Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Berry Time

Last year I missed out on strawberry season, because the pick your own berry farm is about an hour from my house, and I couldn't wrap my head around driving all that way JUST for strawberries. This year I had a plan. I needed new tires, so I scheduled an appointment for tires and auction & strawberries all together. Yay, me! Except... I had to reschedule. With Pop's surgery, recovery, appointments & such, I couldn't make it. So I rescheduled for two weeks later. And just like that, I lost my strawberries. Sold out. Season over.

I know, I know. I live in the north. I should expect these things. Short growing season. Late growing season. Frost in the middle of summer. I am getting used to it. But this year, we had a new surprise. It's too dry. We are finally having a beautiful summer, with sunshine and warmth, and very few bugs- and it's too dry for the berries. It was too dry this spring. Mild winter, only about two feet of snow, with a hot (35°C), dry spring (about a month). Now it rains at least every other day. Just a quick, light sprinkle, but still nearly every day. You'd think it would recover. The garden has. Why not the berries?

Two weeks of strawberry season. Gone. Blueberries started early- mid July. They're still out there, but the berries are dry this year. Small, and very little juice. And they've nearly all ripened at the same time. So pick quick, they'll be gone like the strawberries. My raspberry batch is so sad this year. The berries there also seem dry, and the bugs and birds are picking through them to get the juice more than they have in previous years. Leaving me with dried up little raspberry stubs.

I canned 9 jars of raspberry sauce, and 10 jars of blueberry sauce. 1/2 pints. Not much.

So my parents went fishing & berry picking in one of their old haunts- Elk Lake. It's about an hour south of us. The berries there are bigger and juicier. We all went back on Saturday. I got 6L of blueberries, and 5L of raspberries. Yesterday I picked my raspberry patch. Another Litre. I washed them up, got out all of my supplies, and started the first two cups in my magic bullet. It started off fine. Whirring away. And then it let out a loud screech. And then nothing. Nothing! Dead! My bullet is dead! The magic is gone!

If it hadn't been a holiday, I would have run out to the store and bought another one on the spot. I might still do that today, depending on how things work today. My dad looked at it last night, and somehow frightened it back to life. Seriously- he didn't actually DO anything, except plug it into a different plug and THINK about ripping it apart- and it started working again. I plugged it back in to where it belongs afterward, and it's still working there. So, fingers crossed, I will be able to finish my raspberries this morning.

In the meantime, yesterday, it got me thinking about how much I hate raspberry seeds. If I didn't have the juicer, I probably wouldn't can raspberries at all. I don't eat them fresh or frozen. The seeds get all caught up in my teeth, and I end up spitting them out for hours afterward. I hate cheesecloth. I used it once for raspberries- still ended up with tons of seeds, and so much waste! I tried a pillow case once. It was better than the cheesecloth. I could give it a good squeeze, less waste. But then the pillow case was pretty much done in. I washed it, but it wasn't fit for reuse. I think the acid from the berries ate into the linen. Fuzzies everywhere. Yesterday, I poured the mashed cooked berries into a strainer and let them drip overnight. It dripped out a fair bit, but I definitely can't squeeze it through.

Sustainability. That is the goal. The Bullet uses hydro. I will eventually have solar and wind power. Part of going off grid is reducing consumption. You have to consider every watt you want to use. Every watt counts. How many watts does my Bullet use? No idea. It does say 350W under voltage on the side. Is that possible? Could it be using 350 watts? Every time I use it? OMG! Where is it made? No idea. It wasn't something I considered 7 or 8 years ago when I bought it. Probably China. Nearly everything's from China now. Shipping is so not sustainable. I should just let it go. Walk away. Give up my addiction now rather than later...

But my brain is screaming at me. I can't live without my bullet. I am too lazy to chop garlic by hand. I hate onions and only started cooking with them because the bullet made it easy to pulverize them into a puree, so I never had a recognizable piece of onion in my mouth. How will I make smoothies for my m-i-l? She only has one tooth! She can't eat solid food. The bullet takes care of all of her food- grinding it up into an edible mush that she doesn't have to chew. Crushing her pills. Salsa. We are still loving that green salsa that I made last year. And of course, the berries. I juice the raspberries because I hate the seeds. I juice the blueberries, because cleaning them to freeze takes hours, but juicing them removes the seeds, the stems, and any other bits that won't wash off. Hours!! That's what it would mean. Living without my bullet would be adding hours to every day. Many, many hours to my canning season. I'd rather lose the washing machine!

So, I think, I will bite the bullet. It may not be a sustainable choice, but it allows me to make other sustainable choices- like preserving foraged food rather than buying imported goods. It gives me time to accomplish other sustainable goals- like farming without oil, and harvesting dead fall for firewood rather than buying commercial firewood from live trees. My time is another valuable resource, and my bullet gives me more of it.

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