Saturday, September 20, 2008

Blueberry picking

My sister told me about a blueberry farm in this city where we live. She sounded very enthused about it and prodded me to go blueberry picking too.

"Come on, boys," I told Gabriel and Markus. "Let's go blueberry picking." They were uninterested. "Mom, just get from Superstore," they said. Unable to pluck them from the computer, I went by my lonesome.

Following my sister's directions, I drove down to 152 St. and turned left on Colebrook Road leading to what appeared to me as a mere open space. I was about to make a U-turn when I saw a structure from a distance. The sign said River's Bend Winery. This is it!

I hadn't been to a winery before. I went inside the small building expecting to hear people working and machines running. Instead it was very quiet and there was only one lady inside. But then it was a Sunday.

"Do you still have blueberries?" I asked.

"Sure! Have you been here before?" the lady replied.

"No, this is my first time. Where's the farm?"

She led me outside and pointed to the farm's direction. "Just go straight and you'll see a road there," she said.

I didn't know I had to bring my own bag so she gave me a box. There was something else I didn't know--what a blueberry plant or bush looked like.

When I saw neat rows of vines, I thought that was it. However, the fruits were all green and in clusters. These look like grapes. Or are these blueberries? How come they are not blue? Or are blueberries harvested green then they turn blue? Or maybe there's more down the rows. I was totally confused.

I walked and walked. Not seeing the familiar blueberries I get from the Superstore, I phoned my sister. She told me the blueberry farm was after the grapevines. Imagine the shock on the storekeeper's face and what she would be saying in her head if I came back with a box of green grapes instead of blueberries. What a dumb woman! Hahahaha. She'd be too nice to say that out loud.

The lady said there was a road, but maybe she meant a path. I followed the path to the bushes. I didn't recognize that area to be a farm. It seemed unkempt with lots of tall wild grass. There was nobody else there. I was alone.

Remembering what my sister said, I walked further towards the back of the farm because the bushes closer to the road had been harvested and were fruitless. Finally I saw a bush with three blueberries. I was very excited. Yes, blueberries!! Now I was sure I was in the right place. I immediately picked one and ate it. Yes!! Encouraged, I walked further on, maybe 200 metres from the road.

When I saw bushes with lots of fruits, I got even more excited and gathered them hastily. I gobbled them up just as fast. For the first several minutes, I ate what I collected in my box, then started over. I took lots of pictures with my phone too that I can't download to the computer. (The pictures here were taken by my brother-in-law.)

I could not contain my great delight, I called up Gabriel. "GABRIEL, YOU ARE MISSING THIS. THERE ARE LOTS OF BLUEBERRIES!!! I'M IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE!!!," I said.

"Mom, you are screaming!" Gabriel complained. I tried to tone down a bit.

"Now I'm whispering. There are LOTS OF BLUEBERRIES!!!"

"Mom, you are still screaming!"

I went happily about. It was so quiet. All I could hear was the sound of the wind, the swaying grass, the occasional light planes flying over the farm. And me talking to myself. This is sooo gooood!

This farm reminded me so much of my mother's hometown of Laguna, Philippines and the plantations that my buddy and I walk through or trespassed. It also made me pine for my grandfather's orchard on Mt. Makiling which we frequented when I was a child. Nostalgia....

I moved from bush to bush staying close to the edge of the main path. I did not venture further inside for fear of snakes and other creatures. Then I realized I was alone. If there was a perv hiding in the farm I'd be an easy target... No one will hear me even if I screamed... These bushes are taller than me... I can run and leave my harvest behind... Fear started to rise in me. I shushed it with a mouthful of blueberries in between prayers.

I was blueberry picking for about one-and-a-half hours. It was very relaxing. I thought it was a great alone time. I enjoyed myself tremendously. What a way to spend a bright and windy Sunday afternoon in such a tropical ambience.

I filled up half my box. It was getting heavy and the afternoon was getting late. I went back to the winery and paid $13 dollars for the 13 lbs. I collected. What I ate was free. "This is so much cheaper than the ones you buy from the store," I said. "That's because you work for it," the storekeeper replied. For me it wasn't work at all. It was a relaxation, an nice escape from work. Almost therapeutic.

"Next time I'll bring my boys," I said.

We finished the last of the blueberries last night. We ate them plain and frozen. "Like ice candy," my sister said. 13 lbs in 2 weeks! I thought we would have some till the winter.

The next time I go blueberry picking I will take the boys along. Now that they've enjoyed having a supply in the freezer, they might be willing to tag along just for the experience. Maybe they'll find it fun. I'm not sure if I will find it as relaxing, but I can go with fun.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Leavenworth & Lake Chelan

On Labor Day Weekend, the weekend of Sept 1, hubby and I, along with my sis here in BC, her hubby, and my sis in Seattle, joined our mother in the annual excursion of her widows' association. The destination this year was Lake Chelan with a stopover at Leavenworth. For $20 per person, I thought that was a good deal! Can't miss that chance.

There were about 60 in this group of widows and their guests. My mother joined the association called FAWOW, short for Filipino American Widows of Washington, after my father passed away in 2004. Many of her friends from another seniors' group and in the Filipino Community are members as well. They have various activities throughout the year. In Seattle, Fil-Am widows don't have to be alone or lonely.

Although these senior women, who are mostly in their 70s and 80s, move slowly and have aches and pains, their minds and tongues remain sharp and active. They blabber a lot and tell jokes that can make you blush.

They know how to entertain themselves. During the trip to Leavenworth, they had a singing session using the mic that drivers or tour guides use at the front.

"Calling Emma...," someone--perhaps the association president--announced. Emma is my mother. She was being called to sing.

"Ayaw ng mga anak ko...(My children said no)," replied my mother seated near the back after my brother-in-law told her it was not safe to walk while the bus was in motion. So the president started singing, a capella.

After one song, my mother stood up anyway and walked slowly to the front. My mother loves to sing and is not shy about it. She sang 2 or 3 old Tagalog songs, then one by one other seniors followed suit. Occasionally, everybody joined in.

After about a 2.5-hour drive from Seattle, we arrived in Leavenworth at 10:30 am. The president announced that we should be back in the bus at 11 am, which meant we only had 30 minutes to go around. Protests, protests.

"Sabi sa iskedyul, isang oras (The schedule says 1 hour)," people complained.

"Pagbaba lang ng bus, 30 minutes na
(Going down the bus will already take 30 minutes), " others said.

After some time of disagreement and reconsideration, the written schedule prevailed. True enough, it took a while for everyone to get off the bus.

Leavenworth is a Bavarian-inspired village as you can see in the pictures below. We checked out several shops. I found the architecture just as interesting as the things for sale.

Wilkommen Leavenworth!

A part of our group

My mother, two sisters and I posing with a man in Bavarian costume, I suppose

Can you imagine us two decades from now?

With my sisters

One more time

Our next destination was Lake Chelan, an hour's drive away. We had lunch at the Lake Chelan Park.

Eating on picnic mats

With MrBlossoms. I preferred to sit in the sun. I felt cold
in the shade. "Parang di galing Canada (As if she's not from Canada)," they said.

With my sisters again

After lunch, the group headed for the casino not too far away. This was really the seniors' main purpose for going to this place. I think they were given a group deal. Not playing and with nothing else to do, MrBlossoms and I went to the apple orchard across the street. This was my first time to go to an apple orchard.

I imagined how Eve must have felt in the Garden of Eden,
except that the forbidden fruit wasn't really an apple. And
there was only one tree, not an orchard, that
bore this forbidden fruit.

It was so tempting to grab one. Nah... There's a name
for that -- stealing!!

We walked back to the lakeside park. It was a good thing we had a book and a mag to read and to cover my face with when I felt like sleeping on a bench. Buddy did some stretching and snoozed on the grass.

Very peaceful surrounding

Our group left Chelan at 6pm. I enjoyed the scenic landscape dotted with pear and apple orchards.

Nearing Seattle, the leader of my mother's cultural group went to the front, grabbed the mic and said some words of appreciation. Then she led the group in singing their usual anthems.

I love my own, my native land, Philippines my Philippines...

I don't hear the English version of this song anymore except from these seniors in Seattle. The Tagalog version is more popular to my generation.

After this nationalistic rendition, God Bless America routinely followed.

...From the mountains, to the prairies, To the oceans, white with foam, God bless America, My home sweet hoooome....

Whatever you might say about the US, I believe it gives them a better quality of life than what they could ever enjoy as seniors back home. For many of them, Seattle is indeed home sweet home. They have a social network, and they get to be ambassadors of goodwill as they sing and dance at several cultural presentations in Seattle and surrounding cities too.

Next year, this group is planning to go on a day cruise to BC. What a fun way to grow old together. Widows, unite!