“Mom,” my son puffed, as sweat dripped down his face, “How much longer are we going to be here?”
“Well,” I replied, “That depends- how much do you like jam and blueberry syrup and raspberries in your oatmeal?”
Will sighed, bent down, and started picking blueberries again.
Gentle reader, the end of July is berry picking season in Indiana. I’m fortunate enough to live within driving distance of a fabulous apple orchard that also lets their customers pick raspberries and blueberries for only $3 a pound. My kids, however, don’t always appreciate this blessing.
Eden wanders over with a flushed face and tired legs. “Ellie doesn’t pick raspberries or blueberries, Mom. She buys them at the store.”
This is when I sigh. How do I explain to a six year old (and a 10 and 11 year old) that picking berries yourself is cheaper? That berries you pick at the peak of their ripeness taste immeasurably better than any berries at the store?
And beyond those relatively simple concepts- how do I teach them to value the basic life skills that berry picking provides and the knowledge that comes with harvesting your own food?
How do I teach them to appreciate a more rural and agricultural lifestyle? One that is in sync with nature and the seasons. One that supports your neighbors and local businesses?
Hopefully I do this through repetition and example. Lots of repetition.
I kneel next to Eden. “Babe, right now is summer. This is the time to get ready for winter. We’re like ants storing up food to enjoy later.”
Eden looks down at her shoes and kicks a rock. “Why can’t we just buy raspberries and blueberries in the store, during winter?”
“Why?” I ask her gently.
Eden scrunches up her face, refuses to look at me, and rattles off quickly in a single breath, “Becausewecan’taffordthem.”
“And?” I prompt. This time Trinity answers, “And they don’t taste as good.”
“That’s right!” I answer as I straighten up and stretch out my back. “We’re almost done. Let’s all pick fifty more berries each and then we’ll go get an apple cider slushie.”
Knowing the end is in sight, everyone works with renewed energy. When we finally get to the front of the orchard and put our buckets on the counter, Eden brags to the attendant, “I picked these berries myself. I’m as strong as an ant.”
It’s true. She really is. And later this year when we make blueberry pancakes with the fruit that we picked today, I’ll remind her of that.