Find a “Pick Your Own” Farm Near You

TomatoEvery summer, when I see the abundance of fresh fruits and veggies in people’s gardens, I get the urge to break out my jars and start canning like my mom and dad used to do. Most of the time, mind you, I resist this urge. But this year, I’m thinking about giving in.

I’m not a gardener – I don’t stay in one place long enough. But I have discovered several farms where you can pick your own goodies for canning.  I’m thinking of taking the RV, finding a nearby park, and making a weekend of it.

I found a handy site called PickYourOwn.org that has a list of farms, tells you what’s in season, and offers a “how to” section if you need a refresher course on canning.

(By the way, my web browser is doing something a little odd when I open the link, so you may have to click the link, then scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the info you’re looking for.) Then, just click on the cities listed, and find a farm or two. I linked directly to the Texas page, but you can search any state on this site.

Next, of course, I would start looking for a state park nearby and make my weekend plans.

Jelly Jars

This photo is from the PickYourOwn.org site where they also have great recipes and how-to information.

My mouth is watering, just reading the list of fruits ripening right now: blackberries, blueberries, peaches, and figs. I’m envisioning a pantry full of preserves that’ll give me a bit of summer flavor all year long!

Did you grow up canning? What are some of your favorite things to can? Do you have a recipe to share?

Contributed by G. Elaine Acker

 

 

 

 

Weekend Wanderer: Caddo Lake State Park

I’m a native East Texas girl, some of my favorite memories are of trips my family and I took to Caddo Lake State Park. It’s a great weekend getaway for camping, fishing, or just  exploring.

Great Blue Heron in Cypress Swamp

A great blue heron waits for dinner to swim by in one of Caddo's cypress swamps.

On my family’s last visit, we paddled kayaks along Alligator Bayou, floated between cypress trees draped with Spanish moss, ate a picnic on the bank, and watched great blue herons fishing among the water lilies. The landscape was, and remains, basically unchanged from the early 1800s when Caddo Indians skimmed the waters in dugout canoes. The state park itself is situated on Big Cypress Bayou, but Caddo’s complex maze of cypress swamps stretches across 25,400 acres into Louisiana.

Kayaking on Caddo LakeBecause it’s easy to become disoriented in the swamps, Caddo is probably best explored on short kayak excursions from the park, or on guided tours. The park will provide a list of local tour guides when you check in, but I found one online that looks especially interesting: Caddo Outback Tours. Operated by John and Diane Winn in Karnack, Texas (also the birthplace of Lady Bird Johnson, by the way), they offer flexibility on tour times, and niche tours, from photography to gators. I’m always fascinated when tour guides take us through places such as Old Folks Playground, Red Belly, and Hog Wallow – crazy names that distinguish Caddo’s nooks from its crannies.

Every time we visit Caddo, we make it a point to eat at Big Pines Lodge where they serve awesome fried catfish. I was heartbroken in 2009 when the restaurant burned to the ground, but Kevin Allen and Shell Sanford have rebuilt the lodge, which reopened about six months ago. They’re back and I’m told it’s better than ever!

Now that I’ve made myself homesick, I guess I’d better go plan my next visit to Caddo.

If you’ve been to Caddo Lake State Park, be sure to reply and share your memories!

~ Elaine

P.S.

If you visit Caddo Lake, you’ll need these links:

Reserve your camping spot at Caddo Lake State Park:

http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/caddo_lake/

Check out the Big Pines Lodge menu:

http://www.bigpineslodge.com/images/Big%20Pines%20Menu/BPL%20Menu%20REV%2019/index.html

Consider a nice meal at nearby River Bend Restaurant. I haven’t been there, but it’s getting great reviews.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/RiverBend-Restaurant-on-Caddo-Lake/148418491867158

Book a guided tour: http://caddolaketours.com/