Monthly Archives: September 2013

Storm Damage

We had quite a storm blow through last week.

Black skies. Strong winds. Horizontal rain. Flying shingles.

When the worst of it had blown over,  we ventured out to survey the damage.

Shingles littered the yard.

Corn stalks from the neighbor’s fields hung in the trees.

One skylight on the workshop was broken.

Branches and sticks were everywhere.

And one huge silver maple tree was ripped from the ground by the roots.
DSC_0134

Wow.

That storm left a mark that we will be cleaning up for sometime!

But as we started to pick up sticks and sharpened the chain saw, we noticed a common theme.

The shingles were all from the old house. They were old, worn and not well attached. The limbs that had blown down were mostly dead branches.

And that big old silver maple? It was totally rotted inside.

The storm did the most damage to those things that were not well grounded or secure.

But the tree didn’t look rotten from the outside. It was big and beautiful and fully leafed out.

And we never saw all the dead branches and limbs hiding in the foliage.

But when the storm hit, it didn’t matter what they looked like on the outside or how well hidden they were.  The strong winds found and destroyed them.

There’s a lesson here.

The storms of life will come.

The winds of adversity will blow hard and you will feel deluged by the realities around you.

And when they do – will you stand firm?

Is your faith solid to the core?

Can you stand secure in your heavenly Father?

Dig your roots down deep into the bedrock of His faithfulness and let it rain!

 

Auntie M’s Famous Spaghetti Sauce

spaghetti sauceWell… since my friend Sandy requested it, and it seems to be all I’m doing lately… I thought I’d take a minute between batches to post my famous spaghetti sauce recipe.

Okay, maybe it’s not so famous.

And I guess it’s not exactly mine – I got it from my sister-in-law Karen. But I have made it for years and served it often to family and guests.

I call it spaghetti sauce – but it’s really an all-purpose Italian sauce that we also use on pizza and in lasagna and cavatini.

It’s not hard – it just takes time!

First – get a bunch of tomatoes.   And I do mean a bunch! Then wash them and make them into puree.

My favorite way to do this is with my handy-dandy Victorio strainer. I purchased this amazing piece of equipment 20 years ago at an Amish store and love it! You can buy them on Amazon – and I highly recommend it! Mine paid for itself the first year and has saved me money (even made me money!) ever since.

If you don’t have a Victorio – you can also skin the tomatoes, blend them in a blender and push them through a sieve to remove the seeds.

Once you have the puree – you measure it, do the math to figure out how many batches you have and begin.

Auntie M’s famous Spaghetti Sauce

33 cups of tomato puree
1 whole onion (just cut it in half)
1 or 2 green peppers (just cut it in half and seed it)
6 bay leaves

Put the tomato puree in a large, heavy pot. Throw in the onion, pepper and bay leaves. (Don’t worry about fine chopping these – we’ll fish them out later!)

Bring to a boil over high heat, watching it carefully that it doesn’t boil over and stir it often.

Once it has boiled, cook for 2 hours, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, make your “slurry”.

What’s a slurry you ask? It’s the short cut to making a rich, thick spaghetti sauce without cooking tomatoes on the stove for hours.

The secret – tomato paste.  I mix the tomato paste and the spices to make what we call the slurry. Then I add the cooked tomato sauce and mix it to bring everything to the perfect consistency!

Slurry

9 – six ounce cans of tomato paste
1-1/2  tablespoons black pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
4- 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/2 up to 1 – 1/2 cups of sugar
3 tablespoons dried basil
5 tablespoons dried oregano leaves

In a very large bowl, mix together the tomato paste, pepper, garlic powder, salt, sugar, basil and oregano.

Carefully ladle the hot tomato sauce through a strainer (to fish out the well-cooked pepper and onions) into the slurry mixture.

Stir till combined.

Pack into sterilized jars and can in a boiling water bath for 35 minutes.

Makes 7 quarts.

Some hints –

I always double the recipe and put it in my heavy 18 quart stock pot. The heavier the stock pot the better. Flimsy light weight ones will cause scorching and frustration. Trust me – I learned this the hard way.

As for the sugar – you can add as much or as little as you wish.  I use 1/2 cup per batch which is just enough to take down the acidity of the tomatoes.

Seeing Red

Well… let’s just say that I’m so glad I could write a nice garden harvest post before I left for the Labor Day weekend.

At that point we actually had produce to harvest and enjoy.

Then we left.

It was a record 107 degrees as we drove to my parents place and it stayed hot and dry the entire weekend. By the time we returned on Monday –  the garden looked post-apocalyptic.

All of the vineys – the squash, watermelon, cucumbers, pumpkins – everything was dead. Succumbed to the the deadly heat, drought, and dreaded squash bugs.

An they had fought so valiantly all summer.

A moment of silence please.

The corn was brown and dried up and the beans looked pathetic.

So much for a fall garden.

DSC_0132Well – except for the tomatoes. After waiting months for them to finally decide to ripen –  they all ripened at once.

Buddy and I picked bushels of them – 3 banana boxes full.

We were seeing red all the next day as we canned 9 batches of spaghetti sauce in a single day. Never before have I done that many at once.  Wowsa.

And they weren’t done.

A week later we picked another 2 banana boxes.

We have now canned 66 quarts of spaghetti sauce in 2 days.

And I can still see red ones when I look out the window.

Maybe someone should tell them there is a drought? They could slow down.

But I’m not complaining! Oh no – I’m just thankful to have any produce at all!

Really I am.

Anybody want to trade some beautiful red ripe tomatoes for some green beans? Zucchini? Sweet corn?Anything?

I didn’t think so.

Spaghetti sauce here we come.

Second Annual Griner Tractor Ride

The Griner Family Tractor Ride was so much fun last year – we just had to do it again!

This year’s ride was in Grandpa’s honor – and he would have loved it.

He’d be grinning from ear to ear just seeing all his great-grand kids sitting behind the wheel of these vintage tractors .

Scuba and the Farmall

The kids were grinning, too.

And yes – so was I! There’s just something exciting about the sound of an old tractor.  Especially when your surrounded by family and memories.

Sweet memories.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the very cool concept of our family tractor ride, let me enlighten you.

First, everyone claims one of my Uncle Delbert’s vintage tractors. This can be very interesting since each tractor has a unique personality and temperament.

And each driver has a different set of driving skills.

Pedro on red

Some more experienced drivers just jumped on a tractor and took off.  They looked and felt right at home behind the wheel.

Others needed a lesson or two before we started.

And some took Dad along – just in case.

Angel Girl driving tractor

This was Angel Girl’s first time on a tractor – and she wasn’t the only one.

Buddy even got to drive for a little while – with Dad of course.

My Uncle Delbert was everywhere at the same time.

Vance on the DeereStarting tractors, giving lessons, answering questions.

He is a brave man to share his toys with us!

tractor line up

Once the drivers were ready, they lined up at the edge of the farm yard ready to hit the road.

They didn’t stay lined up though. They’d sit there for a few minutes, then somebody would grin and pull out of line and make another pass around the machine shed.

Or two or three.

Soon the whole line up was circling the buildings.

It was like herding cats. 🙂

hitting the roadWhen everybody was ready – and the hay rack was loaded with of those of us “non-drivers” – we started down the blacktop.

It was our very own family parade driving by all the familiar places of my childhood.

Uncle Delbert’s farm. The river. Uncle Dale’s farm. The Anderson place where we lived until I was eight. The Morgan’s.

And then past the cemetery where Grandpa and Grandma are buried,  into town and to the park.

backroadsWe took the back roads home, right to Grandpa’s farm.

It was a little bittersweet to drive in the yard, see those tractors circle the barn and come to rest in front of the house.

It seemed like Grandpa should be there, opening the door with a grin and offering us a dish of ice cream and piece of Grandma’s chocolate cake.

They would have loved this.

We all loved it.

Thank you Uncle Delbert.

Photo credits: Wiggy Photography, Inc. Thanks guys!

The Annual “Christmas at Labor Day” Celebration

It’s very hard to explain to people just what our annual family Labor Day celebration looks  like.

But then every year it’s a little different.

giant jenga
This year we had a giant Jenga game on the porch. Trust me – you didn’t want to be on the wrong side of this guy when it finally fell!

painting playhouseAnd the cousins (with the help of Uncle Rod)  painted the prairie playhouse – and each other.

We even had a Redneck Shower this year.

redneck showerSolar powered and designed by my brother Tim – this was the perfect way to clean up after playing in the Redneck swimming pool…

redneck swimming pool…the river. Which was pretty low this year. The kids didn’t mind though. It was a great place to cool off!

gocart ridesEspecially after a very dusty go-cart ride down the gravel road!

We had our second annual Family Tractor Ride (more on that later – it needs it’s own post!)

tractor ride

And our very special family worship service on the prairie.

prairie worshipFollowed by a very special Christmas celebration, in lawn chairs, outside.

And of course – the traditional walk to see the elk and take the crazy cousin picture on Fort Sumter rock.

Fort Sumter rockWhich isn’t anywhere near the real Fort Sumter.

But then September isn’t anywhere near Christmas.

So I guess it fits just right with my slightly crazy but super fun family who likes to take “making memories” to a whole new level!

Photo credits: Wiggy Photography Inc. Thanks guys!