Thursday, August 10, 2017

farmlife issue no. 15

I can almost catch my breath again. Berry harvest 2017 is almost one for the books.  Here is a random synopsis of this year's harvest-perhaps one day I'll be an organized, planned ahead blogger, but for now, this is what I can put into this little space. And I know you're all just here for the photos anyway;).  

This year I was a lot more removed from the process with the arrival of sweet Wendell June 2. But since we live on site now, I still felt very much a part. Many evenings when Dar was out helping the night crew get started, Fee, Wendell, & I were on our back patio, hearing the hum & watching the lights above the canes moving slowly through the berries like a benevolent cranking monster. 
Fresh market blackberries started our season. I did miss the interaction with the pickers. A lot of them come back year after year, & I'm starting to get to know them as much as one can with a huge language barrier. 
I wish there was someone writing down their stories: stories that when the method of berry picking evolves (surely it will?) & memories of Hispanic migrant workers are a thing of the past. Perhaps their stories will slowly disappear & only the echoes of mariachi music on hot July days in the Willamette Valley will be heard someday to remember that they were here. Although their tacos are here to stay, at least in our household. 

It was the first year Kenton was part of the farm. Seeing Dar work with his Dad the past four years has been an experience I've tucked away as one I want for my sons & their father. Throwing Kenton in too only feels natural. We're so close to them already, & having Alicen as a fellow farmer's wife will be a boon.
Our kids are already more like siblings than cousins. (re: fighting, loving, fighting on repeat)
(Just berries on her face, no worries)
They have no idea how charmed their childhood has been: aunts & uncles at their beck & call, late nights on the harvester, rides around the farm, berries in their backyard, rides in the berry trucks to the "canneria", short swims in the pond (mostly Fee, the others are a little leery), and always a constant stream of activity sweeping down the dusty dirt paths of the berry roads between our house and theirs. There are windstill nights when I'm out on our back patio that I can hear familiar voices from the little blue barn homestead (Kenton & Alicen) & the homeplace carried over the pond & across the road. Even in the dark, in the country, I never feel alone. 
Berry harvest is a group effort. I think that's one aspect that's so appealing to me. Dan, my step-dad, spent a few weeks here helping out. My mom joined him the second week. 

It was such a help to have him out! Alicen's dad was out, too, and I know our farmers appreciated the extra truck drivers, grunts, handymen, run-around "go-fors" that they were. 
Picking berries night & day 6 days a week takes all the help it can get. My role this year wasn't fieldhand, but support. I realized this year more than ever how to help Dar during his crazy busy season. Being a farmer's wife is a quiet, behind-the-scenes job. There isn't a whole lot of glory in it. Flexibility & patience are key! That said, I wouldn't have Dar be anything other than what he is. It's so satisfying to see how far we've come during this time of year!
Working around the clock is hard. And not seeing him often is hard. Taking care of two kids solo (while I had tons of help from family) is hard. But there is something to be said for hard: the reward is sweet. It makes the rest after the whirlwind feel like I imagine heaven must. 
The night crew this year put in a long season (they still aren't quite done). We loved having the extra kids around. Swinging on our back porch swing & seeing them dive into the pond before a long night's work brought back the feelings of being seventeen again. (Nearly a decade ago already!) It's formed relationships that never would've been made across the thousands of miles otherwise. I can see them already, one decade from now, watching my kids jump off the dock before a night's work thinking my same thoughts:). Blake & Weston became part of the "uncles" to Fee. She likes "those boys". 

Despite another summer with unusually hot weather, the berries fared well. Yields were down from last year in some fields. I'm still always shocked at the astronomical amount of berries that get picked on the farm! One local cannery (and there's 8 within 30 minutes of the farm) received 700,000 pounds of berries in one day. 

And here we are already/finally. The finish line is in view. 
We're ready for some slow time. For evenings spent together completely uninterrupted by switching on sprinklers, getting the night crew started, & equipment breakdowns. But we're ending the season better & stronger & more committed to making this thing we have going work, & work well. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

when Laura's home


I wasn't born into this one, but four years of togetherness, while still not having earned me a nickname, has become woven into my life story like the one that shaped me. 

And when Laura comes home, the entire family is together in completeness, & even I feel it. She was married & moved away before I became an in-law, but I get a taste of what the Tom & Edie family was in their busiest, fullest-house years when she comes home. 

Contentment & a sense of wholeness again reign supreme when she's home. The tupperware cupboard gets organized. The fridge gets cleaned out. The girls have their big sister to get advice from. Riley gets whatever he wants for breakfast. Family walks after evening meals. She's the shaker, the mover, the magnet that draws everyone back to the big, white farmhouse on Saratoga Drive. 

I feel a little like I've been around longer than I actually have when she's home: I see the family history, the backstories, the forgotten nicknames when Laura's home. 

When Laura's home, I feel the same urge I think everyone else does to love a little more, be a little more selfless, & value time with the ones I love more than anything else. 

 When Laura's home these days, our oldest children buddy up. They'll have memories of her childhood home just like hers in some ways. 

When Laura's home, we're together. 

Laura, you're loved. It's so obvious to me that you mean so much to your family. There's a big white farmhouse on Saratoga Drive with this view of Mt. Hood that is never more like its true, whole self than when you're home. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Raspberry Cream Cheese Rolls

I apologize in advance for the excessive use of parentheses (but I'm not sure how else to fit in all those side notes...), convoluted relationships, & diet-killer recipe. Also, if yours don't turn out, it's due to my scrambled directions, & Carol & Jeanelle are not to be held responsible. 

Before I married into the Sinn family, (before I ever dreamed I'd be marrying into the Sinn family), my friend (now my sister-in-law), had a mother named Carol (who became my aunt...sorry! all the connections need to be mentioned:) ) who made the most delicious Raspberry Cream Cheese Rolls.  Soft, sweet roll dough cradling a moist raspberry filling, topped with a rich cream cheese frosting...I tried to be around during Ken's Oil customer appreciation, because I knew those rolls would be there. (Never mind that I wasn't a customer.) 

There was also a recipe in my family cookbook (ask my sister Shara for info on how to get your hands on one) for "Jeanelle's feather rolls". I had no idea who Jeanelle was. But her rolls were fantastic! 

And then, in a wonderfully strange God-ordained chain of events. my friend became my sister-in-law, her mother became my aunt, the unknown Jeanelle became my cousin, & I married into a family of berry growers. Raspberries at my fingertips. So many that I had to start coming up with ways to use all the ones I put in the freezer during my first summer of mad berry hoarding. (Which hasn't really slowed down, five years later...)
My new husband didn't care for sweets.  I love to bake. With excessive amounts of cream preferably. But he does love Raspberry Cream Cheese Rolls. So I made them. Aaaand, they weren't great at the beginning. I got Carol's, now Aunt Carol's, recipe. And I made them over and over and over. 

It took time, but I've found our favorite combination of sweet & raspberry & just a hint of almond. For the sake of convenience, I make "Jeanelle's feather rolls" roll dough. I'm used to it, & it's never let me down. (Not since I realized I was killing my yeast with too hot of water...). Plus, I love that using Jeanelle's recipe means it's still a family recipe:). I leave the extra sugar out of the filling & we haven't missed it. And Dar's mom's touch: a splash of almond extract in the frosting. (I haven't yet, but slivered almonds on top would be a delightful addition)
 The rolls are an assembly of three parts: the dough, softened cream cheese, and the raspberry filling. That could be the recipe right there. Make your favorite roll dough, spread with softened cream cheese, & thickened raspberries. Bake according to your roll dough recipe, then frost.  If you'd like my exact recipe, (although be warned, I'm not a very exacting sort of person), here it is.

Jeanelle's feather rolls

yield: 2 9x13 pans of rolls

1/2 c. warm water
2 pkg. active dry yeast (2 1/4 t. each)
1 T. sugar
1 c. warm milk
1 1/4 t. salt
1/3 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/3 c. shortening
1 1/2 t. baking powder
5 1/2 c. all purpose flour (can use 1 c. whole wheat flour, I've also used bread flour)

Dissolve yeast and 1 T. sugar in warm water (I use my kitchenaid). Add milk, salt, sugar, eggs, shortening, and baking powder. (I beat with the paddle attachment til mixed, then switch to the hook when I start adding flour.) Add flour last, one cup at a time. Knead slightly: dough will be sticky. Let rise one hour. Punch dough down, & divide in half.

 On a lightly floured surface, roll one half out into a 9x18 inch rectangle (approximately:) ). Spread 4 oz of softened cream cheese over surface. Spread half of your raspberry filling (recipe follows) over cream cheese. Also, aren't the little hands helping just too sweet? #floureverywhere

 Roll up  & cut into 18 rolls. I've found that a serrated knife coated in flour every cut works best for cutting these rolls. They are very tender & tend to ooze a little filling if you don't cut gently. Don't push, let the weight of the knife cut for you. If you're an exacting sort of person, cut a roll every inch.

Put in a sprayed 9x13 pan and let raise for 30 minutes. Repeat for other half of dough. Preheat oven to 350. Bake raised rolls for 18 minutes or until very lightly browned. Let cool, then frost with cream cheese frosting (recipe follows). Try to keep from licking it off everything...

Cream Cheese Filling
8 oz. cream cheese, softened (if you like it a little sweeter, you can add 4 T. powdered sugar & blend together: I never add it anymore)

Raspberry Filling
2 c. raspberries, fresh or frozen
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. clear jel, miraclear, or cornstarch (clear jel works well, but I don't always have it on hand)
dash of salt

Combine raspberries, sugar, & salt in saucepan over medium heat. When raspberries start to break apart, add the clearjel, miraclear, or cornstarch, & stir constantly until mixture is a clear, shiny red & all clumps are dissolved. (If using cornstarch, you can take a little of the raspberry mixture & mix it with the cornstarch before adding it to prevent clumping. I sometimes do, sometimes don't. Never had any complaints yet about clumpy filling :) ). Let cool to room temp before spreading on cream cheese filling.

Cream Cheese Frosting
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 T. cream or milk
2 t. almond extract (I like my almond: you could use just 1 t., or vanilla extract instead)

Mix cream cheese until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, milk or cream, and almond extract. Adjust to desired consistency. Spread over cooled rolls.

Enjoy. And share a pan. I love that this makes 2 pans. I take one across the street to the family (after all, they provide the raspberries!), & freeze half of the rest for a later date. Or company. Whichever comes first (company usually). 

Raspberry Cream Cheese Rolls. Bringing families together & using up a berry hoarder's stash since 2013.
I'd love to hear how you like them! (I know you will.)