Dilly Beans

Dilly Beans are basically a pickled green bean.  I prefer to pickle the young, tender beans from the plants’ first harvest because the beans are nice and straight, making them an easier fit for my pint jars.  (Subsequent harvests tend to have beans that curl more.)  I usually leave the ends on my beans before pickling, which makes a nice little “handle” for pulling them from the jars when they’re ready to eat.

I would think that any dill pickle recipe could be used with green beans, but this is the one I typically use for mine.  When I have access, I will also add half of a seeded jalapeno to my jars.

2 pounds (ish) green beans, washed well
1/4 c. salt
2 1/2 c. vinegar (white or apple cider)
2 1/2 c. water
4-8 cloves peeled garlic
4 heads dill

Combine salt, vinegar and water in large pot; bring to a boil.

Pack beans lengthwise into hot, clean pint jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.

Add 1-2 cloves garlic and 1 head dill to each jar.

Ladle hot liquid over beans, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Remove air bubbles.  Adjust lids and bands.

Process pints for 10 minutes in hot water bath.

Makes 4 pints.

As you can see, I have pickled all manner of veggies when I have them available. I especially enjoyed these pickled carrot sticks!

 

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Lunch with Connie

 

IMG_8156I had the lovely opportunity to have lunch with my friend, Connie, yesterday.  We enjoy one another’s company a good deal, which is quite fortunate since we’re next-door neighbors.

Connie and I both like to laugh a lot, and we both have a high propensity for crying when our hearts are touched.  Sometimes, we laugh and cry at the same time.  It’s therapeutic.

We have many of the same interests:  people, gardening, eating and raising chickens.  We also discovered yesterday that we both really like Michigan Cherry coffee and honey-roasted nut butter.  Our biggest interest in common, though, is Jesus.  We love Him, and we both like to share how He is working in our lives and in the lives of our families.  I like this about Connie.  She doesn’t stand on ceremony when it comes to sharing her heart.  She talks about God as though He is her treasured friend, and she even shares the tough things of life that most people don’t want to talk about.  I have never seen hopelessness in Connie, because she continually recognizes that Christ is her Hope.

She’s good for me that way.

Since Connie is old enough to be my mother (sorry, Connie…), I greatly appreciate her perspective on the various stages of parenting I’ve encountered over the past several years.  I tend to look too closely at one thorny shrub and forget the whole forest of healthy, beautiful trees around it.  Yes, the thorns need dealt with, but we also need to give thanks for all of that hardwood!  (Can I get an amen?!)  I often leave Connie’s presence thanking God for the trees.  Yesterday was no exception.

My kids are growing up.  My approach to mothering is changing.  The way I approach my 18-year-old must be different from the way I deal with my 14-year-old.  And, since this is my first time ever having an 18-year-old, I must determine, kind of on the fly, what that’s going to look like each day.  (My poor first child has been a guinea pig on so many levels!)  Add that to the fact that my 16-year-old acts a good bit differently than the last 16-year-old I had, and I can easily get confused and overwhelmed, because holy cow!  My kids are going to be out in the cold, hard world in no time at all!  I have so intentionally mothered for so long, but I am now seeing that there are so many other lessons I wanted to teach them and memories I wanted to make with them!  (And, yes, I’m crying…again.)

So.  Back to my friend, Connie.  When I told her of my worries yesterday, and how I keep trying to not worry, she gave me some of her straight-shootin’ advice:

Trista, you’ve just gotta trust Him.  Every time you find yourself worrying, just say, “I trust you, Lord”.

Well, there it is.  Thank you, Connie.

This morning, after repenting of my energy-draining, joy-sucking, habit-forming worry, I told the Lord I trusted Him with three of my biggest fears.  (Because that’s what worry is, folks.  It’s fear.  And the Word of God tells us not to fear 365 times, which means that there is one “fear not” for every day of the year.)

I then opened my Bible to John 14 and found a timely promise:

If you love Me, you will obey what I command.  And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth…the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
–John 14:15-17a, 26-27

This beautiful passage promises a holy Counselor for us, free of charge.  The Holy Spirit speaks into our hearts, never leaving us to navigate uncertain waters on our own.  We are also assured that we can have the peace of God in this life.  We get to choose whether or not our hearts are troubled, whether or not we live in fear.  We just need to lean more firmly into the Holy Spirit for guidance and for peace.  We are not alone.  (Can I get another amen?!)

Thank You, Lord, for the friends you’ve placed around me.  Thank You for working in and through them to effect Your will in my life.  Thank You for being an active part of this phase of my parenting and for your vested interest in the lives of my children.  Thank You, too, for your precious Spirit, which You have poured out into the lives of Your people to teach us, guide us and encourage us, giving us what we need before we even know we need it.
I trust You.

Cutting Back

I spent most of my morning weed-eating my garden.

Ack.

Between dysfunctional tillers, time away from our farm and lots and lots of rain, the weeds are quickly taking over.  With all of the rain we’ve gotten in the past 48 hours (more than 3″), the garden was too wet for me to even get our push mower in between the rows.  So, I figured weed-eating would be a good alternative.  I guess there’s a first time for everything.

I think I was able to save most of our crops, aside from our kale and Swiss chard.  Fortunately, there is time to re-plant them and still enjoy a harvest.  One of our plantings of beets is a little iffy; let’s hope they rebound, because they’re one of our favorites.

Before yet another pop-up thunderstorm sent me scurrying to the house, I also worked at pruning our tomato plants.  Each year, we try to remove every downward limb on every plant to allow more sunlight into the center of the vine.  This also makes harvesting easier on both us and the fruit.  It’s always a bummer to have to practically juice a tomato just to get it of where it’s been wedged between interior branches.  Pruning is frustrating to me because, if we wait long enough, I end up pruning branches that have little yellow blossoms or even tiny green tomatoes already started.  It seems like such a waste to throw them out!  The truth is, though, that eliminating these little starts actually increases the harvest.  The tomatoes are likely to be bigger and of a better quality than they would be if we left all of those downward branches to bear.  Plus, a lot of the fruit would just be more difficult to harvest.

Jesus spoke a lot about garden stuff.  He is the vine and we are the branches.  Sometimes there are things growing in our lives that need to be cut back.  When we allow Him to “prune” some of the activities/habits/behaviors that drain us of valuable energy, He will often give us a higher yield of quality “fruit”.  The Bible says that the fruits of His Spirit are things like love, joy, peace, patience and self-control.  There’s not a person I know who couldn’t use more of some of those things at one time or another.

As I was weeding and pruning today, I was reminded that I have been planted, by God, to yield a good harvest.  It’s one He has prepared for me, and He is equipping me for that yield daily.  When I spend time with Him, He is planting His truths in my heart, plucking harmful lies from my mind and pruning the unnecessary out of my life.  These lessons He teaches me aren’t always comfortable (some are downright painful!), and sometimes (okay, many times) I must let go of something that is good before I am able to gain something that is better.  This process is one of the conundrums of the Christian faith.  The Bible calls it dying to ourselves.  It comes with the understanding that Christ can shine brighter when we step out of His way.

Lord, please help me to step out of Your way.  I see so many things that can be done in and through my life, but I acknowledge that I certainly don’t see everything…and I may not always see the best thing.  I submit myself to You again today.  Grow in me something so beautiful that the world will know that only You could have possibly grown it.

 

Counting Garden Blessings

I spent about 6 hours in my gardens yesterday.  The only part of my entire being that wanted to be there was this tiny ultra-responsible part of me that knew that I’d be glad I did.

Between the extreme weediness of certain patches, the lack of rain for the week, the broken state of our heavy-duty tiller and the unusually hot temperatures, yesterday’s chore list was a battle.  In addition to those things, my husband is building a new dog kennel/enclosure.  It’s much bigger than our old one and will be a tremendous help when various dogs go in heat and need to be separated or when we’re away from home for prolonged periods of time.  The problem is that this limits his time helping in the garden when he gets home from work. Then, my oldest daughter decided to grow up and get a real job, so she’s not around much right now either.  The bottom line is that we’re short-staffed.

Someone recently shared with me her struggle to get excited about getting her garden in this year.  She was frustrated with herself for not being as committed as she has been in the past.  As she was verbally chiding herself, she said something like, “It’s just been a struggle for me.  I wish I could love it like you do; I can tell that you really love it!”

I get what she was saying, because I have sooooo been there.  The fact of the matter is that I love the idea of raising the vast majority of what we eat, and I love the opportunity to share it with others, but I don’t always, in truth, love the reality of it.  I want to love it all, but, the fact is, on days like yesterday (and, quite possibly today), I don’t love it.  I just do it, knowing that the “loving it” part will likely show back up later.

As I s-l-o-w-l-y worked my small, only-working tiller between the rows of our largest corn planting, I found myself looking for garden blessings to count.  Here’s some of what I came up with

1.  Our property is a beautiful place to do chores.  Seriously.  There are very few other places I’d rather work like an under-paid dog.

2.  My tiny Mantis tiller is still hanging in there with me.  She may be slow, but she’s steady.

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Dave bought me this little Mantis tiller about 10 years ago, and she’s still going strong. (Thankfully!)

3.  My younger two kids were plugging away with good attitudes yesterday.  They weren’t thrilled with spending their entire morning working outside, but they managed themselves well and were a huge help.

4.  The potatoes were beautifully and capably mulched by my sweet daughter.

5.  The cool-ish morning temperatures made our labors much more bearable.

6.  So far, thanks to regular squashings, we seem to be staying on top of the asparagus beetles and cabbage worms.  (Blech.)

7.  Unlike some jobs, I could actually see that I was making progress.  On some days, I just need that kind of reassurance.

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Even though it took longer than I wanted it to take, progress was being made.

8.  Growing our own food is truly a privilege.

9.  Our bodies are strong and healthy (and getting stronger, thanks to regular exercise, good food and never-ending, strength-building farm opportunities).

10.  I have not yet seen a single Colorado Potato Beetle.

Once lunchtime came around, the kids and I clocked out for a long afternoon siesta.  I must say that, once I got inside and took a shower, I was really glad that ultra-responsible part of me won out, but…

…I really don’t want to go back out there today.

 

Enlisting Lists

This time of year always kind of kicks my behind.  There’s just so much to DO!  So much of it is time-sensitive, too.  For instance, if we don’t get on top of the weeds now, we will be playing catch-up all summer long.  When I get behind on my weeding early in the year, I struggle to resist the temptation to give up on whatever it is that’s out there fighting for its very life.  I mean, weeds have rights, too…right?

In addition to our normal animal/house/yard/garden chores, we are celebrating my oldest daughter’s high school graduation this Saturday.  This is super exciting stuff for us, but I confess that I’m feeling a little bit overwhelmed.  And, when I’m overwhelmed, I make lists.  This week, I’m working from seven lists.

Does this make me compulsive?  Don’t answer that.

I have a Master List of things that need done.  These are things that, should my children look bored or earn a chore for disciplinary reasons, get assigned as needed.  This is also where I look if I happen to have 16 seconds or so to spare between other necessary tasks.

I also make a Daily List for the kids.  This list spells out a couple of things that Dave or I want each of the kids to do.  It may be something like preparing supper, burning trash, mowing our orchard or other random things.  The kids appreciate knowing first thing each morning what their responsibilities are so that, depending on their personality, they can plan their day accordingly or procrastinate at their leisure.

I also have five other lists–one for each day this week.  This is excessive, I know.  To be honest, though, I just have too many irons in the fire this week.  Plus, my brain doesn’t seem to have the available space it used to have.  I simply must write things down.  And, with the prospect of feeding a couple hundred guests this weekend, I needed to just order my days according to the tasks that needed to be done.  Much of the chaos in my head was eliminated just by writing down what needed to be done (make iced tea, pull sloppy joe meat out of the freezer, bake sugar cookies) and assigning it to a day.  Whereas some folks find lists restrictive, I actually find them freeing…IF I can be flexible and go with the flow when necessary.  (This is something I have had to learn to do.  It not only made a huge difference in my own peace of mind, it made a significant difference in my marriage and parenting.  Win/win/win!)

So, today’s list had 4 things on it for me to do:  weed eat, weed patch of spring crops, pull recipes for tomorrow’s baking day, fill out card and wrap gift.  After approximately 5 hours of working outside on this July-ish May day, I have gotten most of one thing on my list done.

No, I’m not kidding.

Do you remember those “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” books?

If you go out to weed the spring crops in the garden, your daughter will want to learn to run the Mantis tiller.  When you teach her how to run it, you’ll realize that it would be smart for you to get the more powerful Troy-bilt tiller so that two tillers can be run at one time.  Before you start the tillers, you’ll want to pull out all of the thistles.  Once you pull all of the thistles, you’ll need to throw the piles of thistles in for the cows to much.  While the cows are enjoying their snack, you’ll realize that the chickens are looking at you like they feel left out, so you’ll go pull a bunch of chickweed for them from behind the shed.  While the chickens are snacking, you’ll see the freshly-tilled rows in your daughter’s wake and decide to cut grass to mulch them.  While you’re cutting the grass to mulch between the rows, you’ll notice that one of your children started the job of moving the compost pile but didn’t finish it.  In order to keep from wasting all of that beautiful dirt, you’ll turn over the pile and secure it with chicken wire.  While walking to the barn to retrieve the post driver to drive the fence posts for the new compost pile, you’ll find baling twine and feed bag pull tabs on the ground.  You’ll pick them up and walk them up to the garage to throw them away.  While in the garage, you’ll notice that the gas cans are almost empty, but you’ll resist the temptation to drive to the gas station to refill them because you don’t want to get distracted!!!

Yeah, and on and on it went.

The good news is that the kids and I were fairly productive and actually got a good bit checked off our lists.  The bad news is that I will be adding a few things from today’s list to tomorrow’s or Thursday’s list.

So, if you’re coming to the par-tay on Saturday, and you notice that the weed eating hasn’t been done, I invite you to notice that the compost pile has, indeed, been moved.

 

 

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The chicken wire from last year’s compost pile had been removed and was one hard rain away from spilling into the yard and garden.

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The fresh waste on the top needed moved aside so that I could get to the composted material underneath.

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This is my very haphazard way of finishing the bigger compost area with the same amount of chicken wire. Exact measurements are often not my thing. I do, however, have an affinity for zip ties.

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Lovely goodness for our garden!

 

Chickweed

See this stuff?  It’s aptly called chickweed.  Chickens love it.

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Chickweed grows plentifully in the shady place behind our shed.

There may be something wrong with me, but I really enjoy gathering it by the bucketful and throwing it to our flock.  It’s easy to pull, and it’s plentiful this time of year.  The chickens suck it down like famished five-year-olds slurp up spaghetti, and I take great delight in watching them enjoy it.

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D’Artagnen enjoys a Chickweed buffet.

My kids think I’m crazy.

I respond that craziness is hereditary.  They come from a loooooong line of crazy people, and they will one day find themselves doing something crazy for their own personal enjoyment.  Maybe it will be smiling while the chickens slurp up their chickenweed.

Maybe it will be lying out in the thick grass one spring afternoon, snacking on dandelion greens and listening to the birds.

Maybe it will be running across 3 or 4 counties to find old hay and straw for deep bed mulching the garden.

Maybe it will be going against the flow in order to spend their days laughing, learning with and loving on three remarkable children.

Life is full of all kinds of opportunities to enjoy.  No need to over-complicate things.  Just do them.

 

Chicken Chasing

Well.

Remember that big start I told you we got in our garden last week?

The chickens loved it!

That’s right.  About half a dozen of our hens, escorted by our handsome Barred Rock rooster, D’Artagnan, happily scratched around in that newly-planted section long enough to lay waste to 30 baby broccoli plants and the several rows of other goodies, like beets, lettuce, spinach and sugar snap peas.

Grrr.

That same day, while I was away at a class, two of our young dogs, Butch and Daisy Mae, escaped the confines of their pen to maul a neighbor’s chicken.  Several months ago, we discovered that Butch can open the latch on the gate with his teeth.  Yes, you read that correctly.  He can grab hold of the gates latch with his teeth and lift upward to free himself from captivity.  Once this was discovered, we solved the problem by placing a clip through the latch that he could not manipulate with any part of his body.  Problem solved, right?

Only if everyone remembers to attach the clip.

And Daisy, she is just as sweet as she can be–until she gets distracted by something to chase.  She doesn’t want to hurt the chicken; she only wants to catch it–over and over and over again.  Catch.  Release.  Catch.  Release.  I’m sure that little game was a lot more fun for Daisy than it was the chicken.

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Sweet Daisy loves to chase! Unfortunately, when she runs full-tilt, she’s hard to beat.

Since I wasn’t home, and since my children tend to communicate like their father (releasing pertinent information in intervals that may lag for hours or even days), it took me the better part of a day to piece together the whole story.  So, when my sweet neighbor asked us to be on the look-out for a wayward hen, I said I would be happy to keep an eye out for her hen.  I even shared that my daughter had spotted a fox on our property that very morning.  Wasn’t that helpful?

Oh, how I wish I could blame that fox!

The chicken had probably not even wandered onto our property (like I had initially assumed), but likely snatched it from its own flock in its own yard!  This good neighboring business is humbling.  So thankful for the grace we’ve been extended by more than one neighbor in regard to our ill-behaved critters.

Fortunately, we’ve been given the opportunity to extend some grace of our own over the years.  It gives us the opportunity to treat folks the way we want to be treated and to model forgiveness to our children.  And, when people show grace to us, that gives us an opportunity to teach humility as well as a willingness to change our behavior when necessary.  Obviously, we aren’t perfect in this, and we are slower to learn some lessons than others, but Dave and I agree these are lessons worth trying to teach.

If only our poor neighbors didn’t have to be our guinea pigs for all of these teachable moments!  Friendly smiles, fresh-baked treats and homegrown produce can go a long way in soothing ruffled feathers–well, unless you’re the chicken.