Barefoot in the Strawberries

Written by Lydia Benedict.

No more pencils, no more books
No more students’ dirty looks!

My children are not the only ones celebrating the end of the school year. I’m breathing a sigh of relief that I’ve survived another school year—though not without the help of my tutors. This year I had only two: Jamie Pinkston as math tutor and Georgi Smith as my life-saver.

Now I’m playing catch-up on the farm. When I realized that my raised beds had been built out of pressure-treated wood, I had them rebuilt with cedar. That also meant getting rid of all the old soil and starting fresh. Of course, conditioning hard, unworkable soil can take years of adding compost and manure and now I’m starting over with most of my vegetable beds.

My new raised beds

Thankfully, my strawberry patch required no overhaul and after three years of cultivation it is now producing nicely. In fact, it has filled in so much that there is virtually nowhere to step while picking. I have discovered that it is easier to pick barefoot as my shoeless foot requires less space. Plus I have more control and can better avoid stepping on the berries. Actually, picking strawberries barefooted makes me feel more connected to my garden.

Meanwhile my oldest son, Tennyson decided he wanted to raise rabbits. On his own, he began reading up on the subject. Next thing I knew he built four cages and then found a local man who raises rabbits. He bought four rabbits: three does (that is, female rabbits) and one buck.

Tennyson’s new rabbits

 Next I need a cow or two. The old horse pasture is full of tall lush grass and I want to put it to use. Besides, I’m sick of spending time and fuel to keep it mowed when instead I could raise an animal on that pasture. I thought I’d have two pastures ready for cows, but a few months ago my wood rail fence by the driveway blew down in a windstorm. It turns out that the post had rotted in the ground.

Another seemingly endless chore on our property is brush clearing. And brush clearing means brush piles. And brush piles need burning. All the brush piles I burned last year were replaced with more brush piles this winter and I have been on a mission to be rid of them. Just this spring I have already burned nine piles! Four of those piles I burned in a 48 hour span. And I’m not talking about little brush piles. Each brush pile could fill the back of a dump truck. More than one pile could fill a dump truck multiple times. Needless to say, it gets a little hot working these burn piles. When one pile in particular just wouldn’t light, I dragged it piece-by-piece onto another pile that was already burning.

In between gardens, animals, children and burn piles, I am going with Jeff to Washington state for a book event in my hometown—Lake Stevens. I don’t go with Jeff for many of his business trips especially trips that take him as far as the West Coast. While modern technology provides much flexibility—there’s no such thing as virtual strawberry picking. So with the few remaining days before this trip, I will be training (and perhaps bribing) my children on the art of barefoot strawberry picking.

Clara Belle picking strawberries barefoot