Today I am grateful for homegrown strawberries. And I hope I never have to pick another one for the rest of my life, although they do taste the best.
Yesterday I talked about the tractor on my grandma and grandpa’s farm. Today I’m bemoaning the chores that came along with that farm. Picking strawberries was one of my least favorite jobs. The field was huge. It was at least 35 football fields laid end to end. Okay, not really, but when you’re ten it seems like it.
My grandpa was responsible for the big fields of hay, alfalfa and corn, but my grandma was queen of her garden. . .and the dreaded strawberries. She sold them, one quart at a time. She’d buy sheets of some kind of balsa wood that had to be bent and stapled into quart boxes. Sixteen quarts made a case. Do you know how many damned strawberries you have to pick to make a whole case? We worked like share-croppers. For nothing. . .oh, not quite true. . .for our supper. “You work, you eat! You don’ work? You don’ eat!” I liked to eat. So I squatted along row after row of the viney bastards, elbows on knees until I thought I might die in that position, legs scratched to death by thistles and the sun frying me like a sausage on a grill. Sunscreen? Hah! Not back then. I wore one of my grandma’s big straw hats sometimes, but otherwise I just sizzled. Bottles of water or gatorade? Double HAH! “Get a drink from the hose!”
“Don’t pick ‘em with any white on cuz they won’t ripen! Leave ‘em on the vine! I’m not sellin’ unripe strawberries.” She always made sure that she threw a few more berries on top of a quart. “Na, ya! They settle! Gotta be full. I don’t cheat my customers!” My cousins ate as they picked but I didn’t much care for strawberries back then. Besides, if you ate some then your bloody box never got full! The fuller it got, the faster you could quit. “If they’re some that look too ripe, don’ throw ‘em to the birds. Set ‘em aside and I’ll make jam.” Nothing was wasted. Except me. But that was good jam!
People came from everywhere to buy her strawberries. They were so grateful to have homegrown. Me, too, but especially when grandma made pie! Sunburned backs, aching legs, sore feet and thistle scratches heal so much better when there is pie!