And I didn’t turn the compost, again.

Between the weather, the shop, and the CSA bounty, any spare time I have had was used to do some canning and now the yard is showing neglect. But it’s official, I’m out of pint jars, and space to store them.  So if I decide to make applesauce and/or pear butter this fall, I’ll have to do some creative storage management.

This past spring was extra damp and cold,  which left many of the regional orchards wondering if they would have a crop this year.  Thankfully, they did manage and I was able to purchase a crate of peaches (Red Haven?) from Chambersburg, PA, at our local Agway store.  Yep, our local Agway carries seasonal and regional produce in bulk just for people like me to process for storage in some way (and for eating fresh too).  

Canned peaches and peach butter.  2014.
Canned peaches and peach butter. 2014.

The amount of advertising of “Chambersburg Peaches” locally made me wonder if the peaches were so called because of the location, or if orchards in Chambersburg had been growing and hybridizing their own variety for so long (it happens) that there was such a thing as a “Chambersburg Peach”.  Turns out, it’s just the orchards’ location.  But in all the research, I did learn that Pennsylvania is one of the country’s top peach producing states!  No wonder our canned peaches and peach butter are so darn good in January – when trying not to succumb to the dreary days of winter those jars of peaches are little bits of canned Pennsylvania summer sunshine.  

Birds aren't the only one eating the elderberries!
The birds aren’t the only ones eating the elderberries!

I had mentioned to my neighbor, Carol, that my elderberry bush would be full of berries while we were on vacation, which meant that this year, the birds would get most of them.  Upon our return, Carol greeted us with tales of the Jasmanian Devil outwitting our house sitter and an ice cream bucket full of washed and frozen elderberries!  Carol had spent time with Jasmine during our vacation, and while they were playing outside, Carol picked elderberries!  The birds didn’t glean too many from the shrub, (I think the 2 large choke cherries, service berry and the Virginia Creeper keep them berry happy) and despite Jasmine’s affinity for berries, I was still able to pick some elderberries from our shrub this season.  So between Carol’s harvest and my own I had enough berries to make syrup and jelly!

I am allergic to echinacea, so I use elderberry as my herbal cold and flu treatment.  It’s been shown to help shorten the duration of illness, ease symptoms and reduce nasal and respiratory swelling.  As with any herbal treatment, there are pros and cons, and debate.  But for me, it’s an easy, free option.  Both the jelly and the syrup will be used to help ward off any winter illnesses that we may encounter.  A few tablespoons of syrup in ginger-ale is a great drink when you don’t feel your best.  I also repaid Carol with a jar of elderberry syrup.  (There is a ton of info out there about the benefits of elder flower and berry for health, including this article from WebMD and one from the University of MD Medical Center.)

The rogue gourd.
The rogue gourd.

So this happened while I wasn’t looking. One of my goals this summer was to stay on top of turning the compost and therefore, use some of it in the fall in preparation for the next season. However, a seed sprouted. Not an uncommon occurrence, as you know if you have compost. But before I knew it, there was a large vine! I could only tell that it was a squash/gourd of some kind.  The Goat and I let it grow, and grow, and grow – hoping for a useful to us (edible), member of the squash/gourd family like a Hubbard or Butternut.  Instead we have some funky ornamental gourds and an un-turned compost bin.  

Now I’m trying to decide if I have enough gourds that I can uproot the vine to start turning the compost.  I probably will, because that back corner needs quite a bit of attention…the gourd grew over everything; the sun chokes fell over from the weight of their flowers and the rain; the asparagus has gone to seed; and like this post, the rose is rambling much more than it should!