‘It’s not a race! It’s not a competition! Don’t pick the red ones or the green ones! Choose only the biggest blue ones! No you can’t eat them! Don’t let them fall on the ground!’ Picking blueberries with children is so relaxing. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Sarah Simpson Column: U-pick a family favourite adventure

The other weekend my son insisted he join me in running out to a local supermarket to get the groceries I’d ordered online for pick-up. Aside from the occasional haul at the farm stores and such, we’ve been ordering online almost exclusively since March, I’d say. I don’t for a second believe this is unique. It’s just how things seem to be in the New World. As much as possible I try to keep my kids out of the stores. Not just because of COVID-19, though that’s a major factor, but because I always seem to spend more money when they’re with me. That’s not unique either.

What is unique, however, is that my boy quite often opts to join me for pickup at the very last second, and is usually clad in only his shorts. No socks, no shoes, no shirt. He’d most definitely not be accepted inside the store that way but, again, this is the New World and the employee who brings our groceries to my trunk is (hopefully) unaware of how scantily clad the boy buckled into the backseat really is.

Anyway, given this new life we’ve all been thrust into, we are never the only vehicle waiting on groceries. This usually comes with a bit of a wait. I’m not sure why the kids like to join me for this because all they do is complain about how boring the wait is. This particular pick-up day was quite early in the morning so my son and I got to talking about what we should do that day. I’d mistakenly had nothing planned. We’d been to the river recently. We’d been to the lake. We’d hiked and geocached and spent a day in front of the TV with movies and video games surrounded by toys.

I thought the pressure was squarely on me to get my house chores done and find something new and novel to do as a family that day.

But it was my son who piped up as we waited for the groceries.

“Let’s go pick some blueberries and make them into a pie,” he suggested, randomly.

It really was random because we’ve only really scavenged for berries (the wild raspberry type) as a family once that he would remember and we’ve never been to a U-pick place together before.

I texted my husband: “The boy wants to pick blueberries and make them into a pie.”

He replied: “I can’t think of any reason why we shouldn’t,” and so it was set.

I called a small farm up Saltair way and a few hours later we were off.

I should mention I’ve never made a blueberry pie before but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from taking advantage of the one time my child has a novel idea.

We set out north and drove through a sprinkle of rain. I wasn’t even cranky about it because I’d forgotten sunscreen and I figured what’s a little drizzle in the heat. If we were going to be picking an hour, or even a half-hour, it’d be nice to stay cool.

I didn’t realize how excited my children were until we arrived at the farm and they could barely hold back from running into the field. There was protocol, however. We had to wash hands, we had to be given sanitized buckets, and we had to be directed by owner to our very own private row from which to pick. I was actually impressed with my kids’ restraint.

Once we had our instructions, it was off to the races.

The kids had an absolute blast.

“Look at this big bloob!” shouted one.

“I found a whole handful!” yelled another. “They’re everywhere!”

I’ll admit it was really satisfying to pull the plump little berries from their branches. I could have spent a lot of time there. The only issue we had was in constantly reminding the kids it wasn’t a competition or a race to see who could get the most. Even so, it didn’t take an hour of picking, that’s for sure. It didn’t even take a half an hour. It took 15 minutes to amass nearly five pounds — just about enough for each kid to carry half and feel like they’d hit the jackpot. And most importantly, it was more than enough for a pie.

To our surprise, when we said we were done, they complied. I didn’t really understand why until we got in the car and they demanded their snack.

Fair enough, I thought. They’d earned it.

I started prepping to make a pie when we got home and to my complete amazement, nobody wanted to help me make it. I’m kidding, I totally expected I’d be doing that on my own.

(I was shocked that it took six cups of berries but I was even more shocked when I realized that barely put a dent in our haul. So, over the next few days I made a blueberry crisp and blueberry muffins. We had them with our breakfast and lunch and for snacks and I even ended up freezing some.)

The children gobbled up their dinner that night in anticipation of pie and vanilla ice cream.

My daughter went to town on hers. My son… not so much.

What was wrong, I asked him. This was all his idea, after all.

“I like the blueberries, Mom.” he said. “And I like the crust.”

Oh good I thought. Success! But he kept talking as he poked at his dessert.

“I just don’t like the blueberries and the crust together.”


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