When we moved to this home over seven years ago, there were two grape arbors on the property – one white and one red. Neither of us had ever dealt with a grape arbor, but we secretly prayed they would be great for wine.
No such luck.
However, the red vines proved to be great for jelly. After the first year, our white vines slowly died. We have no idea why – they just didn’t thrive. When we built our new garage a few years later, we lamented that it may just have been part of God’s plan because we would have had to move the arbor anyway since it was right next to the existing garage.
Two years ago, after much debate and online research, we decided the red arbor needed to be cut back drastically. Doing so, the articles said, would help create a stronger vine and produce more grapes. In addition, the vines were encroaching dangerously on the house.
“…but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.” Exodus 23:11
The down side? No grapes last year. When you cut vines back you have to deal with a year of no grapes. We rationed our precious jelly from the year before and prayed that the plant would rebound as we’d read.
As the growth season started this year, my husband anxiously watched the vine day after day.
“I think it’s going to be fine,” he said. “I HOPE.”
My husband and I waited patiently, checking the vines daily. As months went by, we saw more and more growth and, finally, grapes. We were so elated! We had done it! But the waiting process was not over – it takes months for grapes to come to maturity and ripeness. We tested morsels periodically to ensure the best quality, but it was all God’s doing really – only He would know when it was time to harvest.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
By the end of September our grape vines were finally ready for harvest and we started the process of jelly making again. Our cup literally overflowed with the amount of grapes that God had provided. We’ve streamlined the process quite nicely over the years:
First, John picks the grapes. He’s so much better at it than I am – I hate the bugs that sometimes come along with it. And he isn’t bothered by standing on the ladder. (Do you like the little stone path we put under there so it makes it easier to pick?)
Second, I process the grapes. I take all the leaves, twigs, and other non-grape stuff out and put the beautiful grapes into a separate bowl.
We did these first two steps one day and then made jelly another day. It helps to break it up so you don’t feel overwhelmed and exhausted.
Third, we cooked the grapes down. A potato masher works well to mush the grapes into submission. (FYI – the recipe for the jelly comes in every Sure-Jell package [which you need to make jelly.])
Finally, we pour the mixture into jars (I wash and sterilize them in the dishwasher first, keeping them hot until I’m ready for them) and do the “water bath” for each. John and I each have our tasks (he gets the hot jars, I cook grapes and pour juice, he puts the jars into and out of the water bath.)
God has provided not only these beautiful grapes for us every year, but also each other to help divide these tasks that helps to make this a fun and productive event. We actually look forward to doing this with one another!
I’m so thankful that God blessed us with bounty on our land (in the middle of town) that not only saves us money every year, but also brings us closer together doing something we love.
Here is the final product! That’s a lot of jelly!
We’re thankful for God’s providence in our lives in even this small way.
What are you thankful for today?