A Saucy Treat!

God has blessed us once again, this time with an unexpected bonus of delicious apples from our backyard apple trees. We missed the ideal window of opportunity to treat the blossoms for insects this spring, but Michigan’s cold, wet spring seems to have played in our favor. The trees are loaded with fruit, and most of it is free of insects! What a surprise!

I try to limit my sugar intake in an attempt to ward off the potential of developing Type II Diabetes and have lost the taste for the heavily sugared products from the grocery store. Even the “sugar free” applesauce sold in stores tastes overly-sweet to me now.

I like to make and can my own applesauce but over the past several years our own apples have been too buggy for use and orchard apples have been very expensive. I haven’t made applesauce for a very long time and have rationed the few remaining jars in my pantry. What a wonderful surprise to discover bug-free apples on my own trees!

Although many recipes call for added sugar, you do not need to include it to make applesauce. I prefer to can it without additional spices and add them to taste when serving. I was introduced to this method years ago when living in Indiana by an elderly lady with numerous apple trees adorning her own back yard. A full, heaping bushel off apples will yield @ 22 quart jars of sauce. My little half bushel basket, filled as pictured, will yield one canner full, or 7 quart jars.

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Preparation is simple. Wash the fruit, cut into chunks and cook till soft. I trim out bruised spots and anything that looks suspiciously like a worm as well!

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Put a few inches of water in your pans with the apples and cook till the fruit is soft. Stir frequently so they don’t burn! Warning! The fragrance will be wonderful!

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The apples go into the pot with skin, core, stem, and seeds, so preparation is a breeze. My secret weapon in making great applesauce is a Victorio Strainer. They cost @ $60 but are worth every penny; it is a simple task to make applesauce using this great tool!

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This little machine assembles easily and clamps onto the counter or table. The hot, cooked apple mush is ladled into the bowl at the top, and you crank the handle on the side. The strained sauce comes down the chute and all of the other debris is deposited out of the side.

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Ladle the hot applesauce into sanitized hot canning jars, wipe the rim and top with a simmered lid. Process in a PRESSURE CANNER for 15 minutes at 5 pounds of pressure. When the pressure drops, move the jars to a folded towel to seal away from drafts; allow the jars sit undisturbed overnight.

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As the jars cool, you will hear a “ping” when they seal. The music of self reliance!

In the morning wash the jars in warm, soapy water, remove the rings, label and store in your cupboard. As long as the lids remain sealed, the product is shelf stable and will keep for years. Light exposure will cause the sauce to darken, so keep in a dark place; even store bought sauce will turn dark when exposed to light.

Home food preservation is becoming a lost art. I encourage you to make the investment in a pressure canner and begin the adventure of preserving your own harvest.

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Freezing in the Frozen Mitten!

Someone has turned off the heat in the Frozen Mitten! After two wonderful weeks of rare temperatures in the 90’s, we are back to a “cooler than normal” forecast. Aside from that unusual blast of warm air, it has been a chilly summer with night temps dipping into the 40’s and daytime highs struggling to touch 80.

Not much need to run the air conditioning with weather like this, but you may need to throw another blanket on the bed and close the window at night. At least utility bills will be lower.

If Michigan were ever to have a designated “State Garment” I think it should be the front-zippered fleece jacket. This is the garment you can wear all year long. In the winter it keeps you toasty when you step away from the wood burning stove and provides that important extra layer of heat-trapping warmth under your parka when you step outside. It keeps your face warm at night if you flip it over your head when burrowing under your quilts. In summer it is your go-to garment, great for chilly mornings and evenings, as well as your never-needs-ironing wrap for overly air-conditioned restaurants and stores. It is also thick enough to repel the ever-hungry state bird – the mosquito.

Pack away those tank tops, shorts and sundresses. Michigan’s two weeks of summer is over and it is time for jeans, sweatshirts and fleece. It is almost time to rev up the that snowmobile!

A nostalgic good bye…

In a few days I will return to my house in Michigan and prepare to list it for sale. It is a bittersweet feeling. This house has been my address for over 13 years, which is the second longest span of time I have ever lived in one place. There are lots of memories there.
We intentionally sought a place that needed lots of TLC when we bought it. Our children were quickly approaching their own launch into adulthood, and the life skills of remodeling are best taught with hands-on instruction. The house had “good bones” despite the many cosmetic issues and neglect. We replaced most of the floors, all of the doors, and re-did the kitchen. The “virgin” basement was transformed into a finished living area, complete with second kitchen and bathroom. We learned how to cook on a woodstove during power failures, raised chickens and gardened, dug a pond and built a barn.
The “Great Room” has hosted numerous holiday gatherings of friends and family, weekly Bible studies, and other celebrations. This house was our Granddaughter’s home for her first 5 months of life, and was a place of shelter for her parents when between jobs. Favorite memories are of campfires down by the pond, and sitting on the porch swing watching the fireflies dance in the fields.
I love the winding tree-lined lane that leads to the house. I love the wind-swept fields and watching the blue herons fish in the pond, the geese that return every spring to raise their babies and the small herd of white-tails that we try to outsmart from our garden. And it is hard to let it go. It is a little bit like a death.
As much as I love the house, I cannot live there anymore. My health prevents me from attempting to endure any more cold Michigan winters. Despite my husband’s retirement, my new career prevents me from wintering in a warmer state and spending my summers up north. And that is okay because I really love what I am doing. It is all good, but I still feel sad at saying good-bye to the house in Michigan. Or rather, I think I am saddened at the finality of that chapter of my life coming to a close.
God is always faithful and has a wonderful plan for my future. I can trust Him to lead and direct me into His very best. He is in the process of writing another exciting chapter of my adventure through life with Him.
Turn the page. A new chapter begins.

Doing the Splits

We moved a lot during my husband’s career. He was utilized as a plant launch specialist and when his company wanted to start up a new factory, he was THE guy for the job. During the ten years of my children’s’ education, we moved seven times, living in five different states.

After one relocates a few times, the brain tends to switch to auto pilot. There is a mental check list of notifications, closet cleaning, and good-byes. We generally had a two week window to wrap up life in one location before moving to another. During those two weeks, we would pack up our computer, schoolbooks, and a survival wardrobe and move into a furnished apartment while house-hunting in our new location.

Notification of transfer usually came mid-December; January would find us in a new apartment, and we generally closed and moved in to our new house in early May. That left about 4 months of “doing the splits”- living with a minimum amount of stuff, away from those things that make our day-to-day life more enjoyable, easier, and fun. Inevitably, I would think I had something essential with me, would tear the apartment apart looking for it, only to conclude it must be a the other house.

I have been in Florida since January and did “the splits” this morning! I woke up with my mind made up on what I want to wear today. (Doesn’t everyone do that, or is it just a “girl-thing?” ) The object of my search is a print cotton cardigan. It has a brown and tan and orange pattern and would go great with the brown Capri’s, orange belt, and white polo that I am wearing to work today.

I tore apart all of the storage bins under my bed, my limited closet space, and even dug through the bins in the back of my van. I am convinced it is still at home in my closet.

Not having the sweater is a minor frustration. It is just a reminder that I am “doing the splits.” My life is currently split between Michigan and Florida, and will remain in transition until God opens up a firm direction for our future.

As a Christian, I should be used to “doing the splits.” I live in this world, but am not of this world. My real home is in heaven; I am just a sojourner on this earth. Someday, I will finally get to go home.

Here, in the present, living between Michigan and Florida, I am searching for my sweater.  I know that when I go back to my home in Michigan and will retreive it.  But, during our time here on earth, we spend our lives in a state of searching – searching for that illusive happiness and peace. 

The missing ingredient in life is Jesus Christ, and many of us spend our entire life searching for true happiness in all of the wrong places. It cannot be found in parties, drugs, or possessions.  There is a peace and joy in Jesus Christ that our world here cannot give.  Behind all of our searching, is Jesus.  He is what our broken, empty hearts are ultimately searching for.    He is waiting for all who seek Him.  Call out to Jesus and find that true peace.

I am the Beverly Hillbillies…

I love taking long drives with my husband because they allow us to spend hours in the car together uninterrupted by phone calls and business meetings. It gives us opportunity for great conversations while discovering places that we have never visited.

While driving around the Florida countryside on one of these get-aways, he turned to me and said, “I have something to tell you. Please don’t take this the wrong way.” ANY statement prefaced with “Don’t take this the wrong way” piques my curiosity. We don’t get many opportunities to get away from work and spend time together; what deep insights did he want to share?

Chuckling, he declared, “I’ve been thinking about this, and I have decided that YOU are the Beverly Hillbillies.”

“Which, Beverly Hillbilly, I asked.” (I have been negatively compared to Granny Clampet by my children when attempting to knock out a cold with a home-brewed remedy, but Ellie Mae is pretty, so that might actually be a compliment.)

“Not just ONE Beverly Hillbilly,” he snorted. “You are ALL of them!” He then elaborated that I am like Jed Clampet because I am frugal and down-to earth and don’t mind the idea of wild game dinners. I am like Granny Clampet because I gardening and canning and use home remedies. I like animals, so I am like Ellie Mae and her “critters” and I am like Jethro Bodine because I am always learning things and watch NASCAR! The only thing missing is striking oil on my property!

The oil companies are drilling all around our ten acres in Michigan but haven’t tried sinking any wells on our property yet, although there are new active oil wells on neighboring farms. I think it is time for me to grab my shotgun and go rabbit hunting to see if I can hit some “bubbling crude.” I hear the “Hills of Beverly” calling my name!

A Twist of Fate

I have been battling homesickness on this Snowbird journey, so I was elated when my husband announced that we needed to spend the following week in Michigan for an important work meeting. A week of living in a real house, seeing my friends and family and doing laundry in my own (free) machine was definitely worth a two day drive with drugged cats. My week’s activities were quickly planned and I was terribly disappointed when the meeting was suddenly cancelled.
That cancellation meant that instead of being on the road, we would now be spending the weekend in Florida and I didn’t like the weather forecast. The weatherman called for severe thunderstorms, gale force winds, and tornadoes. The thought of riding out a twister in a trailer park made that two day drive on winter roads all the more appealing.

Authorities tell you to go to a safe place in case of a tornado, only there are no safe places here. There are no basements because the water table is very high, and ditches quickly fill up with water, snakes, and gators. The desk attendant at the RV Park told us the standard procedure for dealing with tornadoes is “get in your car and try to outrun it.”

So, we prayed for God’s protection and sat and watched and waited. The sky turned black in mid-afternoon and the tall trees began to whip from the wind. The RV began to rock and shimmy. The torrential rain was so strong we couldn’t see outside of any of the windows.

At the peak of the storm’s fury, the RV sprung a leak. A seal on a stationary window gave way and water poured in and down the wall. It soaked the floor in the front third of the RV, including everything stored under the sofa and in front of the driver and passenger seats. We moved what we could to higher ground and went to bed.

The next morning we bought a shop-vac and pulled at least a quart of water from the carpet, washed the towels, and tried to dry out. We have been running electric heaters, the air conditioner and a small dehumidifier to dry out of the flooring before it grows mold and mildew. The window is now resealed and survived last night’s rainstorm, but the carpet is still damp three days after the flood.
I can only imagine the mess we would have walked into, had we followed our original plan and returned to Michigan for the week. The storm and flood would have hit on the first day of our absence. Outside temperatures are ranging in the mid seventies, which would have turned the inside of our soggy RV into a mold and mildew breeding ground. Chances are, the interior of the unit would have been destroyed.
Now I look at the cancelled meeting with grateful awe at God’s protection. Not only did He protect us from the storm itself, He protected us from the property loss that would have ensued had we been away.
And it makes me wonder how many times our plans don’t work out because a merciful God was protecting us from very unpleasant consequences. Yes, I am disappointed that my week at home didn’t happen, but I am ever so grateful for God’s providential intervention on my behalf!