Ah, early spring in Alabama. Pollen hasn’t quite blanketed our cars and houses, mornings are somewhat crisp, afternoons are warm, and the days are longer. It’s the perfect time to be outside. So do yourself a favor — enjoy this beautiful weather before the sweltering summer hits and go pick some strawberries!
After seeing Facebook photos of smiling kids picking strawberries, I decided it would be a great activity for two boys that can’t sit still. Since I stay home, I love to take advantage of weekday excursions when crowds are typically smaller. However, that usually means I’m on my own with the wild things. Lucky for me, my brother, James, happened to have a Friday off from work and decided to join us. Happy with our man-on-man coverage, we loaded up the kids and picnic basket (well, backpack) and hit the road.
A little less than an hour later, we arrived at Sugar Hill U-Pick Farms in Verbena. The setting is beautiful with rows upon rows of fresh strawberries, cow pastures, and acres of farmland. You are given the choice of buying a bucket of picked strawberries for $10 or picking your own for $8/bucket (cash or check only). We, of course, chose to pick and were given our own row. The only rule was to stay off the black tarp protecting the plants.
Within seconds, both kids were moving from plant to plant, picking. Ian, my three year old, took off with Uncle James while I hung back with Colin, who will be two soon. It took Colin a few minutes to understand not to lean on the tarps and to only pick the ripe, red strawberries, but in no time we were chugging along and filling our bucket.
Halfway through, both boys realized the strawberries tasted delicious. The mom in me wanted to wash the fruit before it touched their lips, but I decided to just let it go. I also felt guilty about eating the berries before they were actually paid for, but my brother pointed out that we just wouldn’t fill our buckets all the way (duh, mom-brain). It was wonderful having a row to ourselves so the boys could run up and down, not disturbing anyone.
Once our buckets were full (minus the berries that were eaten), we visited the cows and just enjoyed the scenery. It was then time for lunch, so we made our way to the picnic tables by the entrance where there is also a cute little playground and even a sand pile complete with shovels and pails.
The boys were in heaven and didn’t want to leave. We’d been at Sugar Hill for almost two hours and I had a grandiose plan of both kids napping at home. I finally bribed them with ice cream; after all, Peach Park in Clanton was on the way home and only 10 minutes away. Bribery worked, and we were in the car again.
Typically we stop at Durbin Farms for ice cream when driving back from the beach, but something drew me to Peach Park. Unfortunately, the ice cream wasn’t quite as good, but the experience for the kids was pretty fantastic. I had no idea they actually have a park at Peach Park! There is a beautiful stream, a big playground, and an open field. Needless to say, we stayed much longer than I anticipated. After an hour, I just gave up on the idea of naps.
We were finally back in the car and moving along when we hit traffic. And I’m not talking slow-moving, 10mph traffic. This was stand-still, get-out-of-your-car-to-pick-flowers traffic … Literally, there was a softball team in front of us that got out of their bus to pick flowers! Colin decided then was the perfect time to poop. Thank God my brother was driving so I could quickly change him and hide the diaper in an empty sandwich bag from the picnic. Two hours and four miles later (yup, 2mph), we finally made it past the accident and cruised home. Ian fell asleep, but Colin was wide awake the whole trip.
The most amazing part? Even with the horrible traffic and virtually no naps, there was really no whining or crying from either one the entire day. The boys spent quality time with their uncle, I was grateful to have another set of hands on a weekday excursion, and we had fresh strawberries to enjoy all week. We all thoroughly enjoyed the trip. It was a beautiful spring day.
So take my advice: pack a picnic and make a day trip to Sugar Hill U-Pick Farms in Verbena. Check their Facebook page for regular updates and enticing photos. Strawberry season ends in late May, and they are open Monday through Saturday. Stop at Durbin Farms for ice cream and Peach Park for their playground. Just be sure to check your traffic app before you hit the highway!