"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china."

Charles Dickens

May 27, 2014

Strawberry Girl


Did you ever read Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski? She wrote and illustrated many books of middle grade historical fiction about children and their lives in various parts of the country. This book was about a girl in Florida and her family––"Crackers," a term for early settlers and now more associated with a derogatory name for poor white people––who moved there to farm strawberries. The book won the Newbery Medal in 1946. I loved reading Lenski's many books, and still have them, and delighted in her unsentimental depictions of other lifestyles––her illustrations were always fine and engaging, too. Whenever I read this book, just as when I'd read Robert McCloskey's Blueberries for Sal, I wanted to eat those sweet berries right then. 


May is strawberry season in Kentucky and this year there were some beauties. After a late spring, the first berries were huge and Wilson's Cedar Point Farm on nearby Tick Ridge announced on Facebook that it only took seven minutes to pick a gallon basket full! Despite their size, they were sweet and juicy. Before the weekend we bought ten gallons and put all but one into the freezer (for enjoying fresh). I got 20 quart bags full (and about 2 gallons of hulls: I don't actually hull them, I just carefully remove the tops with my trusty serrated paring knife, as close to the leaves as I can get: usually I give them to my chickens but we are chicken-less right now). And I'd say we easily ate about half a gallon in the car on the way home.

A huge bowl full of fresh local strawberries: note that this bowl is about three feet wide! 
Ready for the freezer with two quarts to slather with whipped cream and Angel food cake.


I love to sit on our porch at the farm cottage and "put up" produce or prepare to can, especially in the cooler weather that we were enjoying before the weekend: just like I remember a New England summer, hot in the sun but not too humid and with a light breeze. I can work there and see what's going on, who is coming and going, and the west porch stays fairly cool until the sun comes around in the afternoon. My husband and I like to joke that in Hancock, NH we also had an east porch and a west porch but on a much grander scale.

At this point we wouldn't trade this farm, and it's more ramshackle porches, for the world. It's a centering feeling to be here and what is remarkable is how well-sited the house was when it was built over one hundred years ago. The breezes come down over the knob and wrap around it, and through the open doors and windows on all sides. It is always much cooler than the doublewide that is in a bowl where no air stirs: instead it goes right over (which is, admittedly, a good thing in tornado weather). [Sometimes we do have to air-condition during the day but usually at night I just throw the windows open and fans on in all but the most humid weather.]


My trusty French serrated paring knife.
OK, so it's also color-coordinated!

I'm currently macerating some berries for jam––a two-day recipe––and I will post on that in the next few days. Son Henry especially enjoys strawberry jam and I like to make enough extra to tuck away for Christmas gifts, too. It is always spring in a jar.

By chance we discovered another nursery over in western Casey County the other day: I've been scrounging around for plants since returning from Colorado. If you don't get them before Mother's Day in Kentucky, or even by late April, they can be few and far between (unless you like a lot of wave petunias and marigolds). [Next year I am determined to grow my own favorite heirloom annuals from seed!] Anyway, the Amish-Mennonite family who operate their farm-based nursery will have blueberries in a few weeks––entirely organic––and I ordered about 20 pounds of those (affordable and pre-picked by them). Fortunately, they will be easier to freeze. On the way home I will stop and see my friend Diana at her produce farm (where her specialty is heirloom tomatoes) and perhaps share a nice gin & tonic on her porch.

You come back when you're ready!

Catherine

3 comments:

  1. I got my strawberries yesterday from Wilson's also! YUM!

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  2. Those are the prettiest strawberries I've seen in a long time. My jaw dropped when you said that bowl was 3 feet wide! That's a whole lot of berries.
    I'm very jealous. ;)

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  3. I read that story a few years ago and enjoyed it as well.
    I miss the strawberry farm we used to have nearby back in Denver. I haven't been able to grow them here though.
    I smiled when I saw your bowl as I posted a picture earlier today of me with my bowl like that filled with three gallons of granola I was whipping up. :) Those bowls are great for bread and canning sessions, too!

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