How to Pick Raspberries

Raspberries ready to pick

Raspberries ready to pick.
Photo by Patti Tokar Canton. All Rights Reserved

Today our raspberry bushes were covered with ripe berries. My husband Chris and I had noticed that they were ripening over the last few days and I was looking forward to doing some serious raspberry picking.

I’m not sure what I like most about picking raspberries – the pretty scene of the red berries against the vibrant green leaves, the anticipation of eating the berries, or the opportunity to spend some time with Chris.

One of Chris’ favorite things is raspberries, so whenever I mention that it’s picking time, he is always right there beside me, bowl in hand.

Today I’ll share some thoughts on how to pick raspberries.

First take note that raspberries are a member of the rose family and, like roses, raspberries do have thorns.  The thorns are slender, short,  sharp,  and almost fuzzy.

Our raspberries are growing along the length of our chain-link fence, so we don’t have to do much stepping into or reaching into the clusters of limbs.  For that reason Chris and I don’t wear gloves or long sleeves when we pick raspberries.

For most cases, though, when you pick raspberries, you should wear long sleeves, long pants, and gloves.  This is especially true if you are picking from a thick raspberry bramble and will need to reach or step far into the bushes to reach the fruit.

Our raspberries turn a beautiful deep shade of dark red when they are ripe.  In the early summer, they start out as hard, little brown buds that seem to me to look like dried up raspberries.  With a little patience and a lot of rain and sun, the berries begin to turn white, then green, then pale pink, then orange-red, and finally dark red.  The dark, yet vibrant, red berries are ready to pick.

When the raspberries are almost too ripe, they will develop a faint dusty grey sheen.  Once they have reached this stage, pick them at once and enjoy or freeze them right away.

It’s really not hard to tell when a raspberry is ready to pick.  All you have to do is try to pick them.  If you gently pull at the berry, the ripe ones will just slide off into your hand. Ripe raspberries leave behind a stem with a soft white core on the cane when they are picked.  The berry itself will have a hollow tube shape in the middle.

If the raspberry gives resistance and is hard to pull off the cane, then it is not quite ripe.  Don’t worry if you pick a few that did not slide easily off the stem.  If they are just slightly under-ripe, they will finish ripening in your refrigerator.

Take note at this point that some raspberry varieties will ripen to a blue-black color, very similar to the color of blackberries.  Use the same test for telling when they are ripe:  If you have to force them off the cane, they are not yet ripe.  Further, the ripe blue-black raspberries will also leave a white core behind on the cane when they are picked.  (That is one way you can tell raspberries from blackberries, by the way.)

After you’ve picked a few ripe berries, you will begin to recognize the color of the ripe raspberries.  For our raspberries, the not-yet-ready ones will be orange red.  When they lose the orange color and deepen to red, they are ready to pick. So I watch for the orange tint and avoid picking the ones that have not reached dark red.

You have to check individual raspberries for ripeness.  Although they grow in clusters, I almost always find that they ripen at different rates.  One or two berries in the cluster might be rich-ripe while the other berries are still not even close to being ready to pick.

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Raspberries hidden in the leaves.
Photo by Patti Tokar Canton. All Rights Reserved













As the raspberries are picked, they should be gently placed in the container.  The berries are delicate and can fall apart or bruise if they are not handled with a bit of reverence.

I don’t wash the raspberries before I refrigerate them.  I find that they last much longer if I rinse them just before eating.

If you prefer to wash them before storing them, be very gentle with the water spray.  (Some advocate adding a tablespoon or so of vinegar to the rinse water to help them stay fresher.  I haven’t tried using vinegar in the rinse, so I can’t say much about it.)  Lay the berries single file and let them dry before storing.  Water drops left in them will turn them soft and encourage molding.

Fresh picked raspberries will last a little longer in your refrigerator than store-purchased ones. I can keep raspberries for up to a week in the refrigerator.  After about four days, though, they start to get soft and begin to get overripe.

At this point in storage, or actually a day or two before they reach this point, I put the raspberries in the freezer and use them later in smoothies, on cereal, or for baking.  Raspberries freeze surprisingly well for such a delicate fruit.

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Freshly picked raspberries.
Photo by Patti Tokar Canton. All Rights Reserved

Here are the raspberries we picked today.

Don’t those look delicious?  I feel like a lucky woman to have the luxury of walking outside and picking an abundance of these beautiful raspberries.




For tips on picking mulberries, see our earlier post …. Wild Blackberries? No, they are Mulberries


 Namaste Yoga – Beauty, Grace, Strength

Two days ago, I wrote about ten minute workouts at home and included links to no-cost YouTube workouts.  One of my all-time favorite yoga workouts is Kate Potter’s Namaste Yoga.  I love the beautiful views, the shifting locations, the changing perspectives, the graceful, yet powerful moves, and the soft narration.

In my post I mentioned only one video clip of the Namaste Yoga workout which I like even though it  abruptly ends.  Now I have found something even better:  an entire episode.    The site has a sample episode.

I’m thrilled to be able to share this with my readers!   Here is the link:

Namaste Yoga Practice by Kate Potter – Sample Episode

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.








 Ten Minute Workouts at Home – More Workout Videos

In a prior post, Getting Fit With a 15 Minute Workout – Start with a 5 or 10 Minute Workout, I shared a list of five- to fifteen- minute videos that make a great (and no-cost) way to stay fit with  ten minute workouts at home.

Fitness - Measuring WaistIt’s worth repeating:  going from no exercise to even five or ten minutes of regular daily exercise can improve not only your fitness level, but your self-confidence and your appearance.

More important, committing to 10 minutes of exercise everyday is easier at first than staying committed to a 45 minute daily workout.  It fits better into your existing schedule and it has the psychological feel of being something you can quickly and easily master.

All those factors combined mean that it is much more likely that you’ll actually get started on a daily workout and stay with it long enough that it becomes a deeply ingrained habit, much like the five minutes it takes you each morning to brush your teeth.

Once a habit is formed, you can start to build on it.  If you’ve been exercising for 5 minutes each morning, you can start going for 6 or 7 minutes, then after that is easy and automatic, go to 8, then 9, 10, and up.

If you hit a spot where you begin skipping your workout or dreading the burden of the time or energy commitment, then ease back just a bit either in the total time of the routine, or ease back slightly in the exertion of the workout until you again  accept that the workout is a part of your regular morning routine.

Find New Workouts For Renewed Inspiration

One way I have found that keeps me working out every morning is to have a variety of workouts and routines.  I will get attached to one workout and look forward to it every day, but eventually will start to feel a little bored with it.  Once that starts, I immediately search  for and find other workout videos, either from buying them on ( workout videos) or vidoes,  or by searching for them on YouTube.

Since the free workout routines on YouTube allow for more variety at no cost, I gravitate toward these first.  Plus, most of the purchased workout DVD’s have sample routines on YouTube, so I can try them out before spending money on a DVD without knowing whether I will even like the workout.

More Ten Minute Workouts at Home Videos

That said, here are some of the YouTube routines of ten minute workouts at home that I’ve recently been using and loving:

Yoga Workout for Happiness – Mandy Ingber Fitness – Class FitSugar.   I discovered this one by accident.  The 10 minute yoga routine is not only fun, but I really do feel light and happy during and after the routine.  A beginner will enjoy this video, although there are a few movements that are a little complicated (could just be me – it takes me awhile to catch on to new movements.) As a bonus, the video has another of my favorite features:  there is a countdown timer in the upper corner so that you know all through the workout how much time is left.

Namaste Yoga – Namaste Yoga 12 Minute Flex Part I.  The Namaste Yoga (a Kate Potter creation formerly a program on FitTV) is my all-time favorite yoga workout.  I love doing the graceful and sensual movements and I love the beautiful scenery and the way the view and the background changes right in the middle of a movement.

That said, be forewarned that this video just abruptly stops at 9:47.  There are other Namaste Yoga YouTube videos that I have found, but they are all little 2 or 3 minute snippets. has entire seasons of Namaste Yoga for sale , but they are pricey! I’ve got them on my list, though, for buying one day as the ultimate gift to myself.   I’ve been watching for them on and even eBay, but apparently whenever someone gets one of these DVD’s they cherish them and don’t let them go.  I don’t blame them.  I will do the same.

Tara Stiles has many 10 to 20 minute yoga workouts that I gravitate toward because yoga is my favorite type of workout.

Tara Stiles is on the LiveStrong Woman channel.  The LiveStrong Woman series has a video for  nearly every type and time length of exercise that you can imagine.   Most seem to be in the 5 – 15 minute length, but I have not had the chance to look at all 123,000 of them to say for sure!

My favorite workouts at home are yoga and dance,  and sometimes pilates.  I’d love to hear what type of at home exercise routines you are doing!





 Chicken Chicken Chicken Chicken. Egg.

“Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral.”
     ~Frank Lloyd Wright

Lady Madonna, one of our new chickens



Almost two weeks ago, we bought four chickens from a local microbiologist.  Despite the oddity of buying from someone whose interest in chickens seemed to be somewhat scientific – he was interested in egg color or something along that nature – it was a perfectly normal transaction.

Chris walked through the chicken yard with the owner and pointed out the hens we chose.  I hung back on the other side of the fence, not quite trusting the birds. Their beaks looked pointier and their claws much sharper than I expected.  Four hens – two beige and two dark tan ones – were lifted by their legs, carried briefly upside-down and loaded into the cage we brought.

After a noisy but uneventful ride home, Chris released the chickens into the chicken coop that he had built for them in the barn.  We coaxed them out into the yard.  We poured feed into their brand-new automatic feeder  – it resembled a big tin can the size of an oatmeal canister fastened above a big tin plate.   Their watering container was filled with fresh water.  The nesting boxes had fresh dried grass.  The bottom of the coop was lined with pine shavings.

We named the hens Lady Madonna (that’s her in the photo), Henny Penny, Lucy, and Ethyl.

Henny Penny took a fancy to Chris right away and breaks out into a run toward him whenever she sees him.  It could have something to do with the fact that he is the one who feeds them, but it’s fun to watch at any rate.

We got the chickens because we wanted the advantage of fresh eggs with higher nutrient content as well as to simply enjoy raising chickens.  We had space in the otherwise unused barn and a large fenced in area and Chris enjoys raising animals, so it seemed a natural step.

I started checking for eggs from the first day.  A couple of  times a day, I took a tour around the coop, checking the nesting boxes, the floor, and all the ledges.  Then I walked all over the yard, looking for eggs.  Nothing.

Our hens are a breed usually raised for broiling rather than laying eggs (Freedom Rangers).  They are usually not as prolific with egg-laying as other breeds.  While we plan to add more traditionally egg-laying pullets (no roosters!) over the next couple of months, we got these mostly because Chris had finished our coop and the opportunity presented itself to get these four hens.

We waited almost two weeks.  Every day the same question:  Did you find any eggs?  Answer: Nope.  Repeat daily, sometimes several times a day. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nothing.

We started getting a little nervous.  Would they lay eggs at all?  I was already attached to our “girls”, and loved watching their antics, even though I still felt cautious around them.  We decided we were keeping them regardless.

Then it happened. Chris went out to clean the coop and check on the “girls.”  There, in the coop (not in the nesting box, but that’s another story of chicken-egg-laying lessons learned) was a beautiful, perfectly formed brown egg.

Brown egg freshly laid


You would think we’d never seen an egg before.  It was simply lovely.  The egg was surprisingly clean, smooth, and I’d swear it had a bit of a glow about it.  We had a mini-celebration in the chicken yard.   I suspect this type of reaction on our part will wear off eventually as the hens start laying regularly.

Who laid the egg?  Not one of the hens behaved in the least bit differently.  We don’t know, but I think it was Lady Madonna.

Myself, I’ll never look at an egg quite the same way.   I understand now why a microbiologist would be fascinated with them. They are an oval-shaped miracle.

Have you had any experience raising chickens?







 Healing the Black Holes of Your Life

I’m reading – or perhaps I should say working through – the book Find Your Purpose, Change Your Life by Carol Adreinne.  (As a side note, I have an extra copy of this book that I plan to give away on this site or on the Simple Life Facebook page  so do watch for that promotion. )  This quote was the page header for one of the chapters:

Ornate golden key on a ribbon“If aspects of the person remain undigested – cut off, denied, projected, rejected, indulged, or otherwise unassimilated – they become the points around which the core forces of greed, hatred, and delusion attach themselves.  They are black holes that absorb fear and create the defensive posture of the isolated self, unable to make satisfying contact with others or with the world.”

Mark Epstein, M.D., author of Thoughts Without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective

I wonder how much of our own needs and desires we deny?  How much do we tolerate on a daily basis?  Further, how many of us have been doing this for so long that we don’t even realize that we are living an auto-pilot life?  Or worse, living a life based on fear and defensiveness.  We run the risk of losing essential parts of our selves and blindly living a whitewashed life when we ignore our own vibrant characteristics.

Healing Your Life

What would we do or ask for if a magical fairy godmother appeared and said she would grant us a dozen small wishes that would allow us to be more authentic and to do the things that would allow us to ‘make satisfying contact with others in the world’?  Have we worn our masks and locked away our core talents for so long that we would not even know what to ask for?  Have we become so accustomed to “making do and making a living” that we don’t even know anymore which simple pleasures of our world would wake up our inner joy?

What talent, quirk, trait, activity, or expression are you denying or that you have neglected so long that you forgot you even enjoyed it? And do we hide these out of duty or out of fear that someone might criticize it?  Or did we just get in a rut that obscured our connection?  How do you begin healing your life, and finding authentic joy and meaning in each day?

I’m still thinking about this one and I think I’ll start a list of my own rusty-dusty aspects that are locked away, longing for expression.

May this help you to awaken those beautiful, sleeping parts that are surely inside you.  Namaste.




 Thoughts on a Sunday Morning – Life Storms

The snow storm that I was experiencing in the last post is just a memory now.  The storm came, brought brief blinding white-out moments, bitter wind, and drifts of snow just large enough to make us spend a good part of our morning clearing it away so we could get the vehicles out of the garage and eventually out of the driveway.

March sunrise at the farmhouse

The storm passed, though, and the snow melted away.  Today, the world outside my window stretches in browns and dull greens across the fields and meets a horizon of grey-blue clouds.  Today, I feel a promise of spring.

The storms nature has brought to my world – my Indiana farmhouse – have thankfully not been as intense or as damaging as they potentially could have been.  A couple of years ago, intense winds, possibly a small tornado, passed by the house, wrecking havoc with the barn doors and large tree limbs.  I made it through that, too, and felt I learned a valuable lesson from it.  (Blog post – After the Storm)

I thought about this last snow storm.  I don’t know why I’ve singled this one, because here in northern Indiana we get blizzard-like storms at least once a year.  Maybe it was just the right time for the Universe to give me some insight.

I saw this storm as part of nature’s rhythm or pattern.  Patterns and rhythms that are transient and predictable from a large perspective.  We, as humans, are part of nature, part of a bigger system that has yet to be fully explained.  We can observe the patterns in nature on a larger scale and then see how these patterns run parallel or reflect in the smaller rhythms that comprise our lives.  Don’t we have times of unexpected change so intense that we have moments of frozen blindness?  Winds of change that come with bitter, stinging thoughts, actions and words that push fiercely against and around us? Times when we can only seek shelter, stay aware, and let it all play out? And eventually it does end and we slowly collect our thoughts and our strength and begin to take the steps to clear ourselves out of the storm and the debris or damage that the storm has left.

It brings to mind the proverb:  And this, too, shall pass away.

It’s something to keep in focus when life brings a storm.  When things seem out of control, and you are experiencing a life storm or even a series of life storms,  it is ok to spend some time observing, focusing, and to recognize that sometimes things do happen that are on a scale that is larger than the rhythms of our simple lives.   We accept, allow, seek shelter, defend, wait, and eventually plan and initiate our recovery.

Most important, we don’t lose focus on the realization that this is just a storm.  It will pass.  And when it is done, you will look around, pick up the pieces and begin to do what you know you must do.  And you will know what to do once you’ve observed, considered, perhaps asked for help, and then started taking those first “after the storm” steps.

So that is what I was thinking about on this Sunday morning while I’m taking a break from my own storm … tax season.

May you face all of your storms with grace, strength, and the power of love.






 Simply Your Life in the Midst of a Snow Storm

There is a snow storm raging outside as I post this.  The storm probably sounds worse than it actually is.  The wind is roaring and occasionally rattling the windows, but most of all, it is blowing the snow into smooth curved drifts around the yard.  I’ll enjoy listening to the wind just before I fall asleep. A warm blanket and a soft pillow just enhances the effect.

Things are still out of sync at the house, with tax season in full gear and the kitchen remodel experiencing mishap after mishap.  We’re six weeks into the project and no finished kitchen in sight.  It will probably be another month! (Did I mention that this was supposed to be a three week project?) The contractors have hooked up a temporary kitchen sink and I never thought I’d feel so blessed just to have a sink and running water. Washing dishes in a little oval of a sink in the bathroom will do that to you.

Enough of the grumbling.  Today I’m going to share a great article … 10 Steps to Simplify Your Life .  

I’ve just posted this article to the Simple Life site.  Take a look and try at least one of the steps today.

Now I’m going to listen to the snow storm.  I’d watch it out the window, but it’s too dark.  I’ll just have to wait until morning to see how much snow the wind bought in.   It’s a little exciting.

I hope that you are  safe from any storms.




 Foods the Experts Avoid – 14 Foods

Man Eating CheeseburgerThings are still hectic at the house – the kitchen and dining room remodel is in full dust-wood-studs-and-mess mode, and since it’s tax season, the office is in turbo charge.

I’ll post more about the remodeling soon, because it is providing a long list of life lessons, many of them a little painful.  Some are to be expected when remodeling a 100+ year old house.  Others could have been avoided.

Right now I wanted to share with you a blog post from – 14 Foods You Should Never Eat. This is a list of the foods the experts avoid.  A couple of the foods on the list are a little extreme (avoid all bread, for instance), but several of them have solid, surprising reasons for being on the list. Here at Simple Life, we believe that the foods you eat can have a profound affect on your health and emotions.  One of the fundamental parts of simplifying your life is learning to nurture your body and mind.

Here is the brief list … visit the link at the bottom for the full article.  It’s worth the read, especially if you have children.

1. Swordfish – high in mercury

2.  Nonorganic Strawberries – pesticides

3.  Diet Soda – artificial sweeteners cause multitude of health problems

4.  McDonalds in general – represents factory farming

5.  Canned Tomatoes – the linings of tin cans contain BPA

6.  Bread – wheat causes a multitude of health problems

7.  Industrially Produced Hamburgers – Inhumane treatment and filthy conditions for the cows

8.  Corn – pesticides and genetic engineering

9.  White Chocolate – no cacoa, the ingredient that makes dark chocolate so awesome. (Don’t panic, dark chocolate is not on the list.)

10.  Artificial Sweetners  – cause high blood sugar levels and other health issues

11.  Sprouts – frequent source of recalls and E. coli, salmonella and listeria contamination

12.  Butter Flavored Popcorn – contains diacetyl, a chemical that causes a serious lung disease in the factory workers who produce the popcorn

13.  Food Dyes – causes cancer and hyperactivity in children

14.  Chain-Restaurant Ice Cream Sundaes – supersized portions and genetically modified ingredients

There you have it.  Some of the foods really should be avoided altogether.  Others should be kept in mind and consumption reduced.  A couple seem a bit extreme – avoid ALL bread, ALL white chocolate? Hmmm.  A few of the things on the list I hardly ever eat anyway, such as restaurant Ice Cream Sundaes, so I’ll keep it in mind but I doubt that eating one every few years will have much effect on my health!

Here is the link the to full article.  It has resource lists and more details on each food and the expert recommending avoidance:

14 Foods You Should Never Eat – Leah Zerbe and Emily Main –

What foods do you avoid?





 Wash Your Hands! Avoid the Flu

Washing Hands with SoapThe flu is making it’s miserable rounds again. Symptoms of this year’s flu are coughing, sneezing, fever, nasal congestion, overall weakness. There are two really powerful things you can do to either avoid getting the flu this year (and any other year, actually) or to reduce the intensity of the flu if you do get it.

1. Wash your hands. The flu virus can live for many hours on surfaces like doorknobs, desktops, bathroom floors and counters, pencils, cell phones … etc etc. If you touch something in public, wash your hands. It’s that simple, really. Lots of soap. Lots of water. Wash those little buggers right down the drain.

2. Don’t touch your mouth, nose, or ears. At all. The main way you will infect yourself is by touching a contaminated surface and then introducing the virus to your mouth, nose, or eyes. Don’t touch your face at all unless you’ve just washed your hands.

If you want to do even more to prevent the flu, has a good list of 12 tips for avoiding the flu.  The last one is to drink a little alcohol. Yes, it really does say that.  Now, I don’t know if it is true or not, but it sure sounds like a good excuse to relax with a small glass of good wine.  See for yourself at Moneying   – 12 Tips for Avoiding the Flu (without a flu shot)

Now stay healthy!




 Achieving Goals and Building Financial Strength

The last three weeks have been a blur of activity -Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Day, my son finding and moving to his perfect place to live, the contractor finalizing the plans and setting the date for our new kitchen remodeling job, tax season beginning, …. I’m sure there’s more but I think I may have missed it as it whizzed by.

One thing I didn’t miss was the New Year and taking the time to review my goals from last year and to begin writing my goals for 2013.  Each year, I take my time with the goals and give myself a week or so to think them through and write them out. Sometimes my goal list is a little more like a journal or a letter to myself than the more typical list of New Years resolutions. Once I’m all done, though, I’ll go back and pick the most important goals to concentrate on and I’ll write them in a few powerful words so that they will be easy to remember and review.

How about you?  Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?


Here are two tools for helping you to keep your New Year’s resolutions –

How to Achieve Your Goals  – make it simple with 7 steps that nearly insure your success

Automatic Investing – A Secret of the Rich – this is posted on our sister site, The Fat Dollar

I hope that you had a very Happy New Year!