Black Berries Matter

bowl of blackberries
bowl of blackberries

Black Berries Matter!

We got the starts for our thornless blackberrie bushes from Pete’s parents garden. My sister & brother-in-law (Ann & Dan) made sure we had them before they moved. As I spent time picking berries from our bushes my thoughts returned to past get-togethers and the people gone and some sad sighs escaped me.

But, the berries won’t pick themselves, so I continue on. I marvel at the abundance of fruit on each branch of the bush as I pluck the fully ripe off of each branch. The bucket is filling quickly and I feel thankful as I pick. There are complaining birds in the background letting me know that they would much rather be the ones harvesting these berries.

Remembering the past and how tight budgets were made me realize that these berry bushes were something that Menno Woelk very wisely planted. Choose a thornless variety of dark berries that were known to promote good health. Being without thorns was a great way to make harvesting their bounty enjoyable. The abundance in these hardy bushes provided very well for the family. Blackberry juice, jam, syrup, cobbler, and pie were readily available. Blackberries were so much a part of the Woelk family that when I asked Mom for a recipe to make syrup she simply grabbed a piece of paper and wrote it for me right there. It was a recipe she knew by heart because she cooked it so often.

It is amazing how a fruit can bring back thoughts of love felt at the Christmas gatherings, church programs, singing together and eating fabulous black berry cobblers. Singing Christmas carols for Dad at the hospital. Playing windup planes running around the house with children,  and holding babies. The 3-13 card games always ongoing and Mom crocheting or sewing quilts. Michael and his jeep stories. Stories about Milton and Donny escapades. Marilyn, with Owen gone away so soon.

Yes Black Berries Do Matter

There are an abundance of health articles proclaiming the good effects from including black berries in your diet. Google it and and see. Or better yet just look up some old farmer almanac info and find that the farmers way back when did know what they were doing.

Flowers From the Garden

bouquet 1 in a vase
bouquet in a vase

Unquestionably, there is nothing better than a bouquet of colorful flowers from the garden to brighten up my day. I hurriedly picked this group of flowers as I left the garden yesterday. There are some roses and a wide variety of the large dahlias in this group. I thought the dahlias in my neighbor’s garden (Jennifer Conner) were so beautiful that I took a chance and planted them myself this year. They are gorgeous and I absolutely love them.

bouquet 2 in a vase
bouquet in a vase

The yellow dahlia with red streaks was a casualty of the high winds a couple of days ago. I replanted and stake it but, I am not sure if anymore of these yellow spotted giants will come this year. On the right side is the purple giant dude who is an extravagant heavy blossom.

bouquet 3 in a vase
bouquet in a vase

The soft pink petals are from a “tropicana” rose bush. On the lower right is a fire engine red dahlia. In the middle of the bouquet is a white dahlia with pink edges who is just now beginning to bloom.

bouquet 4 in a vase
bouquet in a vase

Here is the crazy purple dahlia which was the first to bloom for me this year. He reminds me of a bad hair day or just too much moose situation. Beginning with a very dark purple inside, his petals reach out in all directions fading just at their tips to a lighter lavender. He is quite a show stopper!

Strawberries This Morning

strawberry harvest
Two days worth of strawberries.

I waited two days then picked strawberries again. It seems like a lot of work but worth it. The harvest amounted to 20 cups after cleaning and coring. Whew! Twenty cups is a lot of strawberries but it boiled down (literally)….

strawberry syrup
4 quarts strawberry syrup

to four quarts of strawberry syrup….

fruit roll-up
strawberry fruit roll-up

and two sheets of fruit roll-up in the dehydrator this am. So, you can see that gardening is keeping me busy this summer. This is the first time making fruit roll-ups so my fingers are crossed that they will come out yummy. It is always nice to have something for the grandkids when they come visit.

Weeding & Picking in the Garden

strawberries
12 cups strawberries
strawberry jam
strawberry jam

Picking

After finishing other outside projects around here, I step into the garden to pick ripe strawberries. Todays pickings amount to 12 cups after washing and coring. Here is how they cook up into strawberry jam in the evening. Sweet home aromas! I love the smell of jam cooking, drifting throughout the house during the summer evenings.

corn rows
weeding the corn

Meanwhile, back at the garden. After picking strawberries and setting the water, I look for the shadiest area to choose where to weed, and today it is the corn.

Weeding

Gardens are always in need of weeding, no matter how conscientious of a gardener you are. I am comfortable in my Bloomsday long sleeve shirt, jeans and wearing an old lady straw hat along with sunglasses. The breeze is heavenly, the birds sing to me as the butterfly’s and hummingbirds swoop in and around. Heavenly. It is truly amazing how calming and relaxing this chore is. Mindfully, stretching the back, arms and legs while requiring that I use my knees.

I weeded the first three rows completely. Looks pretty. However, noticing that I was running out of sunlight…. I did a “pre-weed” on the remaining four rows of corn.

What is a “pre-weed”?

I stand and pull the obvious big weeds as I am walking down the row, instead of getting each and every little weed out (on my knees). I’ll go back and fully weed these rows next time around.

Asparagus Time

Asparagus time is very welcome in our garden. Unfortunately, this time is short when this heavenly vegetable graces our dinner table.  So sad it is coming to a close already.

As you can see, it is a veggie that produces welcome little stocks daily that push up from their root base. We love to go pick these with our little knife. There is no better tasting vegetable that a handful of asparagus stocks picked right from the garden before dinner. We are most certainly spoiled gardeners. By the way, did you know that one of our nations past president, Thomas Jefferson, loved asparagus too? He evidently loved gardening too.

The only problem with asparagus is that it takes a couple of years to get established. It takes a little preparation and patience. You can see the trenches we dug into the garden this year. We planted seed for more asparagus here and will slowly add more dirt into the trench as they grow in height. This encourages lots of root growth. The seeds are from our one established row of asparagus that we enjoy now. When these new ones do sprout and show themselves, they will look like whispy little things.
In a few years we should be able to share with other family members, can or pickle or simply sell at a farmers market. We believe that asparagus is well worth the work involved.

Mystery Blossoms

If a person were presented with this mystery photo, would they be able to guess what it is a picture of? It seems like quite a normal blooming plant doesn’t it?

This plant used to be quite prolific here in the Inland Northwest. However, the Washington state powers to be decided that it was a nuisance, and began spraying to eradicate it.

Fortunately this was not completely successful and these wild guys are becoming more common again. People are able to enjoy the great products made from these berries.

Have you figured out what plant blossom this is yet?

It is good to keep an eye out for these little treasures as you drive or walk around. Look for bushes anywhere from waist high to towering overhead. These mystery berries are well worth looking for.
Okay, these are choke cherries! The choke cherry is easy to find and pick if you look for them. They make excellent jams, syrups, and cobblers. Happy hunting!

Don’t Tell the Chiropractor

Back Aches

Lately, we have been visiting our chiropractor kind of frequently, and just can’t figure out why our backs hurt. Honestly, all we have been doing is a little gardening. Really.

What Have We Been Doing?

fence Gates 01
gate installation 01
fence Gates 02
gate installation 02

We have just finished gate installation, on the new fenceline around our garden. so now we can go in and out without untwisting tie wires. Fiurst, Pete built three gates out of old 2×4’s we had around, then I painted the wood. Next, he attached pieces of the old fence wire and, “Wa La!” Finishing with three gates ready to install. They are loaded up on the tractor and we go on down to the garden to install them.

When I asked Pete, “Would you like some help with that?”

His reply is, “Nah, I got this.”. Let’s see, is that what you would call a macho reply? It doesn’t seem really easy to me. But, for heavens sake do not tell the chiropractor about this.

fence Gates 03
gate installation 03
fence Gates 04
gate installation 04
fence Gates 05
gate installation 05

Each gate is kind of heavy and real awkward to pickup.

fence Gates 06
gate installation 06
fence Gates 07
gate installation 07
fence Gates 08
gate installation 08
fence Gates 12
drive in gate installed closeup

This 10 foot opening is the “drive-in gate” which has two pieces with each one being five feet wide and about eight feet tall. Next is the single walk-in fence further down the hill.

fence Gates 09
gate installation 09
fence Gates 13
walk-in gate installed

North Side of Garden Fence

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Now we concentrate on replacing the north side of the garden. You can tell how bad the old fence was by how many posts are bracing it up. This length of fence is approximately 100 feet long.

N fence leaned into garden
N fence leaned into garden

The first thing we had to do was go ahead and lean the fence into the garden. We are needing room to clear and level-out the ground where we are going to put the new fenceline. Incidently, it amounts to about 5 feet further out and is a much straighter line.

North fence graded
North fence graded

Thank goodness for the Kubota tractor, with the disc implement Pete is able to till the soil and then smooth it out even where we want to put the new posts.

grading north fenceline
grading north fenceline

This picture was taken from inside the garden looking at the big old apple tree.

new N fence
new N fence

Doesn’t the new fenceline look good and straight? Yay! That should keep Bambi out of our garden for quite a few years.

West Side of Garden Fence

West Fenceline (southern)
Southern side of the garden West fenceline

This is the beginning of the new west fence line which is 53 ft in length stretching out from the south side of the garage.

before of west side on the north
northern side of the west fenceline

Here is how the old fence and gate looked on the other side (northwestern) of the garage. We walked in here to pick blueberries or apples.

Old Northwest fence line removed
old fence is removed

We took down all the wire and pulled the old fenceposts/braces down, then smoothed out the ups and downs in the dirt along the fenceline. So, now we don’t have gaps between the ground and the wire at the bottom of the fence to deal with.

One Kubota tractor with a phenomenal operator can move mountains and valleys. I will never doubt the power of a man and his Tonka toy! Prior to the tractor, we left all the hills and valleys just were they were. Unfortunately, we used to have to put old logs at the base of the fences to keep turkeys out. They would come in every gap where the ground was uneven. Leveling the ground before building the fence, could be thought of as an act of forethought and planning. Wow, that is scary isn’t it? Are we getting smarter in our old age?

west fenceline posts installed
New West fence posts installed

This is the west corner going 50 ft. then turning a 45º angle for 40 feet to go around the apple tree. Covering approximately 70 feet before it makes the turn uphill into the northern side of the fence.

Mystery Fence Tool on South Side

Mystery Tool

Can you identify this mystery fence tool and what it is used for?

Fence Tool
Mystery fence tool.

I wonder what part this tool plays in the process of fence building?

Rolling-out 150 feet of wire fencing can be hard on your body. Don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s easy. First, my legs get tired from rolling out the wire. Then, biceps get a good workout from lifting it up so it is vertical with the posts. Honestly, how many times can you walk up and down a fenceline in a day before your legs wear out? I learned how to straighten the wire. It is required that you pull with all you got, then pull again. Following this, my hands, arms, shoulders, abs and legs are talking to me all night long.

Say hello to my little friend!

Wire Tensioner 01
Wire Tensioner on top wire south fenceline

The Fence Tensioner

I think I am in love. It is an old tool from Pete’s secret stash in the garage. A basic block and tackle assembly with a cogged clamp on one end that grabs the wire, and a dual hook chain on the other side. Pete showed me how to slip the chain around one fencepost, then hook the clamp end to the top wire of the wire and pull the rope. Yahoo! Nail the top in, then repeat for the bottom. This tensioner takes a wobbly crooked fence to a straight line. Sweeeeet!

South Fence
First posts in garden south side fence.
South Garden Fence
Posts for half of the south fence

Now all that is left is to staple the wire three times per post. The south side of the garden is about 150 feet long, with 15 fenceposts.

Loose Wire
Wire loose on fenceline

You can see how the wire is drooping down on the top row of wire before we used the wire tensioner.