Friday, July 19, 2013

Sticky Business

Pink Skies Over Elmira
One of Three Lady Mergansers
Two Chipping Sparrows
Someone Wants Attention
And, Someone Else is Not Interested
When Horses Sulk
Sanitizing Jars
Mashing Berries
Raspberry Jam!
Peach Jam, Too!
Where We First Met
Early Morning Pond Report:

Pink. Light casts pink shadows on Elmira, Idaho. Some places have tangerine sunrises and others purple-mountain-majesty sunsets. Here, the sky pinkens like rose quartz. A few puffs of slate-gray clouds deepen the color expression and the mountain peak beyond the Pack River adopts the glow. What is there not to like about a pink start to a day?

It is hard for me to remember endless rain. A part of my brain accepts that it rains (drops or snowflakes) nine months out of the year. That's a lot of gray and white. But all this pink speaks of the dry season. Elmira Pond is shrinking and the grass is crisping. My garden drinks water every day and for the first time, I begin watering the grass on the ranch.

The birds must miss rain. The Merganser Ladies create their own rain with winged splashes upon the pond. A little pine siskin drops out of the  realm of bark and boughs to shower in my hose. Two chipping sparrows flit close enough for sprinkles, but are not as brazen of bathers as the siskin. Blue Heron continues to preen, with or without water.

The horses seem to be faring okay. They wade across the south end of the pond in the evenings and drink at will. The tender shoots of green grass they favor seem to be cropped short like a summer buzz-cut. I wonder if I should let them back into the pasture with the apple tree, but I'm preparing the bed here for over-winter onions. Not to mention, I like sitting beneath the apple tree.

Snapper is a mare and as mares are wont to do, she came into heat. Pistol is a gelding, meaning he's a neutered male. He's technically not suppose to be interested in her estrogen cycles. But he is...very interested. So the horses have been expressing summer love which is, well, let's say it's very interesting.

But Pistol is over his infatuation. Evidently, Snapper is not. She's "standing" and he's eating grass. So she's mifted and starts kicking the air. Pistol still is not finding her mood more inviting than short shards of summer grass. So he moves on and she sulks in the corner. Such is the drama today on Elmira Pond.

Harvest Report:

The raspberries are dripping on the canes. I'm hardly plucking and fat, juicy berries slide into my bucket. I sing raspberry songs, praise and worship for such a sweet bounty. More raspberries are developing and I am dreaming of jam.

Jam is sticky business. Fruit is sticky and wet. Sugar is stickier and no matter how contained I try to make the process, my kitchen counters, floors and even my elbows are sticky. Todd bought me a lug of peaches from the Peach Man. It is impossible to get peaches this ripe in any grocery store, even a co-op. It's just not possible. The skins are slipping right off at the merest touch. And peach juice is sticky, too.

My jam of choice is of the freezer variety. It preserves the fresh taste of ripe fruit because there's no cooking involved. Nor is there any actually canning. You do need to sanitize your jars and lids, though and that's easily done with the dishwasher. In fact, the one in my kitchen even has a sanitizer setting. While I'm watering, my jars are sanitizing.

The actual jam recipe is so simple--5 cups of mashed raspberries, 2 cups of sugar and 3 tablespoons of pectin. Mash, mix, pour. Let it set for 30 minutes, then store in the freezer. The peach jam requires lemon juice, so the fruit doesn't turn brown. I use fresh lemon juice. I have enough raspberries for a batch so today I get 6 jars of each fruit. Tomorrow I'll add what raspberries ripen today and create a raspberry peach mix.

I guess I did buy a lot of sugar yesterday. My "moon-shine" sugar Todd calls it. I tell him on the phone that he has jam in the freezer. He's one happy Mills man. His family is famous for their Fallon raspberries and the homemade ice cream they used to make. His Mom taught me how to make freezer jam years ago. My favorite family photo of Todd is the one where he's shoving his siblings and cousins away from the ice cream bucket to scoop it all up for himself. He's still a toddler.

Evening Pond Report:

Two nights in a row now, a male mallard visits Elmira Pond. He quacks his arrival. I'm in my office and the quack draws me away from work. Looking out my second story window, I see Blue Heron in the first spot I ever saw him. It's a déjà vu moment, me at the window, discovering birds on Elmira Pond. It has led me to days sitting by roses and under apple trees.

Sticky business, this bird distraction.

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