Saturday, May 29, 2010

Strawberry Picking

Prior to yesterday, our family had never been strawberry picking. Our first berry picking experience was several years ago to pick blueberries. Since then, we've graduated to blackberry and blueberry picking, since those two berries ripen around the same time in Tennessee. But strawberries are a May berry and May holds lots of things (school, for example) that have kept us from making this a part of our Fun Jar experience. A friend was the one who suggested strawberry picking for the first Friday of summer. It seemed like a perfect way to start summer: outside, with friends, gathering berries to grace our Memorial Day menu.

The reality of it? After an inauspicious start of clouds in the sky and rain sprinkling down as we arrived, it was a good trip. I quickly found that picking strawberries was different than blueberries or blackberries. Strawberries had one advantage (look for the bright red color to find a ripe berry) and one disadvantage (said berries are at ankle level) over their berry cousins that blend in more with green foliage, but are at a comfortable picking height. If you have younger children, I highly recommend strawberry picking. For a first berry picking outing with a two or three year old, make time in May for this.

The day stayed gray, but our spirits didn't. My girls quickly picked a gallon of berries and decided to help friends pick berries, play with the toddlers in our group and/or take a snack break. We headed to the strawberry farm early, so I didn't pack a lunch, but I did bring bottled water and enough granola bars for my children and then some. I also brought along some bottles of bubbles, which served to keep everyone from my eight year old to a friend's two year old happy and occupied while the moms chatted about the best way to use all of these strawberries (shortcake, muffins, frozen for smoothies, pureed for strawberry lemonade or margaritas).

This summer I'm trying something different and letting my daughters invite a friend to ride with us for Fun Jar activities. While we've done Fun Jar for years, I have rarely offered to bring any children other than my own. Organizing the activity and packing for my children has been all that I could handle. But my ten year old and eight year old are at particularly social stages, so hoping that one of their friends shows up isn't going to meet their needs or keep them happy this year. My first attempt at this yesterday went very well. The friend who joined my eldest daughter had a good time and so did my daughter. What I failed to think about and plan for was my middle daughter. Since I knew some of the families joining us, I should have seen that none of her friends were going to be there and tried to rectify that. She wasn't bitter or upset to not have a friend there, but she was more restless than her sisters. Next week, I'll do a better job of thinking about this in advance.

Finally, I thought this Fun Jar activity was a success partially because it got us out of the house on the first day of summer break, while still providing us with some much needed down time. We were home from the strawberry farm by 11:30 and were able to spend the afternoon reading, watching a movie and doing laundry (not fun, but necessary). And having strawberry lemonade with dinner last night and strawberry pancakes for breakfast this morning was a very nice side benefit!

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