Well, that’s the last of the blueberries.
Last Wednesday night I stripped all but the last few dozen berries off the bushes in back; I left those for the birds. It was kinda sad, even though I got two months of delicious, fresh-for-the-pickin’ blueberries and shouldn’t really complain.
Blueberry picking became a welcome routine this summer: I’d work hard all day then, when shadows got long and the light went golden-warm, I’d take up my little brown colander and head for the blueberry bushes out back. I’d spend a half hour or so tickling blueberries, gently stroking the fruit so that only the ripest and sweetest dropped into the colander.
As it filled, I’d listen to the bees in the mint patch (my friend Lyn says that a bee-rich mint patch next to the blueberries is why the bushes are so loaded with fruit, so even though the patch is a weedy nuisance, it stays). I’d hear passersby discussing life, work and really cute potential boyfriends on the sidewalk behind the fence.
Or the neighborhood kids figuring out the world. Did you know that if you swallow a bee it will sting your stomach and turn your skin the same color as the bee..and then you will die? The five year old who lives two doors down swears this is true. His friends scoffed, but an hour or so later the little girl next door announced to her mother that her hand tightly covered her mouth because “otherwise a bee would fly in and I’ll be all stripey.”
As the season wore on, more and more blueberries actually made it into the house instead of my mouth, then filled the refrigerator and spilled onto the counters. I passed the overflow to neighbors; they responded with armsful of blossoms, tomatoes, little new potatoes and really nice raspberries…and we cemented new connections.
My evening picking sessions became a quiet way to contemplate the world, make plans for the next day, figure out new directions. I’d work out writing and art and web code in my head, before I had to commit to it at the keyboard. I found new photo opportunities in the backyard and had time to plan the shots. It gave me a chance to slow down and, oddly enough, work more efficiently than I had all winter.
The bushes are ‘way over my head and so until Wednesday I literally had just been picking the low-hanging fruit, letting the birds have the upper story. No need to get greedy when there were so many within reach. For the last blueberry session, though, I stepped into the center of each bush, pulled at the branches and really gleaned. There were a lot more than I thought–I filled the colander twice over–and they’ll head up to my parents’ house to become pies for for the family.
Now, I am most emphatically NOT a gardener–the wilderness and I have been at odds for years–while the rest of my family could put Old MacDonald to shame. One sister has a “kitchen garden” that could feed a family of 200 (she’s especially proud of her kale); the other is sort of the Martha Stewart of the backyard farm, while my Mom loads me up with her home-grown tomatoes every time I visit.
Those blueberry bushes are my sole contribution to the family’s agricultural endeavors, and they’re ideal for my level of earthen involvement: I pretty much ignore them except when it’s time to pick blueberries. I’m told that raspberry bushes offer similar no-maintenance bounties, so maybe I’ll add to my agriwizardry next year with a couple of plants.
And that’ll also extend my berry-picking time, which I’ll sorely miss. Till next year.