Blackberry Mountain
What's going on? 07/06/2011
A lot has been going on lately...

We hosted lunch for Jeremy's family recently.  Many had not been here since we got all of the animals.  Things got interesting when a few decided they wanted to milk Roses.  Jeremy's dad and brother even tasted FRESH milk.


I have been harvesting lots of herbs and preserving them in different ways (more on this to come).  This is a batch of sweet and dark opal basil that I turned into pesto and then froze for use at another time.


We have been having lots of evening campfires.  Eggs is enjoying this one while she recovers from being spayed (MJ was also spayed).


Dinner on the campfire is one of our favorite things.  This time we had sauteed squash/zucc, salmon with basil, and flatbread (it looks odd but tasted great).


I am most proud of this photo.  Jeremy has been working to grow corn for the past few years and has not had much success other than a few pieces of corn.  This year it looks great and is starting to produce (if we can rid ourselves of those stinkin' Japanese Beetles). 

Sweet Summertime 06/20/2011
Summer is here and it shows on our “farm”.  The garden is growing and producing its first fruits.  We are getting cucumbers, squash/zucchini, green beans, and potatoes.  These are piling up quickly so I started pickling last week and plan to start canning this week.  I have a lot of basil, mint, oregano, and perilla too.  I’m drying these herbs for teas (for medicinal purposes) and for cooking later.  Some herbs such as, chives and basil, will be frozen as well.  As soon as I get the right ingredients from the store I will make basil into pesto…green AND PURPLE this year.  All of this is so exciting but it also means BUGS!  Our corn is taking a beating from Japanese beetles so Jeremy spends a lot of time smashing them in hopes to keep more from coming.  Last week we picked our first blackberries.  We picked about 2 lbs during our first round.  Our land is covered with blackberries and that is where the name Blackberry Mountain comes from.  I hope to make jam and cobbler and freeze the rest (After eating a fair share).  It’s so great to be getting so much produce and being able to eat some now and store later so that we can taste the summer all year long.  Hard work in the spring and summer pay off!

"Peaches on the shelf, taters in the bin, supper's ready everybody come on in and taste a little love of summer."  Ed Kilbourne

I recently received an email from my high school Sunday school teacher.  I had not seen or heard from her since I graduated college and moved to Cherryville, so the email came as a surprise. A truly pleasant one.  She emailed to see how we are doing, and filled me in on a few things about her life.  She then began to inquire about canning—my dad (her pastor) had mentioned my attempts at canning a couple summers ago and she wanted to know more.  She asked a few questions about whether I had gardened or bought produce, if I was successful, and how I learned about it.  She mentioned that while being out of work for a few years she had started to appreciate a simpler life, and felt that God had blessed her by opening her eyes to this :).    

As I pondered how to respond I began thinking about the “farm”, and the canning and gardening that awaits me.  I always thought gardening was neat but not much more, until I married Jeremy and moved to the country.  We didn't jump straight into gardening.  We got started our second summer here and have been building on slowly since.   Jeremy is the "main gardener".  His grandfather used to farm this land so it seems like it was meant to be.  While he is the main gardener, I do my share with the dirt, and in the kitchen putting the taste of summer into jars.  I have grown very fond of gardening and learn more from it each year.  There is something very special to digging in the soil and watching seeds grow that were planted by my own hands.  I have a lot more to learn, and having a goal to fill up jars with as much food as possible helps a lot. 

When I first decided to can, I started to ask friends and family what they could tell me to help get me started.  My mom said she had tried it when she was first married, but it was such a hassle that she did not keep it up.  My grandmother was raised on a farm and helped her mother garden and can all the time, because that is how they fed their family.  I thought for sure that I could call her and she would tell me everything I needed to know.  Unfortunately, I found that after growing up on a farm and having no choice but to help her mom all those years, she had grown to want nothing to do with farm life, and could not recall her former skills to share with me.  I was able to find a friend at church that provided me with suggestions and even several cases of jars, which gave me a good place to start. 

I have canned a little for the past two summers---tomatoes, salsa, green beans, pickles (unsuccessfully), peaches, apple butter, and strawberry jam.  Almost everything I canned came from our garden--- the fruits did not...strawberries came from a local farm, peaches purchased by mom and dad in Gaffney, South Carolina—home of the giant peach, and apples from Jeremy's family in Virginia.  My favorite canned good thus far is a batch of apple butter I made with Virginia apples.  I set my goal too high last year and did not can as much as I had hoped, but plan to try again this year.  Either way, I have had some success, and still have jars of different things I use here and there.  I learn more each year and continue to work on improving my canning set up, skills, and most importantly, what is grown to be put in jars. 

As we move towards a more sustainable lifestyle, I find that it takes a lot of work, but the efforts put towards a garden, canning, raising chickens and all the other tasks that come with this so called 'simple life', are extremely rewarding.  Lessons on life are learned along the way, muscles are grown (remember there is a lot of digging to be done), and when I sit down to a meal-- whether it is a summer meal prepared fresh out of the garden, or February, and a jar of apple butter is carried out to be put on a piece of toast--I know exactly who did the work, and promise the food tastes a little better.  These are the blessings that God has opened my eyes to see.