I just read a friends' blog post about a childhood memory she had, and while reading it this memory of mine came back to me.

During the summer each year, our family would drive to Traverse City, Mi during the cherry harvest. We stayed in a loft of a very large barn on the property owner of a large cherry orchard. The lower level of the barn was used to house migrant workers hired to harvest the cherries. We would get up early in the morning and go out to pick cherries. It is my first memory of my mom wearing anything other than a dress. She would put on a pair of my dad's coveralls over her clothes and I remember thinking she looked hilarious! We would all get into the car and drive out to the orchard. My parents would pick from ladders while us kids had to pick from the ground. The branches were low enough that we could pick from there.

This was not a vacation, and my dad made sure we kept busy!! One benefit was that we could eat the cherries, but I do remember my mom having to stop us from time to time because she was afraid we'd get sick eating too many. I don't remember if we did or not!

I do remember all those cherries though. Once they were picked, we'd head back to the barn where my mom would then proceed to can all the cherries!! Yes, that's right. She brought canning jars and supplies, along with a large oval canner that she set on a two burner hot plate and canned the cherries. They were washed then canned whole in the jars.
Canning those cherries was hot work! It was summertime, and we were in the attic area of a barn with a canner going most of the day!!!

The part of the trip that really stands out in my mind is the evenings. The migrant workers would all gather in the open area on the lower level and we could look out over a railing and watch them. They would then begin to sing and play instruments and they had a lot of tamborines. The music was very jubilant and it scared us kids! We had never heard anything like it! I do remember that my parent's comments made me think we should not be watching. They kept telling us to just stop looking!! I also rememeber my mom saying "they must be Catholics"...hahah Isn't that hilarious? I wonder why she said that?? But I do know that growing up in a strict Mennonite home, I had the impression that all Catholics were going to hell!!!

We did look forward to going each year, but I wonder if my mom felt the same way. I can't imagine how much work that was!! Canning and preserving was a big part of my childhood, so that might be why I like it as much as I do now and continue it even though it is a lot of work!

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