When I was a kid the hot hazy days of early summer were Strawberry Picking Days. We lived a short drive – even a short bike ride – from a pick your own place. Saunder’s Farm is no longer a strawberry farm, more of a fun destination year-round from the sounds of things, but back then it was strawberries. We’d weigh in our buckets and head for the fields, where we’d be directed to a red flag that marked where the last people in that row had left off. Then we’d pick. And pick. And pick. While the sun baked our backs. You got to know the best picking days – if I recall, the berries had the best flavour a day or two of sunshine after a big rain. Too soon after the rain and they’d taste watery. Mom would harass me into eating them right there – it was encouraged by the family that ran the farm, too. But I didn’t trust that there weren’t bugs lurking in the hollow spaces inside the berries, or masquerading as seeds on the surface. I preferred them washed, and sliced open so you could see that there weren’t any bugs inside. Not that I ever remember seeing a bug.
On the way out of Pemberton the last time we were up, we made a side-trip a little out of the way to a pick your own strawberry farm. I think it was North Arm Farm, but could be wrong. Both kids were so excited about strawberry picking – Kate had been there before, but Cameron only knew strawberries as coming in boxes at roadside stands or in the grocery store. It wasn’t hot nor was it hazy, and we didn’t bake while picking. Instead, there was a cool mountain breeze. The strawberries were, I think, a different strain. These were high up on long stems, while Saunders’ were low to the ground on shorter stems, but I could be wrong. The kids played lots and picked some, and Cameron learned what a cultivated strawberry plant looks like – he’d encountered the wild variety already that weekend. I of course pestered Cameron into eating a few berries right off the plants. Hey, I even ate a few, and they were so good. Cameron pretended to be a strawberry, and crouched down between rows for me to pick. . Between the four of us, we filled four large buckets and one enormous one, in nearly no time it felt like.
It felt so familiar, and so different. The field in rows, the pushing leaves around, the bright red berries, all seemed the same as what I remembered. But the setting was almost jarringly different. I half expected to look up and see one of the Saunder’s kids at the end of the field, but instead there were mountains rising up behind, and deer ambling along the rows.
But the end result is of course the same. Bags upon bags of yummy strawberries in my freezer. I’m going through them at an alarming rate, too, making smoothies for breakfast.