Tearing One’s Self Away From The Farm…and Some Good Advice!

It is really easy to be a recluse on the farm; everything I need is right here. The one thing missing is friendship-talking to women my age and exchanging stories, ideas, and just plain visiting. Don’t get me wrong; I love being with my son and talking to him, but I can only relate to  the xbox game ‘Halo’ for so long. Last night was “Birthday Club”, a group of women who get together four times a year to socialize, eat (of course!) and exchange birthday gifts. We had it in a screened gazebo in Fessenden and it was the perfect night; no wind, good food, good company and for me, no raspberries. I love my raspberries as they are the cornerstone to many of my jams, but honestly, picking four hours a day for a week straight makes even me weary. So it was nice to take a shower and go to town to unwind with some really nice women whom I call friends. I almost didn’t do it, because it’s easy to make an excuse of having too much work to do, not enough time, blah blah blah. I went, and I’m glad I did. As Americans, we take friendships for granted and think they’ll always be there, but just like a plant, these relationships need nurturing and time spent on them. So to my BD club ladies, thank you for a wonderful North Dakotan evening. It was great seeing all of them and chatting without wondering what I work I could have been doing. FYI-I was wide awake most of the night thanks to a delicious iced coffee one of the hostesses made-normally I don’t drink iced coffee, and I NEVER drink coffee after noon, but it was so very, very good and now I know why I don’t drink coffee after noon. I am like the energizer bunny this morning and drinking MORE of that delicious coffee I took to go last night! Aaacck!
The raspberries hit their peak on Sunday when we harvested sixteen pounds; that was a tough day for both my son and me. We went to church and had our annual picnic afterwards; we were enjoying that when the storm clouds started rolling in, so we hit the road to pick berries before the rain. Silly us-we should have known better; it doesn’t rain here anymore! We were able to pick for almost five hours before we finally finished-even I had had enough. Sure enough, we only had ten pounds on Monday, so it will slowly decrease over the next week or so. It’s ok; I have a lot in the freezer and the fall ones are just now starting. However, whereas the summer berries are easy to pick, the fall raspberries hurt! The canes are prickly and make picking a chore and time consuming. Not sure what to do about that problem; they are a Heritage berry, which makes them bigger, sweeter and firmer, but what price am I willing to pay to pick them?! My arms and legs are getting scratched on a daily basis and I would not win a leg/arm model contest unless it was for a skin disorder.
Our mama cat had her kittens but of course we can’t find them. We are renting our other pregnant female cat to the neighbor who lives in North Dakota for the summer; I consider them reverse snow birds. They needed a good mouser and she was it.  That cat had her kittens, but lucky them, they found them and they look adorable. We’ll herd them all back here at the end of October and see who survives the winter. It’s survival of the fittest here. We’ll keep looking but I think her mothering skills are sorely lacking and unless we intervene, the kittens are doomed.  The circle of life is pretty sketchy around here; it’s more of an open squiggle.
We made a chocolate raspberry sauce on Saturday to sell at farmers’ market and it’s tasty; sorry, but I’m not sharing that recipe! We also got our first lug of peaches frozen for the peach raspberry and peach jalapeno jams. Super easy to do; boil water, immerse peaches for 3 mts to get skins off, plunge in ice cold water for ten minutes, peel, slice in half, sprinkle fruit fresh or lemon juice mix on them to preserve color, and flash freeze. After six hours, put in a food saver bag and suck out the air. Voila! Ready to use this fall! Finally, I did make the rhubarb salsa; I will say this much-it is good but it is u-g-l-y. If you look past the color, it’s a neat flavor; slightly tart, slightly sweet, and then the pepper flavor kicks in. It is good by itself or mixed with a tomato based salsa and chips.  Here’s what it looks like:

I will share this recipe because maybe someone will figure out how to make it prettier. I used both rosy and regular rhubarb, but the onions and green peppers give it the green hue. It ain’t pretty, but it’s tasty.  DISCLAIMER: I just used the word ‘ain’t’ which technically is in the dictionary…I NEVER use this word but it fits the previous phrase. Today when we were picking raspberries, my son and I were discussing swearing/cussing and I gave him this piece of advice: when a friend pressures you to swear, simply tell him, “Even thought the word ain’t is in the dictionary, it doesn’t mean you have to use it. The same goes with swear words.” He liked that. Back to the story: I  found the original recipe interesting; there were no measurements, simply ‘to taste’ or ‘one pepper’. A pepper can be 1/4 cup to over one cup-being vague in a recipe which needs to be canned is not a good thing. I measured everything out and like how it turned out. You could change some of the ingredients, but not the acid (lemon juice) or total cups of fruit/vegetables. Make it and let me know!

Rhubarb Salsa
4 c chopped rhubarb
1/2 c chopped green pepper
1/4 c yellow or orange pepper
1/4 c red sweet pepper (you should have one cup total peppers-color is up to you-I happened to have all three on hand, but could see only using one color if that’s what I had here)
1/2 c chopped onion
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
cilantro (I used fresh-one entire stalk, but it’s up to you-personal preference)
3 T lemon juice
1/4 c brown sugar
Put everything in a large pot and cook until rhubarb is tender; it will soften everything and make it look mushy-about fifteen minutes. Get hot water bath canner ready, jars and lids and fill (I am assuming you know this drill). Process fifteen minutes. It made four 8 oz jars plus a little extra. We ate ours with chips by itself and it was good-a different taste, but since we love salsa, it was a fun change. Try something different-don’t get stuck in a rut!
We are heading to Bismarck for the big Farmers’ Market Day at the Capitol-it’s our first time and we are really excited which may also explain why I didn’t sleep. Today we are going to be busy making labels, getting samples ready and packing up the car to head out tonight. Does anybody want to pick raspberries today? Come over!!!

2 Responses

  1. I hate to admit it. . . but I have been known to actually add food coloring occasionally. . . although that’s probably cheating. 🙂 But sometimes my pepper jelly is too brown and I just don’t think it looks appealing. So I sometimes add some green to that and have been known to also add a bit of red to my salsa if I had many yellow or orange tomatoes and the color seems lacking. But you’re probably looking for more “genuine” color! 😉 I am going to try this rhubarb salsa, though–it looks great! Thanks for the recipe!

  2. You make a good point; sometimes color can be an issue and when it’s for my family I add color add well. In my commercial product I am trying to keep it authentic and as natural as possible. The rhubarb salsa may not be pretty but people appreciated the fact it had nothing artificial in it and I felt better not being dishonest. Many liked the fact it was low sugar and I do, too. Thanks for commenting!

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