The tractor and wagon pull up to the gate and the farmer descends down to meet us. We usher the kids onto the wagon, empty cartons waiting to be filled.
"Please keep seated during the ride out to the field", the farmer instructs as he walks back to the tractor.
Mo and A start clapping their hands in anticipation. Maeve and M join in. Their toddler version of clapping more robotic then their older siblings, yet it is obvious they too are excited. With a stutter, the wagon jerks as the tractor begins it's tow towards the fields.
"I no like cherries, Miss Danielle" Mo informs my friend.
"She has been really picky with fruit lately" I continue. "I'm lucky if she eats anything more then bananas, pears, and grapes."
"My kids will eat anything" Danielle relays as we pull up to the field of cherry trees.
The farmer returns, instructing us on the variety of cherries available, as we slowly start down the stairs towards the field of cherry trees.
"I no pick cherries, Mama" Mo says.
"Let's just try!" I add, attemtping to expand her fruit palate.
The farmer then adds, "Please limit your tasting to one type of each cherry. These fruits have pesticides on them, so more then one isn't recommended".
Danielle and I nod in acknowledgement as the farmer returns to the tractor and pulls away.
"I'll be back in twenty-five minutes or so to pick you up and take you to the blueberry patch" he informs us as he pulls away.
I look around. An extended family heads towards the left side of the cherry trees grandmother, children, and parents while Danielle and I with our four children head towards the trees on the right.
"Do you think it's okay to eat one?" I ask as I pull a dark red cherry down from a branch.
"Yeah, just eat one." Danielle agrees. "But not this kind" she adds, as she spits a cooking cherry onto the ground.
"I want to try one" A asks.
Danielle gives one to her, and then Mo decides to try.
"I no like the seeds Mama" she says, "Can you get rid of the seeds for me?"
I bit another cherry in half, and give the seedless piece to Mo.
"That's yummy! I like it" she adds.
I feel a tugging on my leg and look down to find Maeve.
"Ahh!" she squeals, gesturing to the cherry.
I repeat the motion for Maeve and into her mouth goes the piece of cherry.
"Mmmmmm" she says as she points to more cherries.
I look over to Danielle and find her doing the same action for her son and daughter.
"Let's pick some off the trees! I want cherries!" Mo yells. "I like them!"
I pull the large branch down, presenting various bunches of ripe cherries to the girls. A and Mo reach their hands and pull the red fruit down. Equally adding cherries into their baskets and mouths. The bright red juice staining their little fingers and as the same red juice runs down their chins as they attempt to spit out the seeds.
As we continue down the row, I notice A's hand is picking less off the trees. I watch as she picks the cherry from her basket and plops the ripe fruit into her mouth.
"Do you really think the pesticide will be an issue if they eat more then one piece?" Danielle asks.
I respond, "I sure hope not. Our kids have devoured a lot more then one each!"
About fifteen minutes have passed, as we head back to the water station and picnic tables. I survey our basket and notice that it seems significantly lighter and less full then I remembered a few minutes earlier. I then look to Mo. Cherry juice has stained her fingertips, while red juice drips down her chin.
"I just want one more!" she says, and Maeve reaches for another cherry from the basket. A and M are doing the same thing.
That is where the cherries went.
"Get out the wipes!" I yell, as I hear the wagon in the distance. Danielle and I take turns wiping the evidence away from our little fruit thieves.
The farmer returns, and opens the wagon for us. As we climb on, I glance over to the family who joined us picking at this spot. Multiple baskets are filled to capacity with both black and golden cherries. Their final haul is impressive and costly. Meanwhile, our own anemic baskets carry twenty cherries and twelve cherries respectively, hardly a dent into our pocketbooks. The damage definitely would have been far greater if each piece our foursome had consumed on field would have been added to our total.
We head to the blueberry fields and then the strawberry patch. In an ideal world, Danielle and I would have reprimanded our children for consuming all the cherries, and in reaction, every blueberry their little fingers would have picked would make it into the basket.
Alas, reality wrote a different story.
The blueberry fields and then the strawberry patch both provide a smorgasbord of fruit for our children.
The wagon slowly rolls back into the waiting area, as the farmer brings the tractor to a halt.
"Be sure to head into the greenhouse to pay for your fruit", the farmer instructs, as he points to the large structure.
I assess our final haul, and to classify it measly, is an understatement.
"I've got five bucks and some spare change in the car" Danielle says, as she balances M on her hip while helping A down the stairs of the wagon.
"Uh, I don't think that's going to be a problem" I say. Maeve on my hip. Her little fingers attempting to steal another stray blueberry. "No more!" I inform her as I move her fingers away.
"We going to pay now, Mama?" Mo asks, as we enter the greenhouse. "I wanna eat a snack!" she says.
"Yeah, a snack!" A adds.
"Seriously?" Danielle and I say simultaneously.
"You all just ate a ridiculous amount of blueberries, cherries, and strawberries" she adds.
I look over to Maeve. Down the middle of her blue shirt, a faint red stain is evident. Strawberry juice has done this deed.
Ahead of me, a different family places their haul onto the scale.
"That will be $20.18" the cashier informs as the lady hands over the exact change. The family walks away, their baskets overflowing with produce.
Slowly, I place our sparse baskets onto the scale. My eyes roll to the side, not wanting to make eye contact.
Looking at our slim baskets, it is obvious that more was consumed then purchased, however without a glare or comment, the cashier says, "$4.30".
Danielle throws three dollars into my hands, as I fumble in my own wallet for money.
"I got this" she says.
"No" I reply. "My baskets are more filled then yours".
As we walk back to the car she says, "Think about all the fruit my kids ate in the field. Really, this is a deal!"
She is right.
It is a deal, plus from this trip I discovered Mo and Maeve will eat cherries, strawberries, and blueberries! Sweet!