Labor Day weekend arrived as news to me on Friday when I started hitting the “Out of office” email wall before noon. Calendar lag is a frequent symptom of work-from-home-itus. Ever eager to follow social cues, my sister and I cut out early, too. What to do on a free afternoon that lands in your lap?
We went to a U-pick farm. I’ve picked berries and pumpkins before, but never had the chance to walk around a large farm and pick buckets full of produce. It was a treat. Way sunnier than I wanted it to be sans hat, but at least we thought to bring plenty of water.
We passed the suckers at the stand paying for veggies they didn’t even get to pick themselves and sort of skipped to the berry bushes. You know that swelling sensation of Ahhh when you first arrive at a new place and its all views, breezes and fresh smells? We were practically spinning we were so happy to get to pick berries before the end of the season. We filled a thingy with raspberries and blackberries, Ooohed the dragonflies hovering everywhere and occasionally helped ourselves to a sample berry to make sure they didn’t, um, go bad.
By the time we finished both our faces were pink and we realized there was very little shade around, and a whole lot of walking to do. So we stopped spinning to conserve energy and found some coolness under the nectarine and peach trees.
Unfortunately, it looked like half the crop had already fallen to the ground. For some reason (our father) we both had the notion we were guaranteed to get fleas and chigger bites if we plucked the drupes. We paced the rows of tiny trees weighing the pros and cons and decided upon screw it. Well, I did. My sister provided moral support from a distance as I tugged off the plumpest, reddest of the bunch. No bites! It’s days later and I’m pretty sure I don’t have fleas either. Score!
Though one of my high school jobs entailed waking up at 4:30 am and counting 54 ears of corn at a time off a conveyor belt for grocery store delivery, I never actually picked corn ears from a stalk. It’s fun until you realize you’ve squeezed down a narrow row that’s not really a row and a chainsaw starts going off somewhere near and you can’t spot your sister’s giant blonde head. The least logical explanation was that I’d somehow stepped through a portal into Children of the Corn, and that was in fact the fantasy I indulged until my sister found me. Good times.
So far we had blackberries, raspberries, peaches, nectarines and corn. And we’d only covered half the farm. Most of the other half looked like apples, but there were a few pickable fields remaining.
String beans were my favorite to pick because they’re camouflaged at first. Then you find one and all the Waldos come out to play. Plus string beans are one of my favorite veggies with a little Thyme, Earth Balance and crushed almonds.
From there we made our slow way up to rows of different types of tomatoes and peppers. This section of the farm smelled incredible. I wanted to lie down and take a nap. The more time we spent under the hot sun, the pickier we got. Suddenly not just any funky-shaped pepper would do – it had to speak to me.
Then we ran out of water and I developed an instant skill for finding perfect eggplants and broccoli heads. Sawing off a head of cabbage with a steak knife was incredibly satisfying, as was snapping a cantaloupe from the vine and watching my loopy sister chase after a watermelon as it rolled away.
We spent less than $25 and went home with four buckets worth of fresh produce. Next time we’ll plan a little better and go in the morning before the sun is high. We’ll bring twice the amount of water and some food to picnic at the lake after.
I know I didn’t plant or grow or tend to anything this summer, but I kind of feel like part farmer now.