Yesterday at my day job (which you will likely hear very little about here since it is just a very small part of my life) a coworker offered me some sweet cherries. I politely declined but then noted that we just planted a couple cherry trees. I am very excited about this addition to our mini orchard!
Let me clarify, I LOVE cherry pie, but I do not eat sweet cherries fresh. I am not really sure why, but I think it has a lot to do with my upbringing. You see, as a child, my maternal grandparents owned a fruit farm. Each summer for as long as I can remember we would head a few small towns to the North, along West Michigan's golden coast and pick cherries. I believe this has a lot to do with my rejection of fresh cherries.
If you are not familiar with the process, we were hand picking these cherries. In order to do this the farmers have picking buckets with shoulder harnesses so that both hands are left available to pick with. And mind you, this was very important to my Great Grandmother!
My Grandma Jo, as we called her, was a truly exceptional woman! She was a very hard worker who ran that farm until the day she died at 91 years old! She was out working in the orchards one day, came in for dinner and the evening news as she always did, laid down in bed and never woke up. I have always thought that was the best way to go. And I would imagine nothing else for this amazing woman!
When I was about five years old with a need to use both hands to pick cherries, by mother rigged me up a harness with a peanut butter pail attached. For those of you who may not remember peanut butter pails these were similar to an ice cream bucket you may find now, a small plastic pail. The standard picking bucket was much too large and heavy for a five year old, but in my family of strong women, that did not mean I got to play under the trees! My mother would not have that. We were there to work, and that is what I would do!
So my mother, Grandma Jo, my sister Tonya, and I would head out to the orchard early in the morning and start picking cherries. We would each put on our bucket and harness and, using both hands, pick the cherries from the trees. Some of the orchards were smaller trees. In these, we would each get our own tree and clean off every cherry until the tree went from a brilliant red and green mix to all green leaves. In the older orchards we would group together and share a tree. A ladder would be put up in the center of the tree and one of us would clean the upper part of the tree of it's red beauty. The rest of us would work our way around the lower part of the tree until the entire tree was, again, completely emerald colored leaves.
As we filled our buckets we would go over to the trailer that was hitched behind the old tractor and dump our buckets into a wooden lug. Each of these lugs when filled would earn us $1. My sister and I would each have our own stack of filled lugs by the end of the day. We would count these and calculate our profits as the day went on! Always considering how the faster we worked, the more money we would have for our bank accounts! My bank account would one day fund my new bicycle, my freedom as a 12 year old!
As we worked, we were not allowed to eat the cherries as we picked. I recall there being two reasons for this rule; Grandma Jo's reason was that if you were eating, you were not working and we were there to work. Mom's reason was that the cherries had 'spray dope' on them and they would need to be washed first.
To this day, I will not eat a fresh cherry. I love a good cherry pie! My mom makes the best! I also love dried, Montmorency cherries. But you will not find me eating fresh cherries. Some things learned in childhood never go away.
Those summers in Oceana County, Michigan working outdoors taught me many things. I learned how to be a hard worker; use both hands, don't dawdle, and do not complain. I learned how to work together with others. I learned about a hard earned dollar, how to save money and to spend it wisely. But most of all I learned that I come from a long line of strong women, and for that I will always be thankful!
Hi! I am Lori Lundell and I am the Country Girl Gardener at Lundell Farms. Together with my husband, John, we have a small, farm focused on natural, healthy living. We raise produce, animals for meat and eggs, and love spending time together working on projects!