This is raspberry season on the farm. The time of year when even the children get excited for garden 'work.' Most of the time, summer carries a faster rhythm for us. There is moving farm animals (which requires additional fencing), garden planting, weeding, watering and more planting for rotational growing. There is canning, freezing, and dehydrating foods to stock up the root cellar for the winter. Stacking wood to keep the house warm when it gets cold (and if I was really on top of things, I would be chopping it, too, but...hmm.) There is also the daily homemade foods, yogurts, and cheeses, along with picking and infusing our own medicines and salves. There is always something brewing here at Blue Egg Farm. But raspberry time...this is when life slows down...just for a moment. Dinner is postponed an hour to head down to our neighbor Dan's farm, where there are rows and rows of these red gems just tempting us to temporarily halt summer in it's tracks for just a little bit longer.
Dan has been cultivating his raspberries for over five years. Back then, he started with 40 plants and now, it is hard to pin him down on just how many plants he has. My guess? Close to a thousand. The majority of his berries are Polanas and Autumn Britten, both ever bearing varieties that start producing around the end of July and continue until the first frost. His invitation to us to pick berries happens often. In fact, he invites many in the area to come and forage. For Dan, it offers him something to give back to the community, while, in turn, consistent picking helps to control the bug population, thus preserving the raspberries longer. For us, this means we can spend time with our neighbor while picking some of the biggest and juiciest berries around.
But berries aren't the only treat on Dan's farm. As we sit in the shade admiring the garden, including some of the most colorful and beautiful flowers around, Dan's roomate, Patrick, walks through the 50 foot watermelon patch looking for one that is ready. He checks the vines and puts the melon up to his ear and taps. As he heads to the spring to let the chosen watermelon cool, he teaches us how to pick the freshest melons. It is all in the sound of the tap. It should be somewhat hollow sounding, but not all watermelons have the same sounding tap. It seems more of an intuitive art form to me...maybe a skill that only a tried and true farmer would know...one that Patrick surely is. There is so much to learn here.
The children sit and eat their freshly picked raspberries. Although, truth be told, they ate more berries than they collected. Their mouths and fingers are bright red, evidence of a childhood worth remembering. We head back home to stock our freezer, make some jams and bake raspberry pie for dinner. We make extra jam to bring down to Dan's as a humble thank you for helping us slow summer down, slow our day down and show appreciation for how our small community continually takes care of one another. For this, I am grateful...especially while I am eating a slice of homemade raspberry pie.