Tuesday, September 19, 2017

2017 Food Preservation Season

I am in the full-thrust of harvest - fermenting, drying, canning, freezing - and have been going hard for a month or more.  It has been an amazing change this year now that my youngest child is four years old,and I have 3-4 helpers who are actually helpful - picking, shucking, hauling, loading, slicing, snapping, cleaning.

Another huge difference from years' past is that I am working steadily through the entire week, rather than saving the bulk of my work for the weekends.  This is huge.  Instead of blow-out weekends that leave me completely stripped, there have been Saturdays or Sundays where I finish my work in the early evening hours.  It has been amazing.

I am getting more done too . . . with steady progress, instead of fits and starts. I am a machine.  I know what needs to be done and how to do it. My output is massive.

As I have said in recent years, I am a "serious home food preservationist".

 Bread & Butter pickles ready for storage.

Sliced cabbage + salt + caraway seeds = sauerkraut

Cucumbers have been prolific this year, so I have gallons upon gallons of sour pickles, bread & butter pickles, sliced dill pickles.  Our green cabbages came in in conjunction with the cucumbers, which left me in a bit of a pickle (haha) with the amount of produce that needed processing.

Also, with the amount of rain we got this year, the green cabbages (but not the purple thankfully) started cracking at the beginning of August.  It was not a good situation . . . they were in tough shape by the time I was able to get to them. (About half-way into the crisis, I got two 5 liter Pickl-Its that made all the difference.) (Pictured above with the sauerkraut.)

Likewise, with the amount of rain and cool weather we had in August, our tomatoes are in a precarious situation.  They are cracking and extremely vulnerable to bug damage.  We are picking them before they are fully ripe; if left on the vine, they are left to the wiles of slugs and bugs. Completely destroyed.

Now for for a slight detour: a small tour of ketchup-making --

 Pre-ketchup: spices, onion, sugar, vinegar, tomatoes

Culling spices in the food mill.

Ketchup refuse

 The final product sealed in the canner.

I am displeased with the ugly rendering of these pictures with my iphone.  YUCK.  My beauty-loving eye sockets are seared with the sheer displeasure of seeing such refuse.

Alas, it cannot be helped.

I use the A Canadian Foodie recipe: Homemade Ketchup with Fresh Tomatoes.

I've been also been making tomato sauce, salsa, and the most delicious oven-roasted tomato concoction: a panful of halved cherry or plum tomatoes, add salt, several crushed garlic cloves, and a few chunks of beef fat, baked at 350 for most of the day and stirred every-so-often.

It roasts down into an umami-filled, rich, reduced . . . I don't know what.  I've used it as pizza sauce or simply as a visually appealing and palate-pleasing addition to a plate.

I am listening to The Brothers Karamasov in the kitchen while I work, now on speaker via my iphone rather than earbuds through my little hand-me-down ipod.  It is an incredibly long book, but well worth the time invested.  I've been absolutely gripped by the story and the many ideas that Dostoyevsky explores.

Finally . . . my Food Preservation Notes. Or, how I taught myself how to do this all.

Though let's give credit where credit is due: the groundwork was laid in my childhood by watching my mom and aunties in the kitchen.  Thanks Muver. (Emoji heart!)

Over and out.


Wednesday, August 09, 2017


  • Food preservation plans.
  • The 2017-2018 school year.
  • Going for the gold on that beautiful, very functional Etsy chalkboard.
  • The ensuing organizational revolution the said chalkboard will facilitate.
  • The gray hairs standing at attention and in proliferation on my head.
  • Why a houseful of boys involves so much fighting. (Really.) (Why??)
  • (And perhaps the complaint should be expanded simply to "children"...?)
  • A workable plan toward gutting clutter.
  • Why the "m" key on our keyboard only works some of the ti(m)e.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Hashtag "boymom"

UN. We had another tooth almost knocked out by an elbow during a bout of rough play this afternoon. (Jamie's.) (Front right.) (Hanging by a thread.)

This means we've had a total of 2.5 teeth knocked out in our house over the years . . . and we have so many more loose teeth to go.

Only in a houseful of boys.  For realz.

We spent time with a friend yesterday with an older daughter and a son and a newish baby boy.  The boys were in the basement, making their usual commotion and noise.  While we were talking, I noticed she was starting to feel tense and distracted, and I realized that this, my life, what-feels-like constant noise and commotion, might not be normal in other families.

"It sounds like they are tearing down the walls," she said, as she asked her daughter to go and take a look, then report back on their activities.  And it absolutely did: it sounded like shelves were falling and walls were getting pock-marked.

And I realized that I had barely even noticed.  Yes, I heard the noise, but it was just the usual din: no one was screaming or crying, the usual sign of things run amok.

Her daughter came back upstairs rolling her eyes and said they were battering each other with balloons. They evidently had a pack of balloons and balloon pump, and of course, what else are balloons for, other than smacking each other and exploding them in short order?

Battle play.  Of course.


It's real.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What Robin Told | What Mother Saw

I had a moment of homeschooling bliss the other day, a moment of such beauty.

We were in the garden planting onions. (Yes! The fellas planted onions this year.) (All 800-900 of them.)  I hoed the furrow while Diego and Truen placed the pine needle-like seedlings along the row, then covered and tamped with loose dirt.

We heard a woodpecker pecking out a new hole on an old, dead spruce.  We heard a catbird mewing in the trees nearby.  We began to talk about woodpecker nests, which we have never seen, which led us to robins' nests, which we have seen in plenty.

Jamie started reciting a poem recently memorized --

What Robin Told
by George Cooper

How do robins build their nests?
Robin Redbreast told me
First a wisp of yellow hay
In a pretty round they lay;
Then some shreds of downy floss,
Feather, too, and bits of moss,
Woven with a sweet, sweet song,
This way, that way, and across;
   That’s what Robin told me.

Where do robins hide their nests?
Robin Redbreast told me
Up among the leaves so deep,
Where the sunbeams rarely creep,
Long before the winds are cold,
Long before the leaves are gold,
Bright-eyed stars will peep and see
Baby robins–one, two, three;
   That’s what Robin told me.

Eliah was off playing in the grass. Jamie hopped through the dirt as he recited the poem. Diego and Truen were industriously planting onions and thinking about bird life and lore. And my heart was full.

I thought, "This is what I'm doing." My life right now. Planting beautiful thoughts. Cultivating an awareness of life in the world around my children. Teaching them to work. Depositing a bank of poetry and bird lore. Noble stories and ideas.

In essence, giving them a mental landscape to draw from as they get older.

Little glimmers shine through now and then, the elusive and intangible "results" that every homeschooling mother pines to see, and it has nurtured me along the journey.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Down by the Salley Gardens

I sing this to the little guys almost every day as we snuggle down for nap time.  LOVE. 

It is a beautiful song, a beautiful poem.

Down By the Salley Gardens 
Down by the salley gardens
   my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens
   with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy,
   as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish,
   with her would not agree.

In a field by the river
   my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder
   she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy,
   as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish,
   and now am full of tears.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Quick pop-in

Unbelievable. It appears that my new habit is posting every two months. I'm like a broken record . . . I don't have time for reflection, blahblahblah . . . but it is such an accurate picture of my life right now.

I have about a half-hour of solitude in the morning before everyone gets up and I use this time for stretching, life organization, and scant reading. Afternoon Quiet Time is a thing of the past, replaced with Afternoon Lessons.

Jamie, six years old, still naps most days. The older boys and I have spent delicious afternoons in recent months reading aloud The Tale of Beatrix Potter and Richard Halliburton's Book of Marvels, then working on math lessons. We use MEP math out of the UK. (Love!)

Jamie still naps! Regularly. Much longer than Diego or Truen ever did. I believe he may need more sleep than the average kid, but more importantly, it is because his body is slow to move toxicity. Extra sleep on the days he is showing signs of stress makes a big difference.

Key signs of bodily stress show in 1) behavior (very low stress tolerance, inflexibility, inability to cope, etc.) and 2) his lymph system. Inflamed lymph nodes in his neck and groin are prime indicators, peppered around like little peas. Totally freaky, right?  Ugh . . . it has been quite the journey.

We have seen our area "witch doctor", a Kinesiology PhD who works on keeping energy flow and balance in the body.  We are using Bioray Kids Calm to assist his body to keep things moving: chemicals, heavy metals, bacteria, virus, etc.  We are using the Kids Dynamic Drink to boost his system. (In addition to whole foods, broth, limited sugar, no food coloring, epsom salt baths, etc.) We bought also bought an Austin Air Purifier, as we believe the indoor air quality of our century-old home is a primary culprit.

We have seen improvement with all of these measures, both in behavior and his lymph nodes.

My time is out . . . but here I am. Living life in my little corner of the world.

See yeh in two.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Quick check-in

It's been more than two month since I've posted . . . oh my.  Since then my grandma has died, our new little nephew Otto was born, I mothered my first mother as a doula, and we took a 3+ week trip to WA.  There's more, but it will have to wait.


 Jamie had a birthday: six years old

 We made a quickly-planned January visit to Western WA

 We met a new cousin and celebrated Late Christmas

The fellas looooove their cousins

 LOVE. (....we found them like this)

 And love-love-love their cousins

The fellas love their aunties and uncles too
 So many uncles to wrestle with

 This was 4-against-1 and Unky Erik still beat 'em

Uncle Andrew was Eliah's special buddy

We spent a lot of time at the beach

 Playing on driftwood, walking along the beach and pier

 (Truen is so engaged, he's hard to catch)

It was a lovely visit

Blaine even came at the end . . . the first time in seven years
It was so good to have him there.

We saw our dear friend Sam & family, the first time in eight years
(He's stationed in Western WA until this summer)
Lovely, just lovely.