May 4, 2011

Summer of Celebrations (Part V): Yonderway Farm you remember the Summer of Celebrations series that I started...oh, you know, a long time ago? As I was making scrapbook pages in Picasa for my hopscout video, I was reminded of how I have NEVER posted some of these things I actually finished MONTHS ago on my blog.  So, if for no one else, they'll be documented for my family for years to come, but get ready for the rest of my posts. This first one was dated January...I don't know why I never posted it!

I have not been NOT blogging for lack of nothing to blog about, but wondering how I will dump all of these thoughts down before they leave my memory.  I am well aware that pregnancy, children and age all cause holes in my I am bad combo of sorts for remembering little details right now.  The whole reason, I started (and continue) to blog in the first place is so that I can remember these sweet and sometimes difficult years of having young, funny, precious little ones. And for those precious ones...I want Asher, McKlayne and Baby #3, even if they can't remember, to be able to read back over the funny things they said, and look at sweet pictures of themselves and get a glimpse into this crazy home of two sinful parents who desperately loved them and tried to teach them to love Jesus, as best as they knew.  (And hopefully, they will all be able to overlook my, sometimes, poor grammar and constant overuse of "......"  I know it. I admit it.  I'm a lover (and abuser) of the "dot, dot, dots" and just cannot forsake them.  As long as I type, they will always be there, so if you've been reading this blog for longer than two posts, you've maybe learned to overlook my misuse of them, as well.)

So, for this new year begins, I will continue on in what Charlie and I decided months ago was our current life motto, "To be finishers..." I will finish blogging about our "Summer of Celebrations" before these sweet memories escape me...and maybe, just maybe, you won't feel so dreadfully cold in this crazy winter weather as you browse these pics from our warm summer days.

Next stop: Yonderway Farm.  Two of our very dearest of friends lived there this summer and they just so happen to be related: the Kramer's, who permanently live there, and who my kids refer to as "Farmer Jason" and "Farmer Lynsey" with their three beautiful (and about to make it four...Lyns is due two weeks before me!) girls.  Our beloved Hendrick's (Jason and Heather are siblings) lived on the farm this summer before they moved to Haiti (click on that link to read more about how God lead them to Haiti) with their four precious (and oh, how we miss them already, again) boys.

Between all the shower throwing and matrimony making, we got to sneak out to the farm for a few days and just soak up our friends...sweet friends that have become like family to us over the last almost seven years.  Somehow, long ago, even before I knew that I would marry my Charlie, when I was a silly, wreck of a college girl, Heather adopted me.  I, quickly, got to know and adore Lynsey, who is a wealth of information of all things natural.  (When needing a natural remedy or recipe, this is the girl that I call.  I also adore her for so many other things....but that's a whole 'nother blog post.)

These several days at the farm, were complete bliss spent with precious friends treasuring the last days of possibly forever living in the same town, laughing, dreaming of what the next several months would hold, remembering how deeply God had used these people to help us rethink how we live life and retrain our thoughts on family and marital roles, eating bowls of husband-sized portions of Blue Bell,  watching those boys love on my children...trying to preserve those moments in my mind, and even some ugly crying.  The kids roamed the farm in wonder of all the animals, the acre upon acres of beauty to behold, and rode in "the buggy" as many times as an adult would drive them around.

(Want to know what makes me want to ugly cry some more? I only have ONE picture from the entire time we were there. ONE picture...and it's of our family...not even of all the people that we love.  I must have been soaking them in so much that I thought that I'd have a permanent imprint of them in my mind.'s fading.)

I discovered that I do have pictures from the Summer of 2009 out at the farm:

Asher was so blonde and LITTLE here!

My precious boy.

(I know I took this exact same picture this summer except with more kids piled on...Heather, is it on your camera?)

When our babies were still babies!
Okay...back to Summer are a few things that were documented.

Asher perfected his swimming at the farm:

We also made strawberry jelly...and lots of it.  I believe this was our third batch to make in the last year and half and Heather decide that it finally needed to be documented so that we could look back at it the next time we made some, so I am completely hijacking the following from her blog:


Before making your jelly for the love...start with a crystal clean kitchen.  Trust us.  This makes a huge difference.  If your kitchen is a mess before will break down and lose it once your jelly making is in progress.  Jelly making is messy.  Kids decide to do the most awful things when momma is in the kitchen making jelly.  No matter how excited you are to get started, trust us...clean that kitchen up little lady! 

What you need for one batch of jelly (four 16 oz. jars):

2.5 one pound cartons of strawberries
1/4 cup lemon juice
7.5 cups sugar (you will need a four pound bag of sugar per batch)
2 pouches of certo (liquid fruit pectin)
4 mason jars
4 rings
4 flat lids
large canning pot (try to use a real canning pot with some sort of rack in the bottom of the pot so that the glass jars do not get too hot)
jelly funnel
jar gripping tongs
lots of clean dishtowels and rags on hand

Wash your jars and rings in the dishwasher.  Start making jelly once your jars are drying on high heat in the dishwasher.  Keep the jars toasty hot in the dishwasher until you need them.

Put water in your canning pot and begin to bring it to a boil.  This takes some time.  Add the lid to speed up the boiling process. 

Wash strawberries. Remove tops.  Cut in half.

Put strawberries in a food processor.

You have to take it easy with the food processor.  You want the strawberries to look chopped...not pureed.

Your mixture should look like this....

From your blended strawberries you need to measure out 3 3/4 cups.  Pour 3 3/4 cup chopped strawberries in large bowl.  Add 1/4 cup lemon juice and 7 1/2 cups sugar.  Set aside.

That's a lot of sugar.  I know.  You are welcome to experiment with other sweeteners, however changing the kind of sweetener or reducing the amount of sugar has the potential to adversely affect the way your jelly sets.  We can only guarantee your jelly if you follow these directions exactly.  If anyone experiments with other healthier sweeteners and your jelly sets up well, please let us know.  We'll gladly try your recipe and link to it.  We have used organic sugar and it worked great, but have been too chicken to try other healthier sweeteners.

Boil a small saucepan of water.  Once the water is boiling, turn the water off and place your flat  lids in the hot water.  Let those sit in the hot water until ready to use.

Once the water in your large canning pot is boiling, turn the water down to simmer.  Now it is time to start cooking the strawberry mixture.  Place the strawberry/sugar/lemon juice in a large, separate pot.

Bring mixture to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling even when you stir it).  Use high heat.  STIR CONSTANTLY.

Here's where things get a tad pit stressful.  It's only stressful for a few minutes though.  Sort of like a jelly making contraction.

Get your certo packages ready.

Once the strawberry mixture is boiling (full rolling boil) stir in two packages of Certo quickly.

Return to a full rolling boil and then boil exactly 1 minute (set the timer on the microwave or your phone).  Stir constantly.  After one minute, remove from heat.

With a metal spoon, skim off any foam.

Put the foam in a small bowl.   Once the foam cools, find a cute little kid and let him eat it right out of the bowl with his finger.  It's a must.

Remove four hot jars from the dishwasher.  There are six in this picture, but you get the point.

Pour the heated strawberry mixture quickly into the jars using your jelly funnel.  Leave 1/8 inch of space at the top of the jars.

With a wet rag, quickly clean the tops of the jars.  The tops of your jars need to be nice and clean so wipe off any jelly that got on the tops while you were pouring the mixture in the jars.

Remove flat lids from hot water and dry the rubber seals really well with a dry rag.

Cover jelly jars with two piece lids.  Screw bands tightly.

Using your tongs, place the jars of jelly into the canning pot and bring water to a boil.  There needs to be an inch or two of water covering the tops of your jelly jars.

As soon as water is boiling, set a timer for 5 minutes.  Let the jelly sit in the boiling water for a full 5 minutes.

After five minutes, remove the jars of jelly with your tongs.  You may need to set the jars on towels so they don't harm your counter tops.  Let cool.  After the jars have completely cooled (this takes several hours), check the seals by pressing on the top of the seal.  If the seal pops up and down, the jar is not sealed.  If that happens, place the unsealed jars of jelly in the refrigerator.  For the jars that have sealed, let them sit for 24 hours before moving them.  Then you can store them in your pantry up to one year.

Random tips:

We bought tons of mason jars from garage sales.  That's the way to go.  Then all you have to buy is new, flat lids.  The first time you make jelly it will be more expensive because you'll have to buy jars.  However, once you invest in jars, you'll use the same ones over and over.

You can use your rings and jars over and over again (unless the rings get rusty).  Every time you can something you have to buy new, flat lids.

Borrow.  Borrow.  Borrow.  This is the perfect time to email all the older ladies in your church and ask if they have the supplies you'll need for making jelly.  Maybe you could even ask them to come help you.  Once you decide if canning is going to be your "new thing" then you can slowly collect the canning items.  We bought lots of supplies (big pots, pressure cookers) at garage sales. 

We've been told that Certo is the best liquid pectin if you are trying to eliminate high fructose corn syrup from your diet.  The other brands are basically high fructose corn what's the point?

For jelly, we have found that the jars need to be no bigger than 16 ounce.  Any larger and the jelly does not set well...probably from not getting hot enough in the hot water bath (the method for canning we use for jelly).

It's no fun to make jelly by yourself, and may be impossible.  Invite a friend.  You'll need extra hands.  If you have small children you will need someone there to watch them.  For real.

Jelly making is fun, rewarding but a huge mess.  We make giant batches.  This time we made 29 jars between the two of us.  However, you should only do one batch at a time (no doubling or tripling the recipe.  It will mess up.)  Kirby and I will make jelly one more time this summer with peaches and do about the same amount.  So...two jelly days for us and we have jelly for the entire year and some to give away at Christmas.  We have found it's better to mess up the kitchen twice and have a couple long days than to make a huge mess several times a summer.    

The end result.  Yum.  Who wants a biscuit?


This post was written MONTHS ago, but I just realized that I had never posted it.  Not sure why...but now the countdown is on and in 2 weeks the Hendrick's will be home from Haiti for the summer and we'll be packing our bags to live for DAYS at the farm.

Get ready, Lyns and Heather, we may just never leave Yonderway.

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