For the past week, Elaine and I have spent much of our time, it seems, picking strawberries and cherries. For a fortnight every year in late May and early June, first the strawberries and a few days later, the cherries ripen. Our garden usually produces a little over a gallon of strawberries, but our North Star cherry tree is a prolific producer, last year accounting for seven gallons of fruit and this year after the first week, the tree has already produced nearly four gallons.
Picking the strawberries is a simple and leisurely affair and quickly accomplished. Elaine has made a pie from one quart, jam from another, and the rest have gone to top off oatmeal and cereal.
The cherries, however, are an ordeal. Although our tree is a dwarf, I still have to climb a ladder to reach the uppermost branches, a balancing act that I don't particularly enjoy, given my fear of heights. But picking cherries is simple, compared to pitting them. The juice squirts all over us, and the task is tedious.
Still, we gain a sense of accomplishment in the cherries that we freeze and that Elaine turns into preserves will provide us with wonderful desserts over the course of the next year and make us more self-sufficient. Our goal is not to buy desserts or jelly and jams from a store. Indeed, we ate the last of the 2010 cherry preserves just today. And tomorrow, Elaine is going to bake a cherry pie for Memorial Day.