Berry season is upon us. Berries are wonderful eaten fresh with their juice flowing down your chin. You can make preserves, add them to just about anything for breakfast or create a wonderful dessert. But the season is over quickly so why not freeze some for later when berries are a mere memory of a season past.
Freezing strawberries is super simple. (As well are many caneberries, such as Raspberries, Marionberries, Boysenberries etc.) Start with freshly picked berries. Ripe strawberries (or caneberries) from your yard or garden are perfect. Or find a local u-pick farm, farm stand or farmers market. Organically grown is best as commercially grown strawberries (and caneberries) are heavily sprayed with a variety of chemicals. Their seasons are short so don’t delay.
No need for any fancy equipment. I bet you have most everything you need right in your home. Freshly picked berries; a clean sink with cold water (for strawberries, not delicate caneberries); a colander of some sort to drain the berries; an old bath towel to absorb the last droplets or remove any debris; a teaspoon for removing any stray caps; a cookie sheet for freezing the berries on; zip-loc freezer bags or containers & a freezer.
Pick the berries. With or without caps is fine.
Carefully rinse a few boxes at a time in a sink of cold water. Swish about gently. (I only rinse strawberries as they sometimes come in contact with the soil. Caneberries are usually clean straight from the canes.)
Place clean berries in a colander to drain excess water. (Strawberries only)
Gently pour berries out onto a clean old bath towel. For strawberries this is to blot off the last droplets of water. For caneberries this step will allow any stems, leaves or stray bugs to be removed.
Remove any stray caps & place berries on a heavy cookie sheet.
When the sheet is filled place in the freezer for several hours to freeze hard.
Remove berries from the cookie sheet and place in freezer bags or containers.
Back in the freezer they go and you are done.
No mess, no fuss, no juicy smashed berries!
6 pint boxes of strawberries or caneberries will make approximately 1 gallon bag of frozen whole berries.
Spring is full upon us. Beautiful warming sun one day, light drenching rain the next. Yesterday was the warming sun day. From sun up to sun down, life giving sun. Tickling the soil to life. Encouraging life to spring forth. The air heavy with the scent of lilac & daphne & freshly mown grass. Mmmm…
Today is the light drenching rain day. A thorough gentle watering for all. Grass & flowers & leaves heavily laden with it’s raindrop weight. In the greenhouse the air heavy with the scent of lemon blossom, rosebud & warm moist soil. Mmmm…
In the kitchen this afternoon, the scent of Rhubarb pie baking. It must be Spring! A pie crust of freshly ground flour & butter, worked lightly with experienced hands, rolled thin, crimped on the edges like Mom showed me so many years ago. The filling of crisp red rhubarb, sugar & flour with a sprinkle of nutmeg, piled high. Into the oven this right of Spring. The house fills with the scent of baking pie, not any pie, Rhubarb pie. It bubbles and browns and wafts its heavenly scent. Mmmm…
Dessert tonight a celebration of Spring. A gift of Love from farm to table. Mmmm…
I am a soil farmer, a student of soil. My job, my mission, is to build soil health and fertility. If I am able to accomplish this task all else will fall into place. The goal is to grow beautiful, healthy, nutritionally dense, wonderful tasting products, both plant and animal. To do this I need to focus on the soil under my feet. There is a whole other, mostly invisible, world below us. One teeming with life; so much life that there is estimated to be more living organisms in a mere handful of soil than there are people on the planet Earth.
Soil is Life; it is that simple. You are what you eat and it is what it eats. Therefore the food you eat, whether plant or animal is only as healthy as the soil it, or its food, is grown in. The end goal should be more than yield per acre it should be quality of product balanced with soil health. Soil health is much more complicated than the NPK that is posted on bags of chemical fertilizers. It is pretty short sighted to think that there are only 3 elements important to plant growth. Unfortunately that attitude tends to be common. Yes, you may get impressive yields but at what price. Soil life degrades along with soil quality. Nutrition in crops decrease as less and less nutrients are available to the plant. Insect & disease pressure increases as the plants health is compromised and they become more vulnerable to attack. With this cascade of declining health the usage of an arsenal of chemical “fixes” increases. This is not a sustainable model, especially in a time of climate change, peak oil & the incidence of chronic human health problems on the increase. Don’t misunderstand me. I do admire all farmers. Theirs is a very tough job. But I do believe that there is a much better way and it is right under our feet.
We must build soil fertility. Increase soil tilth. Return mineralization to the soil. Find a balance. A way to provide food that is healthy for humans, the plants and animals we consume for food and that does not degrade the planet. I believe it is possible and the movement is gaining momentum. There are many small farms that are working very hard to do just that. Consumers play a huge part in the success of a return to food sanity. Support the efforts of small local farms. Get to know the farms and the farmers and the practices they use, ask questions and respect the job that they do. Be willing to pay them the extra cost it takes to operate a farm in the manner it takes to produce really good quality nutritious food. Show them you believe in what they are doing and to allow those farmers to make a decent living.
“There is no alternative to fertile soil to sustain life on Earth.”
– Vandana Shiva (Soil not Oil)
I highly recommend these two books:
2013 was our first year of beekeeping. Shortly after installing our 1st package of honeybees we quickly decided that we wanted/needed to start a second hive the following year. We learned a lot about the art of beekeeping our first year. But we also learned that honeybees are fascinating & fun! They were gentle, not scary. They were much more interested in going about their daily tasks than they were bothered by us snooping about their hive. We always treated them calmly & with respect and they in turn allowed us access into their fascinating world. What a thrill!
Our first hive thrived over the season and we were even able to harvest a small amount of honey at the end of summer. They went into Fall strong, though probably with too many varroa mites. In February 2014 they still seemed strong. But only a month later a long, cold & wet winter took its toll, the colony died.
Today we started over. We began our 2nd year of beekeeping by installing 3# packages of Italian Honeybees, about 20,000 bees in all, into our 2 modified Warre hives. It was a cool, rainy & blustery day, definitely not ideal. The previous day had been brilliant sun one minute and dark and pouring down rain the next. We took advantage of one of the brilliant moments and set-up a canopy over the hives so we could install the bees into their new homes with out any of us getting soaked. We have chosen to do foundationless frames so the bees need to build all of their own combs. I had salvaged some clean empty combs from the dead hive so every other frame I placed in the new hive boxes had wax comb to give them a head start.
To start the installation we opened up the hives and removed 4 of the 8 frames to make room for the bees. One at a time, each package was banged on the edge of the hive to drop the bees to the bottom of the box. We then removed the can of syrup and the queen cage from the package. The hole for the can was then covered to keep the workers from escaping. The cork was carefully removed from the queen cage and a small marshmallow plug was inserted to keep the queen contained a little longer until her workers could chew thru the plug and release her. The queen in her cage was placed on the bottom bar of one of the empty frames. The package of bees was then shaken into the hive. When most of the bees were in the hive box the nearly empty package was set at the entrance so any stragglers could find their way into the hive entrance. We then replaced the remainder of the frames over the ball of bees letting them settle into place. We then installed an in-hive syrup feeder surrounded by a second hive body above them. We will feed the syrup until the natural nectar flow is adequate enough and then remove the feeders from the hives. Finally the roof cover was placed on top. The bees were safely installed in both hives.
Before leaving them to get acquainted with their new hive, each other and their queen, we spent a few moments gazing at their beauty, drinking in their glorious smell and wishing them well. As I was walking away from the hives I glanced over and there was a new worker bee already checking out the unfurling leaves on the grape vines. The work ethic of the honeybee is to be admired.
Please click on the pictures below to follow the steps we took in installing the packages of bees.
Wishing you well in your Springtime pursuits.