I’m sitting here contemplating the clear plastic box of strawberries that I’ve been munching down on.
I know it is a sill thing to be thinking about (or asking) when you are middle aged… but have you ever thought about where those strawberries came from… the ones in your fridge (or freezer)… the ones in the plastic prisons at the grocery store? I mean, I know that most people who are able to read this (those who are over the age of about 6) understand where they come from, but have you ever thought about it… the process.. do you know the process?
Yeah… if I’m asking, you can probably figure it is a safe bet that I do… and I do… sometimes when I’m eating strawberries I forget the process… mostly, I don’t.
I grew up in what I thought was the middle of nowhere. I was, of course, wrong… it wasn’t the middle of nowhere. It was a little outside the middle. It felt like the middle sometimes. It was about 7 miles outside of “town”. Given that I walk 9 miles almost every weekend now, it wasn’t even close to nowhere.
Just down the road (not a quarter mile away) was a dairy farm where they used to pasturize their own milk. Next door was Canteberry Acres, a strawberry farm. Not just like, they grew some strawberries in their garden or even out back. The entire farm was almost entirely dedicated to strawberries.
It was the first place I ever saw an irrigation system. I love the sound of the water spraying out over the fields in the early morning. It was neat to hear. It was interesting to understand why the sprayers were on before dawn in the early spring.
They did that when it was going to be cold outside, as in frost cold, so the water would slowly build up a teeny tiny ice coat on the flowers and the fruit and the leaves. That is because… when you freeze plants (and people and animals for the most part for that matter) ice crystals build up in the cells and explode the cells… causing the cells to die (in people, that is frost bite and the thing that causes the chance of amputation… in plants it is the thing that causes droopy dead leaves and flowers and fruit that rots before it ripens. The ice coat that the water helps create makes the ice create on the outside and insulates the underneath… it is a good thing.
Why do I remember this?
I keep thinking that your brain is a warehouse and when it gets full… every new thing you put in forces something else out. What got forced out to keep this? Hmmm…
This is where my very first job was. I ‘got’ to work on clipping blossoms first when I was young.
You put on a pair of scissors (in my case those fancy free school scissors that we got somewhere…) one finger in each hole, start at one end of a row (not a short little row… more like a football field long… maybe a little longer) and you clip every single blossom, near blossom, or piece of fruit that is on each and every plant, clip no leaves, and you work your way, plant to plant, one end of the rows to the next, row to row, until all of the plants are de-blossomed.
This is what is known as blossom clipping. It was my first official job.
It would probably be a better job if it weren’t for those ‘kid’ scissors. By the time I left at the end of 5 hours, I was $10 richer and I had bloody broken blisters on my fingers and my thumb. It taught me that I can do anything I need to if I really need to… and if to me it really matters.
Within a few months the berries from the previous year’s plants were set and ripe and it was time to work as a berry picker. The people who paid to pick their own berries got the great light weight aluminum berry basket carriers. The workers all got the more solid and much heavier wooden carriers.
I was much better at blossom cutting. When I picked berries I was allergic to them so I couldn’t even enjoy the berries I was picking for other people. I could enjoy the 10 cents a quart that I got for picking, though.
I actually really sucked at picking berries because I picked ALL the berries in a row that I was assigned rather than trying to fill the baskets (for the people who ordered their berries pre-picked) as fast as possible. As fast as possible would have been quicker and would have made me more popular… those baskets would have only the biggest berries… you would get way fewer berries, and most of the ones you did get would be half air because they were hollow in the middle. I didn’t figure out until years later that it was the appearances here that mattered most, not actually the substance. It was a lesson I learned early but that I couldn’t actually ever internalize. To me, it has always been what is on the inside (the sweet… or the spicy… or the whatever) that matters way more than the appearances.
When I picked berries for our use at home, we got to pick over the rows that other people had already picked over and we got the garbage that they didn’t see as suitable to grace their baskets and we got to pick those berries for half the price of the ‘good’ berries that other people picked in the early morning. These hot late afternoon picking sessions were much quieter, but they were actually the sessions that proved I was right. Everyone always told me how sweet these berries were, how solid they were… how good the shortcake and jellies were that were made from these berries.
These berries that I couldn’t eat because it made me break out in hives. This part of the job taught me that you end up working your butt off for someone else’s benefit and they might tell you that what you did was absolutely wonderful… but until you can actually benefit from the sweat of your brow and the pain in your back and knees, you don’t really necessarily care quite so much…