Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Preserving Our Harvest....A Family Affair

A family that works together, plays together!  Around here we find so much joy and humor mixed in with the work behind our garden!  These kids so easily make us smile!  To help you understand just what I'm talking about, let me take you through these pictures of last night's 'work'!

No story could be complete without a 'before' picture.  So here's a snapshot of just some of the bounty!  The kids enjoy picking vegetables and bringing them in to me!  We have a few barbie doll squash buried in there and if you look closely you just might catch a glimpse of the giggles that accompanied the picking and sorting of some very crook-ed neck squash!
They've turned into awesome little helpers on the kitchen end of the harvest also!  Before I knew it, they were making and mixing the batter mix for the fried squash ON THEIR OWN!  Aiden knew exactly how he was flavoring and Gracie girl also did a great job although we did have to remove the Tony's seasoning from her little hands!  They even had their own little system of battering and shaking going on!

Aiden's favorite part of this is quoted as, "that I like to put it in the cornmeal".  And Gracie's favorite part was gutting the bell peppers of their center and seeds!  It was fun to watch, she was serious about it and sure knew how to get the job done!  And for the Eskimo gear.....well, your guess is as good as mine, but it sure makes for a cute picture and proof that my little girl is all about changing her clothes 10 times a day!  She's that girl that experiments with the outfits in her closet all day long, putting them to good use in the yard, garden, and pretending she's coon or hog hunting.....in her Sunday best!
Our first ever pepper sauce!  See how the bottom is still turning from bright green to the final result?  By this morning, all but the very bottom was the lighter green.  We stuffed the bottle with Cayenne peppers with their tops broken off, a couple of garlic cloves, and one banana pepper for some sweetness.  We boiled white vinegar and poured it in with a funnel.  We were sure to run hot water over the outside of the bottle first, to get it ready for the heat.  And I learned that as the peppers soak up the vinegar and expand, your sauce level falls, so I heated a little more vinegar and added it probably about an hour later.  This is our first try, so I will be sure to update this post on how it turns out!  Also, I would like to keep a few Cayennes on the plant until they turn red to add to the next batch for color!  This bottle first contained some red wine vinegar so it had a little plastic pour top!  I soaked the label off, washed, and now I have the perfect bottle for Pepper Sauce!
Anyone wondering where Aiden has gone in the last two pictures need wonder no more!  This poor, overworked farm boy!  The job of late night preserving just proved a little too labor intensive for this guy!  As for his sisters Tinkerbell blanket, I do plan to print and save this picture....just in case I need some leverage in his teen years!  As for Cass, he's tucked away in bed, quiet and cozy for the most part of this whole ordeal!
The after picture!  We have all varieties of blanched squash for use in stewing or any other recipe I choose.  We also made battered squash for frying, although I already see how next time I'll need to leave the bags with air so the pieces will better freeze separately.  We washed and cut our squash not too soon before the water was ready, poured in boiling water to blanch for 3 minutes, then into cold water with ice for about 5 minutes until cold again.  That stopped the hot water from cooking the veggies too much.  Then, we bagged and in the case of the squash to fry, we battered first in a mix of cornmeal, Tony's, garlic powder, and black pepper!  For the green peppers, we only blanched about 1 and 1/2 minutes, I figured since the pieces were smaller and thinner that would be a wise try.  And the directions for the pepper sauce are above.  This is our first round with freezing, so again I'll be sure to update this post at a later date with what has worked best and what improvements we will use next time!
 This was the harvest within the time of a week for our family.  With the rising price of food, you can't beat the economic sense behind this!  Even more important, I guarantee that these here vegetables will provide more wholesome, trustworthy, and safe nourishment for my family than anything we could buy even 'fresh' at the grocery story today.  But perhaps the most priceless part of it all is the time, work, and play spent as a family nourishing, harvesting, and storing these vegetables.  We're loving it.  Memories are being made, life lessons being learned, and family being strengthened.  Priceless!

I can't continue sharing without throwing a thank you note into this post for my sweet little sister.  I would say baby sister, but she's surely not that anymore!  This household and garden wouldn't be very functionable right now if it wasn't for her!  Other than a setback last week, I feel myself getting a little stronger each day.  It's slow going, but I am healing.  And in the process, my sister feels like Cinderella! :)  But as I keep reminding her......just think of how indebted I'm going to be for her services!  I say this with a laugh, as I am so thankful that she's been here to help us!  But maybe not as thankful as my husband and kids!
Aunt Nessie and Gracie girl!  Oh how she loves being right at her side!  Aren't they beautiful?
Cass and his silly Aunt "Na-nee"! He's taken right to her, it's so neat how they know who loves them even when they're so small!
 Now onto share a few pictures of the kids and our quickly growing litter of pups!

But wait first.....do you have service in here?  I think I have 4 bars!  Oh there we go, that's good reception!

Can you hear me now?  There's no better service than this service! ;)

And there's my boys......doing what they love best.....being boys!

A rare but priceless quiet moment around here!  Aiden loves to read!  I love to read!  Readers raise readers!  Camping out in the tent Aunt Nessie helped them build yesterday proved for some good quiet time in the middle of a scorching hot day!

And here's the big little puppies as they continue to grow!  Nessie's become quite attached to one of these little ones and not wanting to see us let him go!  The joys and sorrows in puppyland!

 And for a final thought of sweetness to share with you today.  Piled up on the couch as I try to balance healing and doing, I was reminded of just why I have nothing to complain about.  This sweet little face ran towards me with a smile that lit up my whole day.  The kind of smile that comes from the very inside out, that speaks of excitement and a growing self confidence.  And the daintiest little bouquet of flowers is thrust out into my hands accompanied by these words....

  "You the most boo-i-ful Mommy eh-er!"

And my day is perfected!  I love my kids.  I love our home.  I love this family.  So much to be thankful for.  Thank you Lord for every part of this perfect day!

And don't forget to stop by over at Raising Homemakers this week for some awesome giveaways!  It's their 1 year anniversary week and today's giveaways include some awesome parenting resources and great books from Doorposts!


  1. Okay I am going to share my secret for freezing battered squash...

    slice..dip in wet (I use yogurt with seasoning)
    dip wet into seasoned cornmeal..now lay on a cookie sheet..then set in a freezer for a few hours or all night..then you can put in bags and back into the freezer.This way they don't stick to each other.And I have found out the batter does not come off when frying using the yogurt!! yeah!!I have been using a seal a meal..love it!! I also do the same thing on the batter on my okra.
    Love the puppies..I raised a black and tan in the house for two years..he was my baby sitter when I was so sick..he was given to us by a guy in Houston who couldn't use him for a show dog.
    He was the best companion dog.Then when he was outside in the yard..out in the country..he was stolen...the lock was cut off the gate...we never found him..it broke my heart.So when I see these little faces it sure brings back sweet memories!!
    I have enjoyed reading about your family and have been praying for your healing.
    Come by and visit sometime.

    Cindy from Rick-Rack and Gingham

  2. Oh yeah I forgot to mention..I freeze all my peppers whole. I just wash them and blanch them for under a minute..then dip in ice cold water..freeze them whold.When I want to use them I take one out..let it defrost for a few minutes..then I am able to cut it..and use them.I found out they don't dry out so bad.I am going to try and dehydrate some this year also.
    Last year I dehydrated squash adn okra and have used them in soups..not bad!

    Cindy from Rick-Rack and Gingham

  3. Jennifer, no need to explain the eskimo outfit... I have one just like that (a child who has interesting clothing choices). She's been known to have 3 different outfits that span 3 different seasons in one day! (Although I've started limiting her a bit due to the extra laundry she makes!).

    I love how you're letting the kids help with the process. They're going to have some wonderful skills and a healthy self-confidence (not a ridiculously inflated self esteem based on nothing), not to mention a love for family and terrific memories!


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