Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Russians Attack! -- pie cherry picking at Sandy Farms

So a few years ago The Wife got on a pie cherry kick/fetish. Suddenly we HAD to have them. I begrudgingly went out and picked with her for a few hours, then pitted for days and days (no kidding). I wasn't sold til they were cooked up, then I had an epiphany. Holy cow, they are amazing! A simple cherry pie is out of this world when made with real pie cherries, as opposed to canned ones. Totally different animal.

So this year, The Wife meekly asked me if I would go out to Sandy Farms on opening day of the pie cherry season and see if I could get us a few pounds. "Supposedly the Russian community has discovered our little U-pick, and pick it out in a single day now. So if we mist the opener on the 10th, we won't get any." Sounded like a bit of exaggeration to me, but hey I had the time why not get some brownie points by picking cherries on a 100+ degree day.

When I arrived a little before noon, there was a line of 80 - 100 people waiting to check out, and 2-3 dozen cars packing up crack squadrons of grandparents and pubescent teens. I kinda panicked. She wasn't kidding!

I sped out to the cherry field to see a nice green orchard, with healthy foliage and little halos of red at the very tippy top of the trees. There wasn't a cherry to be seen under 8' anywhere in the whole orchard. Old ladies in babushkas trailing teams of rangy but obedient kids were exiting the field with full boxes and buckets. There were families having picnics in the shade, and almost no one was crazy enough to still be picking in the heat of the day.

I wandered out into the orchard with my 6' ladder, a straw hat and a couple containers, a bit demoralized. This was going to be a gleaning, not a picking. I should have arrived at the crack of dawn and pitched a tent in the orchard, waiting for the opener like a salmon fisherman at Buoy 10.

I knew that there were some cherries to be had. I found a few trees that had crowns full of cherries, but soon discovered that they were all on just enough slope that it made the ladder quite unstable. That's why the cherries were there, pubescent Russian children had decided the spot was too unsafe -- children still made mostly of piss and vinegar, still bulletproof and invisible as far as their worldly experience had shown them. I managed a few cherries despite the obstacles.

The Russian folks who were still in the fields struck me as pious, humble folk. Many wore long sleeved shirts and long skirts like they were going to church, even though they were out in a dusty field in outrageous heat. So, when I felt like I may get edged in on the few trees I had found with any appreciable fruit, I decided to take my shirt and hat off -- to enjoy the sun a bit. The pious, humble folk suddenly changed their picking trajectory and headed opposite directions.

I managed 6 lowly pounds of brownie points in 2 1/2 hours of grueling, scratchy, desperately hot work. For some reason, I was humming a Pointer Sisters tune as I picked -- the mind is a terrible thing to waste, kids. When I did find little pods of cherries up in the 6' ladder range that hadn't been picked over, it was easy to pick 5-8 cherries in one handful. I can only imagine how fast it would have been to double my 6 lbs. if I had arrived first thing in the morning.

I'm now staring down the barrel of pitting these buggers -- this means bowls in the front room and old work towels on the ground, and one or two netflix movies a night for a couple nights. But, in the back of my mind, I see the cherry-cheesecake torts I'm going to make with graham cracker crusts, and I will keep pitting.


Tate said...

yikes sounds crappy.

Bpaul said...

The more I talk it up, the more brownie points I get -- theoretically.




Bentley said...

Hordes and Hordes of angry, irradiated Russians trying anything they can do get their radiation levels down to normal by baking sweet cherry pie.. (i think i have been playing to many Russian post apocalyptic computer games..)

Bpaul said...

Yes, yes you have LOL.

Shocho said...

I think that Warren Zevon said it best:

Well, I went home with the waitress
The way I always do
How was I to know
She was with the Russians, too

Bpaul said...

I miss Warren.

shadmc said...

awesome post. :D

CtheG said...

I loved this post. I wish you had taken a photo or two, but the way you write it wasn't hard to imagine it.

Bpaul said...

Ya'll are sweet. I thought it was kinda flat actually -- but wanted to get it down before the day had gone too far.

Glad it came across.

andy said...

Cherry pitter, paring knife or fingers?

She's workin' ya!

Bpaul said...

Cherry pitter, with paring knife backup.