Thursday, September 21, 2023

In These Last Lingering Days of Summer

The Autumn Equinox is this Saturday, but it will probably still be another three weeks before things look like this. However with the temperatures changing and the days growing shorter it is perfectly clear Autumn is on the brink!

Our summer garden is harvested and we've planted a little broccoli, cauliflower and green lettuce to finish out the year. This first season was definitely a learning curve, and I'm already looking forward to next year and expanding our crops. We are currently battling a swarm of yellow jackets that have taken up residence in one of our raised beds.They apparently die out over winter and leave the rising queens behind, so if anything we'll have to dig out that bed and try to transfer as much of the soil as we can to another and locate and kill the queens before they start a new hive next spring. We're trying to avoid using chemicals that would be harmful to the soil, so hopefully we can resolve this problem organically and quickly.

A fox got into our duck pen and killed two of them. I feel bad because it was a make shift pen to begin with, and not well secured. We were going to build them something more substantial over the next few weeks, but after the attack we rehomed the remaining two and we've decided that ducks are not something we want on our homestead. They are terribly cute, and in some ways I even preferred them to the chickens, with their cute little quacks and waddles. But they got into everything. They were constantly on the porch and eating every plant in sight. When they started munching on my mums I decided I'd had enough and that was when we built the temporary pen. They were only in it for a few days when they were attacked, which was odd because they had been free ranging all summer and sleeping under our van and nothing ever bothered them. Based on the tracks and the kill, we suspected it was a fox, and then our daughter spotted one by our neighbors house on her way to work this morning. We set a trap today so we'll see if we have any success. Our chicken coop is pretty secure from predators, but we don't want to take any chances.

All this insect and animal drama has been rather stressful, and I've been looking for some additional tools to quite my spirits and calm my nerves. With that in mind, I've added a few books to my morning routine. Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred In Everyday Life by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat is one I picked up at the thrift store last week. I'm reading it cautiously. The authors claim to be christians and speak openly about God, though they do sometimes refer to Him as "Spirit", which was a bit of a red flag for me. So far I haven't found anything overly alarming or that I haven't been able to discern for myself. Probably not one I would recommend for a young christian, but I'm comfortable with drawing inspiration from it and leaving the rest.

Every Season Sacred: Reflections Prayers and Invitations To Nourish Your Soul and Nuture Your Family Throughout The Year by Kayla Craig is one I've had pre-ordered for awhile now and I was so excited to receive it in the mail this week. I didn't realize when I ordered it that it was written primarily as a guide for parents to grow spiritually alongside their children. But after perusing the contents, I definitely feel that it is still something that I can use personally and share with my family.

The book is broken up by seasons each containing thirteen chapters. In each chapter there is a reflection, prompts and a prayer. Some of the themes included in the autumn chapters are Peace, Listening, Belonging, Strivings Cease, and there are chapters devoted to Advent in December, and Lent in the spring. I'm really looking forward to making this a part of my time of silence and solitude and reading through the seasons and chapters.

The opening season of the book is autumn, and there is a poem at the beginning, A Prayer for Fall. I especially loved this line and wanted to share it with you.

"O God of harvest moons
and campfire tales,
O God of leafpiles for jumping
and apple cider for sipping,
O God of pumpkin pies
with dollops of cream 
And the swirl of steam
that rises from a cup of
hot coffee in the cool morning,
Be near."

Such a lovely little book. I'm sure I'll be sharing more of it with you in the coming weeks and months.

I sat down this week and wrote out some goals for the coming season and I'll be sharing those with you as well. We'll be celebrating the Autumn Equinox tomorrow night (Friday) even though the 23rd is the official day, Friday just works better for our family. Pretty low key overall. I'm making my mom's Santa Fe Chicken Tortilla Soup and an Apple Crisp for dessert. We'll probably play a game afterwards or maybe watch a movie. Nothing fancy, but still want to acknowledge the changing of the season, especially since it's my favorite! 

How about you? Do you have any plans for celebrating the season? What are some of your favorite ways to spend the glorious days of autumn? I'd love to hear!

Thursday, September 7, 2023

From Grandma's Kitchen - Blackberry Jalapeno Jam

Today was a busy day in my kitchen. I got the last of the tomatoes processed, and now that they are taken care of, I'm moving on to the things I love canning most, jam! I made Blackberry Jalapeno Jam, Cranberry Jalapeno Sauce and Pear Vanilla Jam. Like I said, I was busy!  I'll be sharing all of hese recipes with you in the coming days, but today I'll begin with my absolute favorite, Blackberry Jalapeno! This is wonderful on a biscuit, but even better served with cream cheese and crackers. Just open up a block of cream cheese, spoon a little jam over the top and serve with wheat thins! So good!

6 cups blackberries
1-3 jalapenos, seeded (Hot - do not seed / Med - seed half / Mild - seed all) and chopped
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Place all ingredients in a medium-sized, heavy bottomed saucepan. The jam will froth up while cooking so make sure to use a pan that is at least twice the size needed for the ingredients.

Stir together until well combined and crush berries with potato masher while heating over medium heat until the mixture reaches 220F. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can place a small plate in the freezer when you start cooking your jam. To check the jam, place a teaspoon of jam on the plate. If it gels immediately, the jam is ready. If it doesn’t, cook a few more minutes and try again. The jam should hold it's shape on the plate and slide v-e-r-y slowly when tilted.

When your jam is ready, remove from heat and pour into clean pint size jars. Place a lid on top of each jar and screw on band. If you are not canning (preserving) the jam, store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

If you are canning, place jars in a canning pot with enough water in it to completely cover the jar. Boil for 10 minutes, remove lid and let sit for an additional 5 minutes. Carefully remove from pot and allow to cool at room temperature for 24 hours. Check for seal. You will hear a pop if the lid sealed properly.

Do you like to can this time of year, and if so, what are some of your favorites? Share in the comments!


Tuesday, September 5, 2023

It's Apple Season!

"By all these lovely tokens, September days are here, 
with summer's best of weather, and autumn's best of cheer."


Ah, September! The beginning of my favorite time of the year! And while the temperatures are still rather warm (I think today was the most humid and uncomfortable day we've had this season), there is still a sense that things are changing. The days are growing shorter, and the leaves are becoming dull. A few of the trees in our yard are even showing some signs of color, and in just three short weeks, Autumn will officially arrive!

Being a seasonal soul, there are certain things that I attribute to each month and season, and in spite of the fact that Starbucks has rolled out their pumpkin spice latte's and frappacino's, for me September is decidely all about apples! I'm not really in pumpkin mode until October. And so in celebration of the turn of the season and to celebrate September, I thought I would share a few recipes and diffuser blends featuriing apples!

First up is Autumn Spiced Jam. This week I made the lovliest Spiced Vanilla Pear Jam (Recipe comng soon), and while I was making it up, I came across this recipe which sounds equally as good! Pears have become a recent favorite of mine, and I've grown to prefer them over apples. But as I said, September begs for apples, and while I don't care for them much raw, I do love them in baked goods and jams and jellies. I added this one to my list of canning and I hope to make up a small batch soon.

1 1/2 lbs. apples, peeled and cored
1 1/2 lbs. pears, peeled and chopped
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 lemon juiced (or 2 tablespoons lemon juice)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch of sea salt

Heat large saucepan over medium heat and add apples, pears, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract and spices. Stir until sugar is dissolved.

Increase heat to medium high to bring mixture to a boil. Continue to boil for 30 minutes or until thickened. If you have a thermometer, boil until the temperature reaches 220 F. Use a potato masher or immersion blender to blend to a smooth consistency. Remove from heat and add a pinch of salt.

Transfer the apple and pear jam to a jar and let cool at room temperature. Store in refrigerator for 1 month.

For longer shelf life:
Remove from heat and ladle into sterilized jars.  Place lids on jars and screw in place. Place in boiling water with at least 1 inch covering for 10 minutes to seal.  Let cool at room temperature for 1 day.  Store in a cool dark place. Once opened, store in refrigerator and use within 1 month.

This next recipe is from my mom's recipe box and the one I've traditionally made for the our dessert for the Autumn Equinox the past two years.  I haven't completely thought through our plans to celebrate the equinox this year, but I do think I may make this up again this year.

3-4 large apples of your choice, peeled and thinly sliced
3 Tablespoons salted butter, melted
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
3 Tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup salted butter,cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium size bowl combine the crumb topping ingredients with a fork or pastry blender until it resembles small crumbs. Refrigerate while you prepare the apple filling.

Peel and slice apples.  In a small bowl, combine melted butter and flour until well blended. Add lemon juice, milk and vanilla and stir well. Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.

Pour butter mixture over apples and toss to coat. Pour apple mixture into an 8x8-inch baking dish and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over the apples.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce, if desired.

And finally, I shared a list of my favorite everyday diffuser blends with you recently, and then this week I came across several that feature apples! I'm eager to give Caramel Apple and Spiced Cider a try this week!

2 drops lavender
2 drops lemongrass
2 drops clove
2 drops cinnamon bark

3 drops bergamot
3 drops stress away
2 drops lime

4 drops thieves
2 drops orange
1 drop nutmeg

4 drops orange
3 drops cinnamon bark
3 drops ginger

4 drops orange
2 drops nutmeg
1 drop cinnamon bark
1 drop clove

2 drops clove
2 drops cinnamon bark
2 drops ginger

Hopefully you've found something here to inspire you. Whether you use one of the diffuser blends, or bake up something warm in the oven, these recipes are sure to leave your home filled with the warm and cozy scent of apples! What are some of your favorite recipes featuring apples? Share in the comments!

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Small Things - 09.02.23

"Life is not, for most of us, a pageant of splendor, but is made up of many small things, rather like an old-fashioned piecework quilt. No two people have the same, but we all have our own, whether it be listening to Beethoven's fifth with a beloved friend, or seeing a neighbor at the back door with a basket of white dahlias. Or after a long, hard day, having the family say, "That was a good supper."


In no particular order, here are six small things that inspired me this week.

1. "By all these lovely tokens, September days are here. With summer's best of weather and autumn's best of cheer." 


This quote has long been one of my favorites for this time of year, but if you're looking for more inspiration for your commonplace book, you'll find others here.

2. September holidays, fun facts and folklore

3. Wondering what's in season this month? Check out this link!

4. I've added thi recipe for Fall Harvest Cider Roasted Chicken recipe to our seasonal rotation!

5. I think I'm going to try my hand at this autumn scented all purpose cleaner.

6. This is a lovely list of 20 Inspiring Fall Activities To Make The Most of the Season