Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Blueberry Picking and a Bear

A Trunk Full of Blueberries
I have been working 45-plus hours each week since that break I took for Chris's wedding, so when Richard proposed that we go blueberry picking I was happy to just ride along and look at the scenery. Our final destination was the Baatz Blueberry Farm in Honor, but we took a side trip to the National Park Headquarters to renew our annual park pass, and then to the blueberry patch in the park on Esch Road, where the berries are free, but you have to crawl through the underbrush and overgrowth to get at them.

At the Baatz Farm, there are nice mowed rows and you can pick berries by the handful instead of one by one. I like to pick berries with my husband because we have such good conversations when we work together. Anna has hated blueberry picking in years past and this year I relented at the last minute and let her stay home on the condition that she organize her wardrobe for the start of school. Still, I felt like a bad mom for not requiring her to come along and pick what will be our winter food. A good parent is supposed to make you come along on boring hot car rides to nowhere, right?
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We picked 11 quarts of berries in about 2 1/2 hours. It did seem slower without Anna to help. We talked a lot about politics, windmills, Europe, bugs and birds. The berries were $2.00 a heaping quart. We drove back into Honor for cold drinks and then headed home, back past the blueberry signs.

I had been thinking all day that I would see a bear. When we left the house, I felt sad that Anna wasn't with us, thinking "Now she won't see the bear," but knowing that I couldn't promise a bear, that seeing a bear was most unlikely. On Esch Road, there was a smell that immediately brought to mind the old question "Does a bear shit in the woods?" I was paying attention and looking before I crashed through the next set of trees expecting a bear or a mink or something, until Richard noted that the pig farm across M-22 was really stinky today. Later, at Baatz Farm, I heard young kids wandering down the rows from Mom to Dad, and I felt like saying "Stay close to the Big People! There's bears!" but I didn't say anything because I didn't have any real reason to think there were bears around. It might have been the fact that Anna slept outside in the hammock most nights last week, despite my worries. It may have been that old children's book, Blueberries for Sal. It might have been the book I'm reading now, David Western's In the Dust of Kilimanjaro, and its discussion of living closely with large mammals.

At any rate, we were heading north on Ely road, passing the blueberry signs again, when we came around a curve in the road and there was a bear. It was a younger one, bigger than a cub, but not heavy like a mature bear. It seemed to be interested in something that was on the road, but when it saw our car it turned and walked off into the brush. Richard was saying "What is THAT?" and I was saying. "It's the bear. I knew we were going to see a bear." He prompted me to grab the camera and get a picture, but it was gone by the time I unzipped the case. As it walked off the road, we saw the unmistakable bear silhouette.

At home, I baked two blueberry pies as Richard cooked bratwurst and corn and Shelagh made a salad. We all sat around and ate a great dinner and drank a bottle of wine. The hummingbirds chased all around the house for our entertainment, and we all enjoyed the evening off.

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