Saturday, May 14, 2011

Spiny Gooseberry Shangri-La

Yesterday my colleague Tim and I drove to Yreka (about 40 minutes away) to check out what sorts of things they are doing at their continuation school. The way my principal had been going on about it, I expected them to be all shiny and superior to us. Turns out they have just as many problems as we do and are suspending more this year than before, so in the end I sort of wondered why we went. Although the principal there did hint that he might like to hire me for a job opening up over the summer. Which was nice and flattering, but he has no idea I'm pregnant, and in any case the position in question is full-time. I'm currently finding my 75% time position to be exhausting. I don't see adding a 40 minute commute and another 25% in the fall when I'll be carrying a bowling ball around. But I did tell my husband about it. It's an independent study job which is appealing to Jeff. He'd have to take an English CSET, though, and in my experience, once you have an English credential people don't want to hire you for anything else. Still, if Jeff has his way he's only ever going to teach IS for the rest of his career, in which case having English as well as social science would be a good thing. So anyway we'll see--he wants to wait and find out if our current district decides to screw him first.

After the school visit, which we got done with around 11:30, Tim, who is a scrupulous and conscientious person, said he didn't want to go directly back to Mount Shasta before 2:15. I considered pointing out that I am only required to work until 1:30, but I didn't want to burst his bubble of sincerity. (I, for one, have no qualms about getting an extra hour or two off--I know, I'm wicked). We went to a coffee shop and talked a bit about the school and he proceeded to list four possible places we could go next for either a walk or a drive and to eat our bag lunches. My mind started to wander. Hey, I really like Tim, but my concentration isn't what is could be these days, and most of the time I'm contemplating a nap. So all I could remember was the first place, so I said I'd like to go there.

What luck! He took me to the Shasta Valley Wildlife Area and we walked up the side of a hill to see the view. At first I didn't take much in because I was too busy trying to keep up with him and avoid bursting a lung (I'm a little out of shape from all the couch naps). But on the way back down, I saw a spiky-looking bush. I stopped and checked it out, and called Tim over (who is the science and math teacher at our school and probably one of the most outdoorsy people I know). "Look," I said. "Spiny gooseberries!"

What in the world are spiny gooseberries, you ask? Well, last fall I stumbled upon a bush of them for the first time. They were frightening: they looked like red currants on steroids. Big, nasty steriods.

At the time I took a photo (this is not my photo, mine was horribly blurry--I found this in a websearch--but this is exactly what ripe spiny gooseberries look like). I was careful not to touch them, and it took me about a week to finally identify what they were. Turns out, they are edible.

So I was pleased to find this bush, because by the time I got back to that first bush I found, someone else had already picked them. So I never got to taste them, and I suspected that there wouldn't be enough on one bush to make jelly (as I understand it you must cook them, if for no other reason than to soften the spikes coming off the berries). So now I'd found two bushes. Sweet!

Tim was very curious about them, and we discussed the bush for a while, and then moved on. About two feet away, I found another bush. And then a yard more, and there was another. In fact, this entire hill was covered in them, and they cropped up all around the pond we walked around. There are so many, I will never be able to pick them all, once they are ripe. Pretty cool! I hope they taste good.

Have you ever had gooseberries? Perhaps the more tame variety that are green like grapes? What is the strangest fruit you've ever eaten? Do you like to pick wild berries, like blackberries or blueberries? Would you try some of my spiny gooseberry jelly or would you be afraid? :)

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