Adriana, Home School

2021: New Year, New Resolutions, New Hope

A special message tucked into my farm share pick-up for the New Year

Yet again, during this great pandemic, there is a time to pause, reflect and reset. No global shutdowns this time, but the unavoidable passing of another year in time brings me to reflect on the preciousness of life. I usually find this time of year, with the beginning of fall and the holiday season leading into the new year as a great time for reflection. A busy time, but yet a time to try and slow the pace and reflect on what I am thankful for, a time to make more time for what I hold truly precious in my life and a time to embrace change.

Our holiday season, although different, was very special. We found ways to connect with those we love and spread some holiday cheer. No germs, just cheer. The kids and I made many holiday breads and cards that we delivered to the doorsteps of family and friends. We surprised some lucky folks and sang Christmas carols on their snow covered front yards with our masks on! We put on our Christmas pajamas and watched Uncle Joe (Mike’s younger brother is a Franciscan priest), give the Christmas Eve Mass via zoom at his church in New Hampshire. We even lit candles and sang silent night with the lights out in the living room – a favorite Christmas Eve church tradition of ours. We had lots of zoom gatherings with family and friends. We spent time baking and making some special holiday meals together. Though we weren’t able to gather in person with our extended family, the time we took to connect, even if it was over zoom, felt all the more special and significant because our surroundings were less busy and we were able to spend quality time together in a very different way. Most often after a busy holiday gathering I feel exhausted and that I didn’t have enough time to visit with everyone. Strangely enough, I felt this holiday season we were all able to connect with so many loved ones in a really meaningful way. Kind of ironic, but I’ll take it!

2020 has not been easy and unfortunately, the hardships faced will not simply go away with the changing of the year, but we are getting there and I have hope. We are resilient by nature and finding ways to adapt to change and create new, beautiful memories amongst these trying times will help us all persevere and appreciate the simple gifts of life.

Hope is contagious and having it gives you the ability to face all things great and small.

As we prepared to celebrate 2021, the kids and I did something we do this time every year, we worked on our New Year Reflections and Resolutions. We write about things we’ve learned over the past year, new interests and challenges, something special that we did and we also write about what we’d like to learn in the new year; topics we’d like to explore, books we’d like to read, something new that we’d like to teach ourselves, somethings that we might like to change and do different, we set goals.

Leo’s homemade calendar for the new year

This years reflections were a bit different, and maybe you’ll find this true in your life too. We faced a lot of different challenges, a lot more has changed than usual and we did a lot more reflecting on how we want to live our lives and spend our time in the new year. Surprisingly, amongst the craziness of these times, the kids reflections were positive. My oldest two daughters have done a lot of soul searching for kids their age (11 & 9) and have been spending more time doing things that really fulfill them and exploring interests that we didn’t have time for during our normal homeschool days. There are things they look forward to returning to when the time allows and there are other things and even friendships that they realize weren’t fulfilling to them and feel more empowered to move past. They have also given more time toward nurturing and strengthening the relationships in their lives that they cherish, with each other, grandparents and close friends. All of the kids said they enjoy being less busy and having more down time at home and even enjoy spending more time together than we usually do! They miss traveling and seeing family and friends, but their resolutions were full of hope. They look forward to what the year ahead will bring and as children always have the gift of doing, they bring their joy and love of life to the present and to the future. As I looked up from my own resolutions scrawled on the paper in front of me; to worry less, to sleep more, to read more, to re-learn 6th grade math so I can teach it to Ava!…. staring at me from across the table sat my four simple joys of life – full of love, full of joy, full of hope. Looking at their sweet faces I knew, if they could make sacrifices, if they could find the good during hard times and if they could believe in the joys of tomorrow, than how could I not have hope. It’s a powerful thing, pass it on – our children, our societies and our world need it, now more than ever.

Praying you are all safe, loved and full of hope this New Year!

Adriana, Food, Home School

Homemade Gingerbread for an Old-Fashioned Christmas

Nothing says Holiday Baking quite like some Old-Fashioned soft gingerbread! During a normal holiday season one of our favorite things to do is visit Old Sturbridge Village’s Christmas by Candlelight in Massachusetts. It is an amazing living history museum and their old-fashioned holiday celebration is truly a treasure of an experience. One of our favorite soft gingerbread recipes is adapted from a very old recipe found in The Good Housekeeper by Sarah Josepha Hale, 1841. I got this recipe at our last visit to Sturbridge Village and it has been one that we love to make during the holiday season.

Six teacups of flour, three cups of molasses, three cups of cream, two of butter, one tablespoon of pearls and the same of ginger. Bake in a quick oven about half an hour.

The Good Housekeeper by Sarah Josepha Hale, 1841

The Modern day method of making this soft gingerbread:

  • 4 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Ginger
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking soda
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Cream of Tartar
  • 2 1/4 Cup Cream
  • 2 1/4 Cup Molases
  • 1 1/2 Cup Butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together flour and ginger. Dissolve baking soda and cream of tartar in the cream. Cut butter into dry ingredients and blend thoroughly. Stir in cream mixture and molasses into dry ingredients. Pour into two greased 9-inch pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Dust with Confectioners sugar and serve warm, but it’s also tasty after being chilled in the fridge!

If you’re looking for a fun craft to do and book to read while enjoying your gingerbread, you can’t go wrong with The Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett. An easy beginner sewing project to do with your children is to sew a felt or fabric gingerbread baby. Leo sewed this handsome gingerbread baby when he was 5 years old. He drew the pattern of the gingerbread baby with chalk onto some felt, we folded the fabric in half so that we would have two pieces the same size and cut it out with fabric scissors. He drew on a mouth and nose with fabric marker and we sewed on the button eyes together. Then, Leo sewed it together with a large needle and embroidery floss and stuffed it with batting – you could use old clothes or stuffing from an old pillow. It’s a lot of fun and a great beginner project to hand sewing!

Have Fun & Enjoy!

Adriana, Family, Home School

Homemade Holidays

I truly cherish these days home with the children. It is such a special time of year to slow down and reflect on the preciousness and joys of life. Something I feel all the more grateful for each day. Falling into a slower pace, spending more time baking, crafting, reading and eating fresh snow covered in maple syrup (a Leo and Lily special)! I find these special moments in life can bring such joy when our world is faced with such hardships. I somehow find the natural busyness of our household calming (and I don’t say that often)!

Over the years our family has taken on the tradition of making homemade gifts for each other. We still buy some gifts, but we’ve found that taking time to be together and work on surprises for each other and those we love is far more enjoyable and less stressful. It is a favorite time for us all because we’re working together and our time is centered around the family. I love seeing the joy it brings to each of the kids as they try and create something meaningful for someone they love. Sometimes we each make a gift for each person in the family or we pick someone we’d like to make something for and make sure it’s balanced so that everyone gets a homemade gift. We have found that this tradition has helped us all to think a little more about what you might like to do for someone else and not just about what you would like to get. Such a beautiful thing to cultivate is the heart of giving in this season. It helps us all feel closer to the reason for the season, the celebration of Christ’s birth and the gift that he’s given to us.

So, as you can imagine, during this time of year the house is a bustle with my little Christmas elves working on all their surprises. I can’t divulge all the clever projects the kids have in the works, but I can share some sweet handmade gift ideas of Christmases’ past and a few from the present!

There is a lot of wood working going on in the shop this year and rumor has it that our head shop elf is working on some wooden stilts for the kids! Leo has also told me that he has some special wooden serving utensils he is making me on the shaving-horse, but it’s a surprise!

Leo and Lily have made Vivienne handmade blocks that they sanded and painted. Lily sewed a beautiful bag to hold the blocks. Mike’s lips are sealed as to any other wood shop creations, but if you’re looking for some other woodworking gift ideas to make with your children, cutting boards and birds houses are a favorite around here – along with homemade Nutcrackers!

There has also been a lot of sewing happening in the house and rumor has it that I might get some new cloth napkins for the kitchen!

We’ve also been busy with some crochet and knitting gift projects. Leo and I have been working together to knit a hat for Vivienne. It’s Leo’s first big knitting project and he had all the best intentions of doing it himself, but as we move forward, he keeps telling me he can’t believe how much work goes into making this hat! So, he knits a row here and there and I have been asked to knit most of it, but he’s always there, sitting beside me for moral support.

There has been lots of crafting, painting, jewelry making, and even some homemade confections. Lily loves making homemade chocolates and for Christmas she is working on some special tins filled with her sweet treats including chocolate covered pretzels!

The very early stages of our baby doll making adventure!

Lily and I have also taken on the challenge of making Vivienne a handcrafted Waldorf doll. We purchased a kit from Weir Crafts and it’s been fun, exciting and a challenge! Fingers crossed it ends up looking like a doll and that we finish on time!

Some other homemade holiday gifts we’ve enjoyed making over the years are beeswax candles, hand salves and lip balms, handmade journals, Christmas ornaments and framing favorite poems or quotes for one another.

As a special Christmas Eve gift for Mike and I, the kids are working on memorizing and performing ‘The Night Before Christmas.’ They have been gathering props and making their costumes and practicing their lines with excited anticipation for the performance. Tickets are being made and we’ve been told there is limited seating and free cookies for the first two guests seated! Have to love the creativity that springs from times during social distancing.

If you’re looking to give something homemade, but doing it yourself isn’t really an option, there are a lot of ways to support small businesses and purchase handmade gifts during these times. Some great ideas are buying from local small businesses in your town that offer shipping or curbside pick-up. Etsy is also a great place to shop small, handmade businesses. Purchasing CSA shares or gift cards to local farm shares is another buy local idea.

We also love giving books, to the kids and to each other. Giving a gift you can learn from is really a great gift. Games and puzzles are also another favorite gift to receive in our house. Everyone loves the gift of food! We do a lot of baking this time of year; homemade breads, cookies, quick breads, homemade soups in mason jars and fresh cheese or butter are all great gifts for neighbors, friends and family!

For it is in Giving that we Receive

St. Francis of Assisi

May the gift of Giving and the Joys of the Season fill your homes with

Hope, Love and Joy!

Adriana, Food, Home School

Homemade Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry’s are really quite an amazing plant with numerous health benefits. I have been using the syrup for years to help boost our family’s immune system during the fall and winter seasons. Elderberries are known to fight and protect your immune system against bacterial and viral infections along with reducing the symptoms and duration of the common cold and flu. They are anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and are high in vitamin A, which is great for healthy skin. Purchasing organic Elderberry syrup can get expensive, so I’ve tried making it at home and the product was easy to make and tastes delicious!

If you’d like to give it a try here’s what you’ll need.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup dried organic elderberries
  • 4 Cups water
  • 1 Cup Raw Honey
  • 1/4 Cup lemon juice
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger (dried ginger can be substituted)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)

Directions:

  1. Add 1 Cup dried elderberries, ginger, cinnamon stick and 4 Cups water to a medium sized sauce pan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour.
  2. After elderberries have simmered for 45 minutes to an hour, pour the liquid through a mesh colander into a bowl and mash elderberries over bowl in the strainer to be sure to get out all the juice from the berries. Remove cinnamon stick if used.
  3. Add 1 Cup raw honey, 1/4 cup lemon juice and dash of cayenne pepper and mix together
  4. Pour liquid into a clean mason jar and keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 months. Adults take 1 Tbsp. daily and children 2 and up take 1 tsp daily. Children under 1 year should not consume raw honey, so if making for younger children add honey that isn’t raw. If you have a cold or feel one coming on, take 1 Tbsp/Tsp every two hours until cold subsides (up to 4 Tbsp/tsp a day). *Raw honey has many nutritional benefits that add to the syrup, cayenne, lemon juice and ginger add some heat, which helps the syrup activate when consumed. The cinnamon stick is for flavor.

Wishing you all a Safe and Healthy Winter Season!

Adriana, Home School

Giving Thanks

Having Hope is what gets us through Hardships

For most of us, the holiday season may not look the same this year. Traditions we hold dear to our hearts may not be safe, like gathering together and celebrating the joys of life or sharing in a hug or a good meal. Change isn’t easy. Making hard choices isn’t either, but keeping those we hold dear to us safe is a courageous task. Making sacrifices for the better of humanity and our communities as a whole is admirable. Even though things may not look the same, I hope that in your lives there is so much to be grateful for. During this time of year, there are so many great lessons to be had about life’s blessings and joy.

I always find this time of year so very special for reflecting on life and gratitude. Although adjusting to the time change can be a challenge in our house, I love the natural slowing down of the rhythm of our household as we follow the seasonal rhythm of nature around us. As darkness falls earlier, we all gather for an early dinner and enjoy special family time baking, crafting, playing games and reading together by the coziness of the fire.

Although, certain traditions have been challenged this year, there are some that remain that have become even more precious and cherished; like family and our time shared together. The holiday season is an incredibly special time for reflection. Some traditions that the kids and I have maintained that help us to continue some routine are exploring topics during the fall and winter seasons that help us to reflect on hardship, resilience, gratitude and hope.

We usually start off the school year and fall season by studying the first settlers in our country, the voyage and hardships of the pilgrims and those that traveled out west along with the courage and strength of the Native American tribes in America. Some of our favorite books with great stories and projects are: A Pioneer Thanksgiving and A Pioneer Christmas by Barbara Greenwood, American Kids in History Colonial Days by David C. King, Earth Maker’s Lodge: Native American Folklore, Activities and Foods by E. Barrie Kavasch and North American Indians; The Hands-on Approach to History by Andrew Haslam and Alexandra Parsons.

We also take this time to do a lot of free writing in our journals. Sometimes I give the kids writing prompts asking them to put themselves in the shoes of one of the characters in the stories we are reading, having them reflect on how they may have acted or felt, we sometimes write poetry or short stories based on our readings, they have also written their own creative legends inspired by the Native American legends we’ve read. One of our favorite things to do is make costumes and perform a play, either one the kids have created or a story from our readings. We craft and bake and try out some recipes from the pioneers and the Native Americans; fresh gingerbread, plum pudding, corn husk dolls, making Native American housing and Christmas Pomanders, woven baskets out of raffia, vases out of clay and we’ve even made our own loom and done some weaving!

A project I try to do each year with the kids is to make some ‘Gratitude Buntings.’ We simply cut some twill fabric into triangle or rectangle shapes, make apple prints or paint them and then write something we are grateful for on them. We then attach the buntings to some yarn with a glue gun and hang them either in the dining room or on our mantel throughout the holiday season.

If you’re looking for some great read aloud stories or independent reading for your older children some books we have enjoyed are: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink and Children of the Longhouse by Joseph Bruchac.

The books below are also some great read aloud’s for children of all ages.

Squanto’s Journey by Joseph Bruchac

Earthmaker, help us to cherish these gifts that surround us and to share our blessings with our brothers and our sisters so that our world is continually blessed.

Native American Blessing

During these uncertain times I have found that we are reminded of our own human resilience as we study those of our ancestors. Human beings have been through this before and we will make it through. The journey may not be easy, but it will make us stronger as individuals and as families. Everything we know and love that is missed, will be cherished even more when the time allows it to return to us. Have Hope, stay safe and strong and may you be surrounded by life’s blessings and gratitude.

Adriana, Family, Home School

Fall Festive Fun for a Stay at Home Halloween!

Fall is always a special time of year. We look forward to all the local fall festivals, pumpkin and apple picking, baking, crafting and working on our Halloween costumes. This year with the current pandemic and social distancing, we’ve had to get a little more creative with our fall activities, but surprisingly the kids are ever resilient and have come up with some clever and creative ways to keep things exciting! I hope some of these fun ideas add to your Halloween Festivities!

Leo put together a fall festival for us all with a pumpkin rolling contest, a hay ride on his peddle tractor, bouncing in the bounce house and even a picture booth he painted and made from a cardboard box!

He and Lily also set up an archery station with bails of hay creating a fun family archery challenge.

The kids have been putting together their homemade costumes and since we won’t be able to trick-or-treat this year, they have decided that they will change costumes and visit our front door a couple times! This idea has actually worked out well for those who can’t commit to one costume!

Lily the 80’s Rockstar

To add some science and math to our Halloween fun, we made magic math ghosts and pumpkins. To do this, draw some pumpkins and ghosts on watercolor paper and write some math equations for your child to solve. Write the answers in white crayon and after your child has solved the problems, have them watercolor paint over the hidden answers and watch them appear like magic!

We had some science fun by blowing up orange pumpkin balloons with gas! This is a simple science project using an empty plastic bottle, vinegar and baking soda. To do this, add 1/3 cup vinegar to the empty bottle, have your child draw a pumpkin face on the balloon, use a funnel to add two tablespoons baking soda to the balloon, put the balloon around the plastic bottle top and stand the balloon up so that the baking soda falls to the bottom of the bottle – the chemical reaction will instantly inflate the balloon!

We also made some tissue paper pumpkin piñata’s to fill with Halloween surprises that the kids will search for on a Halloween Treasure Hunt! To make the piñata’s we used balloons and modge-podged 3-4 layers of orange tissue paper. Once they are dry you can pop the balloon, fill it up with treats and then modge-podge a couple layers over the opening to seal it up. The kids gave their pumpkins faces, which you can do with marker or glue on with construction or tissue paper.

Last, but not least, we always carve pumpkins on Halloween! Light them up and bring them indoors – it adds a cozy atmosphere for telling stories as you wind down the night!

Happy Halloween!

Adriana, Food, Home School, Italian Roots

Cheese Making With Kids!

Ava and I in the kitchen getting ready to make some goat cheese!

Ok, so you’ve joined the slow food movement – you have a garden, you’re baking bread and you’re making meals from scratch – what else is there to do, but venture into the crazy world of making your own homemade cheese! I know, it may sound crazy, maybe even impossible, but trust me, once you give it a try, you’ll appreciate the simplicity of making something that seems so ordinary, yet connects you to age-old artisan traditions. I am a cheese fan; always have been, always will be. I cannot put into words, my true love for not just cheese, but fresh cheese, especially goat cheese! One of my fondest memories of a trip to Italy is of a summer stay in the mountain village in which my father grew up and discovering our neighbor, the goat farmer, and his cheese making business. Barley twenty years old this young farmer was already running his own cheese business and raising goats on the family farm. It was a simple, yet impressive operation that left not only an imprint on my tastebuds, but on my heart. It was a glimpse into the old-fashioned, slower paced living that Mike and I craved and left us amazed at how during modern day times, here was a young entrepreneur, in a remote mountain village, raising goats and making delicious cheese in the cellar of his family’s home.

When we returned to New England, Mike and I both were on a hunt for goat cheese that reminded us of Italy. Fortunately, we live in an area where local farmers never seize to amaze me and to my great delight we discovered that some of the best goat cheese in the US is made right around the corner! And I do mean this literally because my fabulous goat farming neighbor makes some unbelievable chèvre!

If you haven’t ever given cheese making a try you’d be surprised at how easy it is to make a simple farm cheese for the family to enjoy! We use raw goat’s milk from our neighbor’s farm, but you can substitute raw cow milk or pasteurized cow milk for cheese making.

This simple goat cheese recipe is from Lisa Schwartz’s “Over the Rainbeau” book.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Quart Raw Goats Milk or Pasteurized Goat Milk (Don’t used Ultra-pastuerized milk) *Cow Milk can be substituted
  • Food Thermometer
  • Cheese cloth (made of cotton, not synthetic materials)
  • Medium sized cooking pan
  • Wooden spoon and ladle
  • Juice of two lemons (4 tablespoons)
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat milk until it reaches 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Let stand until set, about 15 seconds. If milk does not set, add a little more lemon juice.
  2. Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth. Ladle set milk into colander. Tie the four corners of cheesecloth together; hang on the handle of a wooden spoon set over a deep bowl and let drain until it is the consistency of slightly dry cottage cheese, 1 to 2 hours. Transfer to a bowl and store in an airtight container, refrigerated, up to 1 week.

Once you’ve separated the curds from the whey, save the whey to add to other recipes. Whey has several nutritional benefits. It is full of protein, calcium and potassium. We use it as a substitute for buttermilk when making pancakes and it is a great substitute for water when making pizza dough.

If you’re interested in purchasing a cheese making kit or getting some more information about cheese making, the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company has a fantastic website with great information, recipes, kits, cultures and supplies. Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll is also a great resource.

Wishing you all some time to enjoy the slower pace of life, to experiment in the kitchen cultivating memories and bringing the process of food making back to the center of family life! We all care a little more about the product, when we are involved in the process – true for food and for life.

Adriana, Home School

History’s Mysteries for Kids: The Great Chicago Fire

My kids love mysteries. Recently, we’ve been exploring some great US History Mysteries through books and research. It’s a great way to learn more about history and geography while practicing some logic and reasoning skills. Our most recent US History Mystery was about The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that burned from October 8th to the 10th destroying thousands of buildings, killing an estimated 300 people and causing millions in damages. Reasons for the fire are still debated today, but legend has it that a cow in the O’Leary family’s barn kicked over a lantern and started the fire. The O’Leary’s denied this charge and the true cause of the fire has never been determined. Other theories allude that someone trying to steal milk or a group of men playing a card game were trespassing on the property that night and caused the fire. Scientists have even theorized about a possible meteor causing the event due to evidence in the area! What is known is that, dry weather conditions, lots of wooden city buildings and a polluted river all seemed to leave Chicago vulnerable to the fire. The fire quickly grew out of control and devastated an area of the city about four miles long and almost a mile wide.

Fortunately, some positive change came from an unfortunate event. The aftermath lead to better building and fire codes, rebuilding the city and spurring great economic development and population growth. It’s a great topic to explore in US History, architecture, city development and living conditions, along with using logic and reasoning skills to discern information.

After our research, Ava (11) and Lily (9), decided to create a fire art scene of what the city may have looked like that night long ago. They used paper, pastels and acrylic paints to create the blazing background and then drew in the city skyline over the paint with black charcoal pencil.

The Virginia Mystery Series

The Virginia Mysteries Series by Steven K. Smith is a Great History Adventure Series

If you’re looking for a great History’s Mysteries series for kids ages 6-12, The Virginia Mystery Series by Steven K. Smith is an exciting read aloud History and Adventure series that my family has enjoyed. The stories are modern-day fictional mysteries with some twists to real locations and events from Virginia history. We’ve had a lot of fun reading these books and exploring some of the events and historical figures a little deeper.

Here’s to sparking a love of reading, an interest in US history and challenging kids logic and reasoning skills – Enjoy the Adventure!

Adriana, Home School

Making Apple Prints with Kids

Nothing says New England quite like the fall season; red, yellow and orange leaves, the crisp autumn air, farm stands full of winter squash and pumpkins and of course Apples! Apples are one of the first signs of Autumn and have been an essential part of New England agriculture for centuries. Apple picking is a Fall family tradition around here and we truly can never pick enough! We not only love to cook and bake with our apples, but have found some fun ways to craft with them too!

One of the kids favorite Apple Crafts is to cut an apple in half, dip it into some tempura paint and press them onto fabric or paper to create “Apple Prints.” I’ve been doing this fun, easy project with my kids since they were 4 years old and they still have fun experimenting with apple prints today!

If you’d like to give apple printing a try all you need are these materials:

  • Apples
  • Cotton or twill fabric
  • Tempura paint and brush (and something to pour paint onto for dipping)
  • A long stick or dowel rod
  • Hot glue gun & glue
  • String or yarn for hanging
  • Extra fabric cut into leaf shapes and modge podge to glue the leaves onto the fabric.
We like to cut the apples in half so that you see the beautiful star image.

Instructions:

  • Cut your fabric to fit the size of your stick or dowel; fold top edge of fabric over stick and hot glue gun in place (you can also hand sew this if you prefer)
  • Pour your paint onto a pallet for dipping; dip sliced apple into paint or apply a thin coat with a paint brush (encourage your child to experiment with the amount of paint, but the less paint, the better, so you can see the star print)
  • Press apple onto fabric and remove
  • If adding fabric leaves, apply modge podge glue with a paint brush (this glue will be transparent when dry so it is a good idea to brush it under and on top of the leaves.
  • Tie yarn or string to each end of stick to hang for display

*You can also create beautiful apple prints on paper

Enjoy!

Some Great Books about Apples to add to the fun:

Adriana, Garden

Victory Garden 2020 September Update: Giving Thanks and Letting go

Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”

– Unknown 

I have a hard time with letting go. I really never like to see the warmth and beauty of summer come to an end or the days grow shorter. Seasons, like children, really mark the passing of time in a way that reminds me of the preciousness of life. Change is forever a constant and no matter how much I want my garden to keep on growing, little Jack Frost makes his presence known and bites my plants smack on the nose! I have a sadness in seeing the life of these beautiful plants that sustain us come to an end. Our garden has been so good to us. From one small seed, the earth gives us so much. So, as I move from harvesting the beautiful bounty of September into the cooler Autumn weather, I try to find the balance between Giving Thanks and Letting Go.

The kids and I have been very busy this past month picking fruits and veggies before the first frost. We’ve harvested red tomatoes, green tomatoes and lots and lots of cherry tomatoes! We’ve had a fantastic crop of butternut squash, peppers, eggplant, pumpkins and fall greens. Our raspberry bushes produced better this year than they ever have, but unfortunately some white, wiggly worms took up residence in our beautiful berries! Leo and Ava kept telling me that they saw worms in their raspberries and didn’t want to eat them. I thought that sounded crazy – worms, in raspberries? Well, after picking a pint full one evening I took a look inside a couple and yes, saw some little white worms dancing all around! Now the kids won’t touch them. I can’t blame them, my stomach turns at the thought of eating worms too! I have tried following some suggested remedies for the problem, but with no luck, sadly, the raspberries have been left for the birds. It’s a problem I hope to prevent in next summers crop!

Aside from some raspberry worms, there has been so much to be grateful for. We have been getting creative and learning lots of new things with this years harvest; like how to cure butternut squash, how to pickle green tomatoes, how to dry green beans to use the beans inside soups, how to dry and preserve herbs and how if you’re not prepared, one cool 34 degree night can easily frost what’s left in your garden! New England weather is funny like that, you can be enjoying an Indian Summer and then out of nowhere it’s time for your fleece jackets and winter caps. Fortunately, all the tomatoes were picked and Ava and Vivi had a fine time picking every last little stem off of the hundreds of cherry tomatoes before we froze them!

Farmer Leo also had a great crop of pumpkins and gourds this year! Never have we eaten so many pumpkin pies before Thanksgiving! We have been roasting pumpkins on a weekly basis and what we don’t use right away we’ve frozen for latter. Leo love’s making pies, but we’ve also been creative and made pumpkin soup, pumpkin butter, pumpkin bread rolls, pumpkin smoothies and pumpkin bread! Oh, the many ways to cook a pumpkin!

I couldn’t have been more proud of my farmer, then when he stood outside for twenty minutes holding up his sunflower during our mini-East Coast hurricane! He showed our family what a big heart and dedication looks like as he saved his 12 foot prize sunflower!

Fall is a time of harvest, a time of joy, hard work and in giving thanks to the earth that sustains us! It’s a time when we work hard together to preserve the sweet tastes of summer that will not only nourish our bodies, but our souls as we navigate through the cold winter months ahead. Fall is also a time of letting go. It is a time to slow down and reflect on all that we have in our lives and find comfort in the changes. We all need a time for rest in order to renew. Spring will return and with it, so will the garden and the gifts of the earth. In taking time to give thanks, we have appreciation for today and in letting go, we have hope and a belief in tomorrow.

Wishing you all – the endless beauties of the earth’s bounties and in finding the true gift in Giving Thanks and Letting Go

"To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn,
There is a Season; Turn, Turn, Turn,
And a Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven" 
- Pete Seeger