Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Preserving Summer (aka Nesting)

So this is a lot of what's been keeping us busy lately. There were also swimming lessons for almost half the kids and miscellaneous school prep for the older 5. And all but QB got to spend at least one Tuesday with Grandma C at the cousin's house across the border. But now pretty much all the canning I wanted to do is done (we probably should make more applesauce though) and the official due date is tomorrow, so we're down to the waiting for baby game.

What I love most about this picture though is how much time it represents that I was able to spend with various individual children.

Over 100lbs of butternuts (25lbs pictured here) were collected over five days of swimming lessons at the local park. While the kids in lessons were swimming most of the others played on the playground and one or two kids would help me collect shopping bags or feed pails of nuts off the ground at the park. This gave me time with just about all the kids individually. Later when we dried the nuts in the dryer, it was Dolly who spent hours washing out the walnut stain that was left behind each time we dried a batch of nuts. I'm sure she was happy to see the long range forecast with record temperatures and no cloud cover that prompted the nut drying process to be moved outdoors. Without the threat of rain, we spread the butternuts across the driveway and let the sun dry them for us.

This pail of apples came from the two trees we have, and I got to spend time with Hal and QB picking them up off the ground. Well, I carried the pail and they picked up the apples since they are already a lot closer to the ground and can bend over better than I can currently. :) These apples are the best of what we collected and have been reserved for school lunches. We collected other apples and pears from the neighborhood trees and Granny sent bags of windfall apples from her house to us via Grandpa and Grandma C. Butler was my one-on one applesauce maker - we made 6 quarts, but then ate one quart right away because everyone loved the samples from our canning leftovers. QB especially loved the 'app-sauce!' and in spite of his size, he probably got the lion's share of what we put out for dinner. The plan is to make more since we still have buckets of apples sitting outside the front door, but they can wait until after the baby comes.

The 4½qts of hazelnuts were Ricka and Dolly's specialty. They were my 'hazelnut hunters' and we had a lot of fun wandering the property identifying trees together. Ricka still brings me an odd hazelnut that she finds every once in a while.

PC nearly did all the work involved in making the 10 pints of peach salsa and he willingly helped me pit and chop a whole pail of plums that I needed for later. Emma worked with me to make one of the two batches of plum jam including picking the crab apples in the sheep field that we needed for making the jam pectin. We ended up with a total of 5 pints of plum jam and 4 more of plum jam/sauce (those didn't set up quite as nicely as the first batch).

Dolly worked in tandem with me to make the first two batches of peach jam which was a really fun project because she did all of her batch herself after watching me and copying what I did on my batch. She took a few minutes longer to get her batch off the stove, and ended up with a darker jam that set up better than my lighter colored batch. It was a rainbow after the thunderstorm type of thing and I was really thankful for that because she had worked so hard and thought she ruined everything by letting the jam cook longer than it was supposed to. For the other batches of peach jam I had random helpers that came and went, but we ended up with a total of 16 pints and the kids gobbled one up in sandwiches the first few days after we made the first batch.

The five older kids collected the one pail of pears that we let ripen in the living room for a week before I turned most of them into baby food. Any leftover peaches and plums were also turned into baby food and we ended up with a total of 18 half pints of baby food split between the three flavors. It works out to about 36 jars of store-bought baby food. Again, I had random helpers during the baby food batches, but they came and went and helped while there was something that kept them interested in the job at hand. One of my favorite quotes was from one of the older kids, "Don't worry Mommy, when I grow up, I'm going to do canning too!" And it was immediately followed by a sibling's enthusiastic, "Yeah! me too!".

I think it was rewarding to all of the kids when we collected everything we put up during the month to take a picture and they could see all their hard work in collecting and preparing the bit we did all in one place. And it's rewarding to me to see all my children learning and appreciating the value of projects like these while they're still young.

"Go to the ant.... 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