Today’s Recipe: Roasted Chicken & Buttercup Squash w/Herbed Honey Mustard

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Today’s Recipe: Caramel Apples

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Today’s Recipe: Apple Butter-Gingersnap Thumbprints

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Today’s Recipe: Apple Butter

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Young Cultivators Merit Badge: Make It Fruity, Beginner Level, Part 2

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,691 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—9,460 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

In my pursuit of all things farmgirl, I set about helping my neighbor, Nora, earn herself a Young Cultivator’s Make It Fruity Merit Badge. Read about Part 1 here. I was nearly killed in several interesting ways during the whole process, but I digress. This is about Nora, not about me.

Me and my blackberry-thorn-scratched body.

Me and my sunburned skin.

Me and my twisted ankle and bruised knees.

Me and my shadow.

Wait. Not that last one. Sometimes I slip into Perry Como lyrics when I’m stressed or anxious. Ignore me.

Women picking evergreen blackberries in western Oregon, 1910, OSU Special Collections & Archives via Wikimedia Commons

Anyway, all terrifying bug sightings aside, my time with Nora was well spent and I learned a lot about my wee, preteen neighbor: She has a ferocious appetite (made evident by the lack of blackberries in her basket after an hour of picking), she can’t seem to put her phone away for longer than a moment (and the pinging was getting on my frazzled nerves), she enjoys flinging four-, six-, and eight-legged critters my way (Haha, Nora, very cute. I’m telling your mother!), and she uses a peculiar form of slang this farmgirl needed an interpreter to … er, interpret.

After an hour of broiling in the hot summer sun (my skin was getting crispy, and if you were to stick a fork in me and sprinkle me with garlic salt, I think I’d be done), I began to realize why Nora’s family hadn’t made this an annual family excursion. They were wise beyond their years. Taking a preteen out in public, even if it’s just to a local blackberry patch, is an exercise in patience, long-suffering perseverance, and a test of your sense of humor. Also, it’s kinda frightening.

Turns out preteens have teeny-tiny, itty-bitty, hardly noticeable mood swings. And of course, by teeny-tiny, itty-bitty, and hardly noticeable, I mean extreme, severe, and terrifying. It was like picking berries with a tame Disney woodland creature one minute and a growling, Jane-eating-shark the next. Sharks don’t growl? Yeah, so says you.

Luckily, I have ninja skills with which to ward off said mood swings, so I was not completely unprepared. We ended our excursion with lots of fresh, purple berries, telltale mustaches from sampling, a few injuries, and a sense of bonding.

Midway through our journey back to the car, Nora’s cell-phone battery died, and I had a premonition of my own demise when I saw the crazed look in her blue eyes, but we made it home intact, her first Young Cultivator’s Badge earned.

Her mother met us at the door. “Apple picking next weekend?” she suggested, brightly.

I mumbled something intelligible as Nora raced for her phone charger.

“Camping?” Mother went on, her face cheerful (and well rested, I might add). “Road tripping?”

“I, uh, I think I hear my phone pinging!” I stumbled back to my car in a panic.

Earning my own Merit Badges had been challenging and enlightening enough. Helping my young whippersnapper neighbors and family members earn theirs?

“It will be fun,” they said …

“It will be an adventure,” they said …

Gulp.