Raspberries, Blueberries, Heat Waves, and Eastern Phoebes

Day 73 of 365

Have I mentioned that it’s hot? Oh my goodness, I am a heat wimp. So is my son. We have a row of raspberry bushes that have been reasonably generous this year. We’ve eaten and shared quite a few raspberries, and I was able to make two batches of raspberry jam from our own berries. Still, if I want raspberry jam to send to my family in Texas and Oklahoma this Christmas, I have to go pick at local farms.

These are lovely berries from our own bushes.

This morning, we made the drive north to a berry farm we visit every year for extra raspberries. You can buy the raspberries already picked, an option my son would prefer, but it’s so much cheaper to pick your own. So we do. But this year was tough.

It was so hot out there, even though we made it to the farm by late morning. I swear, even my sweat was sweating. We all wore hats, and I brought water; however, my son and I struggled. My farmer husband was stoic–as he is. I, however, am not very stoic, and my son, well, let’s just say he believes wholeheartedly in making his feelings known on any situation. He ended up sitting in the car turning on the air conditioner periodically. I didn’t blame him. It was really too hot for heat wimps like us to be out there.

To make matters worse, the berries were rough. These were drought berries. It was heartbreaking to see them. They were small and felt almost dry on the bushes. They will be just fine for jam, but the picking took extra long because of the smallness of the berries.

As I picked and thought about what tough work berry picking is, I thought about farm workers, many of whom are migrant workers, who do this hard work day in and day out–bent over, picking berries in the heat, moving so quickly, certainly at ten times the rate in which I was picking today. How thankful we should all be to them. It’s terrible that, for the most part, our society isn’t thankful to them at all.

Years ago, I developed the philosophy that anyone who eats meat should have to be a part of the process of processing an animal for food at least one time in their lives in order to learn the reality of it. At the very least, there would be far less waste. But, today, it occurred to me that it would likely be very beneficial for people to also get to experience picking fruit in the summer heat. Wouldn’t it be great if we were all more grateful to farm workers?

Well, I could go on, but I should probably get off of my soap box for tonight.

When we got home, we had more of our own berries to pick, and our wonderful neighbor said we could pick a couple of quarts from her berries too. This is an extra treat. Our berries are fairly large, but she waters hers more frequently, and those raspberries are so big you can wear them on your finger tips!

After that, I decided I should take a look at our blueberries, and I made a heartbreaking discovery–the birds have eaten almost every single blueberry we had! I just about cried. I don’t think we are going to get a single blueberry this year, and we have four fairly large bushes. .

So we are going to certainly have to head back to the farm to pick. Last year, we used a net, but birds kept getting stuck in the net. Thankfully, we were able to save all of them, but we were away from home more this year and were hesitant to put up the net. We didn’t want to accidentally cause the death of a bird because we didn’t want to share our berries. Still, next year, we have to figure out something. We are always willing to share with nature, but the birds have gone too far this year. Little blueberry thieves.

On the bright side, Ron took my mind off of the blueberry situation by showing me a little melon growing in the garden. It’s magnificent, and it looks like more will be coming soon. I guess one perk of heat waves in the Maine summers is that we can finally grow melons in the garden.

I wrapped up the day with a little wildlife photography that led to a panic of sorts. It started with the notion that I was going to take a picture of the baby Eastern Phoebes on our deck. I talked to a neighbor who has a set of Phoebes who come back to a nest by her garage every year. She said she can get right up there and look in the nest, and everything is always fine. Well, this made me bold. I was determined to get a picture of those baby birds tonight.

So I found the step ladder and took this picture of the babies. Only the babies were sleeping, I guess, because they just look like little lumps of fluff and fuzz. I showed my picture to Ron, and he said, “Well, you’re the best wildlife photographer in the world!” I told him I didn’t need his sarcasm.

Still, I like the picture because you can really see what the nest is made of, and just as I thought, you can see the Boudica fur. I have found many nests on the ground over the years, and they are all lined with Great Pyrenees fur. I mean, why would you not use fur so soft and luxurious? I also like that you can see the leaves and moss and tiny twigs. And, maybe, I will try again tomorrow to get a picture of the babies while they are awake.

We’ll see though because, after I took the picture, I started to panic that I had somehow scared off the parents. When I went out tonight to see if I could see one of the parents back at the nest, there was nothing but the sleeping balls of fluff. I started researching and researching online. It’s very difficult to find specific information on Eastern Phoebes on the web. This is so frustrating to me, but I did find out in my researching that, unless it’s cold, most mama birds do not sleep on the nest with their babies. This was a surprise to me because chickens sleep with their babies every night.

So I learned something new and am hopeful I didn’t scare off the parents. I am determined to convince Ron that we need to set up a web cam on the nest next year. I mean, that would be fantastic? Of course, I imagine I would never get any work done because I would just want to sit and watch the Eastern Phoebes.

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