We had an overcast and coolish day on Friday. It only got up to 77 F (25 C). So I worked my butt off outside, moving mulch, planting the last few transplants that needed homes, watering, weeding, weeding, weeding, hilling potatoes, and generally doing much of the stuff that hadn't gotten done because the unseasonably hot temperatures had been driving me inside for too many hours each day. We're now out of cardboard and newspaper. It all got used up in lasagna mulching, and there are still pathways in the garden that haven't gotten the treatment. I had to finally do a spit and shine on my filthy car, since I'd agreed to drive to the strawberry picking farm. Then I spent a good chunk of time in the evening cleaning up some filthy canning jars I'd picked up for very little money through craigslist and trying to triage the kitchen mess. It was a long day, was Friday. After a shower I was more than ready for sleep but had to wait on the girls to retire for the evening before I could fall into bed.
Yesterday I was up early, getting my large containers ready for strawberry picking. Serious gardening friend and I carpooled over to the U-pick farm, where I zipped through a little over 16 pound's worth of picked strawberries. My lower back informed me that the strawberry picking felt an awful (and I mean awful) lot like gardening. After that we nipped over to a tiny farmer's market organized by farming friend, where we found we were too late for asparagus or rhubarb. We consoled ourselves by grabbing evil baked goods for lunch (pecan-brioche sticky bun for me), and I picked up some raw milk cheese, spinach and scallions that were half way to being proper onions.
Back home by 1:30, I spent the next four-and-a-half hours processing my strawberries into 15 pints of jam and three half-sheet pans of frozen berries. Amazingly, all the jam set up beautifully. The secret, I found, is to simply follow the directions exactly. (Well, except for skimming off the foam; I can't be expected to follow directions that lead to either waste or sugar overdose.) This whole do-it-the-way-they-tell-you thing is surely obvious to other, saner people. I'm just not much of a direction-taker in the kitchen. I'm slow that way. Anyway, we ended up with five well-set pints each of three different types of jam: straight up strawberry, strawberry-balsamic, and strawberry-ginger. One special jar of the strawberry-balsamic also got several twists of very finely ground black pepper. The quality control testing indicated that they were all delicious, though there wasn't any extra of that last black pepper variation. That'll have to wait until we open that jar. Of those we sampled, I think the strawberry-ginger may narrowly edge out the other two for our top pick. We'll see. This supply of jam had better suffice for the next year, considering how much sugar disappeared into those pint jars. We should have some to give away as gifts too. Now I kinda wish I'd put some into half-pint jars so that I could be generous, but you know, not too generous.
Around 5:30, my husband decided he wanted to make ice cream after all, so he snagged some of my frozen berries. When that was done we improvised a very late dinner of hot dogs grilled with the oversized scallions, and washed them down with homemade strawberry ice cream for dessert. It wasn't a day marked by the healthiest of meals, but as I've said before, executive decision making authority about what constitutes dinner is one of the few perqs of being an adult. I fell into bed and slept like the dead.
I'm glad to have gotten the jam made yesterday, when the temperature only flirted with 80 F (27 C). Today it's going to flirt with 90 F (32 C).
Just as I was writing this post and loading the images, my husband killed a rabbit which he caught in flagrante delicto in our garden, using nothing stronger than a
But for a morning and evening putter in the garden, plus dinner preparation, I'm resting today. I may fold the mountain of clean laundry in the hampers. I may lie under the ceiling fan and read escapist fiction most of the day. I feel like I've earned it.