This Labor Day was different from the past two--in the past we made cider over this holiday, but this year the apple blossom frosted in early spring so there are few apples available. That means no cider, unfortunately. We found other things to get into, however.
We started at Derek's on Saturday. He's working on a patio using large cut stones given to him by a neighbor whose field Derek has brush hogged for free for the past five or six years.
It was son Jon's birthday this weekend, so although he couldn't join us, our granddaughter Hannah made a cake for him anyway. The numbers? Well, he might be a little younger than that...
Some work got done on the patio, a lot of food got cooked and eaten, a large bonfire was burnt, and an incredible red full moon graced us into the night.
Sunday morning found me in my kitchen starting clean up of some dirty dishes to get ready for a day of canning. As I took the last dirty cup out of the sink, I saw something that woke me right up. A young blue-tailed skink (also called a five-lined skink) was looking up at me.
First thought: "One of the kids threw their toy in here." Second thought: "Nope, it just moved."
What to do? Fortunately my son's girlfriend was here; she keeps reptiles as pets.
"Anastasia!" A sleepy voice answered me. "Yeah?"
"Would you come here a minute, please?" She came in, took one look, plugged up the drain so the skink wouldn't run down it, and quickly had him resting on her hand. She carried the little guy outside and he seemed quite happy to be back in the flowerbed. How did he get in the sink? I suspect he came in with some dirty cups from the porch.
Moral of the story: Look inside or you might get a big surprise.
Later in the day, we worked on the wild chokecherries we had picked at Derek's the day before. These wild cherries are very tiny and many people think they are poisonous, but it is the seeds, leaves and stems that are toxic. The cherries themselves make a delicious jelly. (This is not the recipe we used, but I think I would like to try this one--the almond extract would enhance the cherry flavor, I think. You can also stretch your cherry juice and get more jelly by mixing with apple juice.
Did I cut myself? Not. Just cherry juice. My friend found that the juice made a lovely lip stain too, like lipstick but more natural looking.
It takes a lot of these small cherries to make jelly, so stretching it with other juices is a good idea. We made it with cherry juice only and ended up with 3 pints.
While the guys were busy cutting firewood, we moved on to the next project: vegetable soup.
When I'm canning I often find that I have an odd amount of something left over--there ends up being eight quarts of green beans, for example, and the canner only holds seven.
When this happens, I bag up the leftovers and freeze them. Come fall, I raid the freezer for these bags, cut up some potatoes, and make vegetable soup. This year we're fortunate enough to have all the needed vegetables grown in our garden: onions, carrots, celery, green beans, corn, tomatoes and potatoes.
This year my daughter-in-law Jaime wanted to learn to make and can soup, so she was here to help. Actually, she did most of the work. A friend cut up potatoes, Jaime and I found the frozen vegetables and other ingredients we needed and we were set. We needed beef bouillon. I didn't have any, so we improvised and used chicken bouillon and vegetable bouillon. We didn't follow the recipe exactly of course--we used what I had on hand, added some red pepper and adjusted to suit ourselves. The end result was very good.
Here is the finished soup ready for the canner. We ended up with 16 1/2 quarts, and the canner only holds seven quarts at a time. What to do?
Easy answer--make biscuits and have the remaining two and a half quarts for dinner. With a houseful of friends and family the soup didn't last long. Jaime made some killer biscuits (her recipe varies a little from mine but not by much) and I mixed up a batch of honey butter to go on them. De.li.cious.
The work done, we gathered by the fire with more friends to talk, sing, tell stories and listen to Odie play. It was a pleasure to hear Anastasia tell a story about a selkie, her first attempt at storytelling (I think she has the gift, too).
The night had to end, unfortunately. Today the house is quiet. Gentle rain fell in the morning, and now the sun is trying to peek through the clouds. I am doing wash and housework and thinking how blessed we are to be able to share this life with our friends and family.