The Santa Rosa plums came ripe within the last two weeks. Looking into my canning notes, we hadn’t yet preserved anything this growing season(!), but the plums changed all that. We sat down the other Sunday to do our first batch of jam. I picked with gusto, I carried them into the house with gusto but as soon as I sat down to put the task to hand, all the wind was knocked out of my sails. Our plums are delicious but they are hidden behind a very bitter skin. I started peeling with a knife, but the knife was dull (a solveable problem, I know). Then I tried scoring the bottom, like tomatoes, and dunking them into hot water to let the skins separate from the meat of the fruit. It looked like it would work, but it didn’t. In fact it totally backfired. Not only did the skins not fully loosen, but by placing the bitter skinned plums in the boiling water, the bitterness soaked right through the fruit, making the whole batch bitter. Argh! Scott sharpened the knives and we sat down and hand peeled…for hours!
Then inspiration hit and for our second batch, we picked them, let them sit on the counter a few days to truly ripen and sent them through the food mill. Problem solved! Not only that, but after the fruit passes through the food mill, it’s smooth and thick enough that it only took a minute or two on the stove to let the sugar dissolve and then into trays to become handmade fruit roll ups. Hardly any hot cooking involved! Food mill, where have you been all of my life?
First entry into the 2014 Canning Log: 6-half pints of plum jam & 4 sheets of fruit rolls ups.
Apparently the cucumbers are more than happy in their new bed. We’ve been getting inundated with them for the past week or so and luckily I don’t think it’s going to stop anytime soon. It feels good to get a good, abundant harvest again. So many other priorities rudely interfered with our usual spring garden routines this year that we’ve been feeling weak in the whole growing department. But look, we have cucumbers. It’s a start.
We planted about five or six different kinds. I’d carefully explain which each variety is, but those tags are buried deep beneath those tangled vines. That will have to wait for another time. Needless to say, they are all good and I’m so enjoying eating them. And infusing them into gin for martinis. There’s that too.
We’ve been thinking about doing a big fall garden this year. Last year I read You Can Farm by Joel Salatin. It was a motivating, inspiring, quick reading book. But one thing is said is that if you want to be a farmer, you have to tell your kids that time consuming extracurricular activities are out, especially baseball. Now that I lived through two boys on two different Little League teams during one spring season, I can see what he meant. If you want to focus on building your land up as a profitable, you can’t waste those hours doing things that aren’t building up the farm. However, we are not intending to be farmers, but a family who lives in the country with a big garden. I want my kids to be able to play sports if they are driven to do so. But man, that did put a giant big kink in our spring garden habits, as I’ve mentioned before. Well that and deck building and business trip taking (to Norway none the less!). Luckily we live where we do and we can grow a lush garden in fall too. And so, this weekend after a hectic spring and a free, though busy summer, we’ve allotted to getting the beds ready. Wish us luck!
A few weeks back my sheep tending neighbor and I were letting our children play around her farm. We started talking about the merits of raising goats versus sheep. Now that the wee one is getting older, the thought of adding in some animals to our property is seeming more possible. Still a far off hope, but still much more do-able, at least in my mind. Sensing my interest, Cindy asked if maybe I wouldn’t want to share in her East Friesian sheep-keeping by learning how to milk them. Sign us up!, I said and a few mornings later my middle son and I were riding our bikes down the street to learn how to milk sheep.
An enjoyable hour later, we rode back down the street with a gallon of sheep’s milk and a bit of chevre culture and rennant. Fresh sheep milk, if you are as curious as I was, tastes quite similar to cows milk. We all enjoyed the taste. It quickly however, thanks to this recipe, became fresh chévre. Delicious! What an incredible experience, and hopefully not our last.
This summer, so far, has been one of my favorites. This is one of the first summers in years when either I haven’t been pregnant or having to run continuously after very small children. The wee one, at 3 and a half, is old enough to join her big brothers through their activities, which leaves us all a little bit more room for freedom. Sometime in mid-June we discovered a mother quail sitting on her clutch of eggs between the lavender row. One early morning my oldest son saw two quail parents walk through our front yard with a trail of teeny tiny babies. As soon as they got dressed, the kids went to check on the nest and indeed they had hatched!
Art and drawing have been constants. Our two tables look like this nearly constantly. At Amy Karol’s suggestion, I bought this fantastic art book to help give them direction when they need it. Which hasn’t been too often, they are usually quite self motivated when it comes to drawing, however it’s a handy book to keep in my back pocket for when they are ‘so bored!’.
Flower arranging, soccer card organization, and drawing fishing lures have been favorite activities.
The other month, Sunset magazine, came out with an issue containing their 25 best recipes of all time and I’m on a quest to try all of them. This Dutch Baby was, easy, and a big hit with the kids.
It’s no surprise that since the quail nest finding, searching out other bird nests has become near obsession. Taking pictures of them has become a ‘big thing’, along with many calls from me to ‘not get too close!’ and ‘don’t touch anything near the nest!’.
Though keeping all three kids at home is far from peaceful (they’ve also been perfecting the art & craft of bickering), the absence of having to drive them all over town and pack them lunches has calmed all of us down considerably. Close friends have commented to me on their visits that I look more relaxed and even my most high spirited son seems calmer than they’ve ever seen him. Keep it coming Summer of Freedom, keep it coming.