Day in the Life of a Strawberry Field Hand

These days, the alarm goes off at 6:45 AM.

It sounds like church bells.  No, not the kind that play pleasant hymns or patriotic songs.  These bells are unpleasant–a discord of clanging and bellowing that is all too effective in waking me up.

The first thing I do is reach for my study Bible.  I roll up my shade and the early morning light helps me blearily make it through a couple of segments of Ezekiel and 1 Timothy.  (I like to always be reading something from the Old and New Testaments simultaneously.)

Next, I cautiously make my way from my bedroom to the kitchen.  As I heat water for tea, I go through routine stretches, pulling my body to smooth the stiff ache of sleep away.  If my older brother is around, he knows better to talk to me.  If he tries, I shoot him a sullen look and shake my head at him.  It’s not that I’m crabby in the morning.  I’m usually not.  I just need time to wake up before I’m ready to speak to anyone.  By the time I’ve consumed a bowl of Rice Krispies and a cup of tea, I’m ready for conversation.

By 7:20 I’m done with breakfast, have shuffled through my social media accounts on my phone, brushed my teeth, thrown on the same clothes as yesterday (red t-shirt with black running shorts), grabbed my lunchbox, and have left the house.

I cross the road and move one of our several golf carts to the service door of the shed.  By this point, my coworkers have also arrived.  Together, we dart in and out of the barn, filling the back of the carts with picking boxes, electronic scales, bottled water, and a large box containing an assortment of pens, fliers, and garbage bags.  Once this is done, we slowly drive through the orchard and to the back fields where the strawberries are.

We spend the next ten minutes getting everything in place–folding boxes, making sure scales are level, and applying sunscreen.  Usually, a couple of people scout the rows we’ll be picking in, walking up and down covering up any deer poop that has cropped up during the night.

At eight o’clock, my dad drives one of the golf carts to the entrance to pull the chain.  He then leads a stream of cars through our driveway, waving them into parking position with bright orange flags.  Some mornings, there are only three cars.  Others, there are thirty.

There are three main jobs one gets to do throughout the day: Man the stand, ferry customers, and run fields.  I usually do the first–greeting customers, weighing their berries, and checking them out.  Ferrying is easy–you just drive to and from the fields picking up and dropping off customers.  My least favorite is running the field.  Here, you stay in your assigned section.  When customers are brought out, you place them on rows, give them instructions, and make sure all is well.  If you have spare time, you carry around an ice cream bucket and pick up any rotten berries customers leave behind them on the straw.

On weekends, we close at noon.  This means that, around twelve-ish, my dad changes all the signs and phone message to “CLOSED”.  We, however, usually stick around much longer–waiting for the current customers to finish, cleaning up the fields, and offering the pre-picked berries my little brother spent all morning picking to any people who arrive before we can put the chain up.

If it’s a week day, we will be open longer into the afternoon.  When the customers are gone, we grab hoes and spend the rest of the afternoon making war with the weeds that threaten to take over the newly planted fields.  If it’s a weekend, we re-load the golf carts, put everything back in the shed, and I trudge back up to the house.

This is when I crash.  Whether a weekend or weekday, I slump on a couch and exhaustion slowly seeps throughout my body.  It’s a good kind of exhaustion–the kind that makes limbs go heavy to the core and a bleary haziness fall over my mind.

Even though I’m off work, strawberry season is unescapable.  The phone still rings off the hook.  Customers still show up in the parking lot across the road.  My dad darts in and out of the house, doing this job and that.  His work goes on long past the rest of us are finished.

The remainder of the day is pretty much useless.  Sometimes, I actually do things.  I put in a load of laundry.  I mow the lawn.  I bake cookies.  But when I think about actually doing the things I want to do, the things that bring me life, I simply feel more tired.  I think about reading, about painting, about working on some blog posts.  But, usually, any attempt stops here.  It just seems futile–reading makes my eyes want to shut, blogging brings forth nothing but a muddled jumble of un-publishable words, and paint dribbles aimlessly on paper, my mind is to out-of-it to know where it should go.

The evening passes by quickly.  Dinner with family, watch the news, cuddle with the cat, watch a movie.

By ten o’clock, the day has sapped all my energy.  I slump to my bed, falling asleep almost as soon as my head hits the pillow.

At 6:45 AM, the alarm goes off and I do it all again.

Just two weeks left until strawberry season is over.

Weekends in Morris

Weekends in Morris are… well… let’s just say they’re not very riveting.  Let me elaborate.

The town has 5,000 people, one grocery store, and a one-screen locally owned theater that gets movies two months after they are released.  The nearest Target or WalMart is an hour away.  The place to go when you get the munchies at 1 AM is the Casey’s gas station because it’s the only place open past ten.  However, visit Casey’s at your own risk! It’s usually filled with sketchy townies.

Without a wide variety of places to go and things to do, my weekends are usually spent bumming in my apartment in leggings and an oversized flannel.  Which is fun for a while, but a BBC miniseries marathon gets a bit old after the fifth hour.

What can you do, then, to keep from death by boredom?

Stargazing is always a good option.  There’s nothing like curling up with friends under a mound of blankets and staring at the night sky.  If you go a little ways out-of-town, the Milky Way is especially striking.

Studying in the library is also a safe bet.  Meeting up with classmates to go over notes in preparation for a test or quiz always breaks up the day well.

There’s also the option of sitting around talking with friends.  But, if you’re an introvert like me, this can only go on for so long before you need to crawl away into your hole to recharge.

The nice things about weekends in Morris, though, is that by the time Sunday night comes around, you’re so bored that you’re almost excited to go back to class the next day.

The problem with Spring Break

The problem with Spring Break is that, although you may start with the best intentions, you inevitably fail to get anything done.

On Monday, you open your notebook to work on one of the several creative writing pieces you need to finish.  Then you decide to spend your evening talking to your dad instead.

On Tuesday, you’ve got plans with friends in the cities with a five-hour gap between them.  “Great,” you think, “I’ll find a Starbucks and power through that Virginia Woolf essay!”  Upon arriving at the coffee shop, you realize you remembered everything but your computer.  So instead, you spend twenty minutes planning the essay and the remainder of the day is spent wandering around secondhand bookstores and thrift shops.

Wednesday is a designated pajama day and you mean business.  After all, writing in your pajamas is way better than writing in normal clothes… right?  Yeah, no.  You briefly glance at your copy of To the Lighthouse, then promptly decide to play Skyrim for four hours instead.

Thursday is more hopeful.  You force yourself out of bed, hit the gym, and before you do anything fun, force yourself to work.  Two essay paragraphs and a few new sentences on your creative pieces later, you resign to an afternoon of more video games.

As for Friday… on Friday you realize that you can only say, “Screw it, I’ll do it tomorrow” for so long.  It’s crunch time.  You need to sit down and actually write that essay.  But then you look out at the melting snow and lovely warm (well, warm for Minnesota standards) weather and think…

Screw it.  I’ll do it tomorrow.