I had the pleasure of spending a recent sunny morning at a nearby farm picking berries with my friend Denise and my 3-year old Juniper. It’s been an annual early-June tradition since long before Juniper was born and each year this day marks both the kick-off the u-pick season and also the passage of time.
I remember when a decade ago nearby Sauvie’s Island was not so crowded. Denise and I would talk about relationships between berry bushes. The baskets would get fuller as we stayed out there for hours picking away. We could blaze through rows in no time.
Then Juniper was born and it seemed completely natural to just throw her in our Ergo carrier and hope she napped while I picked. The basket didn’t quite as full quite as fast with her on my back. I would put together a makeshift shade “tent” for her when she didn’t want to be in the carrier anymore or carry her on my hip. Denise and I would talk more about how we were going to preserve the berries and what unusual concoctions we were going to experiment with.
As soon as Juniper was walking, berry-picking became a favorite seasonal activity for her. I felt a little sheepish checking out at the farm store with my little one covered in berry stains. Clearly berry sampling was no longer so subtle. My preservation plans got a lot simpler: strawberry jam and some for the freezer – nice and easy. Denise and I still talked about relationships, but those conversations happened in two minute increments between Juniper-wrangling.
This year Juniper and I talked about how the berries made a “kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk” sound, like Sal’s berries in the beloved Blueberries for Sal children’s book. I asked her what she was planning to do with her berries, and between her munching she said “Save them for next winter” – just like Sal’s mama says in the book.
Meanwhile, I did my best to squat over and over again to reach the berries around my nine-month pregnant belly. A woman in the field stopped me to say how impressed she was that I was even out there. (Thank you wonderful stranger!) I picked less than in the past and had no shame buying worker-picked berry crates at the farm stand check out.
Denise remarked how special it is that Juniper is growing up to love the same things we love. And it made me think about how integrated homesteading, in various forms, has been woven into our life. She dashes home from preschool into the backyard to search for ripe berries in our garden – just like I did as a child on our urban farm. It makes me really proud that, even as a toddler, she is a little modern homesteader in the making.
Life continues to evolve and having children doesn’t mean giving up on those things I have loved. Instead, it’s meant creative ways of incorporating Juniper into those activities, resetting expectations on how productive I can be (balancing u-picked and worker-picked), and still making time for sharing stories with friends in the field – albeit less often and with more divided attention. It’s not so hard to raise our kids with an attachment to nature, to growing your own food, to supporting local farms when we do those things ourselves. And it’s easier to do when we’ve got some version of it in our own backyard.