Take children to pick their own strawberries

A hankering for fresh strawberries recently led our family of four to Jacquemin Farms, 20 minutes from Columbus in Plain City, Ohio.

My husband, Mike, wanted some sun-ripened berries to flavor a batch of homemade ice cream. We also thought collecting the strawberries together would make a fun family outing.

A quick search on the Internet revealed a number of pick-your-own strawberry farms in central Ohio. We selected Jacquemin Farms, 7437 Hyland Croy Rd., which has a three-acre, pick-your-own strawberry patch that includes five varieties of the juicy red berries.

Unseasonably warm weather has caused the strawberries to ripen ahead of schedule. Strawberry picking times at Jacquemin Farms are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, through the end of June.

Founded in 1987, Jacquemin Farms offers fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a small retail shop with home-style jams and jellies, and freshly fried doughnuts with strawberry glaze.

Almost all the crops sold in the shop are grown on the farm including strawberries, peas, red raspberries and pumpkins, all of which can be freshly picked by customers. Other crops, such as apples, peaches, cherries and blackberries, come from nearby farmers.

We arrived on a sunny Saturday morning ready to pick just enough berries for our ice cream. At a cost of $2 per pound, we grabbed two, one-quart containers to fill ourselves. The total cost, with a couple of strawberry slushies for the kids, was five bucks.

We were directed to a row of strawberries and asked to stay in our row. We were encouraged to eat and enjoy fresh-picked berries as we filled our containers.

A sign says that children must stay within 10 feet of their berry-picking elders. It also says not to step on the plants, words that I had to repeat several times to my children.

You can take as long as you’d like picking your berries, kneeling on the straw-covered mud walkways. Our chore was completed in about 30 minutes.

I enjoyed being out in the sunshine pinching berries fresh from the vine and seeing so many others doing the same.

Mike thought the berries were kind of small, but I liked them because they tasted much better than the giant, unnatural-looking ones you see nowadays in the supermarket. The bite-size gems produce 10 times the flavor as their counterparts and are perfect for homemade strawberry ice cream.

For more information, visit www.jacqueminfarms.com. For current information on what’s ready to pick and when, follow Jacquemin Farms on Facebook or call 614-873-5725.

The farm is open through October.

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Plan a Teddy bear picnic at picturesque park

Antrim Lake in northwest Columbus was once a quarry pit before it was filled with water and deemed the main attraction of Antrim Park in 1970.

Now its rocky bottom and 30-foot depth contribute to the lake’s vibrant blue hue, making it a magnificent centerpiece of the 1.2-mile walking trail that loops its circumference. Native flowers and towering cottonwoods reflect upon the lake’s serene surface, drawing daydreamers like me to spend time circumventing the lake.

Joggers, dog walkers and stroller-pushing parents also find the picturesque path perfect for exercise and tranquility.

I recently introduced my two young children to the path via a wagon ride. I loaded them, along with their teddy bears and a picnic basket, for a loop around the lake. The nearby Olentangy Trail provides a steady stream of exercise enthusiasts to the lake. The paved path extends nearly 14 miles from Worthington to downtown Columbus. The lake provides a scenic stop, but not for cyclists, who are forbidden from the lake loop. The absence of bikes makes a leisurely stroll more enjoyable and less dangerous for children.

I like to pull Rosie and Max half way around the loop to a covered bench, where we park our wagon. We then unfurl our picnic blanket in the grass beside the lake and munch on peanut-butter sandwiches, apple slices and carrot sticks.

I relax while my children hug their teddy bears and throw small rocks into the lake, trying not to disturb the fishermen who align the lake’s bank. Fish, such as rainbow trout, bluegill, largemouth bass, channel catfish and carp, swim the waters. People, however, are not allowed to swim or boat in the lake.

After a moment of respite, my children and I continue our journey around the rest of the lake toward the parking lot, recharged and rejuvenated by our time at the lake.

Antrim Park, located at 5800 Olentangy River Rd., is managed by the Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks. Features include athletic fields, basketball courts, playground, shelter-house, tennis courts and a handicap accessible fishing pier. Fishing is open to all ages.

For more information, visit columbus.gov/AntrimPark.

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