Seasonal Bounty

As summer slips into the coolness of fall, nature gifts us with abundant treasures.

The mornings are filled with mobs of birds flitting from branch to branch in the wild cherry tree eating its tiny fruit. Then they drop down into the poke bushes and gorge themselves on the shiny black berries. The invasive autumn olive shrubs are heavily laden with ripe red berries soon to be stripped by deer and bears. I’ll take my share as well. Autumn olive berries make a delicious jelly and juice, full of good nutrition, too.

I’ve been harvesting and processing food from the garden and the wild landscape around us for weeks now:

summer harvest



Baskets of red, orange, and yellow tomatoes







Many handfuls of green, yellow and purple beans;


then came sweet potatoes, butternut squashes, a few pumpkins, carrots, broccoli, peas and okra, green and purple bell peppers.

garden bounty

I love wandering around and finding stands of mint to cut and dry for tea – apple mint, Tibetan tea mint, pepper- mint. These herbs have spread and made themselves at home in the various places I tucked them in a few years ago.
It’s time to cut thyme and oregano and feverfew for spice and medicine.  And to pickle nasturtium buds.


I made peach jam and spicy apple sauce, canned dilly beans and stew tomatoes. One of the tomato jars cracked open in the canning kettle and the remaining jars had to stew in the mess for 50 minutes.  I was not going to start all over again!

Canning always takes longer than you think. There are so many preparatory steps that need to be timed just right – prepping the fruit or veggies, cooking them while sterilizing the canning jars in the dishwasher and the lids and rings in a pot of very hot water on the stove. Then the water in the large canning kettle has to be brought to boiling, preferably just at the exact time when I am done filling and capping the jars.

It’s magical when it all works out smoothly, a bit stressful when it doesn’t.

I feel a great satisfaction from storing up summer’s bounty for winter.  It’s my own food grown without any chemicals, with love, pride, and lots of sweat and body aches from spring through summer into fall. The way my mother used to do it, and the way my grandmothers did.  I feel connected to a long line of ancestral women who knew how to grow and preserve food and feed their families throughout the seasons.  Yes, I can buy organic produce from supermarkets, farmers’ markets, and local farms.

But I would be missing something essential.  My garden connects me to the seasons in an intimate, visceral way.  Each year, it teaches me ever deeper lessons of trusting the soil, the critters, and the plants themselves.  The garden provides exercise, nourishment, medicine, and often delightful and curious encounters with its many inhabitants.  It’s my part of the world where I truly feel like a co-creator of health, goodness, and abundance.


Ailsa’s Travel Theme this week:  Seasonal.

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Canada Geese

Omnipresent, adaptable to city and country life – Canada Geese.

Here, a group lines up along the shore of a large pond.


Long, graceful necks, ever-watchful beady black eyes. White stripe fashionably painted across the cheek.


Another large congregation in the grass nearby.


Nervously chattering, they watch this human intrude into their peaceful world.


I move slowly to avoid spooking them, to no avail.

First the chorus line along the water takes off, protesting noisily.


After initial chaos, they organize themselves into a long fluttering line that rises above the trees, against the mountain,


and, soon, silhouettes against the sky:


As their harsh cries fade into the distant evening air, the second group begins to chatter and squawk. They start to run, wings flapping and flashing blue tips


before taking off across the water:


It takes a while before they fall into their famous V-formation. It looks effortless now, the awkwardness of gravity and chaos of liftoff forgotten and forgiven.


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Tree Magic (2): Ivan Was Here

This distinctive tree trunk caught my attention while wandering through the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Notice the inscription at the bottom of the picture. Ivan was here and wanted you to know.

yellow and green bark

A sturdy tree trunk mirrors our own spine, the structure that keeps our human body erect. We can still sway and bend with the wind. But a strong spine, a solid backbone, is essential for weathering the storms of life. The ability to stand grounded and resolute; the inner strength to brace the force of the windstorms life sends our way.

Someone scratched the name “Ivan” into this tree. What moves us to leave our name behind on trees, rocks, walls or bridges? If my name is written on a tree, does it mean that I am real, that I have affirmed my right to exist? Instead of 5 minutes of fame on TV, my name will possibly survive for decades and provide living proof of my existence when etched into the bark of a tree.

Or might this have been Ivan’s attempt to connect with the tree, forge a relationship by leaving his imprint, a small part of himself and his experience there in Albuquerque, with the tree?
Now I will always wonder who this Ivan was and why he felt the urge to share his name, using the tree as a lingering platform to propel himself into the future.

The DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Mirror.

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Tree Magic

If you have ever been drawn to a particular tree, you know that trees have personality.

While sitting under a large oak tree 15 years ago, I knew that the property we were wandering across would become our land. The tree in its quiet groundedness wrapped me in its green shade and whispered: “This is your place.” Trees can do that to you.

One of my photo exhibits this year was held at an arboretum and focused on trees (of course!). This is one of the images from the tree exhibit – tree bark, as unique as a finger print, and even more riveting.

tree trunk 150

More tree images: Cee’s Black & White Challenge.

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Frames of Sweetness

The abundance of our summer harvest includes bee hive frames heavy with honeycomb and that sweet golden liquid stashed inside.

This is a frame full of honeycomb. Once a hexagonal wax cell is filled with honey, the bees cap it off, so the honey remains inside. When one frame is filled up, like this one, the bees start working on the next frame. A hive box, or super, usually contains four of these frames.

frame filled with capped honeycomb

frame filled with capped honeycomb

I harvest honey the simplest way, without any fancy equipment. I scrape off the honeycomb and the honey from the frames – a sticky endeavor that leaves drips of honey on my arms and on the counter, no matter how carefully I work.

scraping off honey and honeycomb

scraping off honey and honeycomb

A side benefit of doing this sticky work is that you can place a few clumps of this honeycomb in your mouth and chew on it, sucking out the honey. This must have been the original chewing gum!



Now for the final step of separating honey from wax:

separating honey and wax

separating honey and wax

It is that simple!

The frames still have remnants of honeycomb and bits of honey on them. I place them outside where the bees can find them and finish cleaning them. They do a pretty good job over a few days.

bees cleaning the frames

bees cleaning the frames

And the final product filled with the sweetest essence extracted from flowers, herbs, vegetables, and trees:

half gallon of honey

Whatever honey the bees make from now on will be their food supply for those long, lean winter months lurking on the horizon.

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Frame.

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