The earth tilted a few days ago.  Nothing cataclysmic, simply the annual solstice shift that marks summer for us Northern Hemispherians.  Now that it’s official, we at rooted decided to indulge our desire to taste the season, and of course, nothing says early summer quite like the soft, sweet bite of a berry.  We headed out into the Grandview countryside, where Bill’s Berry Farm more than obliged us.

Driving down the dirt road to the farm, dust kicking up behind me, irrigation spray circling in the distance, I knew I was in the right place.  I pulled into the ample parking area in front of the country store.  First thing I see is a family loading raspberries, blueberries and cherries into their car.  Turns out they’re three hours from home, and drove down just for the picking.  Their boxes of goods are beautiful—all bright reds and deep blues.  I lick my lips.  This is going to be good.Heading into the store, it’s loaded with country inspired gifts. There is a freezer full of freshly made pies and frozen berries.  The gal behind the counter tells me that Saturdays is where the action is, complete with a barnyard petting zoo, fresh doughnuts, tractor rides, and activities of all types.

This being a Wednesday evening, it’s a little quieter, but that suits me just fine.  She says to go ahead and grab a bucket or a flat and follow the flags to the ripe areas. There is a board next to the bucket pile stating what’s currently available.  I take my bucket and survey the acres of berry fields.Flags are up in the way back so I start walking.  Old, large-trunked cherry trees are on one side of the road, blueberries and raspberries are on the other.  I pass several people with flats of fresh picked raspberries hoisted onto their shoulders making their way back to the store for the weigh-in.  The flirt of red in the cherry trees is irresistible, so I mosey to the right into the orchard to have a look. I am surrounded by cherries.  The old trees and their shade are so lovely.  I sample one just to make sure the brix are on point.  They are.  What I’m really after right now though, is the raspberries.I mosey left and head up a flagged row of raspberries, and it does not disappoint.  There are berries everywhere.  I start picking.  Slowly at first until my eyes adjust to the rhythm of finding the ripe ones more easily.  I pop one in my mouth.  Wow.  Now, I know what a raspberry tastes like.  But there is something about the taste and feel of a perfectly bush ripened berry, warm from the sun, that’s just more . . . raspberryish.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  I was startled at how full and complete the flavor was, it was almost touching.

Up the cool row I pick, bouncing like a pinball from one side to the other as my bucket grows heavier.  Next thing I know, Shelley has arrived with the men and kids.  The bucket wielding hoard is flag bound.  They’re not messing around, intending to get a little bit of everything.  The kids are loving it.  They’re on overload and don’t know what to pick first.  The men disappear into the fields to find their own zen and the art of berry picking.  Buckets fill up as we take pleasure in the wide-open space around us.Next thing we know we are walking a blueberry row in the new-summer dusk back to the store to measure our yield and grab a pie or two to take home and bake later.  We take a moment to sit in the grass before we go, just feeling good and eating berries.  The kids run and play as the shadows are getting long.  Our need to taste the season has been slaked for now, but mostly, it has served to whet our appetite for all that is come.

7 responses to “Zen and the Art of Berry Picking

  1. Loved reading this! So much fun visiting Bill’s! Great experience every time and kids LOVE picking!!! Another Yakima Valley treasure right in our backyard.

  2. Lovely photos, especially of the kids. The sweet memories of days like this will be softly tucked in the girls’ DNA forever. I always find the summer solstice a little depressing, as the decline in the rotational axis marks the first step in the planet’s relentless march towards winter (for us, as you say, Northern Hemispherians). But a story like this brightens my day, and reminds me to celebrate each beautiful day of summer in the Valley, and all of the magic that our local produce has to offer. Thanks Rooted!

  3. in the 2nd to very last line you printed ” our need to taste the season has been ‘ slaked’ for now,” .. did you mean “. slowed”? or ” sated”?
    your writing is so beautiful. a lovely melodic rhythm makes me want , almost need more.
    thank you for the work you do in this endeavor.
    i’m Aileen’s sister., in Lake George , New York . again, thank you.

    1. So glad you enjoyed the story Christine! To slake means to satify or quench:) You had it right with “sated.”

  4. Lovely pictures, saturated colors. we in the Northeast can only envy you. 2 questions: How do they ever pick all those berries? What’s a yakima?

    1. This is a u-pick farm so anyone can come pick and take home their berries. A Yakima? A 60 mile long Yakima valley with all kinds of things grown and made here. Yakama tho is the name of the Native American tribe.

  5. Lovely story about our farm. So pleased to see that it brings as much pleasure to others as it does to our family. Thank you for helping others to enjoy the beautiful valley we live in through your words.

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