Preschool and Preserving Produce: Late Summer on the Burbstead
To wrap up our whirlwind August, Neil left for a 13-day trip to India. Back on the burbstead, the following happened:
I took the kids camping. I’ve never camped with them solo before, but I was hardly alone, as we were camping with over 100 people. I had four people show up to set up and tear down my tent, and plenty of people helping look after my kids. Not to mention all the other kids there to occupy them. Saturday was rainy at times but they had fun and it cleared up in time for the tradition of potluck and Bible teaching, followed by fun times around the campfire. The next day was sunny and we enjoyed time at a Great Lakes beach. We stayed for sunset on the lake next to a lighthouse.
I also tried my hand at canning our bounty of tomatoes, using the water bath method in my biggest pot. Which is not very big. Neil has canned salsa the past couple years but he was not going to be back before our harvest rotted. We’d already devoured several batches of fresh salsa, eaten lots of tomatoes in salads, and given away tomatoes to just about anyone who would take them. And I still had at least five large colanders full of tomatoes with some more yet to ripen.
I decided to can whole raw pack romas, and salsa. I was exhausted by the end of the day, with only six jars of each product to show for my effort. Although I felt very accomplished, I also wondered whether canning was really worth the effort. A couple days later I borrowed my brother-in-law’s large pot for canning which made the process so much more efficient. I canned another 10 jars of salsa. Yum!
The next morning my daughter started preschool, and that meant I started too. I’m volunteering at a preschool in a community with a large refugee and immigrant population. When I asked if I could bring my three-year old along, they were enthusiastic about the idea of having a fluent English-speaking peer in the classroom. And I’m excited for her to go to school with a diverse population. We also want to find ways we can volunteer with our kids sometimes in hopes that we can model our values.
The following weekend we attended Neil’s grandfather’s 100th (!) birthday party. Getting the kids dressed and out the door to that party was the hardest thing I did while Neil was gone. My son acts like wearing a polo shirt is cruel and unusual punishment!
The day after was another big event: our church’s annual baptism party. Getting to this is always challenging because you need everything from coats to bathing suits. Still, packing up our four bags of gear was easier than getting my kid to wear a collar. Thirty people got baptized in the lake after sharing how they became a believer in Jesus.
Neil made it home safely Monday afternoon. He’ll tell you all about it soon, but he had a great trip. We are both exhausted, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Here was one of his favorite moments, meeting a child we sponsor:
We’ve still got watermelons, tomatoes, and hot peppers growing in the garden, but everything seems to be slowing down.
We’ve also got the bee hive to deal with. After a successful summer of beekeeping just two days before Neil left, the hive was robbed by another group of bees. It was crazy—our usually calm hive had bees flying everywhere, fighting each other. Being the fearless beekeeper he is, Neil suited up and went out to try to get the lid to seal better. I think it helped but not sure how much damage had already been done. Not sure what’s next. I’ll keep you posted.
How is your summer wrapping up? How did your garden grow (if you have one)? Any new endeavors this Fall?
You guys are so adventurous! And I was tired just looking at all those cans of salsa you made! But hearing that getting ready to go to a birthday party was the hardest thing you did (amongst camping and canning) makes me feel better about my experiences trying to get my kids to “dress up”.
Thanks! I think we were all a little tired and crabby by the time we needed to get ready for that party!
Bees fighting?!? Oh man I would be scared as hell to be around that. Glad he had an amazing time. I’m getting the itch to go camping…even though I’m not that “great” of a camper. Something about it sounds so nice and relaxing.
The rest of us didn’t go in the yard that day, although the hive is in the back and they were pretty much concentrated there. Camping is a lot of work but it’s also beautiful and relaxing in a way. You should go!
I had a very nice pressure canner that I bought cheaply at a garage sale. It made everything much more doable. I now live in a senior community where one meal per day is provided, and I sold my canner prior to coming, at an auction. Someone got a good bargain.
I don’t want to pay full price for a pressure canner but a garage sale find would be great! Glad you got good use out of yours and someone else got a deal on it as well.
We’ve canned a good bit through the years and found the water bath method the simplest (and safest). Lots of good fruit compote, salsa, and tomato sauce. Larger volume pots are definitely the way to go. You can also find specially made canning pots that will streamline the process.
Thanks for sharing your adventure!
Yes, I wasn’t ready to purchase anything special (beyond jar lids), but I’m sure there are better pots out there for the job. The water bath method worked just fine so I would be happy with just a larger pot.
Wow – bee wars – who knew?!?
Kudos for all of that salsa. I can cooked down tomatoes to use for pasta. I like being able to add seasonings one batch at a time. The thought of messing up a huge pot of tomatoes makes me nervous.
It sounds like you’re transitioning well into the fall season. Best of luck with the preschool 🙂
I know–the things you learn.
I left some tomatoes plain for use in pasta, chili, or curries. My husband found a good salsa recipe in previous years so I used that. I know what you mean about not wanting to mess up all that goodness! It took some trial and error to find a really good one but luckily the trials were still pretty tasty.
I use the straw bale gardening method, and had a very lush veggie garden this year – tons of cherry/grape tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and summer squash. Unfortunately, while I still have loads of tomatoes on the plants, some sort of bugs (aphids, I think) got to them and are devouring them. I think I’m going to pick all the unripe ones left this week, and see what I can get to ripen inside. I also have some beets and carrots going in my flower bed, but I plan to wait as long as possible before pulling them.
My daughter started 3rd grade this fall, and I’m heading back to work (p/t) tomorrow, after being off for the whole summer. It’ll be busy, but a little extra money is always nice!
Happy (almost) fall!!
Glad your garden was so productive this year. Our tomatoes seem to come mainly within a small window and then don’t ripe, rot quickly, or get diseases or bugs. But we get plenty so I don’t mind composting some of the stragglers.
I finally have my first kid in school all day and it’s kind of amazing! I’m sure it’s still busy going to back to work, though. There’s always a lot to juggle with a kid.
I love that your daughter gets to go to preschool where you volunteer. I decided to pass on a similar opportunity through my church this year because I couldn’t find a babysitter for Shirley, but maybe we’ll find something next year.
Well done on taking the kids camping (and getting your son in a polo shirt)! I wonder if I’ll ever be brave enough for that myself 🙂
I haven’t even tried to do this type of volunteering since having kids because of the childcare issue. It’s really hard to find someone who help regularly, and then sometimes it seems like it would be more efficient for the babysitter to just be the volunteer! Maybe when Shirley’s preschool age something will work out.
I could not have camped without the help of many friends! I think I actually did less work than usual because I had so much help, and didn’t cook because the kids ate sandwiches all weekend.
That is such a beautiful photo of Neil and the girl you sponsor. What a rich, rich (in the best sense) time you’ve all had! And cool too. Who gets to see bees fighting?! I look forward to learning more about Neil’s trip to India.
Thanks! Yes, it is a great honor and privilege to get to meet these children, pastors, and volunteers on the trip. The bee fight was a sight to see! I think Neil took a video. All our honey was taken though 🙁