Since I nixed New Zealand – collapsing into a ball of stress the night before, bemoaning the weightiness of life and everything in it – I decided that I still needed a vacation. And so I vowed to do a bunch of things I’d always wanted to do but never took the time to near Albany.

You know how it is: these things are always there, and so close, and you know you’ll get to them one day… and then never do.

I vowed to do them all.

Or at least a couple.

I have never been berry picking. Apples yes (and pears, and some nasty end-of-season peaches, which devolved into a game of peach pitching, which in turn ended with a mighty Sploosh of rotten peaches all over my jeans and much general hilarity – but I digress). Berries no. All summer I kept meaning to take Sirus out to Thacher Park, about a half hour drive from our house, and there was a berry patch on the way.

So that’s what we did one lovely Tuesday afternoon. It was actually quite overcast and threatening to rain, but that didn’t matter. I was on a mission. We fled Albany into the far flung suburbs where the water lines don’t even run, to a patch of strawberries hugging the easements around electric towers (minor pause to wonder what happens if a thunderstorm strikes, but I just refused to go there). Sirus burst from the hatch like a steam engine, flying three times around the wooden shack where the local teenager collects the cash. Said teenager was clearly worried about this craziness on four legs and instructed that I keep Pups well away from the berries. We picked our way carefully through the vines. I tied her to an apple tree and she happily sniffed the crazy country smells as I bent over and plucked juicy red berries from their nest.

It’s an undeniable rush to pick your own food, a connection directly from the ground to the bowl and eventually to the car, table and mouth. And then I realized what a luxury it truly was to pick berries, that I could dash in, play around and leave, without any of the hard labor of sowing and fertilizing and rising before dawn of actual farming – I got all the easy parts and none of the really hard work, and I felt absolutely decadent and a bit guilty all at once.

And let me also add that $12 worth of grocery store strawberries is enough for smoothies for, say, a week. While $12 worth of hand-picked berries was good for smoothies for two – and strawberry-lemon-ginger muffins (which didn’t rise, I think I need new baking powder) and strawberry oatmeal bars (the best of which I can say is that I know how I’m tweaking the recipe in the future) and strawberries for salads and enough strawberries in general that, by the end of the week, I craved blueberries.

Next Post: Intrepid Traveler vs. Zen Yogis, and the yogis send me packing