For the Birds?

I didn’t slide driving around this morning, but a poor, large bird almost flew into my vehicle crossing over Crab Orchard Lake…

Please be safe driving around in Southern Illinois.  The temperature is right on that line of freezing, and some folks are reporting a few slick spots. Big, fluffy snowflakes have been falling in the Marion area. Some actually are sticking to the geound.

Can you imagine the challenges of being a migrating bird in Southern Illinois? Whiplash could be an issue. “Get in formation, we are heading south for winter.” Then a few miles over, “Hey, it’s almost 70 degrees. Time to go north.” Another few miles: ‘Ugh. Snow. Put it in reverse, we’re heading south again…”

I guess we easily forget the wide range of weather we have, and how quickly it changes. On Christmas, it was so warm outside that we seriously considered dining al fresco on the deck.

That’s not the first warm December we have had. I can remember a December in Carbondale in the late 90’s (1998?) when it was exceptionally warm. Friends and I went to see Aerosmith at the SIU Arena. Later, we all sat out in front of La Roma’s on The Strip eating pizza at midnight and didn’t freeze. I miss La Roma’s…and those concerts. But, I digress…

Above: Carbondale, file photo

I also remember a cold May in the 90’s when a friend and I nearly froze trying to walk around at Fort de Chartres at Prairie du Rocher.

I guess the flipping back and forth of temperatures gives our region more character. It also means perhaps would should cut those poor birds some slack when they poop on our windshields. They must be stressed from all the weather changes.

Above: Our beloved Heidi (Heidi’s Angel Brigade of Southern Illinois was created to honor her memory) on a walk during a prior winter

The Cadence of Southern Illinois…

Strawberries and Memories

Strawberry Season is upon us in Southern Illinois, and it brings many sweet memories with it. Believe it or not strawberries were probably one of the few things that we did not grow on our family’s acre and three fourths in the country. (Gooseberries-check, rhubarb-check, asparagus-check, strawberries-uh, no?) So, we piled into the family car, Pacer or Granada, depending on the year, and went to a local u-pick farm. Often, this was a farm in the Farina, Dix, Kell, or Centralia area. The one by Farina was especially fun because we would stop at Frontier Village for a restroom break and to cool off. My brother and I looked forward to getting those those huge, old-fashioned colorful lollipops.

Once home with our berries, my parents and sometimes my grandma would prep and freeze them by the pint. As a special dessert, my mom would make some wonderful strawberry shortcake.

As unique as it may sound, our kitchen walls actually were covered in strawberry wallpaper. To top it off, a local grocery store sold Strawberry Shortcake (remember her and the dessert squad?) glasses that we would collect to use and display.

Seeing melting chocolate for fruits in grocery stores triggers memories of making chocolate covered strawberries in my dorm room at the Baptist Student Center at SIU-Carbondale. We had potable water, microwaves, and mini fridges. Life was good. My co-ed music fraternity often catered events on campus, and from what I recall, there was sometimes a need for chocolate covered strawberries… I continued making these in grad school too, when I lived in Lewis Park and had an actual kitchenette.

If you have an opportunity to get out and pick your own strawberries, especially as a family, try it at least once just to have that experience. It’s also nice for kids to be able to connect in their heads the process of food growing and making its way to the table. More importantly, family memories you create will last much longer than strawberry season.

Here are some places to contact about U-pick strawberries in Southern Illinois:

ALAHAMBRA

Reinhardt’s Berry Patch, 618-633-2888

BELLEVILLE

Eckert’s Country Store & Farm,

https://www.eckerts.com/belleville-farm

BUMCOMBE

Hallsberry Farms

https://www.facebook.com/Hallsberry-Farms-607311662746573/

CARLYLE

McConauchie Manor Farm

http://mcmanor.com/

CENTRALIA

Schwartz Farms

http://www.schwartzfruitfarm.com/m/

COBDEN

Blue Berry Hill Farm

COLLINSVILLE

W.J. Donahue Sunshine Farms

DIX

Schwartz Farms

http://www.schwartzfruitfarm.com/m/

KELL

Sager Farms

https://www.facebook.com/Sager-Farms-1338423922880064/

MILLSTADT

Eckert’s Country Store & Farm

https://www.eckerts.com/

MURPHYSBORO

McLaughlin Strawberry Farm

https://www.facebook.com/MclaughlinStrawberryFarm/

SIMS

Freelands Strawberries and Vegetables

https://www.facebook.com/FreelandsStrawberries/

ST. JACOB

Demange Farm

https://www.facebook.com/demangefamilyfarms/

Strackeljahn Farms

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Strackeljahn-Farms/126200920766900

WATERLOO

Stuckmeyers Plants & Produce

http://www.stuckmeyer-illinois.com/

WILLOW HILL

Rising Sun Family Farm

https://www.facebook.com/Rising-Sun-Family-Farm-663357053748679/