Friday, July 04, 2008

Strawberry Independence

Happy Fourth of July to my family and American friends! I wish I was home celebrating the red, white and blue with you - enjoying a hot dog, potato salad and fireworks. My idea of a great day! Enjoy it to the fullest!!

Today so far has been an excellent day. Woke up at a great hour, got myself all ready, hung clothes on the line, did a small load of dishes, enjoyed sitting on my porch and then my MIL and SIL came to take me strawberry picking. I had planned to go myself but they had mentioned (among themselves) that they were thinking of going and because great minds think alike, we went together. We decided to grab lunch before we left and opted to go to KFC. The chicken was calling our names! A little to early as they opened at 11 and we were there at 10:50. While waiting, my MIL found a pair of white ice skates sitting by a garbage can. Being the thrifters that we are, she grabbed them. We both have great ideas on how to display them in our winter decorating. They are hers as she saw them and grabbed them. I'm on the lookout for my pair at a yardsale. After lunch, we took an amazingly scenic trip to the farm...Ruby Berry Farm. Isn't the name just so cute? We each picked two whopping baskets of berries, cut fresh (free!) rhubarb and got info on raspberries that would soon be coming into season. I also saw a farm that sells brown eggs...$2.50 a dozen. I'll be getting our eggs from there from now on. So much cheaper for us than purchasing them at the grocery store. Tonight, Shane and I are heading over to the inlaws house to watch a movie and enjoy a really nice evening. I have the BEST inlaws. We always have such a good time together. God has really blessed me in that area.

Here are some of my tips when picking strawberries:

* Attire: You'll want to wear good footwear...scrubby sneakers or clogs. I don't recommend flip flops. (I wore them today, that's why I recommend not wearing them.) You have to remember that strawberries stain a pretty red color and it's a good bet that your shoes will have lovely red berry stains on them. As well, sometimes the hay or whatnot that is inbetween the berry rows can scratch your feet and legs. I recommend wearing long pants. Again, you'll be squating or sitting on your knees. Squished berries and your bare legs...not pretty. Plus again, scratchy hay, bugs and the like don't make for pretty skin.

* Bugs: Beware of the bugs! I had so many swet (sp??) bees and little green bugs all over me. Wear your bug spray! Seriously, don't forget.

* Baskets: Don't have any? Call ahead to find out if they supply baskets for you or if you can purchase them. We bought 4 quart baskets for 60 cents. I also saw folks putting their berries into buckets, cups, and bowls. Our berries were weighed by the pound.

* Time and Information: Give yourself plenty of time. We were able to pick 16 quarts in under an hour. But, you want to provide yourself the opportunity to find the best berries and really make sure that you are getting what you are paying for. Enjoy this time! The berry farm is a great place to get information on other fruits and veggies that will be coming into season. Again, we found out about raspberries, eggs and another pick-your-own veggie farm. We grabbed a free pamphlet on recipes and "what to do with your berries". Oh! And the free rhubarb. Give yourself the time and freedom to enjoy the experience. Remember, you are choosing to store foods for the winter for your family. You are providing them with fresh, local goodness that will carry them through the summer and winter. It felt so good to me to be able to provide for my family in that way.

* Picking: We were at a farm that did not assign your rows to pick in. It was up to you to find the best berries. That gives you a lot of freedom. Try to find a row with no one in it. They may have really picked through the best berries. Be free to move around though. They may have missed some real doozies! Get down on your hands and knees (you may also want to bring a peice of cardboard or one of those gardening kneeling pads to protect your knees). Spread the plants open wide. You really can't be afraid of getting in there and getting the berries. Quickly turn the berry around to make sure that it is not white and pluck close to the stem. Don't try to pull the green cap off and don't hold the berry near the bottom. It's too easy to damage the berry especially if it is really sun ripened.

* A Few More Tips: Go on a full stomach. If you are too hungry you may overeat berries...and...well...sometimes that can lead to unpleasant bathroom issues. Get really hydrated before you start picking as well. The sun can really zap you and it pays to stay hydrated. Bring some cold beverages to enjoy when you are done as well. Our farm had beverages and freezies that you could buy. That was a real life saver. If your hair is long, perhaps you will want to pull it back to keep it out of your eyes. (I didn't...wish I did.) Sunglasses. Ahh, life savers. And again, be choosy. You don't get this opporunity in the grocery store to choose all of the berries that go into your basket. At a farm, you do. Enjoy what you are doing for you and your family!

Tomorrow I will post about how to take care of your picked berries and some yummy recipes to enjoy with them! Have a great Fourth!

Love, ~M

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