I Have Seen The Light

There are many things in the world which are mysterious to me. One of the most perplexing to me, albeit not exactly life-changing, has been my brother Bob’s assertion that cherry pie is his favorite dessert.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I adore sweet cherries. But cherry desserts? Not a fan. I have never liked cherry-flavored candies, or anything else with that loathsome almond-y fake-cherry taste. So when I first heard Bob assert his preference for cherry pie, I reached the natural conclusion: most of my brain acknowledged that tastes differ, and to each his own; while the deepest, most primitively judgmental part of me knew that he was simply wrong.

However, the fruit-picking urge is strong in me. When the kids and I recently went to Sherwood Orchards to pick some Lodi apples and Shiro plums, I simply could not resist picking some pie cherries as well. I reasoned that I could always use them for jam. The owner commiserated with me about cherry desserts, but said that fresh cherries made all the difference and she would email me her recipe for Cherry Crisp. I decided to try it. After all, there was a tiny, miniscule possibility that I was in the wrong here.

Yep, very wrong.

Holy cow, but my tune has changed. I have two more quarts of pie cherries in the freezer, and they have become precious beyond gold. The delicious contrast of sour cherry against sweet sauce, with the crisp’s topping adding a crunchy high note, created a veritable harmony of a dessert.

Here is the Sherwood Orchards recipe as given to me:

Cherry Crisp

4 cups pie cherries, pitted
½ cup or more to taste, sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 X 9 X 2” baking dish with butter. Mix cherries with sugar and cornstarch. Dot with butter.

Mix topping ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup butter
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup chopped hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds or pecans

Rub ingredients thoroughly through fingers until well blended. Pack on top of fruit. Bake in oven for 45 -55 minutes or until bubbly around the edges.

Serve with vanilla ice cream for the most delicious dessert ever.

Bob, I am sorry for ever doubting you.

(As a side note: this applesauce recipe made applesauce a trivial undertaking this time. I just quartered the apples, threw them in a pot, and put the whole thing through the food mill at the end. Crazy simple! Also, plum raspberry jam (no recipe, I just winged it) is a winner, as is this Vanilla Plum Jam.)

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So Much For That Manicure

We are in blackberry season, so our evenings have suddenly become a flurry of activity as we attempt to get out every day in order to pick. We’ve picked about 42 pounds so far, and need at least another 90 or so to be happy for the year.

But last weekend an event of even more significance occurred — yes, even more than blackberries! My lovely awesome friend Kristy got married to her also-awesome sweetheart, Tristan. I got to stand up with her as a bridesmaid. It’s the first time I’ve had such an honor, and it was very fun because Kristy herself is very fun and creative, and did some really neat things for her wedding. For example, before the ceremony we went out into Portland and did a photo shoot with all of her attendants. (But not Tristan. He wasn’t allowed to see the dress yet.) Portland is a very cool, very weird city to do this in, and there was lots of audience participation from passers-by. In a good way.

Also in honor of the occasion, I got my very first manicure. On Friday morning someone trimmed, sanded, painted and polished my nails and made them look shinier than they ever had before. By dint of much effort I managed to not garden, cook, or do anything else to chip them for a day and a half.

Then on Sunday we went out blackberry picking again. Also I mulched a couple of my garden beds and planted some winter vegetables. Still, it was fun while it lasted.


Now for a Cute Kid Moment: Ryan, in my clothespin apron, helping to take down the dry diapers.

Trench Digging

“I want to dig a trench,” Nathan told me the other night, as the last glimmers of sunset were draining from the sky.

Tears ensued when I pointed out that it was too dark to start such a project. I assured him that we’d do it tomorrow. The next morning, the very first groggy words out of his mouth were “We should dig a trench today.”

Nathan laid out the trench course with the tip of his trowel. I dug out a couple inches with our trenching tool. We dug it from their hole (from which we dug out the dirt for our recent corner bed; we left the hole for the kids to play in), around the chopping block, and up to the edge of the nearest dirt pile.

Perhaps Nathan would have been satisfied with that. He was pretty occupied with scraping the edges of the trench and cleaning out loose dirt. But apparently some part of me is still eight years old, because I said “Do you think if we poured some water in that it would just flow all the way down?”

Guess what? It did!

(And yes, Ryan was wearing a coat, despite the fact that it is the middle of August. Stupid garden-stunting weather.)

One Corner — Done

When we put in our tree beds last year (wow, has it really been that long?), their angle relative to the yard created all sorts of interesting little corners. We have plans for all of these spaces, to turn them into useful and beautiful accents to the yard. Those plans have long been put off, buried under the weight of other projects. There are always more projects.

But the most annoying of the corners has finally been dealt with. It was annoying because it contained an isolated little triangle of grass, orphaned by one of the tree beds. Mowing this tiny triangle was way more hassle than either of us were interested in.

That hassle eventually motivated Dave to dig out the grass and start revamping the space. No landscaping, of course, is ever trivial. In our case any major work is complicated by the fact that we inherited a sprinkler system with the property, one which was very well-suited to the original landscaping and is completely useless for us. So we’ve been slowly digging out bits of it as is convenient. This requires holes deep enough for Nathan to virtually disappear into. (He loved that part.)

We knew we wanted a path right by the tree beds (after all, we hope to eventually be picking apples from those trees), and we wanted to use the remainder of the space as another garden bed. It was Dave who came up with the idea of doing a curved bed in the corner rather than a straight triangular one.

When we measured the corner created by our tree bed we found that it wasn’t quite square; there was about a five-inch difference between the two sides. Now, I just want to point out that if I had been commanding the project, boring-old-me would have said “Eh, close enough,” and created a bed that was a quarter-circle. But fortunately I was not in charge. My sweet husband, having just been working with ellipses at work, said “Hey, let’s make the bed elliptical!” and promptly created an Excel spreadsheet and derived the necessary math to figure out where, given an eight-foot cedar board, he would need to kerf cut the board so that it would naturally form an elliptical shape rather than a circular one and divide the space proportionally. Love that man.

My turn to shine came when it was time to make a stone path. We’d gotten a bunch of irregular stones from our neighbors once they no longer wanted them. How hard could it be to fit some together to fill the path we’d created? As it turns out, this is in fact hard. Hundreds — maybe thousands — of hours of jigsaw puzzle practice came to my aid as I laid out stones, rearranged them, laid them out again, and eventually came up with a pattern that worked. Truly, nothing is ever wasted.

After all that, it was almost anti-climactic to finish. It was just a matter of digging out the really lousy, rocky fill dirt that for some reason comprised that corner and replacing it with some of our nicer, but still native, soil. A couple plants, a layer of weed block and bark, and it was all done. I’ll put some bulbs in this fall, but for the moment it houses only a couple of lonesome little plants that have desperately needed to escape their temporary homes. One is a contorted quince which had been living half-buried next to our marionberries and needed room to stretch. The other is a clematis I’d started by cutting from our neighbor’s plant, and whose roots were busy circling its pot. Once it regains its strength, I’ll set it to climbing up the brick pillar in that corner. They will both be so happy there.