June 17, 2013 – Strawberries

While they are a bit late this year, the wet spring has insured a full strawberry crop this year.

bowl of strawberries

In fact, it seems like for this week or so they are somewhat like children in that they are responsible for how we spend our time. They must be picked and then moved on – moved on to the freezer, the dehydrator, made into shortcake, passed on to others. I’m sure after the glut is over, they will once again become a welcome sight.

October 15, 2012 – Fall Berry Maintenance

Since our blackberries were so good to us this year, I thought I should take good care of them this fall.  So, even though it is one of the most unpleasant jobs on the farm, pruning blackberries it was.

Here’s the rows of blackberries and raspberries before pruning,  The blackberries are very vigorous, and have a tendency to grow side shoots that are at a 90 degree angle from the main stem.  Pulling them out is irritating as your head often times get scraped as you are hunched on your knees, huddled under the canes, trying to cut the old canes out at near ground level while trying to pull out the old cane.  After it’s done the row looks much better.

Although this “after” shot doesn’t show it well, the blackberries are pruned of this year’s fruiting canes and all the raspberries are pruned as well.  That “pruning” is much easier, since all it consists of is mowing down the entire row!

August 21, 2010 – Canning Raspberries

When the berries come on fast, in addition to freezing, we like to can some whole berries – they are great in the winter in yogurt, cold cereal, and pancakes. they are easy to can as well.

First heat some water and sugar for the liquid to a boil – add sugar to taste.  Heat up canning kettle to boiling.  Soften up the canning lids by getting water to nearly boiling and putting lids in and then take off the heat.

Put berries directly in jars.

Fill to within a half inch of the top of the jar with the boiling sugar water mix.

Wipe the rim of the jars dry, put on lids, hand tighten rings, and put in boiling water bath for 20 minutes, making sure an inch of water is above the jars.  It’s a quick and easy way to put up food for later.

one year ago…”Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program”

July 14, 2010 – On the Land

Away from the water, the wild blueberries are abundant this year.

Some fun with a camera setting that just detects one color.

Wild blueberries in full color. Picking blueberries is rather relaxing and it’s a great excuse to get out and tromp around the woods, sphagnum bogs, and powerlines.  There’s a fine line between getting lost and not knowing exactly where you are!  I also managed to scare up a covey of young ruffed grouse.

Blueberries collected for human consumption!  We had blueberries on pancakes, blueberries in mixed fruit salad, and Linda made a blueberry pie as well.

Of course, we couldn’t go a whole week without picking and preserving some food!  In addition to the berries we ate fresh and froze, we canned over 30 jars of these delectable little morsels!

one year ago…”Overnight in the BWCA in the Rain”

March 30, 2010 – Winter Damage

Now that we are getting out and about, a couple of crops have taken a significant hit from the deep snow and drifts this winter.

Many of the blackberry vines were bent over and cracked.  In some ways it greatly simplified pruning – just getting rid of the damaged vines accounted for much of the pruning.  The patch should survive the damage just fine, however.

The white pine Christmas trees are another story.  I’d say at least half of the trees were damaged beyond repair.  Here’s as example of the type of damage.  The Canaan Firs held up much better, probably due to their nature and the fact they were a couple of years ahead in growth to the white pines.

one year ago…”Willows Emerge”

September 22, 2009 – Golden Raspberries

The golden raspberries are particularly prolific this year. We only have about 15 feet of row, but it’s more than we can use at the moment.

golden raspberries

The flavor isn’t quite as good (to my taste buds) as the red berries – not quite as strong as the reds.  However, I think this winter we’ll make a “raspberry lovers” gift box with red raspberry jam, golden raspberry jam, and raspberry jelly.

one year ago…”Apple Peeling, 2008 Style”

August 30, 2009 – Raspberries!

It’s more or less the peak of fall raspberry season.  We’ve jammed, canned whole berries, made canned raspberry sauces, pies, crisp, and frozen whole berries.  We also sent 52 cartons to the Des Moines Farmer’s Market yesterday.

These are the golden raspberries – we only have about 15 foot row of these and that is enough.  They are not quite as tasty as the red and seem slightly more susceptible to fungus.  They do however offer a beautiful contrast in the box mixed with the reds.

The old standby fall raspberry variety – Heritage.

one year ago…”Honey Extraction”

June 15, 2009 – Drying Strawberries

We’re getting close to a loss on what to do with all the strawberries. The easiest is to freeze then whole on cookie sheets and then put in freezer bags. This year we are going to try drying them for the first time and I’ve overdocumented different drying methods below. All the pictures below show on the left side of the photo what they looked like before drying and the right side shows what they looked like after they were dried.

dried strawberries

This photo show berries cut in half lengthwise and put cut side down.

This tray shows sliced strawberries.

This tray was sliced lengthwise and put on the tray uncut side down.

Finally, whole berrries put on the tray.

As for results, the easiest to take off the trays were the berries sliced lengthwise and put cut side up.  None of them were difficult to remove, but the lengthwise down were easiest.  Our dehydrator has the flexible sheets – it was easy to bend those – if you were using a rigid drying tray, it would take longer to get them off.  The whole berries took a long time to dry, even though they were all the small ones.  I’d cut them all next time.

The dried berries turned out better than I expected, taste-wise – so we’ll be doing more.

one year ago…”Emma at ISU Basketball Camp”

April 13, 2009 – New Blackberries

When I read about the first variety of fall-bearing blackberries, PrimeJim, I knew those would go in the 70 foot row I had prepared last year.  This is the first type of blackberry that can be mowed down every fall instead of pruning 2nd year canes out of the patch.

So, I did the old trick of laying down some cardboard and old straw and punched holes it to plant the berries – with the mulch conserving moisture and keeping weeds down.

one year ago…”xxx”