Monday, July 27, 2015

Argiope Aurantia, Photo By Amy

I didn't recognize this spider at first.  On closer inspection I thought, "Marge , why are you so slender?"  We have called these Argiope aurantia spiders Marge after Marge Simpson ever since we saw the first one many years ago.  The light dawned when I looked at this post from August ,14 2011.  She has lots of time to grow before frost!    She is still young, a newlywed perhaps or maybe a spinster. I didn't notice a male or the white zigzag he places on the web. She has a good spot and if she doesn't have a man around she will soon.  She will trap prey in the garden and she will grow.  In the middle of September she will be even bigger still.  Spiders work so much better than some stupid sticky trap. She and her new family are welcome in the garden.  In the house I have  a totally different attitude towards spiders!  

Friday, July 24, 2015

Black Raspberry Jam

We have nearly always found enough wild black raspberries scattered around the property to enjoy eating with our morning cereal or over vanilla ice cream.  Other wild plants would drive the berries out of one location but we would find them elsewhere.  Three years ago six cultivated plants were ordered from Miller Nurseries.  Five made the adjustment to our harsher climate and this year we have berries in abundance.  Homemade jam made with our berries sounded great but how does one deal with all of those seeds?

Tucked away in the back of a basement closet was a still in the box Squeezo.  Designed nearly one century ago, we had to give it a try.  The many parts do assemble into a workable unit although we have yet to get the sequence right on the first try.  Following the clearly written directions with pictures would make that task a cinch.  Dump a small amount of berries into the hopper and turn the crank.  Seedless pulp pours down the chute while the seeds exit at the end.  If the hopper is filled with berries, juice will squeeze out where the hopper slides into the main unit.  Black cap juice will stain a cement floor.

We did manage to fill four jars with enough left over to try on tomorrow's toast.  These may be the most expensive jars of jam on the planet.  It appears that Ball has discontinued manufacturing jars for freezer jam.  Merchants with this item still in stock are trying to cash in with exorbitant prices.  We did find some priced at three for five dollars.  We refuse to do the math for the remaining ingredients. This jam will taste great mid winter.  Its cost will not be considered.  We will be able to look back on the time spent picking the berries and remembering watching a mother turkey jump up to grab a berry for her breakfast.

Squeezo cleanup is another issue.  Processing two quarts of fruit makes the same mess as processing two gallons.  Everything is moved outside for the first round of cleanup.  The cone that allows the pulp to pass through while holding the seeds inside is the most difficult piece to clean.  High pressure water and a brush will ultimately leave the cone clean.

At the present time we have ten jars of black raspberry jam in the freezer.  It is likely that we will make this mess one more time this year.  The balance of the fruit will be eaten with breakfast or placed over ice cream.  From a taste point of view, this is one of the high points in eating what we grow.