103 Elderflower syrup and sunflowers

103 Elderflower syrup and sunflowers

So much has happened since I returned from the hiking trip with my husband’s family. Let’s make some elderflower syrup while I catch up up a bit. We’d only been gone a few days but grass had taken over everywhere. Sunflowers urgently needed to go into the ground, so I prepared beds for them. I also made a whole lot of elderflower syrup.

Note: The video version of this post gets released on Monday, June 24, 2024.

I trimmed around the trees and cut free the currant bushes with a small harvesting sickle.

The elderflowers were in perfect bloom when we got home–the only issue was the constant rain.

The first blossoms were harvested in a drizzle, not on a warm sunny day. Flowers tend to produce the most pollen on a warm sunny day, so these would be less fragrant. But the forecast wasn’t getting any better, so we made do with what we could.

I did the same with garden tasks.

Every rain break was spent in the garden, trimming the fence line, resetting the fence, cleaning up. Due to the very moody weather, I could never really get started on anything.

Almost everything was a rescue mission. Sunflowers with wet feet, dried out peppers. It all needed places to go. Some of my sunflowers were begging for soil. So, I battled weeds with the wrong tool to get them into the ground.

And added a garden fork to the list for the store. I had hundreds of plants to get into the ground. This would not work for long. Our long late-night talks during the hiking trip had also cleared some things up. Some proper gardening tools were an investment now, not a splurge. We’ll need them once we leave.

Look at those poor little sunflowers.They were in such bad shape. I did what I could for them. These had been forgotten on a tray of bean plants. I need to get better at seedling care.

I watered them in well, and wished them luck. They’d need it.

The rest of them weren’t looking that much better. These would need to be planted A.S.A.P.

At home, the list was just as long. Why did we go on vacation again?

We still don’t have a large pot, so every batch was only a liter of water. My injured hand also kept bugging me, and things took longer. Opening easy bottles often took a lot of patience.

I added some extra lemon juice to all the batches that were meant to be canned.

I stopped by at the hardware store after class the next day and got myself a good-quality fork. It is now one of my favorite gardening tools. I now consider weeding new beds fun. I now loosen the bed before weeding by hand. So much easier!

In most cases, I could easily pull out the weeds once the soil was loose. Only a few plants needed more force. This tough grass, thistles, dandelions, and the ever-present horsetail root strongly.

The next day, I returned to find my garlic had put out scapes. Excitedly, I harvested them for dinner. I’d realize later that not only did I plant scape-less soft-neck garlic, these are also my onions. I left some to flower and seed, but picked most off.

I set them aside for later, and returned to my least favorite weed: thistles. These things have me wearing sandals in the garden a lot at the moment.

All around me, the flowers were buzzing with bees and other pollinators. They were loving the borage. (Thanks for the correction in the comments. This is borage, not comfrey, of course.)

I didn’t want to pull any of the borage, so the bed shape submitted to where they grew. This isn’t the first adjustment to the plan. It definitely won’t be the last.

I knew I wasn’t doing a perfect job weeding this bed. I knew it would come back as more work later. But these sunflowers needed to get into the ground, so I rushed it. That’s okay.

The first I’d planted were recovering nicely. Most would make it to hopefully line the central path. The ones in the bed will serve as trellises for peas–if they survive.

Before we return to my kitchen, let’s have a look at the potato beds. There is still too much bare soil and too many weeds–we’ll solve that soon–but the plants are looking healthy. Soon, we’ll get all this mulched, and the ditches filled with compost.

At home, I peeled some potatoes and returned to my elder flower. Full disclosure: the elder flower is canned and on my shelves by the time of the garden footage. So, technically, I’m telling you about the future while I make syrup. Ah, well.

In the first days of June, I constantly did something to do with syrup. First, a trial batch before more harvesting.

The potatoes I peeled while dissolving sugar into water turned into failed hashbrowns. Another delicious mess of a meal.

Chased out of the forest by millions of mosquitoes, I harvested more flowers from the gardens. Gently, I removed bugs and debris from the flowers, then cut the flowers into a bowl.

This pretty little spider apparently hitched a ride. I moved it outside after excitedly showing my husband.

While we were happily drinking our way through the first batch, five bowls filled the fridge to the rim. We infused the liquid for a few days in the fridge before canning to get the most flavor.

Finally, I was ready to can. I was sick of standing in the kitchen, but already thinking about what to make syrup and juices from next.

Most of these are reused grocery store jars. Not all of them will seal. We had no problem using up the ones that didn’t.

I had more jars than fit even my large canner, so I finally figured out how to use my steam canner.

Once the syrup was done, all my spare energy went to the garden.

Inspired by my potato beds, I decided to dig a path and fill up the beds a bit.

The mosquitoes were brutal that day. I constantly had to stop to defend myself. I went home covered in stings every day.

Because the borage had moved the keyhole bed, and the bushes on the other side limited things, I added a small bed.

Slowly, I was making progress on the sunflowers. Sunflowers love water, so I watered them in well. There were still many plants waiting to be planted in and around the greenhouse, but the sunflowers were rescued.

I’ll catch you up on all that soon.
So long, and thanks for being here.

Elderberry syrup
elderberry flowers
1 kg sugar or 1 jar honey
1 liter water
2 lemons
4 tablespoons of lemon juice

Dissolve sugar in water and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat and add elderberry flowers and lemons. Let sit for 1-3 days, then strain and can for 45 minutes at 90 degrees.