Thump…Thump…Thud…Clank….Thump…Thud…Clank…Clank…JACKPOT – OH MY GOD…THIS BUSH IS LOADED! Check this out…these berries are the size of quarters!
The melody of the berries hitting the inside of the pail was intoxicating. The rhythm interrupted by the sporadic voices of the families that rose early to gather berries for breakfast. Yes…today’s breakfast. We alternated between berries in the pail and berries in our mouth. At the Baumhart Blueberry Farm, it’s totally acceptable – even encouraged – to sample berries as you pick. And boy did we sample. The squirt of the sweet juice upon contact with your tongue was so satisfying. Only quality berries like these could bring me out to the fields on this hot, sticky Ohio morning.
My sister, Alisa, had already been picking for two hours by the time James and I arrived. She likes to spend her free time in the summer at the berry farm. She heads to the fields for herself and even for family and friends. She relishes her time inside the net draped enclosures – a quiet, serene respite from the outside world. Alisa is such a fixture in the fields that farm staff regularly search for her to inquire if she has berries to sell…and they in turn – provide to patrons stopping by for a quick purchase. Today, they came riding through the dirt path outside the enclosure on three separate occasions to retrieve the sea of blue from her pail. Over the course of the summer, her total berry haul weighed in at over 70 pounds. And that doesn’t include the ones she picked for others!
I have to admit, I was skeptical at first. My mind couldn’t absorb how picking berries could be so relaxing. But within minutes I was in the zone – perhaps triggered by that first succulent sample. I’ll never know for sure! My picking approach was far from productive. As we moved along the bushes, Alisa shared tips on finding the best berries. “Most people pick the outside and at height level. So you need to dig deep and go low on the bush. The berries they miss have more time to grow and ripen.” She coached me to use a two-handed technique. One to gently roll the berries and the other to catch the dropping fruit. If the berries are ready to be picked, they will drop off the bush with the slightest touch. And BOY was she right – on all fronts. Just look at the size of these berries!
A gentle breeze flowing over the fields periodically interrupted the heat of the day. The fresh, clean burst of air rustled the bushes just enough to entice the beetles to take flight. They buzzed around momentarily before settling back to their feeding frenzy. These lucky beetles had exploited a weakness in the netting allowing them free rein at the table.
As we moved between the rows, you couldn’t help but overhear conversations. I found the banter of the younger children amusing. “Hey Mom, there’s TONS of berries over here!” exclaimed a young boy as he jumped up and down…pointing in the direction of the heavily laden limbs. One particular exchange made me chuckle out loud. The Mother explained to her daughter that she should only pick the dark blue berries. She then held a sample berry – a deep purplish-blue berry – for her daughter to observe. A few minutes later, the little girl declared “But Mommy, this one is red and it tastes good.” I wonder how many partially ripened berries made their way into that berry pail? No matter…the memories that they created that morning will last a lifetime.
After three hours, James and I were ready to go. We were shocked when the scale flashed the results of our efforts. We picked 22 pounds of berries! What did we do with all the berries, you may ask? We packed our berries in dry ice and transported them home for year-round snacking. Berries from the store just can’t compete with those that go from field to freezer within hours. Blueberries are loaded with anti-oxidants and are highly recommended by the Cancer Dietician.
Funny thing though. Before chemo, I didn’t like blueberries. Not fresh, not on cereal, not even in pancakes or muffins. Chemo did a number on my body and thrush was an immediate reminder of the destruction going on at a cellular level. With every infusion I battled thrush. During the first week after treatment, everything tasted metallic – even water. The second week after treatment is hard to describe. The best description I can muster is dirty…everything tasted like pond scum. Of course, I don’t know what pond scum tastes like but it seems as good a comparison as any. By the end of the third week, food started to become appealing. But then the cycle started all over again. After my last infusion, I realized that I no longer enjoyed many of my favorite foods. So, now I try everything because I don’t know what I will like. Which brings me back to the blueberries. I LOVE blueberries…and wine. Oh yea, wine is another pleasant outcome of thrush…but that’s a story for another time.