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"Libby & Son U-Picks," Limerick

Married to the constant gardener, Farmer Frank, I’d never needed to go somewhere to pick blueberries. I’d never done so in my entire life.

I do go to an orchard to pick apples nearly every fall. It’s something I love to do and have done since my boys were toddlers. Now-a-days, we head to The Brothers in Alfred to pick McIntosh apples (per our best friends’ recommendation) and buy apple cider donuts, still warm. McIntosh apples – small, crisp and slightly sour are my favorites, and I eat one every day. “An apple a day keeps the doctor…..” Each autumn, I make apple sauce (with pork chops), apple pie, and apple cake in a spring form pan. (The cake has a stick of butter, 6 ounces of sour cream, and lots of cinnamon/sugar which makes all the difference.)

But blueberries (and raspberries) were such a staple in our home on Bramblewood Drive because of Frank’s amazing vegetable garden and berry plants. We must have had a billion blueberries each season by the time we sold that house. I was spoiled. I didn’t realize how blessed we were when, as “farmers,” we were forced to pick, every day, lest our crop would die on the vine or drop to the ground which is just a killer for the farmer (Frank) who has worked so hard to nurture those plants.

We begged family & friends to come pick blueberries – any time, any day. Their picking in their bowls-from-home saved us maybe an hour or two of work, which on any day, was welcome by summer’s end.

But this year, in a new home, without blueberry bushes, we headed to Libby’s in Limerick in October per the suggestion of one of Farmer Frank’s corporate colleagues. (Farmer Frank really works in a cubicle, not the fields, during his days.)

Blueberries in October? We couldn’t believe it. So close to frost at night? We thought we’d check it out. If nothing else, we’d take an hour-long drive southwest and look at the foliage on a Saturday afternoon.

We drove where we’ve never been before. The roads through Gorham turn into back roads. And then, all of a sudden, when we hit Libby’s, there were 100’s of people! We couldn’t believe it. Where did they come from?

Libby’s is different than the orchards we’ve visited in the past. Libby’s is a happening place with a huge parking lot, golf-carts taking people everywhere, with a live band, hard cider, food, a bakery, wooden cut outs to take photo ops. It was packed on this early October day.

We headed up the hill (walking, not in the golf cart) to the blueberry bushes, past the apple trees. They were high bush berries which is what we had at home – very easy to pick. They were mostly small. We were able to fill about a half box so late in the fall season and the next morning meant blueberry pancakes with our coffee. And our goal was met, we put a gallon sized bag of blueberries in the freezer to enjoy over the winter.

I love to see all the kids in orchards. They’re running around, munching apples just picked, enjoying the sunshine on their faces and the warm breeze blowing. It’s such a great family activity to do in the fall in Maine. It gets us all outside, away from technology, and enjoying each others’ company. It also gives us a new excitement and appreciation for local produce grown nearby. Perhaps, that will encourage us to plant, visit farmers’ markets when they come downtown, buy organic…..or at a minimum, eat an apple a day to keep that doctor away!

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