Saturday, June 26, 2010

Being Practical Doesn’t Make It Easier…

I know when something has to be done… you just need to do it.

But this sweet old girl… she has made it hard for me.

She has been on the decline for several years now - but I knew a couple months ago when she began to loose weight that we were coming to the end.  She was a beautiful mix of Alaskan Malamute and Sheppard… always a puppy at heart, good natured, but with an independent streak.

These pictures are typical of her… resting on her porch with an easy grin on her face.  She did not like having her picture taken… does it show?  LOL

She was 15… and I’ll be missing her a bunch.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Two Days in Pictures…

Sunday Evening - remember I said I thought the next Cherry Tree would be ready soon… turned out it was ready right then.

Black Cherries 001So I called my sister that night and told her she needed to come out if she wanted any of these cherries… and so she did.

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Monday morning - we started picking… see those red cherries in the picture below… those are from a different tree – they aren’t ready - yet.  Seems there are two trees planted together… or I guess it could be that the black cherry tree was grafted onto a different root stock and the root stock grew a tree as well.

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I finally reached the top of my ladder…

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I picked all I could reach and said that was enough!

Some of my pickings… everything got put in the refrigerator Monday because I was too tired after a morning of picking cherries and an afternoon spent working in the garden.

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Tuesday Morning… Let’s see – first a trip to the store for more canning jars.  This is the book I worked from – a Mothers Day gift from my daughter last year.

ball book

This sounds good…

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Wash and drain the berries…

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Then I used this cherry pitter… one cherry at a time… 3 cups worth of cherries took me 1 1/2 hours.  Can you say tedious?

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Then I decided to use this antique cherry pitter I had hanging in the kitchen.  I picked it up last year poking around antique shops.  You roll some cherries in the top… turn the handle…

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The pits come out here…

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and the cherry come out below…

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Now tell me please why there isn’t a modern stainless steel version of this guy around?  I had 5 cups of cherries pitted and ready to use in 30 minutes.

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Sure is a shame you can’t smell this… or better yet taste it!

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I made 2 batches of the Black Forest Preserves… one per the recipe and one I used orange extract instead of the almond and added some cinnamon – yum!  Then I made a batch of Cherry Jam using the same recipe I used on Sunday when I canned the other cherries we picked.  A 4 cup batch of cherries for more jam and a 3 cup batch for more preserves are in the freezer… for some day when I have nothing better to do.

Not a bad day – 3 batches of jam/preserves canned… and a couple of tired feet.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Don’t Let Your Daughters Run Wild in the Garden…

Don’t let them move out and live where ever they please.

Too many daughters living in a small area puts a strain on resources… and in no time the place is looking like the slums.  Everything is crowded and jumbled up and nobody is getting the nutrition they need and many are lost in the shuffle and overlooked.

Next thing you know they are having daughters themselves and the whole garden goes to hell in a hand basket.

Oh… you thought I was doling out Motherly advice?  Nope! 

Just a little ‘learned the hard way’ Gardening Advice going on from the Accidental Strawberry Farmer. 

Did you know that those new plants that grow from the main or ‘mother’ plant are called daughters?  Me neither… until recently when I did a little (too late) reading on the subject of strawberries.

I made the mistake of buying 2 strawberry plants last year.  Well – ok – I thought it was 2 strawberry plants in those 4” pots.  What I actually had was 25 plants… in each pot.  NO – what I actually had was more than 25 plants in each.  So I planted my 2 plants 50 plants (I gave the extras away) and reaped a small but yummy handful of berries last year.  Imagine my delight when my strawberry plants made more strawberry plants… I mean hey – who doesn’t like free stuff right?

So I began this growing season with 2 overly full raised boxes of plants… and this was after pulling out most of those daughters that made an attempt at setting up housekeeping outside along the edges of the boxes.

Lessons learned… DO NOT LET YOUR STRAWBERRIES BE IN CONTROL.  Oh sorry, was I yelling?  There is probably a correlation to that whole mother-daughter thing… somebody has to keep the rules and rein in the wild daughters.  So I’m going to be putting my mother hat gardening hat on and pulling on my gloves and getting ruthless about the rules and keeping order.  I’m going to be making up a new bed later this summer and we will set up a new orderly community.  And then I’m putting my foot down and yanking out anyone who doesn’t cooperate.

Below you see my freezer… it contains 10 half pint jars of Strawberry Freezer Jam.  It also contains in excess of 109 cups of crushed strawberries in various containers and bags.  AND 24 plus cups of frozen whole berries…

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Yes there are indeed 4 cartons of ice cream there… how do you think I’m using up the crushed berries that haven’t made it into the freezer?  Over ice cream, yogurt, and bananas… and I’ve been giving them away.

My sister came over the other day… she asked if she could have some strawberries.  I told her she could have what ever she wanted to pick… but I wasn’t helping.  So she went home with a bunch… probably between 6 and 8 quarts.

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And we also had to pick cherries…

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but the bugs and birds had been feasting already.  The Engineer and I picked for us and I told my sister she could keep whatever she picked.  After tossing the bad ones on the ground I still ended up with 3 overflowing 2 quart containers before I said I quit.  After pitting and trimming bad spots I made 2 batches of Spicy Cherry Jam on Saturday.  The remaining cherries are in my dehydrator – um getting dried out… LOL

And then there is this tree with a smaller darker cherry… should be ready in a day or two… and another tree behind this that will be ready a week or so later I think.

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Make them stop… make them all stop…  LOL

Monday, June 7, 2010

Best Laid Plans…

I think I mentioned the last time I was here that my Dad was coming to visit.  He wondered if the Cowboys jacket would be a problem in Philly’s territory… I don’t think he’ll mind if I tell you he celebrated his 81st birthday while he was here.

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For the first weekend we planned for our kids in MA to come down to visit.  I figured we’d spend the weekend doing a little work in the garden (no sense passing up on cheap labor), quick and easy meals to cook, eat, and clean up, and then a whole lot of time spent playing cards and visiting.

What we did that weekend was no garden work, and we ate most meals out.  We did play cards a lot - just not where we had planned.

We hadn’t planned a trip to the ER and a Hospital admission for my Dad when we made our weekend plans.  The good news is that the pains my father had experienced early Saturday am were not associated with a heart attack, or blood clots… but we had to wait until all the tests were completed Monday afternoon to know for sure. 

So we made ‘Lemonade’ out of that weekend.  We couldn’t have been more pleased with the courtesy and kindness from the hospital staff – not to mention the professionalism.  We took over the family room down the hall and the hospital staff came there to check vitals and dispense meds.  When the announcement came that visiting hours were over… we just closed the door and dealt a new hand… and nobody blinked.  We left at 10:30 PM Saturday night and 9:30 PM on Sunday.

The Cardiologist said that he had people half my dad’s age that couldn’t do the full 9 minutes of the stress test… he was impressed… and so was I.  There was however no good idea what actually caused the pain… but I suspect it was related to some gall stones they noted in the CAT Scan.

After his release I put him to work in the garden…

Here is the Herb Garden my Dad and husband built for me… Daddy’s doing his best impression of a Scarecrow… LOL

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On the next Saturday we went to surprise my brother who earlier that morning had returned from a 6 month assignment (contractor) in Iraq.  He’s standing there still talking to Dad on the phone… “What are you doing here, how’d you get here… I don’t believe this… how’d you get here?”  We had driven down to VA and Daddy called him on the phone while we stood outside… then we starting ringing the door bell over and over and over.  LOL

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My sister Lori from NJ spent a good deal of time here with us as well – she and my husband spent a day touring Gettysburg with Daddy.  You could easily spend a week there so we’ll have to make sure to visit again during Daddy’s next visit.  He did say that knowing he’d passed his stress test with flying colors made climbing those towers a lot easier… LOL

We had a great time and I sure hated to drop him off at the airport… those 2 weeks went by very quickly!