How To Make Crab-Apple Jelly Err…Sauce

      Muddy’s property has some wonderful crab apples.

 

So this year I decided it would be fun to make some wonderful crab apple jelly sauce for Christmas presents.

Below are step by step instructions for crab apple jelly sauce!

Step one: Pick the apples and put them in a pot. Contrary to popular opinion these suckers don’t hop off the tree into a basket. If you wait for them to fall they get really nasty!

 

Step two:  Put the pot on a stove and cook them to mush.

 

Don’t forget to stir. Burnt mush could ruin the flavor of your jelly sauce.

Step three: Strain the mush!

 

 

Jelly sauce is great with little chunks of apple in it but leaves and stems sort of ruin the experience.

 

Step five: Totally disregard the instructions on the pectin box and add all the sugar (9 cups to 7 cups of apple mush) before you add the pectin. Bring to a rolling boil.

Step six: Add your pectin and boil for one more minute making the pectin totally ineffective.

Step seven: Ladle  the mush into jars. Close the tops and put in your hot water bath for 10 minutes.

AND TADAHHHH! YOU HAVE PERFECT APPLE JELLY SAUCE! 🙂

Fallready?

      Wow! Did that summer blow by or what? It seems like just yesterday I was laying down the raised beds in the pseudo-Elizabethan garden and trimming the rose bushes out of the apple tree. Could it possibly be two months since I went to Maine and

lamented that I couldn’t stay for Moxie Day?

     I’m not ready for fall! Autumn cannot  be here! Yet all the signs point to it.

    Tina and I dropped the girls off to college last week. Joe starts his classes at Valley Forge today. So the autumn hush has returned

     to the world. This tell-tale rhythm, of things slowing down as the kids are once again occupied with their adult lives, smacks of the changing season. 

     The summer flowers fade. The bees grow quiet as the evenings turn cool. The golden rod  explodes its sniffly pollen into the chilly breezes that have replaced the summer wind. Mom and Uncle Tom sound like trumpet swans as the evenings tickle their noses and throats with yellow dust that blows in waves across the town. In every roadside crack and crevice autumn flowers poke their noses and heads forth to let us know that the time of dying is here again.

    I know fall is here because that sense of nostalgic hope is back too. It comes as things wilt and pass away, that acknowledgement that this is how it’s supposed to be…the constant ebbing and flowing tide of life. The season makes me look back with longing for what was and forward to what will lie ahead when winter’s grip lays dormant the land I have only just begun to work.

    I am not ready for the season change, but I know it’s time has come. I am laying up the winter sauce and blanching out the beans and squash. The smell of boiling butternut, oregano, basil, garlic, and stewing tomatoes fills every nook and crevice in our kitchen.

     A week ago I was not even aware of any of these things. I may have passed them all by and never once thought of them as the signs of summer’s end. I probably could have forgotten that school, golden rod, or stewing tomatoes meant the beginning of fall. It’s been nice enough that I could have convinced myself that summer had no end… or at the very least it was not near. But here in New England there is one sign none of us can ignore; As certain as the robin means spring or snow fly signals winter, in New England it is the leaves that tell us the time has come. It’s why we call it FALL.

The Garden Lush

     I am a teetotaler. I have never been drunk in my life. Dad did make me go into a bar the week I got engaged because he thought I needed the experience at least once before I tied the knot. I had a Coke. 

     Truthfully, I never saw the point of sitting on a stool pouring my sorrows into a glass. If I were the drinking kind that’s what I’d be doing. I’m just that addictive sort, you know. It’s good I found Jesus before I had the chance to try the other side.

    While I may never feel the need to toss one back, I do have to admit I am a garden lush. That is to say, I may not drink my sorrows away but when I am out of sorts there is nothing like ripping out a few kudzu vines or digging root holes to calm myself down. In fact for those of you who read my last post, I have to say it’s often the first step to getting out of my pajamas.

     Sometimes just the scent of the garden can take away the heebie-jeebies of life. Sitting down and drinking in the fragrance draws me closer to the Creator and the peace He has left with me.

     Then, too, there is the satisfaction of knowing you have coaxed beauty out of  the earth. I think something in man was made for that. When Adam was created his role was to tend the garden and to walk with God in its shade. 

    I do not know if Adam had stressors or not. But I am willing to bet that if he did, he did not turn to the fruit of the vine to send them packing away. I’m quite sure the sound of God’s voice above the sweet rushing waters was enough to calm even his greatest agitation.  Maybe what we need today is not more “watering holes” or pharmacies. Maybe what we need to set us right is more gardens where we can pray!

Where do you take your stress? What do you do to find relief?

The Beauty We Can Keep

As I stretched to life this morning against the thick green comforter on my bed, the sound of a distant thunder echoed through the rain washed air filtering in past the bedroom screens.

    The morning mist carried the jasmine scent from the black locust tree to fill my room once again. I woke up the dogs and got them ready for their morning jaunt.

    The rain had let up as I gave the dogs their run through the wet green. I caught the aroma of the flowering chives beaten in with the fragrance of lilac finishing its walk through the New England spring. The wild Irish rose had bloomed in the sudden thunder-heat of last night and the Elizabethan garden was awash with its spice.

    The baby robins twittered in their nest under the eaves as the bullfrog sang from its home in the vernal brook behind the house.

     As I wandered the yard in the rising sun I found myself desiring to distill the beauty of the moment into something less fleeting something that would last for an eternity. I wanted to freeze the frame and stand in its peace and apparent perfection forever.

     Then God put me in mind of a conversation I had several years ago with a young man who had joined himself to our church. He was a young spitfire preacher who loved Jesus but thought of the Savior in the context of a bizarre mixture of Pentecostalism and Liberation Theology.

     I can still recall sitting at lunch with him in that little diner. He was almost weeping over his cup of coffee as he zealously asked “What can we do to turn this thing around Pastor J? What can we do to stop God’s judgment on the world? We can’t lose all this beauty! What do we have to do to save our planet from the wrath of God?”

     A little shocked I replied “We can’t save the planet. The Bible says it is going to burn. The only thing we can rescue out of the world is souls.”

     This morning as I walked through my gardens I thought about those words.  A day is coming when the scent of lilac and locust, chive and wild irish rose will be burned away by the fury of our God. In that day my earthly garden will stand no more. I cannot keep its beauty no matter how much I desire too. But there is a beauty I can keep. It is the beauty of souls saved for eternity.

        It is for this reason: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to [them that are] bound;  To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. ”  (Isaiah 61:1-3 KJV)

     Those moments of “perfection” we experience in life, like the moment I had in my garden, are but quickly fading reflections, echoes of the heavenly life we truly long for. They are exquisite and dangerous if received in the flesh.  Carnal humans get lost in those moments of earthly beauty and turn their attention to seeking the echo rather than the singer, the reflection rather than the source. Sadly echoes quickly fade and reflections do not remain when once the mirror breaks (as life is wont to cause). Disneyland will never satisfy the cravings of the soul for adventure. Hollywood can never satisfy our desire to be loved even with its greatest romance and I cannot keep the passing beauty of this morning’s gardens.

     But there is a beauty we can keep if we will turn our attentions away from this world and focus ourselves on the Lord’s garden of souls. If I recognize that what I truly long for when I walk my gardens is the home I have in eternity and to be able to share it with the rest of the world, then my hunger for beauty is taken from the world and placed in the hands of the Savior where it belongs. He then can rightly position it so that, with Him, I focus on gardening for souls. My life becomes about scattering and cultivating the seed of the Word in the hearts of my fellow-men.

     Then I can enjoy the beauty of the Earth. For it is in the context of the beauty of the Kingdom of God I see it all!

May your focus be eternity and your joy in life be the hope of Heaven for yourself and all your loved ones!

Embrace Your Inner Moss Pt. 2

     Last week we started this discussion about gardening. The question I raised was:How hard should we work to change the  landscape around us to fit into the mold of what current opinion says is beautiful?

     I am in the minority I think. I really like the moss most other lawners and gardeners work so hard to get rid of.  I even think that in certain respects crab grass is kind of cool. Now I work hard at my gardens. I mow. I prune. I move things around. But I really do try to think out of the box when it comes to subduing the world around me.      

     You may remember how originally I planned to get rid of all this stuff: It looked really gangly and gross when I moved in. I fought with it and took up a whole day in March trying to make it leave our lawn. I am really glad it was stubborn enough to stick it out until spring. Had I succeeded I never would have seen the spring landscape I now enjoy so much from my coffee table under the shade trees. Come on admit it it’s quite a picture!

        I’ll admit I like the wild look. There’s something intrinsically godly about it. I’ll also admit I am too lazy or too busy to fight with the lawn to make it line up in straight rows. I don’t know but I’ve never met a garden that wanted to grow square. The world is round and everything I have ever planted seems to grow in a circle or a curve. It’s we humans that insist everything be stuck in a box!

     Have you ever noticed that the more you insist on boxing things in, the more you insist on everything coming out exactly as you planned, the less it does so?  Case in point: I bought dirt for my garden boxes. I even asked the “expert” at the counter how much I needed. He told me. I bought the amount he recommended. He lied!

     I filled my boxes and had enough dirt left to fill another garden. Now I was wrankled. A part of me wanted to call the guy tell him to come get his dirt and give me a refund. Another part told me I should move the dirt across the lawn and cover the grass clippings with it. The achy broken part of me won. The part that says “Embrace your inner moss” took over and I built this

     Muddy says it looks weird. Most of our neighbors are probably wondering what the heck I am building. But at the moment I was sick of fighting with the dirt so I decided to embrace what I had and make the best of it.

      Those of you who read my post regularly know by now that I am not really talking about moss or dirt or gardens at all. I’m talking about an attitude.

      Life often hands us what looks like junk…trash…or moss. The beautiful thing about life is we get to decide what to do with the junk/trash/moss we are handed. I’m not saying we should always keep it. But sometimes I think we have to find a way of living with our moss. We have to find a way of making our “moss” into a blessing. What can we pull out of it? What can we turn it into that will benefit?

     As I close I just want to remind you that sometimes those things we think our greatest bane can become our greatest blessings if we only choose to embrace them for what they can bring.

“what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise” (Laura Story, Blessings)

Embrace Your Inner Moss Pt. 1

      My friend and I have been having a debate about lawn care. The debate stems from our differing opinions about gardening…and moss.

     He hates moss. He blames moss for the demise of his lawn. He believes killing his moss will bring his grass back. HE BELIEVES IN CAPITAL PUNISHMENT FOR MOSS!!!!

     I on the other hand  am a softer and gentler kind of gardener. I love moss. Moss doesn’t kill; It comes to comfort you after your beloved grass can no longer be with you. I can come up with at least four reasons moss should be let to live:

1. It comes in many beautiful shades and adds contrast to what is otherwise just boring lawn. I know I am in the minority here but I say if something has the gumption to survive a lawn mower it has earned the right to bloom where its planted….And while moss will survive the mower it also doesn’t need it: MORE MOSS=LESS MOWING!

2. Moss is squishy and fun to walk on. Come on can you honestly tell me you wouldn’t rather walk barefoot through a field of moss?

3. You can burn moss! the Irish burned peat instead of wood. I wouldn’t recommend throwing it in your oil burning furnace. But hey! In a pinch pitch a tent and start a peat fire!

4. Surviviorman says that if you’re thirsty moss stores water! It can be rung out and because it is a natural filter you can drink the water without fear of falling down dead from botulism.

     Yep lots of reasons to keep your moss. Maybe I am just lazy but I think we work too hard to alter our landscape to make it look like “Better Homes and Gardens”. Who died and made them Mother Nature anyway!

     I am all for pruning, thinning, mowing, and weeding. But sometimes I think we have just got to relax and let nature take its course….Go with the flow…Work with what we’ve got.

     I have a back lawn that is mostly moss and dandelions. To be fair there is grass too but it doesn’t rule the roost. The grass grows on the moss!

I don’t know but I think it looks O.K.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

CAST YOUR VOTE FOR MOSS OR GRASS.

MORE ON THIS NEXT WEEK!

Which I Gather In a Song

The Apology

Think me not unkind and rude,
That I walk alone in grove and glen;
I go to the god of the wood
To fetch his word to men.

Tax not my sloth that I
Fold my arms beside the brook;
Each cloud that floated in the sky
Writes a letter in my book.

Chide me not, laborious band,
For the idle flowers I brought;
Every aster in my hand
Goes home loaded with a thought.

There was never mystery,
But ’tis figured in the flowers,
Was never secret history,
But birds tell it in the bowers.

One harvest from thy field
Homeward brought the oxen strong;
A second crop thine acres yield,
Which I gather in a song.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

      I am learning that my peace in the storm of life is determined in large part by the voice I choose to listen too.

     In this storm God has been singing a sweet song in my ear almost continually. He sings against the darkness of my soul. He takes my breath away with beauty that reminds me that all of life is not dark.

He has made my feet to tread in pleasant places.  But I must step out my front door to hear His song. He sings in the key of green, and red, and pink. His voice smells like roses and lilacs.

I hear Him singing from the high heavens and even from the dark dirt of the forest floor. His voice emanates from the grasses and swells from the branches of the trees.

     So many have wondered how I can hold myself at peace in the storm. It’s because most times I don’t hear the rain. I hear Him and He tells me it will be all right.

He tells me like this

And like this:

And this:

     When I hear the beauty of his song with my eyes, the dark voices that ravage my mind slip for at least a season into the abyss which spawned them.

How do you hear the song of God?

The Pseudo- Elizabethan

So dear reader, you know I have been working hard at putting in my new gardens. Muddy (that’s mom) has a beautiful side lot which for the most part is uncultivated.

I started moving the plants from my old house over to hers several weeks ago. So far I have moved strawberries, blueberries, plums, grapes, raspberries, lilys, iris, hosta, lady’s mantle, lilac, and a plethora of herbs.

    I also moved three raised beds a few pillars and two trellis’. With these I have set in place a small pseudo-elizabethan garden. I say pseudo because I don’t have a sun-dial or a fountain and Lord knows I am absolutely refusing to put in more hedges. Good grief can you even imagine?! I am not even managing the hedges already on the property! Instead using the  raised boxes I have made a great enclosure. Not terribly traditional but an acceptable accommodation for me.

   Vegetables will go in the flanking boxes. Herbs are at the back. So far I have planted oregano, fennel, Echinacea, lemon balm, sorrel, and mint (in its own box of course). In the center I have a small box of strawberries and a dwarf cherry tree to keep with the tradition of having fruit at the center.

    The pillars and trellis at the back support grape vines and the trellis at the front supports a honeysuckle on one side and a rose on the other.

    I cannot even tell you how much satisfaction I have in getting this far in my garden plans! And… I HAVE LOST FIFTEEN POUNDS IN THE LAST THREE MONTHS!!!!

How are your garden plans coming?

Passion: The Papa Who Prunes and Purifies

Remember this mess? This was the tangled disaster that had wrapped itself around our flowering crab apple. What you see is chopped up pieces of four rose bushes that had stopped flowering and had started dying because they were choking each other. Our apple tree was the innocent victim stuck in the middle.

      This bit of garden work sets me in mind of John 15. “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. ” John 15:1-3 NLT

      In my circle we talk a lot about God’s pruning process and how necessary it is and how good it is and blah… blah… blah.

      Like most things in the Christian life as long as we can talk about pruning and keep it in the realm of the theoretical we are fine. Let it get into the realm of the practical though and MAN  we start whining and screaming like untuned Harley Davidsons.

     Pruning stinks for the branch that is being cut. I can also tell you it is no picnic for the gardener! Had I been left with a choice I would have let the vines grow every which way to their heart’s content. I like the wild look. But I had no choice. The vines were killing themselves and they were killing other things in the process. My option was to let death spread or cut the death out and hope for new growth.

    Our Father God is the same with us. He is not terribly concerned with how things look. But when once a branch in his garden starts killing itself or other branches, He sets to pruning and purifying.

     My roses hated the pruning and they let me know. They came at me with thorns a-blazing. I was reminded about how I act in the  pruning and purifying process . God starts to press me and I start sputtering, complaining, even arguing with Him.

     How much time have I wasted refusing to submit to God in His pruning process. How much fruit have I forsaken just because I argued with Him and dug my thorns in to keep from changing?

     He is the Papa who prunes and purifies. However painful the process is, I need it. You need it. Let’s agree together today to let God cut back the death in us and bring new life as he said through the message and our obedience to it!

What things has the gospel message pruned or changed in your life?

Burning Days

 

You will of course remember the brush pile I had gathered from my blackberry hedge and apple tree.

Well burning day has come at last! I should say burning DAYS because nothing in my life moves as quickly as I would like it too.

While a part of me would have liked to light the entire patch all at once, this vision kept me in the “play it safe zone”. So little by little mom and I chopped up the thorny tangled mess and fed it into our planned and well controlled campfire.

I know, I know it’s not as awesome and I won’t earn any studly awards for being a manly firebug. But at least I didn’t burn down the forest, bother the neighbors with throat choking smoke and I still managed to get it all done!

All that’s left of those wild thorn vines is this patch of blackened grass!

I think it’s time to plant some new roses!

How is your garden growing?