“Pickin & Puckin”

My daughter Madeline visited last weekend from Maryland. You can never have too many apples so we went apple picking. We and the other pickers climbed into a wagon to be taken to the site by tractor. Although apple picking tends to be easy and the trees are low and do not require climbing, I experienced more stress on my back, walking amid the trees, than I hoped for. But we each picked an eight- quart bag of apples.  1391629_10201617383109628_131517004_n

As we picked and chatted, I remembered my childhood when I learned how to properly pick.

During World War II, federal agencies were established to alleviate labor shortages. Students were hired to work as agricultural assistants on their school breaks.  A friend of mine had spent a summer picking fruit in California. She taught me how to pick with a bucket around my neck to keep both hands free for picking. The term that was used was “Puckin.”

As an adolescent, I picked lots of fruit in the woods near my parents’ summer home in Middletown, New York. The fruit was probably planted and cultivated at one time, but I remember creeping through briers, escorted by mosquitoes to the various spots. I was rewarded with wonderful blackberries, black raspberries and huckleberries. The huckleberries, though delicious, were a lot smaller than the blueberries that we have today and we didn’t fill a pot too quickly.  Wild strawberries grew near our house; they were sweet but very small. We spent our summers making pies and jam. I can still see my mother’s home -canned berries glistening like jewels on top of her Thanksgiving fruit cup. Although I make my pies and jam pretty much the way my mom did, I froze berries for mid-winter treats.

I demonstrated my “puckin” skills when we visited farms with our children.  While we had to crawl on our knees for the strawberries, most fruits are planted in neat rows with many varieties of plump berries, easy to pick.  It doesn’t take long to “puck” a container of blueberries today. Our own crabapples required more work, but provided us with marvelous jam and applesauce through the entire winter.

On the way back to the car, the tram drove past fields of corn and other fall crops, the tangy fragrance of apples wafting in the crisp October breeze during the ride.  A visit to an orchard is not complete without a stop at the farm market.  We “picked“ up a few things.

A friend of mine said that growing old was a series of “Giving up.” Am I giving up apple picking? I don’t think so!


22 thoughts on ““Pickin & Puckin”

  1. Pingback: “Pickin & Puckin” | bestofbarbara

  2. Hi Barbara, I remember how thrilled we were as kids when berry-picking days were scheduled. And while the adults may have thought about the pies and jams that would be made, for us it was the competition to see who would bring back the most full pots. I also remember picking rhubarb under the old pear tree. To this day one of the great features of spring is finding various rhubarb concoctions on desert menus. I also always look for strawberry-rhubarb jam when I go to a Farmer’s Market. Great reminiscences, thank you. XXX Robert

    • I fall right in the middle. I look forward to the pies and jam and still like to be the first to fill my bucket. Will have to give you a good rhubarb fish recipe. Thanks for righting.

  3. I come via Lisa. My parents’ very first job when they landed in Canada was picking apples! I don’t go picking much myself, but recently I’ve committed to eating the things that are in season as locally as possible. Your comment on preserves and freezing berries just reminded me of that!

  4. Your writing does bring back the most delightful childhood memories of days spent at your parents’ house in Middletown. As I recall, we were given empty milk containers or tins threaded with string to put around our necks to free both hands. The general bucket was brought along, and as we filled our containers, they were then emptied into the bucket. Of course, lots of eating went on in-between, but the thought of your Mother’s unequalled blue-berry jam and pies that would follow, helped with my self-control. I never could understand why she bothered putting paraffin on the top of the jars, as they never lasted very long. I am so grateful to your parents for the those wonderful times.

    • I used to use the parifin. Lisa gave me some English jam pot covers, which i’m running out of. Today they recommend making small batches and keeping it in the refridgerator. i did some black current jam and covered the jars tight and put them on the shelf until I gave it away. Don’t even sterilize jars anymore. Don’t think Eva uses parifin. Loved you comments about the picking. Thanks

  5. Friend of Lisa here..Thanks for the stories. While my family never picked fruit when I was a child (not too many berries and apples in The Bronx), I loved reading about your reminiscences!

  6. Yes, there are things we have to give up… but there are things we can keep on doing. And some things we learn to enjoy in old age. It isn’t as negative as it seems to some…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s