Monday, May 28, 2012

Accumulation of Wealth

One of my favorite hobbies is in season right now.  Here's a shot of the first black raspberries of the season along with the last strawberries of the season.  They rest in my little basket under the bleeding heart.

The strawberries are beautiful and I'm surprised that I've harvested as much as I have from my small 3'X4' strawberry bed.  We don't spray or have a bird net but we seem to do okay with the harvest.  I couldn't believe how delicious and easy peach jam was to make so I'm trying to save enough strawberries for some jam.  So far I've saved about a quart and a half (2.5 lbs.) from my little bed but the recipe calls for 5 lbs. so I'll probably grab some more strawberries from the farm up the road.  By the way, I'm all excited because I've been published in a canning article in June's edition of Mother Earth News!  Check it out at this link: 


Here's a shot of my sunny happy strawberry plants in their small area of the yard.  I was especially happy to find this gem peeking out from under the leaves.

I knew what was coming ever since I saw the flower.  I've seen it happen with my mortgage lifter tomatoes.  The flower itself looks as if two or three flowers were vying for the same stem like Siamese twins.  When this occurs, you can bank on a rather large and tasty fruit if you can get it to ripen before the bugs or animals get to it. 

This lovely specimen rests in my husband's palm.  Pretty impressive for no spray, no net, organic backyard gardening!

Lastly, my black raspberries!  These have been resting in my freezer since last season.  I've been dreaming of making more black raspberry wine and now I'm finally getting around to it.  It's funny how these types of activities give me a sense of normalcy and comfort.  I guess they seem like a continuation of life since my mother and grandmothers performed these sorts of tasks and I have fond memories.

The more I thought about this concept the more I realize this lifestyle has hidden benefits.  The strawberries I gathered this year were from the plants that I had saved from last year and their babies.  I had twice as much as I had previously.  The black raspberries that I've gotten over the last few years came from wild plants I discovered when I moved in with my husband and have cultivated them and saved them from the lawn mower over the years.  Berries are tedious.  They don't all become ripe at the same time and most of the time you have to visit the plants every other day to collect what has ripened and wait for what hasn't.  As I tip toed over fox grape vines and through spider webs that exist along with my raspberries, my thoughts began to inevitably wander to my own personal life goals. Sometimes I feel down about where I thought I would be and where I would like to be in life.  Sometimes I feel down about my anemic savings account that I work hard to grow.  Taking those berries out of the freezer to prepare for wine answers the dim questions of doubt that nag the back of  my mind.  As quart after quart of frozen berries tumble out to pile in a treasure trove in my large metal bowl, I feel a smile spread over my face.  If I just continue to steadily contribute to my stock pile and keep my eye on the prize, my efforts will pay off and one day I will have a big bowl of riches.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

My own mushrooms

I had forgotten all about the fact that I owned a mushroom log.  Pat and I scored one at the Garlic Festival last October.  I bought one that already had fruiting bodies on it so I knew it had produced before.  The ones that were on it were about the size of a silver dollar.  The ladies who sold it to us said we could force it to produce if we wanted to by soaking the log in our bath tub overnight.  You know me, I just tossed it near the path in our woods amongst the bamboo and let nature take her course.

I was snapping photos of my garden and our hops vines when I decided to go visit the creek.  Everything was speckled with fallen choke cherry petals and something caught the corner of my eye.  My brain went from oh, yeah to Holy $h!# in roughly two seconds.  Not only had my mushroom log begun to produce again, it had popped out the mother of all shiitake mushrooms.  It was the size of a saucer and, as you can see, pretty much matches the diameter of its mother log.  I guess what my brain really exclaimed was Holy $h!!#ake.  Heh, okay.  No more stupid jokes.

I wasn't the first one to find the bounty.  I knocked two tiny slugs off the underside.  The photo shows the holes they had already eaten into it.  
:-(  Also, all of those tiny black flecks in the gills are insects.  I was not giving up my mushroom, though.  I popped it right off the log and headed back to the house to claim my reward.

I had been wanting to buy some fresh mushrooms to put on pizza and now I know why I waited.  

Now, I know what you're thinking: Eeeeww!! That nasty hippy is eating all those bugs and slug spit!!  Look, I'm all about nature but I gots my limits.  Even though convention says you should not wash mushrooms, I rinsed this bad boy under the faucet and washed all the nasty little buggies away.

See? No buggies. And he's resting next to his new best friend, Garlic.  Too bad his arch nemesis, Carving Knife, is lurking in the background.

Holy cow, did this turn into yummy!  I think I'll call it the Marco Polo.  I made a white pizza but I didn't have any spinach.  Instead, I had some chinese broccoli or gailan. That complimented the shiitakes sauteed in garlic.  I had a garlic and herb cheese spread from Integral Yoga along with some kalamata olives, fresh mozarella, and fresh basil from said fine establishment.  Add some onions and parmesan and OMG!

I love you, mushroom log!