Backyard Blueberries

Thursday, June 30, 2016

From Emily's Poetry Notebook:

With leaves of green and branches of red-
The blueberry bush looks to the summer ahead:
When the bears and the birds and the little girls too
Will all be out with the morning dew-
To fill up their baskets and tummies and beaks-
And they will have berry stains all over their cheeks.

Imagine our delight when we found the blueberry bushes in our backyard were heavily laden with big blueberries!

This has happened very early in the season for us, but rest assured we are not complaining! So please forgive another berry picking post, but with so many bushes, we have been madly picking so as not to waste a single one!
Early Monday morning we awoke and got ready for a day of berry picking. Quinn had work, but it was my day off and I planned to spend it outside in the sun! Greta too was also excited at the prospect of spending many hours outside.

See those bright red salmon berries? There are still so many of them around the yard! Really, I think we need some of you to come over and help us eat them all! 
And now, a very silly story:

As Quinn and I were picking blueberries early that morning, our father Paul came home from spending an even earlier morning fishing. He hadn't caught any fish though! As it turned out, a very hungry (and very rude) sea lion came over and stole a nice big salmon right off his fishing line! The sea lion then proceeded to follow the boat around hoping for more free fish. Needless to say, Paul had to call it quits for the day...
When I was little (and immature as you will see), my siblings and I loved to squish blueberries on our hands to make our poor mother think we had scratched them up on the pavement.

The juice from the blueberries is a very vibrant red-burgandy, and it will stain your hands for a day or two after picking.

I spent almost my whole day picking blueberries, but there are still jars and jars full just waiting to be picked. I'm sure I'll pick some more this week, but probably not as many as I picked this first day! There was enough for quite a few pies...

Now all that was left to do was soak them in some salt water (and get rid of all those bugs! Ick!) and then make some pies!

Of course, what better way to make pies than with a dear friend like Avery?
While Quinn measured out the ingredients (there's not much too blueberry pie), Avery and I got the crusts ready. She chose to cut out a blueberry shape with her crust, and I did the traditional lattice with mine:

By this time it was nearly sunset, so we hurriedly put the pies into the oven and tried to wait patiently for them.

Tried being the key word.

While they were baking, I set to the task of freezing my huge blueberry crop. I carefully dried handfuls of berries with paper towels and laid them out in a single layer on a baking pan. The pan went straight into the freezer and the next morning the blueberries were like glass marbles! I carefully put them into a big gallon freezer bag and stuck them back into the freezer. Now we will have blueberries whenever we want, be it for another pie, some muffins, or just to top off our cereal! And the best part is, we know we picked them ourselves in our own backyard!
Thankfully, our patience was rewarded and soon the pies were cooling out on the back porch!
The sunset outside was golden and beautiful, so we all sat on a quilt out in the yard and watched the sun set, eating our blueberry pie and ice cream!
Greta was so excited about the pie, it was hard to tell her that she couldn't have any...
Don't worry, Greta got a special treat with her dinner since she didn't get pie.
And while I was berry picking, she had probably eaten enough blueberries for two pies! 
My blueberry pie recipe isn't anything special, but if you'd like to try it I'll include it below! Quinn is excited to make blueberry muffins with the frozen berries, so I may have to write about his baking abilities soon. Until next time, have a wonderful rest of your week!

Blueberry Pie
A recipe by Emily Z.
4 pie crusts (store bought or homemade)
8 cups blueberries
1 1/2 cup sugar
5 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1.) Prepare your crusts by putting 2 it into the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan. Leave other two for later.
2.) Make sure all blueberries are washed. Combine berries, sugar, flour, and lemon juice together.
3.) Pour mixture into prepared pans, add top crusts. (Feel free to do a fun design! Just make sure there are cuts in the top so the steam can get though.)
4.) Bake with foil around pies for half and hour at 375 F, then remove foil and bake another half hour or until the crust is light browned and the fruit is bubbling. 
5.) Let cool for at least 2 hours for the slices of pie to come out cleanly without falling apart. Or, if you simply can't wait: let cool as long as you have patience and  serve it with vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

In A World Of My Own

Monday, June 27, 2016

I'm so sorry for the long absence I had these last few weeks. Work has been going well and I think I am finally getting the hang of most things (though I did accidentally bring my ring of door keys home several days ago...oops!). Now that I am getting into the swing of things, hopefully I'll find more time to write.

These last two weeks have been busy for another reason: my cousin Callie (whom I'm sure you remember from the bridal shower I threw her) got married! Because of this wonderful occasion, much of my dad's side of the family traveled to Juneau. I got to see cousins and Aunts and Uncles that I haven't seen in more than three years! I also got to see my dear brother Cody, whom I hadn't seen since Quinn and I got married two years ago. My dad and sister Bethany also traveled up from The Brambles of Bainbridge Island to see us.

Bethany stayed in Blueberry Barn with us (I believe she stayed because she wanted to play with Greta, I don't believe it was to see Quinn or myself), so of course I had to make the barn look lovely just for her. Part of that job was making sure there were fresh flowers about the barn (the best job ever, in my opinion).
Quinn and I hiked a short ways up our local ski area, Eaglecrest, to pick the wild daisies that were blooming. Being in a giant field of daisies always reminds me of a certain movie that I loved as a child. One with a certain little cat (in my case: a little puppy) and certain little girl:

Oh, how I would love to relax in a field of daisies all day (and maybe spy a rabbit in a waistcoat?). Until then I shall have to content myself with the fields above Bluebery Barn, they are pretty lovely after all...

Salmonberry Jam

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Oh! How lucky we've been here in Juneau!

The Lord has blessed us these last couple weeks with beautiful warm sunny days. And with all the sunshine and warmth, the salmonberries have been red and ripe!

I'd say its time to make some salmonberry jam, wouldn't you agree?

For berry picking adventures such as these, a traditional native Yupik tribe kuspuk was in order! My amazing mother-in-law Melissa sews these amazing dresses (a lot of it by hand!) and it takes hours and hours (I know because I made one as a Christmas present last year for my Aunt Freddie, who is part Eskimo). 

Now that the weather is getting nice and warm I have been able to pull my kuspuks out of hiding and start wearing them again. The ones that I have are older dresses that I took in. They once were worn by my sister-in-law Laura and also Melissa for their shows as the Alaska String Band. I then wore them for shows when I played and sang with them, but now I get to wear them on busy street sides picking berries!
Quinn and I each had a basket and we went to the edge of downtown on the side of the road to find the salmonberries. We were in luck! They were absolutely everywhere!

The only problem?
Stinging nettles and indian rhubarb also covered the steep mountain side...
Can you spy Quinn?
Because we were right next to a busy road, many tourists walked by and called to us asking what we were doing. We must have looked rather interesting, scaling up the steep mountain side (and me in a dress!). But if you've been reading my blog for too long, you probably already know that I don't mind sticking out a bit...

Two kind women who were my age came trooping up the mountain after us! As we saw them coming we called out, "Don't touch the indian rhubarb!" We may have freaked them out a bit, because they wouldn't touch ANY green plants after that. But they did try the salmonberries and they wished us happy picking!

Though we did eat quite a few salmonberries during the evening, we found we had plenty to make some jam! So, our baskets full of berries we journey home and set the water boiling...
One of my goals this summer is to can as much as possible. I've never really canned before, and this was my first time making jam of any sort. I am happy to report that it turned out very well (though the kitchen was down-right hot after both the warm day and all the cooking).

The jars of jam had the night to rest out on the counter, and when we awoke the next morning we had a wonderful breakfast!
English muffins with salmonberry jam, tea and early fresh blueberries on the side. 
I can't think of a more perfect breakfast!

Quinn and I had so much fun making this jam, I think it will have to be a made again next summer as well! And we can't wait for the rest of the blueberry bushes to ripen!

-A Giveaway-
You have often seen me wearing Russian rosemaled brooches here on the blog. When Quinn and I were first married we went to one of my favorite stores in downtown Juneau on our simple honeymoon. Its an old Russian store that sells Polish pottery (someday I wish to own a whole set!) and beautiful matryoshka dolls. I bought my first rosemaled brooch that day and I have gotten two others since! I simply love wearing them, especially with a shawl or on a kuspuk, so I thought I would give you a chance to win one. Please comment below and tell me what you would like to do if you came and visited Alaska. If you'd like to tell a friend about the adventures we have here at Blueberry Barn, I would be very happy, but that is not required to win the giveaway. 

Because of the scrumptious salmonberries, you'll be winning a lovely salmonberry brooch!
Have fun, and I shall announce the winner a week from today.

Thank you everyone for entering my first giveaway!
Jaclyn, you are the winner! 
Again, thank you everyone. I'll have more giveaways in the future. This was fun!

Little Girls & Wildflowers

Monday, June 6, 2016

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you've probably already guessed how much I love flowers.
It seems to me that all I do during our long Winters is pine for the wildflowers of Spring and Summer. And because our winters have been so mild the last two years, the wildflowers are blooming much earlier in the season!

This meant flower picking was the perfect thing to do when my two most favorite little girls came over for a visit! This is Melissa and Rebecca, and we've been best friends since they were tiny and I was their babysitter.  I can't tell you how excited they were to go through my closet and find shawls and hats to wear on our flower picking adventure. Melissa kept repeating: "I feel just like Laura Ingalls!" And don't they look like the most perfect pair with little Greta?
We each got a basket and off we went flower picking! 
Of course, Greta loved to eat the flowers more than pick them...

I was super envious of Becca's pink sparkly boots.

The girls had a lot of fun keeping an eye out for different flowers to add to their baskets, but they had never picked any chocolate lilies before. This was Melissa's face when she smelled it:

It's okay, Melissa.

I totally agree with you.

Our amazing view from the trail, low tide.
Becca in among big berry bushes, just starting to put out their flowers.
Sea shells belong in flower baskets too!

When we reached the end of the trail we sat on the beach and sang songs together. Greta hunted around for hidden things in the sand, Becca searched for pretty shells, and Melissa took some photos of me!

Funny Fact: I think this may be the first picture of me on this blog not wearing a dress. Blue jeans! Eak! 

When we got back to the house, everyone sat outside and had fresh baked snickerdoodles and oreo icecream. After the treats, we made our bouquets and carefully wrapped the bottoms in wet paper towels for the ride home.

The plan to go home was derailed however when Becca found bright red salmon berries ready for picking -- right in the backyard! Time for an impromptu berry picking party!

Little bags were handed out and we all started eating picking.

Most of them ended up in the bags.

Becca and Melissa just moved "out the road", which is about as far away from Blueberry Barn as you can get in Juneau. Their father is building a beautiful house, right above the ocean (the best part they told me is that they each get their own room! If only I had been that lucky growing up...). Even though they may be living a bit farther away, I'm sure we'll still see each other quite often.
"A friend is loving at all times, and becomes a brother in times of trouble."
Proverbs 17:17

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