Search This Blog

Sunday, August 9, 2015


Hello dear friends!  Can you believe we are already one week into August?  Hope this week has been a cooler one for you.  We finally are having some nice temperatures.  If you close your eyes and face north, you can almost imagine it is autumn.


This time of year is a busy one at Sweet Briar Cottage.  This week I canned 13 pints of beans, 20 quarter-pints of jalapenos,  7 half-pints of maple-vanilla-peach jam and 8 quarts of peaches.

There's nothing like jars of peaches in the pantry to say "home".  By the way, I saw a jar of  Amish canned peaches in the store the other day - $6!  I'd have to be pretty desperate for a jar of peaches  to pay that price!  Altogether, my peaches cost about $1.50 a quart, and they are all-organic and  non-gmo.  That's why it's good to learn to can.

We also started a crock of sauerkraut.  The directions for making it are here.  We didn't grow our own cabbage because we can buy a ten pound head for $1.40 at a local vegetable stand.  Two heads are all the cabbage we need and it costs about the same as a packet of seeds.  Takes up less space in the garden also.  Which reminds me, someone asked why I don't raise chickens.  Our village  has an ordinance against it, but it just isn't cost effective for us.  By the time you buy the feed and house a small flock, and they don't lay too much during our harsh winters, those eggs are getting expensive.  It helps that I can buy free-range  ones just outside of the village limits for $2 a dozen.  We use less than a dozen a month.  You always have to weigh the benefits when being thrifty. Of course, chickens do give the place atmosphere, so if they ever change the ordinance, neighbor Tom has offered to split the costs with us.


In the garden, we are harvesting our first tomatoes!   If you have ever tasted an heirloom variety picked fresh from the garden, still warm from the sun, you will understand why the tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable.  So wonderful!   So sweet! Every year I fret over them.  Will they ripen before the first frost?   This has been such a strange year; we are already digging potatoes, but the corn is still puny and I'm not sure  the pumpkins will ripen this year before a heavy frost.  I don't ever remember things growing so tall, either.  The hollyhocks have to be at least ten feet tall, and the sunflowers too.  The lilies come up to my shoulders and we have to beat back the black-eyed Susans.  On the other hand the corn is floundering and the Concord grapes are just hard little green pebbles.  Gardening!   It's always feast or famine, that's why it's so important to preserve what you can; you never know when you'll get more!


 We save most of the seeds from our garden, as many are rare heirloom varieties.  It helps keep the costs of gardening down.  This week we are collecting the seeds from our tomatoes.  Each year we select the earliest, most perfect, sweetest,  meatiest ones; traits we are trying to breed into them   The textbook way to save tomato seeds is to cut open the tomato, scoop out the seeds, place in a jar of water, stirring a couple times a day, let the pulp ferment at room temperature for a couple day, the seeds drop to the bottom, pour off the pulp, repeat this procedure until the seeds are clean, spread the seeds on a paper towel to dry.  However, I've found it is easier to put the seeds in a fine mesh sieve and wash the pulp off under running cold water, then just plop the seeds onto a porcelain plate to dry, scrape them off the plate when they are dry and store.

Our dear friend, Mary, gave us a bunch of ferns from her garden.
Which we planted on the north side of our shed.  An instant garden!   Georgie likes to pretend he is an ancient canine, living in the wild among them.
Silly dog!  But I do understand, every time I can, sew or light an oil lamp; I feel an ancient pull connecting me to my ancestors.  It gives me peace.  One of the best things you can do for your soul, is to turn off all the technology and reconnect to the earth and the natural rhythms of life.  There's scientific proof that WiFi and electrical lines interfere with a good nights sleep and others that having your bare feet touch the bare earth is beneficial to your health.  Who knows?  Maybe we all need to return to our primeval  roots.

"Walking, I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still they say. Watch and listen.  You are the result of the love of thousands."
~ Linda Hogan, Native American Writer~


One old-fashioned thing we are doing this week, is cleaning  all our room-sized rugs.  Just like the old washerwomen  of days past, we fill tubs (modern-day storage bins work also) with soapy water, throw in the rugs and stomp on them with our feet, like we are making wine.  In another tub, we rinse them.  Then we lay them over clothes lines, bushes and this make-do (two sawhorses and the garden table) for our very heavy braided wool rug.

A few days in the hot sun, and they are dry.  You'd burn out the motor of your washing machine with these old rugs , they are so heavy, and for what it costs to dry clean them, you might as well throw them out and begin anew.  Make sure you use cold water so the dyes do not bleed.  You have to make hay while the sun shines!  So much to do in summer.


One thing we don't do during the summer, is to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  One of our favorite summertime meals is  Panzanella,  or Italian tomato and bread salad.  Most of the ingredients can be found right in the garden, so it's thrifty too.  And it's vegan!


1/2 C. olive oil
two cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
1 loaf of a hard crusty bread (like French) cut into cubes
5 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. black pepper
4 lbs. ripe tomatoes, cut into 1" cubes
2 C. chopped bell peppers
1 small red onion
1 C. basil leaves, torn into pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk together 3 tbsp. olive oil, 1 clove garlic, salt, paprika, and red pepper.  Toss bread cubes in mixture.
Spread cubes evenly on a cookie sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until cubes are crisp.  Let cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, remaining 5 tbsp. olive oil, remaining clove of garlic and black pepper.
Add remaining ingredients.  Add bread cubes.  Toss to coat. Serve immediately.

BTW, check the reduced-for quick-sale  shelf of your grocer's bakery for good, cheap bread for this salad.  Since you are toasting it, it doesn't need to be fresh.

Pure bliss!

Most of our meals this week have consisted of freshly dug potatoes, (either roasted or boiled and served with fresh dill and a dab of butter) just picked tomatoes, green beans from the garden and some berries for dessert.  Life is good!


The recent storm has gifted us with some treasures.  There were lots of branches to be gathered for firewood and smaller ones that I am collecting for a Colonial-style stick fence for our garden,  If a person put some effort into it, I'm sure they could gather enough wood to see them through several weeks of heating the house by woodstove.

Another windfall were these plums.
A branch must have broken off the neighbor's tree during the storm and they didn't bother to pick the fruit off the branch before hauling it to the street.  All in all, there were about three pounds of fruit, free for the picking.  Not a blemish on them!  Should make several jars of plum butter. 


I've been seeing a lot of these knitted ruched scarves on Pinterest lately (don't you just love Pinterest?) and I wanted to knit one up.  I found the pattern  in this knitting book  on loan from the library. I used an inexpensive Lion Brand wool in mustard and the pattern really knitted up quickly.  Hint:  I really dislike casting on large amount of stitches (this pattern was over 300) I count and recount but the numbers always come out different each time.  I found that if I place a marker every 50 stitches, it is easier to count the cast-ons. 
"To me a lady is not frilly, flouncy, flippant, frivolous, or fluff-brained, but she is gentle, she is gracious, she is godly, and she is giving.  You and I have the gift of femininity ....the more womanly we are, the more manly men will be and the more God is glorified.  Be women, be only women, be real women in obedience to God."
~Elisabeth Elliot~

My son and daughter-in-law brought the grandbabies for a visit.  That's a picture of son Erik and grandson Felix above, eating ice cream at our favorite parlor, a Victorian general store.  We also spent some time at the beach.  A fun activity for grandparents to play with the grandchildren is buried treasure.  Bring a couple handfuls of change  along.  Encourage the grandkids to look for buried treasure by digging in the sand.  Every once in a while, distract them from the digging and throw some of the change in the hole.  The little ones get quite a kick out of it.  We used to do this with granddaughter Tatianna, but now she is too big to fall for the trick.  Only works for the little ones.  Enjoy them while you can, they grow up so quickly!


Canned peaches, jam, jalapenos and beans.

Saved tomato, hollyhock, spinach, dill and mustard green seeds.

Collected windfall branches and plums.

Harvested tomatoes, summer squash, peppers, beans and herbs from the garden.

Washed our area rugs rather than dry-cleaning them.

Knitted a scarf from a free pattern.

Got more free compost from the village.


  1. Your bounty looks and sounds wonderful. You will enjoy the rewards of summer long into winter.

    Have a great week dear Jane and thank you for your encouragement, love and prayers.


    1. And thank you for yours sweet Rainey! Hope you get back to your regular routine soon. Stay cool and don't overdo!


  2. Love the quote by Elizabeth Elliot, and I think it's absolutely true. The scarf is gorgeous! I may see if my library has the book as I often get them there for projects, too.
    I'm impressed by all the canning. We love home-canned peaches, and plum jam. Droolin' now.
    What a nifty idea the buried treasure is.
    Have a great week!

  3. I'm back to ask if the ferns are the fiddlehead type that can be eaten in spring? Pretty as they are I have a mind to forage and couldn't help but wonder. If you're not sure check out this video:

  4. Thanks! I'll check that out. I love the idea of forging also. Mary gets her plants from many sources so you never know.

    That quote by Elisabeth Elliot is one of my favorites. Always a good reminder, especially when the summer heat starts to make me crabby, Ha!

    If you look closely at the "look inside" feature on the book's Amazon site, you will discover that the pattern for the scarf is given, if you can't get the book from the library. It really knitted up quickly, pretty simple pattern. I'm thinking about knitting one in plum.

    Love canned peaches, also, the old-fashioned way in heavy syrup. They make a nice dessert. We're peach crazy this year for some reason.

    You have a lovely week also!


  5. The month is flying by. So much happening over here as usual Jane. I love to come and peep into your world. The maple peach jam sounds out of this world. I would love to see your garden it has so much bounty. Our little vegetable and fruit garden is new and so it will be a while before there's enough to bottle or jam, except for the old sour egg plum tree that hopefully I'll be able to use for chutney or jam. Someone has promise Ahmad a bin full of blackberries and so he plans to make ups some batches of wine.Like you he will probably give most of it away.

    It's good that you had time with your son and grandson. He is so cute and what a fun game you play.

    May the remainder of the week be just as thrifty and bountiful for you.

    1. Hi Debby! I'm rather ashamed of my garden at the moment. Always striving for the perfectly neat and orderly one like a Beatrix Potter illustration, but never attain that goal. Right now all the tomatoes are running wild, having broken their stakes, the pumpkins have grown into the iris bed and the hollyhocks are all tilting to the right after the last big wind storm. Not my ideal at all.

      Enjoy your blackberries! We used to have so many but the last couple of years the winters have really wreaked havoc with the canes. Hope you plan to keep some of the blackberry wine for yourself, it's such a pretty wine. We'll probably make up a batch of crabapple soon. It's pretty popular among friends.

      I don't have to wish you a lovely weekend, I know you will have one!


  6. Beautiful scarf! Thanks for the tip on washing rugs. I have one braided wool rug that we stomp on in the snow to clean each winter. Now with your tip, I don't have to wait for enough snowfall in so. Missouri. ;) Off to pick up peaches for canning.


    1. Thanks Leslie! That's a very clever idea for cleaning rugs. I'll have to give it a try.

      Have a lovely time picking peaches. Can't wait until our trees are big enough to really produce. Hope it will be cool enough for canning!


  7. I've been wanting to try panzanella--didn't realize the bread cubes needed to be toasted.
    I dry tomato seeds the same way you do--can't imagine making a fermented mess in a jar to clean the seeds.
    Canning and freezing last year was a nearly overwhelming chore, but glad we have the extra stored in the cellar as this year's garden has been drowned in the non-stop rain of July.

    1. So sorry to hear about your garden, but I do understand. I'm glad that I canned lots of blackberry and grape juice the year they were so bountiful, because the past two years the winter winds have really destroyed the vines. They are coming back, but I'm thinking this year maybe I need to wrap them in burlap or something to protect them.

      You probably don't have a lot of time to can this year anyhow, so maybe it's a blessing.

      You have to toast the bread to keep it from becoming too soggy and serve it immediately. I had a picture of it looking really pretty, but then Ran tossed it and made it look kind of sad. Ha! It's not the prettiest of salads, but boy is it ever good!

      Have a lovely week!


  8. I love the picture of your dog in the ferns, so cute! Ferns are one of my favorite plants, we have sword ferns that grow naturally around here, as well as a bunch of other varieties, and I think they are all pretty. I love the idea of bring change with to the beach to hide for the little ones to uncover, what a fun idea! I look forward to being a grandparent one day, luckily I have young nieces and nephews to enjoy visiting with. :)

  9. That buried treasure game made me smile. I need to remember that for the day I have grandkids (my girls are 12 and 14 so that's a ways off!)
    Your scarf came out beautiful!

    1. Thanks Dana! The look of astonishment on the little ones faces when they "discover" the pirate's booty is priceless. Is fun to suspend our beliefs for a little while and imagine there really are such things as buried treasure. Life is too short to take it seriously all the time! Off to can carrots! Hope you are having a fun week!