Here in Canada, June is a special month. It is when our strawberries come into season. The short, and I mean a very short season lasting barely 3 weeks, weather depending. So when the berries are ripe, people come en masse to pick their own or buy ready picked baskets and gorge themselves until there are no more.
The local berry farm is about a 10 minute drive away, down a dusty dirt road made dustier by road reconstruction along the way. Arriving at the farm, I pull into the gravel lane and head over the front lawn which serves as the farms parking lot and back the car into a spot, immediately taking notice of several deer flies cruising around the side mirrors. The only draw back to berry season are the deer flies…the things we must endure to get luscious, ripe berries.
I grab my floppy hat, 3 empty baskets and my trusty bug zapper. I never go anywhere without it, otherwise you will soon be needing a blood infusion and headed down the laneway towards the strawberry fields. There is a “bus” to take folks to and fro, but I prefer to walk (and swat) for some exercise.
Once I find where everyone else is picking, I quickly get to work filling up the baskets before the heat intensifies as well as the deer flies swarming. In and out in about 30 minutes with 3 baskets of fresh, ripe, tasty morsels of summer.
I head back to the entrance, pay for my goodies and hop back into the car. On to the next stop on today’s to-do list, filling up 5 x 20 litre jugs of Spring water. The natural Spring is a few kilometers from the berry patch and down yet another very dusty gravel road (so much for the car wash yesterday while at the dealership getting a tire fixed). There are no signs for the Spring, just a hose coming out of the thick bush which, so I am told, is a mile or so back in. I have no idea who owns the land or operates it, but we have been using this water source for the past 30 years, learning of its existence from the locals when we started coming up to the area before we purchased the homestead property.
As I drive along the dusty road, I slow the car down while approaching a farm that was built a few years ago, and not just any farm either. We (ok, me) had been keeping tabs on what the owner was doing as he cleared the land of bush and started to fence in what looked like pastures. My first thought was cattle as there are quite a few cattle farms in the area, but was I surprised one day when I came around the bend and saw alpacas! Kismet, fate, whatever you call it, this fibre geek was thrilled to see these cute as all get out critters living so close to me. One of these days I still have to go up the driveway and introduce myself to the owner, and maybe smuggle an alpaca into the car while there, but I digress, as I rounded the corner and slowed the car, there they were, freshly shorn and stuffing their faces full of grass. I stopped the car, got out and took my phone out for a picture. I whistled at them, trying to get them to look up, nope, heads down, they kept stuffing their faces. Perhaps they are used to people driving by and whistling at them.
I hopped back in the car just as a horsefly whizzed by my ear. Summer is wonderful, but I sure could use a little less of the biting insects.
I headed down the road, arriving at the watering hole with no one else around. If you try to get water on the weekends, there are cars lined up waiting, better to come during the week while it is quiet. I turned the car around and pull up just in front of where the hose is. As I turn the car off, I look at the side mirrors to see more deer flies swarming. I popped the trunk lid, put my jacket on (even though it was 20C and getting warmer by the minute) pulling the hood up over my head, then I jammed my floppy beach hat on. I may look like a total goob, but I wasn’t looking forward to getting bit on the back of the head which is where they like to for whatever reason.
I step out of the car with trusty zapper in hand and immediately started swinging, perfecting my backhand and forehand and loop-de-looping-hand. I start filling jugs, all the while, swatting. After eliminating 5 or 6 of them, it quieted down and I was able to fill a couple jugs in peace. Then another car pulled up, rats, for some reason, deer flies know cars = people and follow them. Soon I was madly swinging the racket again.
The fella stayed in his car until I was done, he wasn’t a newbie that’s for sure. Once the jugs were filled and hauled out of the ditch and put in the trunk, I hopped back in the car sweating like crazy from having so much stuff on, pulling off the hat and peeling off the jacket and tossing it on the passenger seat. There, done, time to get out of dodge before the flies pick the car up and carry it away.
I headed back to the homestead with the trunk full of jugs of Spring water and the inside of the car smelling like strawberries. With the off-site to-do list done, I can get on with the rest of the chores, but first I must enjoy a dish of freshly picked berries.