It is high-pie season here on the farm. Harvesting strawberries and rhubarb keep us busy in the kitchen. We’re putting up the pickings from our forays into the community where we’re fortunate to have organic pick-your-own-strawberries, friends with ample rhubarb patches, friends with blueberry farms, friends with peach & pear trees, and the occasional raspberry patch invitation.
Happy memories, great smells, good karma. I can just picture Grandma Brown, pulling trays of pies out of her oven in the summer, carefully, methodically loading them into her old rust-colored Matador, and driving them down to the state park where we ran a concession stand and sold them, still hot. She was about 4’10” tall, with little stick legs and a stout, round body. Her workdress was perpetually stained on her huge bosom, or, huge to me as a young, flat-chested teen. Her hands, her apron, her kitchen were clean, tidy, yet filled with useful tools and ingredients. I became calm in her presence because of her way of conserving movement without skimping on productivity. Flawless execution, no fuss, no muss. I do wish I had some video recording of her so that I could study it because to this day, my recollection is fuzzy on how she managed such a feat.
Char’s got the pie biz covered for me this year. That lady can crank out Grandma Brown’s recipe like nobody’s business. And every single one is delicious. Just like I taught her, like Grandma Brown taught me. Grandma would’ve SO loved baking with Char. She’d fretted that she didn’t know exactly what to do this summer when she got home from school because she likes to write and she likes to make art, both of which wouldn’t get her a summer income. I said, “Char, take the pie business for me and then I can spend more time with the animals and the garden, which sorely need more time from me than I can give with the pie-work.” She agreed, and it’s a fantastic arrangement.
But this little report is to share more than the local success of our pies around here, specifically the current dilemma of how the heck to get a good pie in the hands of someone that doesn’t live just a stone’s throw away. By that, I mean a pie in the hands of folks outside of our tri-state area.
Once we thought we could ship pies for the holidays through our Etsy site. While it is a great host for selling our homemade goods, we only made one sale, thank God. Dear Sandy from the Boston area ordered a pie for her holiday and we carefully made it, froze the whole shebang, and then shipped it to her to be baked in her home oven. I packed that baby, packed her well. Cling wrap, plastic bags, ice, bubble wrap, boxes…mailed it overnight USPS.
Sandy got her pie about 5 days after I’d sent it, and she was kind to say it arrived a calzone. I’m sure it was worse than she let on. I refunded her asap. She was such a great sport about making the best of it but I couldn’t have been more dissatisfied with the piecrust promises of the USPS that it would arrive overnight. I was actually miffed, as I recollect. Why did you say it’d get there overnight, USPS, and why did you charge me the shipping fees for said service? And then fail to follow through, fail miserably? Maybe I’m still miffed.
Second pie report is a success story. This time I figured I’d spare no expense and justified the shipping moolah on said pie because it was to be a wedding gift, of sorts. My son had a friend getting married in Indiana, and he was in the wedding party. I now knew I had an insider to help me with tracking so that the pie would not arrive on the family’s doorstoop in Hoosier-land only to be discovered after a day’s worth of sunshine melted it.
I bundled the frozen, baked Strawberry Rhubarb pie up in double-cling wrap, plastic bags, bubble wrap, frozen gel-packs, boxes, and boxes again. I worked with the shipping personnel at the Fed Ex delivery shop I’d chosen and they helped me to select the best overnight service, the best everything to make sure that pie arrived in the best condition possible.
I got my son the tracking information so he could be sure that someone would be at home to receive the pie the following morning. I heard from him the next day that confirmed that our yummy pie had arrived intact and was deliciously and happily received. Exactly as planned. It only cost a million dollars, but it all worked out. Great.
So now that I think I’ve got the shipping thing figured out, I decide on some modifications to bring the shipping price down for future pie deliveries.
It was time. Dear Lysa had won the pie fair & square on our blog giveaway during lambing season. We’d selected her name from the list of contributors on our blog post randomly and “live” during our LambCam-cast on May 15th. Now that I thought I knew what I was doing, I was ready to send her a Strawberry Rhubarb pie and since it was just going to New York, I also thought we were in the clear for getting it to her in great shape.
You know how this ends. The only modification from the FedEx successful shipment to Indiana & this pie to New York was that I decided to omit the extra frozen gel pack to keep the weight down, keeping the shipping price down somewhat.
Lysa was a gracious recipient, saying that it was a very tasty crust, in spite of the Fed Ex apocalyptic explosion in the box. She even posted a photo of the pie, strategically covering the ugly mess with the cute sheep card I’d sent her. Exclaiming happily.
But I think she was being a good sport. I still feel like we owe her a pie.
I think I’ll have an opportunity to make good on that because Lysa is planning a visit to the farm this summer. But it still doesn’t solve the pie-shipping-problems.
I’ve researched other companies that send pies through the mail and have surmised that there are some big investments in the boxes used as well as the actual shipping costs. It seems impractical to me to spend so much money to ship a pie. I’d feel a robber if I charged anyone so much.
This is when/how I started thinking that maybe shipping pie is not in our future. I’m not ruling it out, but it’s unlikely I’ll be sending a pie in the mail or through any other delivery method unless it’s a very special event. I’m too conflicted about what seems like a bad environmental practice to use so many packaging materials, human resources & fossil fuels to put dessert on the table. I think Grandma Brown would’ve been aghast at the expense and production of the process.
This past week my daughters & I loaded up the car for a road trip to northern Wisconsin to meet up with the rest of my family. Two days of driving to get there, same coming home. We brought a couple of coolers, loaded with our meals for the week, including pie preparation: one for the 4th of July, one for my husband’s birthday. We bought local fruit to fill the crusts, which worked out splendidly as cherry orchards were everywhere!
The roadtrip pies were a hit.
Call me nostalgic, but packing tape, permanent markers and highway-robbery shipping fees aren’t in the recipe. We’re back from our travels and Char will be in the kitchen catching up. Visit us at our Farmers’ Market booth in Manchester, Vermont on Thursday afternoons and we’ll sell you a pie. Pop by Clear Brook Farms in Shaftsbury and pick one up from their produce stand. Buy one off of our front porch in Shaftsbury where we have two pretty, restored pie safes, which do exactly as they say. Get one out of our freezer to bake in your own oven.
Some day, I hope to be able to have a little pie shop. That will be the best yet. You can pop yourself on a stool or in a booth and have a slice with a cuppa. We can chat. It will be lovely.