Pear Canning

Pear Tree in Chapel Orchard

We have a variety of pears that take forever to get soft enough to eat.  They usually end up on the ground and are fair game for the yellow jackets before I collect them.  I was cruising the Chapel orchard taking plant debris to the burn pile when I noticed several pears on the ground were bright yellow and soft enough to can.

It consumed about two hours time from start to finish to see five quarts of canned pears on the kitchen counter but I felt I must give at least token time to the fruit.  The motivation was to have fresh pears with the pork roast for Sunday dinner.  It was worth it.

Peel, core and slice the raw pears into quarters and fill sterilized quart canning jars.  Pour hot, light syrup of boiled water and sugar over the fruit [1 cup sugar to 4 cups water], leaving a half an inch head space.  Place new canning lids and rings on the jars and tighten finger-tight.  Place jars in a hot water bath canner and fill canner with water to cover jars two inches above tops.  Bring to a boil.  Boil for thirty minutes.  Remove the jars with  canning jar tongs.  Let cool.  Tighten the rings.  Label.  Store or enjoy.

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Autumn In A Glimpse

Autumn Front Porch

“Overnight” is usually an exaggeration–but the leaves in Central Illinois are literally changing overnight.  I was lamenting that the warm weather and lack of rain is causing our leaves to brown and fall without turning, but now suddenly trees are turning to vivid colors.  Hurrah!  Forecasts are warning that our autumn will be quite short-lived this season, so go out and celebrate it now.  Take a drive down your favorite back road to a pumpkin patch place or apple orchard.  Our kids recommend Jonnamac Orchard near DeKalb.  We are planning a visit to Tanner’s north of Peoria near Speer this Friday.  Ackerman’s on 150 and Roth’s Pumpkin Place Playground on Mueller Road outside of Morton are fun local places for autumn entertainment.   Our Groveland Chapel is also decorated for autumn and open to the public.  [Groveland Chapel, Springfield Road, Groveland, IL]  Happy fall!



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Autumn Front Porch

The fragrance of a new season is in the air. Toasty smells and tinged leaves signal the coming of fall.  I am ready for a new season and grew pumpkins, corn and squash just for the occasion.  They deck the front porch and the farm stead–no such thing as too many pumpkins for this autumn-lovin’ gal.  Look for great prices on mums and pumpkins at Aldi.  I just bought another big guy Charlie Brown pumpkin for under $3 at the Big A, just after I told my husband I didn’t need any more pumpkins.

Vintage Wash Tubs

Using “real” materials  instead of artificial for seasonal decorating is growing in popularity.  Although fresh materials have a limited shelf life compared to faux’ materials, real harvested items have an inherent nostalgia.    Grouping your materials around vintage articles creates a charming vignette.  Above, bronze mums sit in vintage wash tubs.  Out of view is a rustic pallet fence with an Aldi big boy pumpkin on the other side of the rear door to the chapel.   A worn bushel basket holds a golden corn shock.  On the chapel porch, a weathered press-back chair holds another mum in a basket.  Wild grapevine  and birch twigs twine with the chair back and fence.

Autumn Vignette

Fresh pumpkins sit on our dining room table among stacks of old books and candles.  The large peach-colored  pumpkin with “warts” on the great room table above is from Door County.  After the season, I will harvest some of its seeds to grow more Cinderella pumpkins next year.  I was able to grow 3 white and peach pumpkins with unusual shapes from last year’s Door County pumpkin.

I’m looking forward to giving a demonstration to the Peoria Herb Guild next month using seasonal materials to design wreaths and arrangements.  I have been collecting goldenrod, bay leaves, rose hips, bittersweet, twigs, moss, corn, squash, celosia, Lady’s Mantle, wormwoods, and fillers like sea lavender.  Some are drying in the rafters of the great room kitchen.  I have also dried the roses my husband has given me throughout the year.  Roses dry beautifully and add depth and color to dried wreaths.  The crab apples are red in the chapel garden.  As the leaves fall from our Autumn Blaze maple in crimson and orange-red, I will press them between sheets of waxed paper with a hot iron to preserve and dry them at the same time.  These can then be glued into the autumn wreaths.

Bringing the harvest up close and personal is a lovely way to celebrate the season.

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Sunset at Cave Point

Door County, Wisconsin, is a peninsula of calm between Green Bay and Lake Michigan.  After a demanding summer repairing out buildings, gardening, teaching and helping our children ready The Groveland Chapel for business under their management, we are ready for an escape to apple orchards, farm markets, boutiques, specialty shops, light houses, white sand beaches, excellent restaurants, cooling breezes and turning leaves.  We are ready for Autumn along Lake Michigan!  It seems odd to be going on vacation with much of the country under stress, but my prayer life does not take a vacation.  I pack it to go.

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Garden Maintenance–Where Did My Morning Go?

A Variety of Tomatoes

Sling for a Melon                                                    Butternut Squash [winter squash]

Butternut Squash Taking Over the Garden

Leaving a second cup of coffee on the counter, I ducked outside–just to water the containers on the back porch, mind you…  Two hours later, I am reheating the coffee in the microwave and wondering how my morning  schedule was destroyed.

Watering the pot plants required starting the pump on the pond to refill the empty rain barrel.  [We could use a good rain.]  Since I already had the hose out and the pump on, I thought I should water the new starts of cilantro in the farm tub and the strawberries I planted last month.  Well–I might as well water everything, I thought.  The geese were cute as they tried to stay out of my way.  I turned a light spray on them to see if they wanted to play but they rebuffed me.  The yard is full of goose poo–it became a moral imperative to hose off the stepping stones to the garden so at least one path could take me through the worst of it.  Goose droppings are a natural fertilizer, but when they begin flocking, the application becomes a bit overwhelming.  Let’s just say there is no croquet in August and September…

The geese are having a regular pool party in our pond.  Between breaks in water sports, they come into the yard to gnaw on fallen apples.  I would estimate over thirty Canada geese spread out between the back yard and the Chapel garden where the fallen peaches are…

As I watered I noticed squash bugs on the pumpkin vines.  I set the hose spray on the herb bed and returned to the lower level of the barn to get the Seven spray.  I was wishing I had worn something cooler than jeans by this point, but then I wasn’t planning on staying outside, was I… I put on a Niki terry cloth sweat band that I kept downstairs as my face was beginning to perspire.  Back outside, I moved the hose to another spot and began spraying Seven.  The large sprayer would not work; I recalled Butch also had trouble with it.  So…back inside to get the small hand-held sprayer.  I used what was left in it and returned…again…to the garden room in the basement to refill the little sprayer from the big sprayer.  Sigh.

As I watered, I spotted more cantaloupe than I thought I had.  When I purchased my cantaloupe seed, I think there were winter squash seeds mixed in as I have Butternut squash everywhere.  [See vine picture above.]  There are so many squash vines, I have given up finding cucumbers.  I didn’t believe I had any melons at all but found one vine with two melons on it a few weeks ago. Today, I found four more melons, only about the size of goose eggs. These are hanging from their stems on the rabbit fencing.  I have already had squash that have broken from their vines and certainly do NOT want to lose any melons to gravity.

My grandmother would use her old nylon hose to tie up melons and squash–the old-fashion kind of nylon hose.  I cannot see using my old panty hose for anything exposed to view but did resort to making slings with recycled plastic bags.  If anyone had asked me what I would be doing today, making baby slings for cantaloupe would not have come to mind.

As I turned the spray on the green beans, I looked out at the Chapel Garden and thought the four large decorative planters should be watered as well.  As I pulled the hose to fill up the water barrel, I remembered I should pick the tomatoes.  While the barrel was filling, I waded into the tomatoes around the squash vines.  The barrel was still filling so I filled three buckets in the back of our John Deer Gator vehicle and drove out to the chapel to water the planters.  On the way back, I decided to water the pots in the front yard using the lake water and returned to the hose to refill the buckets–then drove to the front yard to water the four planters, two hanging pots on the porch, and the fern in the corner.

I refilled the two bird baths and decided the green beans could wait until later.  The bed was newly watered and would be muddy anyway, I reasoned, making my excuse more palatable.

I really did intend just to water the pots on the back porch and finish my second cup of coffee.  I’ll just have it with lunch.




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White Wash on a Hot Day

The large chapel porch has a new coat of paint.  It was a daunting task with so much gingerbread trim and lattice work.  But the family crew did it together to the sounds of The Drive oldies on the radio.  It took three gallons of white stain and several paint brushes and mini rollers.  Now the porch looks like a wedding cake, which is appropriate since it has seen over 2,000 weddings…and more to come.

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Schwinn Spitfire

It was fate when I found a Schwinn Spitfire at a flea market in Wisconsin and a bike basket at a garage sale in Illinois.  They were meant to go together.  Our son thought I was buying it to pose on the front porch.  When I began riding it around the village, he said, “But you are not wearing a helmet!”  I almost told him I didn’t wear a helmet when I was a kid either–none of us did.    But then, he will eventually be my care giver so I figure he has some say in the matter.

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