I had full-blown berry fever. After picking several quarts of black raspberries (eating most and freezing some), I started wondering what other edibles may be scattered around my new property. I hoped these were currants, but after tasting one, I thought they must not be edible. A little research revealed these babies were a very popular staple of the pioneers and the Native Americans. They are chokecherries; probably named such because the taste will choke you, and the pits are toxic. However, when cooked down for jelly, or pitted and heavily sugared, chokecherries are supposed to be tasty! I had my doubts. But I was in foraging mode and felt like robbing the birds and teasing the mosquitoes with heavily deeted clothing. So off I went carrying a handy dandy berry bucket and gobbling up black raspberries on the way to the newly discovered chokecherries.
The berries are found on bushes with bark that resembles a cherry tree; the fruit hanging in clusters like grapes. If you try one, be sure to spit out the poisonous pit. After loading up, I rinsed all the cherries and took them off the stems, ending up with about 4 cups. Next they went into a saucepan with a cup of water to be cooked down, mashing them with a potato masher after 15 or 20 minutes.
Then I drained them for the juice ending up with 1 1/3 cup, added 3 cups of sugar and began the boiling process. Instead of using pectin, I boiled this concoction for close to a half hour when it finally did its magic trick and thickened at 220 degrees F. I filled the prepared jars leaving ¼ inch headspace and processed in a hot water bath for ten minutes.
The jelly color is amazing, some of the prettiest jelly I’ve seen. Memories of breakfast buffets in Denmark flooded my mind, with their little crocks of jams and jellies and loads of breads and cheeses and bagels! Jellies are a fancy delicacy in the old world, made with all kinds of unusual fruits, but none better than chokecherries from my own back yard.
Reading blogs this morning when I realized the sun was shining in on my living room make-over. I tried to get shots of it yesterday, but it was raining, and the flash kept washing out the pictures so they didn’t do justice to all the fussing I’d done. But the warm bath of sunshine called me to grab my camera and try again. This is a bit more like it!
Happy blooms from my friend Terri! Friends who spread cheer with flowers. Love ! And another thrift find: the blue vintage metal tray. Drum roll please: 99 cents. (Or was it 69 cents?…I can’t remember)
Found the vintage ticking pillowcase on Etsy for six bucks. And the lighter one I found at a thrift store for under a dollar. But it was one long piece in a six-inch wide strip. So I sewed it together to add to my collection of vintage ticking pillow covers! More love!
I recall the landscape that it arose from. I was a young mom and didn’t know what else I wanted to be. I had never had any career aspirations besides writing and being a Solid Gold dancer; neither of which were coming to fruition. I was an Air Force wife living in Alaska. A woman had invited me to her church to hear someone sing. Since I was to ride with her, I went to her house first. She had several kids, a couple of whom where making crackers on the kitchen counter. I was puzzled. I didn’t know you could make your own Saltines. Another kid came bounding down the stairs with a math worksheet.
“He got all but one.” She handed it to her mother and ran back upstairs.
Something about this household made me feel at home. All the activity, the finches chirping away in their cage, the kids, the smell of things baking, it reminded me of the home I grew up in. It was my first exposure to homeschooling and I knew right away what I could be for the next twenty or thirty years.
Many years before that, I had seen a PBS interview with a homeschooling mom. She had big frizzy hair like a hippie. The camera zoomed in on her face as she spoke with tears in her eyes, “All kids need is love,” she was saying. But it wasn’t just her words. It was the way she said it. Like she was pleading with the whole world to simply stop and love your kids. I made fun of her a little bit. But I never forgot her. And when people would ask me, years later why I homeschooled my kids, I would say, “I just wanted them around. I didn’t want to part with them for six hours a day.”
Today kids are away a lot more than six hours. Up around 6AM to bathe, eat, and get off to a sitter or daycare until the bus comes, then a full day of being directed by teachers and surrounded by other kids. Then the after school programs and sitters, and finally home in time for a quick dinner and a very early bedtime so the poor things aren’t too tired at dawn.
I’ve always felt sorry for the other kids. In Alaska, I would wake mine up and we would look out the window over the back of the couch. It was still dark and all the little kids had their backpacks over their snowsuits and hats and mittens and flashlights waiting at the crosswalk while all the grown ups went by in their cars on their way to work. We drank cocoa and felt warm and glad we didn’t have to join the ranks of the normal folks.
Some people are just cut out for homeschooling. They don’t fit the system. And others would not dream of homeschooling. My advice is this: If you wish you could, you can. And if you feel drawn to it, you probably should give it a try. It was the privilege of a lifetime to spend years with my kids around me. Those years go by in a blink.
Homeschooling Tips for Beginners: