Tonight’s dinner consisted of popping handfuls of raspberries.  It was drizzling while picking/eating so technically they were washed.  After “dinner” I grabbed eggs from the coop for tomorrow’s breakfast.  I’m getting at least 2 eggs a day, typically from the Aracunas who have just started laying in the last 3 weeks.  The Dixie Chixs (Buckeyes) are about 1-1/2 years old and may only lay sporadically for the rest of their lives.  But they are still the friendliest chickens – willing to tolerate holding and loving by anyone – especially if they are rewarded with some scratch.

So that means that 2 meals a day for at least 4 days the last week have technically cost me nothing.  Now how awesome is that!  Of course, as my parents always told me – nothing is free.  This reference was most frequently used regarding animals advertised on cardboard signs.

Raspberries definitely make you pay for every berry with thorns.  Most people maintain well manicured gardens, I try for a while, but it doesn’t take long for it to get ahead of me.  There is the time invested to initially plant vines and patience required awaiting the initial crop.  Late fall or early spring it’s a good idea to prune back old vines and clean out the patch in preparation for the next year’s abundance.  So there is work as part of your payment.

Chickens require feed.  It amazes me how little my free-range chickens eat.  Five chickens rarely go through 50 pounds of crumbles during the summer.  In the winter, November to March, they might go through 100 lbs of crumbles.  They would be thrilled to go through 50 pounds of scratch every month, but I am careful to minimize what they get and mix it with their crumbles.  They know it’s a treat because I put little piles of it in the same area where all the neighbors leave scraps for them.

2012-07-26 18.28.43There was the expense of building a chicken coop, $390.  Majority of the supplies were re-purposed.  It took a lot of time, but was entertaining.  It was also the first major building project I did without my Dad’s guidance and supervision.  This gave me a great sense of accomplishment.  Hmmm . . . so it cost me a little financially, but it felt like I got a lot more out of that project than I put into it.

There is of course the work that goes with live animals. The horse, dog, and cat get the same effort but provide only companionship in return.  Providing water, a clean living area, roaming space, medical care, and attention takes time out of each day.  And while companionship doesn’t seem like much, I’m surrounded by adoring fur children.  When I pull in the driveway the chickens run to meet me, the cat greets me at the door, the dog rolls over for a belly rub once his crate is opened, and the horse nickers.  Pretty certain the commitment of my time has been paid in excess.  So while nothing in life may be free, there is also the adage that effort is rewarded.

Ever Bearing

After work this evening I changed clothes, grabbed #Dudley’s leash and drove back into Bryan for a leisurely stroll around our favorite park.  Last night at #Weight Watchers my weight was not where I wanted it AGAIN!  My activity has been down significantly and my will power has not been strong.  I will not be discouraged so I am committing myself to more exercise and better will power this week.  There will be a positive outcome on the scale next week.

rasberriesDinner consisted of standing around the raspberry patch and munching those wonderful morsels as fast as I could get them off the vine.  Our patch is made up of ever-bearing berries that produce fruit most of the summer.  That first taste of sweet berries is incredible, but the berries late in the summer are larger, sweeter, and have more juice.  In other words, irresistible!  The unseasonably cool weather makes for great berry picking and as long as you don’t get swarmed by mosquitoes as the sun goes down, its pretty comfortable except the thorns.

Picking berries is a family tradition, and in our family most of the berries that made it into the house were the ones Mom picked.  The rest of us ate more than we put in the basket.  When Mom would rinse off the ones that made it inside she would point out all the little black bugs that came out of there and remind us that we were eating all those.  Never slowed us down – protein pops!  Considering the marvelous foods Mom made with those berries, we should have been more motivated to get them inside to her.  Mom would use 3-4 cups of raspberries, 1/4 c of sugar, 2 T flour – toss that in a crust and put a crust on top and make the most incredible raspberry pie.  No fillers or jellies – just natural raspberries creating their own jelly.  Raspberry jelly was the other thing she would make.  During the winter when we would open a jar of that jelly, it was a reminder of those fresh berries.  After breaking the paraffin seal, I would lick the jelly and knaw at the wax to get every bit of that raspberry goodness.

Dad was the worst about raspberries.  He hated them “wasted” on pies and jams.  Mowing around the berry patch was a labor intensive process that required stops at every vine to lessen the weight strain.  Dad could spend an hour mowing around our small berry patch.  After he finished mowing the only picking left was on the inside of the patch – Dad didn’t do thorns, and why should he – that’s what he had girls for!

These berry good memories came as I enjoyed the bounty from vines transplanted from that childhood patch and I realized that Ever Bearing was not only marvelous fruit, but wonderful family memories.