There are a lot of things my Dad taught me. And one of them was gardening. I have had a garden in some form or another in my life since as early as I can remember. There is a picture somewhere of me as a baby in a wheelbarrow full of cucumbers. There is a picture of me as a small child holding a big bunch of dirty freshly picked radishes with my dad. I would take my friends and boys on tours of the garden. NO one I knew at school had anything like it.
My Dad believed in forced child labor so I grew up weeding, and planting, and watering and picking, and hoeing. I grew up with dirty toes and dirty fingers and scarred knees from kneeling in the dirt. I grew up swatting away mosquitoes and sweating my skinny little ass off in the hot and humid weather my state is so famous for. We had what felt like a HUGE yard growing up. Lots of trees and the garden literally went from one end of the yard to another at about 30 feet or more deep. It was separated by a wooden and wire fence that held grape vines, and there was a little gate in the center that you opened to walk through to get back there. Once you stepped into the garden you were standing on a patch of grass about 8-10 feet wide, after that was nothing but lovingly tilled and worked and amended and weeded Midwest clay based garden soil. I can still picture every detail of that garden, all of its nooks and crannies, what went where, the place all of the dead cats and dogs got buried. As I got older it got even better. My Dad bought the house next door and rented it out to tenants. But not before cutting off the yard by more than half and yes, adding more garden. That next door house would later become known for a very large petite chou ( this is what I call weed) bust. Our garden was so big and magnificent to my childhood eyes. I have distinct and deep memories of gardening. I can conjure any spot that garden vividly into my imagination at any given notice. I do this almost unknowingly whenever I pick the strawberries in my little Square Foot Gardening garden.
One of my chores was “go pick the berries”. If you have never had large berry patch there are a few things you should know. June is berry season here, yeah I know they make varieties that bear all summer, JUNE is berry season here. Those berries start coming in and that first early smallish batch gets ripe. You will pick them reveling in every first berry of the season, marveling at how many little and big green ones you see forming in front of you. And then YOU NEVER STOP PICKING STRAWBERRIES for maybe over a month straight. You have to spend time when picking berries, you have to move slowly and carefully searching and gently pulling. You don’t want them to rot or get nibbles b/c you didn’t pick enough but you also want to wait until each little/big berry is at perfect ripeness. There are LOTS of bugs and other creatures that like berries. They are by far the best berries you will ever taste.
My berry picking career every year went a little like this.
- Be handed the bowl and told “go pick strawberries” in late May early June
- First day I am excited and want to see how much I can fill the bowl, there are way more coming than ready
- Pick every day to every other day for the next 30+ straight days
- The first week I am still excited by the amount I am getting and the family is eating most of them
- The 2nd-3rd weeks the canning has begun, I sometimes participate in this and I definitely enjoy the basement full of berry jam. But I AM TIRED OF PICKING BERRIES
- Weeks 4-5 and maybe 6 I am sick of the chore even tho it is waning and probably spend more time sitting in the garden staring at nothing than actually picking berries
That berry induced mind trip when our berries started coming in was nostalgia at first. It’s been a while since there was a healthy strawberry patch around here that actual got picked. As we kept harvesting, (Yes I TRIED to The Destroyer (he loves food) and MiniMe to take their turn at the “go pick berries” job. It didn’t stick) I grew to look forward to remembering being 6 or 8 or 10 or 12 or 14 and being in that garden, hopefully in the cool of the morning or the shade of the later afternoon.
This morning I got lucky and pulled about 2 cups of berries off to put in my greek yogurt, and they were delicious.