Blueberry season waits for no man. Mother Nature is a tough customer. And, the deer ate my entire orchard again, so, time to pick berries.
Today, I went to the berry farm over the border, through the backwoods, where only people who know go.
Usually, I hop on seasons immediately, but not this year–I’m about 2/3 through the season. Picking was wonderful. Lesson: waiting is good.
I don’t have enough for the year, so I’ll have to do one more day, but for today, it was enough. I left enough for the family to overeat, and am making low and no sugar jam, sauce, and canned berries. I’ll use them for smoothies and yogurt throughout the year and gift.
I’m seven years into poser homesteading. My orchard should be overflowing by now, and I should be living off the land. But, I’m not. I still kill stuff. The deer and dogs ate my pears. Again. The deer jumps on her hind legs and gets them. She taught the dog to do the same. “A tree full of balls?”
Last year, I ate one. “A tree full of balls you can eat???” I’ll never see another pear.
That, plus all the plagues of bugs and food I just forget to harvest–that means I have to leave the homestead to forage and collect food.
Here’s the best way.
Make friends with farmers.
Then, you’ll get an inside scoop on how seasons are progressing. You may get some leftovers, B-grades, or early dibs on the best stuff.
Know your seasons.
I have a canning routine. Strawberries followed by blueberries, raspberries, peaches, apples and pears, and grapes. That’s the fruit season.
Tomatoes start in late July, but I don’t get the ones from Grandma (the farmer’s grandma) on the farm until early August. It’s usually a couple bushels of B-grades, so whatever day they hit, I’ve got to be ready to can.
Fall comes quick. When I was teaching, I had to plan my weeks around canning. Then, I’d have to argue about canning. “Can’t you do that on a cool day?” No. I cannot. I can when the veggies/fruit/meat arrives.
Seek out swaps and B grades
B grade produce isn’t perfect. Actually, it is by foodie standards–it’s delicious, in season, and what a chef would want to cook with. But, it’s not grocery-store uniform and shiny. So, the general public passes it over. This is exactly what I look for.
I also swap things. I have some friends who grow and forage. They give me things in season. I’ll give them things.
This takes a little while to learn to do if you’re just starting your Poser Homestead. You want to be ready to can, dehydrate, cook, freeze, or otherwise preserve your harvest. This means you need racks, jars, spices, ingredients, tops for jars, and space to get the job done.
Right now, I’m staring at those blueberries from the next room over. I have a migraine. My canning stuff isn’t ready–it’s downstairs, and I only half cleaned the kitchen. Getting those berries preserved is going to be an up hill battle today. But, it has to be done since the shelf life of berries is short. I don’t think I have any lemon juice, even. This is a vital ingredient in blueberry jam to keep the acidity up enough to can. So, I’ll have to go back out and then start the canning.
What would’ve been easier? Planning ahead and checking.
I’m in the process right now of making a canning inventory sheet, and a bunch of other seasonal prep sheets to help the harvest season go smoothly. I wont run out of tomatoes or miss a fruit season anymore.
When I make those sheets, I’ll make them available here. But for now, I’ve got to go get some lemon, can those blueberries, and think about the next seasons… Raspberries and peaches.
Picking your own fruit can sometimes be expensive. Apples, for example, are a million dollars a little bag at our local orchard if I go apple picking. If I wait for the B-grades (a little while into the season), they’re $1/pound.
Agrotourism is fun. Farms are cool. But the beginning of any season is when farms get nutty, and if they can charge visitors more for the experience of picking fruit, I’m glad. Farmers don’t make enough money. But, I don’t need the experience–for me, paying more to do a lot of work is unnecessary. So, I wait. And hunt. And pounce. Then, I have perfect in-season fruit ready to go.