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Helen's Mulberry Lane Farm Journal

Strawberries 2012

We are finally getting rested up after a fabulous and exhausting strawberry season. This was our best strawberry season on record! Customers hailed as far as Michigan.

I had so many notes and scraps of papers on my desk during strawberry season, that I began taping them to the walls in my office. Figuring out how many U Pickers to allow in, how to fill already ordered strawberries, school group tours, and meeting the demand for drive ups was more than my brain could handle. Hence the notes. I went to Gerald in his office one day and asked him for help sorting out the logistical nightmare. After listening to my rants and raves, he said, "What's in your head?" (I think he meant to say, "What are you really asking me to help you with?") I replied, with wild hand gestures, "There's nothing in my head."

What I meant to add was, "It is written down on all of the millions of scraps of paper taped all over my office walls", but before I could Gerald said, "That's what I thought." Needless to say, laughter took over and I never did get help from him on that topic. I was too overwhelmed to know what question to ask.

Strawberry growing was indeed a challenge this year. Early blooms, frosts, drought and bronzing days made for extra labor on all fronts. Because of the challenging weather conditions, strawberries were rare and expensive in Illinois and surrounding states.

Due to Gerald's terrific homemade computer based waterer, and our crew protecting the strawberries from frost numerous nights, we were very pleased to be able to provide you with gorgeous, delicious and sweet strawberries.

Since we had strawberries for Memorial Day, a first for us, our strawberry patch was packed with U Pickers. All of our staff was on the run that day, both inside and outside the store! Despite 100 degree temperatures folks came out and picked the patch clean! It was a record day for sales and all in our new store!

Two ladies come together one morning. One was young. She picked the berries. The other older. She sat under the tree for several hours. She loved just sitting there in the cool, country breeze watching as we worked in the garden. She said she hadn't felt so relaxed in years. (Maybe part of the magic was not having to work while everyone else around you was?) She called it a "million dollar spot" and said we should charge to let folks sit there! I told her it was a great idea and that I would start immediately!

Our million dollar spot!

Many young moms came out with their children and husbands for U Pick. This Dad played with his children while his wife picked strawberries. They enjoyed playing with my little green whatever-you-call-it that I got from a recent salvage yard trip.

I filled orders for folks behind the store, which kept the dirt and mud out of my new store. Customers loved waiting in the air conditioning as I filled their orders fresh from the garden.

One day a lady, who was probably in her early fifties, came and picked strawberries from 8 am until 2 pm. She picked over 50 pounds of strawberries and it was well into 90 degree temperatures while she was here. She said her mom did the same kind of thing well into her 80's and that her mom trained her right! I loved all of the old baskets that she brought with her to pick into. They belonged to her mother who had recently died. I think it was a kind of therapy for this lady to come and pick strawberries and remember the good times she had with her mother---cheaper than counselling and probably more beneficial.

50 pounds of strawberries cooling in the shade.

We had about six Ph. D. University of Illinois students come out for U Pick. One of the students was working on her doctorate. Her project was to see if she could increase anti-oxidants in strawberries by ultrasound. Her helpers picked lots of strawberries while she sorted them. She needed to have 300 strawberries all approximately the same size. The photo below shows her sorting the strawberries, a very time consuming task.

In the picture below, who does Gerald remind you of? The person I'm thinking of comes from a timeless children's story book by a famous author. The first person to respond with the correct answer, will receive a free gift in the mail from moi. I will give you the answer in my next journal post.

Gerald, working in the garden in the cool of the evening.

Each year, as our business grows, I wonder how in the world we are going to get all the work done around the farm. God always provides just what we need when we need it.

Matthew's new bride, Esther, came and helped us during our busy strawberry season. What a true servant this sweet girl is. She is just plain kind and nice---a joy and delight to have in my home. How I thank God for her in my life! Here she is slicing strawberries for lunch.

We have come to know and love a wonderful local family over the past few months. And guess what? Their children, J., A., and N. came and spent some overnights and picked and picked and picked strawberries! They called it "Strawberry Camp". I called it "Strawberry Short Term Missions Camp!" Their mother, L. came some days as well.

L. washing dishes with Esther.

J., the "Captain", gets all of her troops psyched up for a long morning of strawberry picking. (The white buckets are what they pick into.)

J. and 'Beka washing strawberry buckets.

You know you have found a true friend when they come over to your house and clean your filthy fridge! Thank you L.---I cherish your friendship, your listening and caring heart, and your servanthood. I count it as a privilege to have you as my friend.

What a fun job it was to make jam this year with all of this help! They turned out hundreds of jars of jam over several days. Many hands make light work! Work turns into play with friends to help!

More help (and fun!) has just arrived. My niece, M. just flew in to spend a whole month with us! She said that she had so much fun visiting our home when she was little, that she always wanted to come back and stay for a long visit. We will try not to work her too hard, and hope she has fun while she is here.

M. cutting wood with our gang.
She said to be sure not to let her Dad know that she now has this skill.

M. and Caleb playing chess. She won, by the way.
Yes, she is eating our strawberry jam right out of the jar!

Yeah for the pool! Time to cool off and get re-energized!

Our new friends invited us over to their country place. I took some pictures of their surroundings. Don't you love old barns?

Shredded wheat anyone?

Father's Day 2012

I have been privileged to have a wonderful father for my children---my Gerald. Matthew and his bride, Esther, popped in to visit Gerald on his special day. Joy and delight to be surrounded by such a grateful bunch of children---well, mostly young adults now!

Be careful to leave your sons and daughters
well instructed rather than rich,
for the hopes of the instructed
are better than the wealth of the ignorant.

Jennifer gave me permission to share with you a lovely photo of her family and a few heart felt words she wrote to her father for Father's Day.

To our dear Dad & Grandpa,

We are thinking of you today! We love you very, very much. We wish we could stop by for a visit this afternoon. =( Thanks for the godly heritage you have passed down to all of us. We are so thankful for your influence in all of our lives and we treasure all the times we get to spend together with you.

Just the other day a verse came to my mind-- Isaiah 30:21. "And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left." I remember you praying according to this verse many times during my years at home. I'm sure that's the reason it came to my mind. I don't recall hearing it anywhere else. It has been meaningful for us the past several days. And of course that is just one small example of how you have influenced my life over the years.


Hope you have a wonderful day!

Love, Jennifer (Steve & the kids too)

Jennifer and her precious family. June, 2012.
Photo by Donald Wolff.

Stop on by for some sweet corn, small red potatoes, baby zucchini, swiss chard, large and small onions, baby beets. Picked fresh---while you wait. Green beans and green peppers are just a few days away!


My daylilies.


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