Monday, September 12, 2016

School, Grapes, and Other Things That Fill My Time

Although we've officially been doing school for a few weeks, today was our first day back in the full swing of things, including extracurriculars, and already one thing is clear: despite my tenacious optimism, this is still not the year in which I finally achieve that elusive goal of Doing It All, nor will I reach that splendiferous state of Having It All Together.

Already, to get done the things that I'm deeming most important, I'm having to let a lot of things slide.
Such is life.

While the laundry pile gets a little higher and the kitchen floor gets a little dirtier, I am reading to the kids about the Phoenicians, and administering a biology test to Josiah, and writing down David's math grades, and helping Tobin learn a way to remember the difference between vertical and horizontal lines.  I'm reading Mountain Born aloud to the children while they build all kinds of LEGO creations. (An aside: I cried today while reading Mountain Born. It was the part that describes young Peter being exposed for the first time to the reality of what it means to dock the lambs' tails; and when his mother protests, his dad says, "The boy will be a man one day.  Is it too early for him to begin to think as a man?" As I looked around the living room at my own tribe of boys turning into men, I choked up and had to pause to clear my tears before I could continue.)

Somehow during the summers, I convince myself that when we get back into the rhythm of our school routine, I'll be able to do it AND keep up with the house like I want.

It never seems to turn out quite like I've imagined!  ;-)

Well, besides school, the other big project that occupied a couple days last week was harvesting the grapes.  I was expecting it to be a one-day task, but it stretched into two.  To be completely honest, we were a little sluggish as we approached this duty, and our attitudes--mine included--were not always the best.  As a family, we tackle so many undertakings and usually work well together as a team; that's one of the things I appreciate so much about my children.  But we get about a C- for our efforts this time--definitely something to improve upon next year!

 We were trying to play some music, using my phone, to cheer ourselves up!  :)
 Benjamin was pretty cheerful, even when we couldn't get the music to work right.  ;-)

 Aha!  I caught Tobin eating up the harvest!  Well, we follow the principle of Deuteronomy 25:4 and let the workers eat while they're picking the fruit.  :)

 The younger children were eager to help; but unlike some years, there were not many clusters that were hanging low enough for them to reach.  Shav and Tobin took their turns on the ladder, and Moriah wanted to do the same, so I let her climb up it and I snapped a quick picture before she returned safely to the earth.  :)

 Our harvest wasn't overly abundant; but we were just grateful to have something, especially because throughout the summer, we had watched as a number of grapes prematurely darkened, then shriveled up and fell off the vine.  In the end, even though we didn't have a bumper crop, at least we had a crop!
 As I saw how many of the grapes in each cluster were still green, I began to have second thoughts about whether we should have picked the grapes or given them more time on the vine in hopes that more would have ripened.  But more time on the vine also meant more time for them to do that weird shrivel-and-die routine, so it was kind of a toss-up, and I wasn't sure I made the right decision, but what's done is done!

 Because we still had quite a bit of grape juice and grape jelly in the cellar, my main objective this year was to freeze the majority of the grapes for grape pies.
 The last time we did this with our grapes, my mother was still very much involved with the project, so this was the first year that I was in charge, and I discovered how tedious the process is.  Each grape has to be squeezed so that the pulp will pop out of the skin (they slip out easily so that's not hard, just time-consuming), then the skins are put in one bowl and saved, while the pulp is heated and then run through a strainer to get the seeds out.  Then the pulp without seeds and the skins are put back together, and that mixture is frozen to be used for pies.
 It sounds simple, and it IS simple, but it is also quite laborious; and I racked my brain trying to think of a better way to get the seeds out of the grapes without discarding the skins, too.
 I couldn't come up with anything.  Can you?  :)
 When Jeff got home that evening, he helped pick more grapes, and that perked us all up.  :)
 The pulp and skin combination doesn't look very appetizing...
 ...but made into pies, it is DELICIOUS!
 I was thrilled to get 20 pints of grapes ready for the freezer.
 Well, make that 18.  I already made two pies with the other two pints.  ;-)  I intended to take a picture of them but forgot to do so before we ate them.  Maybe next time...  :)
The second day of this grape project, I took the easy route and made juice with the remaining grapes we had picked.  It only made eight quarts, but that's better than nothing...and a whole lot quicker than preparing them for pies!  :)

With these big once-a-year harvest projects, I am undeniably grateful that we are blessed with delicious, healthy food; but I certainly do heave a big sigh of relief when the task is finished, and I can turn my attention to other things.

And one of the other things that is coming up is that a certain very little boy is having a certain very big birthday...TOMORROW!!  :)

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