A week ago my husband and I were in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We had six days mostly off the grid, reading and doing small projects. The day that we arrived it was raining. It rained a couple more days. One night we had thunder, lightening and a heavy down pour.
The benefit was all the bright green foliage, the wild flowers and the apple trees heavy with apples. When I took time to see the flowers, to pick apples and watch the birds flitting from tree to tree, I was refreshed.
For I know the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does in heaven and on earth, In the seas and all deeps. He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
Psalm 135: 5-7
The prompt for Five Minute Friday is: RAIN Visit this community of writers by clicking here.
From spring to fall the garden is a place of wonder, amusement and challenge. Here are thirteen examples.
The tulips are one of the first blooms in my yard.
The scent of the lily of the valley is pleasing. I love how the little bells peek out from the green fronds. This is the flower for the month of May—the month that my first baby was born.
The elderberry bushes had abundant flowers this year so I picked the flower heads (umbels) and made elderflower syrup. You can find the recipe here.
When the elderberries are ripe—they are also abundant—I will make elderberry juice. You can find the recipe here.
This year I picked 6 quarts of cherries from the cherry tree, but this tree requires a lot of tending. You can read about it here.
The grandchildren enjoy picking the raspberries, mulberries and currants.
It was a delight to see a hummingbird flit among the branches of the cherry tree. I placed a hummingbird feeder close to the tree. The little bird has been back.
The pickling cucumbers are growing well. I have been making lacto-fermented pickles. You can find a recipe here.
This year I am growing tomato plants in containers. I was so pleased to see the developing tomatoes. And then I noticed a half eaten tomato. The next day I realized that there was a huge tomato worm on the plant. (Where do they come from?) He had devoured the leaves from two stems and was devouring another tomato. I had to call my husband to pick him off. (Didn’t even think about taking a picture this voracious green worm!)
I have become quite good at finding the Japanese beetles on my plants and can readily pick them off. If you find them in your yard, pick them off and drop them in a container of soapy water.
The calendula flowers in glowing colors are blooming. I pick the blooms and dry them for tea. The flowers are also good for making a salve. Read more here.
As I watched from my kitchen window I noticed a squirrel that was busy trying to untangle a burlap strip that I had wound around the base of the plum tree and a steel rod. The plum tree was growing at an angle, and I was trying to help it grow upright. The squirrel ducked in and out of the burlap, gnawing at it. When I went outside he scampered away. He had it shredded the burlap in places, hoping to carry it off.
The zinnias are beginning to bloom. At first they have a single layer of petals. And then additional layers appear and the color becomes richer. It is a nice metaphor for the way we grow as Christians. As we follow the Lord obediently, spending time in the Word, our life becomes fuller and richer.
Today’s prompt for Five Minute Friday is: THIRTEEN Visit Kate Motaung’s blog to see the various ways writers were inspired by this word. Thanks for visiting!
The berries in my backyard are abundant . . . and so are the Japanese beetles. The upper leaves of my cherry tree were eaten, just the skeleton of leaf veins left. We have the Japanese beetle bagger up and I am still picking them off foliage. So pretty but so destructive!
I have even been up on a ladder, shaking the branches of the tree. The beetles fall like rain. It no longer bothers me when they fall on my clothes (or down my shirt). I pick them off and put them in my bowl of soapy water. My husband watches with amusement. He is content to manage the beetle bagger. (Last year we saw the amazing results of the beetle bagger.
As I walked through the yard today I realized that I have been obsessed with getting rid of the beetles. The garden needs my nurture—watering, fertilizing. I can’t just focus on the pests.
Life is the same way. It is easy to get so distracted by the bad things happening that we can forget to nurture the good.
The joy in my yard comes from the beautiful berries. The red currant bushes are laden with strings of bright red currants. The black raspberries are ripening and I am making pies with them. The combination of black raspberries and blueberries makes a nice pie. Here is my recipe:
Prepare the pastry.
Add ¼ tsp. salt to 1 + ½ cup flour. Cut in ½ cup of butter using a pastry blender. The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs. Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to ½ cup of cold water. Gradually drizzle the water over the flour mixture, mixing it in with a fork. Add just enough water for the dough to hold together. Do not over mix the dough. I like to place the dough in the refrigerator, letting it rest, while I put the filling together.
For the filling:
2 cups black raspberries
2 + ½ cups blueberries
½ cup sugar
¼ cup tapioca granules or tapioca flour
Combine the berries, sugar and tapioca.
Then take out the dough and divide it in half. Roll out one piece to line a 9” pie plate. Roll out the other piece to make a pie cover. I like to fold the dough for the top crust in half twice, and then make some decorative slits—it is like the way you make cuts on folded paper for paper snowflakes.
Place the filling in the prepared pie dish. Lay the top cover on the pie and seal the edges. Brush with water and sprinkle a little sugar on top. Bake at 350° for about 1 hour. The pastry should be golden and the filling bubbling.
Apples, fresh from the orchard, are one of the blessings in September. I enjoy making applesauce for the grandchildren. Each year I get a little more efficient.
Two appliances have simplified the process of making applesauce for me: a crock pot and a victorio strainer. What is a victorio strainer? For a complete description of this wonderful tool, click here.
I have access to unsprayed wild apples on the old family farm. The apples are not so great for eating fresh, but they make a good applesauce. I sort them and cut out the bad parts. Then I simply cut them in four pieces, leaving the skin on, leaving the core intact. (If I am using apples that have been sprayed I do remove the skin.)
I fill up the crock pot with apple sections turn it on high for a couple hours. Them I turn it down to low, stir and mash the apples, continuing to cook until completely soft.
The soft, mashed apples are put through the victorio strainer, which removes the apple skin and seeds. I have nicely pureed and strained applesauce.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
Romans 8: 19 ESV
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting.
Romans 8: 19-25 The Message
This statement by the apostle Paul is both striking and encouraging. And it fits the time we are living in.
Over the summer I have been studying the epistle of 1 Peter. Peter describes Christians as sojourners and provides instruction for how we are to live. This fall our Pastor will be teaching from Romans and my precept Bible study is on the book of Romans. I am excited to be spending time learning from Paul the essentials of faith in a culture that is hostile.
We need grounding from the Word of God and guidance from the Holy Spirit. Then we can shine the light of truth, pointing to Jesus.
Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are familiar. We see them in the grocery store. God has created a multitude of other berries. I feel blessed to have elderberry bushes in my backyard. After reading about the benefits of elderberries I ordered bushes from nursery catalogues. Now I have four bushes and enjoy the different phases as these bushes produce fruit.
In June white lace flowers appear on the branches.
In July the berries begin to form.
The berry clusters ripen at a staggered pace. This bush has berries in different shades of ripeness.
When fully ripe the berries are a deep purple color—almost black.
When the berries are used for jelly or juice, all of the little stems must be removed first.
I pick the berries, remove the stems and freeze them until I have enough quantity to make a juice/syrup for the winter. My recipe for canning elderberry juice is here.
I followed my granddaughter along a rocky path, as waves pounded the shore of Lake Superior. A light wind brushed against my face. The leaves on the birch trees rustled gently.
There they were, bluebells, growing in a crack between the rocks. God created the majesty of Lake Superior and the delicate beauty of the blue flowers—setting them side by side.
I was so blessed to spend time at a favorite park with the grandchildren—exploring the rugged coast of this great lake. It was time to pause and take in God’s creative power. It was a break from the news of sad and violent events taking place in our country and throughout the world.
The Psalms come to mind and the beautiful rhythm of faith displayed in the words of the Psalms. We read heart wrenching prayers and confessions. We are instructed to spend time in the Word. Still, the Psalmist takes time to pause and observe God’s power and sovereignty. He sees God’s majesty in nature giving him the glory.
The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; The Lord is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. Your throne was established long ago; You are from all eternity.
The seas have lifted up, O Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; The seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea— the Lord on high is mighty.
Your statutes stand firm; Holiness adorns your house For endless days, O Lord.
Berries have always been valued in my family as a special treat. When I was a kid it was mainly strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. There are so many more. I am developing an appreciation for gooseberries, elderberries and currants.
The latter three grow well in my backyard. Gooseberries, elderberries and currants don’t seem to mind our clay soil—although I have worked at enriching it with peat and in the fall add a layer of dried grass or shredded leaves. These berry bushes don’t need much care, just need to be picked.
The gooseberries are ripening. My two-year-old grandson was fascinated with the little green globe. He held one in his hand turning it around and gazing at the stripes with wonder. So much to wonder at in nature. God has created so much for us to enjoy!
Have you ever tasted a gooseberry? My grandson took a tentative little bite. It is rather sour but good for jam and pie.
Two cookbooks are helpful in providing directions for gooseberry jam: Cooking with Wild Berries and Fruits by Teresa Marrone and Stocking Up from Rodale Press. According to Teresa Marrone’s book, green gooseberries (not quite ripe) contain enough pectin to make a simple jam without added pectin.
The first step is to cook the gooseberries with a little water (2 or 3 Tablespoons of water per cup of berries). Bring the berries to a boil and then simmer for approximately 10 minutes. Mash the berries with a potato masher. Next add the sugar (or honey) gradually—approximately ½ cup to ¾ cup per cup of berries. I tend to taste the mixture several times as I continue to add the sweetener. A combination of sugar & honey works also. I like a tart jam. When the sugar is well mixed in, bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. When I am using honey as a sweetener I add additional pectin–homemade pectin–in the last minute of cooking. (BTW – If you add a pat of butter to the boiling fruit, it won’t spit at you.)
The final step is to ladle into sterile jars and process in a hot water bath. I process half-pint jars for 10 minutes. Gooseberry jam has an interesting color and rich flavor.
Gooseberries are good in pie also. I freeze some of the gooseberries for apple/gooseberry pies.
Marrone, Teresa, Cooking with Wild Berries and Fruits, Cambridge, MN: Adventure Publications, Inc. 2009 p. 70
In late April of 2012 we visited Windmill Island Gardens in Holland Michigan. The park wasn’t due to open quite yet, but the tulips were early and we were fortunate to see the gardens in full bloom.
Tulips have so many varied colors. It it a tribute to the Creator of all flowers.
The news and politics can weigh heavy on my mind, but God makes rest and joy available in nature. I have some tulips blooming in my yard– and happy memories of Windmill Island.
When I go out to the garden the noise and rush of the world comes to a pause. Now the peony stems and buds are poking through the soil. The lilacs are beginning to bloom and I see the promise of berries on bushes and strawberry plants.
The poem by Winifred Mary Letts (1882 – 1972) makes me smile.
That God once loved a garden we learn in Holy Writ. And seeing gardens in the Spring I well can credit it.
It is easier follow the guidance given in Philippians while working in the garden.
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
Can you imagine what it was like for Adam and Eve to talk with God in the first garden?