratch out some time to work on it. And on my part it is hard to get excited about expending effort on seed-starting when I’m not sure when there will be beds to plant things in. If only we both had super-powers and required no sleep. I am sure that the Incredibles always get their garden in on time.

incredible garden

Yeah, I thought so…

And we’ve got to get Penny ultrasounded. If she is pregnant, it is time to dry her up. If she is not, I want to de-worm her using the non-pregnant goat stuff. She’s looking thinner than I like to see her.

I finally got the zucchini relish made and canned. Important note to me: get help! It looked pretty straightforward, just some zucchini, peppers and onions, but I found that there is nothing “just” about mincing 14 zucchini, 10 peppers and 8 (apologies to my non-onion-eating family—I feel you wincing) onions. Even with the food processor, it was slow. The zucchini had to be processed one at a time, carefully, lest they puree, and to be scraped down twice. The peppers and onions could go in two at a time, but that’s still 9 rounds. The kids were all delighted with the results, but the little red hen needs to get the other barnyard animals involved in this food project next time.

Other stuff in the kitchen this week: delicious butter (I need to order that splatter guard for my KitchenAid—this is so ridiculous), really dry mozzarella (I still have a baby…) and ricotta. We just went out and bought a bunch of oranges. I may attempt marmalade this week.

The wisdom of having both a farmer and a farmwife is brought home to me from time to time. Caring for plants, trees and animals is really one job and turning it all into eatables and usables is another. With my big boys and mod cons I can almost make it work some times, but it sure isn’t pretty.

And join us in praying and fasting for rain next weekend.  We have about half of what we need for a “normal” rainy season.  Less than that just deepens this drought.