Down on the Farm

This weekend I participated in the Big Sunday volunteering event. There were tons of options as far as what one could decide to do to help out. But something about the idea of picking strawberries with kids piqued my interest.

I like strawberries. And kids. And picking my own fruit. And there’s just something about being set loose in a field. And tractor rides. My Midwest roots are showing.

I also love being exposed to parts of the Los Angeles region that I’ve never seen. As I headed out to Underwood Family Farms, I was surprised to find out how close I am to the Reagan Library and Air Force One. I am by no means big into/interested in politics, but I don’t mind a little history every now and then and I love libraries. And Air Force One sounds cool. (With or without Harrison Ford.)

But I remember how far I assumed it was when President Reagan died. For some reason, I heard Simi Valley and thought it was up near Hearst Castle. I guess I’ve missed out on a lot of California geography simply because it doesn’t lie near the 1, 5 or 101.

The day before we were to volunteer, we were informed the kids would be between the ages of 3 and 10 and hearing impaired. If only I would have enrolled in sign language classes when I originally wanted to!! My sign language knowledge is limited to most of the alphabet, and baby sign language, so I basically know “more” and “all done.” During my days at Let’s Make a Deal, I learned “have fun,” but I haven’t practiced in a while with that one, so I looked it up on the world wide web. I know “Jesus loves you/me” and “Lord” from the VBS days of my youth. In addition, a friend also taught me the sign for “diarrhea,” but I really didn’t want to have to see or use that one. So my prep level for that particular skill was low.

I arrived, and we were debriefed and then we waited for the kids to arrive. And waited some more. There were about 30 of us volunteers. Mostly families – mom and dads volunteering with their kids, couples, and me. I knew when I selected this particular activity that it wasn’t going to spark the interest of single straight guys, but I do what I want.

An hour into waiting, it was clear the kids weren’t showing up. Which is weird because they were confirmed the night before. They’re part of a clinic that caters to young kids with hearing loss, and have come as a group in previous years, but they were all driving separately. So we’re not sure what happened there. But what happened at Underwood is that there was one little boy with special needs who did show up so we all got on the tractor and took him to the strawberry fields. And then we all got to pick strawberries. And it was awesome.

I’ve picked apples and pumpkins and blackberries, but I’ve never picked strawberries. And what’s awesome is that there are rows and rows of them. And they glimmer in all their shiny redness from under green leaves. You might be walking down one row and look over and a strawberry three rows over would catch your eye and you would cross through because YOU HAVE TO HAVE THAT EXACT ONE.

My basket overflowed with the most perfect strawberries I’ve ever seen. And then I got addicted to picking perfect ones. Just one more!! And then when they started falling off the top I started eating them. Because that’s what you do, and a little dirt never hurt anybody.

I wasn’t the only one who found them delicious straight from the source.

Photo of a stranger’s child taken with permission.

She was too interested in finishing her basket to pose for pictures, but her face – and shirt – were covered. And it was adorable.

As we continued our wagon ride, we continued to discuss the fact that we had all shown up to participate in this huge event – an event that had others building things and weeding gardens and cleaning dogs – and there we were picking strawberries and eating them fresh. Hardly arduous tasks.

I made the point that the strawberries were ripe and needed to be picked. So we were helping them. And maybe the farm. (Which seems like a fun place to hang out if you’re a family or interested in picking your own produce. They also have other fruits and things throughout the year.) Or maybe it was a reward for the fact we all had great attitudes about volunteering and helping others? Or maybe the group leaders were confused or got lost or something else unexplained.

The important things are: I had fun, I met new people, and we helped one little boy have a pretty amazing afternoon (and his mom get a little break).

Also noteworthy: I was reminded how much I want to learn sign language (and why I should do it sooner than later)…and I was able to treat my friends to some pretty amazing – and fresh! – strawberry shortcake.

I take mine sans Cool Whip, but brought it for the others.

[Can’t you] just taste it?! (Mad Men reference, as they randomly worked on the Cool Whip campaign this week…)

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