The Anatomy of a Pick Your Own

I’m the first up–as usual these days– and as such I feed and water the chickens and let them out of their coop.  I do a load of dishes and a load of laundry as surety for later, when the day has ended and we’re ready to wind down.  Pretty soon everyone is up and we all eat breakfast, which is cereal without fruit, since there will be much gorging throughout the day and too much fruit definitely wreaks havoc on the digestive tracts of young children.

We pack a lunch for everyone, even though Lionel is just splitting wood at the sugar house and I and the Bundles will only be across the street–it’s just better this way.  We also hunt around for a container which can be used as a make-shift kiddie pool to keep the kids occupied for large swaths of the day.  Everyone smears on sunscreen, we find hats, and down we go.

Today being Sunday, we don’t have to put up the road signs which direct people to our orchard or put up the tent; those things were done yesterday.  But there is still some arranging to do; the open sign needs to be put out, the maple syrup, mint, garlic and the hats my mom crocheted need to be displayed.  Oh yes and—as evidenced by the loud screeching sound we just got startled by– we have to turn off the Critter Gitters, which are supposed to deter the turkeys and any other animals which venture down into the orchard but really only appear to annoy humans.

And then we settled down to wait.  We’re really hoping that the turn out is better than yesterday, which started out promising with a knock on our door by an eager customer around 10 am and then the arrival of said customer to pick 15 minutes after we first opened, but ended with a whimper, with only one more customer for the whole of the day.  We’ve already thought of contigency plans, which involve us picking a large amount of berries today and selling them wholesale to local businesses, which might work if I could only convince the Bundles that the peaceful playing they are doing right now in the water can also be done if I walk a few hundred feet away from them.  But Bundle I is having none of it.  Mainly, she doesn’t want to play with her sister, or doesn’t want to have to play with her sister, which she knows she’ll have to do if I am not around.  So I sit, bleary eyed, watching the kids splash in mud puddles and spray the ground with hose water.

Meanwhile, cars drive by.  Some wave, some pretend they don’t see me, one stops and asks what we’re selling, and when I say blueberries she thanks me and drives off.  One passerby, taking her morning walk, actually comes down into the orchard but tells me she doesn’t have time just now to pick.  She takes our number and says she’ll be back “later”…I presume she means next week.  We wait some more.

Finally as we break out lunch one car drives very purposefully into our parking lot, as though it was her destination the entire time, and comes out with a container.  She’s picked here before and she’s back for more.  I weigh her container so we don’t charge her for it later and show her where the best berry picking is today.  She comes back in short order with over 5 pounds picked.  Alright!  Shortly afterwards another couple arrives, and then the passerby who said she would return “later” arrives with friends.  More return customers come and they have brought their friends also.  There’s a big bonanza going on in the orchard now.  They laugh and talk and come back to get their berries weighed and buy syrup and garlic and thank us for having this orchard here and promise to spread the word.

This crowd fizzles out after a while and it’s nap time for Bundle II, who doesn’t know she’s tired.  My best bet is to put her and her sister in the car and drive around the block, so I put them in the car, turn it on, remember that I left something on the table under the tent and go to retrieve it, come back and see that Bundle II is asleep.  So I turn off the car and open the windows, and get Bundle I out of the car.  She’s been waiting for this moment because it means that she and I get to pick berries together.  So far, I was only able to pick 1/2 a pound.

As we’re getting out of the car, another car drives into the parking lot.  It’s a car that’s been driving back and forth all day.  We all remark that the sky is getting dark and as they are retrieving their 11-month old out of the car they ask if we have any berries picked.  I tell them I’ve only managed to pick the 1/2 pound but they can buy it if they like.  They do buy it and start eating berries, then decide that they’d like to pick too, so I give them containers and show them to some good bushes.  As I am doing that, more repeat customers arrive with lots of friends, as well as yet another couple, and pretty soon I have ten people in the orchard.

The sky gets darker.

Some people come back, we weigh their berries, they buy some syrup and then they leave.

The sky gets darker.  There’s thunder in the distance.

I pack up the crochet stuff so it won’t get wet.  Somebody else comes to get their berries weighed.

It starts to rain.

I pick up Bundle I and we run to the car, which I quickly turn on, put on the air and put up the windows.  Bundle II still sleeps.  I ask Bundle I to stay in the car and I rush out again to process the straggler’s berries.  Thunder and lightning crash overhead while we stand in a metal framed tent in the middle of a field.  It occurs to me later that I could have just guessed at a price and been happy with that, but in the moment my fingers fly over the calculator–three times, because I am hurrying– and come up with some random number which I relay back to the customer, who hands me some random money amount in return and we all run quickly to our cars.

Bundle II is still sound asleep, but Bundle I is crying with  her hands over her ears, from fear or loneliness or the loud noise or all of the above.  I watch with dismay as various items I didn’t store or tie down get tossed about or soaked.  I decide to go back up to the house to get Bundle I something to distract her with, and notice that a screen has blown in at the front door and now it is raining inside the house.  Brilliant!  I fix that up, run around trying to batten down the hatches, grab a snack and a few library books and make another mad dash for the car.  We drive back down to the orchard and I am relieved to see that the tent is still intact and upright.

Finally the rain stops.  Bundle II wakes up, Bundle I stops shivering, and the sun comes out.  We all trudge out to the orchard and I pick up all the pieces that got blown away.  We get back into the car and see if our signs are still standing, which they aren’t, so we pick them up.  We go back.  The sun is glistening off of the berries and the leaves and it’s almost 4:15, so we do what we had planned to do all day:

We pick blueberries. 

No more customers come.  We pack up the car, we dismantle the tent, we take down the open sign, turn on the useless Critter Gitters, close the gate, remove the road signs and we go home.  The next day at breakfast, we have blueberries on our cereal.

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