One of Hide’s favourite things to do in the summer is go berry-picking. He starts talking about it in the spring and doesn’t stop until the end of the summer. The same friend who grew the awesome cherry tomatoes introduced Hide to pick-your-own berries two or three years ago. The first time they went to a farm which only had blueberries, but Hide has a special place in his heart for blackberries. So he looked around and that’s when he found Crow’s Nest Farm.
This year, Crow’s Nest Farm is under new ownership because the owners of Crow’s Nest Farm wanted to retire. Now the berry farm is called 3 Birds Berry Farm, but it’s still the same place, and the people still feel the same: friendly, helpful, down-to-earth and a part of the community.
How it works (from the customer’s standpoint) is really quite simple. You show up, park carefully, and talk to the people at the stand. They’ll tell you to grab a bucket or a pint container and direct you to the best places for the berries you want to pick. They have blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. I love blueberries, Hide loves blackberries, and we both like to add raspberries — white and red — for colour balance.
When you’re done, bring your bucket or container back to the stand. They charge by the pint or gallon (yes, I do see many people carrying full gallon buckets out), and then the berries are yours. Lovely, bush-ripened berries, plump, sweet, and begging to be eaten.
We usually go in the morning, when it’s cooler, and spend an hour or so picking. We live less than 10 minutes down the road, so it’s really convenient. We see a lot of families and groups there. I always think families have a strategic advantage in their children, because kids see a different angle from adults. They can spot lots of beautiful, ripened clusters that big people wouldn’t without a lot of knee-cracking squatting.
When we get home, we usually rinse the berries and prepare most for freezing, so we have berries all year long. For the berries we freeze, we’re sure to dry them thoroughly with dish towels before putting them in freezer bags. Doing so prevents them from sticking together while freezing, and makes them easier to get out of the bag later.
The whole berry-picking experience is very satisfying and very human. The berry farm is located off of what can only be called a residential street. The people who run the place actually talk to you and listen to you — and remember you! As you pick the berries, feeling a bit like a gatherer from back in the days before agriculture (ironic, since you’re on a farm), you can hear birds flutter, cows low, insects buzz. You hear the occasional laughter and conversation (and crying babies) in other rows. You may not always be able to see them, but you know they’re there. Other people like you, underneath the sky, planted on the earth, partaking of Nature’s bounty.