by Denise Dykstra
I love the way the blueberries look when they still have dew hanging from them out in the field. I love the way the sun moves over the field. I love the laughter in the blueberry shop. I love the blueberry coffee cake muffins and the triple berry pies the most.
I buy blueberry coffee and my friend and I drink it in the dead of winter and plan our next outing to the Brookside blueberry farm west of Martin. I think they add magical ingredients to the smoothie shakes. I am thrilled they now serve ice cream, as our little village of Martin does not have an ice cream shop.
Any plants I have purchased from them thrive and they are the reason I grow lavender. In the fall, I get there early for their doughnuts. They don’t make a bad doughnut, so I buy every flavor
Because fall is always so busy for us, I never seem to take time to pick many apples and this makes me sad. I even love the way the bushes glow red in the winter snow…although I always rather see them tinted blue with berries in the summer!
When the Fritz family purchased Brookside in Martin in 2009, we didn’t know what to expect. Other than blueberries, of course. But over the years this truly family farm has become more dear to us than it has ever before, and that is saying something since we have been loving it for so long.
It began when my husband and I were young. I went with my siblings and parents to pick berries and then I brought our four boys to pick berries. With no kids home, my husband and I have turned the blueberry farm over to be a place where he and I go to connect without the demands of being home.
Through all the changes in life, the blueberry farm has remained. And this new phase Brookside is in only brings more excitement for their and our future.
Tonight after dinner we ran into the farm for some smoothies and ice cream. We spent 15 minutes chatting about this and that. My dad had stopped into the farm with one of his old rat rods and Clara wanted to know more about it. We chatted with a neighbor as we walked out the door.
At one time the blueberry farm had a cat that meandered the fields. My boys were certain it was alone and needed to come home with us. I pointed out the fact that it was fat and lovey, sure signs it was living a good life. One of my sons would not pick berries because he felt he needed to just spend time with that lonely blueberry patch cat. That cat probably lived one of the best lives a cat could.
When we moved into our new home nearly seven years ago, no one gave us the selling point that we would be so close to the blueberry patch. But we knew. For a bit I tried to still have the boys join me out picking berries but they were too busy and it was “so boring.” One day my husband decided to join me since he had an early day out of work…
And that day changed everything.
My husband calls blueberry picking a date. It is just him and me out there picking berries. We have it down to a science where if we pick for a little less than two hours, we can fill nearly four buckets. Then when we are back home, my husband pulls out sandwich bags and fills five bags with berries for his lunch that week. All the rest get eaten by the handful throughout the week and I have yet to make a pie or muffins, we just keep eating fresh berries just as they are or adding them to fruit salads or bowls of cereal.
Eventually we will pick enough that I begin freezing them. I can add frozen berries to hot oatmeal or grits in the winter or bake a pie or muffins so we can taste summer in the dead of freezing cold winter.
Let me tell you how our date days often go.
On Friday night, dear husband begins reminding me that we are going to pick blueberries in the morning. What time should we get up? Five sounds good, doesn’t it?
Do they open at five? No. No, they do not. But my husband argues we could get out there and get them picked before anyone else arrived. And then we could have more time to get things done that weekend… like weed the garden or plant more corn or something gardeny.
We do usually arrive before they are open. We also arrive before I have had a full dose of coffee. I show up sleepily, coffee in hand with my hair pulled up in some sloppy way and once I was still in my pajamas. Almost always I am wearing my old rubber garden boots.
My husband has been clapping his hands at me, booming out phrases like “Those blueberries are not going to pick themselves!” and “Ready to go? We have got to go!” while I grimace. Even after all these years he has not seemed to learn that I like silence and strong good coffee in the morning. He wakes up every day like he is the energizer bunny…. with triple shot coffee iv coursing through his veins.
When we get to the field, I begin picking blueberries silently. The plop, plop, plop sound always makes me happy. I carefully try to sort out every stem and green berry. I let the bird songs fill my ears as I sip my coffee from my to-go cup. The sun warms my face and I watch as the wild turkeys meander away as I drop the dark blue berries in my bright white bucket that is tied around my neck. It doesn’t get much better than this.
My husband plows through the patch and grabs handfuls of blueberries as he goes. When he tastes a good one, he stops, hollers at me to pick there and begins continually checking to see if the berries are all as good as that first one. Because I don’t eat the berries as I pick them, I always have more than him and he tries to steal handfuls from me. So I usually wander off away from him while he listens to his earpiece — listening to local news or podcasts — until we join back up to see how many more blueberries I have. I always have more.
My husband tries to quickly pick berries to match the amount I have already and I may give him a slightly hard time about this. We joke and laugh and tease and hold hands when we walk back to our vehicle… unless I am trying to cover my berries so he doesn’t steal them. By the time we are done doing this, we usually have one more bucket mostly filled.
When we get back to the blueberry building, I make sure they measure out the bags of berries separately. They are accustomed to us there and Clara, our favorite blueberry girl, must have forewarned any new employees because they are waiting ready to play in our blueberry measuring contest.
One year, we picked so many blueberries in one morning that we won a blueberry breakfast at one of Brookside’s other locations. Those were some of the most delicious blueberry pancakes we had ever eaten. After breakfast we went out to pick in their blueberry fields, but it just made us miss our blueberry patch in Martin.
The blueberry farm is more than blueberries and it’s so dear to my heart that it is hard to find the right words for it.
Go there yourself. You can tell them I sent you. Then you tell me, what is it? What is it about the place that makes you fall in love with it so?
It’s blueberry magical there. Pure blueberry magical.