Canning Up Summer

Our raspberry plants were sad this year-I know it was probably my fault for pruning a little too much this spring when all the canes looked alike-but my sweet neighbor invited me over to pick raspberries from her garden, so today I’m canning up raspberry jelly!

It’s one of the summer rituals I look forward to, making jars of delicious jelly to eat all winter-long. There’s a collective “NO!” when our family gets to the last jar sometime in April.

Unless you’ve had homemade jelly, you don’t know what you’re missing in the store-bought mass-produced kind. Just looking at a jar of home-canned jelly is a feast for the eyes. The colors are jewel-like and sparkle with all that harnessed summer sun. The taste is fresh and delectable. Each berry is picked at the perfect time, quality control is practiced by each picker, as well as the occasional taste-test for freshness.

Only three simple ingredients go into my jellies: berry juice, pectin, and sugar. Each bite takes you back to the time you were picking the berries and how they tasted warm off the vine. It’s a taste of summer in each sweet bite!

I learned my canning skills from my folks, who have been canning from their garden since I can remember. It is a lot of work-growing, harvesting, and canning food-but the flavor is unreal and you appreciate each mouthful when you are aware of all that went into providing the food on your plate. I would much rather tend a garden (which takes 2-6 months) and spend time canning (which takes at least an hour but you might as well plan your day around it) than to shop for an hour at the grocery store. It sounds crazy, I know, but there is so much joy derived from the simple pleasures of being outdoors surrounded by plants and watching them grow strong under your care. Your reward is food that not only is the healthiest for you, but tastes so amazing that you literally fall in love with food. I find myself moaning over the unbelievable flavor of sweet peas and carrots from my garden. Fresh veggies taste so amazing that you instinctively slow down and savor each bite. No salt or pepper needed, no prep work or dishes, just pick the ripest and eat!

I feel sad for people who don’t know the pleasure of real food. If I could, I would teach everyone how to grow a small kitchen garden and how to can it up for winter. It’s really quite simple, and like most things in life, it’s the simple things that bring us the most joy.

To anyone reading this who wants to grow something yummy, but easy, I recommend getting yourself some strawberry plants. They are perennial, meaning they come back every year, and with basic watering you will have fresh berries to enjoy in your cereal or in a strawberry shortcake dessert during the summer. You can plant them in pots, window boxes or in the ground. Grow some carrots too, because they are easy and the flavor of fresh picked is out of this world! I always tell people to start small, but just start! It’s fun, and good for you in more ways than one. But I’ll let you find out for yourself! 2015-07-15 22.17.54 2015-07-15 22.19.01

Beauty in a jar.
Beauty in a jar.

Creative By Nature

I’ve been a creative person for as long as I can remember. There’s never a dull moment in my mind or life. It has its downfall though, when everything seems possible and my ideas out-number the hours in a day.

Forget Pinterest. I am constantly inspired by experiences and people I meet that I will be busy until my last breath. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Pinterest, but it’s a major time-suck for me when I have oodles of things I can accomplish in the same amount of time)

Let me just share a few of my most creative moments as of late:

1. I got a writing gig with Ruralite Magazine as the ‘feature writer’ for Ohop Mutual. I get to interview interesting local people to write about and use my photography skills to capture their uniqueness. I love writing! It’s always been a favorite hobby of mine. Pen pals in my youth, essays in college, and now getting published. Yes!

http://www.ruralite.org/magazine

2. It’s that time of year when my garden is pumping out goodies to be eaten fresh; some canned for later. Homemade jelly is my specialty. Today I’m going to be picking some raspberries and blackberries. My PB&J’s are the bomb with this yummo jelly!

3. The Eatonville Library has hired me to run some fun arts & crafts programs for kids this summer. So far we’ve made comics and fridge magnets. I LOVE working with kids! They are my favorite people to be around. Not only are they boundlessly creative, but they are upbeat and happy-like me.

Marble Painting was a fun program I did last summer for kids at several Pierce County Libraries.
Marble Painting was a fun program I did last summer for kids at several Pierce County Libraries.
Easy and super fun project for ages 1-100! Just need a shoe box, paper to fit (we folded ours to make it a card), marbles, paint, and Dixie cups.
Easy and super fun project for ages 1-100! Just need a shoe box, paper to fit (we folded ours to make it a card), marbles, paint, and Dixie cups.
The kids loved creating the marble painted cards! No two were ever alike.
The kids loved creating the marble painted cards! No two were ever alike.