The bridge to a bridge

IMG_1434This was Wednesday’s view looking west across the footbridge from the preserve-side of Cranberry Run. The photo wasn’t taken Wednesday, but Antioch College Intern Emma snapped it a couple of weeks ago. Since it was dry as a bone from before that point until Wednesday night, the photo could have been taken three days ago.

A fox squirrel probably lifted the pine cone between then and then, but you get the picture.

Historic records and reminiscences indicate that Cranberry Run, known affectionately in these parts as the Little Cranberry, was a trickle narrow enough for a skip and a jump to cross. The rush of water, sped via human ingenuity north through the Allen County and the southeast corner of Putnam, has accelerated the bankfull width to a current 10 to 15 feet as it falls to Riley Creek.

That’s a little more than a hop to cross. The first Cranberry Run footbridge (in my memory) stretched from the west to a landbridge between the stone quarry and the Run. After channelization in the 1980s, before the Army Corps theoreticized and modeled this ineffectual practice away to leave a native waterway to do what native waterways do best, another bridge was built at a bend 100 yards south. When that gave way, the most recent bridge was engineered downstream again.

IMG_1481This footbridge spans the little creek about 1/8 of a mile upstream of the confluence with the Riley, itself a tributary to the Blanchard River. The structure was built nearly a decade ago and was designed to allow floodwaters to pass through widely-spaced slats. Each end was boxed around trees on opposite banks. Chains were attached to the telephone pole bases, buried and stretched to anchor to other trees.

The bridge held fast until last year when the weathering effects of floodplain fills and heavy windfall from the 2012 derecho carved away enough bank that the anchor trees caved. In 2015, volunteer David Seitz winched and wrangled the structure back into shape, but he knew this was a stop-gap. Sure enough, Wednesday’s 3 to 4 inches of fast, hard rainfall swelled the stream into a fast-moving lake. This morning, I parted the black raspberries along the path and saw that the bridge now angles northwest to southeast rather than due east.IMG_1487

“Am needing a ride this PM,” said David after he saw the photos. He tells me that moving it to another location will probably require disassembly and rebuilding, as well as a lift. Yet, “Possible,” is how he signed off.
Sounds promising to me. Anything is, after all.
Any takers?

At long last, the pie

PieDo you remember this pie, made with wild black raspberries picked right here on the Quarry Farm? A photo of one production of this pie was posted on July 1. What followed were requests for the recipe.

Summer is still with us. The black raspberry picking time may have passed, the last nodules picked clean by hungry birds, but just in case you have some put up in the freezer, here’s that recipe. If you are fresh out, other late summer fruits may suit your taste buds.

BERRY STREUSEL PIE

Crust for single crust pie

  • 5 cups black raspberries or mixed berries such as blackberries, blueberries, and black raspberries
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry for single-crust pie.

2. In a large bowl combine the sugar and flour. Stir in berries and lemon peel (or lemon juice or cinnamon). Gently toss berries until coated. (If using frozen berries, let mixture stand for 45 minutes or until fruit is partially thawed but still icy.)

3. Transfer berry mixture to the pastry-lined pie plate. Crimp edge of pastry as desired.

Sprinkle with Streusel Topping (below).

4. To prevent overbrowning, cover edge of pie with foil. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes (or 50 minutes for frozen fruit). Remove foil. Bake pie for 25 to 30 minutes more or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Streusel Topping: Stir together ½ cup all-purpose flour and ½ cup packed brown sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in 3 tablespoons butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Raiding the Pantry, Old School

When I first started reading, after the picture books but before Tolkein and Bradbury and Ellison, I was drawn to stories like The Swiss Family Robinson and My Side of the Mountain. They were tales about people who basically fell off the map, who by accident or design no longer had access to civilization. To me, in great part, civilization meant grocery stores, because, hey, you can always find shelter, build a fire, weave a poncho out of leaves, design a method for extracting potable water from the air. That’s easy, right? But food? Come on, what are you gonna do if you can’t jet down to the local 7-Eleven or Krogers or Piggly Wiggly and grab a loaf of Wonder Bread and a jar of Peter Pan?

Virginia Creeper Sphinx Moth on black raspberry bramble

As it turns out, you make the whole world your larder. Man, but that grabbed by imagination; that a person could just walk out and pick breakfast, unearth lunch and chase down dinner was about the coolest thing I could think of. I used to hide bananas and bologna sandwiches (safely wrapped in plastic baggies) in our back yard. Then I’d set out in search of food, knowing that if I failed, I’d surely starve. Those were great days and, not surprisingly, given all the melodrama I invested in the whole process, that was some of the best food I ever ate. And now, well, I have the opportunity to do it for real.

So I do.

Right now, the raspberries are starting to come in. It’s early for them. I usually don’t start seriously picking until around the 4th of July. This year, however, they’ve been coming on since the beginning of June. You’ll probably hear me say this a lot this year, but it’s the weather: the mild winter, the rain we had earlier this spring and the hot and dry conditions we have now. Everything’s early. We had red-winged blackbirds on the property in March, blossoms on the blackberry brambles in late April, grasshoppers in the bottom land in mid-May and now, black raspberries.

Berry patches are rife with macroinvertebrates. Here, an immature wheel bug perches in a bowl of black raspberries.

Now I get to go and play castaway, claw my way through the wilderness until I’ve gathered enough sustenance to keep me alive for a few more hours. It’s hard and dangerous work, but food is life.

On the other hand, if the berries don’t pan out, there’s always that loaf of Wonder Bread and the jar of Peter Pan.