Raspberry pickin’

Posted by on July 25, 2012

One of my favourite summertime activities is a visit to Harper’s U-Pick in Hillsborough, NB when the raspberries are ripe.

It’s not far from my home, so after my morning coffee, I may head down for a few bowls of berries before the sun rises too high.  The difficult part is to only pick enough for a few days of eating…so I can come back again later for more.

The land, a long gently sloping strip that floats out on the marshes towards the Petitcodiac River belonged to Gerry Harper’s grandfather, who ran a market garden.  “I used to spend summers out here when I was a boy,” Gerry told me.  He loves this land, the flow of it, the feel of the earth in his hands, the way it dances after dark.

“If you walk out here at night,” he says, “the marsh is alive with fireflies.”

He enjoys experimenting with different kinds of fruit…gooseberries, elderberries, black currents, more raspberry varieties. As we walked between the test rows in the lower field, we talked about irrigation and drainage, insect control, pruning, the hard work of raspberry farming that culminates in these few short weeks out of the year.

I decided it has to be love that drives a farmer.

The family restored a comfortable old country store dating from the days of wooden sailing ships many years ago, and filled it with old tin cans and antique farm tools and other memorabilia, rocking chairs, a wood stove…

With its bright windows and weathered plank floor, it’s the kind of place where people like to hang out.

Frank handles the money and coffee pot so Gerry can direct visitors in the fields. Frank is a retired fellow –  sort of a fixture here (that’s him on the right below).  He helps out with the business and keeps a small garden in the lower field. Last year, he built a pergola as a shady resting place for visitors and it is already hanging with grapevines.

Alongside the store the washroom facilities…an ‘outhouse’ and the prettiest hand washing sink I’ve seen.

To be perfectly honest, though, it’s not so much about the raspberries – they are certainly not my favourite fruit – but it’s the act of picking them that really appeals to me.

I look forward to the quiet light of the morning, the songs of birds, the long neat rows, the warm smell of damp earth rising, the greyed and weathered crosses that hold the plants upright. There is orderliness juxtaposed against the unruly nature of the berry stalks.

Raspberry picking is an act of patience. It cannot be hurried or one will end up with more slivers and scratches than berries.  The branches must be parted carefully, as the best berries are often the hidden ones.

It is an act of feeling, as well…a perfectly ripe berry will have a slight plump give to it, whereas one that may be a day away from ripeness will offer resistance when gently pressed. They are quite beautiful, with pillowed ridges to catch the light.

It is an act of friendship and family and community…I overheard many wonderful conversations, quietly shared across the berry branches. I watched a grandfather picking with his grandson, young children with their parents. I know that a few boxes of my morning’s harvest will end up with neighbours and seniors.

It is an act of peace…as the body becomes accustomed to the listening, touching, seeking, choosing, the mind has a chance to drift.

Today, I thought about my grandson Colin, and how I wanted to bring him here someday. How I would show him these things I know…how he would learn that picking raspberries can be good for the soul.

14 Valued Thoughts on Raspberry pickin’

  1. Rhonda Bulmer

    Now I want raspberries!

  2. carol steel

    This is a wonderful write. I love raspberries and your gorgeous photos make my mouth water. Thanks for this creative gift.

  3. Diane photographs ...

    you are a gifted storyteller. YOu captured the true essence of picking raspberries, not to mention this lovely profile of Gerry & Frank. Your photos, perfection in themselves, complemented your story to create such an inviting passage. Thank you my dear.

  4. ernestine

    You brought to mind a memory
    I use to have raspberries at my old farm house.
    Loved to make jam with them.
    I have wanted to plant again
    but one plant becomes 6 and they multiply quickly.
    I love the area where you live.
    My kind of place…

  5. Victoria Cummings

    Deb – I’m with you – raspberries are my favorite and this place looks fabulous! I’m going to try your recipe for clafouti. Thanks for stopping by my blog – it’s good to catch up with you!

  6. Clara LeBlanc

    Hi Deborah,
    I have just read the wonderful article in regards to Gerry Harper’s U-pick. I want to congratulate you on the excellent article. As a Crop Development Officer with the NB Department of Agriculture,Aquaculture & Fisheries I always appreciate such article. It helps so much the sales of our farmers’ local products.

    Thanks,
    Clara

    • Deborah Carr

      It was a pleasure to do, Clara…I always enjoy a morning at Harper’s and I feel especially lucky that it is just around the corner!

  7. Really Local Harvest

    Congratulation on your excellent article and beautiful photos on Harper’s U-Pick! Gerry Harper is a founding member of our co-op. He is dedicated and really loves what he does. Picking at Harper’s U-Pick is such a wonderful experience and you captured the essence of it through your writing and photos. Well done!

    Nicole

  8. Marie

    could you please tell me went rasberry picking starts please thank you

  9. Vicki

    One of the best raspberry u-picks we have ever visited! A wonderful way to spend New Brunswick Day picking berries! I agree hard to pick just enough for a couple days! No doubt I will be back before this season ends!

    • Deborah Carr

      I know…I feel the same way…The picking is as enjoyable as the eating!

  10. Sarah Butland

    Such an amazing post with just simple words about simplistic beauty with breath-taking photos to match. I have always loved raspberries but your post certainly welcomed me into a glorious field to enjoy them even more!

    Thanks for that! And for promoting a local business that is obviously very well loved,

    Sarah Butland
    author of Being Grateful, Being Thankful

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