When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or in my case, when life gives you small, seedy, “button” berries, make strawberry jelly.
There is no question this year has been wrought with challenges. The most obvious is the current drought, but it started much earlier. The warm up this spring brought out the stone fruit buds early. Then the weather got cold again, which was too much for the tender buds. We still had cherries, but our crop was reduced by 50% or more. Our friends with apricots, peaches, and plums fared even worse. Many of those crops were completely wiped out by the freeze.
We had a tough June strawberry year as well. All last season, we battled mallow, a particularly difficult weed to eradicate. Weeds compete with the desired crop for water, nutrients and space. When we removed the protective straw from our strawberry patch this spring, we were dismayed to find very spotty rows without many strawberry plants.
Somewhere around this time, we got hail at our farm in Medina. This severely damaged the young apples. Hail also damages the branches (it would be like getting many cuts all over our bodies). It puts the whole tree in danger of infection from various diseases.
Raspberries, thankfully, yielded fairly well, but they soon succumbed to the dry weather and intense heat. Blueberries should have been next, but they too were affected by the drought. We managed to get a few pickings, but most of the berries didn’t have enough water to even form.
So, on to everbearing strawberries. Despite irrigating frequently, they are much smaller than usual. And what we did have at the beginning of the season, raccoons ate most of. We caught over twenty in less than two weeks. I am glad to say that we haven’t caught anymore in the past two. Now the challenge is an insect pest which damages the blossoms and causes the strawberries to be “cat-faced” or “button” berries. Instead of fully forming, the strawberry is stunted, only growing to a fraction of its size and has a seedy end. We do protect our berries from this pest, yet we are still having an issue. It has been discouraging to say the least.
Yesterday, after giving the best of the strawberries to our CSA customers, I took 18 quarts of the “button” berries and made strawberry juice. By straining through cheesecloth, the seeds aren’t a problem. I ended up with half a dozen or so jars of juice that could be made into an even sweeter treat…jelly.
So, life has certainly given us an ample supply of lemons this year, but we know next year is a new year. And that is farming; we take the good with the bad. And today is another day, one in which I enjoyed filling my kitchen with the sweet aroma of strawberry jelly.