Friday, June 7, 2013


I see bright blue sky reflected in Clementine's eyes.

The laundry is so much faster to sort and fold because no one is wearing socks these days.

I think I almost like these next few days that we'll tick off on our countdown to freedom more than summer itself, because I enjoy the anticipation of all things summery so very much.

We picked strawberries over the weekend at Lost Creek Farm, where Brent has worked for the past four summers. We walked among the endless rows of chard, marveled at the millions of tiny lettuce starts, and inhaled the pungent aroma of sweet basil wafting from the humid greenhouses.

Brent and the kids got ahead of me as we made our way across the farm to the strawberry patch. In solitude I found myself feeling reverent and grateful. This farm has fed my family for the past four years. For the past four years I have eagerly awaited the weekly totes of leftover fruits and veggies. In the past four years I have learned to eat carrots like candy. I have become a total tomato snob. I have tried and failed to love beets.

Saturday is Brent's last day at Lost Creek. He's taken a summer job with the Department of Fish and Wildlife which will be more relevant and fulfilling for him, I'm sure. But there won't be any free green beans, and that makes me more than a little sad.

"Tonight when you close your eyes, you will see strawberries," I said to Jack. He looked incredulous and I saw his little face working through his thoughts and his doubt that strawberries would actually be in his bedroom at bedtime.

And I remembered the summer when I saw red, juicy beets dance across my eyelids every night as I tried to sleep. I worked for Agripac one season and they put me on the beet harvest. It was miserable work standing for eight hours a day in a humid warehouse, stuffing earplugs in to drown out the roar of machinery, the heavy scent of beets hanging in the air. I'd leave for the day and discover my hands stained purple from handling the beets. On really bad days I'd find beet juice stains up to my elbows and peel off wet, purple socks. I had a variety of jobs on the beet canning line. They promoted me because I spoke fluent English and could usually tell the difference between fresh and rotting beets.

My first day I spent stuck on the conveyer belt. It was an elevated platform and we stood for hours at a time and watched the moving belt bring bouncing beet after beet after beet for our inspection. The task was simple- discard the visibly rotting beets into tubs at our feet. There were eight of us and we had one stool to share so we passed it around quickly, no one wanting to seem greedy with his/her seat time. While it's very obvious which beets to keep and which to toss, I can assure you that after eight hours of beet watching, your eyes begin to play tricks on you. After eight hours of beet watching you truly cannot tell the difference between fresh and rotting beets. Eight hours on the beet conveyer belt will seriously mess with your mind.

An old woman in a hairnet would climb the ladder to our platform every few hours to check on us. You could always feel her coming. She would inspect our discard pile. Then she would grab two handfuls of beets, one from the tub and one from the belt. "GOOD BEETS!" she would shriek over the warehouse noise while thrusting one handful in our faces. "BAD BEETS!" came the other hand. By the end of the day each option looked exactly the same. I think this is when I learned the valuable workplace technique known as "smile and nod."

By the end of the summer I had worked my way through diced beets, shredded beets, and pickled beets. For the month of August I ran the J line, which was diced and pickled beets. I commanded the big red emergency stop button. I got to pull cans at random from my line to inspect them for quality, weighing them and checking the brine levels. It was all very Laverne and Shirley.

(I think I was making less than $5 an hour.)

We came home from Lost Creek and spent the afternoon making strawberry jam in our hot and sticky kitchen. Kids and dog were underfoot at all times. I burned myself on the canning pot. None of our jars were properly sterilized. Enthusiastic mashing resulted in a spray of strawberry juice across the ceiling.

And it was delicious.

So here's to summer. Summer jobs. Summer foods. Summer memories. And of course, to summer strawberries.

(But never to the beets. Blech.)


  1. Great photos Cassadie! We've had approximately 1 week of patchy-sunshine and now it's scheduled to end with an overcast and rainy week next week *sob. I'm very jealous at your anticipation high of a long hot summer! Enjoy it :)

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  3. Oh my goodness your kids are absolutely beautiful! Since I live in the city, excursions like strawberry picking are quite a ways away, but it's moments like that where the burbs win a round in the great city vs. suburbs debate.

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  4. Gorgeous pictures. I can see why you might not like beets after all that! I didn't like them till my mid-twenties either...but I might never have touched them had I spend so much time looking at rotting ones!

  5. beautiful, beautiful pictures - and funny story about the beets. I remember having the most awful summer jobs too. Usually in offices, where I was not really needed and just supposed to sit and stare for hours. My brother was once told to format 100 disks for a summer job, and when he was done he was asked if he wanted to have them, because actually nobody needed them anyway...
    And those strawberries... we're still waiting for the Danish ones to ripen but I am definitely planning a trip to a farm with the boys this summer.