Garden Tour 2017

 I meant to post about the garden all summer long, but life was so busy that I had no time for this blog. I was first consumed in home school planning, then theological editing for the new small group studies published by Blessed is She (Blessed Conversations–link here), then we traveled, then we came home, had two weeks and then started school.

I also researched and wrote a Bible study to give at my home parish in every free moment I had between everything else. The monthly Bible study started last night, and there is a bit of relief as it went really well. I have always been intimidated by the idea of public speaking, but I guess being a writer makes people want you to speak. It seems to be a skill worth developing.

Now that everything is becoming beautifully Autumnal in Minnesota, it is kind of fun to peak back at the heights of our summer garden.

The gardens which I planted in May were lovely all summer and peaked in July and August. We added black-eyed Susans and a few other plants to our flower beds along the driveway, and they filled the garden so beautifully, that I am planning to put in black-eyed Susans and cone flowers along our front walk next summer. I am trying to pace myself with our garden additions even though I just really want my yard to be full of ALL THE FLOWERS now. I just love having flowers everywhere.

I have always put in annuals in the beds along the side of the house. They are so narrow, I do not think that I could put perennials here in addition to the tulips that come up every Easter. The girls helped me pick out the snap dragons, allysum, vinca, and marigolds. We also did our traditional morning glory window cover.

 I added some potted flowers to the edges of our patio, and I loved having flowers there. I can’t remember any of the names of these flowers, but the little purple ones were my favorites.

 I added some raspberry bushes along the edge of my yard (you can see our neighbor’s ferns and hydrangeas)

 In the first food garden bed we had an abundance of mint, oregano, and basil. I planted some cabbages that we will probably harvest this weekend. The squash plant you see to the left voluntarily grew out from under our compost pile and ended up taking over much of the garden and crept into the yard. It gave us gorgeous ornamental gourds in great abundance.

 Our tomato plants were so abundant that we made salsa (twice). We might can some green tomato pickles this weekend as well, since the frost will come eventually and this weekend we have time to can pickles. We also had the glorious time of harvesting a cucumber a day that we have been always delighted to have each summer. We just slice it, salt it, and eat it fresh!

 Our sugar snap peas and green beans did not do as well as I had hoped. We were out of town for most of the pea harvest, but the summer was so mild that the peas trickled on into early August. Our beans kind of wimped out, and I am thinking of not doing them next summer. Maybe double the peas and freeze the ones we can’t eat… though we can eat a lot of fresh garden peas.

 We also grew broccoli (which I have let bloom at this point), carrots (which the girls harvested and washed for me last week), and Swiss chard (which I largely neglected, but it is a forgiving plant and does not mind). I meant to plant collard greens, but never got to it. I also planted rows of lettuce between all of these things which finished up by July before these plants got too big.

The garden is slowly dying these days, and I am thinking about winterizing. I am always grateful for the end of the garden season where we can just sit tight inside and enjoy being warm. Yard work is wonderful in summer, but when it overlaps with school time, it makes things a little too busy.

My plans for the colder months are to focus more on being patient in home schooling and putting my energy into reading and writing. I also am looking forward to the liturgical season changes as we end this year in November and dive into Advent, then Christmastide, then Lent, and finally Easter. When Spring comes I am sure I will be daydreaming about what flowers to plant, what fresh foods I cannot wait to feast upon, and warm Summer days.

The Story of Our Relationship, Part Two: Abroad in Austria

Where were we? M and I had just broken up after a crazy, intense beginning of our relationship. All of July and August I struggled to let go of him, because he was trying to figure out his vocation. Yet, every time I prayed about him I knew that there was something more for us. I felt deep inside that we were supposed to be together.

Behind the wall in Gaming, Austria.

In trying to remember that time, I recently reread my prayer journals from when were broken up, and I asked my mom why I had such a hard time letting go of M. Again and again in my journals I talked about how young and foolish I was, at just 19 years old. But somehow I felt that this was a crucial relationship in my life, and it turns out, it was.  My mom pointed out that I really did know, that God was showing me in my heart, that M and I were meant to be together, and that watching me that summer, she saw what was going on.

During that summer I decided that I should also revisit my own discernment of whether I was called to religious life. I prayed a lot about it, and eventually I spoke with a nun that I had known in high school. During the last conversation that I had with her, I came to the realization that while the call to be the bride of Christ was beautiful and wonderful and so, so attractive, it was not where I was being called. My heart was still being drawn to M, and I felt that it would never stop tending towards him. I was right.

The Kartause where we lived, studied, and prayed. Of all the places in Europe, this is one I’d love to be in again.

At the end of August I saw M for the first time after our break up. We were at Dulles International airport in Washington, D.C. And he claims that I was giving him longing looks, but I can tell you that he was giving me the same looks (accompanied by his brown eyes and long dark lashes). On the overnight flight to Vienna for our semester in Austria, I could not handle my desire to talk to him and tried to get him to talk to me. This is pretty much the story of most of our semester abroad: I could not handle my desire to just talk to him and tried desperately to not to. We traveled together in the same group of friends, snatched hours of conversations, gave each other longing looks, went for walks together. All the while I tried desperately to let go of him, and could not. 

We took a lot of pictures of each other.

But few of just us. So here we are in Spain.

I spent the semester praying a 56 day rosary novena for a number of intentions, but the biggest prayer breakthrough for me was when I realized that it was not a selfish thing to pray for M to finish discerning. I prayed that he would finally know one way or the other. I realized that it was not actually selfish for me to ask God to show M His will for M. I had been resisting, because I felt like it was selfish to want the discernment to be over.

This path around Gaming was a favorite haunt of ours together and separate.

It took nearly a whole semester of waiting, praying, and trying to overcome my attraction to him. A whole semester of traveling all over Europe, slipping off to take walks together, late night talks on overnight trains, praying at Masses in every language, and spending hours (separately) in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. As the weeks went by, it became slowly more clear to both of us that he was going to eventually ask me to date him again. (As far as everyone who was on Austria campus with us were concerned, we were definitely an item.) And for him the discernment of his vocation was not just to be a priest or not, but he already knew in his heart that if he discerned to date me again and to not pursue the priesthood, that we would eventually get married. For him, discerning the call to marriage was about the call to marry a particular person, and I suppose in the end it was the same for me. I did not settle on marriage as my calling until there was M in my life.

The most significant trip of our semester was when we went as a study abroad program to Rome. All of the students in Franciscan’s Austria program went on a school sponsored 10 day visit to Rome and then Assisi. In Rome I finally worked on overcoming my desire to be next to him whenever possible. We would go on walking tours of the city and I would often stand next to M. Yet, I slowly stopped myself from doing that. I resisted. I also had several emotional meltdowns while praying in Rome (we went to daily Mass as a school and had daily prayer times). I cried a lot, and was so thankful for my good friends who supported me in my weepiness. A few days into the visit in Rome, I noticed that while I had not gone to stand by M on our walking tours, he was starting to stand by me. See the difference? He was seeking me out. Then we went to Assisi for a couple of days, and again I was successful in resisting my desire to be close to him; I even enjoyed spending time with other people and letting go of my anxiety about the waiting. I do not know why I found it so hard to wait.

The view from the hermitage outside of Assisi.

One of the days in Assisi, it was a chilly afternoon, we walked up a large hill to the place of the hermitage of St. Francis and his friars. I began walking alone, but M appeared next to me, walked beside me silently as we prayed our rosaries. He even carried my jacket for me when I became warm and took it off. When we reached the hermitage, we parted ways and wandered alone in the paths of the woods. I found another friend to walk down with, but I had again found some freedom from my desperate longing to be called his.

Thanksgiving was few weeks after our return from Rome and Assisi (which we did through the mountains in a snowstorm), and there was a Thanksgiving Ball after the dinner. A few days before the ball, M asked me if I would dance a most of the dances with him at the ball. I immediately said yes, seeing his desire as a good sign. Then I slowly realized that I did not want to just half be his partner at the ball, I wanted to either go with him or not dance with him at all. So, I went to his door, knocked on it and told him so. (I have never been subtle with guys I suppose.) And to my surprise, he immediately asked me to be his date for the ball, and I, in my astonishment, accepted him.

It snowed in the mountains the night we bussed back from Rome.

Then the ball was anticipated with much trepidation. Was he going to tell me his final decision there? Were we going to be officially a couple again? I put too much weight on what would happen at the ball leading up to it. During the ball, we stepped out to go on one of our evening walks around Gaming, and when he clearly did not ask me out again on that walk, I made a decision to just have fun with him there. We went back into the ball and just enjoyed being together, with a freedom we had not had together all semester. We were there as a date, so we could enjoy being together as on a date. And I realized that I was not over him, and he was not over me, but that we had been falling in love with each other again all along.

These are the very pines.

And then two days later, in due time, he took me on a morning walk. We walked one of our usual routes, rounded a bend, and under a row of tall pines, in the snow, he asked me to date him again. And of course I agreed to it.

We spent our last 20 days in Austria as an official couple, free to spend time together without fear of impeding M’s discernment; he had chosen to pursue a relationship with me. We had chosen it together, and as we went back to American I joyfully anticipated our future together.

And I can’t really stop here. I will have to tell you the rest another time.

Applicious: Canning Weekend!!

We canned all weekend, which is kind of tiring when your baby is waking up from 4ish-6ish every morning and you have to wake up by 6 to get to Mass on time. I love the 7:30 Low Mass on Sunday, but you do need to drink coffee all day when you get up at 4am. 

We started with three times this. 1/2 bushel of Cortland and 1 bushel of Regent.

On the plus side, things might be looking up, because baby slept 8:20pm-2:30am last night. Nursed. Would not go back to sleep. So we stuck him swaddled and awake in his bassinet and dozed ourselves. I peeked at him an hour later and he was asleep. I am not getting my hopes up, because he had shots yesterday and probably is sleepier because of them, but, but, maybe?

Speaking of shots. I have been reading the letters of Bl. Zelie Martin (A Call to a Deeper Love), and her life was full of heartbreak and worry over her children’s illnesses. I am so thankful for vaccines and antibiotics that keep me from worrying about my babies dying with every illness. They had two babies die 18 months apart from infections.

It is heartbreaking to read her tell about it to her sister-in-law. But she also took it all so gracefully with such faith in God. She is truly an inspiration to me in my struggles with homeschooling and house keeping and baby sleep.

You have to stir continuously or the applesauce will burn. My arms are still sore. M’s are not apparently.

Back to canning. We washed, cut, blanched and strained our apples to make sauce on Saturday. I used some of the peelings boiled in water to make apple juice for jelly.

Stirring three canner loads of applesauce for hours is hard work!

And on Sunday, we brought the applesauce to a boil and canned it. And we made the jelly with sugar and pectin.

Totals: 16 quarts of sauce canned (including 4 pints), 6 half and 1 pint of jelly.

This combination of apples is less exciting in flavor than last years’, but it makes a pleasant mild sauce.

And the jelly is soooo applely. I am going to give some jelly and sauce to the St. Agnes Fall Festival in a few weeks, so head on over there for your chance to buy some!