posts tagged with 'strawberries'
We went strawberry picking today. In the past the outing has sometimes felt pretty stressful: it could be our only chance to get all the berries we need for a whole year worth of jam! But this time a couple things dialed down my intensity. For one, right now Harvey and I are the only ones who actually eat strawberry jam in our house, so we actually still have a couple jars left over from last year. And then we were also going with friends, so when we arrived at the farm I had to chill and wait for them rather than hurrying out into the fields in panic that all the berries were going to be gone. Oh, and also! I have three pretty grown up pickers now!
The weather was also stress reducing: it was super humid, but while we were picking the cloud cover held and it wasn't too hot (we finished just in time; it sure got hot in the afternoon!). And despite the hordes of people in the field with us there were plenty of berries. We came home with 11 quarts, and there were lots more for the wagon-loads of people coming in after us as we rolled back towards the barn.
Up next, actually making the jam. When will I possibly have time?! That's stressful too!
As always, gardening this year has had its frustrations. The boys and I went to both the local nurseries today looking for butternut squash seedlings to replace ours, nine out of ten of which were eaten within a couple days of sprouting. Also nearly all the kale was nibbled in the same time span, which was pretty discouraging. Clearly we need better fences. Fences at all, actually; right now there are giant gaps where I took down wire or even posts in order to improve the construction. With my dilettante sort of farming it's tough to plant and weed and make infrastructure improvements, so I guess this year the priority is the latter. Besides the fence I also finally upgraded the raked raised beds with actual wooden sides. I was doing that while I was also trying to get plants and seeds in, which wasn't optimal... but next spring they'll there all ready to go! And this year, even with all that, we're still getting lots of good things.
Those were the first strawberries, which Zion and Lijah picked yesterday. (You see they're not in an enclosed raised bed yet, since they were already growing. But this should be their last year in that spot, so we'll move them to one for next year.) The peas, well-protected with their own private fence, are also doing well, and so's the arugula and mixed greens. Tomatoes are looking strong. We ate all the asparagus we wanted, and lots of green onions. The garlic looks like it'll be the biggest ever, and none too soon: last year's crop is almost gone. And, while we failed to find any butternut squash plants, we picked up a bunch of pickling cucumbers instead. The boys like pickles better than squash anyways.
A few years ago Harvey had his birthday party at the berry farm; falling as it does at midsummer his birthday is always closely associated with the strawberry harvest. He hasn't let me put strawberries in his cake for a few years now—he doesn't care for fruit with cake, he says—but he's still a big fan of them generally. And now that he's big he's a fantastic help picking them too!
We went picking last Tuesday, first thing in the morning before it got too hot. The boys enjoyed the hayride out to the fields, and all three of them were raring to go when I passed out the containers. Lijah's enthusiasm lasted until his fourth berry picked, but the bigger boys worked hard until their four quarts were well filled. It was very impressive. We got ten quarts—fifteen pounds—all together. Then a couple days later all three boys helped Leah mash the berries; and once the weather cooled down a little bit this week I made most of them into jam. Ten and a half pints should last me and Harvey a little while... (Zion prefers blueberry jam; Leah doesn't eat sugar and Lijah doesn't eat food). Of course, we set some aside for strawberry shortcake. The only thing better than strawberry shortcake is leftover strawberry shortcake, and we had that too yesterday. Strawberry season and life is good.
Last week was bookended by two lovely summery outings. On Monday we took advantage of the fact that school was still in session to take a homeschool swimming trip to Walden Pond with the Stevenses. After dominating the group ride together two days previously, Harvey and Ollie were excited to demonstrate that they weren't one-sport wonders—they can swim too!
(Or at least, not drown—which is the important thing to parents with smaller kids to worry about too.)
After plenty of time in the almost-midsummer sun (we Archibalds all came away a little red) we stopped by "Henry's house"—the replica of Thoreau's Walden cabin—for a visit. Zion loves it there.
Besides mugging for the camera and scaring away tourists, Zion also demonstrated a more interesting way to leave the cabin. Maybe he was thinking of what Henry would have done if a tax-collector had turned up at the front door?
As a parent I didn't know whether to be embarrassed or proud when all three of the kids from another family had to follow him out the window, to the dismay of their mom. A little bit of both.
Then on Friday we went strawberry picking at Parlee Farm. For the first time, Lijah was determined to be a helper.
Of course, that lasted about four berries in, but I appreciated the thought. Harvey was a helper, picking almost four quarts by himself. I should have a picture of him hard at work here; instead I just have these two jokers.
(We also spent some time feeding the goats and taking a hayride, pictured previously.)
Zion and Lijah redeemed themselves a little bit when it came to helping Leah process the berries that afternoon. At least I think they did; you'll have to ask Leah how much they actually helped. Zion may have done some useful work. And today Lijah helped pour the sugar as I made some of the berries into jam. It isn't all fun and play around here, you can see—though in June it's more fun than not.
Last week Harvey saw the first ripe strawberries in the garden and proclaimed, "yay, that means it's going to be my birthday soon!" Let's hear it for a homeschooling curriculum that prioritizes teaching natural and agricultural rhythms for reference over actual dates! So Harvey knows well that his birthday falls in the midst of strawberry season.
Our strawberry harvest has been coming in well, and so has the birthday fun for our biggest boy. He kicked off his celebrations with a party at Grandma and Grandpa's last week. They gave him a gigantic Lego set that took him two days to put together; it hasn't been demolished yet, which must be some kind of record. On his actual birthday yesterday his parents failed to offer him any gifts or other birthday delights, as seems to be typical for us lately. But we did write "happy birthday Harvey" on the schedule chalkboard and let him be in charge of meal planning for the day. He picked oatmeal for breakfast (I had mine with strawberries, but couldn't convince the boys to switch from their usual banana) and peanut-butter-and-pickle sandwich for lunch (the rest of us had pb-and-jam like boring regular people). For dinner we were guests at friends' house, but per Harvey's request we brought along chocolate chip cookie bars for dessert.
His party with friends will be Sunday afternoon. There's a Lego theme, and I'm very much looking forward to making the cake and taking part in the building contest. Also playing with all his presents!
Happy 8th birthday Harvey, and may your 9th year be as fruitful as our strawberry patch!
The fields at Parlee finally opened after a cold spring, so we took our first picking trip of the year this morning. Well, most of us did; Leah and Lijah stayed home. She says she has too many bad memories of trying to do pick-your-own with an infant, which is more then fair. But the bigger boys were excited for the adventure!
They brought their backpacks so they could carry their own lunches, water, and, in one case, diapers. Harvey showed his seriousness by getting right down to picking berries, not all of which ended up in his mouth.
Zion was only serious about eating. The only berry he put in his basket was almost entirely white; a little of it was green. But he enjoyed himself!
We met the Stevenses there, and I was very impressed at how well elementary-aged children can contribute to the family welfare through their labor. The younger boys, working together, chipped in a tiny bit.
But the best part of the whole trip was that Grandma Judy came along. After she picked her own four quarts and helped Harvey with some of his one, she gave the little ones something else to do while we finished up the harvest.
Between all of us we ended up with 32 overflowing quarts: besides Grandma's we took home 12 and Bridget and co. had 16. It was a true team effort, and we were all proud and tired.
Now I suppose I have to make some jam!
Strawberry season is upon us, and it's just about too much work. I couldn't even bring myself to take a new picture; the one that heads this post is really from last year. But this year it's pretty much the same scenario. I actually thought we weren't going to get strawberries this year: the plants were hit hard by the winter, and my neglectful weeding has let raspberry canes take over nearly half of the strawberry patch. But come June they started ripening almost as good as usual.
My next thought was that maybe the kids would pick them all for direct eating, and that worked for the first couple days. But this evening Harvey came in with a beautiful strawberry for Mama (very sweet, and gets him maybe 10% back into her good graces) and told us it was the only one out there. Upon investigation, that was proved to be completely false.
There's no netting up over the berries this year, so if birds and animals wanted they could make off with the whole crop. But the critters—many of them, at least—only eat like a third of each berry they decide to go for, and then leave the remains lying around all over the place, so it's more infuriating than anything else. The chickens might have done better, but I decided that I object in principal to having them graze on anything I planted (after they ate all the kale and collards this spring) so I fenced them out.
So we have to eat strawberries. In truth, there's not so many as to be onerous: a few to snack on, some more on cereal, a spinach salad with strawberries and walnuts—they do disappear. And they're pretty tasty this year, though mostly small. I guess maybe it's worth the work picking them after all.
Climate change has bumped our strawberry harvest up by a couple of weeks, and they're coming in fast and furious here at the end of May. We're dealing with some fun problems: the daily picking work can get onerous, and we get more berries every day than we can actually eat. Or should eat, at least; Harvey wouldn't mind putting away all of what is pictured above, which he and I picked this evening, but I don't know how his digestion would cope with a pint of strawberries a day.
I think that right now our strawberry patch is kind of in-between sizes. We're getting a generous amount to eat at the rate we pick it, but not enough to eat some and have some to give away; still less enough to preserve. What we should do, of course, is forgo eating any for a day—a pint makes a nice gift for the neighbors—but I don't know that my children would allow that. Maybe I'll try tomorrow. As for the jam, we don't worry about it too much, because we know that the real picking—out at the big farm—is starting up in a couple days.
Of course, if anyone wants to pick your own now, just stop on by: this farm is always open!
Before I became a parent, I dreamed of raising a child who would be as excited for delicious fresh fruit as other people's offspring are for, say, pixie sticks. It's still early days of course, but so far so good! At the farmers market he lunges violently at tables of strawberries, and waiting for me to pick him some raspberries he produces a truly alarming grunting laugh. In the cereal aisle? So far no response.
I've been indulging his desires at the markets because the end of strawberry season is nearly upon us. As always, I failed to fully appreciate the bounty of the season (never mind all that jam: I never did make the vanilla strawberry). I count myself as a sufferer of fruit guilt, the existence of which I was not aware until recently, but which symptoms describe me pretty well. That's what drives me to make jam: I just can't handle the pressure of eating fruit when it's available! Someday we'll have our own fruit plants producing at the level we want, and then it'll be a good thing that Leah and Harvey will be picking and eating because I sure won't be able to manage it.