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Published August 07, 2010, 10:44 AM

In our own backyard....Singin’ the blues in the blueberry patch

When I arrived at the blueberry farm, there was already a field of cars parked there ahead of me, and I felt my heart begin to beat a little faster with the old, familiar anxiety over someone getting to the best berries ahead of me.

By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal

A couple of weekends ago, I went out to a local bog in pursuit of wild blueberries. I’d seen cars parked along that particular stretch of road for several days, so I knew the blueberries must be ripe and I wanted a part of them. But when I got into the bog, it was virtually criss-crossed with paths from all of the blueberry pickers who had been in there ahead of me – and it had been stripped practically bare of berries! I wandered restlessly around for half an hour or so, picking a single ripe berry here and there, but I only had less than half a Cool Whip container to show for it.

As one who grew up picking the plentiful wild blueberries in a secluded area of the Chippewa National Forest with my mom, dad and sister, I’d set my standards pretty high when it comes to blueberry picking, and this, most definitely, fell far short of those standards.

And so, when my next day off rolled around, I decided to set out for the local blueberry farm. I arose early and was headed out the door with my baseball hat on, a bottle of suntan lotion in one hand and a bottle of bug spray in the other, and a one-gallon ice cream bucket hooked over the crook of my arm when my neighbor came by walking her dogs.

“I bet you can’t guess where I’m headed!” I cried.

“Blueberry picking!” she responded without ever missing a beat.

When I arrived at the blueberry farm, there was already a field of cars parked there ahead of me, and I felt my heart begin to beat a little faster with the old, familiar anxiety over someone getting to the best berries ahead of me. I had nothing to worry about, however. It turned out to be a bumper year for blueberries, and every plant in every row was virtually dripping in big, blue berries just waiting to be picked.

I began to feel my competitive spirits start to relax and I finally started to savor the rare beauty of the morning. Birds were calling from the treetops, giant bumblebees were snuggling into the blossoms of nearby wildflowers and an infant gurgled happily from the middle of a blanket its mother had spread over the grass near where she was picking berries.

I happily settled in to picking the first row that I came to and quickly recalled the satisfying sound of the first berries plunking in the bottom of the plastic bucket as I picked.

I found my mind wandering off as I steadily picked berries, and soon I became aware of the many conversations going on around me. A woman a couple of rows down from me told a friend that her teenage son had refused to help pick this year.

“He finally caught on to the fact that even if he doesn’t help pick, he still gets to eat the berries after we get home!” she chuckled.

A middle-aged couple picked out a spot just down the row from me, and just as they settled in to pick berries, the man’s cell phone rang. He proceeded to chat with some old friend for the next 10 minutes or so while his wife picked berries.

“Yeah, I’m out picking blueberries,” he said to the caller on the phone. “They’re really great this year!”

He had barely hung up when his cell phone rang again. From what the rest of us were able to overhear, it was another friend who wanted to borrow something of his, and the request turned in to another 10-minute conversation.

“I’m out picking blueberries!” the man once again announced to his latest caller. “Wow, they’re really big. You really ought to try coming out here and pick, too!”

By then, his wife was half way down the row and her bucket was half full. The man was just tucking away his cell phone when it rang a third time. The caller on the other end must have been a family member, because after bragging about how good the blueberry picking was, he suggested he or she come out and join them, launching into a long-winded explanation of how to get there.

“The picking is simply out of this world!” he bragged to the caller.

And right about then, I casually glanced over at his bucket – and realized that he hadn’t picked a single berry!

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