Seasons

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

- “Landslide” – Fleetwood Mac

 

I’ve heard the cicadas and the crickets singing for a few weeks now. The black walnut and sweet gum trees are shedding their leaves. Summer’s fading. Autumn is coming.

My husband returned to school to teach this week. As I was packing his lunch bucket a few days ago, I realized that I’d forgotten to wash the chip container before I’d stored it away for the summer. Then it hit me – the last day he used it was the day our world crashed three months ago. The container, along with so many other of my usual summer chores, was shoved aside and neglected.

My entire summer feels like a blink. Time and the world have marched on when I’ve wanted it to stop. It’s been occupied by tears, uncertainty, frustrated and soul-searching journaling, appointments, and questions that don’t have answers. The first time off from work I’ve had in two years was spent planning a funeral instead of managing sleepless nights and feedings like it was originally intended. It feels like a week, not three months.

But I’m grateful that summer is my grieving season. Feeling the sun on my shoulders while hanging laundry on the line or watching the chickens scratch around in the yard has been a balm for my soul.

Our small garden this year has been a source of comfort. Hoeing it to tame the weeds is one of the few things I can do that makes my brain completely shut up because I’m too busy concentrating on not wacking off my toes with the hoe to think about anything else. Sometimes I talk to God while I’m weeding, hoping he’s working on the figurative weeds in my life while I’m trying to work on the literal ones.

I see life mirrored in the garden. The leaves on my sunflowers are marked with the holes made by hungry insects, yet they still manage to thrive, grow taller than me, and bloom despite the adversity. Their seeds I planted went through a complete destruction before they transformed into something beautiful.

When the autumn comes, the sunflowers will wither and die. The trees will lose their leaves and go to sleep in a blaze of color. I will face “first” milestones that won’t be what they should. I pray that the little flicker of hope I have will turn into a blossoming spring and I will thrive just like my sunflowers when summer comes again.

 

Crossroads

So, how ya been?

It’s been almost a year since I’ve posted. Grab a cup of tea and pull up a chair. Things may get a little heavy.

I’ve spent some time thinking about this little blog recently. This post has been mulling around in my head for a few weeks. I’ve wondered if I should just let this blog fade out into the Internet, or pick it up, dust it off, and write again.

But I can’t pick up where I left off. The girl that wrote those posts doesn’t exist in that Pollyanna-ish world anymore.

I’m not one to post details of my personal life on the Internet for strangers to read. I do prefer some element of privacy in this digital world. However, I will say this: when I last wrote in September, Sax Guy (my husband) and I learned that our lives were starting a new chapter that we had quietly saved up for and planned for a couple of years. We eagerly spent nine months dedicating ourselves for the next part in our story. Then, earlier this summer, someone very, very dear to us unexpectedly passed away. Blindsided doesn’t even begin to cover it. Read into that what you will.

So now I’m a woman on a road that I never imagined or wanted to be on. This road has had me questioning my faith, what I thought I knew about life and more.

With that said, back to this blog. I’ve wrestled with the idea of blogging again. Part of me just wants to leave it be and peace out. Another part of me is chiding myself for becoming a bit of a hermit, because that’s what grieving does to a person. But, to my surprise, it’s still being read in my absence. People have told me they miss my posts.

When I started this blog, it was just for something to do. A project. I wasn’t expecting to become famous or leave any significant mark. In the grand scheme of things, I’m no Pioneer Woman or Joy The Baker. I honestly really don’t have much to offer that hasn’t been written by others a lot better than I can put into words. I don’t have a fancy camera. I don’t have a fancy life. I have a day job, a cat that pukes on the floor a few times a week, seven chickens, and another cat that’s taken upon himself to wake me up nearly every morning out of a dead sleep by licking my armpit.

Those of us who have gone to college for writing degrees of some sort were taught to “write what we know.” And here’s what I know: life is messy. Messy is honest. Honesty is beautiful, and that is the road I’m on.

This redhead can say she has award-winning apple butter

All of that apple and canning work actually paid off this year! I won a grand total of $1.25 and a third-place ribbon, but hey, I won!

I entered a pint of apple butter, a pint of bread and butter pickles, and a quart of green beans into our county fair this year. The fair opened last Friday and will close Thursday. This is the first time I’ve entered anything I’ve canned in our fair (Roberta, my hen, made her debut in the photography category three years ago), so I was a little nervous. I was so excited when I saw that my apple butter took third place!

My apple butter is on the bottom shelf with the white ribbon.

My apple butter is on the bottom shelf with the white ribbon.

Unfortunately, my beans and pickles didn’t place in the top three. However, I did get a chuckle when I realized my bread and butter pickle recipe was the only one with onions in it. (Sorry, not sorry judge!)

My pickles are in the jar on the top shelf on the left. At least my  jar was placed next to the first-place winner, right?

My pickles are in the jar on the top shelf on the left. At least my jar was placed next to the first-place winner, right?

The apple butter recipe is from my maternal grandmother and the pickles are a recipe that’s a family favorite from my paternal grandmother. We like our bread and butter pickles with a ton of onions in them, so I pack them in the jar. Makes for better pickle sandwiches that way!

I canned more apple products than anything this year thanks to Ohio’s bumper apple crops. About 30 pint jars went to apple butter, which I plan to give as Christmas gifts this year. Now I can joke that the recipients are getting award-winning apple butter!

Recipe – Cheddar bacon potato soup

This weekend put me into full fall mode. It was chilly, we hosted a bonfire for my two bro-in-laws’ birthdays, and I’ve busted out the hoodies and sweatpants. The walnuts and hickory nuts are starting to fall from the trees.

And when it’s autumn, I want soup.

This cheddar bacon potato soup is a recipe I adapted from a ham soup recipe that was featured in a local senior living magazine. (Don’t ask why I had a senior living magazine.) It’s a favorite with my husband, family and friends. I’m often asked for the recipe.

Give it a try and let me know how you liked it!

Cheddar bacon potato soup

  • 3 1/2 cups diced potatoes (I cheat and use frozen Southern-style hash browns sometimes)
  • 1/3 cup diced celery
  • 1/3 cup diced onion or leek
  • 3/4 cup cooked bacon
  • 2 Tbsps. or 2 cubes of chicken bouillon
  • 3 1/4 cup water (or use chicken broth and skip the bouillon)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, optional
  • 1 tsp. black pepper, or to taste
  • 2 cups milk
  • 5 Tbsps. melted butter
  • 5 Tbsps. flour
  • Cheddar cheese to taste (I usually toss in one to two cups.)

Combine all but the last four ingredients and the meat in a stock pot on the stove and cook until veggies are tender. When veggies are tender, turn down the heat and add the milk and meat, stirring frequently. Melt the butter in a small dish in the microwave. Stir the flour into the melted butter with a fork. When the butter/flour mixture has been well blended, add to the soup. Continue cooking until soup has thickened and heated through. Add cheese just before serving.

Since this is a milk-based soup, you want to avoid bringing it to a boil so the milk won’t scald. Cook it on low to medium heat and stir frequently.

If you’re feeling fancy, top the soup with chives.

Comparing apples to apples

So my friendly neighborhood apple guy sent this beast of fruit home with my husband last night:

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That’s a normal, lunchbox-size gala on top and the monster apple on the bottom.

That monster apple in the bottom of the photo that’s dwarfing the gala is a Wolf River apple. This is a new apple variety to me, but according to Orange Pippin, it’s a baking variety that was named after the Wolf River in Wisconsin. It’s been cultivated since the 1870s.

Just to give you another visual comparison, here’s how the apple stands up to a pint jar:

APPLE1

Whoa, right?

I’ve been told that Wolf River apples make darn good dumplings. Are any of you familiar with this apple variety, and how have you used them?