From The Project File~ Preserving The Harvest

We had such a bountiful growing season this year! Our raised vegetable beds produced a nonstop array of healthy and delicious produce, and our trees have remained laden with sumptuous fruits. So for the first time in many years I decided to preserve a portion of the crop.

The plum harvest was absolutely phenomenal; more this year than ever before. Of course they became ripe during the hottest days of summer. I canned and dehydrated during our heat wave, which wasn't the most pleasant. But when it was all nicely 'put up' as my Texas in laws say, I decided it was well worth the toil.

I made a Southern favorite, Dilly Beans; basically green beans, bell peppers, red pepper flakes and garlic with generous amount of dill. Everyone has loved them and I wish now I had made more.

You know, even if you don't grow your own vegetables, canning can be both educational and rewarding. The key is to buy produce that is as farm fresh as possible. Maybe you are one of many who buys wisely and in bulk and cans on a grand scale. When I was a young at-home mom, I preserved huge quantities. We had dill pickles, spaghetti sauce, stewed tomatoes, and the likes that would have supplied the neighborhood! I'm not sure why I stopped canning, but I'm guessing my interest in such pursuits is cyclical. Anyway, I hope I feel as motivated next year.

The Dilly Beans recipe can be found here. I thought you might want to check out the link.

If you've ever grown zucchini you've undoubtedly experienced the huge yield. Usually we end up begging friends to take it, and then throwing some of it in the waste pile. After all, how much zucchini can you creatively feed your family?

This year I tried making zucchini relish. I think it is out of this world and it is my new favorite add-on to almost every dinner. I would describe it as gourmet relish. I have served it over cream cheese, with goat cheese, on meat and with crackers; even with rice. I'm kicking myself now for only setting out one plant. I thought I was making a sensible decision. But now I would happily can more relish if I had more zucchini.

Additionally, I blanched and froze green beans and kale, and dehydrated plums and pears. I have many more pears yet to ripen, and I plan to freeze some to use in baking and dry the rest. Then I will turn my attention to the apple trees~ more freezing, more dehydrating, and there will still be plenty of fruit to donate to the food bank. Yes, preserving the harvest is a lot of work!

Moving on to something more fun and less labor intensive, I'm excited to show off the tags and embellishments I created for the jars~

They're pretty cute with just the fabric and jute, right? But look how adorable they are with a few frills~

I'm plainly bragging, but I love the way they turned out. I think they will look highly refined in our larder and will be perfect as small gifts. 

My close friend has amazing printing, cuter than any computer font. I have named it the Dorothy font. As much as I'd like to, I can't take steal all the credit. She gets the applause for the pretty handwritten tags. The least I can do is give her a jar of my coveted zucchini relish, right? Hmmm. Still trying to decide. 

I don't know if I would call the process of preserving entertaining, but the feeling of resourcefulness and good stewardship is amazing. And I am relieved to have found several charitable organizations this year that will accept tree fruit. Sadly, there are many food banks who feel that the liability connected to homegrown fruit is too great, and they have rejected my efforts to provide. I think this is outrageous, honestly, when there are so many among us in great need.

For the first time in a number of years, I value the thought of winter; a dormant season for God's creation. I have been watching the squirrels busily stowing the hazelnuts from our trees. They too are preserving the harvest. I read that squirrels really do remember where they've hidden their treasures, which is amazing, considering the amount of time I waste looking for things I've safely put away. But soon the squirrels and other small creatures will pause for a season of rest. And the ground (and I) will rest too. I know that all the time I invested this year in the preserving process has given me a new appreciation for the blessings of each season. And that in itself is has been a gift. Happy Fall!

Join the inspiration at these fine blogs~



A Little Craft Babble~

I haven't been posting my more artsy-craftsy pursuits of late, but have been sharing the bigger, more interesting things that Larry and I create together. But Larry has been either working away from home or at home consumed by an exterior unraveling caused by undiscovered, long term water damage. This disaster has been a real source of stress for us.

This picture is actually a glimpse of progress. The scope of the damage was so large that until now I haven't been up to sharing it with you. But Larry is now in the process of putting things back together. He has had to remove and reinstall the windows, replace the siding, the plywood sheathing, and portions of the joists. But because of Larry's hard work, we are beginning to feel hopeful finally.

The deck above also underwent extensive repair.

So I've been busy in my studio with less significant projects. 

I was asked to provide table decor for a church baby shower this past Saturday. It was a fun project for me because I was granted full autonomy.

Sedums and succulents in general are really hot right now. After pondering craft ideas and perusing Pinterest, I decided sedums would bring a touch of unpredictability to our baby boy shower decorations. Have you seen the sedum tiles at Home Depot? There is also something similar, Smart Mats, and you can check out a photo here. I had a group of seven cylinder vases from Dollar Tree and I purchased a 12x12 sedum tile at HD for about $10. I divided the tile into seven clumps and planted each vase with a clump. Then I wrapped the vases in burlap ribbon 'shawls'.

To make the vases baby-themed, I asked my friend to print these "yeah baby" cards in brown, and I added cute buttons that I threaded with hemp. I then attached the cards to ordinary wooden skewers. I can't stress too strongly the need to have skewers in your craft arsenal.

The seven vases were lined up down the center of the dining room table at our shower hostess' house. They were very cool as a centerpiece. The trays of food were set around the vases.

Cute, right?

The beverages were on the kitchen island. To dress it up, I designed an arrangement of Mason jars with dried hydrangeas.

It's also great to keep a Scrabble game in your craft inventory.

The decor was well received, which of course made me happy. I gave away three of the vases of sedum; one to the (obligatory) game winner, and one each to the other gals on the planning committee.

I came home with four vases for the mantle. Of course I didn't need any baby embellishments in the living room so I decided to craft a bit of fall.

To make the leaves, I used my die cut machine on thin chipboard. I then sprayed the leaves with adhesive and covered them with authentic German glass glitter. Glass glitter is amazing and far surpasses the cheap stuff available in big box craft stores. It is available from Meyer Imports, and I highly endorse keeping it on hand. The array of available colors is amazing! Don't waste your money on the inferior glitter. The die cut letters are from Target's bargain aisle; the $1-3 section just inside the store.

Just so you know, I have in no way monetized my blog, that is to say, I am not receiving any compensation from sponsors or ads. I just like to make my material sources available to you. 

And as a final touch I added this. I never go overboard with fall decor, but the mantle was fun. 

OK, to sum things up, I would like to remind any of you who are serious crafters of the three must-haves I suggested in this post. 1. Wooden skewers. 2. An old Scrabble set. 3. German glass glitter
(the real deal). And if you're a Target shopper, never neglect the dollar stuff. Some of it is seasonal and kind of junky, but some of the craft items are a serious score!

Thanks for stopping by! Have a great week.



From The Project File~ From Neglect To Respect

Wow! I'm about to reveal something special, but it feels really humiliating to show you the 'befores'. It's as if you've dropped by unexpectedly on a seriously bad house day. That's how embarrassed I am. But here you are. A barebones Harbor Freight greenhouse, made from a kit, sitting forlornly in the backyard.

Please don't misunderstand. This was something Larry wanted and thought he would use. He did a great job preparing the site and constructing the project. Yet we didn't use it for any of the ideas we had when we bought it, such as getting a jump on seed starting or growing award winning tomatoes. Sadly, except as a repository for stuff (stuff that was cluttering another project space and needed to be moved) the little greenhouse that could sat unused.

As it became increasingly unsightly, I became increasingly agitated and finally put together a plan for a redo. Greenhouse beautification is just part of my overall blueprint for the backyard. Digressing for a moment, I need to tell you that it is well known within our network that Larry likes salvage and surplus. From time to time this has been a serious issue, as acquaintances have come to think of Larry instead of say, The Habistore, when they want to donate unwanteds. Seriously my friends, I have arrived home to find all sorts of stuff on the driveway, ranging from scoop to nuts. It is so not cool. This is part of the reason I am having to redesign the back.

Anyway, having finally reached a saturation point, again, I began by hiring a young and healthy high schooler to move this pile of bricks that is just one of many unexpected gifts. I'm sure you get the idea.

I will say, these bricks are well used and loaded with character, so I decided they could serve as an amazing floor in the greenhouse. This was truly one of those light bulb moments in which I could accurately picture ugly duckling to swan. Even though Larry wasn't sold out at first to my idea, he kindly helped me lay the floor. It took a bit of nagging, yes, but we got the job done.

 Of course we did the job right! It is very level. And we took the time to sweep sand in between the cracks in an effort to discourage weeds from finding their way inside.

I love this floor. It looked so very pretty when complete, I just wanted to sit inside the greenhouse on the new floor and feel happy. I know, you are dying to ask about the plastic bottles. They are all filled with water and capped. The reason we have them is that Larry planned to use them to generate heat inside the greenhouse in the winter; an idea that really works. The sun warms the water and they emit heat. Because you see, we don't yet have electricity here. Maybe someday.

You know I like to decorate interior spaces and this little space was not exempt. I carefully chose pieces from our inventory and began outfitting the greenhouse as a little pocket of repose. Although since it is after all intended for agricultural use, I guess I could call it a pocket full of posies.

Well here she is~ no longer a shameful little shack.

I created a front porch with a pallet. 

An antique French washstand as a tiny potting bench.

Well loved and much used gardening tools.

Comfy chairs for relaxing with tea.

Potted plants at the entrance.

Here is a miscellaneous gallery of my feel good photos. Indulge me with a browse~

Vintage flower pots from England.

Please tell me you love her as much as I do. Our little greenhouse has turned out even better than I envisioned. This winter I know she will be perfect for over-wintering annuals in pots (such as the begonias I baby along from year to year). In the meantime, because the room heats up so nicely during the day, it is a perfect spot to sit and read gardening books or simply escape for a time.

Last week we had much needed rain. It was so lovely to sit inside the greenhouse and listen to the drops hitting the roof. It was a sort of cleansing experience. I hope the decor isn't so feminine that it scares Larry. I would love to take our morning coffee in the greenhouse and lounge in the morning sun.

Stop by anytime!