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Issue 8-13

Episode of Peaches

“I am resisting the temptation to buy a half-bushel of peaches because it will take a whole Saturday for putting them up,” I reported to my prayer friend. I cleaned out the attic this spring and found my mother’s glass canning jars—none with chips on their rims!— the screw-on lids, colander, wire racks, blue-and-white enamel boiling-water-bath canners, tongs, and wide-mouthed funnels. Some nostalgic memory kept tugging at me—something about days with enough time, with Mother and me in the kitchen. It had been decades since I had put up 40 quarts of homemade tomato sauce.

“Oh, Karen,” my friend responded. “If it gives you joy, do it!”

This is what true friends (and daughters and sisters and sometimes husbands are for); they are people who nudge you to do the thing that is on your heart to do.

If I can find someone who wants to work with me (canning is really hard labor), I thought, I’ll order some peaches at the Winfield Famer’s Market. So, when Jane Rubietta melted at the thought of a “Peach Day” and volunteered to help, and when Susan Hands decided she needed the learning—after all, what will we do if our food supply lines collapse, if the Internet gets terrorized, fouling up truck and train transits?—I decided to give it a go. Our grandmothers and mothers were grateful for a way to put up food. Before freezers and our overstocked supermarkets, canning was a lifeline to them. (I’m serious—who will pass on the lore of preservation to the next generation? We need to know this stuff.)

Despite survival strategies, canning is a way of capturing the beauty of summer in a jar—particularly the mango-golden, yellow-pink exquisiteness of peaches! It’s an aesthetic thing for me, despite the work. In my mind’s eye, I kept seeing shimmering rows of ripe fruit, with a peach pit here and there, shining out from clean Ball canning jars, row upon row upon row.

The Winfield Farmer’s Market is on Wednesdays. I was leaving town on Thursday and would return on Sunday. Tuesday, September 1 was our scheduled Peach Day. “Should I order two half-bushels of peaches to pick up next Wednesday?” I asked the gal behind the counter at the market. “Will they keep for a week? Or should I wait to get them in September?”

“Well, they’re coming in now, coming in fast,” the Tidey Farms manager informed me. “I’d buy them now.” She figured we should get about 16 quarts to a half-bushel. So, I ordered the peaches that Wednesday, picked them up the next Wednesday, flew out of town on Thursday, and returned on Sunday to two quickly blackening and molding half-bushels of peaches.

Oh, drat, I thought. I should have laid these all out on newspapers with none of their sides touching. Lesson number one: Peaches wait for no women. You must can on their schedule, not on yours. Lesson number two: One rotten peach can spoil the whole barrel. I started pitching and separating—losing about one-third of my golden store.

Was peach season over? Could I find peaches to can? I ran to the Barn Owl, a fruit stand on Gary Road in Wheaton. They charged me $54 a half-bushel (I’d paid $20 before) for what I discovered was not-very-ripe fruit. My guess was they would be really ripe in another week—except that fruit picked too soon from the trees never really reaches peak ripeness.
Peach Day came, and we froze 13 quarts of the overripe peaches, cutting out bruises and soft spots. We labored over peeling off the skins of the under-ripe peaches (no, they did not slip off the fruit after being dipped in a hot water bath). The pits of under-ripe peaches do not fall away. We canned 26 quarts of those Barn Owl peaches in a natural fruit syrup (recipe taken from Canning & Preserving Without Sugar). The lids of two jars did not seal; four other jars cracked in the hot-water sterilization bath—gotta watch that botulism! And the finished product—the fruit in the jars—was not the smooth, golden, enticing slices I remembered from childhood. The jars looked a little sad, the edges of the slices a little ragged and torn, a little under-colored—sort of like pretend peaches.

“Well, we learned a lot today,” we three said, bucking each other up, dragging ourselves through the cleaning process. I went to bed that night with my feet absolutely screaming in pain—the onset of canning neuropathy, no doubt.

What did we learn? A lot. We learned a whole lot about what not to do. I, in particular, was reminded that it takes effort, commitment, determination and fervor to create beauty, even in canning jars. It takes a lot of practice to get a beautiful life right.

I had two jars of natural fruit syrup left over and an opened box of Jane’s plastic freezer-bags. The next Wednesday, I hiked myself back to Winfield Farmer’s Market and bought another half-bushel of peaches. “Are these freestone?” I asked the gentleman. “Yes, ma’am,” he said. “Really, all peaches but one kind are freestone. We put up a whole bunch of quarts of peaches just last night.” To show me, he sliced a peach in half and twisted it off the stone. The flesh just pulled away from the pit—viola!

Lesson number three: Not all peaches but one kind are freestone: NON-RIPE PEACHES APPEAR TO ALL BE CLINGSTONE!

I went home and did it right.

I laid the peaches separately on spread newspapers. I watched for a few days and pressed a few peaches every now and then, and at the exact moment, I put the blue-and-white enamel pot back on the stove, made a hot-water bath, dipped the peaches in, then into cold water, practically wiped the skin off the fruit, twisted the flesh away from the pits, poured the two jars of syrup into 16 more freezer quart bags and FROZE them. I turned the jars of peaches that had not sealed in my refrigerator into a yummy peach / yogurt / honey chilled soup. Then I sat down with a bowl of five perfectly luscious, perfectly ripe mango-golden, yellowy pink peaches and devoured the whole thing!


I am thinking about end-of-the-summer plump red vine-hanging tomatoes. But I am putting the canning equipment back into the attic for the season. And I am not telling my good friend. I think God is laughing at me, but I know it also pleases Him when I practice perseverance—and that, Martha Stewart, is a really good thing.

Karen Mains


Hungry Souls is doing TWO new things this year. We are running back-to-back retreats AND we are opening the weekend retreat, Friday evening to Saturday afternoon, to men and women.

That means you can send a husband or a friend or you can share a room as couples (as long as you practice silence behind your closed door!).

The details are:

The first retreat will run from Wednesday, beginning with dinner, December 2 through Thursday, ending by 4:00 in the afternoon, December 3. The second retreat will run from Friday, beginning with dinner, December 4 through Saturday, ending by 4:00 in the afternoon, December 5.

This will make room for those who work during the days and don’t feel as though they can take time off during the week.

Our fees will be $120 for a single room with private bath. However, if you register early, by October 15, your fee will be $100. If you bring someone who has NEVER attended a Hungry Souls Advent Retreat of Silence, the welcome fee for any new attendees (and for you) will be $90. (The weekend retreat costs us $5 more. Add that amount to the fees -- $125, $105 or $95.) The cutoff date for registrations is November 25. Since we must give a firm number to the Bishop Lane Retreat Center in Rockford, IL and pay for that number, we cannot return payments after the cutoff date.

Valerie Bell, Karen Mains and Sybil Towner will lead these two retreats. This Hungry Souls Retreat of Silence is a guided retreat. We begin silence at 9:00 the first evening. If you are interested, contact our volunteer registrar Melodee Cook at .

If you are outside of the Chicagoland area and would like to fly in for any of our retreats, our staff or volunteers will be happy to meet you at the airport and facilitate any sleeping arrangements that might need to be made for our silent retreats.

Three-Day Retreat of Silence in April 2010

This is a heads-up for people who like to plan ahead. We have room for 12 people at St. Mary’s Monastery in Rock Island, IL. Registration will be open in January of 2010. The dates are Sunday, April 18 to Wednesday, April 21.


Karen is blogging. In order to be noticed by the servers, she needs to have 50 blogs up, then the next phase is 200 blogs. This is an attempt to build a larger presence for the ministries of Hungry Souls on the Internet. We are using the early, non-archived Soulish Food e-newsletters, which are using the metaphor of dance to make the concept of living in God’s sacred rhythms more acceptable. If you struggle to integrate regular spiritual practices into your life, these might be helpful for you. You can go to this link: The “dancing” blogs start with blog 1-34, "Still Points."

Life-Mapping Opportunity

Sibyl Towner and her team have taken years to develop and test an incredible tool that encourages the much neglected spiritual tool of self-reflection. They are conducting a two-weekend retreat to take participants through these Life Maps. Many great teachers of Christian faith say, in one way or another, “You can’t know God unless you know yourself; you can’t know yourself unless you know God.” Whenever Hungry Souls has used the maps (in the developmental stages), they have proved to be a powerful and beneficial tool in this complementary awareness. Putting two weekends aside is well worth what is gained.

Here is the link to the home page on the site:

Here is the link for the retreat info page on the site:

More about the event:

Listen to My Life is a journey that helps you invite God into the process of reviewing your past, assessing your present and continuing to walk with God into your future.


The Soulish Food e-mails are being posted biweekly on the Hungry Souls Web site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to register on the Web site to receive the biweekly newsletter. You might want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to

Karen Mains

Karen Mains

"I, in particular, was reminded that it takes effort, commitment, determination and fervor to create beauty, even in canning jars.
It takes a lot of practice to get a beautiful life right."

Global Bag Project

Mary Nduta

Mary Nduta

Click Here to Watch Mary's Delightful Story on YouTube

David Mains, Carla Boelkens and our videographer, Doug Timberlake, are right now in Africa. David and Doug are filming more stories of bag-makers, and of training bag-makers. Pray for them. It is hard enough for Westerners to understand that it takes two hours to shoot two minutes of edited film! But when your life is on African time in African culture, this is even harder to comprehend—why does it take so long?

Carla is working her way through interviewing an African GBP manager, and setting up systems purchasing and shipping for systems. We have women from one village who are eager to sew. Two U.S. friends of Carla’s, both seamstresses, donated two sewing machines and spent time teaching sewing. Mary Nduta, our first bag-maker, who is going like gangbusters, went to teach them how to sew bags. Mary proclaimed, “Now, I am a missionary!”

Carla e-mails:

"We had a good day today. Mary Nduta joined Doug, David and me at Pastor Reginah's with Maggie and her group. We got cameos with Maggie sharing her story of purchasing sewing machines for the women to make bags; Rose, her mother-in-law who has come to Africa to teach women how to sew and will be hosting a GBP party; Mary explaining the Swahili writing on the bags and lots of B-roll of Mary working with ladies at the sewing machines and cutting fabric. Mary went with us to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner after the day of filming and training. She had such a great time (as we all did with her) and she said it was the best day of her life!"

One of the HIV/AIDS widows in Kibera slum died last Saturday. On a Skype call, David said, “I’d forgotten (since March) how horrific Kibera is.”

Carla e-mailed again:

"We had a good day in Kibera; filmed Jennifer's story and Eunice telling her and Jessinta's story; refilmed Maggie's promo on buying sewing machines.

St Martha's group now meets on Thursday's. This was the first day they were together since Margaret died.

We donated $100 for the cost of a casket. Eunice asked if we would do that rather than take their family out to dinner. The women really wanted to provide a casket; now they are raising funds for transportation to the funeral upcountry. I think jewelry sales from me and Maggie's group may have provided that."

If you want to be part of something that has the potential to make a difference in the world, we strongly suggest that you become part of the Global Bag Project Team. Right now we need prayer intercessors who will volunteer to pray through December. Carla will begin an e-mail when she returns from Africa; this will keep you informed as to how to pray. Let us know at  We have six bag-parties lined up beginning in October (pre-Christmas sales); we probably can fit in six more. Money for two African dual-powered sewing machines have been donated ($170 each); we will need more. This could be a good project for your small group for Christmas.

African-made bags arrived in the States—205 in all; Carla will be bringing back more suitcases of bags when she returns. At this point, the GBP really could use donations toward the GBP. The Mainses went out on a limb again and took out a small home-equity loan for the purchase of camera and audio and mobile editing equipment that are designed to function in third-world environments.

Copyright 2006-2009 Mainstay Ministries. All rights reserved.

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