Woohoo berry picking season has returned! On the West Coast of Canada the fields have just opened, the strawberry plants are loaded and the crowds are enthusiastic.
Last year we took our young sons (aged 2 & 4) out berry picking. To say it was a colossal disaster might be a bit of an overstatement but not by much. This year, with another 365 days of maturity under our belts, I was confident we’d be able to pick berries as a family, the sun would shine and the birds would chirp.
Why oh why do I have these expectations?
The sun…yah, it didn’t show.
In fact, it rained. Fortunately it wasn’t the traditional West Coast downpour but it was a constant, persistent drizzle. However, us West Coasters don’t fear the rain (if we did we’d never leave the house), so the fields were rather full of optimistic parents and wet kids.
As for us picking together as a family, well let’s just call it a win because we were all in the same proximity. The 5 year old only wanted to play with the wagon we rented; the wagon which could have easily held 5 kids, but was put to use carrying one small basket. Further to that folly, we rented 2 wagons because of course each kid needed his own. Our 3 year old loved the idea of hopping back and forth over the berry plants from one row to the other so their father and I picked rapidly, filled our two little buckets and made a quick escape before the kids trampled the strawberry plants…
So….I learned some things today that may be useful to you:
1) Dispense with the farmstead idyllic family outing idea. It just won’t happen.
2) Explain, with visual examples, the types of berries you want picked and the types you don’t. I never feel guilty about turfing out the over-ripe berries but always feel a twinge of guilt when my kids pick the rock hard white berries.
3) Don’t rent a wagon. While it seems fun, we spent the entire time either luring our kids away from the wagon or helping guide the wagon passed other berry-pickers and around plants.
4) Bring boots. This early in the season it takes a while for the ground to be sufficiently dry.
5) Baby wipes are your friend. Tragically my 5 year old expressed extreme displeasure that the rows between the plants weren’t paved in concrete. It was all I could do not to tackle him and roll him around in the mud beacause good grief, he’s a 5 year old boy and supposed to LOVE MUD! I ATE mud pies at his age! So while your kids may refuse to get their hands dirty picking the berries, you certainly will the wipes help clean up muddy hands in a second.
6) Make a game out of picking the berries. Who can get the biggest one? Who can get the smallest? How many picked berries can you hold in your hand at one time? Kids vs parents: who picks faster?
We ended the day with our family tradition; following the first trip to the strawberry fields, dinner consists of ONLY strawberry shortcake. YUM!
Strawberries are here now (and return again in August & September), blueberries and raspberries are in July & August. Blackberries ripen in August along with corn which extends into September. I’ll get my kids hooked on picking fruit by the end of this summer…that’s my goal.