Sunday, September 25, 2016

Squirreling Away

Have you ever felt the thrill of "squirreling away" provisions for the cold winter months ahead?
That's what we'll be talking about today, for the leaves are starting to change and it's a sure sign of long grey, chilly days ahead!

Have you ever experienced feeling like a squirrel?
I had to wear Isaac's bee outfit since the 3 inch
yellow hornets also liked our apples!

That's how I felt as I filled up my baskets of apples in our lil' orchard last week. Squirreling  is taking advantage of the season's bounty so it will make life easier during another time of the year...that's when you get the "happy squirrel" sensation! 

You've probably seen them...the squirrels...scampering from tree to tree finding the acorns under the fallen leaves. They stuff them in their cheeks till they bulge before scampering off to some hidden nest to store them for the winter ahead. They seemingly played all summer long on the long branches overhead. Now though, they are all business as they scurry from tree to tree with a mission to store up nuts for the winter!

 There is a joyful feeling that I get in the fall when
the shelves in my pantry fill up, the freezer takes on a satisfying "bulge", and the last of the broilers have been butchered, cleaned, placed in a bag, and the lid of the freezer shut with a thump. It's all exhausting. I'm glad it's over. But there's a sense of victory and of a challenge overcome. Foremost in my children's minds at this point are the winter meals they've been dreaming about while they work!

Squirreling isn't easy. There are many days of messy kitchens, aching legs from standing, hot brows from picking the berries, or gathering the vegetables from the fields. Nevertheless, it's all worth it when the day is done! 

The goal of squirreling isn't to get a hoard supplies. The goal is to lay up, ahead of time, the resources for approaching needs and even a little extra to give away.

Squirreling has been a part of our family's fall ritual for years! Our older children fondly remember helping an elderly couple nearby cleaning up under their apple trees of fallen apples. They let us have all we wanted of the fallen apples, so we'd load up our laundry baskets and take our bounty home to make apple sauce, apple juice, and to dry into apple leather and slices of apples. It was hard, sweaty work for them, but it was a great learning time as well as an opportunity to help friends out. 

In the early years of our family nearby tomato 
farmers would give us their culls. We'd make tomato juice or can them whole for chili and soups during the winter. Squirreling was a family affair! 

Tomatoes for winter soups and stews!

Ways we help you "squirrel":

~Buy bulk potatoes at a farmer's market. Spread
them out in the sun to cure a few days. Do not let them get wet, and "stir" them about so all sides get nice and dry. Store them in the coolest part of your house in baskets or open crates. Inspect them each time you go to get what you need for a meal. Remove any "ripening" ones. :)

~Buy the winter braising greens like turnip, mustard and kale in bulk, and freeze it for the winter! Here's how I do it!

 Freezing Greens

Cut off large, tough stems; discard all damaged leaves (to save on waste, just pinch off the yellow or otherwise damaged leaves). 

Wash thoroughly several times if extra dirty. 

Next I get a large pot of water boiling so I can blanch the mixed greens. (Blanching is just immersing chopped greens in boiling water for a set amount of time, then removing them and putting them into a sink of COLD water to cool them quickly.)

 I save a lot of time by putting my greens in a thin pillowcase and push the case down into the water and stir.   Blanching times don’t vary too much. All greens except collards (3 minutes) and spinach (1 ½ minutes) are blanched for 2 minutes. Once the water comes back to a boil, begin timing. 

When the timer goes off, remove the greens from the pot and quickly put them into a clean sink or dishpan of COLD water.  You can use either ice cubes or a gallon milk jug that is filled with water and frozen to keep the water cold. I sure beats cracking ice!

Next drain your greens. If you are using my method of blanching greens in a thin pillow case, simply lift the case from the water and press the water from the greens. If not, put your greens in a colander and press to drain. 

Lastly package and freeze your greens. I use "Ziploc" type bags that I lay flat on a cookie tray and freeze flat. When they are frozen, remove from the tray and you'll have compact packages of greens to store. Don't forget to date and label your greens! (No one likes mystery packages in the freezer!)

 ~ Our peppers are still bearing strong, so stock up for a convenient way to top your pizzas or add extra flavor to your spaghetti this winter. If you follow these EASY directions you’ll be able to reach into a freezer bag and pull out only the amount you need for a particular dish.

 Freezing Diced Peppers
Wash, core, and dice peppers (You can freeze 
Prepping whole peppers to freeze.
any type of peppers in this fashion.). Place the cubed peppers on a cookie sheet and place in your freezer. When the peppers are frozen, scrape them into a freezer bag and store where you can easily “grab a handful” when needed. I use these on pizzas, spaghetti sauce, in omelets, and many more dishes. 

Acorn Squash for early winter meals
~Winter squash keeps well in your pantry, or other cool spot in your home. Choose the creamy acorn squash for early winter meals, and the butternut squash for mid to late winter meals. I'll have more about cooking with them in next week's blog. 

~Each week as you go to the market think ahead to your needs during the winter months. If you buy an extra chicken a week, or another package of sausage each week, you'll soon have "squirreled away" several weeks of winter meals. 

~The same works for the baked goods we offer at the Farmer's Markets. Bread, cinnamon rolls, and even the cookies freeze easily right in the package we sell them in if you have the room. (If not, "Ziploc" type bags work well here too.) We freeze bread all the time, and enjoy a warm cinnamon roll without even making the dough by reheating a frozen roll! 

~Our jams and jellies, and honey are an EASY way to                                         squirrel
away provisions for the grey days of winter ahead. We have customers that buy an extra jar each week, or even those that buy by the case to have what they love during the cold winter months. 

God designed men to sense pleasure when they work at the basic responsibilities of life, like providing food for their family. Take on the challenge this year and feel the "happy squirrel" feeling as you gather God's gifts for your family, and have resources to give away.

"Go to the ant, thou sluggard consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest." 
Proverbs 6:6-8
   Abundant Blessings!
  The Farmer's Wife

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Time Away!


Long overdue greetings from the farm! 

I've been negligent in writing my "weekly" posts since coming home from Massachusetts. I've been caught up in the whirlwind of baking for the farm, canning for the farm and family, "fall cleaning", and planning our school year...among other things! No excuse I know, but it's the truth. I'll do a little catch up here today. :) Since so many of my children read the blog to keep in contact with us, I thought I'd first write a blog about our trip. (If you're not interested in this, just go on to my next post.)

Charity's first plane ride.
Yes, I took Faith Anne~15 3/4 and Charity 8 1/2 on their first real vacation in 13 do the math for Charity!

 God provided a GREAT deal on our tickets where all three cost the same as one of my plane tickets home last summer! Then He graciously provided a car...housing...and lots of fun thrown in just because He can! 

I got to introduce my girls to my family, my church family, and let them get a glimpse of my childhood. We walked where the Pilgrims walked, swam in the bay, kayaked and swam in the lake, and went to a choral concert that thrilled us all.  

Each girl made a list of things she'd like to do...
One of Charity's delights was to cross off "making a sand castle"...something she'd only read about.

Faith Anne wanted to go SWIMMING! So we went swimming in the ocean (her favorite place to swim) and the beautiful Silver Lake! (Mom and Charity's favorite place.)

Remembering the olders $2 budget picnics from the past, I gave the girls each $3 to buy a picnic at the grocery store. Whew! What fun! We ate at Gray's Beach in Kingston; then went swimming.

We were soooo blessed to stay with my brother and sister in the Lord, Richard and Rosanna Buhl. They are true family!

Richard is an old "sea dog" that is king of the hibachi and charcoal grill! He likes to tell jokes like Steve and learned a lot about little girls during our stay!

Charity's love...Maggie the cat!

Sisterly Love

We spent a fun-filled afternoon at the splash pad at Nelson Park with Andrea (my niece) and her children. Faith Anne and Charity really  enjoyed getting to know their cousins.

Each day we'd drop in on Aunt Valerie for a visit. We'd see her latest knitting project, talk about books and dolls, and family. I wanted a way for the girls to really "connect" with her, so I asked her if she'd bake cookies for the upcoming family reunion with them.  Many of our cookie recipes come from her, even ones Faith Anne makes for us to sell at the Farmer's Markets.  She did!

Later that same morning we were blessed to have private kayaking lessons and splash around in Silver Lake with Sandy Marks. This was one of the HIGHLIGHTS of the trip for us!

Bryan & Sandy Marks

Sandy was the picture perfect patient teacher!

Sandy taught both girls how to respond in case the kayak tipped, how to paddle, and took them on "tour" of the lake as they practiced.

I wondered if Charity could handle the kayak, but she was sooo cute and determined that she handled the boat like she was born to it!  She too went on a trip around the lake, and later with me! We saw swans, possibly a bald eagle, fish, and we raced back to the beach!

Charity loved the water at the lake!

One Sunday we had a Krueger family reunion. The girls got to meet Aunts, Uncles, and cousins that they've never met before. It was fun to get almost everyone together for fun and fellowship!
The girls charmed Uncle Ric (my big brother) and had him wrapped around their little fingers! He fixed up two bikes and took them over to where we were staying for them to ride, took them grocery shopping, and generally they got what they wanted with him. (How fun sometimes!) He loved it too! It was real nice to be home with my brother and his family.

Uncle John (my little brother, ohh, I love to say that!) brought some of his family to the reunion. It was good to see Jessie and her children, and for the cousins to play together.

It's ALWAYS a blessing to visit with my cousin Peter! I was glad the girls could finally put a face on the stories the boys tell of his visits to the farm. He's a very special person to me.

On another night, we visited with Jim & Val Dowd and their grandchildren who live nearby. Jim and Val were my youth group leaders in high school, and I babysat for them weekly during that time. They helped me through some real rough waters as a teen. They were able to visit with us last winter here on the farm.
The kids got to play games inside and out! What fun they had playing with children their own age.

One of my childhood heros! I really look up to Jim.

Since we'd passed our kayaking lessons, Sandy let us use the kayaks anytime we'd like during our visit. So we did!

Val Dowd came over to bring the girls a gift (school supplies) and slipped them $$ for ice cream! 

Thursday was Uncle Bryan's day to show the Colvin girls a good time. As we waited for him to pick us up at the lake, I slipped down to the shore for a few rare minutes of private time. God was so good to teach me a few lessons in the waves...

We were sure blessed to be able to freely use Bryan Mark's beach at Silver Lake.

The lake is 3 miles long and over a mile wide!

So with Val Dowd's gift in hand, our first stop with Bryan was the Dairy Twist. The girls had never eaten ice cream at a shop like this before!

Faith Anne got a large, thinking she'd get all she could...wellllll, it was HUGE, and they gave her a cup at the start to catch it in! Good thing, as it tipped into the cup right at the first! She still had a double sized cone to much on before starting on the cup of ice cream! Charity and I got the "kiddie" size and it was a double scoop! I got homesick (of sorts) while reading the flavors available...I ordered
"Muddy Boots"!

Bryan Marks and I were friends from ....well, the beginning of my life! He and I grew up in Mayflower Church together. He has gladdddly taken the role of Uncle to the girls as he's been like my big brother for ages.

Bryan took us on a coastal tour of the South Shore. I love the water, so this was a fun day of sight seeing, fun, and fellowship!

~Scituate Lighthouse~
This was the scene of the little known Revolutionary War story of
 "The Army of Two".
(This is a neat story for Home School
 kids to look up!)

The open ocean off of Scituate,

We all got our picture taken there since we had researched the "Battle of Two", and it was a special stop. (It's hard to see Charity behind the stuffed animal Andrea gave her.)

Another sight during our tour.

Lastly on the tour was our little test drive of Bryan's 1961 Ford Galaxie in Hingham.

Bryan's "Gal" Sal

The backseat driver!

The best part of the trip was snuggle time with family!

One day we walked around and around the Forefather's Monument in awe of the many facets of the monument. Since we've watched the "Monumental" documentary about the symbolism of the monument, it meant a lot more to Faith Anne...Charity couldn't care less by that point in our day.

Goofing around...I take TERRIBLE selfies!

The historical highlight of the trip was our trip to Plimouth Plantation.
The authentic houses, workers that were steeped into their historical roles, and the "light bulbs" going on in the girl's minds as they saw things they've only read about before made the day memorable for us all.

A friend of Myles Standish that introduced us to
 "our relative".

Charity checked out the Pilgrim's gardens closely.

Myles Standish (a distant relative of ours) was teaching folks to bear arms.

"Myles Standish" talks to one of his relatives...
Faith Anne.

This lady was grinding corn for corn cakes in one of the homes. She talked with us about many of the challenges she faced coming with the separatists to "The New World". (She was not a Pilgrim.) There were many changes in her life and talked with us about the more distasteful ones.  I think the girls will look at their chores differently now. 

Before we left Rosanna made sure we had a seafood feast. We got freshly caught lobster and codfish for  a special meal. Charity had fun holding the lively creatures that her Grampy used to catch in the bay.

One last historical trip was made on board the Mayflower II.
The girls and I wandered on the decks remembering the precarious trip taken by the Pilgrims in 1620.

This was the view of Plymouth bay from the Mayflower II. (Much different then back then!)

Charity explored the decks with her stuffed animal still in tow. 

This time, like at the Plantation, Faith Anne held a great discussion with Governor Bradford. (The workers won't variate from their role. They must study a lot to know the background of the time period, as well as their character!)

Charity and another little girl found a talkative woman that was willing to welcome little girls to her time.

The bike that Uncle Ric had fixed for Charity got a lot of use! I wondered how long it would be before she got tired of riding in circles in the driveway...she LOVED it and just needed a little time to "blow off some country girl steam". 

Rosanna's porch dining room...the scene of many a lively conversation and games.

This is where I was blessed to have my devotions and tea each morning...

Saying goodbye was hard to do!

Goodbye Val and Val!

My last visit to the lake was too short...instead of going down to the beach I sat on "my stump" at the top and thanked the Lord for all the memories we made there, for His provision for the trip, and all the love He poured out to us through people.
Good Bye Silver Lake!

Thank you Uncle Bryan for all the memories!

Bye Maggie!

Thank you Richard and Rosanna!
Goodbye for now!

Homeward bound...good-bye Massachusetts!

Daddy sure is HAPPY to have his girls home!
He gave them goofy glasses to wear for a "welcome home gift" of sorts. :)

The mountain and the sea seem a lifetime apart....but not in our hearts.

Abundant Blessings,
The Farmer's Wife,

My first bike. San Juan, Puerto Rico