Blueberry Picking in Michigan

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In the classic picture book, Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey, when little Sal drops the berries into her bucket, she hears, “Plink, plank, plunk”. Despite last Saturday’s excessive heat warning, carloads of folks came to pick our organic blueberries and fill their buckets.

The first day of you-pick feels a bit like Thanksgiving as we race around preparing the farm for visitors.  Instead of ironing my grandmother’s linen napkins and tablecloth, I mow an area where people can park their cars if they wish to walk down the hill to where our bushes grow. For several afternoons, I scrub stacks of buckets and set them into the sun to dry. We trim the grass around the garden, prune the wisteria vine so it doesn’t hit people in the head, and erect the blue canopy to shade a small table.

“Don’t forget to wash the jars of maple syrup. We might need more one-dollar bills. Is Scott going to sell flowers this Saturday? We should buy a new battery for the electric scale.” As we pass each other, John and I call out questions and suggestions, and thankfully, his sister, Sally pitches in and helps us.

While I sweep the weigh-in shed and wash off the scales, Sally mows a spot and John hauls in a picnic-table. He attaches the pitcher-pump and leaves a bucket of water for priming the pump. Like petals falling off a sunflower, by Friday evening, the tasks are completed. Now we must wait.

Each year brings back customers who have picked on our farm for several years, and in the case of one family, a couple of decades….now Peter brings his grandchildren. New faces appear, eager to know more about the farm and many ask questions about how blueberry bushes grow.

“Do you plant new bushes every year? What does it mean to be certified organic? How long will it take me to pick five pounds of berries? Do you have any kids to help you with the farm?”

I answer questions, weigh their containers to set a tare, and explain where in the patch they should pick. In a few hours, families return with children wearing blue lips and teeth, and often slip me a couple of extra dollars “for what we ate”. Whether folks want only five pounds of berries for snacking or fifty pounds to freeze for the winter, we welcome their enthusiasm and enjoy the compliments about the farm’s pastoral beauty.

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