Tuesday, July 22, 2008

$60,000 Blueberries

I made my second trek up Libby Hill to get another week's supply of blueberries. Last week I got a sampling from areas of the Moose Odyssey and Deer Run trails. Then the berries were very abundant but rather small. This week though, after a week of showers, the blueberries increased significantly in size! I was attempting to do a little trail maintenance but kept wandering off trial when I saw little more clumps of berries.

I have a long history with blueberries, growing up in Washington County (the worlds largest producer of wild blueberries) I can't remember a summer when I didn't look to gather a few berries to taste that special sweetness that the large cultivate blueberries just lack. My I was seven I took my first paying summer job raking blueberries. After 5 days (which seemed like 5 years) I earned $32, enough to pay for my first bicycle.

Raking is a much faster way to harvest blueberries but today I did the classic 'picking' method. Picking allows you to go at a very gradual pace. Look for bunches of three or more berries that are all ripe. You can pick about a quart of berries in 45 minutes to an hour. While picking you concentrate on things you never normally notice. Things like the ferns and other small plants that grow amongst the blueberries. You also hear the birds calling above in pine trees; I'm sure I'm eating some of their food supply, but they seem to be okay with sharing.

Last year, I found good picking near the cell tower off the Moose Odyssey trail. Ironically, that same afternoon a moose was browsing in the area. I'm not sure if she was eating blueberries but she liked whatever it was and stayed nearby for over 20 minutes. Of course it was the one day I didn't have a camera with me! I do remember though, thinking last year that the Hancock property (which lots of good berries) could soon be lost to development. This year lots has changed! The Gray Community Endowment took a mortgage out from a generous group of local investors to purchase these critical 29 acres. So today when I picked blueberries I really treasured how valuable they were. Some might say that those blueberries cost $60,000 (amount we need to fund raise) but to my mind they are worth every penny and never have tasted so sweet!

So bring a bag or container and get up on Libby Hill by August 1st and get a few berries of your own. Treasure their flavor and do what you can to help support Libby Hill.

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