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Posts Tagged ‘raspberries’

Riches

We knew it was going to be a busy summer, and it has lived up to expectations.  A toddler and a new baby, on top of the goats, chickens, garden, and regular maintenance work has us feeling like we’re going 100 miles an hour, all the time!  Hubby has even wished out loud that winter would just hurry up already, so we can rest a bit.  I completely disagree, and want summer to go on and on, but then again, I haven’t been doing any of the heavy work.

 

Our garden has exceeded expectations.  The squash is taking over the lawn, and we have so many beans and zucchini that I’ve been selling them to colleagues.  For a garden that is less than a quarter of the size of the original, it is really producing!  We do need more space – we did not grow potatoes or corn this year, and the garden bed is packed so tight that we have to do quite a bit of watering, but the yield so far is still more than I expected.

 

2014 garden

 

A shot of the other side of the garden, where the squash is really going nuts:

 

squash in the lawn

 

We also have raspberries coming out our ears.  I love raspberries – they are one of my favorite fruits, but they are always expensive, and often hard to find, outside of the little $5 clamshell packets from California.  So, our first year here, I planted lots of raspberry canes.  I probably overdid it.  No, I definitely overdid it.  We ended up with two 80 foot rows of berry plants, that have since grown together into one massive raspberry patch:

 

raspberry patch

I don’t really mind, though.  We have more berries than we can pick or use right now, but what we don’t use, the birds and other wildlife will appreciate.  In fact, I hadn’t really thought about it, but that huge raspberry patch is excellent habitat for a whole lot of critters, ranging from the fairly enormous “ohmygod what on earth is THAT” bugs that I’ve never seen before, but which were out in abundance this year, to spiders and even finches.  While I was picking, I came across a bird’s nest with a baby bird and all!   I saw it just in time to avoid knocking it off its perch, so I carefully marked the spot so that I could come back with the camera, then avoid that bit of the patch until the little bird had grown up:

 

goldfinch nest

I am pretty sure this is a goldfinch nest, mostly because they are the only common bird around here that I know of that nests in the fall.

 

Looking around at all of the bounty we have here to use and share, I truly feel rich.

 

raspberries

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There are lots of things I like to eat that don’t grow around here.  Mandarin oranges, for instance, and sweet cherries.  Coffee, chocolate, mangoes, cinnamon.  If I am going to eat these, I don’t really have much choice but to buy them at the store.  Back in Alberta, I could at least buy BC fruit (cherries, peaches, plums) from grower-run stands, but I have yet to see such a stand here where we live.   So, the grocery store is my supplier.  As much as I would like to keep my eating local, I also want to be able to enjoy food I can’t grow; I feel that growing our own or buying local for things that grow here, but continuing to indulge in ‘far away’ treats is not entirely unreasonable.  However, I still try to follow the seasons with my non-local food purchases, so I can get it as close to home as possible – peaches from B.C., for instance (in season shortly), versus peaches from Mexico (which is what you’d get in January).

 

Then there is the stuff that we could grow, but haven’t got a harvest of yet – blueberries, for instance, and apples, and plums.  Sour cherries, also, and pears and hazelnuts.  We have planted all of these, but the trees and bushes are not yet bearing, and mostly won’t be for some time yet.  Some of these things, we have gotten lucky and found a local source for – apples and raspberries, in particular.  However, we have never found someone selling local blueberries, nor pears, nor sour cherries, which is a shame, as we would really like to buy these things from a local seller, since we are going to buy them anyways.  Especially with pregnancy last year, and now with a baby who will be starting on solids in the next 6 months, I am not going to be a purist about eating only what we can grow or acquire locally.  Being healthy and well-nourished trumps heroic efforts at local eating, or even making political statements, for me.   However, I do find it sad that there is so little opportunity to buy local varieties of things that actually grow very well here.  Once we get a transfer down to the farm, and have the space and irrigation water to do so, we plan to BE the local supplier of several things, but I digress…

 

All of this is a long lead-in to the fact that I have seventy pounds of random fruit sitting in my kitchen that needs dealing with, not counting the 20+ pounds I have already put up for the winter.  Now is the season for sweet cherries, as well as blueberries from the West Coast (local blueberries are much later – more like the end of August, I believe).  I have no idea what the season for mangoes actually is, but they are on sale by the case right now, and were on sale by the case this time last year, so I assume that means they are in season somewhere right at the moment.   So I bought 50 pounds of them, as well as 20 pounds of sweet cherries and 20 pounds of West Coast blueberries.  Ninety pounds of fruit…sounds a little excessive, doesn’t it?  But we managed to chew through a lot more than that last year, and now we are three, so I am erring on the side of having too much, rather than too little.

 

So what do you DO with fifty pounds of mangoes?  Well, last year, we dehydrated a ton of it, as well as freezing some.   We found that, while we enjoy the dehydrated mango, we don’t eat that much of it, but we do love mango smoothies, and had to ration the frozen mangoes, so this year, it will all go into the freezer.  You could also can it, but Hubby and I agreed that it would probably be too slimy for our tastes (mango is a little slimy at the best of times), and we couldn’t think of how we might ever use canned mango, so frozen it is.

 

The cherries will also mostly be going into the freezer.  If  I had been able to find sour cherries (also called pie cherries), I would have canned up a bunch for pie fillings and maybe jam.  However, sweet cherries don’t make nearly as flavorful a jam, and are too sweet for making pie filling (in my own opinion), so they will also mostly be frozen.  I am making an exception to try a recipe for cherry preserves that I think might be nice with yogurt, so 2 or 3 pounds will end up in the pantry, but the rest will be frozen for making smoothies and eating over yogurt and ice cream later, or possibly flavoring some applesauce that I plan to can in the fall, time and energy permitting.

 

Most years I would make blueberry jam, and even canned blueberries in light syrup (for pies and muffins), but I went overboard making both of these things last year, so this year’s berries are also being frozen.  We absolutely burned through the frozen blueberries last year, so I am putting much more away.

 

We have picked most of the peas that we are likely to get from this year’s garden, and frozen those, too.  While the harvest was rather disappointing, it was entirely our own fault…we had to excavate the peas from under a mat of thistles and nettles and other weeds before we could even harvest them – the garden got away on us, again.

 

The raspberries should be coming soon, as well.  We won’t be able to harvest enough to meet our own needs for the entire year, but we’ll still get some, and there is a fellow from a nearby town who sells them for a reasonable price, so we’ll be buying some for…you guessed it…freezing.  I would normally make jam and raspberry preserves, but we do still have plenty of those put away.  I did not realize how much jam we were giving away in a typical year in Alberta, so we seem to have a glut.

 

You may be beginning to notice a pattern, here.  It has been between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius for the majority of the last few weeks (save a few days when it has rained), and the idea of boiling anything on the stove for any length of time at all is not appealing.  Freezing is a relatively quick and easy way to preserve seasonal fruit, especially if you like smoothies like we do, or if you like yogurt and fruit (my usual breakfast at work).  It just happens that the fruit that is in season right now lends itself well to being frozen, though the peaches will be coming soon, and we generally like to can a bunch of those – however, when I was pregnant, I was less interested in eating the canned peaches and pears, so we still have a respectable stash of both, and I am debating whether or not to can any new ones this year at all.   In the end, it will depend on the weather and my overall energy level, I suppose.  It is amazing how much produce you need when you are planning for an entire year of eating, but I would rather be eating frozen blueberries that I bought for $2 per pound than paying $7 for per pound later for frozen berries, or $4 or 5 for a tiny clamshell package of berries in winter when we’re having a craving…

 

 

 

 

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Yesterday, we went into town, as we had to pay the electrician (or, rather, put some cash on the visa to pay the electrician with…apparently nobody takes cash anymore…).  Wednesday and Saturday being Farmer’s Market days, and the market having posted on facebook that a BC fruit truck was coming, we decided to give it one more chance.

 

Unfortunately, it still sucked.

 

The “BC fruit truck” was a guy with a van and boxes of cherries, peaches, and apricots, a far cry from the reefer semi unit shading groaning tables of peaches, plums, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, nectarines, tomatoes, peppers, blueberries, and grapes that my mind conjures up when I hear the words “BC fruit truck”.  It must be an Alberta thing.  The other vendors still just had one or two things – maybe a couple of onions and some jars of jam, or a few types of baking, or a couple bunches of beets or bags of new potatoes.  None of the tables looked all that impressive.

 

Disappointed, we headed off to the Co-op grocery, as their flyer advertised decent sales on peaches and blueberries.  On the way, though, we saw a 5-ton truck with “Fruit and Vegetable Stand” painted on the side, parked in a vacant lot.

 

“Ooh, ooh, ooh”, I gestured at Hubby, but unfortunately, his ESP was on the fritz, and we passed the stand before he figured out what I was getting at.  We actually had to drive halfway around town (stupid construction) to get back to the stand, going the right direction (stupid median), but actually, it was worth the impromptu tour of the city.

 

They had raspberries.  Big trays, loaded with raspberries, and lots of them.  And carrots, and beets, and saskatoon berries, onions, new potatoes, and cabbages.   THIS was what I had been expecting to find at the Farmer’s Market.  I made a comment to that effect, and asked why they were not there.  The fella running the stand told us that they used to participate, but had been asked to leave, because they “had too much stuff”, and were not complying with the market’s fixed prices.  Had too much stuff?  Huh?

 

Now, I have no idea if this is actually true, but I can’t think of a reason for the fella to lie.  The fruit and veggie stand was great, though, and we bought 10 pounds of raspberries, and have plans to go back, particularly around corn season, as they said they do have corn.  If the guy was telling the truth, that would explain why the actual Farmer’s Market is so pathetic, with each table having only a couple of things, and also why the prices are so high.  What I don’t understand, though, is why any organizer would pursue policies that so obviously hurt their market…

 

At any rate, we still stopped at the Co-op on the way home, and got 8 pounds of blueberries (from BC, yay!), and 17 pounds of peaches (from California, boo!).  We headed home, and I did a marathon session of canning, getting 7 pints of canned raspberries, plus a batch of jam, done before bedtime.  I knew the forecast for today was +30, and so far, the weatherman has been pretty accurate.  Today, I did up some flavored liquor (set a couple pints of blueberries in vodka to soak for a nice midwinter drink), and some flavored vinegar (the same, but with white wine vinegar, for vinegarette salad dressings later).  I also picked a big handful of basil from the front bed, and put it in vinegar to soak…apparently herbed vinegars are quite the specialty item.   Since we scooped up six 250 ml jars of white wine vinegar on an excellent sale ($1 each) a few weeks back, I have no reason to skimp!  I have been a little obsessed with preserving in alcohol and vinegar this year, partly because it is so quick.  Last year I made up peach and raspberry vodkas, and they were a smash hit, prompting a whole range of new flavors this year…

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We have been making little discoveries all over the acreage, now that the snow is gone and things are starting to leaf out.  We’ve found wild strawberries, wild roses, peonies in a random patch of tall grass by the (crab?) apple tree, raspberries, and what looks like an elderberry bush.  Hubby stumbled across an old rhubarb patch, right in the middle of a truck track behind one of the sheds.  There are a few other odd plants that I will have to identify – one of them might even be horseradish.  Of course, there are also a ton of what look like little stinging nettles – they are too little to tell if they are nettles or wild mint, just yet, and I have no interest in finding out the hard way.

There have also been swarms of bumblebees and hordes of little wood frogs.  Today, we saw hummingbirds for the first time, and also caught a glimpse of the woodpecker that we have been hearing for ages, but had not seen.   There were magpies squawking and swallows swooping.  We heard a bird song that sounded like all the world like a ringing phone, though it went on long past when the machine would have picked up, and was in the wrong direction, anyhow.  There are these little rodents, that look like squirrels but act like gophers, which we have been watching for a couple of weeks.  We also saw one of the bunnies on the lane while we were eating dinner.   This place is suddenly crawling (and sprouting and hopping and flapping) with life.   Unfortunately, the mosquitoes are out in swarms, also, but it’s a small price to pay to have the rest of it.

Hubby is determined to take pictures of all of the birds here in our area, so we hung up a hummingbird feeder, as we doubted we would ever get one to stay still for the camera, otherwise.  So far, there have been two ruby-throated hummingbirds visiting, and hopefully we will see lots of them, as we hung the feeder just outside the kitchen window, where we can watch it while we eat.  Of course, as soon as Hubby set the camera down, one flew right up to the window and tapped on it with his little beak.  I laughed!

In other news, the garden is coming along, albeit more slowly than we would like, with me being so creaky and all.  We’ve gotten the potatoes in, now, and also some radishes, parsnips, kale, chard, spinach, golden beets, lettuce, and broccoli.  We are going to try adding another quarter – row every week or two, to have a fresh supply through the summer.  That’s the theory, anyhow – we’ll see how fast we run out of room and / or patience.  We’ll make a big planting of the storage crops (beets, turnips, carrots, and such) later in the summer, so that they mature right around first frost.

Hubby found an old compost pile from some former residents, and hauled a few wheelbarrow loads over to my front flowerbed, which I decided to plant in tomatoes and peppers, instead.  It seemed like a great place for them, as it is sunny, protected, and close enough to the bathroom to lug buckets of used bathwater (“greywater”) out to water them with – the bed is right out the front door.   It is still a little early, but Hubby has been hauling the plants in and out every day to harden them off, and the weather has been fine, with a forecast for more of the same, so hopefully they won’t get too chilled at night.  We put in eight tomatoes, four hot peppers, and four sweet peppers – we started more, but they would not all fit.  While I was at it, I planted some little potentilla bushes that I bought on a whim, and some tulips and daffodils that were given to us by a friend who neglected to plant them last fall.  I tucked some herbs in between the bigger plants – parsley, basil, oregano, chives, and some garlic cloves that I just tucked in here and there.  That should be an entertaining “flower” bed, for sure!

We likely will have to put the rest of the garden on hold, now, as we have family coming in for a visit over the weekend.  If the kids get too bored with our lack of a television, we’ll set them to work planting beans and corn, but otherwise it’ll just have to wait until Monday…

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We eat a lot of yogurt. It’s good stuff, and good for you. Someday, we’ll make it from milk and cream from our own cow, or maybe goat. In the meantime, we make it from stuff we get from the store…it is unbelievably easy. Today, I had my homemade yogurt with a bit of sugar and a few big spoonfuls of raspberries that I canned last fall. It was divine.

    Yogurt:

 

I make my yogurt in glass containers. I have been making it two quarts at a time, and they will last a couple of months in the fridge. Well, not around here, but theoretically they would, if I didn’t eat them up first…

Measure out your milk and cream (I use half 1% milk and half 10% coffee cream). You can vary the proportions, or even leave the cream out entirely. It just tastes richer with cream in it, is all. The easiest way to measure is to just pour the milk and cream into the containers you will be using. Glass quart (4 cup / 1L) jars work really well.

Pour the milk / cream mixture into a good-sized pot, and bring to a boil on the stove, stirring constantly. While this is warming up, rinse out your jars with hot soapy water. I sometimes pour a bit of boiling water in and swish it around. This serves two purposes – it kills off any bacteria in the jar, and it also warms the jar, so that pouring in boiling milk does not cause it to break from the sudden temperature change. Once the milk boils, pour it into your jar(s). Put the lid on loosely, and set it in a draft-free place to cool a bit. Once the jar is cool enough that you can hold it in your hand without burning, open the lid and stir in a tablespoon of yogurt from your last batch, or from a container of store-bought yogurt that has an active culture (it will be labeled as such). Put the lid on tight, wrap the jar in a towel, and set it in a warmish spot, like the counter beside the refrigerator. The idea is to keep it warm for several hours. I usually do this after supper, and leave the towel-wrapped jar on the counter overnight. In the morning, it has solidified, and you can put it in the fridge. Now you have plain yogurt.

You can flavor it any way you like, or just eat it plain. Today I had mine with canned raspberries.

 

    Canned Raspberries:

 

We pick our raspberries by the ice cream bucket. As soon as we get home, we rinse the berries, gently so as not to mash them, and pack them snugly  into pint jars. We make a syrup of 2 parts sugar to 3 parts water to pour over the berries – for each pint of berries, you need about one cup of syrup. After pouring the syrup over the berries, we put the lids and rings on the jars, and process for 15 minutes (at 3,000 feet) in a boiling water bath.

Enjoy!

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