Several months ago, my husband made a spot for the garden and planted little seeds in tiny pots. Little heirloom tomatoes. They looked spindly and seemed they would not make it. They were weak, thin, and the little leaves were barely visible. We had little faith. They were safe in our window sill, safe from the cold and wind. We watered them. We shielded them from drying out of the hot midday sun. We protected them. It is said if you put the plant in the earth with the wind and rain testing it and the sun beating down, it will grow into a stronger plant.
All the elements pressing and pushing it will drive its roots deeper and the stems will have to grow stronger to keep it from falling. Much like life. The tough trials of life, the pain, the disappointment, the tears, rejection, it all drives our roots deeper into Christ.
I love drawing life lessons from the vantage point of my garden or farm. God teaches us so much through His creation. So many parallels and life examples. It always blows my mind how marvelous God’s ways are. I spent a lot of my life knocked around, beat down, rejected, dried and hung out, humiliated, and reviled, yet I keep getting back up. I can say I feel like a tomato plant that had to withstand the elements of life, wind, rain, hail, and that still bore fruit despite it all. Still standing strong in Christ, still spreading my leaves out against disease, against bugs that would love to creep in and eat me alive with words that could kill, soaking in the sweet rays of God’s light. And I am stronger. I bare more fruit, my stems are not weak, and my roots are deep.
You can’t knock me down if you tried and sure could not destroy the good work that God has done in my life. God is my loving gardener, he props me up when I need it, he prunes the things off that are robbing me of energy so that I can put all my energy into fruiting which is my first ministry. My ministry to my family. I have so much beauty in my life, so much beautiful fruit, so much to be thankful for, and my joy just abounds each day. I thank God for the storms, the pests, and the gentle loving care of his wise pruning. I thank him for his warm light that guides me taller and stronger each day, and the refreshing bath of the living waters that restore my soul. I thank God for his Word, the very nutrients that are in the soil that feed my roots.
I have purpose, God uses me in various ways just like I use the tomato in various ways. I prepare salsa, pasta sauce, canned tomatoes, and it is all stored up for future use. God takes my fruit and fashions it for a worthy cause, stores it up, feeds people for months to come, and people are encouraged. It is a gift that keeps on giving and fills the hungry soul. Only God can do that! It is nice to know, when we are planted in His glorious vineyard, that we can be used and have divine purpose. To God be the Glory!
Back to my garden, I will stop musing…
I will tell you, those tomatoes survived and they are thriving. 150 tomatoes plants in total and a bumper crop.
It has been interesting to see the anomalies from our crop. Some have tails or wings!
Pail after pail is picked and carried to my country kitchen to be slowly processed by hand.
Pots bubbling over and friends to share the experience. My cousin Melinda was helping make a huge batch of pasta sauce. My yearly concoction. This year I used fresh basil and oregano from my herb garden outside my kitchen door. What a lovely smell!
After the jars were filled, the boys helped fill the canners…
Some tomatoes were so HUGE that I could barely hold them with one hand…
There were so many tomatoes, we had to think of canning them each day. After the pasta sauce canning, we decided to can some chopped stewed tomatoes. First, we boiled a pot of water and dunked our tomatoes in there until their skins split open.
I would fish the tomatoes out of the hot water.
Then I plop them into some icy cold spring water.
The next step is where we remove the skins.
The stems and bad spots are also removed and I tuck them into a pail to send out to the chickens. They sure love the scraps!
I cute the rest of the tomato into little squares.
Here is my usual working station. I love my big sink, it is about the handiest thing in our kitchen besides the stove!
What I love most is that it is plenty big enough for our crew to work hand in hand. Here I am, right in the middle of my precious daughters. They love to help me work on the tomatoes. We make a great team! You will usually find us chatting or singing together.
Molly filled all these jars and fashioned the lids on to make them ready for the canner. She added a teaspoon of salt to each quart along with a 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
We have lots of chile peppers, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, habanero peppers, and jalapeño peppers. Here we are dehydrating the cayenne in our pilot light stove which keeps a slow steady heat all day long. I just put them on some pizza grates for air flow.
Having lots of tomatoes and peppers calls for salsa making. Mark and I have been making salsa together, what a blessing. Such sweet fellowship around that big old sink!
I love going out to the garden and just making the tastiest meals! 🍅 I used yellow zucchini, onion, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and tomato. I just sauté in coconut oil! Wonderful food! ☀️
We had about 12 heads of cabbage and normally I would make sour kraut but Mark and the kids are not too fond it it. We have to do it a bit different.
We just slice it fine, chop it up, and…
Put it into quart sized freezer bags, squeezing all the extra air out. Cabbage freezes well. I experimented last year, and it was really great for using in soups, casseroles, and other main dish meals. I did not have to blanch it first, so it was just a very simple solution that my family loves. The way I see it, if they won’t eat the sour kraut, there is no sense in making it. This is a better use of our cabbage. We get a lot of meals out of it and it is super easy to prepare!
We have so many tomatoes that we invited our neighbors to come and pick what ever they want and keep them. It is another great way to be a good neighbor, and a great way to be a blessing to others when the Lord has blessed you! Such a fun reason to have extra in the garden!