Saturday, June 5, 2010

Let's Get to Know Each Other & Go Strawberry Picking!

My husband and I live in a small community in IL. We have no children yet. We refuse to lose hope that God has a greater plan for us. Although the window of opportunity is very quickly closing in on us, we are never without great hope. My whole life I have said I want to teach or speak about something. I have just never known what to say and never really felt I have anything to offer. What to talk about???  Well, on our long road to have a family I have had many ‘A-ha’ moments. Primarily, when I grow up…I want to be a mom. But, I can’t, yet. Apparently I am not grown up enough! So I pick YOU. If I can’t impart something on my kids, maybe I can with YOU. That comes with my standard warning: I am and will be…the meanest mom in the world!   Sit up straight when you read this!!!

So I suppose I am in the endless cycle of “nesting”.  And I really want to share things that we do around the house that might be of use to others, so this is my tiny effort. Many people have children to pass things down to…we don’t, yet. This is my way of handing down some ‘old school’ doings. I say ‘old school’ because you won’t find much from a box, drive-thru or an aluminum can…just canning and more. Back to some healthy basics of a dying breed. Think of your Grama without the grey. Well, maybe just one or two that the tweezers find!

Many people ask me “Why??” do I trouble myself with hours of work and unpredictable weather conditions when I can go to the store and with little to no effort get what I need. There is a tremendous tangible satisfaction in it! Also, I am not a scientist, I don’t know all the facts, but I believe that we can produce a better product if we put in the time just like Grama did raising say 13, 10, 8 or 3 kids. There are too many chemicals, processes and unknown factors that affect our health. In our area, the county in which I live has one of the highest infertility rates in the state. Now I am not saying this is necessarily why we don’t have children yet, but…after many many failed attempts of various treatments, still no children, yet. That’s a funny word…say it like 5 times and it sounds like you learned a foreign language! Anyway, for those of you who have children, maybe your concerns are different. Autism and ADHD just to mention a few.

We aren’t entirely organic or green. We aren’t even anti-drive –thru. Just a little more concerned and willing to work at it.

So in that spirit, here is part one of what we do based on the season!


Oh what a beautiful sight! Yeah, Yeah, you can get your hands on them at the store real cheap right now. But did you know strawberries have been elevated to one of the items to ‘stay away’ from in the supermarket??? How can something that is good for you be on the No-No list???

According to “90% of strawberries sampled were found to contain pesticides.” Further, according to “Studies show that Americans have an average of 12 parts per million of DDT in the fatty tissues of their bodies. This is more than twice the amount allowed in fish sold commercially. It has also been discovered that the blood of the average American contains more DDT than is permitted in meat. Chlorinated insecticides can cause chronic poisoning in people most exposed to them, and liver and kidney damage are known to be hazards.
Breast-fed babies were found to be getting from their mother's milk twice the quantity of pesticides recommended as the limit by the World Health Organization. Swedish toxicologist Dr. Goran Lofroth noted that when such amounts are present in animals, they begin to show biochemical changes.
Traces of pesticides have been found in the tissues of stillborn and unborn babies. In some cases the concentrations of poisons were as high as existed in the mother. The pesticides were found in the babies' liver, kidney and brain, with the greatest concentration being in the fatty tissue.”

Also, according to “fruits and vegetables can pass through more than 20 pairs of hands between the farm and the consumer, adding bacteria to chemical and pesticide residue.”

Can I get a big “Ewwwww!”

What’s a person to do?

I LOVE love love this product:

Environne Fruit and Vegetable Wash. It is a MUST HAVE! Check around for stores in your area that may carry it or you can order it online from The website also has lots of great info that might just make a ‘user’ out of you yet!

Think about it…20 hands, chemicals, pesticides and who knows what else! Oh, don’t forget Wax – C’mon! It belongs in candles not in your food!

Even in the best of conditions, you HAVE to consider where things come from. This is NATURE after all! Become one with it, just don’t consume “the yuck”:
This is strawberry season. These are not blueberries on the ground people! ….Any guesses??? The deer poop winners have it!

With the tough economy, organic isn’t always affordable or available either. But we can at least clean up what’s there and minimize the effects…especially for our little sponges…the kiddies. Use a Fruit and Veggie Wash!!

If you can’t afford organic, maybe a better alternative is Go pickin’! Find a great U-Pick farm in your area, take the kids and have some fun! We went here:

Mary's Berries, 9495 E 1500N Rd, Momence, IL, 60954-3341. Phone: (815) 472-6015

This is my favorite U-Pick farm around. The owners are wonderful and they always tell us which patch is at its best. If you have small children, they even have a great spot for them to get dirty in!

A GREAT farm is well maintained, and “pretty”! Like this:

As you can see, they have a TON more strawberries ripening! So by no means is it too late to pack up and go!!

Strawberry Picking is not hard and it goes quickly! If you have never done so, create a family tradition NOW! Some of my most treasured memories are doing things like this with my Grandmother and Aunt. You just need to plan a tiny bit and keep a few basics in mind.

The Plan:

1) Call ahead!
  • Make sure the berries are ready. I usually start checking in around Memorial Day.
2) Go Early!
  • You will be crispy-crittered if you don’t! Maybe even if you do! And you can beat the crowd usually.
3) Check the Weather at the U-Pick site!

4) Be prepared!  Bring or have on these simple items:
  • Old Shoes
  • Layers – I like to wear a tank under a Tee.  This way, if it does get hot, you can rip the Tee off!
  • Long pants, unless you don’t mind crawling around on bare knees.
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray! Those skeeters loooove you!
  • Drinking water
  • Money – find out what form of payment your farm accepts
  • Shallow boxes –berries don’t like to be weighed down in transport. Your farm may offer these as well. I always bring them just in case. Most farms will have buckets for picking, but you will need a form of transport.
  • A Hat -if you prefer
  • Sunglasses
  • Chapstick –I never leave home without it!
  • Anti-itch product –either for the occasional hungry bug or…this:
Thankfully…I am not allergic to eating them!! But anything with “fuzzies” really irritates my skin. It’s like having an army of ants in my pants!

  • A camera! Take some photos for your family to remember the day!
  • Bring a friend! Half the fun of doing anything is sharing it!!!
That’s my shirt I ripped off and threw on the ground…you’ll thank me for it later!

Now let’s get Pickin’!

Just a little guidance on how to pick the Berries! Everyone has preferences or techniques. I like the smaller, deep red colored berries myself. It’s like finding gold! They are so sweet! I do not care for the gargantuan ones you buy in the store. They seem like a fibrous water-logged mass. Test it out…compare and you will see what I mean.

1) Always be respectful of the field.
  • Don’t jump rows without caution.
  • Keep a sharp eye on little feet, most patches ask kids not to run.
  • If you see a weed, pull it! It won’t kill ya!
  • Try not to step, kneel or crawl on the berries.
  • Watch out for runners; put them back in line even. A runner is a new shoot off of the mother plant that is looking to set down roots thusly creating a new plant. Simply lift it carefully and place it in line with the row.
  • Don’t eat your own weight in berries! It’s OK to sample, that’s how you know you have a great spot!!!
2) Only pick Ripened berries! Not orange or white or green…only red! This cluster shows several shades of berries:

This photo is pay dirt!   (Hint: the red one in the middle!)

3) If you plan to process your berries the same day, grasp the berry just above the stem between two fingers and then wrap your thumb and lightly pull. The berry should snap from the vine with ease. Be careful not to pull the plant, just the berry!

All that need is needed here is a thumb and a light pull!

4) If you can’t get to your berries right away, leave a little of the stem on and simply pinch it off with your fingernails, or in my case nubs:

So now you have picked strawberries! It’s fun and rewarding! Oh, don’t forget to pay for them! I always throw in a ‘Tip’ for the ones that never made it to the scale and rather into my belly! But that is just my way of saying “Thanks” to the farmer. They deserve it!

Storage: Berries can be stored in a cool place for a day or maybe two until you are ready to ‘put them up’. Just keep a good eye on them. Some folks will store them in the fridge, others just in a cool house. Never leave them in the heat or in your car! Go straight home!

Here is our harvest:

Special Note: What NOT to say to the farmer….(hand on belly) “Thanks, I’m full now!”

Stay tuned … for what to do with your berries now that the little buggers are all yours!


  1. Awesome post Di!!!!!! This was SO helpful! We should really take Addie back this year so she can experience the fun too. Although, I am not sure she will follow some of the rules. The girl does love to run and jump! I too have that fruit and veggie wash and love it :-) Can't wait to read about what you DO with all these strawberries once you pick them :-)

  2. Yay! I am so glad you have a blog Diana! And your first post was awesome! I am looking up where I can get that fruit and veggie wash today! That is a lot of strawberries! How long do they last for you after you pick them and what will you ever do with that many! I can't wait to read more!

  3. Hey Girl! Thanks for the props! Hope you are doing GREAT!! The berries should keep for a couple days at most. You will know be looking at them, trust me you will! We eat alot, give away alot and of course make jam! YUMMY!

  4. Great post! And tons of info I need since we've only ever picked blackberries in our back woods. Thanks for the tips :)