Connections

(Holzwarth Historic Site, Rocky Mountain National Park)

One life stamps and influences another, which in turn stamps and influences another, on and on, until the soul of human experience breathes on in generations we’ll never even meet.

~ Mary Kay Blakely

An interesting side-effect of all the canning and freezing I do at this time of year is that I not only feel a deeper connection to the land I live on and the community I am a part of, but I also feel part of a long line of women (and some men) who have spent the latter months of summer and the early months of autumn preserving the harvest.

It’s sometimes hard for me to imagine what it must have been like trying to keep food around well into the winter months without the modern appliances we have now.

The reason I preserve some of the harvest is to save money since I am no longer working outside of the home.  But I also do it because I like opening a jar of tomatoes in the depths of winter, when the world outside of my door is covered in snow and ice, and getting a whiff of summer as I sniff the tomatoes to make sure all is well (and not rotting).

Yesterday I finally finished up canning the tomatoes.  I’m thinking of heading over to Hilgert’s for another bushel of them as tomatoes are something I use a lot of in cooking.  They go into soups, stews, chili, pasta sauces, and probably plenty of other things not coming to mind at the moment.

(My freshly canned tomatoes, in their jars and ready for winter.)

Which reminds me…

I made a risotto the other night as part of my adventures in cooking.  It was fabulous.  I’ll share the recipe with you soon.


More faces from the county fair

Another day.  Another batch of tomatoes sitting in a boiling water bath while I wait for them to finish processing.  I hope today’s canning adventures are successful.  I had a little trouble yesterday.  As the jars of tomatoes were processing, they were leaking.  The jars didn’t seal so I dumped them all out into a bowl and decided to start over.

I would take photos of all those beautiful red tomatoes but — would you believe it?  —  I still haven’t uploaded and looked at all of the Colorado pictures.  It’s not a lack of motivation.  It’s a lack of time.  And a lack of space.  My computer has run out of room.

I did manage to clear out some of the old photos and move them on to the back-up hard drive.  That should give me room for a few hundred or so of the Colorado pictures.  I hope.

I noticed this morning that the leaves on the maple trees out front are starting to fall and carpet the lawn.  It’s the lack of rain, I think.  We have had very little rain this month.  I am about ready to do a rain dance.  Hopefully we’ll get some rain from the cold front that is supposed to move through tonight or tomorrow.

That’s about it from the Bogs for now.  The tomatoes are almost finished.  I think I’ll make some salsa today, once I’m finished with the canning.  We’ve invited friends to come over on Sunday and will be having fish tacos.  Fresh salsa would be a good thing to have with those.


The toad

I’m busy canning tomatoes, pickling peppers, and all sorts of other harvest-related activities.  So I thought I’d let this little guy who recently showed up on our new patio hold some space here for me until I can get back to regular blogging.

In the world of animal totems, toads are said to represent enchantment, luck, longevity, and blessings.  That seems a lot for this little guy, but he did enchant me with his beautiful color and I feel lucky as well as blessed to have seen him.

I guess that isn’t too much for a little guy after all.

It is also said that if a frog or toad shows up in your life, change or a metamorphosis is about to take place and it may be time to take a leap onto a new life path.  Today I am taking a leap and starting out on a new/old path that may well bring change to my life.

But you’ll have to wait to hear about it as I want some time to learn before I start to write.

I have seen a lot of toads throughout the summer, in the garden and around the new patio.  More than usual.  It seems they might have been trying to tell me something.  All I had to do was pay attention.

🙂


Green and brown

One of the saddest sights (to me) during our trip was the increase in the number of trees affected by the mountain pine beetle.  I know the beetles are considered a natural condition but to see so many trees dying, dead, and cut down was disheartening.  Quite a few of the campgrounds within Rocky Mountain National Park are almost devoid of trees.  What used to be wooded, shady campsites are now wide open sunny spots dotted by numerous tree stumps.

Even so, the dead trees didn’t detract from the beauty of the area.  The browns and grays mixed in with the greens reminded me more of autumn than of summer.

Some of the hillsides near Shadow Mountain Lake (which is near Grand Lake, where we stayed Tuesday through Friday during the first week of our trip) are dotted with piles of wood from the cut down trees.

(Near Shadow Mountain Lake.)

The western portion of Rocky Mountain National Park has been affected more than the eastern side.  There are still patches of green among the trees but you can see in the photos above and below that there are large swaths of brown and gray.

A harsh, cold winter would kill the beetle eggs and larvae.  Temperatures in the Rocky Mountains have been warmer than usual over the past ten years, said to be due to general climate change.  Precipitation levels have been down as well and the combination of the two (climate change and lack of precipitation) has caused the infestation to worsen.

Meanwhile, back at Breezy Acres…

I paid a visit to Hilgert’s Farm Market today.  The roma tomatoes and peppers are now coming in like gangbusters.  I came home with two pecks of peppers (green bell peppers and “Italian roasters”).  They are gorgeous.  I’ll be freezing most of them.  I do want to roast some of the Italian roasters to put in a salad tonight and save some the bell peppers to make stuffed peppers tomorrow tonight.

I’ll be going back later in the week to pick up a bushel of the roma tomatoes for canning and a peck of the Hungarian sweet peppers for freezing.


Pretty Pickles

Green, which is Nature’s colour, is restful, soothing, cheerful, and health-giving.

~ Paul Brunton

As promised, here is a picture of the pickles.  Aren’t they beautiful?  I think so.  We opened a jar of them yesterday to taste-test them and they are delicious.  Much better than store-bought pickles.

One of the arguments against local shopping is the cost.  I know because I’ve used that argument on more than one occasion.  However, I’ve come to realize that for some things, local shopping is the best way to go either in terms of quality or cost or both.

I’ve purchased many a cheap item from one of the big box stores (that I often refer to as the Evil Empire) and had to replace it not long after buying it.  That’s hardly a good way to save money.  It also equals one more thing (or several more things) taking up space in a landfill.  I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes it is best to spend the money up front for a quality item rather than save money now only to have to spend more later.

This time of year is the best time for buying fresh food and putting some away for the winter months.  I’ve heard it said that eating a healthful diet is costly.  Compared to buying a couple of burgers from a 99 cent menu, I suppose it is.  Compared to what you’ll have to spend later on health insurance, maybe not.

When you buy locally grown produce, you also reduce your carbon footprint.  The food doesn’t need to travel nearly as far so what you get is fresher and generally more nutritious.  You can get some great deals at a local farmers market or through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  This also helps support your local economy and local farmers.

(At the Hartville Market)

August 1 – 7 is National Farmers Market Week here in the U.S..  Not sure where to find a local farmers market?  No problem.  Visit Local Harvest, plug in your zip code or city and state, and they’ll find one for you.  Local Harvest is a great website with all kinds of resources for you.

If you can, take the time this week to visit a local farmers market and partake in the bounty of your local harvest.  You might even want to try something new, a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried before.  Or just stock up on something you know you like and preserve some for the winter months.  One of the things I love about canning tomatoes is opening up a jar of them in January and immediately noticing the fresh tomato-y aroma that brings back the warmth of summer.

Oh, and that 17 lbs. of broccoli I processed and stored in the freezer?  The cost was $17.00.  One dollar a pound for fresh, delicious, nutritious broccoli is not bad.  Not bad at all.

I’ll get off my soapbox now.  And as a thank you for reading, here is a pretty shot of the moon and clouds taken one morning last week:

(Morning Moon)


Park Bench

Park Bench

This photo was taken at the Austin Dam Memorial Park.  I like the perspective.  The tree, which really wasn’t very big, looks big because of the angle while the wall of the dam, which was huge, looks small.  And the park bench looks tiny in comparison to everything else.  This one looks better in the larger version so be sure to click on it to take it all in.

Here is a different perspective on the bench:

Life is going to be keeping me busy for a while.  I got a call this morning that the broccoli at Hilgert’s Farm has been picked and that means blanching and freezing 17 lbs. of the lovely stuff.  I’m pretty certain Hilgert’s has the best broccoli on earth, especially when it is freshly picked.

Once the broccoli is in, it’s one thing after another from now until November.  I just hope I have the freezer space for all the things I plan to freeze.  The beans I did a few weeks ago are taking up lots of room.


Road Trip!

(Church steeple along PA State Route 66 in Lucinda, Pennsylvania)

This time of year is so busy for us that it is tough keeping up.  It’s especially difficult to do when we spend the weekend in a cabin in the woods and in the mountains where there is no cell phone coverage, no television reception, and no internet service.  It was wonderful and felt great to be disconnected for a little while.  One of the things I liked about the disconnect was not knowing about weather watches and warnings, in particular a tornado watch.  Without the information, we watched the rain and lightning and listened to the thunder and wind without panic or worry.  Life, for me, is better that way.  If I’m destined to die in a tornado or other weather-related event, I think I’d rather not know about it.  Instead, let me enjoy the moments leading up to it, including the show that the storm brings with it.

For those wondering about Saturday’s blog post, I scheduled it before we left.  That’s one of the beauties of WordPress.

Before I start rambling about our weekend trip, I want to say a big THANK YOU to Cismonok, aka The Pickle Lady, for pickling all those cucumbers.  Everything looks great and I was happy to see that there were no vampires anywhere near the kitchen garbage.

For those inquiring minds that might want to know what that message is all about (and it obviously isn’t too private):  The Gherkin Gods spoke on Thursday afternoon.  I got a call from Hilgert’s that they had 2/3 (or possibly more) of a bushel of small cucumbers picked just for me and The Pickle Lady.  The Pickle Lady makes some fabuloso pickles with those little cukes and I wanted to learn how she does it so we got together and ordered a couple of pecks.  Apparently the small cukes are a pain to pick (or maybe to sell).  The good folks at Hilgert’s were willing to do this for us.  A big THANK YOU to them as well.

This past weekend was not a particularly good weekend for The Pickle Lady or for me but we have no choice other than to accommodate the demands of the Gherkin Gods.  While in the midst of getting the house and self ready for a road trip and a meet-up with old friends, the call came in and I ended up spending a good five hours or so cleaning those little buggers.  I didn’t realize the clean-up of small cucumbers would be so, well, cumbersome.

My friend The Pickle Lady came by after we left and processed the cukes and we now have (split between us in an uneven manner) over 20 quarts of pickles.  She said the pickling and canning process is easier than the cleaning process.  I’ll have to take her word for it.  But I’m happy it’s done and that the Weather Gods didn’t decide to knock out the power before the pickling could be done.  Storms moved through after we left and sometime during the pickling process.

As soon as I feel up to posing those beautiful jars of pickles, I’ll post a photo.  In a surprising move for me, I didn’t take any photos of all the little gherkins when I had them floating in water, either to be washed or on ice while waiting to be pickled.  That’s a good indication of how rushed I was feeling at the time.  Usually the camera goes everywhere and records everything.  The cucumbers were a beautiful shade of green sitting in their bucket of ice water after all the washing was completed.  They would have made a pretty picture.  You’ll have to take my word for it.

(Through a rainy windshield on the way home today.)

The weekend was great fun and I want to tell you all about it but it’s getting late, I’m tired, and something must be done about dinner soon.  We haven’t eaten since breakfast so we’re both pretty hungry.

I will tell you that the weekend was hot and steamy, weatherwise.  It was also great fun.  If all goes well tomorrow, I’ll tell you all about it.  Or partly about it.  It might require more than one post.

In addition to no phone, no ‘net, and no TV, there was also no air conditioning.  I’m afraid I didn’t feel as at peace with that lack of technology as I did with the rest.  This past weekend brought a pretty brutal heatwave to the northeastern part of the U.S. and it was hot, humid, and physically miserable when you’re without a means of cooling off.  It’s all about the mindset, though.  We were with good friends and having a good time so the wilting in the heat and humidity was merely a small part of the big and better package.

Except for the first photo (which was the first photo I took on our trip), I’m working backwards by giving you some pictures taken today, on our way home.  The heavy rains that we encountered are, I think, part of a front that is going to give us some slightly (80’s) cooler and drier weather.

Side note:  I did a quick check at weather.com just now and instead of looking at what’s currently going on and what’s to come, I found myself clicking on “Tonight’s Beauty Forecast.”  WTH???  Beauty Forecast???  Are we that ridiculously vain that we need a special forecast?  For those that are, you should know that tonight’s check list includes lip balm (because it isn’t humid enough?), UV protection (in case moonlight is too much for you), and a light jacket.  I would not need the light jacket.  Tonight’s low of 60 degrees sounds heavenly after a weekend of not being able to cool off because the humidity was so high that sweat does not evaporate.  I suppose that statement explains my lacks of enthusiasm for the Beauty Forecast.   Comfort is more important to me than whether or not I need lip balm.

(Traveling through the storm)

There is also a Frizz Alert (frizz likely), but you’ll be happy to know dry skin is unlikely.  I’m guessing (but could be wrong) that the folks who think we NEED a Beauty Forecast think we’re too stupid too figure out that high humidity equals frizzy/curly hair and moist skin.

(Trying to see the road through the heavy rain)

That was a heck of digression.  It was my first visit to TWC since they went into their new (Beta) version.  I will explore more later, when I can devote a whole blog post to the subject.  Maybe in the winter.  I’ll have more time then since I won’t be dealing with frizz alerts and the possibility of oily skin due to high heat and humidity.  More likely it will be static alerts (when the hair goes straight, stands up and crackles) and extreme dry skin problems due to lack of humidity.

(Fungi –What happens to dry skin in high humidity)

I’m getting silly now, a sure sign that I need to move away from the computer, sit out on the back porch or deck, and watch the sun as it makes its way below the tree line.

I’ll leave you with something pretty that I found along the way on our trip.