Thank you! Homesteading Em. Kids both cute and insufferable.

Dearest readers, Your wildly enthusiastic responses to A Case for Thorns were so rewarding and exciting. Thank you! I dare say I felt like a "real" blogger.

A note about comments. A few have said they fear they "comment too much." Others so kindly comment via my personal Facebook page and wonder why those don't import to the comment section on Em-i-lis.

1) Comments are a blogger's bread and butter. You can NEVER comment too much or often, unless you are an a-hole troll. Y'all are not. So, comment away! 2) If you do want your comment to show on Em-i-lis, you either need to comment directly on the post OR on the feed that scrolls through me Em-i-lis Facebook page. The latter imports directly to the post on which you're remarking. My personal page does not feed into my blog.

In any case, thank you.

Pull Up Your Covered Wagon; I've Got My Kettle A'boil! And some irritating kids for sale.

Today was a marathon of putting up, sandwiched around Tom's work picnic during which Oliver could NOT have been a bigger pill. T and I were trying so hard not to honk and snort on his colleagues (people, can we just be well!?) and Ol's total commitment to pilldom really did us in. I cannot tell you how many times he climbed up the water slide-moon bounce ladder only to then start crying and request that we go up and fetch him. We did not have on bathing suits.

There was a dunking booth which is a bit of entertainment that needs to go newly viral. Jack clamored in and said, "Hey Mom, you wanna dunk me?"

People, I did. I really did. He'd had several moments throughout the morning during which I thought putting a fork in my eye and jumping out of the window sounded preferable to spending more time with him. So, I dunked his business like it was my job. He laughed, I laughed, and we were best pals from then on. Oliver was still whining to beat sixty, and if he were a better swimmer, I'd have forced his tiny bum up onto that dunk ledge ASAP.

The verve with which folks (except one nice mother) dunked their children was a sight to behold. Hilarious. There was even a grandfather who went in on his grandchildren. I think this is very illuminating, y'all. Just sayin'.

But for the rest of the day, I dealt with my the fruits of my wildly enthusiastic labors of yore. Blackberry-buttermilk muffins for breakfast. Straight-up blackberry jam for Tom and Jack; blackberry-sage for moi. So many bags of berries vacuum-sealed and put in the chest freezer for later. This gorgeous blackberry-peach crisp with a sage-brown butter topping. I think there are just a few cups left.

And then the tomatoes. Seventeen pounds, which was roughly half that tub I was gifted last night, were eaten by the boys or pressure-canned into quarts for the months from now when fresh tomatoes seem like a figment of a bygone era. Definite progress!

J and I read another chapter of The Westing Game tonight. Sadly, we're almost done, but happily, he loves it as much as I did when I was his age. Tomorrow the raspberries need tending, the peaches will surely have started to ripen and there remain many a pound of tomato to go. I'm up for it, as long as my Kleenex box and giant cup of water aren't far away.

It's not all about basil! Ginger Golds, chutney and a canning tip

While I love well-spiced food, it's worth remembering just how fresh, or not, your dried peppers are before adding them generously to a dish. Yo on my chutney and the ruby specks from a new jar of crushed red pepper flakes that makes it hop. I added a bit more apple and sugar towards the end to cool things down a tad and this will definitely still raise a sharp cheddar and roast chicken sandwich to new heights.


I find -and here's a helpful tip for you new'ish canners out there- that seasoning elements like spice and herbs tend to mellow as your jam or chutney cools and ages. So do err on the side of really being able to taste what you've added or you risk having it be a lost flavor later.

This is a great recipe, is posted in my Jams and Chutneys section, and I highly recommend you trying it out. I'll be teaching a canning class in Fairfax in October, and this is the recipe we'll be making, so come one, come all. It's a perfectly seasonal recipe too in the sense that it utilizes the wonderful-for-cooking Ginger Gold apple which is coming into season as I type (I bought a half-peck a couple days back and put most to use in this batch of chutney). Lest you worry that the Ginger Gold is the same apple as the horribly underwhelming, mealy and sad Golden Delicious, NO! The yellow delicious is one of the parents of the GG but it was partnered with the Albemarle Pippin which adds crunch and kick and a nice shade of green to the peel.

Last night, I had a slight revelation via pizza. Sage is great in addition to or alongside basil. Sage is fabulous in general, an under-utilized, under-appreciated herb, in my opinion. You'll see I have two different sage pesto recipes in Dressings and Sauces, just yesterday I made another batch of my Blackberry and Peach Crisp with Sage-Brown Butter Topping, I love the blackberry-sage jam I concocted last month, and the fried sage leaf/sage oil drizzle atop my Pappa al Pomodoro is the cat's meow.

Sage, known as salvia in Italian, was first described by Linnaeus in the 1750s. Long considered to have many medicinal qualities, the scientific name for sage is Salvia officinalis with officinalis deriving from "officina, the traditional storeroom of a monastery where herbs and medicines were stored." Sage is a hardy plant that's easy to grow in most spots; it's one of the few things I can cultivate without fail. In fact, it overtook a planter of mine so I transferred the whole plant (bush really) to the ground, and it's thriving.

Its leaves are utterly pleasing in shape, feel and color: kinda of sweetly furry, soft, sizeable and a comforting, beautiful shade of green.

Serious Sunday dinner

With our blackberries from this morning I made a huge jar of straight-up blackberry jam for Jack as it's his very favorite ever; with the rest I made blackberry-sage jam which is divine. Blackberries just really groove on the herbalness of sage. I'm still tasting that blackberry-peach-sage crisp I made last month! Mamma mia! I mean, just LOOK at this color!

T and I had an afternoon date -thank you babysitter- at the gym, hardware store, grocery and to deal with the fact that Percy had escaped, made himself at home in a lovely family's yard about 18 feet from ours, been identified via the easy lure of turkey (then she could read his tag) and then found by the kids and babysitter who were likely racing around the neighborhood yelling "Percy" at the tops of their lungs.

It is always something!

Around 5p, a plum tart started siren-calling me, and so I made one. Actually, I was still jamming so made T make the crust and then finished it off. He's a very good cook though he loooves to cut corners which sometimes works and sometimes definitely doesn't. In any case, while that was cooking, I: roasted some celery root and this time did NOT drop the damn pan; made a fab-o raw kale salad with dried cherries, toasted walnuts and an assertively garlic dressing; and cooked the sirloin that T had just rubbed with salt, pepper and rosemary (I bought it this morning at the FM). T also got fancy and made a garlic soy sauce for it. Very '80s but good. We lit candles, sat and ate outside, Coravin'd two glasses of excellent Cabernet and may call it a day soon. Sunday, Sunday, the last of August. When did that happen?