Friday, July 17, 2015

You can pick your friends

Jim picking figs.
VERNON — They tell me you can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends. Sometimes, I think, they pick you.

One of those that welcomed us into the fold in recent years is Jim Weslowski, and his wife Delia, who run Weslowski Farms near Vernon. Friendly conversations at the Bay County Farmers Market led to invitations to pick fruits and berries at the farm, which led to conversations around blueberry bushes.

Before you know it, it’s 100 degrees and you’re talking about the proper care of a papaya tree.

Riding his red tractor last Sunday, Jim led us (in our car) up the back way to the fig tree grove by his house — across grass that took us past chestnut, blueberry and pear trees, then onto a two-rut trail that a wagon might have followed 200 years ago, and up 1,600 feet of incline to the house at the top of the hill.

We couldn’t take the front approach because he hadn’t graded the drive in a while and, he said, “As soon as I fill the holes, it will rain.”

My wife and I picked figs while Jim filled holes anyway, and I was careful this time not to scratch my face or use my hand to wipe sweat from my eyes; last year, I had a reaction to the milky sap of the figs that set my skin on fire (or so it felt). It was worth it for the preserves and jams my wife made, but it didn’t seem so at the time.

After filling a couple of flats, we descended the hill to pick pears. Jim told us he would quit working when we did, and we promised he wouldn’t have to sweat much longer — the heat would keep us from taking too long. The thermometer on the car’s dashboard registered 98 degrees at 11 a.m.

We used a little step ladder to reach the higher pears, as Jim already had grabbed the ones low enough to reach from the ground. Jim and Delia have been selling them at local farmers markets, alongside all the other produce from his farm. (You can usually find Jim at the Bay County Fairgrounds Farmers Market every day except Sundays and Thursdays, and Delia at the Lynn Haven Farmers Market on Tuesdays and the St. Andrews Waterfront Market on Saturdays.)

It wasn’t our first trip to the farm this summer; in June I took my niece there to pick blueberries. And I hope it won’t be our last visit. Jim is really good at teaching and explaining how best to process the produce he and Delia grow, as well as how to care for your own vegetables and fruit trees. There’s always something new to learn, and he’s generous as a teacher and grower.

In fact, Jim and Delia will host their annual open house, autumn farm tour and barbecue cookout in November. Guests will get to view the fall/winter crops, make some fresh lemonade, learn about the fruit trees, and much more. Like Weslowski-Farms on Facebook for details.

Delia — under a wide-brimmed hat and long-sleeved shirt — ran a mower through the grass while we picked. The work on a farm never ends, although Jim suggested he could quit any time he wanted to.

“She’ll say, ‘Honey, you need to go do so-and-so,’” Jim said with a grin. “I’ll say, ‘I don’t have to do anything. I’m retired.’”


Peace.

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