Thursday, July 31, 2008

Reason #10

Why I enjoy running the blueberry farm
My customers become my friends.

One of my favorite you-pick customers was at the farm this morning with his wife and granddaughter. Here's how his greeting goes. 

Customer: Hi Amy. How are you today?
Amy: Fine. How about you?
Customer: It's too early in the day. I haven't decided yet.

At least, that's how the conversation went the first year. After he visited the farm a few times, I remembered his line and no longer inquired about his health. This morning he asked me twice how I was. I suppose I should have been polite and asked him how he was doing--but I already knew the answer. 

A berry as big as a quarter

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Reason #9

Why I enjoy running the blueberry farm

Naomi waiting for our friends to arrive with a picnic lunch.

Last night we fellowshiped with friends who were recently in Colorado working on a Personhood amendment to the state constitution. They left with buckets of blueberries, and we left with the encouragement that comes by spending time with committed, excited Christians. 

Today several friends joined us for a picnic lunch under the white pine trees at the blueberry farm. We visited while we ate sandwiches in the shade of the trees. Then they headed out to the patch to pick berries in the afternoon sunshine. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Princess Truck

My friend Amanda asked me to photograph her with her truck.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Reason #8

Why I enjoy running the blueberry farm
I learn fascinating information
Did you know that an entire dehydrated watermelon fits in one Ziploc bag? It tastes like candy. The dehydrated melon reconstitutes in the stomach after it is eaten. 
"That's funny," I said. 
"Not really," my primary source informed me. "It's painful."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Reason #7

Why I enjoy running the blueberry farm
Sunday is our day of rest; the blueberry farm is closed
I was glad when they said unto me, 
Let us go into the house of the LORD. Psalm 122:1

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Crazy Photographer

Aunt Carolyn took Aaron and me out to lunch today at the China Palace. They laughed at me when I grabbed my camera to photograph my plate on the buffet. The other patrons just stared and the server came out to make sure there was enough fried rice. I only got two shots before I conformed to societal pressure and slunk back to my seat pretending there was nothing unusual about photographing one's lunch.

But you should have seen the guy at the Salvation Army when, after donating twelve boxes of stuff, I hopped out of the car with my camera. "My aunt wants a picture of the rabbit," I said. He looked confused, but, after all, he works at the Salvation Army. He's probably seen stranger things than a crazy photographer.

Lunch and junk--great photographic subjects.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Reason #6

Why I enjoy running the blueberry farm
God cares about blueberry sales
We've picked lots of blueberries this week--more than we will be able to sell at the Farmers' Market. God caused the blueberries to grow; He watered them with rain and ripened them with sunshine. He enabled us to pick quarts of berries. Yesterday we asked that He would send us customers.
This morning I opened an email requesting forty pounds of berries. While I was at the farm, a man stopped by the house and bought a ten pound box. When I returned home, I had a note saying a woman had called and would stop by this evening for a ten pound box.
God cares about blueberry sales. 

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Blueberry Farm

           “Hi. We’re picking rows ten to fifteen. You can move around; eat all you want. Just let me know when you’re done.” That’s my usual greeting from beneath my black sun hat.

            This is the third year my family has run a blueberry farm a few miles west of our home. I am responsible for the farm operation, while my sisters, the “Blueberry Girls,” vend the berries at the Farmers’ Market in downtown Midland on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. In the morning and evening, Monday through Saturday, I serve you-pick customers, oversee pickers harvesting berries for us, and pick quarts of berries myself.

            The blueberry bushes were planted over twenty-five years ago, by a man who envisioned “The Berry Patch,” a fruit farm with forty acres of blueberries and five acres of raspberries. His vision failed to become reality, but he did plant five acres of blueberries and two long rows of grapes. The berry bushes are nearly as tall as a man and grow in long rows across the field. As the sun ripens the berries, they turn from white to green to red to blue.

In May 2005, a man in a pick-up truck stopped by our house to see if our family would be interested in harvesting blueberries. Dan Nagel, the current owner of the farm, was the son-in-law of the man who planted the bushes. Mr. Nagel tended the bushes, fertilizing and trimming them, but didn’t have the time to pick them or open the farm for you-pickers. Our family agreed to try the blueberry business, and it has been a blessing to us.

The season lasts through July and to the end of August. This year the berries were a week and a half late, and we expect to have berries into September. Of our two varieties of berries, I prefer the earlier berries because they are full of flavor, but many of our customers enjoy picking the later, larger berries.

Throughout the week, one or two of my siblings accompany me to the blueberry farm where we pick berries, sort out stems, leaves and bad berries, and package the berries in quart containers. On market mornings Julie and Brian or Betsy and Libby load the back of the pick-up truck with carriers full of quarts of blueberries, a blue tarp, a table, and the cashbox. At the market, Bob the market-master assigns them a stall. Most days they sell all the berries—usually over a hundred quarts. Meanwhile at the farm, I welcome customers and continue picking berries to fill more quarts. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Reason #5

Why I enjoy running the blueberry farm
It's beautiful

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Joel's Baby

Grandma bought Joel a baby doll when he was about two-years-old. That doll with the plastic head and soft pink body was supposed to help sibling relations, since I did not appreciate when Joel tried to steal my baby Jean. Joel soon outgrew that nameless doll.

Joel has his own real baby now—Kaelyn Joy. She sleeps, she eats, she makes dirty diapers and she enthralls her Daddy for hours. He talks to her, walks her, sings to her, photographs her, and watches her grow.

We’ve improved at sharing since Joel was two and I was four. I spent much of my two-day visit to Whitmore Lake holding my niece (Joel didn’t have much choice on Monday, since he was at work.).

When I wasn't holding her, I photographed her. Judith and I agreed to train her to be a photogenic little girl. So far, she hasn’t needed much tutoring!

Sunday, July 20, 2008


my niece

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Reason #4

Why I enjoy running the blueberry farm
I work with my family
Logan came prepared to the blueberry farm this morning.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Reason #3

Why I enjoy running the blueberry farm
I don’t work during the hottest part of the day

We open the blueberry farm for pickers from nine to eleven in the morning and seven to nine in the evening. That allows me to be home for lunch most days and finish my dinner before I head back to the farm. I prefer picking in the mornings and evenings when the temperature is cooler.

Yesterday after we closed the blueberry farm for the morning, Julie and I had fajitas for lunch (everyone else was away from home).

1 chicken breast, cut into strips
1 tablespoon oil
1 yellow pepper, cut into strips
1/4 red onion, sliced
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup salsa
Tortillas and sour cream

Sauté chicken and oil in a frying pan over medium heat until chicken is cooked thoroughly. Add pepper, onion and tomatoes to the chicken and heat for a minute, stirring to prevent the vegetables from sticking. Add the salsa and heat until warm. Serve in tortillas with sour cream.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Kindy Tree Service

Aaron Cook watching as the crane lowers a section of tree.

The sky is a little bigger at a log house on Sanford Lake, thanks to Kindy Tree Service. With the assistance of Beyer Roofing, men with chain-saws removed two 110 foot white pine trees, making room for an addition to the house.

My older brother Aaron has been cutting trees with the Kindy brothers full-time for the past three years. Forty-some years ago Virgil Kindy started Kindy Tree Service. The company, a Limited Liability Corporation, is now owned and operated by his sons Jerry and Kevin.

While their father was once limited to ladders, the sons rely on a fleet of bright red trucks--including a bucket truck. Ladders remain standard equipment, though. Occasionally a job demands bigger equipment. In the case of the white pine trees near Sanford Lake, a crane, owned by Beyer Roofing, was necessary to gently lower sections of the tree to the ground without damaging the lawn or drainfield.

Kevin Kindy hitched a ride on the cable from the crane into the white pine tree. There he secured the cable to the tree trunk and cut the trunk into a manageable (seventeen to twenty foot) section. The crane lowered the section to the ground where Jerry Kindy trimmed limbs and branches and Aaron hauled away the debris. The entire job took about four hours--forty minutes to cut the tree and the rest of the time for preparation and clean-up. The logs from the felled trees will be used for lumber by the company contracted to build the addition to the house.

Kevin Kindy, using a Stihl chainsaw, cuts a white pine tree.

Jerry Kindy trims limbs and branches from the trunk of a tree section.

It's a Girl!

Kaelyn Joy

daughter of Joel and Judith
arrived on July 16, 2008
at 8:03 a.m.
She weighed 7 lbs. 11 oz.
and was 21 inches long.

This aunt is dreaming of photo shoots with her newborn niece.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Reason #2

Why I enjoy running the blueberry farm
I'm rarely bored!
I had started picking my second bucket of blueberries this morning when Libby announced, "A customer went into the bathroom and there's water all over the floor."

When I peeked through the doorway I found about an inch of water covering the bathroom floor. Water was running. I sloshed toward the toilet and turned off the valve on the pipe leading to the back of the toilet. The waterfall from the toilet bowl ceased.

After consulting with my Dad, I pulled the lid off the tank and discovered the problem--the round rubber piece that flushes the toilet was stuck open allowing water from the tank to pour into the bowl and overflow on the floor. I was thankful the problem wasn't serious since the owner of the blueberry farm is on vacation in Oregon this week.

By the time Mom, Logan, and Naomi arrived with a bucket and mops, most of the water had drained. I threw the rugs out on the grass to dry in the sun and Logan helped me get the strip of carpet out. Then I sopped up the rest of the water and mopped the concrete floor with disinfectant. This evening, if the rugs are dry, I will replace them. And before we close the farm for the day, we will check the bathroom!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Reason #1

Why I enjoy running the blueberry farm

All the blueberries I can eat.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sunday School Picnic



jump rope


Don't worry--we ate too. As Brother Byler said, "The food was yummy." 

Friday evening I practiced action photography and camera angels. "The rule is 'No hitting the photographer,'" I tell my family when I shoot sports. Our church proved law-abiding, though I was scared under the basketball hoop.

Sauder Village

After picking cherries Julie, Christie and I drove forty-five minutes to Sauder Village in Archbold, Ohio (the town famous in our family for Yoder and Frey Auction—a place of wonderful memories of tractors, auctioneers and waterlogged boots). Sauder Village was established by Erie Sauder who envisioned a village where visitors could observe the olden days. Guides, dressed in period clothing, explained the significance of each component of the village—from the schoolhouse to depot to the church to the cooper’s shop.

My two favorite stops were the W.O. Taylor Printing Office and the Broom Shop (motto: A house without a broom is like a bride without a groom). In the print shop our guide, a bent old man who shuffled with a three-wheeled walker, pointed out a printing press similar to the one Benjamin Franklin used. Our guide worked at various jobs at the Toledo Blade for twenty-some years before retiring. Upon my inquiry, he explained how photo negatives were turned into etchings and smeared with ink to make illustrations in the newspaper. He also showed us a machine similar to what he used when he worked at the Blade. It converted the coded tape (which looked like fly paper with dots) into the metal type used to print national news stories.

After touring the Broom Shop, Christie declared her next hobby as broom making. The bristles of a broom are made from broomcorn—a plant that looks similar to sorghum. Broomcorn is wrapped around the broom handle and secured with wire to make a circular broom. The bristles are pressed into a fan shape and then sewn together. In the final step the bristles are trimmed.

The pungency of the herb shop caused my nose to run. I shot self-portraits on the porch while Christie and Julie selected Peach Ambrosia Roobos Tea for Aunt Sandy. 

We didn’t make it through the whole village before closing time at five o’clock. We walked across the parking lot to the Barn Restaurant. There the rooms were named “Manger,” “Feedlot,” “Loft,” and “Granary,” and the chandeliers were made of wagon wheels. I eyed the packets of butter and half-and-half while we waited for our meals. After we warded off starvation, we posed for a group portrait (left to right: Amy, Christie, Julie). Tip: If you don’t have a tri-pod, improvise with your aunt’s three-gallon stockpot. 

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cherry Picking

Picking cherries is one of Julie's highlights for the summer. She convinced me to join her on the three hour trip to Hide-Away Orchard, south of Adrian, Michigan. With a picnic lunch and our cousin Christie we were set for a wonderful morning. Julie and I picked thirty pounds of cherries--four gallon Ziploc bags.
The orchard opened for pickers on Tuesday. Thursday morning the trees were still loaded with tart, red cherries, though the orchard wasn't as crowded as the first two days. On the opening day, some customers waited an hour to have their cherries pitted! 
The season is short, only about a week. Last year the crop failed, yielding only 250 pounds of cherries. Over the next week the owner expects to harvest 10,000 pounds of cherries from the orchard. Although the orchard also has sweet cherry trees, they were ruined by too much rain. 
I was fascinated by the cherry pitting machine. According to the owner, the 17-year-old machine can pit 400 pounds of cherries an hour. The cherries are dumped at the far end of the machine, where they are rinsed with water. Then they are spread on a conveyer belt, the orange part, which transports them to the pitting mechanism, the blue part. Each cherry is dropped into an individual plastic cup on a rotating cylinder. This machine has eight plastic cups per row. Bigger machines have up to twenty-four cups. Years ago, the cups were made of metal. The plastic cups don't smash the cherries as much and can be changed according to the size of the cherry. Thin metal rods punch the pits out of the cherries and the cylinder continues rotating, depositing the cherries on the chute which slides them into the waiting container. 

Side-note: I grabbed a piece of paper from my purse to scribble notes about the cherry pitter and accidently wrote on the backside of an un-cashed check. Oops! I hope the credit union doesn't mind too much. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


A box of fifty chicks (twenty-five layers and twenty-five meat) and six turkeys arrived at the Post Office Tuesday morning from the hatchery in Zeeland, Michigan. Last Saturday Libby combined the laying hens in one pen to prepare a spot for the chicks. The little peepers settled into their new home without a sojourn in the laundry room. We are grateful for Libby's effort, since a box of chicks quickly becomes noisy and stinky!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bandana Jumpers

Julie's sewing project once college finished this spring was to create matching bandana/denim jumpers. She modified the pattern, adjusting straps, adding patch pockets and the strip of bandana material around the bottom of the skirt. Each jumper features a different color--Julie is green, Betsy is blue, Libby is purple, Naomi is pink.
My corresponding project was to photograph my sisters in their jumpers. Our photo shoot occurred on a humid, warm, sunny morning--not the ideal conditions but we managed by staying in the shade. By the end of the shoot I was sweaty and thankful that I was behind the camera and not posing in front of it!

Monday, July 7, 2008


The weather the past weeks delayed first cutting hay. Thus our Friday and Saturday July 4th vacation activities involved tractors, wagons and a sweaty hay crew. Saturday evening friends from Indiana received a genuine hayride.