Old School Strawberry Jam

I made it out to the pickin’ patch (aka Walnut Drive Gardens) Sunday morning and scored roughly 9lbs of sweet, glorious, Ohio strawberries. Mmm….

Diane and I decided that they were just too good to solely be used for jam so we split 5lbs for ourselves and the remaining 4lbs were destined for jam. Classic, old school strawberry jam. My go-to recipe is from my treasured Blue Chair Jam Cookbook.

4lbs of berries, 2 1/2lbs of sugar, and lots of lemon juice and stirring.

Strawberries are a notorious low pectin fruit and most people jam them using commercial pectin or in combination with higher pectin fruits (like citrus). Jamming low pectin fruits on their own, without commercial pectin, takes time. A lot of time. In the case of this classic, old school strawberry jam we’re talking roughly three hours start to finish. Whew!

I washed, hulled and halved the strawberries and added them to my dutch oven along with the sugar and about 3 1/2 ounces of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Over medium low heat I stirred constantly until the berries started releasing their juice and there was some gentle foaming. This took about 35 minutes or so.

Then I gradually raised the heat until we were at full force and the berries were boiling vigorously.  This stage requires near constant stirring as well because if you’re not careful the berries can scorch and stick – no good. The jam boiled for about a half an hour and and then I continued to cook the jam for another thirty minutes, again stirring almost constantly.

At this point the jam was shiny, dark red and a bit thick. I added another 2 ounces of lemon juice and cooked just another 5 minutes or so. I tested the doneness via the ol’ spoon in the freezer test and skimmed the remaining foam.

Then it was into the jars and into the water bath canner. Well, minus the few tablespoons I saved for myself. Oh man, soooooooo tasty!!

Strawberry_PicMonkey CollageI am torn on this one. It is so much work and there isn’t too terribly much money to be made. Should we hoard it all for ourselves or share the love at the Haymaker Farmers’ Market? I’m still undecided….

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The first taste of summer!

Even though summer doesn’t technically start until June 21 many people mark the start of summer with Memorial Day Weekend. I do start to feel summery around then but the real mark of summer, for me anyways, is the arrival of strawberries.

Oh how I love those sweet little gems. I crave them all year long, especially when I bite into a gigantic, tasteless, out of season, imported berry. In-season Ohio strawberries are some of the best in the world. I will eat them till my belly hurts and then eat some more. They are perfect and one of my very favorite things on earth.


MorningDewStrawbs2Saturday marked the first day of strawberry season at the Haymaker Farmers’ Market thanks to Doug of Morning Dew Orchards. We knew these babies would sell out fast so Diane and I each snagged some as soon as he was open for business.

My favorite local pickin’ patch, Walnut Drive Gardens, isn’t picking yet but I’m checking their website everyday. Doug’s berries are delicious but pick your own means more berries for less money so I gotta go with what makes sense.

At the end of the market on Saturday our new market neighbor Mrs. Hyde of Hyde Park Farms very graciously gave me some rhubarb odds and ends. Woohoo! In turn, I swapped her some of our Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (made with the rhubarb I bought from her last time) and purchased a pack of her baby beef T-bone steaks.

When we got home from the market Saturday we laid a blanket out in the yard and enjoyed some berries. Ellie has really enjoyed eating those imported, tasteless berries I mentioned earlier so I was pretty excited to give her some local strawberries.

She enjoyed them with gusto! Red juice ran down her chin as she toddled around the yard. Her enjoyment brought a tear to my eye and together we ate an entire pint of berries.


So I was left with a pint of berries and a bit of rhubarb. Strawberries. Rhubarb. The obvious thing to do was bake a crisp.

During Ellie’s Sunday mid-morning nap I pulled out a great cookbook my sister & brother-in-law got me for Christmas – Susie Middleton’s Fresh From The Farm: A Year of Recipes and StoriesIt’s a pretty righteous book and her recipe for strawberry-rhubarb crisp with brown sugar-pecan topping sounded pretty damn good.

Update: it WAS damn good.

crisp for blogAnd even though it was like 40F today and we had to start the fireplace I’m still hopeful for summer.

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I thought it would neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeever get here! But it’s here! It’s here! And I love it. And I’d love share some of my favorite signs of spring around the farm.

My very favorite spring flowers are lily of the valley. We have a very large “patch” thanks to the previous homeowner (Thanks grandma!). It is my favorite spring smell and they are just so delicate and beautiful. But they are also very fleeting. I feel like they bloom for a very short amount of time so I try to pick some every day and enjoy them.

015_daylilliesMore spring flowers! I’m not sure what the tall purple ones on the left are – anyone know? They’re perennial (thanks grandma!). The iris are also starting to bloom and my lupines are starting to bloom too. I love lupines. They’re gorgeous cone flowers and I planted several last year after buying them on a whim at Klettlinger’s Greenhouse.

Truth be told, the nerd in me also liked the name due to my affection for Professor Lupin.


And even more signs of spring – we planted some red, yellow, and white onions in one of our raised beds and on the bottom right – buttercups! And another one of my favorite flowers, peonies, are juuuuust starting to bloom. Peonies are another fleeting flower and it seems like they always get beat down by a hard spring rain the second they bloom.


And probably my favorite sign of spring – good eats! Specifically, our OWN good eats!


We have romaine, green leaf, red leaf, and butter crunch lettuces going like gang busters in our new raised bed. Woohoo!

Saturday was the official kick off to the outdoor season of the Haymaker Farmers’ Market. So not only does that mean we’re back at it selling our delicious jams and spreads and gorgeous hypertufas but it also means I am now able to buy loads of local eats (and basically spend all of my profits).

My pal Ami at Breakneck Acres butchered her first round of broiler chickens and she had fresh broilers available at the market this week. You may be asking, “Don’t you guys have chickens?” Well, yes. We do. But the only birds in our freezer are roosters and spent layers and I wanted a killer roast bird, not a stewing hen. So I got a broiler.

I picked up a delicious baguette from Trigo’s Bakery and some rhubarb from Hyde Park Farms (rhubarb cobbler – YUM!).  And my in-laws hooked me up with a big bag of absolutely fantastic asparagus. All of this plus our lettuce and we had the fixin’s for a ‘taste of spring’ Sunday dinner.


I roasted the bird a la Thomas Keller Ad Hoc At Home style. I let the bird sit out on the counter for about an hour and a half to come up to room temperature. I stuffed the bird with fresh thyme, a couple of smashed garlic cloves, and plenty of salt and pepper. I rubbed the outside with a little canola oil and seasoned very liberally with salt and pepper. I trussed the bird, added a few pats of soft butter to the breast, and nestled it on a bed of cubed potatoes and onions. Then I roasted that sucker, gently sauteed some asparagus with shallots and fresh lemon juice, and made a quick salad of several lettuces and Parmesan cheese.

Spring is here. And it tastes delicious!!

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A Playhouse for Peeps

This is the playhouse.

002_playhouseIt’s called the playhouse because we used to play in it as kids. I think my dad and aunts and uncle may have played in it too. If you look to the right you can see where the roof connects to the wood shed – underneath that there is a brick path and there is a window in the side of the playhouse. We spent a lot of hours playing ‘drive thru’ as kids.

Before this was the playhouse it was a chicken coop. I believe there were four of these little coops towards the back of the property; I’m not sure of the exact spot. I guess once my grandparents (or great grandparents?) were done with having so many chickens they got rid of these coops. But someone was smart enough to realize one of them would make a great playhouse so they moved it up closer to the house and fixed it up for play.

Ellie is too small for the playhouse. Plus, there is an amazing spot back behind the buildings where Mike wants to eventually build her a playhouse. It’s a small pine forest and it’s so cool – the perfect spot.

Thus, it was time to re-purpose the playhouse. It was time to take it back to its original glory.

Every year we end up with peeps in a giant rubbermaid tub in our basement. Then they get big enough to fly out but not big enough to move in with the other chickens and we have peeps all over the place. Mike and I are both very, very sick of this arrangement so we finally decided to do something about it. It was decided that the playhouse of my childhood would become the brooder of my adulthood.

We cleaned it out and salvaged materials from around the farm. We lined the floor with heavy duty plastic and Mike put up a frame to support a small door and a wall of chicken wire.

003_blog pic

We found an old screen (maybe for the house but no longer in any condition to use for that now) and it worked perfectly as a door.

Mike did a little electrical work and then we laid down wood chips, hung a feeder, waterer, and heat lamp and then added our 4 peeps.


Here’s a close up of the peeps through the chicken wire.

006_finished02Ellie’s grandpa ordered her a dozen turkey poults and those will be arriving mid-June. This will be the perfect spot for them, along with anything else that hatches in the meantime.

While working on the brooder I also managed to wash our sheets and blankets and hang them on the line, the first line dried items of the season. Oh man. Line dried sheets are one of my very favorite things.


After we finished up we did a few other small projects around the yard and house and then called it quits to enjoy some roasted brussel sprouts, baked sweet potatoes, and meatloaf.

And now it’s Sunday night again. Sheesh. Sometimes it feels like it is always Sunday night.

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Sunday Funday

After a hearty breakfast of egg tacos and maple sausage links we set out to build at least three new raised beds. The plan is to get some “cold weather crops” going – lettuces, various greens, onions, radishes. We’ll do root veggies – namely turnips and beets – in one of the beds and maybe rhubarb in another.

So, the plan was three raised beds. How did we do?

One bed totally finished and complete with soil. One bed constructed but not filled. And the wood for the third bed at least made it to the location though no construction took place.  Pre-baby we would’ve had all three built and filled before lunch. That was a past life. Since the Ellie Bean showed up on the scene Sunday Fundays are about 10x more fun and 10x less productive.

C’est la vie.

We used “reclaimed” wood – stuff we have found around the farm and salvaged from random demolition projects. Mike measured and cut and I held the pieces together while he hammered.

We’re lucky to have some KILLER dirt. We have a few compost piles. I keep a small bin close to the house for kitchen scraps and we have one in the back that is strictly animal bedding. The third pile is a massive heap of dirt and organic matter Mike hauls out of job sites. He turns it once a year and it’s good stuff.

playing in dirt

Ellie enjoyed playing in the dirt until she decided to eat a big handful. But, like the true farm girl she is she just washed her mouth out with a few hearty gulps of water and got right back to it. She makes me so proud.

ellie drinking waterWe filled the bed up with that black gold and then took a lunch break – ham and cheese sandwiches, hummus and chips, some fruit and pink lemonade.

filling bed with dirtLook at this beauty! Maybe on our next Sunday Funday we can actually plant some stuff!!

raised bed_done

After lunch we investigated the asparagus bed and were super excited to see some growth. Woohoo! And the hyacinths are just gorgeous and smell so nice. Spring! Yahoo!

bllog picWe watched the turkeys strut their stuff – strutting is about all the two Toms are doing these days. Fingers crossed for some turkey poults!!

turkeysAnd by then we were winding down. We gave Ellie a “hillbilly wagon ride” around the yard and then called it quits.

hillbilly wagon ride

Later, she fell asleep in her high chair just 1/3 of the way through her dinner. Mike and I weren’t far behind!

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Slow and steady wins the race

Slow and steady wins the race. Nothing moves fast at the Barton house.

Take the nursery for example. Our daughter is 10 months old. The nursery is almost done.

Hear me out. The nursery was/is a MAJOR overhaul and last year saw the major overhaul of our bathroom. And let’s be honest, it is totally acceptable to sacrifice a nursery for a gorgeous tile shower and kick ass bathroom. Our daughter doesn’t know the difference and we can finally shower in luxury!

So, here’s the nursery about a month ago. In typical Mike fashion he failed to take a true before picture. Rats!

bedroom beforeLet me tell you what it looked like before. It had at least three layers of wallpaper over plaster and lath walls and bright blue (think BFI blue) carpet. Mike ripped up the carpet to discover two layers of linoleum on top of the original hardwood floors.

With the help of his cousin he totally gutted the room. Then he redid all the electric, insulated, and put up drywall. He installed two new windows (They actually keep out wind!) and added gorgeous oak trim and window ledges. He put up a new oak door and stained the door, the trim, and all the window trim. He removed that blasted white paint from the chimney cupboard and then sanded it and stained it. And he redid the brick face.

He primed all the walls and ripped up the linoleum. Early on he discovered a hole cut out of the original floor and we were really scared we’d find more. We always think the worst. So far we’ve usually been right to do that. Not this time! Thankfully it’s just that one hole and while it’s certainly a pain in the butt it’s not as big of a pain in the butt as we originally assumed.

Here’s the room now. Woohoo!

ellies roomWe need to pick out paint but I’m 90% sure we’ll stick to our intended “Life Aquatic” theme and go with a light blue with the possibility of a darker blue (or maybe yellow) stripe.

Once we paint (We. like I’m doing any of this work. Ha!) then it’s time to patch that hole in the floor and sand and stain.

By the time baby girl is 1 she will have her own, totally kick ass room built from nearly the ground up by the man who loves her more than life itself. She is a lucky girl (just like me).

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What’s white and white and white all over?

If you guessed over half the woodwork in our house you’re correct!

Painting beautiful, quality woodwork is something that I will never understand. Especially chestnut and wild cherry doors, trim, cabinetry, and wainscoting that were made from wood harvested on the farm!

BUT, those decisions were made in a different time and place and while they probably wouldn’t have been my decisions I certainly hold no ill will.

I’m sure it was popular at one point and I will say it makes me really think about whether some things I like are just trendy or if they will stand the test of time. Staring at all this white paint helps us think a bit more deeply about the decisions we make going forward.

Our house still has the original doors and ceramic knobs (the knobs are gorgeous!) but most of the doors and trim have been painted white; layers and layers of white upon white. So far (for the bathroom remodel and the nursery remodel) the trim hasn’t been salvageable.

The sheer volume of stripping solvents and time it will take to get these beauties back to their original glory is very daunting. So daunting in fact that Mike just got a new door for the room he’s currently renovating. Stripping that original door is going to happen eventually but as for now, “ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Daunting is also the word my grandmother used when we were talking about the woodwork. Seems it was great grandma Verna Belle who was enamored with white paint. My grandmother stripped and refinished two of the rooms downstairs and thank god she did. Both rooms have gorgeous wainscoting, chair rails and built-ins. I can’t imagine the time and effort she put in! Bless you Peg!

But, it’s not all doom and gloom. Check this out!


This adorable old “chimney cupboard” will be the perfect spot for our little girl to house her treasures. Once every lick of paint is gone and it’s cleaned up it will be stunning. Mike is also going to fix up the brick work at the top. I’m so pleased with how it’s looking. The original wood is so beautiful!

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