The Bounty of 10 Local Dollars

Strawberry Picking!

Strawberries are in!

Strawberry Picking 5And so are the daisies and rhubarb. This is our pull from a morning’s work…2 buckets of strawberries, a bundle of rhubarb and a bucket of wildflowers all for $10. Can it get any better?

The kids and I packed up enough Strawberry Picking 6snacks for 3 days and headed to the strawberry patch for an hour and a half.

The snacks and the tractors on the farm kept my youngest occupied and off the strawberry plants. The camera–and photos below–plus the myriad weeds/wildflowers kept my oldest occupied.

The farm where we pick doesn’t spray any chemicals. So that field of weeds with the farm in the distance is actually the strawberry patch. It’s fun hunting for the berries among daisies and wheat. Plus, when the kids get bored of picking strawberries, they pick the flowers.

Strawberry Picking 4

Strawberry Picking 9Strawberry Picking 2Strawberry Picking 7Strawberry Picking 8

Blueberries for SalConicindentally we read Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey this week, a sweet little storybook about a girl who puts more blueberries in her mouth than in the bucket. That was our theme, too. But we did come away with enough for eating and freezing, and I have big plans to return so I can get more for jam and strawberry cordial (more on that to come in later days).

Enough procrastinating on the dish-washing and strawberry-hulling. And if you hear an explosion, that’s my making-rhubarb-sauce-in-the-pressure-cooker experiment gone awry. Wish me luck!


Who says life is boring if it’s vanilla. Frankly, vanilla is a pretty nice flavor. So I decided to make my own.

A few friends went in on bulk vanilla bean buy a few weeks ago, and I finally got around to making my vanilla extract. Here’s how you do it.

1. Start with some good Bourbon Vanilla Beans. You can also use Tahitian Vanilla Beans or whatever else you can get your hands on. Too bad they don’t have Smell-o-blogs so I could give you a whiff of how great my kitchen smelled today.

Vanilla Beans

2. Split the beans down the middle with a knife, except for the last inch so they stay intact.

Split Vanilla Beans

All those moist seeds inside, plus the outer pod, are what make the yummy vanilla taste.

Split Vanilla bean closeup

3. Pour vodka into the bottle with the beans at a ratio of 6 beans to two cups of vodka. Hedge suggested adding a tablespoon of rum to make it a tad sweeter. You can also use brandy or rum instead of the vodka. Remember, all extracts retain their flavor because they’re preserved in alcohol.

Pouring vodka into vanilla beans

4. Cap off and store in a dark place for 6 to 8 weeks. The darker the liquid, the strong the vanilla taste.

Bottled Vanilla beans

Just a few hours after I bottled the vanilla it was the color of weak tea. There’s a batch of chocolate chips make with this extract waiting for me in mid-June (if I can wait that long).

This really is as easy as it sounds, which probably leaves you wondering, “Why haven’t I tried this?” A bottle of vanilla can be pricey. And so can the beans. A local grocery store sells beans for about $5 for a package of 2. Find a good place online to order in bulk, and you can get beans for less than a dollar a piece. Keep in mind that a pound of vanilla beans equals about 100 pods, so sharing is good.

By the way, this bottle held a double batch of 4 cups of vodka and 12 beans. If you don’t put in enough beans, you end up with vanilla vodka instead of vanilla extract. Either way, you win!

******Update: My vanilla is dark, dark, dark and it looks great. I can’t wait to bottle it and give it as gifts to everyone! ******