Blueberry Heaven

IMG_8942Just when I start thinking West Monroe doesn’t have much to offer, something comes along and surprises me.  This time my happy little surprise was a blueberry farm!  I’ve lived in this area most of my life, but had no idea this place even existed.

A few weeks ago my friend, Amber, who lives in Oklahoma posted a photo of herself at a blueberry farm.  Days later, my friends, Johnathan and Anna, in Ruston posted very similar photos of their family picking blueberries.  I became curious and started asking about this blueberry picking phenomenon because I had no idea such places even existed and I love blueberries.  So then Amber from Oklahoma told me places like this aren’t too hard to find.  Then Amber from Oklahoma directed me to a website, and before I could even find the listing myself, Amber from Oklahoma told me that there’s one in West Monroe!  My West Monroe.  And not just in West Monroe, but less than five miles from my house in West Monroe.  Amber from Oklahoma enlightened me about a place that I have driven past countless times.  Thank you, Amber!  Those Oklahoma folks are good people.

I told my sister, Melissa, about this place – Butler Blueberries – and she & Stacy visited it the following weekend.  She loved it so much that she wanted to go again.  Yesterday morning, I went with Melissa and Stacy.  We went early in the morning around 7:00 since Louisiana likes to turn hot and humid pretty quickly.  Our plan was to each pick a $10 gallon bucket.  I went off by myself, plugged into my iPod and listened to a great playlist.  I lost track of Melissa and Stacy, but I knew they were just a few rows over and would be easy to find.  There were blueberries galore.  Amazingly, I never even broke a sweat while I was filling my bucket.  I just listened to my music and smiled and picked.  I am the type who is usually constantly on the lookout for bugs, spiders, wasps, etc.  I didn’t even care.  In fact, I reached right past a spider web, because I saw a cluster of berries I wanted in my bucket.  Blueberries make me brave, apparently.  As early as it was, I’m not going to lie – my alarm went off and I momentarily toyed with the idea of sleeping in, but as I was picking, I thought I’m so glad I got up early for this.  About an hour after we arrived, my bucket was full and it kind of bummed me out.  I was having so much fun, I wanted to keep picking.

I went on a short little hunt and found Melissa and Stacy.  Melissa understood my sadness regarding my full bucket, because she was also having fun, so we decided to get one more bucket full.  There were a few extra buckets on the ground, so I gave her one and took one for myself with the goal of each of us fulling ours halfway.  We decided we’d each throw in an extra $5 and split that gallon.

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I loved it.  I want to go back.  I wish I had a need for more blueberries, but I have far more than I need.  In fact, I’ll be sharing with some folks.  I’ll also be making homemade blueberry muffins this afternoon to take to work in the morning and share.

With the gallon Melissa and I split, we shared a lot with Mama and we also went to her house where Stacy and Melissa cooked breakfast – complete with loaded blueberry pancakes – for all of us.  After sharing with Mama, Melissa and I each ended up with three pint size freezer bags full.

Of my own gallon, I ended up with four pint size freezer bags full, eight snack bags full, and a big bowl full of roughly three cups of blueberries to use for my muffins.  The recipe calls for two cups, but my cajun cooking teacher told us to use a recipe as a guide, but put in more of what you like.  In regards to this, I can just hear him saying, “If you like blueberries, put in mo’ blueberries, because the mo’ you put in, the mo’ betta it be!”  I concur.

 

It’s a GIRL! (And three boys!)

I’m borderline obsessed with my adorable little container garden in the back yard.  My uncle gave me a few smaller containers and told me about this really cheap potting soil his friend always uses and has success with, so I planted three more things with cheap potting soil.  I’ve got basil, cilantro (yum!), and gypsy sweet peppers.  Here is my garden with all seven of my crops.  (Crops?  Is it okay to call it a crop when it’s a very small amount?)

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The back row is tomatoes (some are starting to show up!), strawberries (which are appearing to be completely useless), squash (MVP!), and cucumbers (which probably would like to have something to climb).  The front row is basil (which I really don’t think I’ve used much of before), cilantro (which I LOVE), and gypsy sweet peppers (why not).  And the very front is my precious Sayid and his frisbee.

I am finding my squash plant to be, by far, the most fun to watch.  It has grown so much!  I think it is so pretty when the yellow flowers start to bloom.  So over the past week, I’ve been paying attention to a bloom that has been right on the verge of opening up.  Then, finally, on Tuesday morning, I looked outside and saw this beautiful sight.

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Isn’t it lovely?!  Then today, my sister texted me and asked if I knew anything about the male & female blooms and pollination.  I didn’t, so I looked it up online.  I learned so much! I feel so smart now.  I learned that only the female squash blossoms have the chance of turning into a squash that can be picked & eaten.  The male blossoms are just around for pollination purposes and then they just fall off and die.  But apparently, the male flowers are a delicacy.  So should I end up with an abundance of boys at some point, I might decide to try my hand at cooking a delicacy!  I learned that the boy plants are on longer stems, typically, and the girl blooms have a small fruit attached to the stem.  So I excitedly went outside to see if my beautiful bloom was a boy or a girl.  It’s a GIRL!  And I have three boys who will probably be opened up in the morning.  Then the bees need to come do their job.  I must say, gardening is fun.  This is the most interest I’ve had in anything scientific in a very long time.  I feel like a proud Mama, with my one girl and three boys!

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It’s a GIRL!

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It’s a BOY!

Current score: Birds – forfeit by force!

My dad has completed his project to protect my garden from the birds.  And not only are my strawberries protected, but so are all my other plants.  Drumroll, please …

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I just love it!  It is the most functional thing I can imagine.  It’s lightweight enough that I can easily lift it and rest it on its side and tend to my plants.  And my last strawberry that was on the plant when I bought it is still intact!  Although, Daddy reports that the birds were fussing at him as he built this handy little contraption, so they’re not fans of Daddy’s creation.  Too bad for the birds that they aren’t calling the shots!  I’m glad they didn’t gang up and dive bomb at Daddy’s head in protest!  It’s just the greatest thing.  It makes me feel more confident that this garden might actually be successful.  It is also so much fun for me to come home and check their progress every day.  I genuinely look forward to it.

The amazing thing was that on Monday, when Daddy began this project, he texted me a photo of the frame in progress and my cucumber pot looked simply like a pot of soil.  When I got home a couple of hours later, Daddy pointed out that the plants were starting to make their way through the soil.  It was so cool to me.  I realize that is what happens when you plant seeds, but I never plant seeds!  So it was pretty neat stuff to a girl like me.

It has been nine days since I first started my garden.  The first night, Daddy suggested we go outside with a tape measure and take a picture of how tall the plants were, and that maybe I could do that every week or just periodically and watch their progress.  So this afternoon, I took the tape measure out and got some new photos.  All of my plants are doing well, but the squash plant has definitely seen the most growth!

Here are my tomatoes, nine days ago and today.  (I realize the photography angle was much better on the “before” shot!  Daddy was my lovely assistant that night, but I didn’t have a lovely assistant today.  Maybe next time!)  This plant is the one that looks the most like it did when I first got it, but I’m sure it’ll pick up some steam.  My tomato plant is now roughly 3″ taller.  Wow, I thought it was less!  Yay tomatoes!

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My strawberry plant is less two strawberries from the beginning thanks to those pesky birds, but it has grown taller!  It is roughly two inches taller, but it seems wider, too!  You might notice my bright yellow plastic snake in the background of the second photo.  Now that the birds can’t access my strawberry plant, and since they didn’t fall for my tricks anyway, I suppose I could just let Sayid have that toy he’s been coveting!

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Here’s my overachieving squash plant!  Look how amazing this is!  It has doubled in height, and is way wider than before, too.  This squash plant just makes me so happy.  My squash plant is this week’s MVP!  No, wait.  Daddy is most definitely this week’s MVP.  My squash plant is the runner-up!

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And last but not least, my lovely little cucumbers.  They started as small groups of three seeds sprinkled in three sections of the pot, and now look at them!  They look so proud!

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I’ve concluded that thanks to my sweet Daddy’s ingenuity, quality soil, and the fact that I’m actually paying attention to my plants this time around and enjoying it, I might actually be a successful gardener this year.  Fingers crossed!  So far, I’m finding it to be really fun.

Current score: Birds 2, Lindsay 0

I mentioned that the birds got my beautiful prized strawberry a few days ago.  Saturday morning, I had another pretty little strawberry growing.  I bought a fake snake at a garage sale that morning and put it in my strawberry pot, hoping they’d be tricked and stay away.

Sayid & I went with my parents to the park that morning, immediately after depositing said snake into strawberry pot, and then about an hour later, Mama and I left the park to pick up lawn chairs at their house and Sayid’s soccer ball at my house.  Upon getting the soccer ball out of the trunk of my car, I realized it was really flat.  So I walked through the back yard fence and around the corner to get the air pump out of the storage room.  As I rounded the corner, a bird frantically flew away from my garden area, squawking a warning to all his friends.  I think I actually yelled, “Hey!” at the bird, but being a bird, he wasn’t concerned with anything I had to say.  I glanced at my strawberry, and at the moment, it still looked lovely.

Fast forward to a couple of hours later when I got home from the park.  Once again, they had gotten my berry.  The fake snake my parents had in their garden last year was much more realistic looking.  My bright yellow snake didn’t fool these birds for a second.  (Also, Sayid has been eyeballing that snake ever since I brought it home, and last night while Melissa was in and out of the house grilling burgers, he got his chance.  She went back outside to find that he had stolen and was chewing on the snake.)  I started brainstorming a little and asked Daddy, who thrives on problem solving, to help me come up with an idea.  I needed something to protect my strawberries from those obnoxious birds!  And preferably, something big enough to also cover my tomato plant, because that’s probably the other part of my garden they’ll be interested in.  Daddy told me he’d think about it and come up with something.

And come up with something, he did!  It isn’t complete yet.  He worked several hours on it this afternoon and still has a bit more work to do before it’s ready.  But I think it’s safe to say those birds are pouting on their perches as they watch my innovative, problem-solving father put an end to their berry buffet!  As soon as it is complete – which will likely be in the next few days – I will post photos.  I’m just so happy about it!

Also, Daddy pointed out that my cucumber plants are starting to peek out from the soil, so I’m pretty happy about that, too!  My tomatoes, strawberries, and squash were all transplants and had already started growing.  But my cucumbers came from seeds!  I’m feeling pretty optimistic about my garden’s chances.