Friday, May 27, 2011

Spider-man + Strawberry Shortcake = Nom Nom

(Apologies for the gap in posting...that's what happens when life gets too crazy and your camera memory is full and once you just suck it up and finally buy a new memory chip for the camera because you're not going to get around to printing all those old pics the camera battery completely dies and you have no idea which unpacked box holds the charger...)

So what do you get when you cross one of Marvel comics' leading men, an early 80's children's cartoon, and a symbol of the 1960's Pan-Indian movement? You get this:

One part Spider-man, one part dream catcher, three parts awesome.
(Thanks to the lovely L.P. for the photo!)

One of the really cool things we acquired with the new house is a strawberry patch located between the house and the chicken coop. It is approximately six feet by nine feet in dimension.

I've been interested in growing strawberries before, but we never had enough space to devote to this spreading perennial. So this spring was my first journey into strawberries wrangling, and I admit that my berry knowledge is pretty slim. I had read about problems with birds stealing ripe fruit, so I asked my country-wise coworker if netting was the solution. She replied that netting could be a nuisance because it must be removed and reinstalled every time you pick berries and the netting can become clogged with soggy leaves. She recommended a stick-and-string method that sounded like a cross between Spider-man and a dream-catcher gone wrong.

On a nice April afternoon Sissy and I headed out to the strawberry patch with 30 sticks (each approximately 10 inches long) and two spools of white utility string. We evenly space the sticks around the patch and then began wrapping the string around the sticks as we crisscrossed over the patch. According to my coworker, birds won't bother the strawberries because of the risk of getting their wings stuck in the strings. But, unlike netting, the strings don't have to be removed to pick the berries.

The above photo is of the patch approximately 1 1/2 weeks after we busted out our mad macrame skills.

The girls were concerned that the plants would grow up and over the string, thus voiding any protection from the Spidey-catcher-thingy. I was hopeful that since the plants were putting on fruit when we made the string structure that they would focus their energy on growing fruit, rather than growing taller plants.

Here's what the patch looks like today:

Can't you just feel the three parts awesome?

It's a bit more overgrown than I expected, but has it worked? The first ripened strawberries started glowing red a little over a week ago and I have not yet observed any birds in the strawberry patch, so that's very encouraging. Every few days we go out and pick the strawberries and up until a few days ago we'd only be getting a small handful each time.

But recently we started getting this:

My hands are really the size of Canadian loonies, so those are some giant strawberries. Or not.

That's on overflowing bowl of fresh, pesticide-free, locally-grown strawberries! We've been getting a heaping bowlful every few days this week. Of course, picking the strawberries in Spider-man's dream-catcher is a bit of a masochistic game of Twister, and I'm quite thankful that our nearest neighbors are far enough away so as to not enjoy a front row seat to that dance.

I've been trying to walk the line between having enough fresh strawberries to eat and packing some away in the freezer for a future batch of jam.

Oh, and a few of the strawberries have had small critter-bites out of them...most likely from our own Mickey Mouse that isn't thwarted by String City. Those strawberries, however, are given to the chickens so nothing is wasted.

In the meantime, I'm dreaming of which strawberry jam I'll make when we have enough strawberries. Last year's delicious strawberry-ginger jam? Or something else?

Do you have a favorite strawberry jam recipe?

--Rational Mama

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