Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Some years there is an abundance of choke cherries and I never hesitate to harvest as much as possible anywhere bears are not feeding on them. Last year a late freeze totally destroyed the crop in this area. The fall of 2015 yielded fifteen gallons of berries which cooked down to a few hundred jars of incredibly tasty jelly, jam and syrup.
When there are plenty to pick, all stems must be removed before boiling down to extract the juice of the berries. It's not a huge task but thoroughly mind-numbing if you are de-stemming five or more gallons in a season. To stave off the mind numbing effect, I wait until nightfall, fire up the old iPad 2 and listen to CBS Radio Mystery Theatre episodes from the 70s and 80s on it while meticulously removing the stem from each tiny berry.
Listening to the radio show stories while doing this little chore turns it into a delightful summer night event I now look forward to each year there are lots of berries to be had. I used to listen to the episodes on long commutes home to Mineral Wells in the evenings after working all day on Possum Kingdom Lake building and repairing boat docks. That was one of the most enjoyable commutes I ever had to drive. Almost zero traffic. Cool evening air flowing into the cab of the truck. The pleasant scenery of the region. An occasional roadrunner or wild turkey crossing the highway and sometimes a rattler warming on the pavement. Sitting at the kitchen table up here over six thousand feet higher and surrounded by stillness, listening to the old radio shows sparks good memories of those days working on the lake.