Disclaimer: This is not a “how-to” on growing berries. In fact, no one should ever ask for or listen to advice about growing things from me!
As I am harvesting prolific crops of both strawberries and raspberries this season, I find myself reflecting on professional berry growing tips and am able to reflect on the success of those I’ve heeded and the regret of those I did not. It is easy to make the jump from simple farming tips to life lessons…this is not the first or the last time I will realize that, but I think it speaks so much to our connection to the land (can we get a shout out to Mr. Wendell Berry, please?).
Today I was picking raspberries and was overwhelmed by how many I kept finding that were practically sliding off their conical stems. The further I looked into the brambles the more deep magenta goodness I found, hooray! Whilst picking (and tasting the sun-warmed delights) I pondered the following.
1. Patience is a Virtue…also, Good Things Come to Those Who Wait.
Sort of the same sentiment and so true in so many ways. The first season you plant your berries and they start to blossom, berry wisdom says to pluck off the blossoms and forego fruit for year one. This will make season two much more bountiful. What?? Jordan was gracious in season one and allowed a couple of blossoms to follow through just so I could have a sweet taste. Similarly, once the berries DO start to produce and ripen, you could almost burst with anticipation, which may make you pick too early! Although those berries would be tasty, and much more so than your regular market variety, the ones you can wait until they are at their peak of ripeness are just dripping with goodness (a lesson I still need to work on next season).
As with life, we wait for the good things to come. They often involve a lot of hard work, heartache, delayed gratification, etc. This is something everyone “knows” but is difficult to put into practice. Daily stresses wear us out and we just want things to be done so we can bask in the rewards. A life well lived seems to have more work and wait and less basking. Berry season is short, but it is oh, so sweet.
2. Pruning is essential.
This is such a counter-intuitive measure for me as far as farming goes. I feel that if something is growing and thriving, it’s a GOOD thing! But anyone who has fruit trees, berries or other prune-worthy plants knows, it is essential for health and production. I was agonizing over the destruction wrought on my strawberry patch today as I followed the renovation advice from the Cornell Cooperative Extension. Conversely, I was cursing myself for NOT pruning the raspberries in the off-season as advised as I was untangling leaves and berry stems from dead branches.
However, in the non-farming part of my life, pruning is like second nature. If I don’t need something I get rid of it. I despise having things is storage I don’t even remember I own, I have no room for piles of paperwork, either at home or work. I realize that in many ways these kinds of pruning habits help me to live a less complicated and burdened life, therefore making me feel more healthy and productive…hmmm, how ’bout that!
3. Change Your Perspective
I often say things to Jordan about how I’d love for the peas and green beans to be differently colored from their leaves because it would make it easier to see and therefore harvest appropriately. However, as I type I realize that in fact the berries are quite a different hue and I still have a hard time finding them all! My lovely neighbor Deborah must have thought I was some sort of nut this afternoon crouching on the ground and looking upward through the berry bushes, making slow laps clockwise and counterclockwise. Not surprisingly, each new angle revealed ripe berries in places where I thought I’d checked three times already! This reminds me to try and not do things from the same direction all the time. I tend to be a creature of habit and routine. I like structure and predictability. My taking the time to step outside of routines will certainly reveal new ideas and practices, which can only serve to enhance what I already do.
4. There is Always Enough to Share.
Certainly in these times of “economic uncertainly” as we’ve heard it called a million times, having “enough” is a source of stress for many people. Do we have enough to maintain a lifestyle we like? Do we have enough to save for an unpredictable future? Do we have enough so I can feel full? Do we have enough so I can be happy? The questions percolate in the subconscious mind.
I love that when the UPS man delivers a package he will stop and pick a berry. I love that visiting neighbor children (and parents!) will enjoy seeking and picking the perfect berry treat as we shoot the breeze on the porch. It reminds me that we are Blessed and that we are Given what we need and then some.