Many people in Elkhart County know Rachel Shenk as the onetime proprietor of Rachel’s Bread, but did you know she’s a wonderful writer as well? She’s also still in the food biz with her cheese shop, The Wedge, at the Goshen Farmers Market. We loved her recent essay on summer in Elkhart County, “Saying Goodbye to Summer,” published recently on her blog, La Bonne Vie. Below, we have published Rachel’s essay in its entirety, with her permission.
To read more of Rachel’s columns, click here.
This week, I am headed west of town. I follow the familiar route out of the city limits and into the country. This used to be my daily commute when we lived on the farm. I know all the curves and ups and downs and stop signs between the edge of Goshen and State Road 19. As the day winds down, I am getting ready to put in a couple of hours of work, picking red raspberries at a farmer friend’s patch. It has been a perfect weather day and I am hoping that the evening will be slightly cooler and mosquito-free.
As I pull in the drive, their large dog comes over to greet me, and Vera appears as well, guiding me down and across the creek to the raspberry canes. I bring my stainless steel milking pail but she offers me a lighter small plastic tub to tie around my waist. As she leaves, I am already seeing red poking through the leaves. The raspberry bushes are loaded on this late summer day. I move slowly along the rows, taking my time, carefully lifting the canes so they don’t bite me. The raspberries are beautiful. I taste one just to remind myself of the flavor, but leave the rest in the pail, letting them accumulate.
Out here in the field, I am in the lowlands with hills all around. The bees are buzzing around the raspberries but they know where to find what they want and they leave me alone. Other insects are letting me know that dusk is coming and the young turkeys call to me as I continue down the row. I soak in the quiet around me and listen to nature’s voice. I stop for a minute and breathe in the late summer smells.
But the raspberries are waiting and I gently pluck the ripe ones off of their stems. I keep finding more, hiding behind the leaves. My pail is filling and dusk is falling. It’s time to go home. I take one last look around as the sun sets behind the hills, trudge back to my car, and thank Vera for the raspberries. As I pull onto the county road and head on up the hill, I see my most favorite scene, laying before my eyes. Whatever the hour, the day or the season, the small white church on the hill always stands, solid, picture-perfect, a reminder of earlier days gone by, and a simpler way of life. It’s the crowning jewel to my day. I snap a photo to take with me, and then remember the raspberries. When I get home, I carry the pail inside, can the raspberries and finally, grab a couple of handfuls to enjoy. As the flavor lingers on my tongue, I can’t imagine a better way to say goodbye to the last of summer and another full season of the good life.