Friday, May 24, 2013

Busy on the Farm

May has been a busy month on the farm, but then again, it always is.  The beginning of the month starts off with the guys double checking all the equipment to make sure it's ready to go in the fields.

Then, I usually try to get Bill to till up the garden two or three times so the soil is just right and all of the weeds are good and dead.  Usually, sometime after Mother's Day, we plant the garden.  It's always a good idea to wait until after Mother's Day to plant a garden or flowers so that all chances of frost have passed.

The weekend of May 17th, my beautiful cousin Emily married the love of her life, Jared in West Lafayette, IN.  It was a gorgeous wedding and I was excited to be able to be in the wedding and share in this exciting event. 

In addition to all of the above things, we have also taken out a loan to build onto our farmhouse and remodel the kitchen.  Things that really need to be done.  The addition on the back of the house will be a mud room for Bill.  It will be a place where he can come in and have all his farm "things" in one area.

Here is a glimpse of our kitchen before everything is taken out and down.  The kitchen is/was functional, but can be much better with a little remodeling. 

I've truly enjoyed seeing all the styles through the years from the past McDonnell wives.  The mushroom wallpaper on the left is from when Bill's brother Mark and his (ex)wife Debbie used to live in the house.  The vegetable wallpaper and the mint green paint (which I haven't taken a picture of yet) is from when Bill's grandparents lived there and the white wallpaper all around the other two are from when Bill's Mom and Dad lived in the home.  Old houses have such wonderful history and again, I am blessed to live in a home where other McDonnell wives have lived and worked.

One thing I've done as we've remodeled is to write mine and Bill's name and wedding date on each wall.  Just for something fun to do and maybe for another generation to find and treasure. 

I hope you've enjoyed the month of May as much as we have.  We're looking forward to the summer and I'll keep you updated on the remodeling. 

P.S. I'm not enjoying eating out.  I'd rather be home cooking:-)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Strawberry Season is Upon Us

Strawberry Season is Upon Us

Since I work for a local Extension Office, I wanted to share the following article with you.  I love strawberries and thought you might find this article useful.

The strawberry is the most popular small fruit grown in the home garden – red, ripe and luscious.
It is relatively easy to grow, produces large quantities of good-quality fruit without requiring extra equipment, and it can be grown in home gardens all over Indiana.   A planting originating from 25 plants can yield 25 to 50 quarts of berries ripening from mid-May to late June, depending upon the area of the state in which they are grown.  Many of us enjoy eating berries frequently during the height of the season. You can buy them at the grocer's or at a roadside stand, but many people enjoy picking their own strawberries at places like Bell’s Strawberry Farm in Hagerstown, IN. There, you can enjoy the fresh vine-ripe quality and the opportunity to select your own fruit.  Strawberry season lasts 3 to 4 weeks, so you can plan several trips to enjoy fresh fruit.  According to owner Ed Bell, “The strawberries are looking great this year, much better than last year.”  In 2012, the Bell’s lost 97% of their strawberry crop because of a hard freeze.

This year, strawberries should be ready to harvest around Memorial Day.  When selecting strawberries, make sure they are free from bruises, cuts, and mold. Strawberries should be evenly shaped and not too seedy or white at the tips. Strawberries are highly perishable.  They will only hold a couple of days. . Berries will last the longest when stored in a stainless steel bowl. For best results do not wash or remove caps until you are ready to use them. To clean them, gently rinse strawberries under running water with the green cap still on. Once they have been washed, remove the green cap and store them between 34 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit for best results. If possible, store them in the plastic container from the store. Under ideal conditions, strawberries can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two to five days.

There are many ways to use strawberries such as:  strawberry shortcake, fresh strawberry pie,
strawberry sundaes, and strawberries and cream are hard to beat. Strawberries combine well with dry cereal and milk for breakfast or with custards, puddings, tapioca, and other desserts made from milk. They add color and flavor to compotes and salads.  Popular combinations are strawberries with bananas, pineapple, or cooked rhubarb. Strawberries also make a handsome garnish for salads, desserts, and fruit punches. To use them as a garnish, clean the berries but don't remove the caps and stems.

When you have more strawberries than you can eat or when strawberries can be obtained at a
reasonable cost, freeze them to eat later. For freshly made strawberry jam at any time of the year, freeze berries and then make the jam at your convenience.  To freeze strawberries, follow these simple rules:  don't freeze more than 2 pounds of food per cubic foot of freezer capacity per day. Strawberries may be packed with syrup or dry sugarTo make a syrup pack, mix and dissolve 3 cups of sugar in 4 cups of water. Add 1 cup of this syrup per quart of prepared fruit. To make a dry pack, mix 2/3 cup dry sugar per quart of prepared fruit. To package, fill pint or quart freezer bags to a level of 3 to 4 inches from top, squeeze out air, leave 1 inch of head space, seal, label, and freeze. Before freezing, bags may be inserted into reusable rigid freezer containers for added protection against punctures and leakage.  No matter which type of pack you choose to use, follow these general directions for preparing and packaging strawberries for freezing:
        o Use only firm, fully ripe berries.
        o To avoid bruising and soaking the berries, wash only a few at a time in cold water. 
        o Drain on absorbent paper or in a colander or sieve.
        o Remove the hulls with the tip of a floating blade peeler.
        o Chill the fruit in ice water to lower its temperature for fast freezing.
Bell’s Strawberry Farm is open from 8 A.M. to 8 P.M. daily except for Sunday.  For additional information or recipes on strawberries, contact the Henry County Extension Office at 529-5002 or Bell’s Strawberry Farm at 765-489-5753 and on the web at

Written by: Bethany Ratts, Purdue Extension - Henry County
Source: Ed Bell, Bell's Strawberry Farm, Hagerstown, IN