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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Mulberry Season 2017

Mulberry season seemed to never want to start this year. Our Spring was wonderfully, and perfectly, wet and warm, but not too warm.  When it came time for the Mulberry tree to bloom, it just exploded in a solid mass of delicate pink-white blossoms.  It was stunning.  The bees and flies had the good sense to hang out and feast on the bounty.

The blooms faded and the leaves began to creep from their hiding places in the branches.  It was only a matter of time before little green globules, resembling mini brains, would start to appear, swell and turn from green to red, to electric red, and finally a deep, juicy purple.

In years past, the berries were almost 2 inches long and half an inch wide.  I was looking forward to minimal picking for maximum volume yet again.  Oddly enough, the berries remained small.  The weather was perfect, but with the increased rainfall I expected plump fruit.  I guess perfect weather in our world results in small, but tasty, fruits.

Regardless, the berries DID ripen and it was time to harvest for some goodness to happen in the Station kitchen.  Two years ago I spread out clean yard sheets and shook the branches.  The fruit fell on the sheets and was then dumped in a 5 gallon bucket.  Unfortunately, sticks, twigs, spiders, leaves, spiders, unripe berries, spiders, aphids, spiders, and spiders ALSO fell up on the sheet.  I left the bucket in the garage overnight to allow the bugs to crawl out, mostly.  Sigh.  I washed and rinsed and repeated and picked until the only thing left in the bucket was berries.  From that I made mulberry jam, seeds and all.

I really wasn't in the mood for all that again.  I figured I would rather PICK berries into a berry bucket and spend that time, rather than hunched over a pail of creepy crawlies.  Donning my most holey, paint stained, sun bleached yard attire and a black and white polka dot bandana, I hosed myself with DEET from the knees down.  Hey, I'm picking berries not feeding deer flies or ticks.  I slung my old berry bucket over my forearm and started picking.

The purple lasts for days.  

It's amazing how the white berry bucket screams food to the hens.  (Their treat bucket happens to be of the same Orange Sherbet heritage as my berry bucket.)  So as I am picking, I am being serenaded by the humming, whining of 20 large birds that want what I have, and three loudly peeping chicks who don't know what I have, but if everyone else wants it, it must be good.  All this despite the fact that I am standing on a carpet of fallen berries from a windstorm the night before.  HEAVEN FORBID they eat dropped fruit.  They want picked fresh.

Don't worry, they didn't starve to death. But I wasn't going to stand there and hand feed the little darlings my berries either!

8 cups of fruit later, I had had enough of the bugs, spiders, and chickens who while keeping my legs fly and tick free, sure did a number on my pedicure.  (They LOVE to peck at bright toe polish.)

THIS YEAR -- MULBERRY SYRUP - we rarely use jams and jellies, but we DO use syrup as we have breakfast for dinner often.

The berries were brought inside and washed several times over with cold clean water and dumped into my largest enameled iron pot.  I added water until the berries were under 3 inches of water and set the gas high enough for the berries to make it to a slow boil.  I let them boil for 30 minutes gently, and then plunged my immersion blender into the fray and pureed the whole thing, seeds, stems and all.  I let this slowly simmer for another two hours, stirring when I thought about it.  I also kept a spatter screen on the top to catch any bubbles and to keep in some of the moisture.

I then lined my largest colander with a clean flour sack (remember, my flour comes in real live flour sacks).  I put the colander above another large pot.  I very carefully poured the mulberry puree into the flour sack and then tied it closed and hung it over the juice pot. DO NOT SQUEEZE the juice from the bag.  You'll end up with cloudy juice.

Measure the liquid volume of the juice and add that much sugar to the juice.  9 cups of juice=9 cups of sugar

Stir the sugar in and place the whole thing over a low heat and simmer until the sugar dissolves, and the syrup get thick.

Cool slightly, bottle and refrigerate.  You COULD place it in canning jars and boiling water bath preserve it.  But I just made enough syrup this year for the refrigerator.  I simply tuck it into those useless back corners.

In mid July, I repeated the process with CHERRIES, LOTS of cherries and made cherry syrup for ice cream, soda, and pancakes/waffles! Make sure you remove the pits BEFORE you add the water.

You could do this with any fruit.  The difference between fake store bought flavored syrups and the real deal is night and day!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

And........We're Back.

Merciful Heavens! It's been 10 WEEKS since I've last bombarded you with news from the Station!  You must have thought we washed right off the face of the Earth.  Or maybe with the last post being about dense, really dense fog, you thought we joined the land of Brigadoon, and wouldn't be back for another 100 years.

Well, apparently someone crossed the bridge, because here I am!

"Where on Earth did you go?" you may ponder.  We we last posted in early May, we were still far from the trials of the end of the school year, planting was still just a pipe dream, and Ellie had just hatched out some seriously cute puffballs.

Then my computer died. She didn't go quietly either.  She started making some odd grumblings, which became screeching, and the clever Boy backed up the whole mess on an external hard drive for me before the screeching became screaming.  Oh wait, that was me.

One morning Blanche just would NOT turn on again.  She had processed her last photo, laughed her last at my horrific spelling errors, posted her last blog entry, and spun her last whirl on her hard drive.  She went dark, and never returned.  RIP old Blanche.

Now if you know me, I loathe relearning technology.  I dread getting a new cell phone. Heck, I dread it when the cell phone just updates and slightly changes.  At the Station, we call that shaking mom's snow globe.  I learn something, or where something is located and I don't even have to think about where things are, I just do it.  When it changes, it rattles my brain and my world and I kind of just shut down.  Now my whole computer was gone.  It was just too much to think about.  I didn't NEED a new one at the moment, so I put it off.  After all, I do have a smartphone and much of what I need to do can be done on that.  So that would do for a bit.

"BUT WAIT, you have a surface pro!" you exclaim.  I DID!  The Boy figured out he could use it for his calculus class to take notes and do math problems with the stylus instead of the keyboard, and it disappeared down into his techie cave, like the island of misfit toys, or maybe more like Sid's room from Toy Story, never to be seen by me again. So.....

A little bit turned into a while, which turned into a fortnight, then a month.  I watched The Boy researching bits and bobs for building his computer for University from the plug up and just froze.  I watched him researching models for his own laptop and just about went into a panic.  I distracted myself with chickens, The Boy's graduation, company, farm projects, more chickens, art projects, and June's Mulberry season.  I certainly couldn't be expected to go into Best Buy and shop for laptops with Purple Hands and FINGERS, now could I?  The rains came, the pasture grass grew and needed constant mowing.  Then there was the 4th of July, Doc retired and went on leave and his office needed cleaned and packed, more mowing, and company, a mind numbing heat wave, practice for the Cornhusker Games, participating in the Cornhusker Games.  Time was just flying.

By this time, my affair with my smart phone was drawing thin. Don't get me wrong Dear Samsung phone.  You are handy as an alarm clock and for checking my email, twitter, and glimpses for what passes as news now as I am out and about.  But when it comes to long postings, reading books, or uploading photos to email or the internet I was calling it quits.  My eyes were tired.  My arms were taking on the pose of an internet savvy T-Rex.  Something had to be done, and quick!

A glance at the Sunday circulars online for Dorm supplies for the boy, and something caught my attention.  Something I had not yet considered in my quest to save my eye sight and re-enter the digital world, a Chromebook.  A SIMPLE solution!  I can get to the internet.  I would have a large screen.  I'd be able to get my photos from my cameras to the website and work on the blog again.  PLUS, I'd have storage to the cloud and could work online and off.  DEAL!

A quick to trip Best Buy with price matching from Amazon and I have a brand spanking new internet accessing box thingy, with a big screen and BIG keyboard.  So I am back readers! I'm not sure you're out there reading, but if you are, the post are about to begin again!

Thank you for checking on us via email and for your patience!