Canada/Alaska Adventure | Entry #8

On a rainy, dreary day, the greenhouse really is a wonderful place to be. Comfortably warm inside, with fresh, cool air from the rainy outdoors. Rain plinking on the roof. We’ve had a lot of rain over the last two weeks, and the greenhouse happened to be in need of a spring cleaning. Spent a good part of yesterday afternoon organizing pots, flower tags, gardening tools, fertilizers…and drinking tea and listening to Adventures in Odyssey.
IMG_9559eIMG_9557eI’ve always thought gardening was a nice idea, and I’ve had a few gardening projects that were successful – mostly because they required no effort. Such as the 12-foot tall sunflowers and the moonflower vines that took over our porch. But I’ve always lived in places where heat and/or humidity were real barriers to my interest in that art and science. I can’t say I enjoy gardening when temps are in the 80s and 90s, and I’m sweating and tired and a little grouchy after pulling two weeds! But being able to spend hours in the garden or greenhouse, working with my hands, getting dirty and having dirt under my fingernails, having mud on my jeans, working hard and being appropriately tired, sweating because of the work, not because of the heat, having sore muscles and a wakened mind – that is hard to beat. IMG_9564eA lovely afternoon.


Great-Grandma Sarah’s 24-Hour Dills

Due to late planting, we don’t really have much in the way of garden produce just yet – We’ve gotten a few zucchinis, a couple of cherry tomatoes, and a tiny handful of strawberries. And lots and lots of dill. The dill volunteered this year, so we left it as a pest deterrent. Unfortunately, though, we don’t have any usable cucumbers. So the girls and I drove in to Rapid to the farmer’s market this morning and picked up a few bags of pickling cucumbers and fresh garlic, and picked the dill fresh from our garden!

Twenty-four-hour dills are a generational favorite –  Guaranteed to be ready in 24 hours, although Great-Aunt Margene says they can be ready in 12 hours. Make them in the morning and serve them at dinner! This is my great-grandmother Sarah Adrian’s dill pickle recipe.IMG_9609Grandma Sarah’s 24-Hour Dills

About 20 small-medium sized cucumbers

1/2 c. vinegar

1/2 c. pickling salt

6 1/2 c. water

dill, garlic gloves, and hot pepper, crushed red pepper, onions, or any other ingredients to tasteIMG_9615Combine the vinegar, salt, and water – According to Great-Aunt Margene, the solution doesn’t need to be boiled. However, I remember boiling it in the past, so I deviated from the recipe and boiled the brine. Wash cucumbers. Slice in spears, but leave attached at ends. Slicing them allows them to be properly steeped in the brine after 12-24 hours.IMG_9617Pack cucumbers in pint or quart-sized jars, with garlic and dill (and whatever other ingredients you are using) layered with them.  Pour the brine over the cucumbers, and seal jars. Let sit for 24 hours, or to taste.IMG_9626I made one jar with the standard recipe, just garlic and dill, but the other two jars I dressed up a bit – One with crushed red pepper, the other with crushed red pepper and a few slices of hot banana pepper. It will be fun to see how those turn out. I made a little extra brine for a tiny jar for Grandma.


Laura Elizabeth




Happiness is…

To each his own, of course. Some prefer the bustle (chaos) of city living, or even the quiet bustle of town life. Some prefer the opportunities that come with living in the city, the close grocery stores, coffee shops, entertainment, the arts, etc. Some would be bored by what I consider to be the perfect pace of living. I recently had someone ask me what I do for fun. I kind of realized that just about all I do for fun is hiking. That, and photography and writing. I suppose some would be extremely bored by this.
Chives in the GardenThe Hills are in a state of perfection at sunset. Kashka followed me around as I snapped pictures of the cattle that Jack brought out for the summer, of the glowing poppies finally blooming in the overgrown garden, and of the chives which were neglected and left to head out. We’ve had a busy spring, and the garden unfortunately doesn’t weed or plant or prune itself.
Bully BoyThe cows contentedly grazed and watched me back as I watched them, and one of the cows headed straight towards me, like she wanted to say hello.  The little bull calves, like this one, were skittish but curious. The cows are in the pasture closest to the cabin, so we can hear them calling to each other, and can smell the warm, sweet odor, which I love.
Poppies at SunsetThe Kashka-Cat is a darling. She loves to be underfoot, in the way, and around “her people.” She and Luna make themselves scarce when we have company, but she and her brother are quite the life of the party when it is just the family. I worked on my Bible reading in the Miner’s Cabin before I went to get Anna from work and, true to form, Kashka roamed around the cabin for a good little while, finally ending up on the sofa with me. There is nothing quite like the company of a cat.
IMG_4153Happiness is a cabin, a camera, and the company of a cat. Perfection.

Laura Elizabeth

October-November | In Hindsight

IMG_3530lowrezThe fall is over, practically speaking, and will be over in actuality in another two and a half weeks. October and November breezed by in the flickering light of golden leaves, the sparkle of frost in the mornings, and the first snows. What a glorious time of year, with the lingering warm days recalling the summer and the hints of the coming winter fresh in the air in the evenings. Hurried end-of-the-summer outings punctuated the otherwise steady flow of life. The last hikes before the cold set in, the savoring of the last of the fall colors, reveling in the last of the long days.

IMG_3400lowrezWe enjoyed what produce successfully ripened in the garden, in spite of the multiple hail storms, early frost, and other inclement forces of nature. If you want a seemingly deer-proof plant, grow turnips – The leaves are prickly and the deer won’t eat them, even though they’ll meticulously rip up and devour every single beet and carrot in the garden. Turnips, leeks, tomatoes, basil, all found their way into savory, fresh soups. We’re looking forward to our garden next year already.

IMG_3563.1lowrezThe majority of our very small tomato crop was pretty badly hail-damaged and the cold set in early, so many didn’t ripen. Mom turned what she could of those into small batches of fresh salsa, not to be canned. But at the end of the greenhouse season, Sarah’s boss at Dakota Greens in Custer let her and Mom pick the remaining tomatoes in the greenhouse, and they came home with roughly 130 pounds of tomatoes, mostly red but some green. Mom was thrilled to have something to can, and we spent a couple days processing the tomatoes. Salsa, plain tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, and piccalilly relish, are all stacked neatly in our pantry cabinet now.


We enjoyed a family trip to Des Moines to attend a conference, and it was wonderful to see Jess, the missing sister. It just isn’t the same, having one of us still back in Illinois, but I am confident that God knows exactly what He is doing, and has her there for a reason! Since it looks like she’ll be in Illinois for awhile now, she wanted her dog back, so we sadly said goodbye to our favorite pet. Dogs are special creatures, and this one has a special place in our affections. It will be hard to fill that spot, but we’ll do our best. Anna’s two kittens (I can’t think of them as grown cats yet) definitely have helped to fill that spot, for all of us. Their antics are continually diverting, and they are extremely affectionate, with each other and with us. I was sick last week and woke up with Kashka, the black one, peering into my face, purring like a little motorboat. They aren’t supposed to be inside, but sometimes they are too cute to refuse.

IMG_4918.1lowrezThe last couple weeks of November felt like winter – The first snows, snapping cold, heavy frosts, and snow-melt fog. Thanksgiving found me with a very thankful heart, for such a memorable and life-changing past year, as well as for the simple pleasures and little blessings God sends our way. We have a freezer full of venison, a warm house, good employment, a great church home, and family we can see on a regular basis. What more could I ask?

Laura Elizabeth



Dirt fresh

IMG_3400lowrezThere’s nothing quite like hot soup on a cold evening. Soup is a perfect fall and winter food, and I find that brewing a pot of soup satisfies a need for creative expression. I don’t enjoy following recipes, which is probably why I don’t enjoy baking. I’m not brave enough to stray from a baking recipe – Bad things can happen! Good things happen when I stray from a soup recipe. I’d be happy to share my butternut squash soup recipe.

We’re still getting produce from the garden, against all odds, and last night I was able to pick baseball-sized turnips and a fist full of leeks, which were in the pot not twenty minutes later. I only used three turnips, plus their greens, and we still have many, many left in the garden. Threw in some frozen home-grown yellow squash and home-grown basil pesto, along with ground beef, onions, and carrots – It was a pretty good soup, if I do say so myself.

Perfect for autumn.

Laura Elizabeth

Surprised by bounty

IMG_2780.1lowrezThe sentiment this summer among gardeners was dismal. Just when we started thinking this year would be a great year for gardening, a storm whipped up out of nowhere and smashed everything. So we replanted and waited and got hopeful – And just when we started getting optimistic, another stormed whipped up out of nowhere and smashed everything. Again. It was a little discouraging. Who wouldn’t be dismal when their beautiful garden gets crushed by pea-to-golfball-sized hail, knocked down by straight-line winds, flooded out, shriveled in the heat, or burned by an early frost?

IMG_2755.1lowrezBut suddenly we’ve been surprised by our garden actually producing vegetables, in spite of the late (third or fourth) planting. I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but Sarah’s boss at Dakota Greens in Custer gave – gave – us upwards of 20 tomato plants, after the first planting was smashed, plus a variety of pepper plants. Such a gesture of generosity really floored me.

IMG_2749.1lowrezMom dutifully and eagerly planted them, regardless of how late in the season it was, content to have a garden that looked nice even if it didn’t ultimately grow anything. Someone else gave us a tomatillo plant which is now covered with fruit, other people gave us zucchini plants, and Mom replanted green beans.

IMG_2793.1lowrezBut what has been delightfully surprising is that not only did the plants that she planted late do well, but many of the plants that had gotten flattened or severely bruised in the hail are doing beautifully! Mom’s square-foot gardening boxes were planted thick with root vegetables, and we’re getting a bumper crop of turnips. I couldn’t help but marvel at the color – Such a rich, pure color. The basil and oregano likewise are plentiful, and many of the squash plants are laden.

What a welcome surprise! We have bags of green beans waiting to be blanched and frozen, lots of turnips, and herbs to freeze in oil. How exciting!

IMG_2805.1lowrezWe were out picking a few days ago, and Luna the Cat was darling to watch – He’s a weird cat with some really weird habits and weird quirks, but he is quite the charmer. He is uncannily companionable, although he prefers to not be snuggled, but he loves to be where the activity is. The whole time we picked, he was discovering the garden. He sneaked up on picked zucchini, prowled around in the green beans, got his little paws wet in puddles, and then discovered the leeks. He likes leeks.

Our tomato crop hasn’t been very good, since a late hail storm damaged a lot of the fruit, but the lack in tomatoes is more than made up for in the other bounty. We’re still pondering what we could use as a hail screen next year.

IMG_2741.1lowrezLesson for the day: Patience and persistence really does pay off sometimes. If Mom hadn’t insisted on replanting the third (or was it the fourth?) time and continuing the cultivate what survived, we wouldn’t be getting anything from the garden this year, except maybe some of the root crops and some squash. But we’ll have a little to put up in the freezer anyway, and plenty to cook fresh. Nothing quite makes a meal like home-grown produce.

Laura Elizabeth