It is Memorial Day Weekend which I picture as the gates of summer bursting forth with wagons pulled by tractors and horses piled high with corn and melons, tomatoes and peaches. Perhaps with the cooler, rainy weather the gates aren’t bursting forth, however they are opening. This week has been a mild one for sure and a damp one too. At home the perennial garden is going nuts. The hydrangeas, astilbes, daylilies, and chamelea are growing like crazy and you can measure their progress by the lighter shade of green and tender young leaves like pencil strokes with dates on a door frame tracking the growth spurts of your kids.
At the farm we watched a dilemma unfold as the strawberries ripened, orders for flats kept pouring in while all we could do was stand on the sidelines waiting for the rain to stop so we could pick. I’ll tell you there is nothing more frustrating than having the fruit on the plants which we’ve cared for about eight months. Beautiful and delicious red fruit looking right at you. Having everyone’s name on a list ready to pick up and provide a good home. And needing a couple hours for the rain to stop and for things to dry out a bit so we can pick without damaging or splitting the fruit. Thursday was the climax of this dilemma and a real nail-biter but we pulled through by the skin of our teeth and everyone picked up their orders very pleased and we kept on chugging along.
This week was also about cultivating relationships with other growers. Since this is our first year growing strawberries we have realized that you need to pick the plants about every two days so that you don’t have fruit going overripe on the plants. What is not red enough today will be at its peak in a couple days and if you wait more than that you might miss your window of opportunity. With this knowledge I thought of a neighboring farm down the street who have run a top notch pick-your-own operation for decades.
On a particular day last week I thought how on the weekends their parking lots are overflowing with patrons who’ve come out from all over to enjoy the outdoors and do some picking. During the week things are a bit quieter. I thought how our acre of strawberries is providing us about eighty percent of our current needs and for the remainder we have had to source with other farms. So I called up the farmer and asked if my crew could come mid week because we were a bit light and I assumed they might be a bit heavy. We negotiated an agreement and things went splendidly. In fact our guys learned a thing or two by visiting their farm. For one thing we noticed bedding of straw beneath rows of plants keeping their berries shiny and new. At first we are like wow, what an ingenious method for keeping the fruit clean and how they shine like polished toy fire trucks. Then it clicks and a light bulb flashes above my head. I get it. That’s why they are called “STRAW”berries. Have a great Memorial Day weekend everyone and be sure to come and check us out at the stands.