Gigi's Blog bio picture
  • Welcome to the Gigi Blog!

    Mother to six Little Women and Two Little Men. Married to a Happy Mortician. Caretaker to goats, chickens and many, MANY bunnies. Photographer. Homeschooler. Lover of Jesus, coffee & tea and all things pink & vintage.

In the Garden

“I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.”
– C.A. Miles

Slipping my feet into my slippers, positioned on the floor at the end of our bed, I quietly tiptoed out of my bedroom, leaving behind two slumbering bodies, one happening to be my little baby in his crib, tucked in for his night’s sleep.

But it was early morning now and it was time for me to rise. Outside I could see the morning star, Venus, twinkling so brightly in the sky. The rest of the world was still. One of my favorite moments in the day is the blissful few hours of quiet and peace before the household awakes.

In my earlier years as a parent and young woman, I was always late to go to bed and loved my night time quiet hours — before I had children. Later, when children arrived and our family grew and grew, my daily tasks left me quite tired by the end of the day and I found myself not able to stay up late anymore. Now, I have trained myself (or perhaps, all my early mornings of nursing have trained my body) to get up early before the household rises and spend that time as my quiet hours. It is lovely.

[I would encourage all mothers – even grandmothers – to get up earlier than the rest of the world. It’s peaceful, serene and wonderful. It also helps set the tone for the day, it allows you to a get a head start on your tasks and it also affords you quiet time for your personal devotions, something that most people struggle to accomplish.]

After my devotions and Bible time were over, coffee was made and a lovely creamy cup was consumed, I packed my husband’s lunch and headed out of the kitchen. Trading my slippers for rubber boots and donning my favorite work apron, I set out to the vegetable garden to do some weeding. The sun was now rising and it was light enough to do some work outside. Lately, we had a busy weekend, the weather was so very, very hot and then there was a big rainfall. This all adds up to a highly anticipated growth spurt in the weeds and vegetable rows, requiring some attention with my hoe and work gloves.

As I worked pulling out weeds that seem to grow faster than my own children, I felt a comfort surround my soul. It had been a trying week – and many of life’s burdens had been weighing me down. But there, surrounded by succulent squash leaves and vibrant green bean tendrils, I found quiet, still peace, a balm for my weary soul.
Just one glance down the long row that required my gardening attention made me stop and gasp …

Sitting there in the soil, with the gentle morning sun filtering in, I felt the peace of the Lord surround me. I was in awe of the glittering dew drops, dangling so enchantingly off the regular-every-day cucumber plant leaves … the way the sun filtered gently down throughout the garden and grasses lining the field… the way the wild birds sang so quietly and restfully in the bushy overgrown fields around me … it was so serene and lovely.

My eyes rested on the pretty patch of colour in the centre of the garden.  Some of the older girls have planted wildflowers for fun right in the middle. We love to have colour and pretty spots to rest in our vegetable garden. Last year, Lyla planted roses, but sadly, they did not survive the winter.

This year, we tried wildflowers from seeds and indeed, they did grow.

My herb garden is full of colour, as well, and I just love to walk through it, smelling the delicious herbs and spending time weeding. When I was younger, people would talk about weeding, how they enjoyed it … I never understood how it could be enjoyable. Sure, I would do the weeding – it was even something I did as a child in our vegetable garden at home, but it was not something I would call “enjoyable.” Now, it is relaxing and soothing. I do not mind a few hours out in the garden at all.  In fact, I often find it keeps me grounded – as in, I am tempted to go out, do something away from home, but then I realize my chores in the garden are more important than wandering about … I soon find myself in the dirt, tending to the plants and vegetables and the enticement of whatever was calling my name quickly forgotten.

Yesterday, the girls helped picked the ready green beans and I spent the morning canning them. It will be busier from now on, I suppose, as things ripen and require harvesting. I’ll be sure to share canning recipes as we proceed.

Do you spend time in nature? Have you found the peace from tucking yourself away from the rest of the world and surrounding yourself with the calls of the birds, the wind whispering through the grass and the blue sky overhead?

July 21, 2018 - 4:24 am

Gigi Thank you, Mrs. C. I love to hear of others who enjoy rising early!

July 20, 2018 - 1:49 pm

Mrs. C Such a lovely and uplifting blog.
I am a grandma and I too rise early to enjoy the morning. I cannot imagine starting my day without these times of peace with the Lord. My grandma used to sing I Come To The Garden when I was a child. Thank you for taking the timevto share with others….Mrs. C

July 20, 2018 - 9:18 am

Monica Haha, that is funny! My husband is the same way but about his tools! Do.not.touch.the.tools! 🙂 🙂

July 19, 2018 - 8:42 pm

Gigi Monica, that’s so funny about your mini horse!
I often forget other parts of N.America are already finished their gardening. We are so slow in Ontario.
I love mowing the lawn too but my husband hogs that chore to himself – he’s protective of his lawn mower. 🙂 That’s okay. I still have lots of other chores to keep my mind occupied … 😉

July 19, 2018 - 8:40 pm

Gigi Bobbie, great question. I have a STACK of books I am going through. I will write them down and share the information.
And regarding homeschool … I know, I think?, you asked in the past and I forgot to write up … well, there’s so much in regards to homeschooling, it’s almost overwhelming to write out what we do … it’s very eclectic. I will write up some lists for that, as well. I have most of our work ordered or already purchased.

July 19, 2018 - 8:35 am

Monica Lovely! I can so relate! Our garden is “out” with the exception of a few more batches of peas (our mini horse got into our pea patch twice and my poor peas had to regrow) but now I find my outdoor escape is mowing our yard. My husband even leaves that chore to me and my ten year old son because he knows how much I enjoy mowing grass, seeing the tall grass get sheared from row to row. I can do a lot of thinking and praying while mowing! It’s so refreshing, so much that it’s hard for me to share the chore with my son!

Your garden looks lovely! I look forward to the canning and putting away posts that will hopefully come! I’m already looking forward to next years garden. As I will have a tiny infant, Lord willing, I’m thinking we may do some raised beds!
P.S. I was wondering if I could get your email? Just wanted to ask a quick question!

July 19, 2018 - 8:26 am

Our Home of Many Blessings Oh,how lovely.Great picture of your sweet little one sleeping:) I also rise early and have for many years. I had to train my self to do it but eventually got the hang of it and now can’t even imagine not getting up early.That would probably ruin my day! I love the early quiet time.I am curious,if you don’t mind me asking…After your Bible,do you have a certain set of books that you read and study as well? ..On a different note, I can’t wait for more canning recipes from you!! I would love to know what your using for your school curriculum this year also!! Have a great day and enjoy those lovely mornings…

Wind Chimes & Homemade Egg Noodles

“I saw you toss the kite on high
And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,
Like ladies’ skirts across the grass —
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song…”
The Wind; R.L. Stevenson

 

 

When the breeze blows around this old home, it stirs my soul. The lace curtains dance in the gentle wind and the lovely wind chimes hanging on the back porch tinkle out a little song. It is very peaceful and calming …

I recently decided to hang wind chimes (which I have always loved) on my Peaceful Porch (Have I explained this yet? If not, I guess it deserves a post…) after I was at our neighbour’s house a few weeks ago. He’s a apiarist and has many brightly-coloured bee hives scattered throughout his property. My husband wanted to stop and ask him a question regarding our bees (which all, tragically, died over the winter months).

After nearing his house one Sunday after church, we decided to stop in. The man of the house came out of his well-used barn when we arrived … his long whitish grey hair was frizzled and frazzled and blew in the wind every which way. He ran his rough hand over his unkept hair and greeted our large family with a loud and hearty greeting. He was incredibly friendly and very helpful.

While my children secretly named our new bee friend “Einstein” (respectfully, of course, after we had just studied the life of Albert Einstein in history) and my husband talked bee-talk with our new fuzzy-haired friend, I stood to the side in the shade of some lilac bushes and heard the tinkling, soothing sound of gentle wind chimes. How lovely, I thought! I wondered it he hung them or if another whimsical soul found a home for such sweet little wind chimes in earlier days.

What saddened me was that when I heard the wind chime song,  I thought it was my husband fancy phone with a text message. Yes, indeed, my first reaction to the lovely windchimes was to react and think it was a product of an iphone. Sad, very sad, I must say. I immediately realized we need *real* windchimes in our life so we would not associate the beautiful sound of these little tinkling chimes with a digital device of this century!

So now, there are two wind chimes on the Peaceful Porch. And now, thankfully, I do not think of iphones or any other device when I hear them singing in the summer breeze.

*  * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Back to the kitchen … we love egg noodles. They are so delicious and fabulous in soups or dishes! Last week, I decided to make egg noodles for our dinner as I was making beef stroganoff and realized I did not have any egg noodles in the pantry or Provision Room. It is not hard to make homemade noodles and pasta – just reserve a bit of time and enjoy the steps.

 

Homemade Egg Noodles

2 cups of flour
3 egg yolks
1 egg
2 tablespoons of salt
1/4 cup of water

 

 

 

Measure out your flour into a bowl and make a nice little hole in the middle. This is where your eggs and egg yolk and salt. Start mixing it together with your hands. Yes, it does get messy.

Add your water one tablespoon at a time … make sure you mix well with each addition of water. The dough will feel ready when you can form it into a nice, round ball.

Once you have hit the stage of having your pasta dough form a round ball, dump it out onto a floured surface and give it a bit of kneading. You will want it to be smooth and elastic-like.

 

 

 

 

 

Roll the dough out nice and flat. Make sure your surface is still generously floured. Slice into noodle sized pieces using a floured knife or floured pizza cutter.

 

You may either cook right away or place them on a drying rack until you are ready. I do not own a drying rack so I laid the noodles out onto a cookie sheet to wait until dinner. You don’t want the noodles to be too dry – I only waiting 1/2 hr after making the noodles to cooking time, however I have read that you can wait upwards of two hours before cooking your noodles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooking time is so much faster than store bought noodles. Once your water is boiling, just drop your noodles in and cook for about 3 minutes. Drain and serve your family your lovely homemade egg noodles!

 

 

 

P.S. I did not get a photo of the end product – dinner is very busy around here and it ended up being eaten rather quickly. I suppose that is a good sign of a good recipe, right? Please let me know if you use the recipe and if you like it.

 

July 13, 2018 - 7:46 am

Our Home of Many Blessings Oh yes,I love making noodles!We always make big fabulous noodles when we make homemade chicken and noodles.sooooo yummy!

July 12, 2018 - 7:38 am

Sarah Our local Mennonite grocery store has a fantastic collection of chimes. My daughter always loves visiting the chimes selection. They have a variety of sizes, the largest chimes have such a deep rich tone! We have a little set of chimes on our porch, but since the porch in enclosed we don’t often hear them.

July 12, 2018 - 5:15 am

Gigi Oh, yes, I do understand having a phone for husband to be able to get ahold of you.
I am so glad to hear you canned some sauce! Well done! It truly so helpful in so many situations in the next year of cooking, food prep, etc.

July 11, 2018 - 9:06 am

Monica I just realized I do not have any wind chimes on my porch. Hmm. They are lovely, indeed. Funny about the wind chimes/iPhone. I think you and I have a similar distaste about phones. 🙂 I do have one, per husband’s request but I keep my text messages on silent to where I don’t realize when I get one. I just have set times to check them. I don’t want to have to run to my “chime” every time I get a text. 🙂 I have made egg noodles before, they do no compare to store bought! So delicious. I did want to let you know I have put up (canned) two batches of your tomato sauce recipe and it is going to be delicious I know! The key, I learned, is to cook it for hours. The second batch I started early in the morning and cooked till after lunch and the consistency was perfect. Thanks so much! Can’t wait to hear about the peaceful porch! 🙂

Tiny Wheels in the Home Watch

“When the question is asked, ‘What part have the children in making the home-life?’ some one may answer, ‘The children cannot do anything … when they are young all they can do is to be rocked and petted while they are babies, and then as they grow larger go to school and eat and romp and wear out clothes. They cannot help in any way; they are only burdens.’

But wait a minute.
They are not so useless, after all. They are like the tiny wheels of the watch. They may not look large enough to be of any use, and yet there is not a child in any true home so small as to have no influence.

There is not even a baby that does not unconsciously affect all the home-life by its coming.
Indeed, every baby is an emperor, with crown and sceptre,
and from its throne on the mother’s bosom it rules all the house.

 The father, out at work in the busy world, has a lighter, warmer heart because he is thinking of the baby at home. The mother gets through all her work more easily because her baby is sleeping in its crib or kicking up its heels on the floor beside her. The boys and girls are gentler, more quiet and more thoughtful since Baby came.


No one can say that any child is too small to have a part in making the home-life.”

-Home Making, J.R. Miller 1882

{For those of you who are waiting for your arms to be filled and your homes to blessed with children, my prayers are with you.
I do not post about the joys of babyhood to cause pain,
but to thank the Lord for His blessings and keep my eyes on an eternal perspective.
Thank you for understanding.}

_

July 9, 2018 - 9:08 pm

Our Home of Many Blessings Wonderful! I will be making this tomorrow for my girlies birthday. We just went strawberry picking today at a farm that is closing its doors today:(…They have been running for 56 years and now they are done. Sad but was very glad to meet them and hear their stories!Canned several jars of homemade jelly today and gonna finish the rest off tomorrow…or eat them…There so amazingly sweet! I can’t imagine buying store bought strawberries ever again!

July 9, 2018 - 9:44 am

Gigi Bobbie, congratulations on your move! I will reply to your email. 🙂
Yes, my baby is growing too quickly (sniff, sniff)…

Yes, just pour the contents as you would a concentrate juice mix into water. You can taste and see how much to add, depending on how strong you want it. The jars, once water bathed, can be stored anywhere, but a dark, cool shelf is a great idea. It will not harm it to be out on the counter. I’m glad you liked the recipe. 🙂 I love canning so I will try to share more recipes soon! Do you grow garlic? I am investigating some garlic canned recipes.

July 9, 2018 - 7:58 am

Our Home of Many Blessings Oh my that carriage is heavenly!!Your sweet baby is growing so fast!!(By the way…Wisconsin is where we have located too!I emailed you but I’m sure your busy:)…On a previous post you shared the concentrate….Do I just pour a finished 16 oz. jar in a pitcher than fill it with water?Does it take more than a 16oz jar for a gallon?Can these jars just be stored on a cool shelf? I love when you share canning and homemade goodness! Have a wonderful day!

July 8, 2018 - 6:46 am

Gigi Linda, I love this book. It is so encouraging when encouragement is needed. I would suggest adding it to your home library indeed! Thank you for your kind words. 🙂

July 8, 2018 - 5:25 am

Linda I thought this writing was just glorious. One day I hope to get a copy of that book 🙂 The photos too are simply delightful. What a house full of beautiful wee blessings you have ~ Linda

July 8, 2018 - 5:09 am

Gigi Monica, I will indeed be praying. It is frightening, no doubt. I will pray you feel God’s hand on your body and your baby and that His protection will be over you both. ((hugs))

July 7, 2018 - 11:39 pm

Monica Oh I so enjoy coming to your page and seeing a new post! If you don’t have one up—it’s ok—usually I just visit the archives to find some “old fashioned goodness” ☺️. This is a precious post with such gentle words. It’s been such a long time since I’ve read the book with the above quote that I’m going to see if I can get it from my local library. The baby sure is growing and favoring his older brother! I love the Pram! It’s beautiful! Regarding the last words at the bottom, I would appreciate prayers because the last time we were expecting this far along, I lost the baby at 21 weeks for reasons we still don’t know. So I am having to totally trust the Lord with this pregnancy! We want this little one so badly so I’m praying if the Lord wills, our home will be filled with the joy of another little one! Have a blessed Sunday.

Born in the Wrong Time Period

“You know, it all began when we got rid of our microwave 8 years ago… remember?” I found myself saying, as together, my husband and I stared at the large, wooden structure in front of us.

 

 

 

It was Monday evening. My husband had just come home for work and was now observing our newly re-arranged kitchen. The changes included moving our large white modern fridge to a corner and replacing it with a large, stately antique icebox from the 1883. My steady-husband quietly stood there, wondering, I could tell, if I had gone plum crazy or if he was married to someone who just loves to add work to her plate.

‘Let’s try it out for a week,” I said, smiling hoping he would agree. He agreed and so therefore, the electric fridge was officially unplugged.

 

Yes, removing our microwave may have started the phasing out of appliances in our home.

That was about eight years ago now … I remember feeling so strange unplugging the microwave, putting it into the back of our truck and donating it to a thrift store. Family members said things, like “How are you going to heat up your food now? You better save it just in case you change your mind.”  Well, our mind never changed and the microwave never made its way back into our home. It seemed so strange, so out of the normal. My sister, at the time, did not have a microwave either. I was comforted as she said she just used the frying pan to re-heat things- her children did not seem to mind reheating their lunches that way and it did not seem a bother.

 

Next, we found we did not need the toaster oven, the toaster, even the bread maker was not used as we learned to make bread by hand. Soon, the dish washer was put of out of service as the girls were older and could help with hand washing the dishes. [We do currently have a dishwasher but I use it to store my mason jars in between canning batches, etc. The odd occasion will find out emptying the dishwasher and running it after having a large family over for company – mainly to ensure the machinery does not rust or seize up.]

Slowly over time, our lifestyle changed and our appliances were removed or stored.

 

It was a slow process … a gradual reduction of being plugged in … I haven’t used a hair dryer in quite a few years. Even something as small as a hair dryer was no longer needed. I just wash my hair at night and let it dry naturally.  We started grinding coffee by hand and using our bodum to make coffee so now there was no need for a coffee maker. I eventually stopped using our dryer, even though it was propane and did not cost much money to run. I have always utilized a clothesline, even when I only had one child, but it became more important to use the clothesline permanently as more children were added to the family. Five years ago, my husband unplugged the dryer and we have not used it since.

Then, the kitchen stove changed. We moved from a modern electric black, shiny stove to a beautiful creamy vintage 1930s stove (which I love and still own, in case I ever need to replace our current model) … and a few years later …  to an old fashioned wood burning cookstove. It has been quite the transition – especially since I did not know a stitch about cooking when we were first married. (Reminds me quite fondly, or not so fondly, of how I learned to drive standard – on my one hour one way commute to my newspaper job … no practice, just learn and drive … that was one scary commute …)

Now, with a tiny blessing from my (doubtful) cautious husband, we are trying out an antique icebox for the week to see if it will meet our needs.

Time will tell if I can ditch the fridge along with our other appliances!  I may need longer than a week to find out how to manage a new cooling system for our food.

Today, the girls helped me roll our big white modern fridge out of the way, give the floor behind it a good cleaning, I cleaned out the entire fridge and scrubbed down our antique icebox, which was just purchased off of kijiji last night. I already had frozen blocks of ice in hopes of this new project.

 

We do not store to much in our fridge, as our lifestyle and eating revolves around seasonal eating and home canned foods.
Many items stored in most modern fridges do not need to be there at all. Yes, we still have our chest freezers as I store all our meat that way. I will use the freezers, which are runing anyways, to make ice in the spring and summer months. In the winter, I plan on just freezing the water outside. We shall see. Sometimes I jump into these “projects” and ideas only to find lots of problems and complications. Nothing ever worth doing is easy … that’s how I see it. 🙂

There are three categories to this icebox …

I organized all the dairy in one category right beside (or ontop) of the ice, along with some homemade pie dough. We rarely have much meat in our fridge but if we do, it will also go in this category of the icebox.

To the left, I stored some fruit (watermelon) and some fresh veggies and my yeast.

 

On the bottom of the icebox, I placed a basket of jams, condiments and homemade sauces and pickles. Oh yes, and some tomatoes, even though I know they do not need to be in the fridge.

 

 

The icebox was built in 1883 and is good condition. It could probably use some sanding but we are just going to see how it goes first. I froze a big bucket of water yesterday and placed it in the icebox this morning. I cannot tell the temperature yet as I am waiting on a thermometer to be brought home. When we purchased our large, white fridge after moving into this home, I was thrilled to see an inside digital thermometer. Until then, I did not even realize that a modern  fridge was only kept at 3 degrees! That really  is not that cold! Half the time, I could easily use our outdoors as a fridge seeing as we live in Canada and it is generally colder here more often than it is warm. In the meantime, I only need to copy a 3 degree compartment and I will replicate the temperature of our modern fridge.

 

Shall I keep you updated? I know it probably sounds rather crazy and a bit strange to want to get rid of my fridge, but it has been on my mind for two years. First off, I love an old fashioned home and the modern fridge just stuck out like a sore thumb. Secondly, I love to save money and save hydro! One summer, I tried an experiment of unplugging the fridge during our daytime hydro hours (which are supposed to more costly) and plugging it in at night. My husband did not like this idea as he said it would cost too much to cool the fridge down again when it was plugged in. I did not get a chance to find out it if saved hydro or not.

 

I guess I was just born in the wrong time period.

 

June 30, 2018 - 5:38 am

Gigi My husband is skeptical, too …. so far, it is okay but of course, we are going through a GIANT heatwave (hottest temperatures in years for Ontario) so I am finding I am replacing ice twice a day. I don’t mind. I just check it in the a.m. and in the evening and replace as needed. I am surprised it is holding up so well in this heat!
Do let me know if you convince your husband. Nice to know I’m not the only “off the beaten path” wife. 🙂
p.S. a cookstove is so worth it! Especially, I am sure, in Alaska!

June 30, 2018 - 12:48 am

Rebecca Haha! This is awesome! Definitely keep us up to date! We got rid of our microwave years ago and someday I hope to have a wood cook stove in the kitchen in addition to a propane stove (our current stove is electric and I hate it!). I’ve talked to my husband about having our own icebox but he is skeptical, haha…

June 29, 2018 - 9:14 am

Paula Yes on using the stove. It’s in our cabin in the North Cascades. I have always loved cooking on it. When I light it, it smells like my Grandma’s kitchen. She cooked 3 meals a day on it. Even Thanksgiving meal for all of us. I have a picture in my kitchen of her and all those pans on the stovetop. She lived a simple life and role modeled contentment. Traits I see in you. I love the cooktop and how quickly you can move a pot from boiling to simmer in seconds. So much easier to clean than my current stove. I have always loved baking in the oven. You do have to quarter turn your pans often. I have found it takes less baking time. Like a convection oven. It’s a challenge I enjoy. Your face gets a bit warm once in a while. I had a vintage wood cookstove in my farmhouse that we sold when we retired. So you can see I love them. I have an icebox in my cabin also. It’s a bit tricky in the winter with wood heat. Thank you for your blog.

June 29, 2018 - 5:18 am

Gigi Paula, your cookstove sounds amazing! Do you use it?

June 29, 2018 - 5:15 am

Gigi Diane, nice to hear from you! I will keep you updated…

June 28, 2018 - 10:35 pm

Diane I have been reading your blog for awhile now, and I love it. So refreshing! I would love to hear an update on your new icebox.

June 28, 2018 - 10:54 am

Paula I am a member of the wrong era club too. So happy to meet all of my peoples. I have the kitchen wood stove that my grandma cooked on until she was in her 90’s. So I think we all get to live a long life living in this era.

June 27, 2018 - 7:03 pm

Erin Lynn I think how you do things is absolutely fascinating! Love your blog. Keep us posted!

June 27, 2018 - 5:24 pm

Maike This title just jumped at me. That’s exactly how I feel too. I feel in the wrong time and like an alien in this modern world every single day! That’s why I love reading your stories the most. So yes, please update us on the new cooling system, how it exactly works with all the different temperatures, where the ice bucket goes, and anything else that you explore about this new piece!! I have never heard of it, but it does make of course sense that there must have been a working cooling system even in the 1800s and before. 🙂

June 27, 2018 - 9:14 am

Our Home of Many Blessings I was definitely born in the wrong time also….I love your kitchen.So warm and inviting.There is nothing wrong with the old fashioned way of things…..I love it so!

June 27, 2018 - 8:32 am

Monica Haha, love it! We had one at our local thrift a while back and I fell in love with it. Just for storage or whatever, but it did not stay there long at all. I’m interested to see how this works for you all. I haven’t had a microwave for 15 years and manage fine as well. We rarely even have leftovers anyway to heat up so that part takes care of itself! 🙂 I always use my clothesline and as I drive down the road I notice there is only one other lady from my house all the way into town that I see uses a clothesline! Sadly in the summer months I can’t hang out our clothes as they sour quickly because of the high humidity and heat. Funny, last evening our power went out for about six hours. We had had a small storm but something major happened with the electric. I was managing fine, the windows were up and I had candles lit. I read several books to the children, before dark it gave us a good chance to be outside swimming and mowing grass. I even went to bed with it still off, listening to the crickets chirp through the window. My dear ones didn’t appreciate it as much. I tried to have them pretend we were camping! 🙂 So add me to the “wrong era” club too!

That is a lovely icebox! Yes, keep us updated!

June 26, 2018 - 11:14 pm

Sarah Yes! Please keep us updated, I’m so interested!

100 lbs.

 

 

“The strawberry is the wonder of all the fruits…”
Roger Williams
founder of Providence in 1636

 

 

 

The truck was cleaned and ready to go. The morning chores had been finished and breakfast had been hastily eaten. Two loads of laundry hung fresh and clean on the laundry line, snapping in the wind.

Ringing the bell (which is a standard in our home – I  try to use a bell instead of calling the girls) signaled it was time to leave. Little girls quickly strapped on their shoes and ran out the back screen door, letting it slam shut as they shot out of the house. Their squeals and squabbles filled my ears as they tumbled into the car to find their seats. I carried baby Loyal on my hip and placed my big straw hat on my head.

“Okay, let’s go! We want to get picking before it gets too hot,” I said, as the girls clambered throughout the  big 12 seater van. My eldest strapped the two year old boy into his carseat and we all sang happily as we drove the five minute drive to the local organic strawberry patch. I knew we had to leave early if we were to pick before the baby began to fuss for his morning nap. Plus, it is best to pick berries in the cool of a summer morning, as opposed to working in the dry heat of June.

 

It has been a yearly tradition for the girls & I to go strawberry picking for as long as I can remember. Even as a young girl,  I remember following my enthusiastic mother into the local strawberry fields, dreading the heat, but excited for the taste of June’s juicy berries that were headed into my cardboard basket. In fact, later, my sister and I were employed at the same strawberry farm to pick berries for the owner. As I crouched down in the hot fields, the sun beating down on my braided hair, strawberries staining the seat of my pants, I was always jealous of my older sister’s job at the same farm. She, just two years old, was promoted and now wore a bright x-marked vest that marked her superiority on the farm, she had surpassed the mundane job of just picking berries and was the one that organized where customers were to pick and even helped at the checkout stand, an old wooden shack at the beginning of the field. In any case, the monotonus task of picking hundreds of berries in Ontario summer heat was a good job for this young girl. It is always good to be challenged to have such a task to teach consistency, hard work and a steady pace at your task.

 

Now, with eight children toddling behind me, I had parked our big family van and was now walking into the strawberry fields with all the children following behind like little ducklings. Each girl was given a task of filling two baskets. Of course, we would help the younger ones fill their little baskets as soon as ours were filled. My little son was enamored with the big tractors parked at the edge of the fields- he pointed to them and said his favorite word, “Ta!”, as we walked slowly into the field.

 

Within an hour, we were finished our task and it was time to pack up and head home to hull the berries. I am so thankful that the girls did not complain and everyone seemed to still be somewhat cheerful about the day’s work ahead of us.

After the berries were paid for, we returned home and spread the berries out on the outdoor kitchen table. The girls donned some aprons (even though their dresses were already strawberry smeared) and I put up the third load of laundry on the line. Today was going to be a productive day, indeed.

With the help of listening to Jonathon Park CDs, we hulled berries until noon. Then, the lovely red strawberries were washed and covered and put aside for tomorrow’s jam and preserve making.

What a blessing to have a mighty crew of lovely ladies to help me! So many times I hear that it must be so much work to have eight children. Why, yes, it is work, it is not easy to be pregnant eight times and to have babies that need tending and gentle care year after year … and yet, here I am now, reaping the benefits of older children helping their mother and the blessings of younger children entertaining us while we work. 🙂

 

Children can truly be blessings to their families. I have always heard from a popular parenting speaker that he taught his children chores and to work with the family.

“This is a home, not a hotel,” he would say over and over.

And I agree with that. Work does not have to be dreary either. We often have something to listen to while we work and that helps pass the time. We find with so many helpers, sometimes it will only take an hour or two before the task is completed.

Later, my eldest was encouraged to make a pot of bubbling strawberry jam, which tasted divine.

Lovelyn, 7, helped me make a batch of strawberry lemonade concentrate, which we also canned. It was delicious served with our lunch!

 

While the eldest made jam, I made up some pie dough and placed it in the fridge for a future pie. I believe I shall bake one today, seeing as my husband is home for the day today. I also canned 10 jars of strawberry pie filling for future pies.

 

 

The following day, the strawberry picking scene was repeated as we returned, armed with the same amount of baskets, to pick another 50 lbs of strawberries. In total, we picked approximately 100 lbs of lovely, red, sweet tasting strawberries for the year’s supply. What a blessing! Strawberries may be used in so many recipes – you really can’t go wrong with a freezer and Provision Room full of strawberry preserves.

 

Would you like to share in our recipes? I will post them below.

There are so many lovely ways strawberries. Pictured below is a yummy afternoon treat of a scone with whipped cream and strawberries on top. Just perfect with a cup of tea!

 

 

 

Here are some recipes for your enjoyment:

 

Strawberry Pie Filling {to fill 7 quarts}

                    6 quarts of fresh strawberries                                
4-6 cups of sugar
                                                     2 1/4 cups of Clear Jel or Thermflo                                                                    
                                                                         7 cups of cold water                                                                                                                        1/2 cup of lemon Juice

** Please, feel free to adjust the sugar to your preference. In the case of pie filling, one can simply reduce the sugar and add some back if needed when making the pie. I usually add less than required. In the case of jam making, they say the amount of sugar is required to make the jam set. If you do not mind a runnier jam, then feel free to reduce the sugar, as well.**

                                           
Wash strawberries and drain fruit in a covered bowl or pot. Combine sugar and clear jel or thermflo in a large pot, stirring often. Slowly add the cold water.  Cook on medium high heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Mix quickly to a smooth consistency.  Now it is time to add the lemon juice and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Fold in the beautiful, washed berries immediately and fill quart jars with mixture. Be sure to leave 1 1/2 inch headspace or else your jar will not seal and the mixture will bubble over the jar edge.  Remove air bubbles with a knife by poking it down into the jar and gently moving the mixture around. Refill if necessary. Wipe rims clean with a hot, sterile rag, add hot lids/rings and process in water bath for 30 minutes at a full rolling boil.
Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate {From Simply Canning}
(This recipe will make 7 16oz. pint jars)
6 cups of hulled, washed strawberries
4 cups of lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
4-6 cups of sugar

Puree strawberries with a stick mixer or blender until smooth. Transfer to a large pot. Add lemon juice and sugar to the puree, stirring well. Heat to about 190 degrees F over medium heat, stirring to keep from burning. Try not to boil the mixture. If foamy on top, remove the foam. Ladle the juice into your hot, clean jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims clean with a hot, clean rag and put on your new canning lids. Water bath in full pot of water for 15 minutes at a roiling boil.

 

June 29, 2018 - 5:17 am

Gigi Rebecca, thank you! I have never heard of that pectin. I will check it out.

June 27, 2018 - 12:05 pm

Gigi Absolutely re-using if you can! You can buy old canning jars in the thrift store, too, as you only need new sealing lids each year. So long as the jar is not cracked, you are okay to re-use.We have a huge collection of jars, but it is so worth it. We did have to buy lots of new ones to keep up with the jar demand, but now I only need the seals every year (which you can even find at the dollar store). Any books by Ball are good to use as a reference for canning.

June 27, 2018 - 11:38 am

Kristal Beautifully written Gillian! I’m wondering, what is your advice on colelcting so many mason jars for canning? Would you recommend always purchasing new and then reusing each year? Any recommended books on canning? Thanks! You are always an encouragement. 🙂

June 26, 2018 - 5:31 pm

Gigi Time for you to go picking again, Bethany! 🙂

June 26, 2018 - 5:29 pm

Bethany This makes me so nostalgic! I have such good memories as a kid going with my Mom and sister to a U-Pick just down the road and was amazed how much we could pick even just in an hour! And yes, strawberries are amazing in so many recipes! There is such a sense of satisfaction in picking your own.

June 24, 2018 - 6:21 pm

Allie Hi Gillian, long term reader of your blog but first time commenting. You’ve definitely encouraged me to savor the beginning of summer and take the children out to the strawberry patch! All those recipes sound divine, but the strawberry concentrate recipe sounds especially good! How many cups of water would I eventually mix the concentrate with? Or what do you generally do?

June 24, 2018 - 3:59 am

Rebecca Kurber I wish we had a strawberry farm nearby but alas, none that I know of, and the last two years the grocery stores haven’t had organic strawberries to buy (at least at a reasonable price). Life in Alaska!

I’ve been making a bunch of jellies and jams lately though, and I use Pomona’s Pectin because you can use way less sugar (or even honey or other sweeteners) and still get a set. You can even buy it online in bulk, which I think I will start doing now that I am canning so much more. Just thought I would share in case you haven’t heard of it!

June 23, 2018 - 10:02 pm

Heather Thanks for the info about the farm Gillian 🙂 I might take Hazel out strawberry picking. I love seeing the pictures of your growing babies!

June 23, 2018 - 5:20 pm

Monica I hate I let our strawberry season get away from us without us going to pick any. We have a u-pick farm about 40 mins away. Our strawberries are always ready here first of May. I did plant some strawberry plants this year so I hope that in a few years’ time, we shall have our own harvest! Right now for us, tomatoes are in season. I’m getting a basket full daily. This morning I went to my in-laws and picked bell peppers and jalapeños in hopes of canning some salsa later on!

Lovely pictures of your strawberry pickers! From having six children, I could feel your relief that things went so smoothly. It always seems I hold my breath when we have to go somewhere together and exhale once we get home with the job accomplished! PS. Would love to hear an update on the mini horse…

June 23, 2018 - 9:52 am

Paula Lovely. Picking strawberry days with my family in the 1960’s is in my memory bank. Your story brings it all back in a beautiful way for me. The way the field smells, the heat, the taste of the perfect berry, seeing which sibling can pick the most, red stained hands. All of that is still here in my brain. Thank you. It’s more than just picking berries that you are giving your children….

June 23, 2018 - 5:48 am

Gigi So lovely to hear from you. I think of you often! 🙂 You are very special to me!
I posted a link to the farm – Maple Grove Farm just off Airport Road!

June 22, 2018 - 11:25 pm

Heather Hi Gillian! Which farm do you get your strawberries from?