It is after June 1- is your garden planted? Husband Norm kept saying that was when a garden should be planted. I think that was just to delay my plans. Anyway, the meager garden I will have is in the ground and, so far, hasn't died. We will try this getting our veggies at the Farmers' auction this year and see how it goes. At canning time, okay, but for general purposes, I have my doubts that we get over there every week. Some of the roses survived and several were just replaced. Now, it is up to me to get outside and get them trained to grow where they have been ordered to grow. Elder abuse.
The two little girls, Scarlett and Bella, made a shambles of my flowerbed and it isn't completely rejuvenated as of right now. Rocky couldn't climb up into it or he would probably have been in on their barking and digging game. At first, I couldn't see what they were after.
Then Bella ran triumphant into the yard with a small furry animal in her mouth. At the sound of a banshee yell, she dropped it and ran. It was a poor little chipmunk, scared to pieces. His little heart was just a-pounding when I picked him up. After some petting and soothing, he was able to jump from my hand into the little crevice where he usually hid from the loudmouths.
Then a fat toad caught their attention and they got yelled at again. They think the old witch of the forest lives in the house and won't let them have any doggie fun.
Also, on the animal scene, there are two black and white kittens that will be looking for a home shortly. Mama is a really sweet barn cat - she doesn't know what is planned for her as soon as the kittens are weaned. There goes the vet bill again. Anyway, two kittens have been spoken for and two are available. If you could give a cute little kitten a good home, just let me know. There were two barn cats, but Molly has been away much of the time since Socks had those babies. Dear old Hobo is still on his road trip. I am afraid it was his final one and he seemed to know his time was up. I still miss him, though.
The local u-pick strawberry farms are open and doing a great business. That is a great activity to share with your little ones. That used to be a favorite springtime thing for me, too, until I was told I was too old to be bending over like that.
The mind is willing but the body is objecting about a lot of things I used to do. Strawberries are best as they are picked, right out of the patch, and made into shortcake, jam and jelly, and frozen for winter enjoyment. A very few strawberry plants did make it into one corner of the garden this year and are producing very nicely for just having been planted. Of course, that was not an approved activity either. I just said that the Strawberry Fairy had put them there.
Our climate here on the windy hilltop isn't good for orchids like I had in Florida, but it is great for the next best thing - iris. The iris and peonies survived the late frosts and bitter winds this year and have been greatly enjoyed by all who have seen them. They make that entire side of the yard smell good, so have been on my "Thank you" list this spring.
A stop was made at the West Virginia Welcome center on Route 50 as we came back from Delaware. There is a beautiful booklet on many great things to see this summer. I recommend you visit one of the welcome centers to get some neat ideas about places to visit and festivals to attend this summer. There is much to see close to home. We tend to think we have to drive hundreds of miles to enjoy a vacation while we miss the local sights and activities - that other people drive hundreds of miles to come here to see. Even a day trip down the Turnpike to Beckley to Tamarac to see a showcase of the state is an enjoyable outing.
Have you been grilling out with this nice weather? Remember to be careful of salads in which mayonnaise is an ingredient if you don't want to give everyone a tummy ache, or worse. Don't let other food, especially meat, set out in the sun for a long time either. We used to fry up chicken or bake a meatloaf, make potato salad with mayo, and other picnic food, in the early morning, drive over to St. Marys to the Nichols-Locke and Wagner reunions, let the food set out all day, eat a snack before we started home, then take home any of the leftovers to eat the next day. We never got sick. Either we had stronger stomachs or there weren't as many "bugs" around or our Guardian Angels just protected us from our ignorant ways. I would be totally scared to death to do that nowadays. Do keep the dishes that need to be kept cold on ice in a cooler and the hot dishes hot or reheated on a grill. Summer is no fun if you are in the hospital, and food poisoning is extremely painful. My theory is to just eat the cakes - they don't spoil on a picnic table. That should be the first course at any meal anyway - life is short.
Enjoy the short strawberry season. Make some strawberry dishes, desserts, jam, and freeze some for next winter. Some of my favorite recipes are here for you today and you probably have some that your family will really like for you to make. New recipes are fun, but the old family recipes bring back memories of moms and grandmas.
Enjoy this season - it will not pass this way again so no matter if it turns chilly, stormy, hot, or whatever, just enjoy it. Do something special with your little ones. They, too, won't stay the same and will be grown and gone before you are ready for it. Say a prayer for our troops and for knowledge for those who govern us. It seems every day a new can of worms crawls out of Washington. Please, God, bless and protect us all.
2 cups well mashed ripe strawberries
4 cups sugar
1 package powdered pectin
3/4 cup water
Combine berries and sugar. Let stand twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Combine pectin and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil and boil one minute, stirring constantly. Add the pectin to the fruit mixture and stir for three minutes. Pour into clean freezer jars, leaving 1/2 inch headroom. Place on lids and let set-up to 24 hours. Freeze.
STRAWBERRY PIE WITH CREAM CHEESE
1 graham cracker crust or baked pastry pie crust, 9- or 10-inch size
1 quart fresh strawberries
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 package strawberry pie glaze
Whipped topping, thawed
Wash strawberries, let dry, and cut into halves or smaller if berries are large. Let cream cheese come to room temperature. With electric mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice. Add cold whipping cream and beat until light and fluffy. Spread in piecrust. Top with strawberries, then the glaze. Frost pie with the whipped topping, using a large decorating star tip if available. Keep chilled.
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 and 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
Pastry for 8-inch double-crust pie
Combine water and cornstarch in a saucepan. Mix until smooth. Add 1/2 cup rhubarb and 1/2 cup strawberries and bring to a boil. Boil for three minutes. Stir in remaining rhubarb and strawberries. Line an 8-inch pie pan with pastry and pour filling into crust. Top with top pastry crust, crimp edges and cut slits in top. Brush with cream (or milk or egg wash) and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for twenty minutes or until crust is browned.
NOTE: Another way to enjoy this is to pour filling into a baking dish, place canned biscuits from the dairy case, or make your own, and use either as is (or break into halves) and place on top of filling. Brush with milk, cream, or egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until biscuits are nicely browned.
STRAWBERRY-CHOCOLATE CREAM CHEESE PIE
1 baked 9-inch pastry shell
1 (6-oz.) package semisweet chocolate morsels
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, cubed
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Three tablespoons Triple Sec or orange juice
Three or 4 cups fresh strawberries with hull removed
1/4 cup red currant jelly, melted
1/half cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/half teaspoon grated orange rind
Combine chocolate, cream cheese, and butter in top of a double boiler. Place over boiling water. Cook, stirring constantly, until chocolate and cream cheese is melted. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup powdered sugar and Triple Sec. Spread mixture in pastry shell. Cool. Place strawberries, stem side down, over cooled chocolate mixture. Brush with melted currant jelly. Refrigerate two or three hours. Combine whipping cream and two tablespoons powdered sugar in a small mixing bowl. Beat until soft peaks form. Fold in orange rind. Top each serving of pie with a dollop of the flavored whipped cream.
1/4 cup orange-flavored liqueur
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons brandy
1 pint strawberries
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Combine liqueur, orange juice, and brandy. Cut washed and hulled strawberries in half and add to this mixture. Chill at least one hour, spooning liquid over berries several times. Just before serving, whip cream until frothy, add sugar, and whip until soft peaks form. Place berries in individual serving dishes with some of the liquid. Top with the whipped cream.
Patty Christopher is a longtime columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel.