I’ve worked out a pretty sweet deal with a local blueberry farmer, that I’m really excited about!

I go to the farm and pick blueberries, and I get to keep half of whatever I pick. A gallon for a gallon.

FREE BLUEBERRIES!!! Woo-hoo!!

I had called the man a couple of weeks ago, and left a message, but when I didn’t hear anything back for some time, I figured he just didn’t need anyone to help him pick. Then out of the blue he called me, and said that the man who had been picking for him for years is no longer able to do it, and that he could really use some help!

He went on in his soft, aged southern accent, “We had a deal where he would pick a gallon and he could keep a gallon… I wonder if we might work something like that out?” I gratefully replied that that was exactly what I had in mind! His farm is only open to pickers three days a week, so I made plans to come out on the next day he would be there. It’s only a ten minute drive from my house.

At 8am I arrived, sun hat in hand and a bottle of ice water waiting in the car. It was going to be a hot day. I was grateful that my husband was able to watch the kids for me for a few hours.

The elderly man, Jack, greeted me at the stand in front of the fields. After fitting me with a belt and hooking a couple of buckets to me, he had his grandson drive me in a golf cart to the choicest bushes for picking. There were a couple of customers hard at work nearby.

The sun was already hot overhead, so I put my sun hat on and got to work.

Before I’d gone out, Jack had explained a bit regretfully that he had pruned quite heavily this year and the blueberries just weren’t producing like they had in the past. The lack of rain and the heat wave surely haven’t helped. As I searched the bushes for plump blue berries, I quickly found that he wasn’t exaggerating.

It was slim pickings.The bottoms of many of the bushes were all brown and dried up, the berries attached to them shriveled from a lack of water. I kept overhearing other harvesters a few rows over commenting on how hard the picking was this year.

I worked steadily, hoping to at least fill my two buckets, which would give me about 3 gallons. I reached deep through the branches to grab a cluster of two or three ripe berries a time, keeping in mind the advice my friend Ms. Addy gave me years ago about picking the berries that are smooth on the bottom. The bees buzzed all around, and somewhere a bird was chirping a strange sound that was more like the mew of a kitten.

As I reached far into one bush, I had almost grabbed my prize when suddenly my eyes focused on something inches from my face…

It was this guy! A harmless garden spider, but frightening nonetheless!! Yikes! (I was a little more paranoid of where I was reaching for the rest of the day.)

After a little over three hours of picking, I had almost two buckets full (a little more than pictured above). It was time to go home, baby Elias would need to nurse soon. I hiked my way back through the five acres of berries to the stand in the shade where my new friend was sitting. He asked, “Did you find any?” And I smiled, “A few!”

We talked for a few minutes before I headed on. I asked him if he ever had to spray the bushes with anything (my polite way of finding out if they were organic). He said the only trouble he ever has is with the birds, and he figures if the good Lord wants the birds to eat from his bushes he might as well let them. Plus, they really only pick from the top, which is fine anyways since the plants are too tall for us to reach. He did say that when he’d first put in the bushes, he sprayed them with grape Kool-Aid to keep the birds away, and it worked wonderfully.

He asked how old my kids were, wondering if they might be old enough to help me pick. I told him I had thought about bringing my eight year old daughter with me next time. He shook his head, “You don’t look old enough to have kids.” I smiled… I get that a lot.

We chatted a little more, then I gratefully took my share of the berries and headed home. Of course, as soon as I walked in the door (sweaty and red faced), the kids all swarmed the trayΒ  in my hands, ready for a fresh snack. These kids LOVE blueberries!! And I was so glad to be able to get them for them.

I do hope to be able to get several gallons this year, to freeze and to can. And I’m SO grateful to be able to work in exchange for the berries!!! It isn’t easy, but every little bit I can do for my family helps.