Saturday, July 7, 2012

Adventure 27- Berry picking

Bowl of beautiful
With my focus gaining momentum on supporting local agriculture and wanting to be more self sufficient with my food supply, the local farms offering u-pick option for strawberries was a no brainer. I was chomping at the bit to get picking and fortunately for Cumberland residents, Ashberry Farm is just down the hill, on the Royston side of Boulder Hill. I had visited the farm twice over the July long weekend, the second time in the pouring rain. With rain gear on, I was able to pick around 15 pounds. What a treat for the freezer. With Natalie still camping I was not able to bring her with me.
Big grin
Natalie arrived home from a great camping trip, and I didn't have her for a night again until Thursday we had to plan our adventure carefully. Her mom requested that Natalie join her for the next weekend at a family gathering, so our Sunday would be a no go. Thursday it would be. I phoned Ashberry for permission to come and pick after hours as it was my only chance to bring her with me. I picked up Natalie from Hanna's house, where she spent the day. I asked Hanna and her older sister Olivia if they wanted to join. Of course they said "Sure!"

The day was brilliant, hot sun, not a cloud to be seen. The berry picking was sure to be great. Russ had gone earlier in the day and picked his buckets in about 5 minutes. Wow. Soon our empty pails were weighed and our patch was picked for us. Trying to keep three children picking and not skipping over the ripe berries was a challenge in itself. Olivia was on the ball, and had her ice cream bucket full in no time and offered to help fill Natalie's. The eight year olds were more random, not wanting to follow the "rules". The rules are really simple. Pick all the ripe ones and if you find bug eaten berries it is asked that you pluck off the bush and toss them aside. Pretty easy. And stay in your section. It only makes sense. The farmer wants to control where the picking has been based on ripeness and amount of berries. They don't make any money if a row sits full of ripe berries and no one picks. Neither do they want a customer to be un-happy with rows with no fruit

While we picked I asked the kids if they knew what organic meant. Olivia had it pretty much spot on, Natalie was close. Hanna was out of range, picking at the top of the row. I stress how important it is to involve the next generation in our food system. They need to see where it comes from, not from a box or bag. They need to understand that things can be grown with-out chemical inputs. Weeds and crops can grow in unison. The strawberries at Ashberry have chick weed and various grasses growing through out the plants. It is very natural and we were encouraged to move the plants about to look for the bright red berries. Often the farms ducks will wander around the crop, eating bugs and slugs. That is organic pest control at it's finest.
My crew
It was a bit of a tough time for Natalie. She started getting itchy from the grass and the plants. Her eyes were itching also, and sneezing. That poor kid got my allergy problem. I was feeling the effects of the hay fever that has plagued me for several weeks. Such is life. I tried to encourage her to ignore the symptoms, but that is hard for a child. It is hard for me! Hanna and Olivia helped her and soon we had our containers full. To the weigh station. We picked $80 worth of berries in around an hour. What a haul. A couple of photos and away we went.
The haul
Natalie and I arrived home and spent time to pluck the green tops from the berries and bagged them for the freezer. Sitting at the table, listening to the radio and talking. What a wonderful time with my girl. She was practicing using a paring knife. She had her hands on our food. She asked if we were going to vacuum pack them, because she was my helper when I processed a big lot of salmon earlier in the spring. I am excited to teach her about canning, butchery, lacto-fermenting, and involve her in shopping locally. She will join me on a couple of deer hunts this fall. By the time she is ready to leave me for the real world, an appreciation of our food and the people who produce it will be part of her DNA. Find Adventure and Keep it local.

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