Thursday, March 3, 2011

Berry Picking

I enjoy picking fruit.  I come from a line of folks who enjoyed picking fruit.  It must be part of my hunter-gatherer side coming to the forefront.

I have several early photos of Mom and her siblings arriving home from the back forty, laden with pails of wild raspberries.  At that point in time, I would assume that Grandma Patterson would have canned them into raspberry cordial, and stewed raspberries for winter use, as freezing would not have yet been an option for winter preservation.  I especially like the photo of the city cousin (the one with the short dress), proudly holding a pail of fruit, which according to Mom she never picked.  Notice the look of disgust on the one of the country sisters, to the left, who had to give up her share, just for the photo opportunity.

Aunt Ruth with raspberries

As a youngster, my earliest berry picking expeditions would have been for wild strawberries that grew in a lot of the local abandoned farm fields, close to home.  My quota was to fill one of the small plastic drinking glasses with the little fruit and they had to have the husks removed.  Mom would pick a mixing bowl in the same time frame.  Originally we tended to just enjoy these fruit, fresh.  Then Dad and my other siblings got in on it. 

I recall a couple of times we actually made a family outing for the afternoon, just to go and pick wild strawberries on the OTF campsite grounds.  Yes we were trespassing, but we were just taking fruit that would have gone to waste otherwise.  By this point, we were picking enough to freeze, so we could enjoy them all winter long as well.  There was a certain satisfaction in finding the perfect patch, and not letting anyone else know.  Some patches were much better picking than others.  If someone was being quiet, it was usually time to move close to them to investigate if they had found a bounty.

I recall one time my older brother and I had heard of good wild raspberries back in a patch where there had been a recent logging -- ideal conditions for new canes.  To get to the location, we had to cross a beaver dam.  About half way across the dam, there was hornet's nest.  On the way over, we discovered them, but didn't seem to anger them severely.  However on the way back, we were laden with berries and I do recall a bit of an altercation with the little winged stingers.

When I was a youngster, Dad worked away from home quite a bit for the Ministry of Lands and Forests, planting trees.  Because he saw all the land, he quickly discovered where the best berry patches were.  He and several of the other men would spend their evenings picking wild blueberries, which they would freeze and bring home to their families on the weekends.

We had a burn about three miles from home.  It was called a burn, because I guess years ago there had been a forest fire that stripped a lot of the trees from this wilderness area.  Blueberries thrive in the soil that results after a forest fire.  This was a land filled with lakes and swamps and rocks, and blueberry plants.  We would plan an all-day outing to bring home the winter's supplies of wild blueberries.  In early years we walked the old logging trail back, and lugged the filled pails home in the evening.  Later on, there were three wheelers, motor bikes and even a cousin's old Ford tractor, which alleviated some of the trekking.

A berry picking expedition with the cousins
In recent years my forays into forest in search of fruit, are considerably curtailed.  Time just doesn't seem to allow it, and wild fruit doesn't seem to grow in such abundance as it once did.  About the only regular berry picking excursion we take now is to the local high bush blueberry farm.  Here we drive to the edge of the patch, sit on milk crates, quickly fill our baskets (and tummies) and then drive off with our spoils, enough to enjoy in the winter months.  I would love to find a good patch of wild strawberries.  That would be a taste of my childhood.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.


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  2. I used to like going blueberry pickin' in the bush, except when it was blazing hot. Mom would wet a washcloth and wear it on her head--attractive. :-)I have often wondered since, though, about bears. They also love fruit and very well could have been close by. But we never really talked about the possibility of seeing a bear or what to do if we did. Maybe we kids were noisy enough to keep them hidden.

    I liked eating wild baby strawberries in a wild rose petal sandwich. We'd eat those from the side of the road on the way home from school.


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