Just when I think I’ve experienced all that country life has to offer, I find something new – or at least new to me. In the eleven years we’ve lived in Emory, I’ve heard about the “you pick” farms, but I always seem to miss the seasons, and I always seem to hear about the picking parties after the fact. But this year was different.
I did miss the strawberries – they came and went in a hurry. And I thought I had missed blueberries when I saw a post that one venue had been picked out in three hours. But then a couple of weeks ago I saw a post from Alford Family Farm that they had lots blueberries ripening in sequence. When I asked David if he’d like to go on a berry-picking outing, he replied that he’d like to have some fresh blueberries, but he didn’t think he wanted to go in this heat.
I was a little disappointed but not crushed. I’ve not been a huge blueberry fan in past years. I enjoyed a blueberry muffin now and then, but after I had a major allergic reaction the first time I ate fresh blueberries, I swore off of them for a while. My doctor said he’d never heard of anyone being allergic to them, but whenever I ate anything blueberry, my face would itch so I continued to avoid them. But blueberries are everywhere, and a mixed berry cobbler is hard to resist. Eventually I ventured a taste here and there, and when I didn’t swell up and turn beet red, I decided maybe the doctor was right. Who knows what caused that initial reaction, but whatever it was, I seem to have outgrown it and blueberries have made their way back into my diet.
That’s why I was more than a little interested last week when Alford Family Farm posted that they still had lots of blueberries in addition to blackberries and cherry tomatoes. This time I didn’t mention it to David, but I did mention it to Brenda at home group. She was very interested, and we decided that we’d drag our husbands there Saturday morning. Mike enjoys outing to Alford’s, so he didn’t have to be dragged, and neither did David once I mentioned blackberries. Since the wild blackberry vines around our place have been mostly overrun by Virginia creeper, and I only got a scant cupful this year, he was eager to do anything that would result in a cobbler.
We went early, both to beat the heat and because Brenda and I had read that the berries are juicier and sweeter when picked during the relative coolness of the morning. We weren’t the first to arrive at the Farm, though. As we were getting our buckets, Pastor Jason and his wife Stacy came out of the store with their full bags in hand. While we hugged and visited for a few minutes, the Middletons arrived with their two children, ready to do some picking of their own. It was one of those surprise fellowships that develops when you live in a small town. After a couple of pictures for Facebook, the Rolens headed home and the rest of us went to the berry patch.
We started with blackberries because we were told that they had already been hit pretty hard and might not last much longer. Brenda was disappointed because the berries weren’t as sweet as she wanted, but since I planned to smother mine in sugar and cover them with dough, David and I continued to pick. She and Mike both added their blackberries to my bucket and moved on to blueberries. In one of those gestures that rarely happens in the big city, a man who must have been disappointed in the blackberries also gave me his harvest.
When we decided we had enough for several cobblers, David and I joined Mike, Brenda, and the Middletons in their quest for blueberries. I had seen a blueberry bush in the off season, but this was the first time I had seen one with berries on it. I was amazed at how many there were on each bush. Brenda advised that I taste fruit from the different bushes until I found one I liked and focus there. I was also amazed at the difference in taste from one bush to another – some were tart while some were sweet, and each one had a slightly different flavor. Thankfully, the owners encourage tasting and don’t charge for what you take home in your stomach.
When our buckets were nearing capacity, we moved over to the cherry tomatoes. David prefers the bigger varieties, but I love the little bite-sized treats. The sun was getting hot, so we gathered enough tomatoes to make me happy and headed for the store where we would weigh and pay for our harvest.
Before we paid, though, we checked out the produce and other products in the store. David wanted a couple of slicing tomatoes, and I took three blemished tomatoes from the free bucket. We ended up with, in round numbers, 4 pounds of blackberries, 5 pounds of blueberries, and 2 pounds of cherry tomatoes. On the way out, Mr. Alford gave Mike some peppers which he shared with us, so we were all set for salsa.
I spent several hours Saturday afternoon in the kitchen and some time on the Internet researching what to do with the 15 cups of blueberries I put in the freezer. David had to wait for his cobbler because we had brought home two pieces of fresh peach pie from Home Group on Friday that needed to be eaten. But he had cobbler for dinner on Father’s Day, and there are enough in the freezer for two more. There is also fresh salsa in the refrigerator and enough cherry tomatoes to keep me happy for a while.
It was a full weekend in lots of ways. Our schedule was full with Home Group on Friday, berry picking and chores on Saturday, and church and celebrating godly men on Sunday. Our refrigerator and our stomachs are full of good, fresh food. And our hearts are full with the joy of friends with whom to share all of God’s blessings.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11
NOTE: I was too busy picking to take pictures, so thank you to Stacy Rolen who graciously allowed me to pirate hers from Facebook.