August 2023| Practical Self Reliance
Kittens, Canning and Harvests by the Bucket Full
August is ALWAYS the busiest month of the year around here, and it’s peak harvest season and some of the best weather all year at the same time. If there’s not something being canned, salted, dried, potted, or crocked…there’s always the siren’s song of the pond to fill our days.
This year, we added a pair of 4-week-old bottle baby kittens to the mix…just because our plates weren’t full enough. But come on, no matter how busy you are, there’s always time to stop and pet a pair of criminally cute fluffy muffins.
A local dairy farm found them in their feed bin, just old enough to wander away from their mom, but nowhere near old enough to be weaned. They put out a few bowls of raw milk and waited to see if their mama would make an appearance, but she never did.
Cow’s milk is not ideal for kittens, and they really need something with more concentrated protein. They also need handling so they don’t turn into the feral barn cats…so the farmer adopted them out, and our bottle babies are already earning their keep hunting flies and ants and everything else that moves…plus offering plenty of snuggles.
There’s nothing like good barn cat genetics to keep mice down all over the homestead, and these little muffins seem like they can’t wait to get to work.
But of course, right now, their main concern is hunting a bottle…and my mom was more than willing to take on bottle-feeding baby kitties while she was in town. See what horrible chores I dole out when visitors come calling?
Peak harvest season is also the perfect time for hosting company, believe it or not. My parents visit every year in August, and that gives me the perfect chance to socialize while filling the pantry.
I never did understand how people could sit idle with company around, and historically, people rarely did. People got together with neighbors to make wine, raise barns, weave cloth, and reap the harvest. Those are social things, things to keep the hands busy and fill in those natural moments of silence during conversation.
It takes the pressure off of the people, and allows you to do both tasks with more ease and pleasure.
It makes me wonder if much of the social anxiety and difficulty connecting stems from the fact that when we do get together with friends, we’re often not doing anything. A coffee date where you just sit across the table from each other…and the pressure’s on to fill the space with conversation.
Maybe it’s just me, but it’s a whole lot easier to share space and enjoy company when your hands are busy….and boy, were my hands busy during their 10-day stay.
I put up more than 20 different canner batches, and tested out more than a dozen new recipes.
Much of the month has been rainy, with unsettled skies, which is perfect canning weather, and that just means the breaks of sun are all the more treasured.
When my littles weren’t feeding our bottle babies, they were doing their duty to make sure the geese got their swim lessons. They’re hardly baby geese anymore, and it’s hard to believe that those geese are just 2 months old…
Hand-fed since day one, they follow their 8-year-old “goose mama” in a neat row, and they come in for nuzzles and snuggles even in the middle of the pond.
One of the hazards of snuggle geese, when they’re trained to sit in your lap on land, they think they can do the same in water…and it gets…goosey, to say the least.
This time of year is the absolute best for all manner of wild harvests, from chokecherries by the bucketload, to wild hazelnuts, and dozens of different species of choice wild mushrooms.
While most fruits didn’t do well in the rain, chokecherries don’t seem to mind one bit.
It’s also the only time of year you can make certain herbal medicines, namely those that require fresh plant material. St. Johns wort, for example, loses much of its potency when dried, especially for topical uses.
While most people know it for its popular modern use against depression, it’s actually a powerful wound healer and remedy for nerve pain, especially in the extremities. Things like neuropathy and sciatica, for example.
It was used topically in battlefield medicine (much like yarrow and plantain), long before its connection with mood was discovered.
The trick is, when dried, it won’t make an effective salve. It must be fresh, which means making it when the plants are in bloom mid-summer.
But balancing the “have to do” in-season list with the “want to do” in-season list is always a juggling act. And when I feel overwhelmed, I head to the pond and consult the salamanders.
They always seem to know just what to do…eat a little, swim a little, and don’t forget to bask a while when you can.
This month has more photos than one newsletter can possibly hold, but I’ll do my best. The rest are highlights from my camera roll, all taken this month.
Sometimes, a picture sums it up better than words, so here’s a peek into my August world…
What are you harvesting, preserving, building, or exploring on your homestead this week? I’d love to hear about it!
Leave me a note in the comments…
(Comments only, please. Emails tend to get lost in my inbox, and as much as I’d love to get back to each and every one, my screen time is very limited…and things fall through the cracks, and emails get buried in my inbox. If you comment here, they’re all in one place, and it’s much easier to get back to every single one.)
Until Next Time,
Ashley at Practical Self Reliance
Ps. If you’re new to the newsletter, you can see monthly updates in my archives. Here’s what we’ve been up to thus far this year: