Monday, July 16, 2012

What a Week!

The heat and dryness are continuing here and the signs of it are certainly showing . . . other than our near two inches of rain that we received a month ago and then 2/10ths of an inch that we got last week, we have had nary a drop since around the beginning of April. 

The weeds are even wilting, the grass is turning brown (except where our septic system is . . . I guess there is one advantage to having your septic system underneath your front yard!), and we've also lost three large trees so far (other than these ones, though, the trees are all still fairly green.) And . . . there isn't much for expected rain in the forecast. 

It's beginning to look a bit like fall

I know there are many being affected as this drought is so widespread - covering 61% of the United States last time I checked - yet there are many things that we continue to be thankful for . . . most of all, that we have a Father who knows, sees and cares and that we need not worry, but can trust Him fully and completely.

"Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord GOD is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds' feet, and makes me walk on my high places." (Habbakuk 3:17-19 - these are some of my favorite verses! And they came to mind when I was thinking about the drought.)

"Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? . . . Do not worry then . . . But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:26, 31, 33) Such comforting words!

Other blessings that have been coming to my mind over the past few weeks are . . . .

~ that at the beginning of spring, we were able to purchase all of the hay that we should need for the next year. Considering that there is already a hay shortage, that is something that we are thankful for!

~ that despite the week and a half stretch of temperatures in the triple digits, all of our animals managed to survive save for two litters of rabbits that we lost. Yes, chores were much more intensive with needing to water everything several times a day, needing to move pregnant rabbits into our air conditioned shop to try to save them and their babies (two of them are still in our shop as well as their happy and healthy babies), and giving ice bottles to the rabbits every day, but we are thankful for how well everything did overall!

~ that despite the heat, our dairy does' milk production has stayed high and steady giving us plenty of milk for fresh drinking, baking, and for a lot of cheese making as well - both mozzarella and ricotta.

~ that we are able to water our vegetable garden and fruit trees so that they continue to grow and thrive. The garden has been doing much better than we could have hoped with the dryness and heat, though we have lost some crops. We are so thankful for the amount produce that we have been able to harvest!

And speaking of harvesting, and the consequent processing, that is what has predominately been filling our days lately and has provided quite a few memorable moments . . .

Last Tuesday was Ryan and Ashley's anniversary so they went on a much enjoyed day trip together with Gracen while we watched Adelyn (which is always a treat!) That same day we had a friend of ours and her four children over for the afternoon. You can imagine how much fun that was for all of the children to be able to play together and all four of us ladies to be able to visit and work together! This day was salsa canning day for us, and by the time that everyone had arrived, I had the onions and peppers chopped and was ready to begin on the tomatoes. Lori and her oldest daughter (11) helped us with those and then when it came time for filling the jars, the two oldest daughters (11 and 7) helped with that process.

I really enjoyed teaching them how to do this! And they enjoyed it too. I filled a few jars and prepared them for the canner while the girls watched, and then it was their turn . . . carefully ladle the hot salsa into the jar, remove air bubbles, wipe the jar rim, get the lid out of the hot water and place it on the jar, screw on the ring, carefully place the jar in the canner, and you're done! The younger one's comment after doing her jar was "Canning is a lot harder than I thought!" [smile] Leah and I are hoping to have them both over again soon for a day to do some more canning together . . . we are looking forward to that!

So that is one canning memory . . . the other involved Leah and I staying up until 1 o'clock in the morning on Wednesday (or I should say Thursday . . . we started on Wed. and finished Thurs.) waiting on a batch of ketchup to finish cooking down so we could can it. It felt like "the song that never ends" . . . it kept going and going and going. :)

As a little precursor to our midnight canning adventure . . . last week was also Dad and Mom's anniversary so Dad surprised her with a trip to Pioneer Village in Nebraska (and did they ever have a good time! Judging by their descriptions and the photos they took, it is an amazing place!) They left on Wednesday morning with the plan to come back Friday evening, so it was just Leah and I here to 'hold down the fort'. We were looking forward to our days together just the two of us, and we had them pretty well planned out . . . and it included a whole counter covered with tomatoes that we were going to process.

Right after Dad and Mom left, we got started on making ketchup . . . and did that all day, finishing up the last batch at 1 o'clock in the morning. We had doubled the second batch little considering that it would also take double the time to cook down! That was one memorable batch of ketchup. :) Leah and I had a lot of fun making it even though we were rather tired by the time we finally made it to bed!

The next morning was primarily spent spraying in the garden . . . has anyone ever experienced blister beetles in your garden? If so, I feel for you. They are the nastiest, most disgusting garden pest I have ever encountered, and we had them in the thousands if not the tens of thousands. Some places there were so many that when I was spraying, you could literally hear the sound of thousands of little feet hitting the ground as they ran away.

The damage done in the Mangel beets by the blister beetles . . . almost entirely skeletonized leaves

Thankfully, with consistent spraying, the numbers of these voracious beetles are greatly reducing. 

After the spraying was finished, and also watering of Dad's tomatoes and peppers, we spent the day cheesemaking . . . two batches of mozzarella and two of ricotta. Only the first batch of ricotta was a flop since I mixed up a step so this batch ended up being used to water the plants instead.

Diced tomatoes with whole tomatoes behind them

Friday was spent sewing and then more canning of tomatoes . . . and then the evening brought Mom and Dad safely home. It was a very fun three days for all of us! The only thing that Leah and I didn't get done that we had planned on doing was getting to bed at a decent time. [smile]

Saturday was a much enjoyed day as it was the day we celebrated Adelyn's first birthday! And there will be more about that (along with photos) in a future post.

And that about summarizes our week . . . and I think the canning theme is going to continue, for as I type, there is a 6 foot table set up in our entry way that is completely covered in tomatoes and there are a great many more ripening on the vine, too. It is exciting to finally have a good tomato crop even despite the blister beetles and the drought! Ketchup, barbecue sauce, spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes . . . all of our tomatoes will be turned into these things soon!


  1. What a lovely update, Sarah! Your tomatoes and canning look wonderful - I look forward to seeing more pictures of your canning adventures! :-)

    Your dry plants look a lot like ours ... we've had very little rain the last while, too. It's so, so dry. I hope we all get some rain soon!

    Have a wonderful week!

    Love in Christ,

  2. AnonymousJuly 16, 2012

    Hi Sarah,
    So sorry at the loss of some of your rabbits. It's been hard, for sure. We have lost trees too, but I've kept the vegi garden watered and so far, it's doing pretty good.
    I haven't seen any of those beetles, but will keep an eye open for them. Good you've got hay. We managed to find some along the MO border by Joplin which will be delivered this week, but will probably need more. We are feeding hay already and our boys, alfalfa to their dairy cows. We did get about 1/2 rain last weekend and that helped the green graze/sudan grass they planted to grow some, so they should have some of that to cut for winter. It's really hard all over the Midwest ~ corn is all gone, which will make feed costs soar ~ very hard on the farmers those buying and selling. But you are so right ~ we have so much to be thankful for. Your tomatoes look great and it's good that the milk production is stable. We have houses, food, and clothing ~ we are very blessed ~ most of the world would consider us rich. God is so good.
    Have a blessed day!

  3. Oh the dryness has been horrible here too. We finally got a couple days of rain and it was so wonderful. Sounds like you all are having lots of fun canning! I am going to be working on some spag sauce this week as well as teaching someone how to make it and can it! :o) I wish that I had enough tomatoes to can our own but not this year. Thankfully, we have a wonderful small vege stand near by where I can get tomatoes for pretty cheap! :o) How do you make your ketchup? I have been wanting to maybe make our own. Now that I will have a bit more time on my hands I'm happy and hopeful to be able to use it to help our family out just a bit more with saving money and also stocking up our shelves. ;o)

  4. My goodness, Sarah, what a prolific few days you had! Your tomato harvest is amazing. I wonder if you have ever tried sun-dried tomatoes? they are great on pizzas etc. and you can literally dry them in the heat of your sun...not our here as we have continual rain!
    Maybe we could swap a bit of each others weather?

  5. It looks like you have had a very busy past week, Sarah. I always admire your garden and am glad that it is doing well for your despite the heat!

    I think that we need to swap some of our weather – England (and the rest of the UK) has been having a lot of rain recently, with some areas even having flooding (but fortunately nowhere near us). Thus no trouble with drought here, and looking at your photos makes me realise that the rain is a blessing, even if it does insist on coming in the middle of our 'summer'. I shall be praying that you have some rain soon.


  6. Thank you, Vicki! I am glad that you enjoyed it. :)

    I am sorry to hear that you all are having a lack of rain, too! It has been a difficult year for so many. I have never seen drought like this before, but at least it isn’t as bad as the dust bowl years (yet, anyway.) I hope everyone gets some rain soon, too!

    I hope that you have a wonderful week as well! So far ours has been busy in the kitchen with canning . . . tomatoes, tomatoes, and more tomatoes!

  7. Thank you, Mrs. Anne! I’m glad that you have been able to water your vegetable garden and that it has been doing well. I am sure that you are appreciating that. :) And I certainly hope that it doesn’t get invaded by blister beetles! When I was out picking tomatoes in our garden yesterday morning, there were very few of them left which we are thankful for. Now if we can just keep the garden watered maybe the badly affected plants will bounce back!

    I am glad that you were able to find some hay for your cattle! And what a blessing that you got around ½ an inch of rain. Hopefully you will get even more soon!

    The loss of crops was one of the things that my parents noticed a great deal during their trip up to Nebraska. Corn field after corn field completely withered up. It was sad to hear . . . and like you shared it’s going to make feed costs soar. What a blessing that we need not worry, but can trust all in our Father’s hand. Yes, indeed we are very blessed!

  8. What a blessing, Nabila, that you got several inches of rain! I am sure things have been greening up a lot after that. :) I am so happy for you!

    Yes, we are having fun canning! We’ve been doing it every day so far this week, and Monday did 8 jars of barbecue sauce and yesterday 32 jars of tomato sauce. Today is ketchup, and it is cooking down as I type. That is a long process!

    That is wonderful that you are able to find tomatoes at a nearby vegetable stand! I am sure your spaghetti sauce is delicious. :) And it would be even more enjoyable to make as you spend time with your friend and teach them how to make it as well. I’m sure they will appreciate that!

    To make our ketchup, we peel, core and chop the tomatoes. Chop peppers and onions. Cook all of that until soft; run it through a food mill (which takes a long time with batches as large as we have been doing!), cook it down, add spices, cook it down, add vinegar, cook it down, and then can it! It’s a long process with all the cook down times, but it sure is worth it!

  9. They have been just a bit, Elizabeth! We’re thankful for the abundant tomato harvest, but I think we’ll all be glad once it is finished. :) No, we haven’t tried sun-dried tomatoes, but seeing your comment reminded me that we were wanting to try to do that this year. Thank you for mentioning it! Our hot and dry days should be perfect for that.

    Wouldn’t that be nice if we could swap weather? If we could, we certainly would be willing!

  10. It was, Anna, and thank you! We are thankful for how well the garden is producing overall . . . though, it does look kind of pitiful right now. Especially mid-afternoon with the high heat we have been having. No matter how much it is watered things still wilt!

    That would be nice to be able to swap weather! I would be more than willing to share our hot and dry weather with you in exchange for some cooler temperatures and rain. :) I am sorry to hear that some places are having flooding, though! That is always hard. It’s unusual here in America as there are places that are having flooding as well . . . two extremes in the same country at the same time.

    Thank you! We are praying for rain, too . . . there is a small chance in the forecast for some, so maybe, just maybe, we’ll get some!

  11. I wasn't sure if you read my return comment on our blog, but your family is more than welcome to come visit the corn maze! Our house is always open and we can always use helping making popcorn balls and other goodies that we sell :)

  12. Thank you for the kind invitation, K. Family! If only where you live wasn't so far away from where we are. :) We would enjoy visiting and helping if we could, but I don't think that would be possible unfortunately!

    Likewise, if you're ever down this way, you would be welcome to visit, too!

    Thank you again!

  13. Everything is so dry here, too. We haven't had rain in quite a while. Everything is turning brown, and we spend a lot of time watering. :) We're on rural water here (rather than our own well), so the water bill is going to be expensive! And, as you said, where our septic system is, everything is green! We have butterfly bushes planted there, and they look very happy. :)

    I'm so glad your dad and mom were able to get away and enjoy some time together!

  14. It sounds like it is a lot the same down where you live as it is up here, Joy. I hope you get rain soon! We had a little over an inch the past week, and it was so nice!! To awake in the night and hear thunder! And rain pattering on the roof! I couldn’t help but smile and thank the Lord right then and there. I know it isn’t much rain, but it has helped . . . things are beginning to green up a bit again for which we are thankful!

    Like you, we are on rural water, too . . . our water bill is definitely higher, but its worth it in order to save the garden and fruit trees. I am sure your grass and butterfly bushes by your septic system are enjoying all of the 'extra' water!


Thanks so much for your comment! Each one is read and enjoyed. :)