A Cat’s Contentment

At the request of my friend’s daughter, I snapped a few portraits of her treasured cat, Hobbes, sleeping contentedly on the sofa. He is so golden, he almost seemed to glow in the bit of sunlight streaming in the window.
IMG_4910eCats are satisfied with so little. Content to prowl around outside, content to come in and doze on the sofa or a bed, content with enough food, content with something as simple as a shred of paper to play with, content with a little affection and a little sunlight. Cats demand very little. A stroke on their cheek and a rumbling purr resonates.

Yet we human creatures are never content. We are always seeking lustfully after the next fad, the newest this or that, the best of this or that.  We desire the next adventure, the best experience. So much of our culture and our industries are built on discontentment. Magazines like House Beautiful capitalize on people’s discontent with their home decor and wall color choices. Travel magazines fuel and are fueled by discontent in where we are and what we can afford to do. Women’s magazines fuel and are fueled by discontent in my body, my clothes, my house, my family, my life, my kitchen, my husband.

I’m speaking in pretty broad terms here, and don’t misunderstand me as condemning various publications or condemning the idea of taking a vacation. Because I’m not.  But if we were content with what we had and only ever bought what we needed, and not what we lusted after, our whole economy would come crashing down. There’s nothing wrong with the new pair of shoes or the vacation or the nicer car or new paint on the walls. There is nothing wrong with beautifying one’s home or enjoying good food. We just need to be aware of our sinful human tendency to think that those things will bring lasting satisfaction. We mistakenly think that we will be better satisfied by a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to the Caribbean than by warming our fingers around a mug of hot tea, basking in the sunlight and reading our favorite book. Human beings are restless, discontent creatures, seeking satisfaction from things and experiences rather than seeking satisfaction in God’s provision for us. The modest plenty we have never seems to satisfy.

King Solomon, as well as other proverb writers and God Himself frequently drew lessons of one sort or another through considering God’s Creation. In the Book of Job, God reminds Job of His greatness and majesty by bringing to Job’s mind numerous creatures which God created and sustains, and which humans can’t even come close to understanding. Lessons and encouragement are learned and gained through considering characteristics of God’s creatures, how He cares for His non-human Creation, the instincts He gave to His animal creatures, and so on. In Proverbs 6, Solomon writes the following:

Go to the ant, O sluggard;
    consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief,
    officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer
    and gathers her food in harvest.

Consider the cat, then, and be content.

Advertisements

A Day Off

Fall is here at last! The chill of coming winter has started to nip at the nose and the fingers and the toes, and our first frosts happened days or weeks ago. It is the time of year that particularly beckons for me to be outdoors. I took advantage of my new schedule with empty Tuesdays and drove the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway yesterday. Trixie was my little driving buddy, getting thoroughly in the way, sitting on my camera bag, and sharing a bag of pretzels with me. Dogs are such good company. Although I shorted myself on time a little bit and didn’t have as much good daylight left as I had hoped, it was sufficient. The golden leaves and the autumn glow make for wonderful picture taking. The drive home was a later than I had expected, so we got to Pactola right past sunset. So much beauty.
IMG_4926eIMG_4976eIMG_4969eIMG_5029eIMG_5038eThe change of seasons is invigorating. So much anticipation of wonderful things to come.

 

Recipes | Wild Plum Jam

The wild plums are sure bountiful this year! I don’t know what they were like last year, but this year has been amazing. I went picking again this morning with a friend, and we picked about 6 gallons of plums! I couldn’t believe it. When we drove up to the (secret) plum thicket, my heart sank a little, since the branches seemed awfully bare. But we climbed down into the thicket and the ground was covered with beautiful, firm, ripe fruit. Most of what we picked we actually picked off the ground. The plums that were still on the tree were barely attached and just fell off into our hands, or fell to the ground as we shook the branches.IMG_4288eYesterday, I finished processing my first batch of plums as plum jam, and it did not disappoint. Here is the recipe, the process adapted from a recipe on Kitchn and a Sure-Jell recipe.IMG_4270eIngredients

  • ~1 gallon of plums
  • 1 box powdered pectin
  • 8 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. butter (optional)

Process

Wash plums and cut off bad spots. In a stockpot with about a half a cup of water, cook the plums with pits, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes, mashing the fruit as you go. A potato masher can also be used to help loosen the pits. When the plums have reached a sauce-like consistency, remove from the heat and pull out the pits, leaving as many of the skins as possible. Use an immersion blender to blend the pulp and chop up the skins. Measure out 6 cups of pulp. There will be extra. In a stockpot, combine the plum pulp and the powdered pectin. Add butter if desired to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Mixture should continue to boil even while you are stirring. Add the sugar. Return to a boil, and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a minute or two. Skim off any foam that forms, and save for a taster.

Pour into prepared jars, clean the rims and threads, and seal jars with two-piece canning lids. Process 10 minutes in hot water bath (I adjusted for altitude and processed for 15 minutes).IMG_4272Notes

Jam differs from jelly in that jelly uses only the juice, while jam uses all of the usable fruit, including the skin. Plums can be pitted before or after cooking. Either way is bound to be tedious. I left the pits in and after an hour of pulling the pits out, I was almost in tears. Part of that may have had to do with the fact that I didn’t start processing them until 11:00 pm, so it was 1:00 am and I was still pulling pits out. So it was bad timing. If I make jam again, I don’t know if I will leave the pits in and cook them, or pit them ahead of time. I may try to use a ricer, which would unfortunately pull the skins out, but would at least make it easier to separate the pits and the pulp. It would be worth a try. IMG_4281eI had never made plum jam before, and I don’t know if I have ever even eaten plum jam before. But it is exquisite on bread with a generous quantity of butter. Enjoy!

 

Bison

After picking plums this morning, I took a quick jaunt onto the Wildlife Loop, and to my delight found the buffalo herd. Unfortunately, tourist season is still underway and a number of tourists had found the herd as well, but the buffalo were scattered and it was possible to get some good shots.IMG_3719eIMG_3748eIMG_3787eIMG_3706eSuch beautiful animals.

Not Bad for a Morning’s Work

And really, it only took probably a half hour to pick these. The bigger the fruit, the funner (yes, funner) to pick. Because it goes so much more quickly. I love picking chokecherries, I really do, partly because it is somewhat therapeutic, partly because I love chokecherry jelly. But when it takes about 2 hours to fill a gallon-sized bucket…Well, plums are much better in that regard. However, if you ever get a chance to pick wild plums, be sure to wear tough jeans and a thick jacket or sweatshirt. They have some serious thorns. IMG_3883eIMG_3672eNot bad for a morning’s work.

 

 

Glorious, like Apple Butter

At the beginning of this growing season, our two little apple trees were very promising, covered with blossoms. Since we don’t prune our trees, this was the “on year,” the year we were supposed to get a good crop of apples. Then, a month or two months later, the fruit looked promising as well. The apples started pinking up, and they even began to taste like fall. We had just started commenting on what we would do with this crop of apples…and we got our hail storm, which pummeled those two little trees pretty badly. Needless to say, we were disappointed! But I went out a couple of days later and scavenged under the trees, picking through the fallen apples. My initial idea was to try to pick up the ones that were “just bruised.” When I saw how pathetically few apples there were that were “just bruised,” my standards loosened, and it became something like “the ones without bugs in them.” Even that standard slipped, and as long as the bugs weren’t embedded, the apple went into the bucket. Some of them were damaged and rotting beyond use, but I picked up a large bucketful of apples, and spent a couple of hours cutting off the bad spots.
IMG_3323eIMG_3487eWe cooked the apples this afternoon, and put them through this antique ricer we had in the Miner’s Cabin – a beautiful piece of kitchen equipment! The smell of apples cooking is the smell of fall and plenty, the smell of harvest and celebration and family gatherings. It reminds me of Curtis Orchard, a family orchard we used to visit in Illinois, and the wonderful apple donuts they were known for. IMG_3503eThe tart apples had cooked down into a beautiful golden sauce, steaming hot and fragrant. We now have it in a slow cooker to turn it into the wonderful thing called apple butter, since no one in the family particularly likes applesauce. A recipe to come…IMG_3492eA couple of things come to mind as I think back and write this. One obvious thing is just how fortunate we’ve been this year, as I think of the flooding down south and the fires north and west of us. The drought has been hard on this region, and we’ve had our hail storms, but compared with the destruction of the floods and the fires, we have been amazingly fortunate here and have nothing to complain about.

The second thing that comes to mind is just how good God is. As I was picking up fallen apples, looking at the spoiled spots, the bruises, the damage, resisting the urge to call it a lost cause, and thinking ahead to my plans for those apples, it seemed like a mini parable. On our own, we have nothing to offer – not to God or to anyone else. We are damaged and bruised and broken, completely corrupt at heart. Yet Jesus takes us and washes us, rather than giving up on us, and even in our brokenness He uses us to His glory. This side of Heaven, our bruises and brokenness will never completely go away. By God’s grace, those things will heal and lessen to a certain extent, but we will always struggle in this life. But He takes us anyway and calls us His own. How glorious.

Glorious, like apple butter. But better. Far better.