Monday, March 19, 2018

Fresh Strawberries In 90 Days

In his essay titled Pepacton : A Summer Voyage, John Burroughs described his June float down a section of the East Branch of the Delaware River.  Since many of my younger days were spent in a boat drifting with the current on the Susquehanna or Unadilla Rivers, it seemed that he and I enjoyed a common experience.  Many times I read his words and connected them to my adventures. Two of his observations are easily recalled from memory.  One involves his boat silently floating toward two young women that were wading in the shallows unaware of his approach.  They needed to raise their skirts above the level of the water.  Burroughs' words described his delight with what he saw. 

He also described the aroma of ripe wild strawberries that drifted from the fields across the river.  He went ashore and filled his pail with tasty berries.  Having happened upon wild strawberries many times in my youth, the memory of the taste of a wild strawberry is easily recalled.  No king has ever tasted anything better than a wild strawberry warmed by the sunlight.

A recent trip to the grocery store included a display of fresh Florida strawberries.  They were perfectly shaped huge dark red berries.  No blemish could be found.  I was tempted to buy a container but did not when I recalled that these berries bred for shipment are nearly tasteless.  The berries that we grow continue to ripen after they are picked and must be quickly eaten or processed.  Their outstanding feature is flavor.

The fruit in the photo came from our freezer.  We both grow our own berries and visit a pick your own business.  In addition to eating freshly picked berries, we make freezer jam and freeze some sliced fruit.  Frozen fresh berries are a treat and we usually eat them only on special occasions.  Since this season's crop is close at hand, we now must eat this treasure on ordinary days.  We must empty the freezer ahead of the arrival of the new harvest.

The freezer jam will likely last until the new is made.  We recognize the truly special start to each new day that begins with our own strawberry jam spread on toast.  When we were younger much of our garden harvest went into the freezer.  We can no longer do all that was accomplished years ago but the frozen strawberries and jam remain.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Outside In Bright Sunlight

In the past I felt that February was the worst month of winter.  Cold and snow was usually with us for what seemed like an eternity and something else was needed.  This March has now been labeled as the worst month of this winter.  Early warm air drew the frost up out of the driveway.  Soft muddy gravel grabs the plow tip removing huge quantities of gravel along with the snow.  I cleared snow once under those conditions and the man with the big plow was called in once.  We both did damage to the driveway.  Recently the only choice seemed to be to leave the snow in place.  Repeatedly driving on snow firmly packs it leaving a slick but passable surface.  After my recent fall, walking down hill on slippery snow or ice is simply not going to happen.  The truck has been used twice a day on mail runs.  Since short trips are hard on a vehicle, each trip included a drive about of nearly ten miles.

These Mammoth Pink Chrysanthemums are just now peeking out from the new snow cover.  The stones used to control the drop in elevation are the first things to appear as the snow shrinks.  They capture warmth from the sunlight that strikes them and the nearby snow melts revealing plants and ground.  Located close to the south side of the house, reflected sunlight adds to the daily warmth.  Chrysanthemums frequently do not survive the winter here.  We were thrilled to see the large number of green plants that will require division later.  This variety is a treasure and it has been with us for several years.  Some of the divisions will remain in this spot while others will be placed in new locations seeking other placements that the plant can survive in.

The warmth of the strengthening sunlight has cleared half of the stone wall down by the road of its snow cover.  Our driveway is also beginning to show itself.  The warm gravel and some new sunlight are rapidly clearing the mess.  When the moisture has drained away the surface will begin to firm up.  We are looking forward to being able to cross the length of the lane without feeling the sliding tires or the sinking boots.

This is another shot of the planting area next to the house.  The broken stone path gives us a solid place to walk and drains away the water that falls from the roof.  Since there is no safe place to walk here, pictures were taken from an open living room window.

Watching how the snow melts on this section of sloped lane has proved interesting.  Initially, the packed snow at the top of the hill became saturated with melt water.  The change in color from white to brown signaled the advance of the water.  Each recent evening has featured temperatures that were well below freezing.  Having recently fallen here, I will not walk on this section until the snow and ice are gone.  My snow pusher is sliding the softened ice toward the ditch.  Clear skies and likely above freezing temperatures are expected tomorrow so this mess may clear.  The early birds spend a great deal of time pecking at the exposed gravel.  Perhaps active springtails are providing an early meal.