Wednesday, October 11, 2017

ELDERBERRY FEST (PRE-EVENT)


Mike and Bess

Hallie is coming this weekend for our annual Elderberry Fest, wherein we pick elderberries and make jelly. My dad used to make elderberry jelly from time to time, and Mike loved it at first taste. Elderberries have a strong flavor, though, and some people don’t care for the jelly. Some people say it’s not enough different from grape jelly to warrant the work. And the process is work.

Fall color
The elderberries begin to turn blue in August, and we’re tempted to think they’re ripe and we should pick them. This year I insisted we wait, even if we risked not having berries in October. I’m happy to report that luscious clumps of berries still hang from elderberry bushes everywhere. Not only that, but I don’t recall ever working with such juicy berries.

Do you see the deer?
I announced yesterday that I planned to pick elderberries today. Well, in the early morning hours, it commenced to rain quite steadily for several hours. Frankly, I would have given up the picking, but Mike doesn’t change plans well, and at 9:00 a.m. he said that if we were going to pick, we should do it, as it would likely rain again later. 

So, I got dressed and we put on our rubber boots and hiked west (behind the house). I selected a bush loaded with berries and he and I commenced to pick. Bess checked under the bushes, then speaking to no one, she apologetically crept off toward the house. I guess the pillow on the porch was calling her name.

Over the years we’ve learned a thing or two about making the elderberry process easier. For instance, we used to drop the clumps of berries into the buckets, bring them back to the house, and someone would sit outside painstakingly removing stems and twigs from the berries -- a long and boring process. A few years ago, Mike said, “Enough of this,” and began to just slip the berries from the twigs right there in the field. So, as we picked we removed the berries from the twigs so that we came back to the house about an hour later with a gallon and a half of berries ready to be washed and cooked.

About 10 years ago, elderberries disappeared from the pectin recipe sheets, but this year I found them mentioned with the blackberries in the “cooked jelly” recipes of MCP pectin. To make the juice, I cooked about 12 cups of berries with ½ cup of water. (The recipe said one cup, but I cut back because the berries were juicy and also wet from washing.)


So that’s it! I now have three quarts of elderberry juice in the fridge waiting to become tasty jelly. KW 

[I didn’t take the camera with me when we picked the berries because 1) I had no way to care for it in the wet environs of the bushes and 2) I’m unsteady on my feet in uneven terrain. So, I’m posting a few pictures from October 1 which I overlooked.]

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

OPEN SEASON


Beautiful Autumn Morning -- to the north

We’re back at the farmhouse, and I for one am thrilled to be here. The place just seems to lend itself to the enchantment of fall. 

Now that Farmer Kyle has plowed and planted (last week while we were in town), the brown fields are a backdrop for the colors of autumn – deep reds, oranges, and yes, even greens. 

Maple tree turning yellow
The old maple tree in the front yard is just beginning to exchange her green leaves for yellow and then brown. She was not selected for her autumn beauty. I suspect she was a sapling my dad picked up someplace. Outside a chilly wind blows, but in here our fireplace insert blows wonderful warmth into the house.

Clint, Mike, and Bess
Son Clint came yesterday to observe opening deer season today (Oct. 10). While I fixed dinner last night, he stood at the dining room window watching the deer move under the apple trees in the lane and cavort in the neighbor’s field. He opined that he was seeing mule deer, and that’s certainly possible. The season is for white tail only. Naturally, when they went out this morning, they didn’t see a single deer of any variety. They were more successful with the quail hunting.

Deer Damage
The deer are quite brazen these days. For years, the presence of the dog(s) in the yard seemed to be enough to deter them, but especially this year, we notice that they don’t much care if Bess barks at them. They move through the yard in broad daylight, and she does not give chase. (That’s a good thing!) And while we were gone last week, they finished the pears and nibbled the pie pumpkin plant. Naturally, they frequent the apple trees, and it’s amazing how far into a fruit tree they can stretch.

Waiting for Hallie
Speaking of apples, I picked some yesterday – several varieties from trees in the lane and at the pond – and the pie I made was very good. I was able to pick only a few apples, being too short to reach them and wary of climbing into the tree, especially while alone. However, Hallie will be here later this week and she can probably reach them one way or another.

Pumpkin #1 picked today
We haven’t had a hard freeze yet, but undoubtedly it will happen soon since our lows are dipping into the 30s. “Are you going to cover your plants or just let the garden go,” asked brother Chuck the other day. At the time I said the zucchini weren’t ripening, so I just as well let it go, but today I noticed one of a nice size, so apparently they ARE still growing. But – just in case – today I picked Pie Pumpkin #1. KW 

Friday, October 6, 2017

AN OLD TIME "SENIOR MOMENT"



As I mentioned in a previous post, "The Hill East," back in the day, the only approach to the old Jack Dobson place, where we now live, was through his twin brother June’s property. The following is an excerpt from Grandma Ina’s letter of July 30, 1933, to her son Vance.

Vance at piano in Raymond
Earle [her older son] is good about taking us around, too. He took us to Troy the 9th where we heard our bishop preach a good sermon and met several we used to know. I visited with Pa Shangle, our new presiding elder, who is moving back to his Milton home from Walla Walla. They asked after you, and Mrs. Shangle reminded me how she’d said you’d make a musician. Then she went on to say how someone had told her what a fine musician they had there in Raymond, and she said to this person, “Well, I know him. It’s Vance Dobson!”

Old Brother Kincaid has been assigned the church here at Gilbert, so Joe Gibson [apparently a young minister] brought him over last Wednesday and they stayed here with us overnight.

When they started off next a.m., Joe asked the old brother to drive the car through the gate at June’s. [Joe was undoubtedly opening and closing the gate.] He got his foot on the gas and it wouldn’t come off and as a consequence he drove through Curfman’s fence and back across the road, through June’s fence and back through Joe’s fence, circled a big tree and back across the road through June’s fence, knocked down June’s mailbox and back across the road through Joe’s fence the third time, and finally stopped. He said he turned the switch but no one seems to know whether he did or not. The car wasn’t hurt much though badly scratched and it took Joe Gibson till evening helping repair damages. Did you ever hear of a like accident! Kincaid owns and drives a Model T Ford but seemed paralyzed when he got started and was quite badly shocked by it. He is nearly 84 years old.

In his reply to this letter, apparently Vance reminded Ina, as sons will, of her experience in attempting to drive a car. In her letter of October 18, 1933, she responds:

Earle Dobson

Yes, it brings back memories – that car episode, but I claim I did well to not stop that old car that time and still not drive through the gate. You know the clutch bolt broke as Earle and I were coming up the grade. It also rained hard and cold, and I’d never driven, you might say, and my problem was to drive slowly enough to let him get the gate open and still not stop the car, but I laugh every time I think of it – how I sat there grim and rigid and saw Earle fumble with numb hands at June’s old chain wound around and snapped tightly in the hard old Dobson way! And I rolled relentlessly forward like a juggernaut, but of course I wouldn’t have driven through the gate. I meant to keep on going home till I knew I had to stop.
 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

SUPPORTING THE COUNTY FAIR



My pie pumpkins did not go to the fair.

September is county fair time. When I was growing up in Orofino, it was our family tradition to visit the exhibit building at the Clearwater County Fair on Thursday evening when the judging was complete but the crowd was light. I have warm memories of that time. We seldom entered anything in the fair even though my mother’s handwork was beautiful. I don’t think she wanted her work scrutinized, and I understand that.

The county fair was important to the regional population back in the day. Even in the ‘50s, people still lived on small farms and most women worked in the home. Skill in the rural home arts was still cultured and appreciated, as both my friend Chris and I can attest. And the monetary awards for the ribbons were important, too. Winners turned that money back into their projects – garden seed, fabric, yarn, etc.

In my adult years, I lost interest in the fair, but a few years ago we visited the Lewis County Fair in Nezperce. We heard someone comment that if she and one other didn’t bring lots of entries, there wouldn’t be a fair. We were inspired to participate, but the timing was always off.

Grandma Ina's still life from 1912
This year Mike decided he would enter some of his leatherwork in the Lewis County Fair and adamantly insisted I should participate as well. “Come on!” Mike said; “you make stuff all the time. There has to be something you can enter.” So, I brought out the holiday afghan I crocheted last Christmas and the rag doll Lucy that I quickly stitched up to illustrate the 2015 advent story on this blog. None of this was made with the idea that it would be judged, and I do believe that the point is to improve the fair by improving your work. Even so, something akin to excitement and pride came out, and I hoped these things wouldn’t be passed over.

My 2017 fair entries -- $5.00 in awards
Well, we weren’t at the farm last Thursday afternoon when entries were due, and this is always what stops us, but this year Mike refused to accept it. He loaded his motorcycle bag with our entries and headed off to Nezperce (17 miles from the farm but 60 miles from Clarkston). It was a lovely afternoon, and I’m sure he didn’t mind.

The ribbon says, "Just for the fun of it."
Except for the afghan, we thought of our entries as collections (Mike’s leatherwork, the doll and her accessories) but those in charge insisted he write a ticket for each item. The results were interesting. Lucy in her dress received a red ribbon, and the simple little flannel nightgown also received a red ribbon. But the doll quilt made of squares quilted with diagonal lines and with one corner askew, received a blue ribbon. Go figure. The afghan received a “just for the fun of it” ribbon, and I totally understand. The winning afghans were tightly crocheted, while mine was a quickly made “granny.” In other words, mine didn’t involve as much work. But – it was a bright spot amongst all those others, and the judge appreciated that.

$8.50 for the ribbons. "Best of Show" = bragging rights.
Mike did better, earning blue ribbons for his gun belt, belt, and holster, a red for his gun sling, and a white for the dog collar. Actually, he tossed in the holster as an afterthought and earned a "Best of Show" for it.



So, would we do it again? Yes, I think so. We’re already talking about it. Besides crafts, we want to enter jellies from the country berries at the farm, and I’ll work harder at that next year. So, you see, the fair is a good thing. It keeps you on your toes and inspired to present your best. KW