Another road trip end: cherry picking vs. apricot picking.


Going home we just took our time

And the lunch tasted just fine.

We’re out to pick cherry,

It’s hard work, yes, very

But the jam we make tastes just sublime. 

Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, travelled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. After three years working with a Community Health Center, I am back having adventures in temporary positions until they have an Electronic Medical Record System (EMR) I can get along with. I spent the winter in Nome, Alaska, and I just finished assignments in rural Iowa and suburban Pennsylvania. After detours for my brother-in-laws funeral and a bicycle tour of northern Michigan, we’re back in Sioux City.

We decided to take our time getting back to Iowa from Michigan, and to follow US 20.  But in Indiana, east of Chicago, we found speed limits 45 MPH and under, city center stop lights, right angle turns, and crumbling infrastructure.  We skirted Chicago on the Interstate on a weekend morning and rejoined US 20 .

We enjoyed the more leisurely pace of the traffic.  We stopped in Grundy Center to have a look around the town; we lunched at the Chinese restaurant.

Flat farm ground gave way to rolling hills as we approached our home in western Iowa.

All along the way we commented on the roads and whether or not we’d want to ride a particular stretch on a bicycle, dwelling on the factors of traffic density, steepness of grade, quality and width of shoulder, and smoothness of road.

When we arrived home I checked my cherry trees.

The plants in northern Michigan haven’t come nearly as far as the plants in Iowa.  We left corn less than 2 feet tall, green cherries, and blooming lilacs; we came home to corn 5 feet tall, fully ripened cherries, and lilacs weeks past flowering.

The next day we started picking cherries.

“Cherry picking” has entered the medical lexicon, and refers to the practice of selecting the easy, lucrative patients while leaving the more difficult and frequently uninsured patients to someone else.  You can find the term in both the clinical and financial realms.  It carries the connotation of laziness.

Real cherry picking, in contrast, involves a lot of work.  You have to haul the ladders or stand in the bed of a pickup.  You work over your head.  You hold a branch with one hand and pick with the other.  You stretch.  Every time you move a ladder you have to re-level.

Once picked, cherries need processing.  Even a hand-cranked cherry pitter takes work to separate the flesh from the pits.

In contrast, consider the apricots we picked last year.  You can stand on the ground and use a pole picker.  The action required for one apricot, about the same for one cherry, brings 5 times the weight of fruit.  Removing larger pits from larger fruits takes less time.

We love the jam we get from both, but pies we only make from cherries.

But nobody talks about apricot picking in a medical context.

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