posts tagged with 'strawberries'

a new source for strawberries

If it's time to celebrate strawberries, it must be time to pick them too! Only, we're down on Parlee Farms, where we've picked for the last, oh I don't know, 15 years. Too much of a farm-themed amusement park now. So we had to find another place. Happily, a friend told us about Farmer Dave's in Dracut, and even better invited us out there to pick together! It was lovely.

the boys in the strawberry fields at Farmer Dave's

perfect picking weather

Farmer Dave's is clearly growing, and I wouldn't rule out them reaching Parlee levels of horror at some point in the next ten years. But for now the farm is perfect—for us, at least. The farmers who directed us to the strawberry fields were very apologetic about the smallness of the berries, and the weeds, but when we got out there the picking was fine. Great, even! We filled the ten pints we'd asked for initially and went back for six more. The kids were great helpers for the first two thirds of the picking, then they started fading; but that was fine, because that freed them up to watch the toddler in the group over at the playground the farm has recently added.

Elijah standing in front of giant butterfly wings being a butterfly

with butterfly wings

The berries were expensive, of course, but unlike Parlee Farmer Dave's takes food stamps and HIP, so that helped. And even if they hadn't, it would have felt worth it. Supporting a small farm, getting spray-free local berries... seems good! And just think of all the jam we'll make!

16 pints of strawberries in the trunk of our car

the haul


a celebration of strawberries

It's that time of year again: Strawberry season! We actually ate up our own meager crop a little while ago, but for the real players the harvest is coming in heavy now. And at the Congregational Church in town they know how to celebrate! The boys have been excited for the annual Strawberry Festival for over a week (we had some idea it might be last Thursday, so we were thinking about it early) and this evening we finally got to experience all the anticipated thrills. Well actually, in some cases the thrills didn't live up to the anticipation: the strawberry shortcake was great, but Elijah wished he could have more chocolate.

See, the way it works is that the offerings include mashed strawberries (with sugar or without), biscuit, whipped cream, ice cream (vanilla only) and hot fudge sauce. Any three is five dollars, more than three is seven. The past two or three festivals Lijah has chosen to have ONLY the hot fudge, and last year he made out like a bandit when they gave him a nearly full bowl and then didn't even charge us for it! This year, as befits a growing-up boy, he thought he'd try strawberries and whipped cream with his chocolate; and it was fine but he wanted more chocolate. So with his own money—naturally I paid for the first round—he went and stood in line again and ordered just hot fudge sauce. They charged him the $5 and gave him a meager spoonful that would have been disappointing on top of ice cream, so it was hard for him to recover the rest of the evening.

Still, there we were among the happy crowd on a beautiful midsummer evening, listening to a very talented young person sing and play acoustic guitar... so it was hard to be too upset. And now we're ready to start anticipating for next year.

strawberry days

June is rushing on in quite a surprising fashion, and a few days ago it suddenly occurred to me that if we wanted to go pick strawberries we'd have to act fast! We've been getting plenty from our garden—the netting is working this year, mostly—but it's just plenty to eat... not enough to make jam. So we needed a trip to the farm. With school over, we had time this morning and we made it happen.

Lijah bending to pick a strawberry

picking jam

The expedition was not everything that we could hope for. Parlee Farms, where we've long picked all our berries, is every year becoming more and more of a PYO theme park. Continuing in that theme, they've now switched the strawberry pricing from by the pound to a flat rate: you buy a box before you head out to the field and get to bring home as many berries as you can fit in it. The prices were never outstanding, but now they're much worse. $11 for a quart box that you have to fill yourself?! We paid $35 for a box that was said to hold six pounds, and we went in determined to fill it to the absolute brim!

the boys picking strawberries in the busy field

some people get paid for this!

For all my gripes about the farm, the picking itself is fantastic. And this year all three boys were awesome helpers, so we got our box filled in no time at all. More than filled: we carefully stacked the berries well above the rim. We had to get our money's worth—and it's so hard to leave berries behind! The strawberries are at a far end of the ever-growing farm property, so the tractor wagon ride to get there (can't call it a hayride anymore: all hay has been replaced with wooden benches) took a considerable time. In fact, after we'd picked all our berries and walked back to the tractor stop we had a couple minutes wait before the arrival of the same tractor we'd ridden out to the field, one of three doing the round trip. I guess part of what we were paying for was that ride, since it was the longest part of the visit!

the boys on the tractor wagon for the return trip, with strawberries

no-hay wagon

Well, that and the animals too; we happily spent some time admiring the goats and, especially, the bunnies. We would've had to pay extra to feed them though, so we didn't do that. We did pay a little extra to feed ourselves some donuts and chocolate milk as a reward for our hard work, but there was one final disappointment: they don't make strawberry donuts any more. No blueberry donuts in blueberry season, no strawberry ones now... just boring apple cider. It's too bad. We've been regulars for a long time, but it's about time to find a new place to pick. That and keep working on our own strawberry beds!

That trip was disappointing, but at least we could look back at one purely wonderful strawberry-related event this week: the return, yesterday evening, of the Strawberry Festival at the Congregational Church. It was cancelled last year, obviously, but things are looking up enough that it happened this year. Outside, which made it even better! It was so wonderful to be out among people, and eating even! Sure, five dollars is a lot to pay for strawberry shortcake, but it felt totally worth it under the circumstances. Especially since Lijah's bowl of only chocolate sauce (they offer chocolate and ice cream as well as the traditional components of shortcake; he cares only for one component) was free: it should've been five dollars too, but he's so cute and it's such a fun thing to ask for that they didn't charge us, even after I insisted. It was a lot of chocolate too!

the boys eating shortcake (and chocolate sauce) in a crowded church parking lot

festivals are the best


strawberry trip

We went strawberry picking today. In the past the outing has sometimes felt pretty stressful: it could be our only chance to get all the berries we need for a whole year worth of jam! But this time a couple things dialed down my intensity. For one, right now Harvey and I are the only ones who actually eat strawberry jam in our house, so we actually still have a couple jars left over from last year. And then we were also going with friends, so when we arrived at the farm I had to chill and wait for them rather than hurrying out into the fields in panic that all the berries were going to be gone. Oh, and also! I have three pretty grown up pickers now!

the boys picking strawberries

look at them all working!

The weather was also stress reducing: it was super humid, but while we were picking the cloud cover held and it wasn't too hot (we finished just in time; it sure got hot in the afternoon!). And despite the hordes of people in the field with us there were plenty of berries. We came home with 11 quarts, and there were lots more for the wagon-loads of people coming in after us as we rolled back towards the barn.

the kids on the hayride back from the strawberry fields

exit, with strawberries

Up next, actually making the jam. When will I possibly have time?! That's stressful too!


garden update

As always, gardening this year has had its frustrations. The boys and I went to both the local nurseries today looking for butternut squash seedlings to replace ours, nine out of ten of which were eaten within a couple days of sprouting. Also nearly all the kale was nibbled in the same time span, which was pretty discouraging. Clearly we need better fences. Fences at all, actually; right now there are giant gaps where I took down wire or even posts in order to improve the construction. With my dilettante sort of farming it's tough to plant and weed and make infrastructure improvements, so I guess this year the priority is the latter. Besides the fence I also finally upgraded the raked raised beds with actual wooden sides. I was doing that while I was also trying to get plants and seeds in, which wasn't optimal... but next spring they'll there all ready to go! And this year, even with all that, we're still getting lots of good things.

Zion holding a bowl of strawberries in the garden

the first this year

Those were the first strawberries, which Zion and Lijah picked yesterday. (You see they're not in an enclosed raised bed yet, since they were already growing. But this should be their last year in that spot, so we'll move them to one for next year.) The peas, well-protected with their own private fence, are also doing well, and so's the arugula and mixed greens. Tomatoes are looking strong. We ate all the asparagus we wanted, and lots of green onions. The garlic looks like it'll be the biggest ever, and none too soon: last year's crop is almost gone. And, while we failed to find any butternut squash plants, we picked up a bunch of pickling cucumbers instead. The boys like pickles better than squash anyways.

the garden beds

the beds back in May


strawberry season

some of the strawberries we picked

more precious than rubies

A few years ago Harvey had his birthday party at the berry farm; falling as it does at midsummer his birthday is always closely associated with the strawberry harvest. He hasn't let me put strawberries in his cake for a few years now—he doesn't care for fruit with cake, he says—but he's still a big fan of them generally. And now that he's big he's a fantastic help picking them too!

the boys standing in front of their strawberries

they're real pickers

We went picking last Tuesday, first thing in the morning before it got too hot. The boys enjoyed the hayride out to the fields, and all three of them were raring to go when I passed out the containers. Lijah's enthusiasm lasted until his fourth berry picked, but the bigger boys worked hard until their four quarts were well filled. It was very impressive. We got ten quarts—fifteen pounds—all together. Then a couple days later all three boys helped Leah mash the berries; and once the weather cooled down a little bit this week I made most of them into jam. Ten and a half pints should last me and Harvey a little while... (Zion prefers blueberry jam; Leah doesn't eat sugar and Lijah doesn't eat food). Of course, we set some aside for strawberry shortcake. The only thing better than strawberry shortcake is leftover strawberry shortcake, and we had that too yesterday. Strawberry season and life is good.


proper June outings

Lijah working on a sand castle

down at the pond

Last week was bookended by two lovely summery outings. On Monday we took advantage of the fact that school was still in session to take a homeschool swimming trip to Walden Pond with the Stevenses. After dominating the group ride together two days previously, Harvey and Ollie were excited to demonstrate that they weren't one-sport wonders—they can swim too!

Harvey and Ollie playing in the water

friends in the water as well as on land

(Or at least, not drown—which is the important thing to parents with smaller kids to worry about too.)

After plenty of time in the almost-midsummer sun (we Archibalds all came away a little red) we stopped by "Henry's house"—the replica of Thoreau's Walden cabin—for a visit. Zion loves it there.

Zion making a silly face in the Thoreau house replica

what would Henry think?

Besides mugging for the camera and scaring away tourists, Zion also demonstrated a more interesting way to leave the cabin. Maybe he was thinking of what Henry would have done if a tax-collector had turned up at the front door?

Zion leaping out the window of the house

very good form

As a parent I didn't know whether to be embarrassed or proud when all three of the kids from another family had to follow him out the window, to the dismay of their mom. A little bit of both.

Then on Friday we went strawberry picking at Parlee Farm. For the first time, Lijah was determined to be a helper.

the boys walking to the strawberry fields holding their baskets

field workers

Of course, that lasted about four berries in, but I appreciated the thought. Harvey was a helper, picking almost four quarts by himself. I should have a picture of him hard at work here; instead I just have these two jokers.

Zion and Lijah being silly in the strawberry field

NOT picking

(We also spent some time feeding the goats and taking a hayride, pictured previously.)

Zion and Lijah redeemed themselves a little bit when it came to helping Leah process the berries that afternoon. At least I think they did; you'll have to ask Leah how much they actually helped. Zion may have done some useful work. And today Lijah helped pour the sugar as I made some of the berries into jam. It isn't all fun and play around here, you can see—though in June it's more fun than not.


our strawberry boy

Last week Harvey saw the first ripe strawberries in the garden and proclaimed, "yay, that means it's going to be my birthday soon!" Let's hear it for a homeschooling curriculum that prioritizes teaching natural and agricultural rhythms for reference over actual dates! So Harvey knows well that his birthday falls in the midst of strawberry season.

Harvey holding up a pair of strawberries

it's his season

Our strawberry harvest has been coming in well, and so has the birthday fun for our biggest boy. He kicked off his celebrations with a party at Grandma and Grandpa's last week. They gave him a gigantic Lego set that took him two days to put together; it hasn't been demolished yet, which must be some kind of record. On his actual birthday yesterday his parents failed to offer him any gifts or other birthday delights, as seems to be typical for us lately. But we did write "happy birthday Harvey" on the schedule chalkboard and let him be in charge of meal planning for the day. He picked oatmeal for breakfast (I had mine with strawberries, but couldn't convince the boys to switch from their usual banana) and peanut-butter-and-pickle sandwich for lunch (the rest of us had pb-and-jam like boring regular people). For dinner we were guests at friends' house, but per Harvey's request we brought along chocolate chip cookie bars for dessert.

His party with friends will be Sunday afternoon. There's a Lego theme, and I'm very much looking forward to making the cake and taking part in the building contest. Also playing with all his presents!

Happy 8th birthday Harvey, and may your 9th year be as fruitful as our strawberry patch!

strawberries growing under netting

more coming


(strawberry) field work

some of the berries I picked

strawberry season!

The fields at Parlee finally opened after a cold spring, so we took our first picking trip of the year this morning. Well, most of us did; Leah and Lijah stayed home. She says she has too many bad memories of trying to do pick-your-own with an infant, which is more then fair. But the bigger boys were excited for the adventure!

Harvey and Zion, with backpacks on, heading towards the strawberries

ready for anything, including picking strawberries

They brought their backpacks so they could carry their own lunches, water, and, in one case, diapers. Harvey showed his seriousness by getting right down to picking berries, not all of which ended up in his mouth.

Harvey's head peaking up above the strawberry plants

the plants are big and healthy

Zion was only serious about eating. The only berry he put in his basket was almost entirely white; a little of it was green. But he enjoyed himself!

Zion studiously eating a strawberry, among the plants

just one more

We met the Stevenses there, and I was very impressed at how well elementary-aged children can contribute to the family welfare through their labor. The younger boys, working together, chipped in a tiny bit.

Harvey, Ollie, and Eliot in the strawberry patch

sort of helping

But the best part of the whole trip was that Grandma Judy came along. After she picked her own four quarts and helped Harvey with some of his one, she gave the little ones something else to do while we finished up the harvest.

Grandma Judy reading to Zion, Ollie, Harvey, and Eliot

alternate entertainment

Between all of us we ended up with 32 overflowing quarts: besides Grandma's we took home 12 and Bridget and co. had 16. It was a true team effort, and we were all proud and tired.

Harvey and Zion posing with the strawberry haul

they're meant to be smiling

Now I suppose I have to make some jam!


lazy strawberry picking

some strawberries in a bowl

the day's take

Strawberry season is upon us, and it's just about too much work. I couldn't even bring myself to take a new picture; the one that heads this post is really from last year. But this year it's pretty much the same scenario. I actually thought we weren't going to get strawberries this year: the plants were hit hard by the winter, and my neglectful weeding has let raspberry canes take over nearly half of the strawberry patch. But come June they started ripening almost as good as usual.

My next thought was that maybe the kids would pick them all for direct eating, and that worked for the first couple days. But this evening Harvey came in with a beautiful strawberry for Mama (very sweet, and gets him maybe 10% back into her good graces) and told us it was the only one out there. Upon investigation, that was proved to be completely false.

There's no netting up over the berries this year, so if birds and animals wanted they could make off with the whole crop. But the critters—many of them, at least—only eat like a third of each berry they decide to go for, and then leave the remains lying around all over the place, so it's more infuriating than anything else. The chickens might have done better, but I decided that I object in principal to having them graze on anything I planted (after they ate all the kale and collards this spring) so I fenced them out.

So we have to eat strawberries. In truth, there's not so many as to be onerous: a few to snack on, some more on cereal, a spinach salad with strawberries and walnuts—they do disappear. And they're pretty tasty this year, though mostly small. I guess maybe it's worth the work picking them after all.