I’m Berry Well, Thank You, and You?

A key thing about being a regular blogger is sometimes not caring if anyone reads what you write. That’s my number one message tonight.

My second message has to do with blueberries. Specifically, disabusing people of the notion that picking wild blueberries is a glamorous or frivolous endeavor.

In the movies, when glamorous people are picking blueberries, the berries are always plentiful and perfectly ripe. The pickers wear aprons and carry wicker baskets. When they get home, they bake pies with the top crusts carefully woven into designs signifying important ethnic origins like northwestern Danish or ex-urban British.

This is not reality.

Today, my husband and I drove into the School Forest in Grand Marais, Michigan, to pick blueberries. The School Forest is a vast wood with many dirt roads and ski trails and, yes, it’s actually owned by the Grand Marais School. It’s huge and wonderful, also completely silent. This, my friends, is the real reason to pick blueberries in the School Forest. There is no noise. You can’t imagine how lovely that is until you’re there.

We pulled off the side of the dirt road and started looking. Right away, it was apparent that the year-rounders (folks who live in Grand Marais all the time) had gotten the jump on the blueberries. There were bushes aplenty but no berries. Not until we walked further away from the road. Then there were berries. One here, two, a bush loaded. Not heavy duty blueberry riches but enough to keep us going for an hour or so.

Here’s the scoop on blueberry picking in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula:

– Look for ferns and sand and sunlight with some nice shade.

– The taller plants will have more berries.

– You will have to search hard to find blueberries in a patch that has already been scoured by experts but the berries are there, hiding, underneath all those leaves.

– One of you should look up once in a while to see if there’s a bear around.

– The decision to be expedient in picking will yield branches and green berries that the sorter (me) will have to address later.

– If you decide to sit down on the green, green moss at the base of the tree because it looks like your mother’s sofa that was so deliciously comfortable, know in advance that you will sink six inches into the earth and it will be disconcerting.

– A clump of ripe wild blueberries, on the stem and then in your hand, is among the loveliest things on the planet.

– Once home, you must shed all romance about picking wild blueberries and your fantasies about living off the grid and sort the blueberries. You must do this in a serious way, keeping in mind the horror you might cause in a companion (or yourself) if a small creature or squirming thing later appears in your pie.

– And last, don’t ever, I mean ever, drive around the back roads of the Upper Peninsula this time of year without a plastic bag or at least a decent size hat.

Those berries were put there for you to find.


#76/100: 76th in a series of 100 in 100

8 Comments on “I’m Berry Well, Thank You, and You?

  1. My husband has half our yard devoted to blueberries and his blueberry “netting fort” to protect the plants from birds. Even so he comes into the house dirty and sweaty from climbing under those bushes and picking and picking. Our freezer fills up with his haul. As for bears, at the moment they are staying on the other side of the Connecticut River from us. I hope they don’t go swimming any time soon.


  2. I had to apologize to the woman trying to fit my groceries into the trunk of my car yesterday because I had my garden seat there, ready for berry picking. The old percolator coffee pot was in the front seat. I admire people who can fill up gallon ice cream buckets with berries. I am not one of them.


  3. Jan, you know I’ve been reading your posts for a long, long time. Five years, or more, I think. So forgive me for calling BS on your opening statement. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think if you didn’t have reader engagement you might pack it in, unlike picking blueberries which you so richly and satisfyingly describe.


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