Tuesday in the rainy morning I spent an hour bent among the strawberry plants, picking. I was especially concerned about gathering the still-white ones showing their first touch of blush, from among the plants growing below the Kay Gray and Canadice grapes.
These plants among the grape vines I had meant to weed out. Since I have yet to get to that task, though, I have been taking what fruit I can before the robins eat it all. Last year from these plants we harvested almost nothing: the birds were voracious. This year by picking at first hint of ripening, we are adding to our strawberry stores.
After picking below those grape vines, I picked in the areas that are fenced and netted -- and then walked up the hill to Organic Maple Co-op, the place where I am putting in some days of work. In the course of moving some 400-pound barrels of syrup that day I threw my back out, a little -- enough for a few days of discomfort. The fault, of course, lies with the strawberries. I was bent over in the rainy chill for an hour -- then went and exerted myself. Were only strawberries a more respectable weight -- say, five or ten pounds apiece -- then even in the rainy chill I would have limbered myself up for other tasks of the day. I would have been sweating, wheelbarrowing the strawberry harvest up from the gardens to the basement chutes where I would dump the morning tonnage.
Instead, what are strawberries? Tiny bits of soft and seedy ripeness that at their largest will fit in multiples within the open palm of the hand, weighing probably less than the heads of the robins we would like to decapitate for their marauding incursions. Strawberries as fruit are tiny, low to the ground, leaf-hidden, and connected to their parent plants by whiskery bits of green thinness.
No wonder they break backs.