By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
It’s definitely strawberry fields forever
THE HILLBILLY HOME-STEAD refrigerator, apparently, contains all the essentials – luscious red berries and a growler of Driftless Brewing Company Beer.

RISING SUN - Saturday afternoon, I picked up my last flat of strawberries for the season. 

I had intentions of filling quilted half pints full of sweet jam–deep red with large clots of strawberries falling off your knife, as you try to spread it on hot toast. 

So far, I’ve mostly just stood with the fridge door swung open, eating strawberries. The flat is positioned just perfectly in there so that Waylon can easily reach in and pluck a few berries of his own too. I figured out he prefers them with the stem left on so he can pick it apart and scatter it from one end of our house to the other. My sheets, his clothes, the floor, all seem to have mysterious red stains on them, thanks to ole Waylie Bopper. 

I did manage to do some jam making so far, with my first flat of berries from Hillcrest Orchard. 

The kids and I swung in to the roadside stand on a rainy Saturday morning and I secured 10 pounds of berries. Thatcher of course had big dreams of being able to pick berries himself, but I have to admit, I was thankful to use the rain as an excuse. Something about managing a one year old and a four year old in a field of strawberries just didn’t seem too appealing at that moment. 

They were perfectly content to drive around the countryside eating berries however. At one point, Thatcher became slightly engorged and greedy about the little red gems and began to tell me “Mom! Slow DOWN you’re eating them ALL! MAAAA! STOP EATING ALL THE STRAWBERRIES!” 

We made it home with several pounds to spare, despite Thatcher’s worries. And, we set off to making jam. 

The first time I made jam was only four short years ago, right before I got pregnant with Thatcher. My mom had just died and I needed something to do. Something to put all that lonesome, angry, sad, lost energy into. For some reason, jam was the answer. I picked all the berries I used and cooked away on the ancient electric stovetop at our first tiny home together in Readstown. 

And now here I was, looking down at my not so much of a baby anymore, happily smashing my quartered up strawberries into oblivion. We smashed measured and simmered and Thatch even helped scoop full ladles of piping hot berries and honey into the freshly sanitized jars. His only disappointment was that I wouldn't let him plop the already filled jars into the boiling water. He did assure me though that maybe when he’s “As old and big and fat as you princess mama” that then perhaps he’d be able to manage the boiling water. 

In my early season canning work, I also made an attempt at something completely unusual.

Our garden, hasn’t been the most stellar thing to look at this year. Battling grass, finding enough time to keep it weeded and too much shade have all been the name of the game this season. I keep trying to remind myself it is our first year at it and there will be trial and error with a new home and a new garden spot. 

Despite the abysmal germination rate of most of my seeds, stunted pepper plants and the cabbages getting eaten, I’ve found that my radishes did amazingly well. I also realized that I planted about 10 times too many radishes compared to what I needed. So when they all were ripe in one moment, I set my little worker bee Thatcher to the task of pulling them all. We ended up with an incredible amount of radishes varying in size and heat. That’s when I decided I would try my hand at radish relish. 

Once before when faced with too many zucchinis that were far too big, I also went the relish route. Even now, years later, my Uncle Barry still raves about that relish. Driven by the popularity of that win, I went for the radish relish. And then, I made the cardinal mistake of misreading tablespoons and teaspoons for the salt.  

“I could put a potato in it,” I thought to myself, trying to think of a way to salvage it before offering it to Chasca to try. Before I could chop up the massive red potato that I was staring at on my counter, he swooped in and took a bite and deemed it delicious and set a jar out to gift to my next unsuspecting victim. 

Later, I was given back a empty jar and an apology. “We are really sorry, but we just couldn’t eat it, it was WAY too salty,” I was told. Oh well. Lesson learned to pay closer attention to the recipe. 

Next on the docket is trying to process all of the sour cherries we have growing. Thatcher and Waylon have been picking like crazy, but no one seems too enthusiastic about doing the pitting. We’ll just have to see how that goes.