Sunday, September 26, 2010

First Frost

I am amazed at how I view fall and the first frost now that I am the proud owner of a garden. Fall is still my favorite time of year, but I have found that since I have this great garden and lots of tomatoes that I have been waiting for them to ripen, I have been hoping that the first frost not come until October. Well, I'm not so lucky. While I was away in Ashland this weekend with my kids on our grape picking adventure, things froze down here. Fortunately I have a wonderful husband (I already knew this) who pulled all the tomatoes that I had sitting on the railing of our deck into the kitchen before he went to bed last night. Yeah Scott. When I got home to check out the garden this afternoon, it looked pretty sad. I was hoping to prolong my growing season, but no. Clean up will start tomorrow - Yeah for 4 day weekends.

Now on to happier things. Grapes, Juice, Jelly and Apple Sauce!
Friday night when the kids and I got to Greta and Nico's we jumped in and picked all of the grapes that my sister had that the boys hadn't snacked on. We picked a full average size diaper box. With 5 kids between our two families 4 and under, we have a lot of empty diaper boxes. We also picked a bunch of the remaining few apples that we could reach in hopes of adding a little apple juice to our grape juice in the morning. The kids had a blast picking grapes and eating them. I have to admit, I enjoyed eating them also.

On Saturday morning we cleaned, squashed, boiled and squeezed all of the grapes. We started with using cheese cloth but the flesh of the grapes kept squishing out so we used an old white cotton towel that Greta had. It worked much better and is now lovely shades of purple. Unfortunately our hands were also the same lovely shades of purple. In the end we had almost 2 gallons of juice once it had been diluted.

After we all had some fresh juice as a snack and the kids were off to a nap, Greta and I started in with the jelly. Neither of us had ever made jelly (helping Grandmas and Mom doesn't count at this point) before and we had intended to make just freezer jelly, but discovered that the canned version had a lot less sugar in it. We opted for that version to start. After 2 batches of jelly and trying to keep track of 5 children all day, we were pooped. Oh, I didn't forget about the apples we picked... after trying to extract the juice from the apple pieces in many different ways and not having an apple press, we opted for apple sauce. We made 2 pints of plain sauce for the kids and then we make 2 pints of jazzed up sauce for Greta and I. We didn't really go by any recipe, we just added our favorite spiced cider ingredients and away we went. After the Cinnamon sticks, all spice and clove pouch had simmered in the sauce for a bit we blended the sauce in the blender until smooth. It was a smooth, warm divine treat. I now love warm apple sauce. Yum! This morning we did make one batch of grape freezer jelly just to see how that turns out.

This coming weekend we are planning on heading back to Ashland for the Bayfield Apple fest and we're going to make and can some more of our divine apple sauce.

When we got home Lizzy, Elle and I harvested 2 of our 4 foot rows of carrots and got tons. Two full ice cream buckets, I think I have 5 or 6 rows left. It is a nice carrot crop. I blanched and froze this batch and will probably do the same to more of them, but I do want to try and store some in my root cellar over winter. I just need to make a nice wood box and find some nice saw dust. The only problem with having the girls help me with the carrot harvest is that they turn into little bunnies. At least they like eating fresh raw veggies.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Life and Times of Craziness

So, the new job is going great and I absolutely love it. I was half expecting to be completely exhausted everyday when I came home. Some days I am, but most days I don't. It has been so wonderful to see the kids though out the day even though I'm not working in their classroom/area (I'm in the baby room - lots of diapers - something we don't have around our house anymore). I have loved even more coming home and spending more time with them doing projects and having them help me out around the house and garden.

So far the kids have helped me make 9 + quarts of spaghetti sauce (one of which we had tonight for supper and the kids said it was the best ever), 4 + quarts of salsa and picking and freezing even more green beans. Soon we are going to pick and freeze some carrots.

We have also been working on putting down some concrete under our lean to where we are going to store wood for the wood stove for winter. Adin has spent a lot of time with Dad as this process has been going on. I even got to help finish a small piece up by the (under Adin's watchful eye) deck where we are going to install a ramp so Scott's Mom can get into our house. Adin said that I did a good job, so we'll see what Scott says when he gets home from work.

Along with this cold weather slowing down my tomatoes and everything else in the garden, it has also slowed down the concrete drying process also. Yikes. I absolutely love the canning process. I wish I had a pressure cooker also so I would be able to can more veggies. I have learned so many things can't be canned with a Boiling Water Bath (BWB).

This coming weekend, the kids and I are heading north (to Ashland) to help Greta with her grapes. I have Friday off so we are going to see how many grapes we can get picked before Greta gets home from work. Than the plan is to make juice and jelly. Hope that it will all turn out. I'll try and get some pictures to post from the weekend, I'm sure there will be some good picture opportunities with one 4 year old and four 2 year olds. Crazy times.

August and September have both been whorl winds and I have no idea where they have gone. I look to next spring and the new plantings that will happen in the garden and it makes me both happy and sad. Happy for the new growth and the new trials in the garden, but also sad at the fact that we will be unable to have growth here over the winter. Old timers in the area are saying we are in for a long cold winter with lots of snow. The lots of snow I can handle, but the long and cold I could do without. I guess time will tell. Life is never boring or dull in the Northwoods, I say this as my 3 kids run off their spaghetti supper doing laps from our kitchen, dining room & living room. Craziness surrounds us, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Laps are getting slower so maybe that is a sign of quieter times ahead, or maybe not.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Paper Bag Tomatoes

Now that things are starting to get cool around here and we haven't seen much of the sun in the last week, I have decided to help along some of my huge tomatoes from the asparagus bed that seem to take forever to ripen. Adin and I picked a bunch of them and put them in a paper bag and they are now sitting on our kitchen table with another paper bag filled with Roma tomatoes from a co-worker. Her husband has a nice garden and they had an over abundance so fortunately I was able to benefit from that. Those will make a nice addition to my tomatoes in my next batch of Spaghetti Sauce. I am very much looking forward to another go around, I had a ton of fun the first time.

Today my mom, the kids and I picked another gallon or so of green beans. I'm guessing that I'll probably get one more picking out of them. Those plants sure have been productive for me. I am very pleased.

Well, work will be approaching very early in the morning so bed is calling.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tomatoes and Missing Adin Brother

This morning was mass chaos. At 10:55 my only son Adin was going to be getting on the bus for his first day of 4-K and he was excited. I don't think that there was a wall or chair or table or fixture in our house that he didn't bounce off of. The kid was crazy excited, think he was wanting to get ready to go at 5:30 this morning. I still wanted to sleep. That didn't happen (did I mention beds in the list of things the kids was bouncing off of? If not we must add that one along with family members.)

While we waited we started working on spaghetti sauce, 2 ice cream buckets full of chopped up tomatoes. From now on, I will slightly if not completely freeze all of my tomatoes before canning, as the peels come off much easier.

Once bus time came around, the whole family including Maya the dog walked down the driveway to watch Adin get on the bus for the first time. When that bus came he did great. Mr. Wayne, the bus driver had to tell Adin to actually stop and wave so I could take a picture. As the bus drove off with a smiling Adin, I realized that I had a very sad little Lizzy. Elle was fine and walked back up the driveway with Daddy. I had to carry Lizzy up the driveway, because she didn't want to leave. All she said up the driveway was "I miss my Adin Brother!" When we got to the house Lizzy sat on the bottom steps heading up to the deck, and there she sat. We couldn't get her to come in, she just kept saying he missed her Adin Brother. Scott went out, sat down next to her on the step and still couldn't get her to come in. He asked her if she was going to sit there all day and she said yes, until her Adin Brother comes home. That is when my heart broke. Seeing how sad she was without her Adin was a big surprise. I truly hadn't expected her to be affected like this. She sat there for almost an hour.

I finally talked her into going to town with me to get basil for the spaghetti sauce and there we also bought some Popsicles. I think the Popsicles helped, because she is now running around being silly with Elle, but it took a while. In the mean time, I got all those tomatoes stewing away trying to get them cooked down so I can continue this project. This will be awhile, I may have to finish it after my training tonight for Early Childhood stuff for work. I should be home around 9 pm. We'll see home much it cooks down by 4:30. So until the Spaghetti sauce is done and canned, be blessed and I'll see ya later.