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Strawberry Picking Day

            “Gran, is this one okay?”  Jesse gently held a bright red strawberry that was attached to a plant.  A berry perfect for picking.  I nodded and he put it in his white gallon bucket.  “How about this one?”  My Grand, almost five years old, pointed to a berry that was pink with a white tip. 

            “Not that one. Pick the bright red ones,” I said as I handed him a big, juicy, red berry.  “Taste this one.  It’s ripe and ready to eat.” 

            Jesse bit and red juice dribbled from both sides of his mouth, his eyes widened, and he chewed.  After he swallowed, he said, “That’s yummy!”  And he ate the whole berry except the small green cap.  “Can I eat more?” He could and I suggested he pick enough berries to cover the bottom of his bucket before eating another.  “Is this one okay?” He pointed to a half ripe berry.

            It was Jesse’s first time to pick strawberries and I relished the time that just he and I could be together.  And I was thankful that Amazing Acres welcomed pickers, even young pickers.  My plan was to pick 3 or 4 gallons to make freezer jam and berries to eat fresh for a few days.  If I approved each and every berry Jesse picked, we might be in the strawberry patch all day.  Again, we compared ripe and unripe berries and I began picking quickly.

            Jesse examined a tall weed with barbs that grew in the path between the rows of strawberries.  “What’s this?” he asked.  A thistle. “Does it have sticker things so nothing will eat it?” Yes.  “Does it protect the strawberries?  Can I touch it?”  After a thorough examination of the weed, my Grand noticed my full bucket of berries.  “Gran, how about I pick berries out of your bucket?”  I shook my head and reminded him that he could pick berries from the plants.

            When Jesse accidentally kicked his bucket, strawberries spilled onto the ground.  He heaved with frustration. “They’ll be easier to pick from the ground,” I said.  He carefully placed every berry back in his bucket.  “Gran, can I spill yours?  I’ll pick them up.”

            We counted the cows in the field beside the strawberry patch and looked for the barbed wire fence surrounding the pasture.  We identified a cloud dinosaur and a cloud train engine puffing smoke.  When Jesse asked for a drink of water, I suggested he chew a strawberry for a long time and it might taste like strawberry juice.  It did and he had several drinks.

            As we carried filled buckets out of the field, Jesse warned me to not touch the tall sticker plants and not step in the mud.  “Be careful, Gran.  Follow me,” he said. We sat on the grass to rest a few minutes.  Looking at four gallons of berries, Jesse said, “Now that’s SOME STRAWBERRIES!”

            At home, Jesse told his siblings that he worked really hard to pick the best strawberries.  “I got the most humongous bright red ones,” he said.  I agreed.

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Sweet Strawberry

imagesOur mission is to pick strawberries.  Daughter wants two or three gallons.  A couple of gallons for me.  We have lots of help.  Her children, my Grands, are experienced berry pickers.  We travel across the county line into White County to our favorite strawberry patch, and we’ll know we’re there when we see the little red barn – actually a shed.

A big shaggy dog lies in front of the closed shed door, and a hand-written, cardboard sign announces, “CLOSED.”  White buckets are stacked on a table.  “Let me check this out.  Maybe we can pick anyway,” Daughter says as she steps out of the van.  Penciled directions on notebook paper reads ‘Help yourself to picking.  A bucket holds a gallon.  $9 a gallon.  Leave your money in the cookie jar.’

My two-year-old Grand sits, like an overseer, in her stroller amid the rows of strawberry plants while Daughter picks berries close to her.  Every plant boasts berries—a few are red.  Many more are small and green.  “Come this way, Gran,” 8 year-old David tells me.  “There’s a lot here!”  He swings a bucket, holding a few red berries, as he tromps past.  Fifteen minutes later, his bucket is almost full.

Lou, age six, frolics in the wide space between two rows of plants.  “There’s strawberries everywhere!” she says.  She checks out each of them, some she picks and puts in her bucket.  “Look at these beautiful flowers.  Are they weeds?”  She breaks a stem with miniature daisy-like blossoms.  Four-year old Ruth stays close to her mother and chooses the reddest berries to fill her bucket.  When her little sister squirms, Ruth rushes to her.  “Here, Elaine, do you want a strawberry?”  Ruth blows on the berry before giving it to her sister.  Elaine’s first bite sends red juice down both her arms.  Using a stick, Ruth draws lines and circles in the damp dirt beside her little sister’s stroller.

With one bucket full of berries and another half full, I call for David, who’s starring at a large strawberry he’s clutching, to help me.  “Not right now.  I’m waiting for him to take a bite,” he says.  A bite?  Who?  “There’s a tiny little ant on this berry.  Do ants eat strawberries?”  Ruth left her post beside her little sister.  “Look, Gran,” she calls to me.  “I found three.”  Assuming that she’s holding three strawberries, I hold my bucket toward her.  “Three ladybugs!” she announces and cradles them in her cupped hands.  A bucket of berries is spilled and picked up.  A few soft, mushy ones are thrown.  Shoes stick in the mud.

Daughter gathers all the troops and suggests if everyone finds just ten more bright red berries, we’ll be finished.  So in less than an hour, after putting money in the cookie jar, we leave the strawberry patch with five gallons of berries.

Mission accomplished.  And so much more.  Experiences and lessons.  About trust and honesty and sharing and working together.  Some weeds have pretty flowers.  Ants eat almost everything.  Ladybugs hide under leaves.  All that makes the strawberries on my Cheerios taste even sweeter.

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