strawberry mess and ralphie’s pond

by Michelle

strawberry mess l

So you remember four years ago, Ralph and I were sitting on the veranda cooking up our next farm project when he says, “I think we should build a pond.”

“A what?”

“A pond. We’ve been talking about a swimming pool, but I think a pond would look and feel more organic. A pool would look too suburban.”

He had me at ‘organic’. I loved the idea of building a swimming hole that would be 100% natural, no chemicals, no maintenance; this would be simple.


The first thing we did was dig the hole. We didn’t actually dig it. The hole is twenty feet deep, a hundred feet long and seventy feet wide. When we could no longer see the top of the excavator, we figured it was big enough.

Next, we had to figure out how to harness the spring water that runs down from the upper pastures and direct it to the pond. We built a huge berm at the base of the upper hill on a brook. From there we piped the water over to the pond. It’s completely gravity fed so when the waters running there’s lots of pressure. In the heat of the summer the water slows to a trickle.

The second summer, we refined the water flow after losing the berm in a freak rain storm. The bowl around the pond had to be raked for large rocks, topped dressed with compost then seeded. By now I’m frustrated. I had no idea our ‘organic’ pond was going to be so time-consuming.

“It looks like the front pasture’s been hit by a giant meteor.” Ralph completely ignored my snippy remarks.

Summer number three still no swimming, but a couple of incredibly generous friends helped Ralph build a deck around one end and the grass had started to fill in the craggy banks. I started to see hope for Ralph’s dream.

Last Thursday night, a ramp and wharf were delivered for the pond. After three full summers of thinking about jumping in, we would finally be able to walk down a ramp, dive off of a wharf and climb back up a ladder.

As the delivery truck slowed beside the pond, the passenger door flew open and out jumped a man pulling his shirt off over his head. I watched as he took a running dive off the side of our pond. No one had ever been in it. He popped up in the middle and shouted, “this water is fantastic!” Apparently we didn’t need to wait for the wharf. City kids!

After four years of hard work, lots of jokes at his expense and mother nature not cooperating, Ralph’s dream of having our own spot to cool off on a hot summer’s day has come true.

ralphie's pond

strawberry mess l

Get yourself a quart of local strawberries and whip up this mess. Strawberry Mess or Eton Mess is a traditional British summer dessert, easy to make and delicious to eat. Sometimes I put all of the ingredients on the table and let my guests build there own.

The messier the better! 

strawberry mess l


  • 1 quart strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup icing/confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 cups chunked up meringue cookies

strawberry mess l

strawberry mess l


  1. Whisk together cream and icing/confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl until soft peaks form.

  2. You can gently fold in cookies and berries until just combined or place ingredients in goblets in layers like I did.

  3. Serve immediately.

strawberry mess l

THE LOVE: Serve right away so that the meringues are still crunchy.

Thanks for reading.