Thursday, July 12, 2012

things to do: maryland berry picking

It was 105 degrees Saturday, which would've been the perfect day to lock ourselves up inside the house and eat ice cream and while watching Netflix on the couch all day. Alas, we did not do that. Tony had planned to take me berry picking for my birthday, which just happened to fall during the heat wave, and not even a little sweat (OK, a lot of sweat) was going to get in the way. 

First stop: Butler's Orchard in Germantown, which is about 45 minutes from D.C. We got there just before the 8:30 opening to avoid the worst of the heat. Tony and I drove into the farm and parked, and a tractor shuttled us to the pick-your-own blueberry fields with all of the other pickers. 

Blueberries appear to be the big draw at Butler's, and the fields were teeming with pick-your-own laborers. The farm ran like a well-oiled machine, workers directed us to the tractor shuttle, directed us to the rows with the best picking, assigned us blueberry bushes from which to pick. I felt kind of like I belonged in a John Steinbeck novel.

As you may recall, I have made enemies with local birds after they ate my strawberries. I asked one of the workers how they keep birds away from their berries, and he told me they installed squawk boxes, which make loud noises the birds don't like. Seems like the perfect idea for a large-scale farm, but installing a squawk box would not be very neighborly of me, as we live so close to our neighbors.

Anyway, we then drove ourselves through the farm to the less-popular blackberry bushes, which we had pretty much to ourselves. About 20 seconds after I had popped a blackberry into my mouth, Tony said: "Um, don't eat any of these until we wash them." I looked over, and he was pulling the remnants of a bug out of his mouth, having just eaten an overripe berry covered in bugs. So that was gross. But he lived.

Also fun: pick-your-own flower fields:

Tony packed us a picnic lunch, which we ate in the car, as it was, you know, 105 degrees. And we then headed over to Homestead Farm a few miles away in Poolesville, where we picked our own peaches.

The house I grew up in had a peach tree in the backyard, so this farm brought back some memories. We had a lab, Pepper, and peach season was the best time of year for her: a steady stream of peaches, or "balls," would fall off the tree for her to play with. We said she lived so long because of all the peaches she ate in her life.

I'm pretty sure Tony chose to take me to this particular peach farm because they let you pet their farm animals: goats, chickens, sheep, cows. And this baby pygmy goat, which might be the cutest farm creature of all time.

We paid $2.49 a pound for the berries and $1.79 a pound for the peaches, but it was more about the experience than the cost. And I think we'll be having more pick-your-own produce adventures, especially in the fall when apples and pumpkins are ready!

Some of the blueberries and blackberries went into freezer jam that I made Sunday. And the rest of the berries and peaches are in the freezer, waiting to be turned into pies.

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