Sunday, July 13, 2014

Blueberries, Blackberries and Decoupage

We're having a very domestic kind of weekend around here. It started Saturday morning when we woke up and got moving early so that we could pick blueberries at Homestead Farms in Maryland. A few months ago, back in the winter that would not end, my family made a list of things we wanted to do this summer. We put it up on the refrigerator and since the end of May we've been using it to guide our weekend plans. One of the items I added was picking blueberries, and I realized this week that we'd better get to it before blueberry season was over.

8 pounds of blueberries
Saturday morning found us in a field of blueberries, listening to the buzz of insects and the grumble of a tractor as we plucked berries and reminded our almost four year old over and over again to only pick the blue ones. We picked about 8 pounds before she got bored and then we decided to move on to blackberries and gathered about 8 pounds of those as well. Then we had a snack at their country kitchen stand; a strawberry smoothie that was unremarkable and one of the best pieces of cherry pie that I've ever eaten. Then we watched the chickens for a while and fed clover to the goats before it was time to head for home. The farm itself was great; incredibly well organized, very friendly and the entire morning was a ton of fun. Before we left our daughter was asking if we could come again tomorrow. I told her no, not tomorrow, but that we would definitely be back for apple picking in the fall.

Blueberry Scones (with red sprinkles)
When you've come home with 16 pounds of fruit you have the pleasing problem of coming up with good uses for it. So far we've frozen several bags of blueberries for use later in the year. We've made blackberry peach cobbler using the peaches my husband and daughter have been buying each week at our local farmer's market. We made blueberry pancakes and blueberry scones using a modification of a cranberry scone recipe. I think later in the week we will try our hands at making and canning some preserves.

I remember my mother spending a summer canning tomatoes one year when our neighbor had an unexpected bumper crop and was giving out grocery sacks full of tomatoes each week to everyone. I think I was about seven then and we ate those canned tomatoes for years after that. Every time my mom made spaghetti sauce she'd open up another jar of preserved tomatoes. She canned tuna that year too, because my grandfather took my dad and my uncle on a fishing trip and they came back with a driveway full of huge silver fish. We couldn't hope to eat before it spoiled so my mom preserved jar after jar of it. I think after that she must have been sick of the whole process because she never canned anything again that I remember. My husband and I haven't ever tried canning before ourselves, but we have the materials and good instructions and some tasty looking jam recipes.

Our tray!
My daughter and I also made a tray this weekend to carry our food to the deck when we are cooking out. I realized a few weeks ago that a tray would be helpful, after my husband and I made about four trips each to carry out the plates, cups, silverware, napkins, condiments and food for our dinner and then another four trips each carrying everything back. I didn't want to buy something though. I looked around for something we could repurpose but then I found a craft project in the book A Homemade Year by Jerusalem Jackson Greer that sounded perfect; decorating a baking sheet with a collage sealed and held in place by decoupage glue. My husband didn't care to sacrifice any of his baking sheets to the cause but at the Arts and Crafts store my daughter and I found an unfinished wooden tray. We painted it and then we pasted pictures clipped from Smithsonian magazines and covered them with several coats of dishwasher safe decoupage glue. It looks about like you'd expect a collaboration with a three year old to turn out, which makes it wonderfully us. It probably would have been cheaper to just buy a tray after the cost of the supplies and time is added up but this way was a great deal of fun in addition to being practical.

I like living in the 21st century. There are plenty of problems but I am a huge fan of sanitation and hygiene, easy travel, instant communication, and electricity. I am hopeful that in the coming decades we will make further progress on human rights and freedom, equality and education and opportunity for all, and our care of the environment and our fellow creatures. At least these things are on our radar now, discussed and proclaimed as shared values. So I'm not someone who yearns to go back to a simpler time. I just like making things. I like picking my own fruit on a hot summer morning and working with my family to turn it into delicious food. I like getting my hands messy and creating good memories while we make something useful. I want to hang on to the good parts of the past while we keep moving forward.