Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | July 3, 2011

Summer? How did that happen?


It’s been darned busy.  Breathe.

As sad as it seems, I’m glad it’s July already.  The end of June brings an end to all of the school committments, the whirlwind of activity as plans are made for the warm weather season, and a sighing settling down into the heat of the summer.

Now, I’m not good in heat.  I get a love of fog from my father’s genes – a native of Humboldt County.  But July is my target this year for transitioning to summer.

Fourth of July is our annual berry picking day. It is a day begun in fog, packing the family car with ice chests and tupperware and snacks and sunscreen and towels and hats.  We leave the house to meet at the Phipps Farm in Pescadero.  10 ish –  Mom time.

(Definition:  10 ish, Mom time:  It is the time that you hope that you will arrive at the destination to meet with the others of your party, but are given 20 minutes grace to accommodate the last minute crises that occur as you herd the kids out or turn back to the house to fetch forgotten necessities or gas up the car or hit the atm for cash.)

Actually the trip to Phipps Ranch is a tradition for Husby and me, pre-parenthood.  We started going there as we started our life together as a couple, looking for ways to celebrate our togetherness without having to adopt our family traditions,but creating our own.  We invited friends to join us.  It was only a few at the beginning.  But now over 20 years, we just remind all the friends and extended family that they are more than welcome to join us in a berry patch to pick purple black fruit and then go to the beach for a picnic.

The picnic is a potluck.  We pool all the coolers together, empty baskets, bags and boxes and share whatever is spread on the blankets and towels.  There may be fruit, olives, chips, sandwiches (usually not quite potluck as they’ve been custom ordered at the deli in Pescadero minutes before), pies, cakes, cookies, salads and other tidbits.  Ants are flicked away from the hoard.  Children (now mostly teenagers) take up one part of the the perimeter.  Friends catch up a little while lounging against sand banks.

Then we drift off to the tideline to find treasures.  Tidepooling is to the left among the rocks of the cove.  Anenomes in lime and teal and purple may be spread open like exotic flowers or closed up tight like in underwater blobs.  Hermit crabs scramble out of sight hoping to avoid curious fingers.  (Once we saw a dead leatherback turtle.  It was huge – as long as our loveseat in the livingroom – and drying in the sun.  It made us sad to see such an ancient creature lifeless on the shore, but we were enthralled with its complexity and awed that we come from a planet that has such creatures in it.  )  We cheer as the pelicans fly by in waves or dive to catch their lunch.

Then around 2 or 3, we gather the remnants of our repast, our carpools, our energy and head back to the cars and the Bay Area.  Some people have plans for fireworks in the evening, some of us have to get our precious berries home for processing.

Some years the annual trip results in glistening jars of purple jam.  Dozens of jars.  The harvest of prickles, dust, bug bites, nettle stings if I were careless in the picking.  This year should be one of those years.  Washing and measuring fruit, pectin, and sugar begins the process.  Then there is the boiling and stirring and watching to avoid scorching.  This is followed by the arranging of clean, hot glass jars and digging lids out of the water bath.  Then the messy pouring of what looks like blue-black-purple soup into jars.  Finally…the musical popping pings as the caps on the jars sealed with vacuum…the careful arrangement of jars in a box in the pantry, a hoard to parcel out over the year to keep summer alive.

So, you people who check in on this little blog, are all invited to join us this year.  It is the most casual of gatherings – no hosting, just whoever comes is meant to be there.  Come join whomever else comes for our little gathering.

What:  The annual ollallieberry picking at Phipps Ranch.  (You can also pick strawberries, or buy dried beans they raise there,  or shop for local produce.)

Where:  Pescadero, California.  Here’s the link for Phipps Country Store and Farm,  Google your directions.

When: 10 am, Mom time.  We hang out in the store/aviary/nursery for about 15 minutes before heading out to the fields.  If you are closer to 10:30 or 11:00, come out to the ollallieberry field and look for us.  Yell “Kat!!  Ben!!!  Spinner Maggie!!!”  Someone will yell back.  I’ll be wearing a hat and a purple shirt.

What to bring:  Something to keep your berries cool after picking.  A picnic lunch.  Water, water, water.  Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen.  Clothes to layer or peel off depending on the weather forecast and reality.

Have a happy 4th of July.  Oh, and mind the CHP checkpoint they set up on Hwy 1!

Aunt Magaidh


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