Monday, July 12, 2010

Strawberry fields forever

A hot summer day in Manitoba.  Blue sky, reaching from horizon to horizon.  The flattest part of the prairies.  The Assiniboine River bends slowly, enfolding farms and homes.  Get off the Trans Canada Highway and head south to the strawberry farms.  We decided to head out to a strawberry farm to pick a few berries.  Remembering the days of my youth, I filled the ears of the 3 younger of our crew with stories of picking on Steve Schmidt's homemade picker, shaped like an old-fashioned airplane, chugging along in the straw filled ruts of the strawberry patch along Four Mile Creek.  We friends and cousins slogged away in the humid heat of Southern Ontario's late June days -- we got a bonus if we worked on what was then known as Dominion Day.  I cannot for the life of me remember the amount we were paid -- it was definitely per flat of berries, but no clue on the total amount per flat.

We hoped to visit Our Farm, a family-run farm, where the strawberry fields are run by the kids in the family. Unfortunately they had some winter kill and what the winter didn't kill, the torrential rains of spring eliminated.  So no strawberries there.  Then we headed to a bigger unit, the Connery strawberry fields, aptly called Riverbend Farm.  Apparently the main crops are carrots, green onions, and asparagus.

It was summertime and the picking was easy.  We ended up with 14 4-litre baskets... way too many to handle easily on the weekend.  A day of cooking jam later... some mashed strawberries mixed with mango and lime juices will form the base of a party slushy drink... frozen whole and sliced berries... two fruit pies, including a Saskatoon berry pie, which is one of Tom's faves.  No wonder I was tired this morning.  The pies were good.  The jam is great.  We'll be more than happy to taste some red gold sunshine in the middle of winter.

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