black raspberry jam

Have you seen the uber antique reality show "Pioneer Quest"? It was filmed in Canada in the early 2000s (See? It's practically vintage.), and the two couples chosen to participate had to live in the  middle of the Canadian prairie for a year, using only the tools and animals and clothes that would have been available in the mid-1800s. 

They built log cabins and learned how to plow a field with the help of two draft horses and canned venison and survived the coldest winter in 120 years by burning wood they split pretty much non-stop with their own two hands. 

Chris immediately decided we should re-up the show and started mentally rehearsing how he'd build a barn and where the chickens would stay and what to feed the cow and why hay wasn't enough to keep the horses from losing weight over the winter. 

I was just enthused he thought I could make it for a year living like a pioneer. Personally, the insane amount of mosquitoes, the poison ivy and the unending rain would have done me in about 30 seconds. I'd have been like those women you read about who went nuts living in their little shanties on the prairie and wandered off into blizzards with no coat, only to be found frozen to death months later. 

Yeah. I'm that girl. 

Since -- Lord willing -- we'll never star in a reality show that apparently didn't take off, canning is as close a second as I'll get. 

The ladies on Pioneer Quest canned meat and beans. I'm over here with blackberry jam -- blackberries courtesy of the neighbors -- and feeling pretty good about it. No one's asking me to stick diced partridge in a jar, and I'm not complaining about that. I didn't even have to split the neighbor's firewood for a winter in return for the berries. Winning!

Thanks to my mom's recipe, air conditioning, electricity to keep the stove nice and hot, and the Internet to remind me about headspace, our pantry is now filled with jam to sustain us during the long, hard winter. 

Or the winter where we'll sit in our warm house drinking hot coffee, not worrying a bit if the pig will survive the freezing weather or when the outhouse seat will thaw. 

We've got it pretty good after all, haven't we? 


Black Raspberry Jam

5 cups prepared fruit (buy about 2 quarts fully ripe black raspberries)
1 box fruit pectin
1/2 tsp. butter
6 1/2 cups sugar

Bring canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready for use. 

Crush black raspberries thoroughly, one layer at a time. Strain half of pulp to remove some of the seeds, if desired. Measure 5 cups prepared fruit into 6-8 quart sauce pot. 

Stir pectin into prepared fruit in sauce pot. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim off any foam with a metal spoon. 

Ladle into prepared jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with lids. Screw bands tightly and place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner so that water covers jars by 1-2 inches. Cover. Bring water to a gentle boil. Process 10 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool. After jars have cooled, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary. 

Here I Swap: Reformation Mug Swap 2016

I have a small . . . issue . . . with coffee mugs. It's not that I collect them. It's just that I can't part with them. 

But it's not an addiction. No, really. I can stop whenever I want. 

There may be something like 30 vintage Pyrex coffee mugs in a box in the basement. And we may have a small collection of dairy mugs that have udders for feet. And I'm not saying that we each have coffee cups from our grandparents' homes that remind us of them, but ok, we totally do. 

So naturally I think it'd be a great idea to add yet one more mug to the collection . . . by hosting a mug swap for women who love Jesus, the Reformation, its theology and maybe even a good beer and pretzel now and then. 

It works pretty simply. 

  • You sign up. I pair you up with another gal and send you info on your partner. 
  • You read up on her style and favorite color and what Scripture passages offer her the most comfort and then go find her a mug that will fit her to a T. 
  • If you're feeling up to it, make it a little care package. Does she love chocolate? Toss some in the box! Does she have a favorite hymn in the LSB? Get her a little gift card to CPH! Does she thrive on welcoming people into her home? Add a little tablecloth. This part is up to you. You only need to send a mug, but adding a few personal touches won't hurt her feelings any. 
  • Send the package by a specific date so that it arrives in time for October and any Reformation celebrations she's planning on doing. 
  • Channel your inner Katie Luther and wait by the mailbox for your mug to arrive from the gal who got YOUR name and info. 
  • Meet two other women who love Jesus, "A Mighty Fortress" and coffee as much as you! 

How's that for easy? And fun!

We may never stand before princes and councils and utter the words, "Here I stand," (well, actually, we might at the rate things are going), but in the meantime, we can definitely give thanks to God for the people He has placed in our life and say:

"Here I swap!" 

As Christian -- and specifically Lutheran women -- it can be hard to meet other women who make the same confession, and it's my hope this is a way to connect some of us as we look forward to celebrating 500 years of Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone. 


1. If you're 21 or older, sign up by clicking on this link and filling out the (short!) form. 
2. Sign-ups close August 25, and you will receive information on your mug swap partner by September 9.
3. Take a few days to check out your new friend's social media pages to get to know her and her style. 
4. Head to Walmart or Crate and Barrel or any place in between to find a coffee mug she can fill with java or tea and sip while reading her Treasury of Daily Prayer each morning. Spend at least $5.00 on a mug but no more than $20.00. This is a new friend, after all. She'll love a nice mug!
6. Send the mug -- and a little note with your name and how she can find you on social media so that you can connect up -- before September 23 so that she receives it in time for October and Reformation celebrations. 
5. Post a picture of your mug when it arrives. Use the hashtag #hereiswap2016 on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Heck, you might even meet a few other Reformation-lovin' ladies that way!

They make take "goods, fame, child and wife" -- pretty sure that goods includes cute coffee mugs -- but in the meantime, we can remind one another of our baptisms, add marshmallows to our cocoa and rejoice in new friendships made over a common faith . . . and maybe even a love of coffee. 

Update: The swap is now closed! Thanks to all who signed up! 

* It's my hope that this swap will be a nifty way for Christian women to encourage one another -- and enjoy a pretty mug during their morning coffee -- but unfortunately, I can't be held responsible for your partner's actions. I'm hopeful people are signing up who actually intend to send mugs, rather than just receive them, but please let me know ( if your partner never sends a mug so that I can reach out to her. 

good fences make good neighbors

My summertime job in Iowa consisted of working for two widowed sisters who lived in two separate houses on one big farm. I trimmed hedges and painted fences and mowed and pulled weeds. And before my sisters and I would start work each morning, one of the sisters would read poetry to us. (She was a teacher after all.) 

One of her favorites was Robert Frost's "The Mending Wall." 

"He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'. 
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder 
If I could put a notion in his head: 
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it 
Where there are cows? 
But here there are no cows. 
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know 
What I was walling in or walling out."

I never understood what "good fences make good neighbors" meant until marrying a dairy farmer.  Good fences keep animals in -- where they're supposed to be -- just as they keep animals out of places where they're NOT supposed to be. 

Animals break through fences now and then. They duck under them and run straight through them. And if they do, everyone stops what they're doing and focuses solely on the lost being found. 

So when I saw black cows -- and not black and white cows -- trotting along our bean field fence line, I called my husband, figuring the farmer they belong to would like them back as quickly as possible before they made lunch out of another neighbor's corn field. 

After leaving the field, the beef mamas and their babies turned back toward home and started trotting down the road, stopping to sniff and listen and look and nudge the calves along. 

It was like the rural version of Rawhide. 

You can sing along. 

You know you want to.

Move 'em on - Head 'em up! - Head 'em up - Move 'em on! - Move 'em on - Head 'em up!

Cut 'em out - Ride 'em in! - Ride 'em in - Cut 'em out! - Cut 'em out - Ride 'em in!



I might have gotten a little carried away here. This is excitement for us rural folk, mmkay?

Right about the time they were trying to decide if they should make a break for it through the corn field or keep on trudging down the road, help arrived! 

It wasn't quite Roy Rogers on Trigger, but it was my farmer and brother-in-law in a red pickup and that's pretty close. 

Using his truck -- and horn -- Chris moved them on down the road (where they tried to rush our house and I hopped up on the deck like a big weeny before getting plowed over), using his truck like a big red gate to keep them from getting too far into the ditch or the field . . . or our lawn. 

I, on the other hand, was trying valiantly to keep my two pups from pretending they were cattle dogs who were trying singlehandedly to cause a stampede with all their barking and darting. Let's just say I didn't really succeed.

Keep movin', movin', movin' - Though they're disapprovin' - Keep them doggies movin'- RAWHIDE!

Gah. I can't help myself. 

Off they toodled down the road, moving at a galatial pace . . . until our dairy cows in our pasture caught wind that their neighbors had vacated the premises. 

Then it because an all out Olympic sprint to the finish. Dairy cows were running. Beef cows were running. Chris's dogs were barking. The neighbor's dogs were barking. The neighbor's horses were whinnying. It was a small circus. Err . . . rodeo?

With others along to help and the gate swung wide open in preparation for their return, the cows made it safely home, back inside their fence. 

"Why do fences make good neighbors? Isn't it where there are cows? But here there are no cows!"

Good fences make good neighbors. But when fences fail, neighbors step in, rounding up livestock, turning them toward home, urging them down the road, and making sure the same number that left arrive back home. 

Aaaaaand maybe signing a chorus or two of Rawhide along the way. 

"We must note well the words of the Lord. He does say: Do not worry! But He does not say: Do not work! Worry is forbidden, but not work. In fact, we are commanded and enjoined so to work that the perspiration flows over our nose." - Luther

{Except on Sundays, of course.}

zucchini relish - ball canning

There was one day every summer, when my mom was canning pickles, that the entire kitchen would reek of vinegar. 

Some people might use the verb "smell." But not me. No, I would definitely say it "reeked." 

As in, do you remember the green fog of death in the Ten Commandments movie? That was basically the smell of vinegar in the kitchen. 

I would even go so far as to forego meals for 24 hours not to have to enter the kitchen and smell that smell. And I love to eat. 

Obviously this had an impact on me, since I'm reliving it 25 years later. I can let things go. For real. Just apparently not that. Not that smell!

So when our garden exploded with zucchini, and I realized in the midst of canning Summer Bounty Zucchini Relish from the All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving that MY kitchen now smelled like vinegar, I had a little mom moment. It was like I'd finally arrived. Some day, my children, too, will hate the smell of a vinegary kitchen in the summertime. 


In the meantime, I burned a candle to counteract the smell (Hey, I never said I've grown to like it.) and made six times the size of a normal batch of relish and then stayed up until I heard the last jar lid ping.

(Is there a more beautiful sound? I say not.)

So, what have I learned during this smelly process? Don't let canning intimidate you. Find a way to use up that zucchini. Have tasty, homemade gifts to share with friends and family.

Oh. And wear a nose plug.

Summer Bounty Zucchini Relish

3 cups grated zucchini
1 1/2 cups diced red, orange and yellow bell peppers
1/2 cup grated onion
2 T. Ball Salt for Pickling and Preserving
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup white vinegar
2 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. mustard seeds

Combine first 3 ingredients. Sprinkle with salt; cover with cold water. Let stand for 2 hours. Drain. Rinse. Drain again, pressing slightly to remove excess water.

Bring sugar and next 3 ingredients to a boil. Add drained veggies, and return to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered 10 minutes.

Sadly hot relish into hot jar, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe jar rim. Center lid and apply band, adjusting to fingertip-tight. Place jar in boiling water bath, processing 10 minutes. Turn off heat. Remove lid, and let jars stand 5 minutes. Remove jars and cool. 

summer corn salad

Here on the farm, when we do things, we do them up big. Like when we plant lettuce, for instance. We don't plant just a row or two. We plant ten . . . that are all ready to be eaten on virtually the same day. 

No joke. There was a time earlier this summer when I had ELEVEN BAGS OF LETTUCE in my refrigerator. 

My dear husband, who loves salads, finally told me one day at lunch, "I don't think I can eat any more lettuce."

Like I said . . . we go big. 

Now our zucchini is ready for harvesting, and it's coming out of our ears. Not literally. But definitely out of every corner of our kitchen. 

And did I mention that the sweet corn is ready too?

That's why, last night for supper, we had zucchini boats and corn salad . . . and we probably will for the next 324 years at the rate we're going. 

So if you're in the same [zucchini] boat, with summer veggies in abundance, try out this refreshing, summery salad. It's fresh, cool and doesn't leave you feeling like you just ate a 10-pound steak smothered in gravy with a side of dumplings covered in cheese on the side.

Or you can just come visit us. We'll have plenty. Obviously.

Summer Corn Salad

6 cobs corn
1/2 lage red onion
1 jalapeno
1 can black beans
1 red pepper
1/2 cucumber
 1 cup feta
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
1 T. lemon juice
 1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Remove corn from the cob. Dice onion, jalapeƱo, pepper and cucumber. Mix in a large bowl. Combine vinegar, oil, lemon juice and spices. Whisk. Stir into vegetable mixture. Stir in feta. 

the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad yet thankful day

I always thought when I got to heaven that the first person I'd look up would be Eve. I'd find her in a dark alley and give her the what-for. Fruit? Seriously? Messing up mankind for a mango? Girl, please.

But as of Thursday at 1:30 a.m., I've changed my mind. First on my list is Noah. And I'm not leaving him alone until he gives me three good reasons he let spiders on the ark.

We may be there for a while. Eternity even.

It happened in the middle of the night. My husband woke up and went to get a glass of water. As he crawled out of bed, I rolled over and felt something scurry across my shoulder. I slapped at my back about three times, checked my pillow, figured it was a phantom feeling and laid back down. Before he turned the lights back out, I looked under my pillow one more time . . . and there the little bugger was: a spider.

I screeched for Chris to kill it, but since we're both -- how do I put this? -- BLIND, he couldn't see where I was jabbing my finger. I was hollering for him to grab his glasses, and he was trying to explain he had contacts in, and when it was all over, he'd grabbed a Kleenex, and the arachnid was dead.

He went to the bathroom to drop the deceased in the trash, and by the time he came back in and laid down, my right eye had swollen closed and I jumped out of bed, pulled my hair back and raced for the trash can. Then the headache started. Then my chest tightened. It really happened that fast. Whatever that little dude was packing, it was legit.

With gratitude to Chris, my husband, for meritorious service on the field of battle AKA  someone hopped up on spider venom
Chris, of course, said we needed to go to the emergency room, but like any idiot, I tried to convince him to let me lay on the bathroom floor for a while so we wouldn't have to wake the baby. Thankfully, the Lord sets the solitary into families, so while I kept saying, "I don't feel good. And what's with my eye? Are you even there? Who am I?" Chris called his mom, who graciously got out of bed, came to our house and watched Georgia while he drove me a half an hour to the hospital with a baggie toting the spider in tow.

Three hours, an anti-nausea pill, some steroids and a receptionist who shrieked, "Did the spider BITE YOUR EYE?" later, we headed home with the knowledge that I had been bitten by a brown recluse.

Or as I told Chris, "Well, now we're just going to have to burn the house down."

The next day I had a follow-up with the doctor, who sent me to the pharmacist, who didn't even acknowledge my swollen-eye-pirate-esque look and acted like it was totally normal. God bless her.

My little Walmart trooper

Then I went to Ace and pretty much bought out their supply of spider traps. Then the exterminator came and hosed the house down. Then Georgia and I, who had vacated the premises at the time, came home just in time for her nap. I laid her down, went back to the car to get the spider traps, and heard the back tire hissing.

In other news, Toyota Camry tires don't love country roads.

I got her back out of bed, drove to the Walmart Automotive department, and parked my car with its now completely flat tire. Two hours and a wailing baby later, and the car still wasn't in the shop. Chris graciously rescued us, and his mom kindly drove him to Walmart later to pick the car up. In the meantime, in an effort to make amends for making him lose three hours of sleep the night before, I pulled a beer out of the fridge to go with the supper I'd fixed and promptly dropped it on the floor -- the beer, that is, not the supper -- where the cap went flying and beer slowly foamed and oozed all across the kitchen floor.

I almost sat down in the middle of the puddle and cried. But my dad's voice echoed in my head. And so to the words, "You're not unique," I decided to mop instead.

Or mope. I can't really remember. Dads are good from pulling us out of our pity parties like that.

How we feel about spiders. 

The good news in all of this is that doctors prescribe steroids, husbands don't blink twice about getting you medical attention, mothers-in-law sleep on your couch so your baby doesn't have to wake up, Leinenkugel makes more beer and swollen eyes eventually go back to normal.

I mean, you may not know it from all the toxin-induced rashes covering me at the moment but it's true. Or as Rosie Adle says, "The Lord cares for His creatures through His creatures."

And I am grateful.

Just not for spiders.

PS I'm also reminded of this great Lutheran Witness blog post that reminds me, "Nature is trying to kill you." I would only add, "Yes, it is. And apparently
while you sleep!"
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