Monday, September 7, 2009

Skinks in the Sink, Chokecherries, Firewood, Vegetable Soup, Storytelling, Music and Songs

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.

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.


Kate Dudding said...

Dear Granny Sue,

Somehow your predicament of a skink in your sink kept bouncing around my head until out popped this chant:

There's a skink in my sink
da da dee da da dee
There's a skink in my sink
And I don't know what to think!
I guess I need a drink.

There's a skunk in my trunk
da da dee da da dee
There's a skunk in my trunk
And a a skink in my sink
And I don't know what to think!
I need another drink.

There's a snake on my rake
da da dee da da dee
There's a snake on my rake
And a a skunk in my trunk
And a a skink in my sink
And I don't know what to think!
I need another drink.

There's a spider in my cider
da da dee da da dee
There's a spider in my cider
And a snake on my rake
And a a skunk in my trunk
And a a skink in my sink
And I don't know what to think!
I need another drink. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Kate -- a faithful reader of your blog

Jai Joshi said...

Why is it that whenever I read your blog I become hungry? It's a mystery...

I awarded you a Kreative Blogger Award! Check out my latest blog post to receive the award.


Laura said...

How fun--we seem to be the only ones in the country that had school today--so it was work for all of us.

Jill Spealman said...

Just love reading your blog; it's a treat. I always look at it first before my "professional" subscriptions. Your garden and knowledge of nature is awesome! I froze about 2 pounds of pole beans today (whoopee!) and we had broccoli rabe from the garden with sauteed garlic, "homemade" breadcrumbs, some crushed red pepper and spaghetti topped with parmesan this evening. Tomorrow I'll attack the basil and make pesto 'till I drop! About as good as it gets for suburban Chicago...

Granny Sue said...

Okay, Jill, you can invite me over anytime :-) Sounds delicious. I love it that even in the burbs of Chicago a person can grow some of their food.

Granny Sue said...

Kate, I love it! How creative of you. I will have to put a tune to that and do it with kids sometime.

Jai, thank you for the award. I'm behind on blog-reading this weekend, but I'll be over soon.

Granny Sue said...

Laura, I cannot believe you had school on a holiday! Why on earth did they do that?

mary said...

I think a skink in the sink trumps a tree frog in the mailbox (of course I've had about twenty of them over the summer) . . . lovely photo of it!
It sounds like a wonderful day for all! thanks for sharing it.

Jaime said...

Once again an amazing, very productive weekend. Aaron thought our soup was amazing by the way and he very excited to have some of it in our cabinets. And I'm just grateful I finally got to see the process. I'm loving it!

Granny Sue said...

Could not have done it without you, Jaime. We got a lot done, didn't we?

Mary, I love your mailbox frogs. I wonder--have you tried kissing one? Might be the prandsome hince!


Skink? That's new to me - at first I thought you had a typo and it was a skunk in your sink - now there would be was real trouble. The picture cleared that up. Sounds like you had a neat week - end.

Granny Sue said...

too funny, Ellouise! A skunk would have been an entirely different story!

laoi gaul~williams said...

i would have loved to hear the story of the selkie, its one of my favourite...myths?

Susan at Stony River said...

When I saw your title I thought Skinks in the Sink sounded like a great title for a picture book---then had to laugh at Kate's comment!

We've had a space for a patio dug out for months now, and have gotten no further along since we got home. Maybe a patio party is in order? I like that idea.

Happy Birthday to Jon!

Granny Sue said...

Patio party? Sounds like a great plan. We didn't get a lot done except move about 40 heavy cut stones--well, WE didn't, the guys did. The women cooked and applauded. Buy enough beer, provide some food and music and I bet your patio will move along quickly. Of course, provide too much beer and it might come out a little odd-shaped...

Janet, said...

you had a very busy weekend. I'm glad I didn't see a skink in my sink!

Mike said...

What kind of deal is this? I walk all the way over here from Kentucky and you things done et everything in sight! There ain't even a biscuit left.

Which way'd that lizard go? ...they seem to be becoming a staple on my visits over here...just missed the scones last time through...I'm really starting to doubt your commitment to our friendship!

Connie said...

I have been asking people for years what those things are called!

A skink, you say. I thought it was proof that nuclear waste was more of problem than we thought.

Granny Sue said...

Mike, I've been bad! I need to get over to your place real soon and set a spell. Been a long time, although I do stop by to read from time to time.

Connie, you made me laugh out loud! Did you know their tails fall off if they're attacked? Then they really look funny until it grows back. We have quite a few that live around our porch and we like them quite well because they eat bugs and wasp larvae. Good friends to have in the country.

Anonymous said...

Done et everything in sight? By golly we sure did! Two buscuits in a bowl topped with two big ladels of veggie stew was to die for. Went back for more and came away empty handed. I did manage to steal a honey buttered biscuit off of someone.

And once again, You, Odie, Andrea, and Amy proved that even with the inclement weather, good pickin', singin', and stories are worth getting rained on for.


Granny Sue said...

That's the truth Aaron. A little dampness just makes it more interesting.

We made more biscuits yesterday morning. I had to have more of the honey butter. Now back to the usual dry toast for breakfast. Yuck.

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