Berry Days Ahead

Reader Contribution by Jen Ubelaker
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I-pick, U-pick, we all pick … yeah ….

One of my favorite things about more sustainable living is the solitude. I work in my garden daily, and of course the hound and the chickie-babies need tending so there’s always something for me to do. It’s infinitely calming and therapeutic for me to just be by myself. My husband laughs that I’m happy as a clam just standing in the yard, hula-hoe in one hand, surrounded by chickens and basically being the queen of all I survey. Not a bad gig, if you can get it.

Because it’s our first year at the new house, and because our strawberry bed is in its infancy, I had to find some alternatives to stock up my pantry. I could go for a season without strawberry jam, but who can deny children? My sister lives in a pretty arid part of the country and when she told me her kids actually prefer Aunt Jenny’s stuff to candy? I always make double so I can see these little smiles.

In order to make the amount of jam we’re going to need for the year, I was going to need to find some berries, and quick. Our valley is pretty agricultural, so finding a place wasn’t too hard. I could very easily have just loaded up and gone by myself for a little bit of ‘dirt therapy,’ but I had mentioned to a girlfriend that I was going and she wanted to go too. It must be the rural version of “going out for coffee” that the girls do in the city; we pair chores and girl-talk and it works!

Our little adventure turned into a whole new kind of dirt therapy. We must have cleaned out a half-dozen rows of berries, all the time talking about our chickens and how our gardens were doing, dogs, kids, food and plans for sustainable living in our own families. As you can see, the view was horrible. We couldn’t help but think out loud, “Gosh, this place is the pits.” “Who can live with a view like that?” “Wonder if this guy is single?” and laughing like bawdy girls do.

So, for all the peace and quiet that solitude will get you, there is probably an equal space for company and laughter. I made this batch of jam by myself, but I am also looking forward to the work parties where we make sausage and can peaches all day long with our friends and family. So today I have a balanced life, an aching back and a shelf full of goodies to show for it.

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