June 4, 2008

     Oh, my, my, my, my…….where has the time gone?  It is June 4 already!  Our days have been full, blessedly so; but we have had our share of troubles, too.  The Lord has something to teach me through the trials so I accept them as they come.  Sometimes I accept them with a cheerful heart, and sometimes I grumble.  This time, though, I’ve been anxious a bit, and that’s not like me.  Apparently there are lessons for me to learn yet there as well.  “Be anxious for NOTHING, but in everything by prayer and supplication with THANKSGIVING let your requests be known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6)     This I know so well, and so my heart has turned from anxious thoughts to prayer and thanksgiving instead.  It’s a much, much better heart-state to be in!  He is faithful to give that peace which surpasses all comprehension.

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     Lady Jane commented that we must have quite a bramble of berries from the number of baskets we’ve been picking.  Well, yes!  Yes, we do.  The main row is about 18′ long.  The second row, where we are planting the new canes that come up, is also 18′ feet long, but only about 1/5 as full.  It will fill in as time goes by.  The full row is about 1/3 blackberries (from canes we purchased many years ago) and the remainder of that row and all of the second row are Young Berries, grown from canes originally from my parents’ yard.  I am hoping for at least one more row of Young Berries before it is all said and done, and a full row of raspberries as well.

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     We have picked about 20 – 22  baskets of berries prior to today, but there are still quite a few more to pick.  We’ve enjoyed two fresh, non-baked (one crust) berry pies, one baked (two crust) berry pie and a berry cobbler.  We have 17 half pints of berry jam put up, and five cooked (two crust) berry pies in the freezer, and we’ve all eaten more than our fair share out of hand.  These are grown organically so we can pick and eat them straight off the vines.  And we do! 

 

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     Tuesday morning Dani picked the first of the blueberries.  She picked into a bowl, but I’d guess there were about a quart.  We’re enjoying nibbling on them.  They’ll be coming on strong in the coming days and weeks.  We are hoping to freeze several quarts and to can a few quarts of blueberry pie filling as well.  We are hopeful of a batch of blueberry jam and a blueberry cobbler, too.  Oh!  And Dani says that we really must make Blueberry Buckle this year! 

     I will be sharing my blueberry pie filling, as well as my other pie filling recipes, with you as we prepare and can them this year.  Some are copyright protected but I will give you the links to those.  However, if you are not familiar with standard canning procedures, I encourage you to pick up a recent copy of The Ball Blue Book to learn the basics of safe canning.  Home canning is safe when you’ve followed the guidelines carefully.  Your family’s health is too important – read up on what you want to do.  We’ve enjoying canning for years, but we are careful to follow the most recent guidelines!   

     I was asked how I freeze my pies to keep them from getting freezer burn and/or having a taste to them from the freezer.  I place a single piece of wax paper over the top of my pies and then I wrap the pie securely with good foil.  Foil is one thing I don’t buy the budget brands of as I have found they are much thinner than good old Reynold’s.  I cover the pie with a piece of foil first across the top, and then another piece wrapped from the bottom up, overlapping the two pieces for good coverage.  I crimp the foil to the pie, but I’m careful not to damage the crust as I do so.  We just had the last of last year’s berry pies from the freezer about six weeks ago and it was just fine.  It’s been my experience that freezer taste happens only when a freezer needs to be defrosted and cleaned out.  I don’t know why a thick layer of ice produces that nasty freezer taste, but it does.  Be sure to defrost your freezer annually!  Mine is due for a defrosting this month, and it shows.

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     My husband learned from one of our church elders last year that our grapes would grow to a larger size if we trimmed off the bottom third of the clusters. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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     We tried it and it worked great!  We have a wonderful crop of table grapes in our vineyard this year, and my husband spent quite a bit of time Tuesday tending to this year’s trimming.

 

 

 

 

 

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     I mentioned a week or so ago that the pasture where we run our sheep is very poor this year.  We had little in the way of spring rains, and the sheep have already grazed the grass down to stubble in over half of the pasture.  The lack of rain has also driven the price of local hay through the roof, and hay coming in from other states is equally high due to the price of diesel fuel to truck it in.  We have flood irrigation in that pasture, but it needed some work before we could use it.  God is so good!!  

 

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      We were able to move some irrigation pipe covers (red caps) from one area to another so that we can water the pasture.  We are hoping that while the weather is still fairly cool we can encourage some of the pasture to green up and grow so that we can feed our sheep.  The trade off, of course, is that we will be spending more for electricity to our well, but the price of hay has risen to the point that this is our most economical choice. 

 

 

 

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     I am praying that the Lord would allow our efforts to produce some grass for our sheep to eat.  In the meantime I am quite grateful that the flood irrigation system is in place and working.  Dani took this picture for me today.  Do you see the wee little frog enjoying the fresh, cool water?

 

 

 

 

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     You see, while I am becoming more creative and proactive in bringing down the costs of feeding my family I am also trying to bring down the cost of feeding our livestock.  All that is required, of course, is more of my time in the form of good, honest, physical labor.  In other words, work.  The sort of work my grandmother did.  My grandmother passed away when I was only 12, and she suffered, greatly, from dementia for many years before her death; but I do have some wonderful memories of summer vacations in Missouri, picking tomatoes and cucumbers with her in her huge, densely planted garden.  I also remember my mom walking in the back door from an outing to town and “catching” my grandmother teaching me to eat my fresh-from-the-garden tomato slices sprinkled with sugar!  Mom was incensed, but my grandmother didn’t bat an eye; she just kept right on working on the brine for the pickles she was making.  I think giving treats to your grandbabies is just one of those Grandma things.  Some of you already understand that “Grandma thing”, and Lord willing the rest of you will be blessed to experience it on your own one day in the future.  But I digress………

     My grandmother worked hard.  She had to, and yet she never seemed harried or burdened.   Don’t get me wrong.  I am in no way romanticizing “the good old days”.  The Lord ordained that I should be born in 1957 and I am quite happy with that.  In fact, I’m quite happy with all of the conveniences and technology at my fingertips.   I have grown up in a culture where the type of work done by my grandmother is, for the most part, unnecessary.    However, I think that a great many of the skills that were common to her would benefit me greatly today as prices continue to spiral upwards week after week.  Many of those skills – sewing for my family, cooking from scratch, knitting, gardening, making my own bread, composting, canning, creating beautiful things for my home – are skills that I have learned over the years.  These are skills that I have used to varying degrees in the past; and these are the skills that I am, once again, using more fully.

     I would encourage each and every one of you to take stock of your current skills.  What do you already know how to do?  What sorts of things are you buying that you could, with a bit of skill and some good, hard work, make yourself?  Don’t try to learn everything all at once!  That would be overwhelming and would almost certainly result in failure.  You also need to remember that you cannot abandon your other responsibilities – your family, your home, homeschooling – in order to pursue the new skills.  You’ll need to carefully budget your time in order to successfully learn your new skill. 

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     However, you can choose one, perhaps two, new skills and get busy learning them.  Don’t expect your first attempts at a new skill to result in professional results.  Think about the ways your children learn.  My William is learning to write in cursive.  It’s laborious for him, and his attempts are wobbly.  He needs to look back at the letters he is learning to write over and over and over again.  Don’t expect anymore from yourself as you learn a new skill.  Keep the instructions close at hand.  Don’t fret about having to look back at those instructions.  Just dive in and give it a whirl.  Be diligent in working at that new skill until it is one that you have mastered. 

     I don’t have a new skill, per se, that I am working on, but I am resolved to do more with the skills I already have.  For example, I’m learning to grow even more of our own vegetables and fruits by extending not only the size of our growing areas, but learning to extend the growing season.  I failed miserably this spring with our early garden crops, but hope to do better into the fall.  Next spring, I will try again with an early season garden.  I’m rereading the gardening books and making notes.  I will take Niki’s advice and start my fall garden seeds indoors before transplanting them into the garden.  I can give them a good, healthy, protected fresh start that way.  I’m hoping to be harvesting from our garden well into the fall.  I also expect to have my sewing machine busy more often, and some sort of needlework project always in the works.

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     To that end, I’ve been using my time in the car, and other times here and there, to work a bit on Dani’s dish towels.  For some strange reason, the Monday and Tuesday towels were the first ones I embroidered. 

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     I’ve backtracked now, and I’m working on her Sunday towel.  In all honesty, I wasn’t wild about these designs when I first started stitching them, but Alice and her friends have grown on me, and I am taking great delight in working on them now. 

     My kitchen was busy in the latter part of the day today.  Dani and I picked six more baskets of berries late in the afternoon, and she hinted (quite strongly) that I should make a Berry Cobbler for tonight.  I took the hint and actually doubled my mom’s recipe and baked it up in a 9 x 13 pan.  I also used whole wheat pastry flour in place of the all purpose.  It turned out great, and we actually preferred the texture that came from the whole wheat pastry flour.  I also made a batch of our everyday whole wheat bread in the machine and enjoyed the aroma of bread baking while I cooked our dinner.  There are two and a half baskets of berries still on the counter after dinner, so I washed them up, measured them and froze them in two bags for Berry Cobblers in the future.

     I finished Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Cons yesterday, and I plan to write a brief (favorable) review in the next day or two.  My reading basket is still quite full (as you can see in the side bar) and still holds quite a few “hefty” size books!  I’m anxious to finish them up, though, as there are so many others I’m longing to delve into.  Spring and summer are such a busy, busy time, and yet I seem to be reading more now than I did during the long, dark days of winter.   

     June has arrived and it is whizzing right along.  We have been so blessed here with plenty of good, hard work to keep us busy.  The trials I spoke of have either passed or are still with us, but I am remembering to give them, daily….nope, minute by minute……to the Lord in prayer with thanksgiving for His mercy and grace in my life.

God bless you as you look well to the ways of your household!
Proverbs 31:27
 

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21 comments to June 4, 2008

  •   I didn’t know you were not wild about my towels!  I lubs dem, thank you for doing them.

  • I used Phil. 4:6 as my inspiration verse for today.  I’m thankful that the Lord takes such good care of His children!

    Blessings,

    Mrs. C

  • Praying for you during your trials…scripture always uses the word “when” in discussing trials not “if”….as in “when trials come”….so we know to expect them, but that doesn’t make it any easier.  Women, particulalry as we age, I believe, are very prone to worry, anxiousness and fear.  Praying without ceasing is what works well for me…(I seem to have a running prayer/conversation with the Lord in the back of my mind all day,  most days,) 

    On another note, if you email me prior to starting your seeds I can give you a detailed description of what I do.  It may give you some ideas. 

    Blessing to you and yours, my dear.:wave:

    Niki

    http://www.ruralwritings.blogspot.com 

  • It is great to be back and catch up on the daily writings from your blog!  I do not always look forward to the t rials God has in store for myself as well…..it becomes quite the little tug of war with my flesh to want to have control.  Praying the blessings will be there on the otherside of your obedience to God and His will.

    I look forward to the day when I can have my own berry vines as well…..We have some wild ones in the area that just do not taste very well, do yours always have a pleasing flavor or do you end up having to add some sugar, etc to them?

    God Bless, Melissa D. SC

  • It is great to be back and catch up on the daily writings from your blog!  I do not always look forward to the t rials God has in store for myself as well…..it becomes quite the little tug of war with my flesh to want to have control.  Praying the blessings will be there on the otherside of your obedience to God and His will.

    I look forward to the day when I can have my own berry vines as well…..We have some wild ones in the area that just do not taste very well, do yours always have a pleasing flavor or do you end up having to add some sugar, etc to them?

    God Bless, Melissa D. SC

  • My Family and I are praying for you and for your family.

    God Bless,
    CAGmomof2

  • I really like crunchy cons. I would say almost all my firends would be called a crunchy con !!! Clarice

  • New skills??? Hmmmm. Almost all of them are new to me these days. I would love to can tomatoe sauce for the first time. Anything with a ball jar scares me. Maybe the book would be helpful.

  • Cheryl-
    I’m so excited for you and your abundance! It is a dream of mine to be able to grow many fruits and vegetables and provide. It’s not doable at this time so I hope you won’t mind if I live vicariously through you 🙂 I’m looking forward to your forthcoming recipes!

  • Thank you for sharing your life with all of us.  This year I have started learning a few new things, I’m growing our first vegetable garden and I’m learning how to make bread in a machine.  You are right, lol, the first time won’t produce a professional product.  It wasn’t until my 3rd loaf of bread that my family started raving about it, lol!!!  Practice, practice, practice and alot of prays!!!

  • Thank you for such an inspiring post!

    I made yourMom’s Berry Cobbler and it was the BEST I had ever had and easy too! I had berries left over from last summer-1/2 blackberry and 1/2 black rasberry. I can’t wait to read about your pie fillings!

    Learning and mastering new skills keeps us on our toes-doesn’t it?

  • Thank you for such an inspiring post!

    I made yourMom’s Berry Cobbler and it was the BEST I had ever had and easy too! I had berries left over from last summer-1/2 blackberry and 1/2 black rasberry. I can’t wait to read about your pie fillings!

    Learning and mastering new skills keeps us on our toes-doesn’t it?

  • What a lovely and inspiring blog. I just wandered over her from the comment you left for me on Bren’s blog. Thank you for the encouragement about my daughter. I need the reminder to keep my eye on the big picture.

    I am enjoying exploring your blog! 🙂

  • Cheryl,

    You are cordially invited to take part in my June giveaway. Have you heard of Elsie Dinsmore? I’m giving away Book 1.

    I’d love to see you. Take care!

  • I also have been trying to learn a new skill each year some I have done  better in then others, one I really want to try this fall is taking a class in soapmaking. I love the looks of your grapes, mine were just planted this year and will not be ready to eat for another 3years. Our blackberries will be ready in August and we go picking blueberries at the ens of June early July. I pray that your area will get at least some more rain this year and that your watering goes well.

  • Mrs. Cheryl, you are such an inspiration to me. I know you just share your life and the things you learn, but not having a Mom around who knows the handed-down skills that I want to learn, I really, really appreciate your sharing your methods, techniques and advice. (My Mom passed away when I was 9, and I regret not learning from her like I should have. She offered, I wasn’t interested)

    You continue to be a blessing in my life. Thank you so much.

    Melody

  • Oh my goodness your brambles ARE AMAZING! 😮 A few years back I gave a bramble starter to Rocky for his birthday. Each year it yields a bit more fruit than the last. We’re up to 1 basket total. hehe. Nothing like yours but oh so wonderful for him to have over his morning oats or as a treat.  Now, if ya need help picking those berries, you just let us know, ya hear? 😆

    The picture of your grandmother is endearing. What a lovely reminder, especially the memory of eating sliced tomatoes with sugar. Mmmm.

    My grandmother was a city girl by choice. Her mother (my dear great grandmother) raised my mother and mother’s sister. She had brambles, amazing gardens, raised chickens for eggs and food, was an amazing cook – could make a feast out of almost nothing significant. Most endearing to my heart though was how she lived as a Christian in the midst of such challenge and uncertainly in life. I have her bible as well as a few things she tatted: wedding gloves (pre 1900) and a handkerchief. Oh, and her cookbook!

    Thank you for this visit, Cheryl. I’ve enjoyed myself. Bless you. 

  • Cheryl,

    You are such an inspiration to me. : ) Love reading about your life. Faith and I want to try your bread recipe. We’re hoping to plant fruit trees too once we’re back from our vacation. Keep sharing! We need your brains!

    Love,
    RJ

    leading little hearts home

  • @from_rebecca_j –   Don’t plant your fruit trees now!  Wait until bare root season in late December/early January for best results! 

  • @copperswife – 

    Thanks so much Cheryl and for your e-mail! You have mail! : ) Rebecca

  • I also grow blackberries…and try to make new things each summer…but my family’s all time favorite is Blackberry Sherbet…so easy and is a big hit with all!

    Thanks for your encouraging words.  I will pray for you during your “trials”…

    The Lord is close to the brokenhearted….

    http://cowgurlsblessing.blogspot.com/