As we were walking across a gravel road to the section of the farm dedicated to cherry trees, grapevines and raspberry bushes, we passed under a wooden awning that marks the entrance to the farm. As you're walking along the path, the A-shaped awning creates a frame around a stunning view of rolling hills, with a patchwork of crops growing on the steep slant of the hillside. It looks as though someone went to the top of a small mountain and shook out a big quilt, so that it covers all the foothills below. I told Emma that I had forgotten my camera, so she needed to take a picture of this scene with her imagination's camera and paint it later when we got home. She got really excited by that idea and told me that she was going to need lots of black and red paint so that she could paint the black raspberries we were about to pick. I told her she had a deal.
To get to the black raspberries, you have to pass by the sour cherry trees. If you've ever played the game "Hi Ho Cherry-o," then you can imagine what these cherry trees look like. Cherries really do grow on little stems and dangle down from tree branches just like in the game. Last week we picked the sour cherries and I was surprised by their ripeness, and how they almost disintegrated in my fingers as soon as I picked them. I tried one out just to see the level of sourness we were talking about. Pretty sour. Then I asked another mom who was picking cherries near us if these were indeed the sour cherry trees and not some other deadly, poisonous type of tree masquerading as a cherry tree, and she said they were. She showed me how to hold the low branches down so that my kids could reach up and pick the cherries and put them in their containers. We quickly learned which cherries would burst as soon as we picked them and which ones were firm just by looking at them.
This week we walked past the cherries to the rows of raspberry bushes. It was a long walk, uphill in the bright sun. Last week we were supposed to pick the raspberries, but as we were walking up the hill, past the cherry trees, the sky opened up and we were drenched. Charlie and Teddy were crying as we headed back downhill to the farm for shelter. Emma and I kind of enjoyed the drama of the situation. Ten minutes later we were eating ice cream in the bright sunshine again and wanting to go out and pick raspberries, but, alas, Charlie was no longer in the mood.
Yesterday there was no sign of rain, but there were many signs that Charlie was flagging. I'm wondering if maybe he thought we were climbing up the entire small mountain that lay ahead of us? Sometimes I have to remind myself that kids have very little perception of how far away things are and I think the raspberry bushes just seemed impossibly far to Charlie. We made it eventually, though, and I told Charlie I would wait with him while he rested in the grass. I encouraged Emma to go pick the raspberries without us. She was more than happy to oblige. She is a quick study and soon learned to look for just the right shade of deep, almost black, purple that would signal a sweet, tangy black raspberry. Raspberry bushes have thorns. "Just like roses, Mommy," Emma informed me. When did she learn about roses having thorns? Emma got stuck a few times by the thorns, but didn't cry or complain. Now that she's five-and-a-half, she's learning to put things into perspective. She's figuring out that some things are worth a little pain.
We headed back to the farm and took the hayride out to pick peas next. I am 34 years old and I've never seen English peas in their natural state. I knew they didn't come into this world in Birds Eye packages in the frozen food section, but that was about the extent of my pea knowledge until yesterday. Peas come in just about the cutest packaging you've ever seen in your life. It's a shame the Birds Eye people don't make more of this. They grow on these sweet little vines with curly tendrils spiraling out everywhere. And the pod itself is this beautiful green color, just stuffed with round, cherubic peas. At the top of the pod is a little hat-looking thing that is just too cute for words. No wonder there are so many baby/pea metaphors out there: Pea in the Pod, sweet pea, etc. You can't help but think of a baby all swaddled up with a hat on its head when you look at these adorable little legumes.
It is an understatement to say that the kids had fun picking peas. I'm pretty sure they were some of the most enthusiastic pea-pickers ever. You have to look closely and even lift the pea plant up a little to see the bounty hiding below. The best pea pods seemed to be hiding just out of sight, and you could really only see them if you took the time to look. At one point the kids sat down on the ground in front of a particularly fertile plant and harvested handfuls of pea pods.
Sitting in the dirt among the dainty peas in their sweet pods, the kids were in their element. I wanted to take a picture of it, to somehow preserve the pureness of our moment under the sun and the clouds, our brown bag so full of green peas that we could hardly join the edges together to carry it. It's hard to imagine now, but I know there is a time in our future when my kids' joy will be more complicated. It happened to me...I'm sure it will happen to them too. I wish I had had my camera with me. But sometimes even a camera is not enough to capture what I want to capture.