still preserving


The canning continues on the homestead. It is all I can write about because it all I can think about what with the baskets and bags of food resting on the kitchen floor. Last weekend it was tomatoes that rolled around heat, creating a tropical environment in our home. The air humid, the windows steamy, my hair extra curly. Twenty quarts of sauce joined the canned ranks.

We canned tomato sauce for three days, beginning Friday night when I taught my friend how to can. Margot was a huge help the rest of the weekend. Sister peeled almost 40 pounds of tomatoes!

Our method: I make sauce (nothing but tomatoes) because it is so versatile with the addition of herbs and vegetables later. I core, blanch and peel and then paw apart with my hands and toss in a pot to cook way down. I don't remove seeds. I pour the water off (that is naturally cooked out of the maters) a few times as they cook and when the tomatoes are really soft, I pur矇e with my immersion blender (best kitchen invention ever). And let it cook over medium heat until thick, stirring often. I add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice per quart and process in a boiling water canner. I reference the Ball Blue Book to determine my processing times.

Now, onto the unharvested fruit around town. I have been asked many times how I find free fruit and, really, it finds me. Early in the summer, I see trees and make a mental note of its branches, bowing with edible orbs. I get especially excited about the sturdy ones that don't require a ladder, the ones with the perfect Y at the base. The trees that beg for one good foothold, one good grab on a limb, one hearty shake and it's raining fruit.


I never end up picking that stalked fruit because of my history with certain trees around town. Years ago I made a few calls, talked to a few people and now, I'm in. Once in the Free Fruit Circuit, it is abundant. Texts circulate Apricots falling by the minute. Meet tonight at 5? and I saw Sally's plums are on. Come over? Last week I called to make an appointment for my annual exam and my midwife overheard her receptionist say my name. "Tell her to bring some baskets for the pears!" she shouted in the background.

My kids think it is amazingly cool that I climb trees. Margot grabbed my camera and fully operated it on her own. She took 78 photos. Here are a few:


A few weeks after I pick, I revisit with a jar or two of preserved goodness. The tree gives, the owner shares, I take and give back. I love being a part of the earthy, generous, nutritious, handmade cycle. And I love participating with my daughters. Good stuff, I say.

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In this week's mama digs, I wrote about how I learn the reality of limitless potential through my kids. This is one of my favorite surprises about parenting: how much my kids teach me, like really teach me how I want to live. Click to read mama digs: potential.

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Congrats to the randomly selected winner of the parenting e-course:
Staci said...i had the same thought as ctb. totally sucks to miss the chance on fresh food, but it would only be a *true* waste if you threw it in the trash. hooray for compost! love all the food, and what great deals! ...i think i farm/garden (farden?) so i can preserve... would love a shot at the parenting class. they have a cool thing going.

email me sister: digthischick@gmail.com


Melina said...

Nothing like a peeled tomato... it looks like a ruby and a peach had a love child. I mean the gem-ruby, of course.

I love all the tiny patagonia your littles sport...reason #44566 for me to have children one day.

I'm doing a little patagonia giveaway on the wilder coast right now, FYI.

much love from the coast

Jenn said...

I have always enjoyed how involved your daughters are in everyday life. Letting them shine with family responsibilities is so wonderful! It shows in their character. Loved MamaDigs as well. -Jenn

ctb said...

ah damn. so close to winning that parenting ecourse. i mean, doesnt it count if the winner drops your name in her comment?

LOVE all that tom sauce. we will be right over for spaghetti at your house, my little dude is addicted. all i hear these days is "pa-sgeti" while signing 'more'!

homeiswhatyoumakeit said...

I would LOVE to start canning the way you do.
We took an impromptu roadtrip from Portland to Kamiah, Idaho (right over the mountains on Highway 12 from Missoula) over the weekend. The friends we visited had orchards full of apple, plum, and pear trees...and many more that were just wild on their 20 acre property. After we were well on our way home I thought, "why didn't I fill some bags full of all that fruit?" (they are not picking it themselves)!
Maybe next year!

Kelly said...

I love these posts. They truly warm my heart. :)

Sarah said...

yes, they warm my heart too. You are such a good person and I like knowing you are raising girls the way that you are. And tell Margot good job on the photos. I don't let Anna Cate near my camera so maybe i need to ease up on that a bit! Margot did great! Happy preserving. We went to an apple orchard yesterday so we are dehydrating some tonight and made apple crisp, I wonder about apple preserves? Happy Fall.

Melissa said...

something about this post I just love, especially you up in that tree (hello, Julia butterfly meets down-to-earth-mama) and Margot catching it with her own tiny hands.

happy fall, happy preserving! and of course, happy packing up and moving, oh, do i ever feel glad to be on the other side of that . . . but it's all, all good. trust the process like you trust your canning instincts! xo

rebecca... said...

,,,oh that sauce looks soooo delicious i could drink it!,,,i love that m&r learn and participate right along your side,,,

Mrs Mason said...

I love that your share your "harvest" with the owners of the trees. That's how it should be! perfect xxx

Kristi said...

I love canning season! Tomatoes went through already for me as ketchup and sauce, but I have bags of apples in the kitchen waiting for me.

TRB Holt said...

I love making tomato sauce!....my canning came to an abrupt end with said injured "paw"...so no tomato sauce this year! What a big help Margot was!!!! and do I spy Rubes in that red dress of yours?...Makes me happy!


mistene said...

I love all your canning! I will have to try some next year! Do you do the pears halved?

Ellie said...

Letting Margot help you with canning is probably the best thing you can do for her character and development right now. What a wonderful mama you are. Nice mama digs column, too.

Kelly Cach said...

*TOTALLY agree on the immersion blender!

*LOVE tomato sauce...one of my biggest cravings when I was pregnant every time!

*and TRULY, truly some of my favorite photos of our girl have been taken by our boys. So sweet that you let Margot take the shots....isn't it precious to see their tiny baby hands wrapped around such a big, important piece? They feel pretty special, too :)

Baby By The Sea said...

I have this image of you driving around your town, produce baskets and babes in tow, knocking on doors and politely asking if they're planning to pick all their fruit...Then, driving around with a hatchback full of pies/preserves to deliver in gratitude. This is something I really like about you.

Happiness is... said...

Love that you have created these relationships around town to pick their fruit and return with preserved goodies. That's the best part about good communities - large or small - the creation of relationships that start over small conversations. You live in a terrific community filled with a lot of open hearts.

One of the shots that Margot took captured Ruby and she looks like a young Margot in the face. Wow.


Extraordinary Ordinary Life said...

Came over from Food in Jars link. Didn't know if you ever used a food mill, but I have the Roma food mill and it is awesome for making sauce. You can put tomatoes in there that aren't even cooked and it will seed and peel them for you. It makes very quick work of sauce making.

Jeff Z said...

We went with friends to a big commercial apple orchard this year for our sauce apples. What a mistake. We got better (organic, if a bit wormy) apples for free from my sister's neighbor's tree. They weren't picking them, so we got them. Delicious!

More about apple picking and apple butter making, plus a really cute picture of my son at http://eighthacrefarm.blogspot.com

dig this chick said...

extraordinary ordinary:
I don't have a food mill although I dream of one when I am not obsessed with decluttering my kitchen!

dig this chick said...

mistene: Yes, I halve the pears. Or I make sauce. What do you do?

trbholt said...

via mamalode.com:

You got it sweetie…“Hey, mama? Can we fix this?”…“Yes. We can figure something out.”

You make me so proud to be your mama!

Amanda said...

via mamalode.com:

Love it!

Kelly said...

via mamalode.com:

1. I love reading your stories.
2. You are such a great mama.
3. Your own mama’s support and comments choke me up.
4. Where was Margot going with your underwear?!

Jen said...

via mamalode.com:

You got it, mama! ANYTHING is possible!! (This happens to be my daily mantra).

rebecca said...

via mamalode.com:

,,,if there were no things to fix, life would lack luster,,,you’re a good “fixer” nici holt-cline!,,,my fav, margot insisted “tearfully” the cape NOT be left behind,,,(smile)

Jenny V said...

via mamalode.com:

I really especially love this post. So true…so true. Sometimes my kids make me feel like a superhero.

Julie said...

via mamalode.com:

I read your blog and Mama Digs and have for well over a year now. This post was extraordinary in so many ways. Your writing is brilliant, beautiful, positively amazingly divine.

hyzen said...

via mamalode.com:

ditto to all 4 things on Kelly’s list above.

memomuse said...

via mamalode.com:

I’m choosing this piece to write about for my reader’s notebook in grad school for my advanced creative nonfiction workshop. I love your writing style and although I get jealous of your ability to be so consistent, writing something for mamalode every Monday and the nuggets I adore every Wednesday on your website, I always smile when I read your posts. Jealousy has lost its leaves to admiration and joy – you are a spirit making the world a better place with your words, your stitches, and your muse. Montana is lucky to have you, as are we – your adoring fans. How’s that for ego fist pumping. If we were in person, I’d chest pump ya. You rock and I love your writing. Thank you for always inspiring and being such a positive vibrant person in this big ole universe. ~ memomuse

PS – I should tell all of Nici’s readers that I actually emailed her and told her I was jealous of her and she emailed me back this wonderful quote about how the people we admire can inspire us to become better. That’s why I dig this chick!

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