Monday, October 23, 2017

So much to do, how do deal with it all!

Fall. What a lovely time of year. The weather starts getting cooler. The smell in the air is crisp. Leaves are turning. What a beautiful sight! And, uh...oh no... that means Winter is coming! For many of us Fall is a VERY busy time of year. This can be an overwhelming task when looking at all that needs to be done. Days are shorter, and To Do Lists get longer. The pressure of making the best of your time is at a all time high! Weather changes can really effect how and when you can get outside work done. Inside work gets put off and life can get out of control! Step back, take a deep breath, and let's talk about how to get through it all!

If you remember, I am a field farmer in Kansas. So before anything else...this time of year, we are all about Harvest! This is our income, so making sure we get things done to the best of our ability is VERY important. It is quite stressful when things don't go as we hope. It is inevitable that rains will pop up when you're equipment is working, and the sun comes out when the equipment is down! You have to try and laugh through it all. These are things you learn to deal with and try to plan for. Days are long, and you are pushed to levels of exhaustion that you didn't even know you had! And although I am a farmer, and you will see me in the field right beside my dear husband, I also am a small homesteader. This means there are still daily chores to be tended to, the garden and orchard are producing abundances of delicious food that needs put up for winter, and there is a whole list of cleaning and preparation that needs to be made so the animals can survive the winter months. Of course let's not forget that I'm also a mom and school events and projects need my attention too. Out of school sports and 4-H activities popping up every few days, and of course everyone hopes for a nice meal at the end of these crazy busy and extremely exhausting days.

Do I become overwhelmed, um YES! Quite often actually! Do I get it all done, oh.. NO...no I don't! And this is something I have been forced to deal with. Nobody likes to fail. But ya know what, it's ok! Life is about learning, and you never ever stop! The older I become, the more I realize that I am not that young superwoman that I was even 5 years ago. My body and my health is changing, and so I am gradually learning to change with it. With this, I am learning acceptance. I am asking for more help. I am saying "No" to things I just cannot devote time or energy to. And toughest of all, I am accepting that things may not get done in a manner that I am accustomed to. I am waiting longer, giving me patience. I say thank you even though my "help" may have just caused more work. And I accept that some things just may not ever get done!  So how can this apply to you?  Slow down, take a look at what you have to get done, and learn to delegate tasks.  Be realistic with your time.  Are you pushing too hard?  Maybe it would be better to ask for help from a friend, or hire a neighboring teen to help you with the big projects!  Make lists, then break them up into small tasks or goals!

I am also allowing myself more time to do things. When I first learned to can, it was so exciting and so fun! I had friends that loved to can too! We would get together all day and help each other put up the beautiful bounty that was before us. Days were long, and we were exhausted, but could easily wake up the next morning refreshed and ready (after coffee of course)! Just a few short years later, it's not quite as easy!

Finding time to be with friends is so important! Big projects can be done with the help of others! However, as busy as we are becoming, it becomes more difficult to even find time to steal an entire day!  And you know what, that's ok...we don't need an entire day to cram all of our fun in, now we just make small dates more often!  And you should too!  Don't forget your friends, they need you as much as you need them!

 This year I had to accept that if I wanted to take on canning projects, I had to do it in phases. Sadly, I picked my grapes before they were ready. (Another Learning curve.)  When a family from a neighboring town offered their extra abundance, I was thrilled for the opportunity! I called my mom, and we went together and picked one morning before field harvest was in full swing! It was a busy week, so that is all that was accomplished that day in the canning department. About 2 days later it rained and I cleaned and sorted all those beautiful bunches of delicious grapes. This took much longer than anticipated! Other life obligations came up, so another 2 days passed before I could process them. For now they are grape juice concentrate. We will enjoy having that to drink this winter. And when time allows, I can also may jelly! Normally I would've gotten it all done in 2 days, running on little to no sleep, leaving myself in a zombie state. This would be no good! 

When the apples were ready, I did the same concept. Applesauce was quick and easy, and I made a fast pressure cooker juice from the scraps. I won't have pie filling or stewed apple slices, and that is ok! I will make jelly with the juice when the snow falls! And then it was the same with the pears, pumpkins,tomatoes, and on and on... I accepted that I couldn't make a large variety, but getting SOMETHING done made me feel a bit more accomplished, and we will be happy with what we have.

What time pressed project might you have going on?  Can you maybe take a moment and think of a different way of doing it?  How about doing part of it now, and part of it later?  Your time is worth more than you realize, prioritize what must be done first and then only take on those projects before tackling more!
When it comes to outside work in the garden or barn, take things in small steps. Are you a seed saver? Here is an excellent example of a "do some now, do some later" task! Grab all your pods, lay them to dry and leave them! Don't worry about them until you have time!  While you're off doing other tasks, the pods will crack open and the seeds will appear! Most seeds will need to sit and dry for a long time!  A quick tip is to make sure you put paper towels down first, and that will help to catch the seeds, and cleanup will be a breeze!

How about raking the yard....instead of doing all of it, do the front today, and the back another day. It's ok to step out of your norm, and give yourself a break! It doesn't mean the project can't or won't get done.....just done differently!

We have 2 stalls in the goat pen. One was cleaned, and the other didn't get cleaned out for nearly a month. I was able to do the first one, but had to ask for help on the second. Waiting patiently was a trying experience, however the project did get done! The same will be for our poultry. One weekend we will tackle the ducks, and a few weekends later we will clean out the chicken house. We will look around and observe what will need to be done before winter, taking mental notes, but actually doing it will come later.

If you are working with children, this actually makes things much less stressful on both you and the child! I don't care what age they are, children don't want to muck barns or scrub stalls any more than we do, and I may even venture to say they like it less! I just don't have the physical energy to deal with the emotional drama that can happen, lol! So this tip is just as much about saving sanity as it is saving time!

And here it comes....the saying "NO" part. This is a work in progress, and likely will always be! Family, Friends, and Community is so important to me! I try and help out whenever and wherever I can. This means driving people out of town to appointments, making and taking meals, and so on. I was working at a mom and pop store in town, and loving every minute! Life started to get way to crazy, so that was something I just had to let go. Somehow that time became consumed with other activities, and then had to give up attending Farmers Market before the season ended. I felt like I was disappointing so many people, but for my own personal reasons, I had to slow down! My children are involved in activities, and that means all sorts of fund raisers, meetings, and more. I've always been the one that would not only take on my part, but somehow offer to help others get theirs done too! This had to change. It's a shock to yourself to say no and give up commitments, but it's a shock to other too! Don't worry, life goes on and everyone adjusts.  Take a deep breath and realize that you are only one person, and it's perfectly normal to say "NO", or "not this time".  Don't let guilt creep up on you, you have to know your limits and be your own advocate!

Now remember, its ok to accept failure! Sometimes we allow ourself to take on more than we are capable of! Its perfectly normal to do so, and perfectly ok to admit it and give up some things! When and if life slows down and you feel that you are caught up, take a moment to breathe. Relax, let yourself heal! And after that, only after that, you can re-evaluate and look again at how you can do things. Maybe you will decide that you like taking small steps instead of big ones. Maybe you will choose to limit the time you give to any activity. And maybe you will feel that you your ready to try that project again! If you take things slow and then look back, you realize that yes, you did accomplish something! Don't let yourself get overwhelmed, it all works out eventually!  And most of all, don't forget to laugh!  Laugh at others, but mostly laugh at yourself!  When you're running around crazy, or you fall, or your supper burns, or you sleep in....just laugh!  It's a good thing to do!

I hope that me sharing some of my personal experiences will help you with your fall chores and obligations! Maybe you are working long hours? Maybe you have been struck with illness, or disability. Maybe life has become to busy and overwhelming? My suggestion to you is to not give up. Don't look at all the things that need to be done as a huge burden. Find new and creative ways that you can do things differently. Look at your tasks and see if you can change or even eliminate some. Leave a comment here, and come find me on Facebook, twitter, Instagram and share your stories!

At the bottom of the page you will se 6 more #FallingforAutumn Blogs. Please go check them out!







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Pears, Pears, and more Pears











For anyone who has followed me here or on Facebook, you will know the excitement I had this Spring when I found my fruit trees were going to produce this year! My Orchard is nearly 7 years old, and I've yet to get much fruit from it. It absolutely was a fruit year all around. I had strawberries, apples, raspberries, plums, cherries, grapes, peaches, blackberries, and yes....for the first time on our farm....Pears! Some plants only produced a few bites while others gave me enough to sell at market, and even put up for winter.
In my Orchard, we have two different types of pear trees, and they both produced very well for the first year of fruit!  One of them is a Bartlett type, and the other is more of a Bosc.  The reason I say type is because I honestly don't remember what the names are.  I had a struggle getting started with my beautiful orchard and had to replace some trees along the way, forgetting some of the names!  Oops!  I'll come back and edit to let you know if I ever find that map I made all those years ago!

I've seen a few beautiful blooms in the Springs' past, but sadly never fruit. So when I saw fruit beginning to form this year, I was ecstatic! One of my trees (Bosc) was just loaded! I know that you are to pinch off fruit that is close together, but I just didn't have the heart to do it. And crazy enough I had some nice sized fruit at the end of the season. Ok, I had some pretty puny looking ones too, but they were shared with the chickens! It was a delightful treat for them to chase and fight over!  And being the silly farmwife that I am, I thoroughly enjoyed the free entertainment!

As far as pears go, you are supposed to pick them before they fully ripen. They can get gritty if left on the tree too long!  And if you want to put them up for winter, you'll want to catch them before they begin to fall, or before any frost hits!  To preserve them, just inspect and individually wrap in newspaper and store in a cool dry place like a cellar or basement. It's best to have them spread out on one layer. If conditions are correct, you will have fresh fruit for months. Some people even dig holes in the ground for winter food storage! I have a storm shelter that I use, however it is warmer than a cellar, so I can't store as long as most. I usually can my pears. This ensures that I get to have some for winter and they won't spoil!

You can choose to leave some fruit on the tree to ripen a bit more and be used fresh. These are the super sweet, and sticky-face dripping pears that we all love! I lay mine out on the kitchen counter to fully ripen and use as they begin to soften.  Mmmmm!  At this point they also make excellent sauce and juice. The sugar content is at it's peak!  That's if you can keep from eating them all!

Check out my pantry!  Look at all that wonderful pear sauce!  It's got the texture of applesauce, and can be substituted in recipes just the same!  As a low calorie tip, you can use it in place of oil when baking breads or making cookies!  But around here we chill it and eat it by the spoonful!  On the second shelf you see a beautiful golden substance, this is scrap juice!  You guessed it, I kept all of the cores and peels and turned them into delicious pear juice, only adding a minimal amount of sugar!  That's whats great about canning, and scratch cooking, you control the ingredients.  Maybe you'd rather add nutmeg and a splash of honey?


Another great way to preserve your pear harvest is to dehydrate!  These make for delicious snacks, I love to have them on hand for camping, but they're great to keep in the car for when you're out running around and don't want to be tempted by gas station treats!  Have you ever had a dried pear, they're literally like candy!  So sweet and chewy!  And if you have a dehydrator, just slice thin and dry until you've reached desired texture!  You can just as easily use your oven on a very low setting, or do what our ancestors did and hang the rings on a string!  



I've certainly enjoyed playing around with different ways to use these amazing farm fresh homegrown pears. Just look at that beautiful pie tart drizzled with homemade apple syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon, I think it deserves some ice cream....don't you?  Amon my many new recipe experiments, I had also planned to make pear honey this year, but life threw a kink at me and I wasn't able to get it done.  No worries, remember those pictures of golden pear scrap juice I made?  I plan to make jelly with some of it!  Well, that's if I can get to the jars before the kids do!


How do you like pears? Do you have a specific type of pear that you like better than another? Why?  Do you grow or pick your own from a local orchard?  Let me know!  Leave a comment, come visit me and let me know what all of you like to do with Pears!


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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sorry

Hello everyone. I want to apologize for having not posted any new blogs for such a long period of time. Life is crazy, and you never really know what will be thrown your way! When I started this blog nearly a year ago, I knew that the winter months would be my writing time. That is when I'm in the house and able to freely sit and think! I was hoping to occasionally have a hit and miss blog, but that didn't happen. Be watching, I'm working on a few new blogs to share! Stay tuned! If you follow me on Facebook, I am much more active there! If you're not already doing so, go check me out at www.Facebook.com/TheInquisitiveFarmwife!
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