Tuesday, June 29, 2010

On Our Mind

Last weekend we went to see my Grandma. My children call her "GrandMa Livvie." We all trekked out to a peach orchard to get some good Georgia peaches. My grandma loves to go out to the country and get peaches. I've been with her several times. Even just a few years ago when she was in her youthful mid-eighties, she'd go get peaches to take them to the elderly and shut-ins in her town. Now, at 92 she still loves to go on a country drive to garner delicious peaches. One of the best things about going to the orchard is getting to eat some of their homemade peach ice cream. Nothing tastes better.
At the orchard they also had blackberry bushes we could pick from. Many of the ones we picked were as big as my thumb. So juicy and delicious.

Grancy helping the three collect blackberries.

Another day while we were there we went to my aunt and uncle's house for swimming and lunch. My cousin was in town with her three boys. We had a great time swimming and visiting and playing with everyone.
Elliott loved hanging out with my uncle helping him grill the hamburgers and hot dogs.
We also went back to the Georgia Aquarium. We love to go here. There are so many neat exhibits.
When we went in December the Beluga whales were in Texas and I was so bummed we couldn't see them. They are back and amazingly beautiful and graceful. The cold water exhibit also has added a penguin exhibit and the otters were back this time too. Lucia loved the otters and had to be pulled away. The penguins were so cute. I was surprised they were only about a foot to a foot and a half tall.

The children loved the moving sidewalk, especially Elliott. He didn't get off until he had to.
Mazie Bell with some big fish bones.
Elliott and Mazie outside the aquarium (Lucia wouldn't cooperate).
After the aquarium we went to the fine dining establishment of The Varsity. Lucia, Elliott, and Mazie each got their own Frosted Orange to enjoy with their lunch and I got to eat my favorite Varsity entree--the grilled pimento cheese. Our car hop has worked at the Varsity for over 30 years.
There is a school with a nice park across the street from my grandma's house. We went there one evening while my sweet aunt fixed us supper.

We had a great time in the peach state and can't wait to go back again. Our Georgia family is always on our mind.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Dangers of Home Food Preservation

The month of June I become obsessed with home food preservation. I love the idea of putting up food for my family all the while decreasing my much-too-large environmental footprint. I can't drive a Prius but I can make sure all the tomatoes we consume come from less than an hour away and are stored in recycled jars. Plus, it is just so darn fun to do. Don't get me wrong, it is a lot of work. But there is something about it I love so much. I have given myself the five year goal of growing and canning all the tomatoes we need for a year. I am guessing that is about 75-100 quarts. Not quite two quarts a week. Seeing as how I did not plant the first tomato plant this year and I only canned about 30 quarts of tomatoes, I don't know that I'll reach the goal, but I'm going to try.

I don't just can tomatoes. I canned salsa, yellow squash pickles, carrot pickles, cucumber pickles.
I've dried at least 100 tomatoes, lots of squash, coconut, onions, strawberries, raspberries, pineapple, apples. I've grated 30 cups of zucchini and frozen them. I grated some onions, froze them in ice cube trays, then when they were frozen, I popped them out into freezer bags. Then I can just pull out one or two onion cubes when I am cooking.

One of the things I love about canning is that you put up whatever is in bounty. There are more blueberries around here that you could shake a stick at. So, saving some in the freezer makes good sense. Come to visit next June and I'll put you to work. The picture above is of Aunt Patti and Reverend Holly, two of my canning and cooking buddies, at the u-pick fields we go to about an hour from here.
In the beginning I was running three dehydrators. One of them I got from the top of the shop. I cleaned it up and put it to work. I woke up at three in the morning several nights later to a loud cracking and popping noise. I got up to see what it was and half the kitchen was filled with smoke and the dehydrator was on fire. I screamed for H and then reached around the dehydrator to unplug it. She got out the fire extinguisher and put out the fire. We are very lucky that I am usually a light sleeper and that the fire was making noise. Our smoke detector never went off.

The next day I was lethargic and nauseated all day. I don't know whether it was the smoke I breathed in or the stress and anxiety from the fire, but I sat on the couch most of the day feeling puny.

I felt good about the way H and I handled the fire. I felt like we responded well. What I was most upset about was that the dehydrator was giving me all kinds of signals that it was on the fritz and I didn't take it seriously. It felt too hot, it burned some of my tomatoes, then it started smelling funny. The regulator must have been going out. I should have unplugged the thing days before it finally caught fire. That is the mistake I made. I am just so thankful that a marred counter and 40 lost tomatoes are all we had to deal with.

Sea Lab

There are only about 1,000 people in our small town. We may not have a lot of stuff, but we have a fabulous library. It is beautiful and full of great books. I've always thought libraries are one of the most important pieces of a democratic society. Everyone has access to thousands of books. Such a beautiful thing.
A Sea Lab came to our library and we took the three. After they read a book about sea life, the children could touch all these real aquatic animals. It was a great experience for all of us.