Nothing says summer like the opening of pick-your-own produce season.
My sister and I still talk about our childhood in Ohio and the opening of the local strawberry patches there. Early on a June morning, just after school had ended for the summer, our mother would coax us out of bed and into the family car to spend the day picking strawberries.
It was labor-intensive work -- squatting and stooping in the hot sun, brushing the leaves aside to find only the lush, firm, sweet berries that our mother would accept. But we didn't mind.
Mom made this event sound like the most exciting opportunity available to kids anywhere. Pity our friends whose mothers didn't take them on this adventure. Once we got to the patch and began picking, every berry that went into the quart basket was matched by one that went into our mouths. We discovered early that nothing tastes better than a strawberry right off the vine.
Today, Sewell's Farm on Harney Road near Taneytown opens its strawberry patches, and you and your family can enjoy the pleasure of picking berries.
The Sewells have 10 acres of strawberries that they have been cultivating for a year. Early Glow, a variety that Ronnie Sewell Sr. describes as one of the sweetest berries around, is the berry available to pick today.
"The berries may be a little scattered during the first few days," Mr. Sewell says.
"People will need to be a little patient."
Mr. Sewell also described the picking cycle -- first, the Early Glow berries, then a new, equally sweet crop of Annapolis berries. Strawberries tend to get smaller and sweeter as the season progresses, and all varieties promise good eating.
Berries are picked by the quart, and at a 5,000-quart yield per acre, you can pick every day of the season for an impressive harvest.
Strawberries ripen consistently with good weather --in the 80s by day and 60s at night -- so keep your fingers crossed for these conditions.
Mr. Sewell has operated his strawberry patch as a pick-your-own field for seven years.
He also operated a strawberry farm in nearby Howard County for 25 years where city folks would come by the carload and fill multiple parking lots.
"It was such a craze," he said.
People from the Baltimore and Washington areas are beginning to find his farm on Harney Road, too, as folks rediscover this simple country pleasure.
Sewell's Farm is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The season starts today and will run for 3 1/2 weeks, weather permitting. Berries are 79 cents a pound.
The farm is located at 3400 Harney Road. Parking, restrooms and telephones are on the premises.
Note: No picking is permitted during thunderstorms or heavy rainfall. Call first if you're unsure about the weather and its effect on picking. Information: 756-4397.
Congratulations to Johnnie Sauble of Union Bridge. He won the recent New Windsor Lions Club raffle of a three-minute shopping spree at Jubilee Foods in Union Bridge. The Lions Club benefited, too -- it earned $500 in raffle receipts.
Congratulations, too, to Eric Offut for winning the local Geography Bee at Runnymede Elementary School May 22. The Elmer Wolfe fourth-grader won a certificate to honor his achievement.
Eric is a member of the school's geography club. Students from Taneytown also participated in the event.
Eric's parents, Rick and Debbie Offut of New Windsor, said their son is one of those children who always has his nose in a book and has enjoyed geography for years.
Two of my favorite neighbors, Dottie and Mel Fritz of Uniontown, gave me a walking tour of their picture-perfect property Memorial Day.
Ms. Fritz, a local poet, shares her verse with me, and publicly as well in the Uniontown newsletter and her church bulletin.
It's always a delight to spend time with this woman, who knows and cherishes the history of our village and expresses her appreciation of life in poetry.
The Fritzes also possess some of the greenest thumbs around, and their lush flower beds and yard boast many varieties of roses, carnations, pansies, black-eyed Susans, mums (pinch them back now, she advises) and more geraniums than you can count.
To what do they owe this gardening success? Love of the outdoors, hard work and an organic gardener's secret -- hair in the soil.
Mr. Fritz is a barber who has sheared the heads of the famous and rich, and brings bags of freshly cut hair home from his Westminster barbershop to use as compost for his plants.
The Fritzes' miniorchard promises a decent harvest this summer -- the apricot tree's branches are already bending down with unripened fruit, and the peach and plum trees, in two perfect rows next to the vegetable garden, also will be bountiful.
Critters abound in this yard. Yellow and red finches feast at the bird feeder, chickadees nest in the awning over the kitchen window, and bluebirds are safe in their bluebird box.
Sometimes deer appear in the yard, out of the thicket of trees at the back of the property.