Category Archives: Strawberries

Pickin’ and Preserving

I just thought I would do a quick post about what we have harvested in the past week.

Strawberries – Since we began picking strawberries we have harvested nearly 50 quarts of strawberries. After I froze enough to keep us in homemade jam through the year we began offering them to family and friends. We have had a lack of rain so the berries are not big this year but they are delicious.  Due the dry conditions we are not certain that the plants will continue to produce berries much longer.

Garlic Scapes – Several people who visited the farm this week went home with some garlic scapes. We cut, bundled and delivered scapes to a local retailer and are having scapes for dinner tonight.

Oregano – It was time to start picking oregano before it blossoms. Oregano is a very prolific herb that is spreading throughout, and making a nice ground cover in our prayer garden. Since I will not be ready to can spaghetti sauce for at least a month I will dry the herbs as I harvest them and they will keep well until I am ready to use them. When it flowers the bees are very attracted to it.

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I find that air drying herbs works well. I have a couple different methods for doing this. One is to tie the herbs in a bunch, like I have done with the oregano in the above picture, and hang then where they will get good air flow until the leaves completely dry. Once they are completely dry I remove the leaves from the stems and store in an airtight container.

Basil – Basil is another herb that I use in my spaghetti sauce. It is an annual so we plant a few plant each year. It is not very large yet but picking some of it now will encourage it to grow more and discourage it from flowering too soon. Since the basil stems were pretty short I decided it was best to dry them on our drying screen (shown in the photo below).

The drying screen is simply made of a wooden frame with screen stapled together. The frame that we used actually came as packaging from a table that we had purchased. I saved it because I knew there was a better use for it the just throwing it away. The screen that we used was part of a roll of screen that I had picked up for a couple dollars at an estate sale.

Since the drying screen does not have legs I usually put a box under each end so there is good air flow all the way around. Depending on the temperature, leafy herbs will usually dry in a few days on the drying screen. They are then stored in air tight containers until we are ready to use them

Plantain Leaves –  When you see plantain you may think of a fruit similar to a banana that grows on trees (Musa paradisiaca) but we can’t grow that here. Apparently plantain trees grow best in zones 8 through 11 and require 10-15 months with temperatures above freezing to bear fruit. That doesn’t happen in Michigan.

The plantain I am referring to is know as common plantain (plantago major) and common it is. It pops up seemly everywhere and you would probably recognize it even if you don’t know it’s name. Along with not knowing it’s name you may not be aware that plantain had many health benefits and is often included in list of the top weeds that we should be eating. Although we have not yet included plantain in our diet I have been harvesting it for medicinal purposes for several years. The following website includes a photo and information about plantains medicinal uses https://usesofherbs.com/plantain.

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Marshmallow Leaves On The Drying Screen

 

Marshmallow Leaves –  If you are not familiar with the wonder benefits of the Marshmallow plant you can read about it here https://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-marshmallow.html.

We have been growing marshmallow for several years now and in the fall I harvest some of the roots as I use it in my Hair Care soap. Last year I also harvested some of the leaves, dried them and stored them. I enjoyed marshmallow tea a few times and have begun harvesting and drying the leaves so I can replenish my herbal “medicine cabinet”.

I actually started this post last week intending for it to be a short summery of our weeks efforts but as the time passes we are harvesting more and more produce. Before I wrap it up I will quickly add –

Blueberries –  We are picking fully ripened blueberries and not having to worry about the birds getting them first. If you aren’t sure why click here to read about our blueberry patch update.

and last but not least

Currants – I have been waiting for months for these little berries to be ready. In my opinion they are a superfood and I intend on doing a separate post on them and how I am preserving them.

I am going to wrap up this post now before the list gets any longer. As I head to the farm to pick berries I wish you all a blessed day.

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Strawberries At Last!

We picked our first strawberries of 2018 this week so I thought I would repost this from 2016 to show you some of the ways we will be preserving strawberries this year. We are now praying for a bountiful season like we had in 2016.

Don't Eat It! Soap and Skin Care

It’s been my dream for more than a decade to grow a nice strawberry patch, ever since the first year I made homemade strawberry jam and my family loved it so much that store bought strawberry jam was no-longer welcome in our home. Since growing our own berries would lower the cost involved in making homemade jam, we decided to put in a strawberry patch. We started with a few plants in a raised bed, and over the next several years made several strawberry beds in our yard. We never yielded more than a few handfuls of small berries, so every June, when the strawberries were ripe, I would go to one of our local strawberry farms and buy at least 2 (10 quart) flats of fresh, Michigan grown strawberries and make most of them into jam.

When we bought the farm in 2011, having a nice strawberry patch was still one…

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Dump Cake Recipe and Changing It Up

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I wanted to make a fruity dessert yesterday so I decided on an old family favorite. I remember my mom making this when I was a teenager and then telling me the recipe when I was a young mom. It’s such an easy recipe I don’t know if Mom ever had it written down, but I know I never did.

This has got to be one of the simplest and most delicious desserts you will ever bake so here is the recipe.

Dump Cake

1 can cherry pie filling

1 can crushed pineapple

1 yellow or white cake mix

1 stick butter melted

Directions –  Spread the cherry pie filling in the bottom of a 13×9 inch (33×23 cm) pan. Pour the crushed pineapple evenly over the cherry pie filling. Sprinkle the cake mix evenly over the pie filling and pineapple. Pour the melted butter over the cake mix as evenly as possible. Bake at 350 degrees F (176.7 C) for 30-40 minutes until top starts to brown.

Since I didn’t have any canned pie filling or pineapple on hand, I decided to change the recipe. What I did have was some of our home grown fruits that I had frozen when they were in season. I started with about 4 cups (946.35 grams) of  frozen strawberries and 1 1/2 cups (354.88 grams) of frozen rhubarb. I put the strawberries and rhubarb in a sauce pan and added 1 cup (236.58 grams) of sugar and 1/3 cup (78.07 grams) of corn starch. I slowly heated this until it came to a boil and became thick like pie filling. I then poured this into my 13×9 inch (33×23 cm) pan, topped it with a yellow cake mix and melted butter, and baked it just like the recipe above. This dessert can be eaten either warm or chilled. It is delicious either way.

While this may not have been as simple as the original recipe the home grown fruit made it extra delicious.

Note to my friends and readers around the world – I have added metric conversions by using online conversion charts and can only trust their accuracy. I have also rounded the numbers up to the nearest 100th and I am not sure if this gives you a close enough measurement. This recipe does not really need to be exact, but if the measurement does not seem right to you might want to do you own conversion.

Thanks for reading.

 

Fall Activities

To start off this post I want to send a great big Thank You to anyone reading this. My readership is growing and in the past few months the number of people who are following my blog has doubled. It’s still not a big number but it is very encouraging. Having followers is kind of like making new friends. Followers can visit our farm through many of the pictures I post and can keep up with what we are up to just by reading along. It’s always exciting when somebody hits the “like” button or I get hits off Facebook indicating that somebody liked my writing well enough to share it with their friends. Best of all is when someone takes the time to leave a comment.  It’s almost as good as having friends stop by for coffee and a chat. So again thank you to all those who are reading.

This is a quick update on some of our fall activities before we begin planting garlic this week. If you are interested in what we will be doing with garlic planting you can check out this page https://donteatitsoap.com/a-year-in-growing-garlic/ .

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My husband has been working on expanding our strawberry patch. He first weeded  them then cut and transplanted runners before mulching with straw. Since this picture was taken he has finished the center so there is now 7 full rows of strawberry plants. We are praying for a bountiful crop in 2018.

After finishing the strawberry patch he moved on to the asparagus bed. We added to the asparagus this spring so we now have around 100 plants. Over the past few days he has cut down the ferns that were dead leaving a few that were still green. With hands and knees in the dirt he weeded the areas directly around each plant. He then tilled in between the rows. Since I didn’t get a picture you’ll have to trust me when I say it looks beautiful. Straw will also be used to mulch the asparagus before winter sets in.

He has cleared out most of the garden since nearly everything is done producing. He cut corn stalks and gave some to friends and neighbors to use for fall decorations.

While he has been busy with all of the fall farming activities my time has been split more between the farm and the house. My activities at the farm were mostly preparing the prayer garden for winter.

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I gave it a good weeding, then I trimmed dead foliage and blossoms from most of the plants. I left any blossoms that were still open, as they were being used by bees and butterflies in search of food. I also dug out some Irises because they were spreading beyond where I wanted to go. I gave the dug up Iris bulbs to a neighbor who was happy to receive them.

At home I cooked up and froze pumpkins from our one volunteer pumpkin plant that produced this year. It was not a pie pumpkin but it made a fabulous pumpkin pie.  You can find my pumpkin pie recipe here https://donteatitsoap.com/2015/09/22/pumpkin/   I froze several packages of eggplant and I turned some of the strawberries, that I had froze in June, into jam. I also filtered the beeswax that had been tucked in the freezer after the our honey harvest.  Check out this post to see how I filter beeswax. https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/06/06/filtering-bees-wax/

After several months of not making soap, I made two batches last week. The first one I made was Sweet Dandelion. Since it was such a big hit when I made it in the spring, I knew that I would want to make another batch so even though they were nearly done blossoming, in late June I walked the farm in search of dandelions. I was able to find enough to make a pot of dandelion tea and infused the rest in some sunflower oil. I froze the dandelion tea and I had both of my key ingredients ( tea and oil) last week when I was ready to make this soap.

The other soap I made was coffee soap. I am really looking forward to trying this soap because I used a new and (hopefully) improved method. I will post about it in the future, probably in six weeks or so when the soap is ready.

For now I must refocus on the task at hand – garlic planting, so until next time I wish you well.

Who’s Eating Our Strawberries?

When we discovered that some of our ripe strawberries were being eaten, before we had a chance to pick them, I assumed it was slugs.  Slugs are notorious for invading strawberry patches.  I began saving our coffee grounds separate from the other compost and spreading them around the strawberry plants to deter the slugs. Since I didn’t have enough coffee grounds to do them all at once I wasn’t surprised that I was still seeing eaten berries.

Earlier this week while I was watering garlic and my husband was watering strawberries, he called me over to the strawberry patch. “Want to see some baby bunnies?’ he asked. I grabbed my camera.

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There are at least four of them. My husband found their nest, a small hole in the ground, hidden in an area where the strawberry plants are thick. It is well camouflaged as are the baby bunnies. They are very difficult to see until they start moving around.

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I can’t say for sure that there are no slugs eating the berries, and I have also found a few bugs which I assume are sap beetles, http://extension.psu.edu/plants/gardening/fphg/strawberries/insects-mites/sap-beetle  but I suspect the majority of the eaten berries are providing yummy meals to these cute little critters who couldn’t care less about the coffee grounds.