Category Archives: Berries

Sweet Summer Time

I can’t believe July is nearly over. I certainly have been enjoying the summer weather we have had this past week, but I fear that summer will to be gone before I know it. I am trying to make a conscious effort to take at least a little time each day just appreciating what the season has to offer. Sometimes that involves taking a dip in the pond or kicking off my shoes and going barefoot in the lush green grass. Other times it involves observing nature in all of it’s glory. Last week it also involved a homemade blueberry pie. ☺

Below are some of my observations from the past week.

 That’s Just Ducky!

One day last week, when I was working in the prayer garden, I noticed we had a visitor in the pond.

In the past when we have had ducks visit they have not stayed long. This one doesn’t want to leave.

IMG_5414

I can’t say that I blame her as it is a very lovely environment. I am not sure what kind of duck she is so if you know please leave me a comment at the end of this post.

We don’t want ducks or other water foul living in our pond so we have made many attempts at letting her know she needs to leave.IMG_5415

At first I thought it would be as easy as letting Trooper chase her off, but as he entered the pond she swam quickly to the other end of the pond. Trooper lost sight of her and interest. As I walked around the outside of the pond to the area where she was swimming she again just swam to a different spot. My husband attempts at throwing small stones in the water near her didn’t seem to deter her either. She certainly is persistent!

Finally on Friday when I had family over for a picnic lunch I told my niece, as she and my cousin set out in the paddle boat, that their job was to chase the duck away. A while later my niece announced that the duck had flow away. Good Job Ashley and Abbey! It was maybe a couple of hours later, after we had finished our pond activities, that we saw her land in the pond again. Good Grief!!!

I do think that she has since gotten the message that we don’t want her there because now when she sees my husband or I approaching the pond she flies away – only to return when we are not around. Perhaps she figures “what we don’t know won’t hurt us – or her”.

Unapproved Housing!

So far this year I have written about robins building a nest in a flat of pansies and the sparrow who was raising her young in the middle of our strawberry patch but this is the oddest nest yet.

This past winter my husband noticed that what we assume was a confused woodpecker had made a hole in our U.S. Coast Guard approved floatation devise that our township requires be kept near the pond. It is not made out of wood!

IMG_5439

Last week he told me that he looked in that hole and saw what he thought was a sparrow inside.

IMG_5437

I decided to try to get a photo. As I approached a small bird flew out. It was similar in size and color to a sparrow but I noticed that it had a long pointy beak. After doing a little research I have decided it is probably a house wren. While it seems to have found a cozy home I am not sure that the U.S. Coast Guard would approve.

Birdseye View

Hawks soaring high above our farm is not an unusual sight; it’s just one that I have difficulty photographing. It does get concerning when their search area comes close the area where our chickens are foraging as we have had several chickens fall prey to hawks in the past. Such is the nature of allowing chickens to free range.

IMG_5461

As I watch the hawk gracefully circling I envy its view from above.

A Berry Good Year

While our garlic crop was disappointing this year, all of our berries performed beyond our expectations. As I have mentioned in previous posts it has been a wonderful year for strawberries, currants, cherries, and blueberries. Grapes seem to be following suit.

IMG_5431

One day last week I noticed that the grape vines were sagging. Upon further inspection we discovered that the top wire that supports the grape vines had broken.

 

IMG_5433

The vines are so heavy laden with fruit that the wire could not support their weight. My husband was able to place a couple of wooden stakes under the vines to keep them off the ground, but repairing the wire will have to wait until after the harvest.

If A Tree Falls and Nobody Is Around To Hear It Does It Really Make A Sound?

As of this writing that question will go unanswered.

IMG_5456

My husband was standing in the garden, perhaps 100 feet from this tree last Sunday when the storm came through. He estimated the wind gust at about sixty miles per hour. As he felt the gust, he heard a loud crack and watched the tree fall.

The dead ash tree has been standing dead in the wood line for several years and we have been waiting for the right winds to come along and bring it down. We can now cut it up to use for firewood this winter.

The Garden Was Busy This Morning

Perhaps I should say buzzy. The squash and pumpkins are blossoming heavily right now,

IMG_5445

and bees and other pollinators love squash blossoms.

 

IMG_5448

 

IMG_5446

It is not unusual to see two or more pollinators in the same flower.

 

IMG_5450

The bees were also foraging in the buckwheat.  They moved quickly from flower to flower and I was not able to capture a photo of one.

IMG_5453

We don’t harvest buckwheat but it does serve a dual purpose. It acts as a cover crop, enriching the soil in areas where we are not growing food. It also helps feed the bees.

Thanks for spending a little time with me. What are you doing to make the most of summer?

 

Coveting The Cherries

As quickly as spring turned into summer, strawberry season turned into cherry, blueberry and currants season.

IMG_5283

As my husband and I sat on the deck yesterday, looking at all of the cherries that needed to be picked, he commented that he was surprised that we hadn’t seen any robins eating the cherries. I told him I would pick cherries tomorrow.

Along toward evening Scout needed to go outside and as I opened the door to take him out a robin flew out of the cherry tree. It had a ripe cherry in it’s beak and flew on top of our neighbors house so I could watch it eat it’s prize.

It is now game on – to see who can get the cherries first.

As soon as Scout was done with his business I got busy picking cherries. We didn’t have a cherry crop at all last year but the tree seems to be making up for it this year.

IMG_5287

I picked about a quart of cherries while the robin sat on the neighbors house and chirped at me. As darkness began to fall the mosquitos chased me inside.

I picked another two quarts this morning. For now I am just freezing the cherries but as soon as this extreme heat wave is over and we turn off the air conditioning I will be baking a cherry pie.

There are still enough cherries left on the tree for me to pick a couple more quarts and the robin to have it’s share as well.

IMG_2927

(The above photo was taken in 2016)

What is your favorite kind of fruit pie?

A Berry Good Year

Strawberries aren’t the only berry that we have an abundance of this year. Home grown cherries, blueberries, and currants have also found their way into our diets.

Although our cherry tree suffered quite a large fruit drop, and we split the crop about 50/50 with the robins in the neighborhood, I was able to harvest enough to make a cherry crisp and today’s dessert, a cherry pie.

Once our blueberries started to ripen they were disappearing faster than we could pick them. The robins have an advantage of being able to sit on the fence and wait until each berry turns just the right shade and then pluck it from their stem and enjoy it as a meal. We on the other hand show up once a day to pick whatever berries might be ripe, then save them in the refrigerator or freezer until we have enough for a meal. Thus we decided early on that netting the bushes would be necessary if we wanted to harvest any blueberries.

IMG_1517

My husband pulled out this roll of netting that he found in somebodies trash a couple years ago. Last year we were happy to have this stored away, when we found it necessary to net the entire squash bed to save them from the deer. We have since fenced in the field gardens, so the deer eating squash, pumpkins, corn, etc. is not a concern. Cutting up the netting to protect our blueberries was a no-brainer.

The blueberry bushes are small enough that we could drape the netting over the whole bush.

IMG_1518

Even as I wrapped the bushes these thieving little robins attempted to steal our bounty.  Although it appears that this bird is trapped under the net, it is really sitting on the outside on the opposite side of the bush. IMG_1523

Since netting the bushes, we have picked and frozen nearly 4 quarts of blueberries and they are still coming on. There will be blueberry pancakes this year.

IMG_1556

Unlike the robins that seemed to be deterred by the netting, there are a couple of these little birds that keep going at it. They are pretty clever, as they can find a small opening and are not afraid to go in under the net. I’m not sure what type of bird it is but I think it looks like a female Orchard Oriole. http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/564/_/Orchard_Oriole.aspx

You might not think of a couple quarts of cherries or blueberries as being an abundance but where the term really applies is currants.

IMG_1512

 

Right now we have two red and one white currant bushes that we are harvesting. We have harvested an estimated 12-15 lbs. Currants are not a very popular fruit in our area and I suspect the following reasons. Currants are very tart. Although they are very productive, they are a chore to pick. They are very seedy, and they are a chore to clean.

I also think that people are unaware of the nutrition they offer, http://www.livestrong.com/article/444249-what-are-the-benefits-of-red-currant/    most notable their vitamin C content, and I think that people don’t know what to do with them.

IMG_1554Since the currant wine I made last year was a hit, I started with making wine with white currants and strawberries.

I then made juice with the rest of the white currants and put it in the freezer. I have  also been making juice with the red currants that we have picked, but rather than cook the currants before mashing and straining the juice, I put the raw currants in my Nutri-bullet, blended them up, then strained them. (the chickens love the remaining seeds and pulp) I did this because heat kills the precious vitamin C. I sweeten this juice with honey and we have been enjoying this with our breakfast.

I also made a batch of currant jelly.

IMG_1555

Currants have enough pectin that it is not necessary to add any when making jelly. I ended up with 5 1/2 pints (or so I thought). When you make jelly, that does not require pectin added, testing the jelly for doneness can be tricky. Using a candy thermometer is not an accurate measure, as I found out. 24 hours after I made this jelly it still had not set up. I let it boil for quite a while after it reached 220 F  on the thermometer because it did not appear to be sheeting on the spoon yet, but I was also afraid of it burning.

So a few days later I poured all of the (almost) jelly back in the pan and cooked it down some more. This time I left the candy thermometer in the drawer and decided to use the spoon test, and watch for the jelly to “sheet” off the spoon.

IMG_1600

After I got it to a boil I started doing the spoon test. It was coming off the spoon it drops.

IMG_1607

As it boiled it became thicker and darker in color. It was still dropping from the spoon and I was still concerned about it burning or getting too sticky. So I was continually raising the spoon and letting it drop off. Doing this with my right hand and trying to snap pictures with my left (just as it was dropping from the spoon) was a bit of a challenge.

IMG_1623

At this point the drops were getting wider, more “sheet-like” so I let it go for a couple more minutes and then decided it was ready. I put it into jars, put the lids and rings on and gave it a 5 minute water bath.

IMG_1628

I ended up with 4 pints. After 24 hours they were much more jelly-like. I do think they could have cooked even longer though. I guess I should have follow the advice of one of the blogs I read that said,” when you think it’s ready, keep cooking it.”

I have certainly learned that there it an art to making jelly. I say “Kudos” to anyone who has mastered it, and while our jelly slides off  our PB&J sandwiches this year I will affirm my vow to get it better next year.