505 Blueberries Per Quart

Day 84 of 365

After my second quart, I announce “There are 505 blueberries in this quart!”

“Is that all?” Ron hollers from across the field. I don’t know why that man is never impressed. I thought he might say, “Wow! That’s amazing!” He never says things like that. I don’t know why I imagine such things in my mind.

“Yeah, well, I got lucky with some bigger blueberries early on and filled up the bottom of the quart super fast!” I holler back.

I suppose counting blueberries is what one does on a hot day in August when your kiddo, who is usually with you to complain about the heat and the wasps, is at summer camp. Today, it was just me and Ron and the heat and the blueberries that were three sizes smaller than last year. I felt a little lonely. I felt a little bored, I suppose. So I counted blueberries.

We pick blueberries at a farm that lets things be all natural. It’s in the middle of nowhere. You have to watch for bears. And they don’t/can’t water their berries. The berries we picked today were so much work, so much smaller than in years past. Apparently, our county in Maine is not officially in drought, but we are not far away from one. Ron is starting to worry about the well. But, for today, we just focused on the blueberries.

We eat a lot of blueberries all winter–in oatmeal, muffins, and I am determined to try them with quinoa this year–so we stock up on local blueberries every summer. But today’s picking was tough. The berries were so small that it took at least twice as long to fill up a quart as it did last year. I take that back, I would say three times as long.

And some of the bushes just had no berries at all. I was a little panicked at first, worried we wouldn’t get our quota of berries, which are extra important since the birds ate all of ours, though truly, our bushes did not make a lot of berries this year either. But I found a few generous bushes. I was so thankful to them as I picked. Sometimes, I just said it out loud to myself as I plucked the berries. “Thank you for this one and this one and this one. Oh, and especially this big one.”

I also learned to follow the wasps to the good berries, though not too closely. I have been stung before. Miraculously, though I had a few close calls, I did not get sting today.

Somehow, we managed to pick ten quarts, which will go a long way toward our quota but will not quite make it for us. I have a friend who sells wild blueberries though, so I am going to write to her and see if she has any boxes of the wild ones left. My fingers are crossed.

Just as I was about to start my last quart, an older couple (of course, I realize as I write this that my husband and I are pretty much an “older couple”) pulled up next to the car as I was heading toward the car to leave a quart in the trunk and pick up one more empty carton. They were kind.

“Did you leave us any berries?” the man asked. I told him it was a tough year, but I told him the spots that were better. His wife was disappointed.

“It’s the lack of rain,” I said. “It’s been a tough year.”

“And I guess they can’t water way out here,” she said.

“Right, right,” I said.

“Last year, the berries were jumping into our cartons,” the man said.

“I know. It’s a lot more work this year, but they’re there.” We all reminisced about last year’s berries. Last year, we started the growing season short on water. It was looking like another drought, but then the rains came and came and came. We had so much rain late last year, after begging the rain gods for it for months, that we had carrots rot in the ground from all of the water. The blueberries loved it though. Oh, how I wish for that rain again.

Every single day, Ron checks the weather hoping for rain. Every single day, he complains it’s not coming.

Right as we had to go pick up our son from camp, I came upon two great bushes of berries. As we walked toward the car, I saw the woman.

“Right here, there are two great bushes with good berries, kind of middle of this row and then another right across from it,” I told her.

“Thank you! I’ll check it out,” she said.

When you just need some nature…

Day 65 of 365

All this week, I have been taking our son to a small town on the coast of Maine for music camp. The little town is beautiful and so very coastal Maine. There are gift shops and little outdoor restaurants and a fantastic bakery. But it’s very busy because, of course, it’s peak tourist season here in Maine, and there’s a lot of traffic.

I decided this morning that, one way or another, I was walking down the road until I found some nature. I couldn’t believe how much I missed nature after just three days away from home.

So I started walking, and I walked and walked and walked. Every time I thought I found a spot on the water, I would see a “private property” sign. Sigh. This is the one thing I think I love least about Maine–the coast is very much owned by the very much wealthy. I lived in Oregon for six years, and I was spoiled by the coast there. It’s all public land. You can just walk up to the water any place you like.

But I learned a long time ago that, if you just keep looking, you can find a little bit of public land here in Maine. I made it about a mile and half when I saw it–a park with loads of beautiful flowers and a view of the water! There were flowers and butterflies everywhere. It was magnificent.

Then, I saw the water. I made my way to a bench overlooking the water, took my shoes off, put my feet in the grass, and just soaked it all in. I love going barefoot in the grass. I have such dirty feet all summer because I just have to walk around and have my feet touching the Earth.

I read that there is something to do this, that there really is some benefit to people, maybe some more than others, to connect directly to the Earth like that. I am definitely an empath and have no doubt that I am one of those people who needs feet on the Earth. I swear, the grass on my feet while I sat and looked out at the water felt like little bit of heaven.

I love Maine in the summer. It makes you work a little bit sometimes, but my goodness, it’s so worth it.

The Generosity of the Strawberry Plant

Day 45 of 365

I have loved berries for as long as I can remember. I suppose everyone would say that, but berries to me are nostalgia and comfort and joy and beauty. Maybe everyone feels that way about berries?

For me, there’s something extra special about strawberries. Since I was little, they have forever been my favorite food in the world. My great grandmother had a strawberry patch–and she made jam and let me pick berries–and my world was always better at her house. Strawberry ice cream is my favorite ice cream. If I was really lucky, I would get a strawberry shortcake on my birthday. When I was 8 and then 9, I really wanted one of those Strawberry Shortcake dolls. Today, I am convinced I need a farm dress in strawberry print. There must be pockets, of course.

When Ron built raised beds for me to plant strawberries in, I did my research to find a great local berry. Ron was generous with the chicken compost, and our strawberry plants seem very happy in their beds. This year, however, they have outdone themselves. I was a little worried when I saw so many flowers pop up in the spring. I worried about berries being too small. I should not have worried. The berries are perfection. I mean, imagine the perfect strawberry–perfect in size, shape, texture, taste, and color–and that’s what our beds are full of this year. It feels like a miracle.

In fact, today, while picking strawberries for our farm shares, I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of these berries and my hopefulness at sharing them with others that I got a little teary.

Yesterday, we had some friends out to our little farmstead, and they have small children, two girls, who are very little and just fantastic. I think the oldest is about three years old. They came out to meet the baby chicks and pick strawberries. And I have to tell you that the the oldest is a person after my own heart. She seemed to love the chickens, and she really loves strawberries.

I told her she could eat the berries as she picked, as they are organic. We never spray anything, of course. I told her to just watch out for squirrel bites and to not eat those. She was definitely on the lookout for squirrel bites after that. Once she quit worrying about squirrel bites, that kiddo dove into those strawberries, and it made me so happy that I thought my heart was going to burst from the joy of it. I mean, what’s better than a kiddo eating organic strawberries with joyous gusto?

I ate some too. I think we all ate some. The sun was shining, the breeze was cool, and the strawberries were–as you know–perfect. We picked so many berries that I thought surely we had made a dent in them, but today, when Ron and I went outside to pick for the farm shares, it was like the strawberries decided to be extra generous from all of that joy yesterday. I am certain, just absolutely certain, that the strawberries felt all of our gratefulness yesterday. They must have.

And I’m fairly certain the strawberries decided to be extra generous in return.

The Solstice Is Coming

Day 25 of 365

I will have to be very brief tonight. In about half an hour, I have to go try to sneak the baby chicks under our mama hen, Kate. I am nervous about this. It almost always works, but, out of the about 20 times I have done this, one time, the hen rejected the baby. It was devastating. But I know how to do everything right, and I am going to try really hard to do it stealthily. Ron helps me, so we are a pretty good team at replacing eggs with babies under sleepy broody hens. It should go well.

Still, you always worry a bit, right?

But I just had to write quickly to say how magnificent 9:00 PM in June in the woods in the state of Maine truly is. I grew up in the south, and one of the things I love most about the “up north” is how light it is in the evenings, just before the Solstice. The light lingers so late. It’s beautiful.

I was just playing the duck game with the ducks, and after I had them all tucked in, I turned my eyes toward the tree line and just had to stop and take it in. The light fading in the pine trees in the woods behind our home was breathtaking to me. I have lived in different parts of this country and found beauty in those places too, but there’s something special about Maine to me. It has my heart.

This picture is not one I took, but I searched Creative Commons photographs quite a bit to find a beautiful picture that kind of captured what I saw. This is pretty much it. So magnificent, right? I just wanted to share it with you.

The photo credit for this beautiful photograph goes to m wrona at Unsplash. You have to take a peek at their other photographs if you have a moment. These photographs are so fantastic that they inspire me to write.

And wish me luck with Kate. I’m going to be holding my breath, hoping for the mama hen purr.