Full-On Summer

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My daughter, freshly home from summer camp, and my wife and I picked some blueberries today. My son is at a running camp for mornings this week so it was just the three of us. We went late in the morning. The sun was up. It was hot under that sun. It was, as I mentioned to my family, a full-on summer day.

We each picked two quarts, to get your standard flat of berries. It takes some effort but it is worth the time and effort to pick one’s own berries. A quart costs less than a quart from the market and one has control over the quality of the berries in the basket, if you know what I’m saying. We got fat ripe berries and only fat ripe berries.

We did do some sweating at Owl’s Head Blueberry Farm, where we spent only an hour, but not only did we get blueberries but the place has a stellar view. It was one classic summer hour. We ate plenty of berries and my wife tossed a couple of quarts into the freezer later in the day. Hopefully we can pick more before the month is out and add to that freezer stash. They are great to have on a winter morning. Pancakes, anyone? Muffins?

A couple of times this summer, including this week, I have made granola. It is easy to make and, again, worth the effort. If you are going to eat granola, making it means you can make it just how you like it. It is not that difficult, even if it does take some time. The granola I made a couple of days ago includes these ingredients: oats, salt, oil, maple syrup, sunflower seeds, almonds, wheat germ. Simple.

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Tomorrow morning I plan to have more blueberries for breakfast, with some yogurt, and some granola tossed on top. Sweet, tangy, crunchy. If you can beat that for a perfect summer breakfast, you let me know.

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Strawberries Finally Ready

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My son and I went and picked strawberries the other day. It took us no time at all to pick eight quarts. It was a warm day but the berries were plentiful. We ate a few but brought most of them home. Norris Berry Farm in Hinesburg did us right.

We have about two quarts left. I used two of them to make jam. It is the best strawberry jam I have made yet. I canned five small and five tall jam jars. I only had seven lids (thought I had more) so did would I could. I scooped the jam that wouldn’t fit into jars into a bin for the fridge. I would have had more left over but I had a kind-of enormous boil-over. That was a bit of a mess–sticky strawberry goo all over the stove top. I had thought about using a larger pot but did not. I won’t make that mistake again. Gotta love experiential learning.

I froze two quarts and we have eaten a couple of quarts. We had a fresh quart from the market already when we brought home the ones we picked. I have been eating them with yogurt and granola for breakfast and then having some straight up with lunch, and I am not the only one in the house who is painting his teeth pink. If the season doesn’t end too quickly I may have time to go pick more. The season does not last long in any case, so I want to eat as many as I can in the present. Can I get strawberries other times of the year? Sure, but in January they taste like wood with just a hint of strawberry flavor. That just isn’t what I’m talking about.

Rows of berries stretching into the summer sun

Rows of berries stretching into the summer sun

Fourteen Below and Thinking About Gardening

Garden Beds Waiting for Spring

Garden Beds Waiting for Spring

That was the temperature this morning–fourteen degrees below zero. You might say it was chilly. I wimped out on going for a run. I had planned to do so today but I stayed inside, stoked the fire, got some work done and even read a book. So much for training.

I have been thinking about the garden lately. January is the month to plan it out, to figure out what to plant, how much of it to plant, and where to fit everything. The corn can’t go where it went last year, but it can be planted with the squash. I look forward to sitting down with the legal pad and sketching out the garden plan.

Of course, it is way too cold to do anything with the garden at the moment. It sits under the snow, waiting for spring. I am glad we have snow cover. The blueberries and strawberries will fare batter with the insulation. And the snow adds an element of beauty.

The circle I carved out of the lawn for our garden feels like a work of both labor and art. I want to grow food that is fresh and tasty and that I can’t get elsewhere (Striped Zebra tomato anyone?), but I also hope it adds some pastoral artistry. I want it to be beautiful. That takes work and luck and a willingness to let things grow as they need to grow. Seeing what the plants will do with what they have gives me joy.

So I wait it out and dream of warmer weather. I love this cold snap we are having, even though I chickened out of running today. Winter just isn’t satisfying if we don’t have some days below zero. I have seen the mercury rise to six degrees today and now it is back down to four. Once the sun goes down, I am sure it will break through the zero mark again.

Maybe some of those cucumber beetles will take a hit from the cold. I won’t count on it, but since I am imaging a perfect garden, I might as well dream that too.