A Huckleberry Kind of Day
I’ve decided that huckleberries are our reward for enduring the month of February in Montana.
Armed with a milk pail, my phone, and a can of bear spray, I headed over to state land yesterday morning. There is a large berry patch right along the the trail—everyone knows about it and I expected it to be picked over, but the huckleberry crop this year is the best I’ve seen in a long time and I had no trouble finding some loaded bushes.
[I also know of some other patches further back off the trail, but it’s best not to disclose their whereabouts. Some things need to remain a secret.]
I love the woods. I spent a lot of time in the woods when I was growing up. The woods of Montana come with the added thrill of bears and other big wildlife—something we didn’t have in Ohio—but I sat in the cool of the morning and soaked in the pleasure of just being out there. The creek gurgling nearby and a chorus of birds provided a musical background, and I found myself humming “Shall We Gather at the River,” as the berries dropped into the milk pail. I had to remind myself periodically to practice situational awareness and look up and around lest I find myself sharing the berry patch with a bear. (Part of the reason I took the milk pail was so I could bang the handle against the pail every so often to make noise.) After about an hour and a half, I had picked almost a gallon of berries and decided it was time to head back in.
Our neighbor Elysian has had a preschool at her house for a couple of years now. She runs a “summer camp” when the kids are out of school, and having those kids around has been loads of fun. I’ve gotten to know them because I am Elysian’s backup if she needs someone to help out in an emergency and also because the kids know they are welcome here any time. (This spring, they planted seeds in pots in our greenhouse and came over every day to water them and check their progress.) As I was walking back with my pail of berries, she was loading up the three kids she had yesterday into the van to head into town for swimming lessons. I stopped and visited with all of them and we made plans to go back to the berry patch after lunch so the kids could learn about picking huckleberries.
[I also found myself committing to putting something in the fair this year. All of her summer camp kids are making a project to enter, so I decided that if they were going to participate, I would, too. I told them I would make and enter an apron. These kids won’t forget, so there is no way I can back out now, LOL.]
I met up with them again in the afternoon and the five of us walked the trail to the berry patch. Huckleberries grow on mostly low bushes, so you have to get down on the ground to pick them. If you look around once you’re down there, you start seeing berries everywhere. We set each kid down in front of a bush. I was impressed that despite their ages (4-8), there was very little complaining. It got to be a bit of a competition to see who could pick the most berries. I got a few more to add to the ones I had picked in the morning. And there are still a whole lot of berries out there.
I made jam when I got home:
I had enough berries for 12 four-ounce jars to give away and another six half-pint jars for us and the kids. I might go back out again this weekend for more, but I may just cross this project off the list and be done with it. We’re going to have raspberries shortly and I’ll have to do something with all that bounty. And peas.
Cathy texted me pictures of her currants yesterday. Hers have already turned full black, but she’s down in the valley and her garden tends to run about 10 days ahead of mine. The berries on my currant bushes are just starting to turn. I think I am going to dry some this year.
I took a picture of these mushrooms near the compost bed in the garden just because I thought they were interesting:
It’s raining this morning so I won’t be working in the garden. We have quilting at church today. I haven’t been for several months and I’d like to go. I need to finish a couple of projects on the industrial Necchi, too, so I can take it out of the table and put the Singer 78-1 in.