By Contributing Mama Daphne Biener
Summertime finds me hankering for berries fresh from the farm. Or no, maybe I am thinking of my man Hank, fresh from the farm? My sweet (imaginary) farm boy, Hank. Shoulders bronzed from the sun and broadened from the heft of a pitchfork. A stick of hay clenched in his teeth; wavy hair glimmering beneath the setting sun. Faded overalls, bare chest… oops, sorry, where was I?
Oh yes. E I E I O. The Bieners went to the farm. Now it happens that I have a few ideas about life on the farm (see above dream sequence). So when I heard that our membership in the Monroe Organic Farm CSA (C-S-Huh? In a CSA, us ordinary folks buy a share in a farm in exchange for organically grown goodies that are delivered weekly) entitled us to pick strawberries, I was about as happy as a dusty pig in a wet mud puddle (that’s pretty happy, I think).
We drove east, and the familiar sprawl of Target and Starbucks gave way to waving wheat that would sure smell sweet if the wind came right behind the rain (Oklahoma show tune fans in the house?). Beautiful, sure, but my daughter Acadia was concerned. She was all too familiar with what happens when the winds blow decisively from the east.
“It’s going to be stinky, isn’t it?”
And two minutes later.
“Mom? It’s going to really stink, isn’t it? I don’t want it to be stinky. Mom?”
I remained noncommittal instead of confessing that minus a hazy montage, featuring Hank and a tractor, I know precisely one thing about farms: they are stinky. Nevertheless, driven by the promise of sun-ripened strawberries, we pressed on.
Armed with instructions that “the animals will eat whatever you feed them,” and “don’t touch the electric fence,” we toured the farm. Acadia, aka wild child, asked if touching the fence would make her eyes “kind of cool and glowy.” I kept a restraining hand on her shoulder.
We fed the chickens and we fed the piglets, who weren’t pink or cuddly but, as Kira put it, they were “funny and incredible,” (if perhaps a little stinky). The little porkers formed piggie-stacks two or three high in their clamor for food.
The sound of the girls’ laughter echoed across the dusty fields. In the glare of the sun, my hubby farmer-for-a-day Dave pulled weeds to fuel their fun. My heart pulled a little in the perfection of the scene and before I could say howdy-do it happened: My own suburban cowboy usurped Farmer Hank’s spot atop that shiny tractor of my dreams.
At seven pm, designated picking time, the late sun baked down on a row of berries that stretched from my ankles out past Kansas. I looked down at the masses of red fruit swirling around my feet and my back sent this memo to my brain: Damn! Those berries sure are a far way down.
We bent. We picked. We ate until the sun started sinking.
Sweet red juice stained the wide grins on the girls’ faces as we loaded them into the car along with more berries than we could possibly consume in a lifetime of happy summer evenings. I smiled at my farmer, and we headed for home.
Wondering what on earth we did with 1000 tons of berries? Oh we jammed. And we muffined. And we ice-creamed. Check out A Greener Biener for more on the farm, plus pictures, and recipes.