Sunday, May 30, 2010

Busy day

Saturday was a busy day. We started off with the aborted strawberry picking trip from last week. Sweet Daughter and I drove down to Westmoreland Berry Farm where we could pick our own berries, and patronize their lunch stand, feed the goats and enjoy the scenery. This (new) tradition started last year after SD had seen an episode of “Special Agent Oso” on the Disney Channel where they taught you to pick strawberries in 3 easy steps. Luckily the episode aired when strawberries were still in season, so off we went. Ironically, SD doesn’t think she likes strawberries – she just wants to pick them, and I have no problem with that at all.

We showed up mid-morning while it was still cool and waited for the tractor pulling the cattle car trailers with seating for customers to show up and take us down to the fields. We climbed aboard and rode down to the strawberry fields. “Pick anywhere you like!” we were told.

You know what happens when you leave a pint of strawberries in the back of your fridge and forget about then until they get green, furry beards like some sort of Martian Amish Wolfman and they attack when you reach into the back to get the HP sauce? Well, there were an awful lot of berries were like that still on the plant and it weirded me out just a tad. It’s been a bit wet this spring.

Ten minutes into picking, SD had to use the bathroom. Again. And this wasn’t a case where we could walk down the dirt road a little ways, find a grape arbor to hide behind and take care of business. So we hoofed it quite a ways to where I had seen a porta potty in the middle of all the strawberry/grape/asparagus/ raspberry/blueberry fields. Now, doing living history events I see a lot of porta potties, and this had to be the cleanest porta potty I’ve ever seen. Seriously. It was in better shape than the bathrooms with the flush toilets we’d used 15 minutes earlier. If Nirvana had porta potties, they would have been like this one. AND there was a hand washing station outside with soap and towels. Clearly, I have seen some sub-par porta potties in my life. But, I digress. So back to the strawberry patch we went. And picked. And picked some more.

By the time the tractor made it back with its next load of city folk (Quote from one of the chaperones: “You can’t just turn ‘em lose and tell ‘em to go to it. These are city kids. You gotta show ‘em what they [the strawberries] look like.”) we had about 6 or 7 quarts so we rode back to headquarters where our berries were weighed and we paid. One of the staff asked how I thought the berries tasted. “I don’t know ma’am. I haven’t tried one yet.” What? Hadn’t I sampled some while picking?? “No ma’am. I haven’t paid for them yet – that would be stealing.” Yeah, yeah. I sampled one the year before, and there were obviously really good, or I wouldn’t have returned. But I’m trying to set a good example for my daughter here, all right?

Okay. Berries picked. Next stop – head out to the covered patio for a lunch of hotdogs and some ice cream. Then, turn SD loose on the playground equipment for a while and let her feed the goats.

See that tallish tower-like thing on the left in the backgroud? The goats have a narrow bridge high above the walkway that ends at that tower platform. You can buy a handfull of feed, put it in a cup, run it up to the tower via a pulley system where it tips over and feeds the goat. I always feel a bit like a troll walking under that bridge ...

Then … home to pick over the strawberries! And make 8 half pints of strawberry jam! And then, since I wasn’t paying attention, and crushed too many, make strawberry shortcake with the extra crushed berries.

Now, I was raised to have your strawberries served over homemade shortbread that was basically giant slightly sweetened backing powder biscuit. Shorter Half prefers his over those store-bought rounds that look like diaphragms made out of Twinkies but without the creme filling. (Philistine.) So I went in search of a spongecake recipe that looked like a good compromise. The reviews were … less than stellar (Too eggy! Not sweet! Rather dense!), but with only three ingredients, it sounded perfect for my purposes.

I separated 3 eggs, and beat the whites until really soft, sloppy peaks started to form, then I slowly beat in ½ cup of sugar. Then I added the egg yolks and a splash of vanilla (okay, so that makes four ingredients), and folded in 2/3 of a cup of self-rising flour. I poured/spread it into a prepared 8” square pan and baked it until it was done. The recipe called for 20 minutes at 375 degrees, but I think I was closer to 15 minutes at 350. (My oven is hosed.) Anyhow, the top sprung back, the toothpick came out clean, and we have a new shortcake recipe.

The topping was made by taking the extra 3 cups of crushed berries I had and adding the extra ½ cup of strawberry jam I had left over from canning. The cake wasn’t too sweet, and it didn’t dissolve into a pink goo when the mashed strawberries soaked in. Topped with whipped cream, it was pretty darn good.


  1. Hmmmm... you need some rhubarb.

  2. bluesun -- I love rhubarb, but it does not do well this far south. It's worth a try anyway, I guess. Maybe I can put some in next spring. Mmmm. Rhubarb cake, rhubarb pie, stewed rhurbarb over ice cream ...

  3. Yeah, I really don't know anything about growing things out east. It grows like gangbusters here in the deserts of Western Colorado, and I know some people who grow it in MT too...

  4. Goats! My wife's friend Eileen moved up to the country and has some goats now - among other things. They like to stand on rocks and look over the pasture. :-)