Sunday, June 21, 2009

Summer ritual

Today kicks off the official beginning of Jam Making, a very much enjoyed (and tasty) summer ritual. The various pastures around our place boast several Mulberry trees which we attempt to harvest ahead of the birds and raccoons. The children's summer ritual involves eating enough Mulberries to give them diarrhea ;-) Actually, I'm glad to have them do this, it works as a sort of early summer cleanse.

I have never really been interested in making jam from them though because you can't easily remove the stems but we decided to try it anyway. The results were very pleasing!

When I first began making jam I made loads of freezer jam, a super tasty method that is probably the most popular right now with home canners. I did make one batch of strawberry freezer jam for my folks, my Mom likes it on ice cream. ;-) But the majority of our jam this year will be the good, old fashioned cooked version. Also, I really want to get away from store bought pectin because it costs money and has ingredients that I don't like in it, so I made our jam without added pectin. This results in a different "set" than what I'm used to, but I wonder if that's because the artificial, mass produced product seems "normal" whereas the real deal seems "off" to us? I've found that to be true in so many cases, for instance, what does corn really taste like? Likely you've never had anything but the super sweet, hybridized candy thing that we call corn. It's such a shame how much we've lost. The biggest down side to cooked jam is the loss in yield, we ended up with about half of what we would have had by doing freezer jam (and I can just hear Angie now saying that she's not going to all that trouble to only get half, lol). I also added very, very little sugar, this gives a tarter taste but is more in keeping with our philosophies about sugar consumption. We all loved it when we did the taste test though, so apparently no one misses the sugar.

The other new thing I did this year is to replace the traditional bands and lids with Gulf Wax. I really debated this one because paraffin is a petroleum by-product which I don't like but lids are a constant expense and I don't like that either. Just so you know, the USDA does not recommend using paraffin wax to seal anything because of mold contamination. But I think the USDA is suspect anyway, probably representatives from Ball sit on its advisory board...... but I digress. The nice thing about the wax is that it's endlessly reusable! I really like that, plus it looks quaint and old fashioned which is a nice bonus. Aesthetics are important, right? The USDA representative did say that the only real danger would be mold, which is easily seen upon opening the jar, so it's not like you'd be playing around with botulism or something that can't be seen or tasted. I hope that I will like it as much as I want to like it!
I have found that I can't make too much jam in the evening because it makes my feet swell up, so I try to be finished before noon. I can then go and enjoy the breeze on the porch which is where I've also been doing my sewing lately. I'll have Mr. G or Aleks carry my "sewing table", which is actually my Great Aunt Elizabeth's canning table, out to the porch and I can sew with a comfortable breeze blowing. I like to be there and watch the children play and depending on where Tansy is I can watch her graze. It is a very peaceful feeling. ;-) All of my "work" (should I even call it that?) brings me such a sense of satisfaction. The cooking, canning, dehydrating, sewing, hanging laundry, mending....... none of it is a chore. I'm so thankful that I don't have to leave home to earn money. I really sympathize with those who are compelled to do so!

Monday, June 15, 2009

My life lately

I am now finished with the last of Abigail's dresses. This is the pink/red print that I bought recently from Zinck's. I wanted to do something a little different so I pleated the bodice and added 100% cotton ribbon on the stitch line. The skirt is pleated as well to keep the theme going. We tried to do sausage curls but that didn't work out very well, they were just too limp. ;-)
This is a better shot of the sleeve detail. I pleated the sleeves just like the skirt and added the same trim.
This is a close up of the pleated bodice. I really like the look and I think I'll make this style again!
The boys also got new homespun shirts which I have yet to put the buttons or buttonholes on. They prefer their homemade shirts to storebought as does Mr. G, they are more comfortable I guess!

I've also gone on a button buying binge as of late. I use china buttons on dresses and pinafores and metal on shirts with the very occasional mother-of-pearl thrown in when I don't have anything better. I buy mostly from E-Bay but that can be hit or miss especially with china calicoes as they tend to get snatched up by collectors. I purchased these below along with 118 plain white china buttons not pictured. I also have about 20-30 ringers coming by the end of this week. I'm pretty happy with my purchases especially in light of how expensive new buttons are, I had to buy new metal buttons for the shirts and they were $.66 a piece. That's more per button than the antique ones which are better quality too.

This is Katie and her new green dress. It's the first one that she has sewn entirely by herself. I'm very proud of her and the job she did!

She and I also hand washed the boys' wool winter coats. Dirty! Ugh, I could not believe the water, but they are all fresh and clean now and packed away. We also gave the girls' winter dresses a heavy scrubbing, mended them if needed and put them away until the weather cools. That's a job that I feel good about once it's accomplished.

Aleks, Levi and Micah got new overalls this past week. They are rather partial to overalls and really dislike the fit of modern jeans. I suppose if that's all they owned they would get used to it, but for work wear nothing beats pants that don't fall down! ;-)

In addition to all this we harvested over 1000 leeks and got a gallon of powder from them. The garden is doing well and we're eating sugar peas now. Mmm!
I had some blood work done and found out that I'm pretty anemic and I have a low platelet count. I have never been anemic before and was pretty surprised to hear this, although it sure explains why I'm so tired. I'm supposed to take it easy. ;-) Also, I have consistently been measuring big this time, which is again something that never happens to me (except for the twins of course). Anywhere from 3 to 8 cm bigger but we're pretty sure it's not twins so.... what is it? It seems odd to me that you could have 8 children and each pregnancy would be pretty much the same until your 9th and then boom! everything is different. Time will tell, I supose.
Things have been so crazy here that I hardly have any computer time. Blogs that I used to check frequently now don't get visited. I miss hearing about you all and hope to be back when things settle down.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Elisabethe's pink dress

After a long wait, to a 5 year old anyway, Elisabethe's pink dress is finally done! This is the fabric she picked out at Zinck's when we were there a few weeks ago; it was marked as a reproduction print but I'm unsure as to whether that's true or not. It's the same basic style as the other girls' but with no neckline gathering. The skirt is a very full 86" and the red silk ribbons match the red dots in the print. It has the requisite 3 growth tucks. ;-)

But, far more importantly, Elisabethe lost her first tooth last week!!! She has now officially entered the realm of "big girlness" and thrown off the trappings of little girlhood. I'm not really sure what all that entails except that she carries herself with a new dignity befitting her status. The proof is pictured below. ;-)