One of my favorite farm events is the “Blueberry Picking Day” for children. On this day we invite all our CSA members to bring the kids and let the kids pick all they want. The children love to pick and eat and pick and eat. I think it goes much deeper than simply picking and eating. Getting kids outside and connected to nature may be key to their mental wellbeing.
I just ordered a book from Amazon titled Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv, and can hardly wait to dig into it. Judging by the description, the book directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as rises in obesity, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and depression.
Our Blueberry Day provides parents with a place where kids can unplug their wired lives and with very few limitations, run around and play! There were dozens of kids climbing through the bushes, picking blueberries, dumping out the berries, feeding berries to the dog, digging for worms in the compost around the bushes, and chasing each other around. One especially adorable little boy who was barely able to walk, managed to rumble over to the tomatoes nearby and had a great time just making his way through the tomato trellising. Another little girl was determined to pick enough for her mom to make a pie. She was on a mission and nothing was going to stop her. Another little toddler was the blueberry thief. He toddled around trying to grab blueberries from everyone else’s buckets. The only electronic devices were a few cameras that proud moms were using. This type of free play and exploration is so good for children. Strangely, none of the kids cried, no one misbehaved, and I didn’t hear any moms or dads correcting behavior. They all were so happy! Nature is amazing. The kids were adorable.
There is a lot to be said for kids being connected to farms. Not only is it important for children to have a basic understanding of where food comes from, besides grocery stores, it is also important that children be able to taste and understand how delicious real fresh food is. Blueberries eaten right off the bush don’t taste anything like the berries most kids get from the grocery store, that might be several weeks old. Valuing fresh seasonal produce is a lesson all kids need. I remember looking forward to the time of year when peaches were ripe, or blackberries, or apples, or even tomatoes. I looked forward to it every year, and my family made a big deal out of it. We went to pick peaches and blackberries, and my mom made amazing cobblers. This only happened when the fruit was ripe and perfect, so we never had cobblers at other times of the year. We also looked forward to the first perfect tomatoes. We rejoiced with tomato sandwiches, and salads with big chunks of red beauty on top. When tomatoes were out of season, the tomato sandwiches stopped. I hope all kids look back on their childhood and remember eating blueberries till warm from the sun. You can bet when they grow up, they will be on the hunt at the farmers’ market for the seasonal best.
Jay’s writings about Blueberry Picking Day.
We arose at our normal four AM. Our daily routine begins with our silent coffee ritual. The first thirty minutes out of bed are spent in silence, in the den, drinking coffee. Those thirty minutes are ethereal. In all reality we have not slept to restore all energy reserves. We have slept to the point of function. We commune in silence and let caffeine provide our stores of energy. We have even upped the ante now, with a recipe Robin found online, bullet proof coffee. Coffee blended with coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and cocoa. Who needs thirty more minutes in bed!
After our morning ritual, we depart the house for the pack shed. Once all the produce is packed and ready to go to the market, I venture back to the house to take a shower and dress in preparation for my day at the market.
In contrast to most Saturdays, Robin will not be going with me to work the market. She will be staying at home and hosting our Blueberry Picking Day. This is the day when our CSA members can bring their young children out to the farm and turn them loose. Loose to have a big adventure and eat wild blueberries. As opposed to the tame food retrieved from a grocery store. They can run pick to their hearts’ content, or the mimosas run out, through the wild jungle of blueberry bushes, picking and eating wild food.
Off I go to market, and it goes well. Not a top volume day, but it seems so because I am manning the booth alone. Robin and I enjoy chatting with our customers; because I am working alone, I am not afforded the opportunity today. The market starts to slow and I begin the process of packing the truck. I will deliver bags of produce to CSA members, and then home, so we can depart for a week at the beach.
I finally arrive home. We race through final preparations. Chickens, last minute items, bike rack, and finally we are rolling down the driveway. On a normal workday, our day would be coming to a close. At the end of this day, our vacation is finally beginning. Four hours of driving. Not one interstate. In our current lifestyle, eating “on the road” is difficult at best. Eating on the road, off the interstate, in back country SC, is unbelievably hard. I won’t even say what we did.
We arrive about eight PM. As with all beach houses we have rented, this one includes built in aerobics. Steps enough to include in your workout log, once you are finished unloading. Unloading complete, we move about the house settling in and determining where all important items are, small things like Wi-Fi codes, toilet paper, hot water and sheets. Upon inspection, no sheets. It is now after nine pm. For a day that started early, ran hard all day and now, on vacation, we are ready to collapse. On vacation, we want comfort. We decide at that late hour to venture forth to procure sheets. Sleep is important. We drive north on seventeen into Pawley’s Island. No stores in Pawley’s Island sell sheets. Further north in Litchfield beach, no stores with sheets. Robin has one last thought on the way back to our place: there was a Walgreens. Off to Walgreens we go. Up and down each aisle, no sheets. Robin asks one of the employees where we could get some sheets. Aha! There is a twenty four hour Wal-Mart in Georgetown! Only eight miles in the other direction. We are going to Georgetown. We will sleep on sheets tonight. At this point, even if it is only for a couple of hours. Eight dark miles to Georgetown. Into a Wal-Mart, our favorite thing to do, and lay hands on brand new sheets. We now have the Holy Grail; we have found what we were looking for. Back to our place. We both relish putting those sheets on the bed. I believe we were both asleep before midnight.
And this is a small glimpse into the reality of farm life in 2014. From Blueberries to beaches.
Eat Your Veggies,
Robin (and Jay)