I can’t tell you exactly what we did before our Labor Day weekend vacation. I know I was stressed trying to get it all done, the canning, gardening, freezing, packing, laundry, lining up people to do chores or pick raspberries….but once we got in the car to leave, I left it all behind! It was wonderful! I didn’t once think about tomatoes or goats or eggs while we were gone on a little family R&R. (I’m thinking about it now…I have the zucchini relish I wanted to try in the canner as I write!)
Iron Creek Lake is up in the Black Hills National Forest near Spearfish, SD which is North of Rapid City. It was a long ride and the kids did fantastic! Natalie napped in the morning and then we stopped for lunch to stretch and run around a bit. They both napped in the afternoon and by that time we were nearly there, so the toys and distractions I brought kept them occupied, along with a quick stop for ice cream!
The road was winding as we made our way up, up, up the hills to a higher altitude, clear, sunny skies and a lake that was clear as glass! The first view was absolutely stunning! Even though it was warm enough for shorts, the lake water was chilly, so Nathan just dipped his toes in and played in the sand with some abandoned toys while Natalie and I soaked up some rays and Dan secured the information regarding our cabin. We spent the vacation with Dan’s cousin’s family, who also have kids close to the same age, which makes it more enjoyable for the little people to have playmates.
After breakfast the first morning, we packed a picnic lunch, studied the map, strapped the two babies into carriers, and with toddlers in tow headed out to the lookout point, stopping to hunt for geocaching treasure along the way. Certain parts of the trail were a little stressful for me as I tried to keep Natalie’s sleeping head from bobbing around and drive with one hand over thick rocks, up an incline or down a steep hill. But I made it! I can’t remember the last time I drove a four-wheeler. Nathan was having the time of his life with Dan, who would spin out around the curves! I’m glad I didn’t see it! Haha!
The second morning we packed a lunch again and Natalie and I rode on the back of Dan’s four-wheeler so I could enjoy the ride a bit more while Natalie was taking her morning nap. We headed to Rough Lock Falls, which was gorgeous! The aspen tree forest on the way there, the juniper trees and berries…it was all just so breathtaking, and of course an occasional roaming cow in the middle of the trail! Yes, cows! We didn’t see moose or elk, but some regular old cows! Nathan fell asleep on the way too, and when we got there, Dan laid him on a sweatshirt on the grass near our picnic table and he just kept sleeping while we lunched on roast beef sandwiches, hummus and garden veggies, grapes and chips.
That afternoon we enjoyed going on a paddle boat, while Ryan took his kids fishing for rainbow trout. Due to the lack of showers and a cold lake, I sorely needed one of those t-shirts that says, “Camp hair, don’t care!” Between the dust and naturally occurring oils, I think I had a good start for dreads.
But now we’re home. Nathan pretends to “drive” everything. This morning he told me he was driving his pancake to the syrup! And then he makes the driving noises trilling his lips. When he was helping me do an inventory of the garden, he told me he was driving the yellow tub down the row of roma tomatoes! He cracks me up! This morning when we got Natalie up from his nap, he was jumping in her crib saying his bedtime prayer: “Thank you for Grandma and Grandpa Eilders. Thank you for Grandma and Grandpa VanMeemermen (VanMeeteren). Thank you for Daddy and Mommy and Natalie. Thank you for the mamimals (animals).” Then he just looks at me and laughs and falls over. Natalie is poised and ready to crawl. She is up on all fours, doing the tell-tale rocking back and forth! Her appetite is ravenous! I feel like I never have enough food for her! She steals Nathan’s play tools and blocks to chew on and claps them together laughing. She screams if anyone dare take a toy away. This one is going to have attitude! (I can already hear my Mom saying, “She’s just like you!”
Dan’s parents were so gracious to meet us when we got home Monday night with a hot meal: my favorite Mexican lasagna and a raspberry dessert that was divine! We scarfed it down and then tried to get the house in order for the night while they gave the kids much needed baths!
And so, now it’s back to canning and harvesting. The fall raspberries are in full production, so after this zucchini relish, it will be another batch of raspberry jam and my favorite blueberry-raspberry jam. Then back to tomatoes with pizza sauce, salsa and I want to try a new recipe I found: Brushetta preserves. BLT’s are a staple supper around here, and I’m going to use our eggplant in a simple eggplant “lasagna” with layers of roasted eggplant, tomato sauce, garden basil and fresh mozzerella. The muskmelon is about done, but the watermelon is ready! I don’t love watermelon, but the two varieties we did this year are really good and sweet!
On a personal note, my dear Grandmother passed away last Friday night. It was expected considering her ripe old age of 97 and deteriorating health. We will celebrate her life soon. I never got the chance to do any canning with her, but living on an acreage, having a garden, canning and being part of P.E.O. all make me feel closer to her. I have fond memories of 4-H sewing projects for the county fair, piano recitals, eating pickled beets and eggs as well as Velveeta Shells and Cheese (with peas thrown in!) to make sure we ate our vegetables! She played Bridge, Pinochle and Shanghai Rummy with CIA-level skills, always kissed us on the lips-which we hated as awkward teenagers, gave Christmas gifts to the Dads in empty bra boxes and had many dear friends. When we said, “I love you, Grandma” her reply was always, “I love you more!”
And that’s the news from this four-wheeling-vacation week OFF the farm!