Saturday, July 17, 2010

Picking Blueberries

Jackie posted on Facebook today about how she and Cody had picked blueberries, and her blueberry pie was about ready to come out of the oven. This prompted an exchange about blueberry picking and gardens. Brought back memories of the many hours we had spent picking blueberries when we lived up north. Liz chimed in with a story about Jim eating too many blueberries when he was just a little tad. They worked as nature's laxative while Aunt Etta and Curt were babysitting him. I'm thinking that the story was probably repeated for years after, as are most stories that we would like to forget!

All the talk about blueberries prodded my memory for a story that Dad told me years ago about his family picking blueberries. I may have written about this before, but indulge me. The more of my memory cells that go by the wayside, the more I am apt to repeat myself. Get used to it. It's not likely to get any better.

Dad talked of picking blueberries in what he called the "blueberry bog." I have never seen a blueberry bog. I've just picked berries in patches in the woods. According to Dad, the bogs were somewhere up around Big Falls and the land was covered in blueberry bushes.

Dad said that our Grandpa would hitch a team of horses to a hay wagon. Then he and the biggest of the boys would load a cast iron cook stove on the wagon, along with boxes of canning jars, canning kettles, berry picking buckets and whatever else they needed for several days of berry picking. And off the whole family would go to the blueberry bog.

When they reached their destination, they would gather wood to keep the cook stove going, and then grab their pails and head out to pick berries. Dad told me that the berries were so thick that sometimes they would use a tool that looked like a big scoop with a handle like a sugar scoop, but with times like a fork. They would rake the bushes with this scoop and then dump the berries from the scoop into a pail. He said it was lots quicker than picking by hand. This photo I found online most resembles his description of the blueberry scoop he used.

Most of the kids would pick blueberries. Grandma and a couple of the older girls would clean them, pack them into jars and can them on top of the wood stove. They kept this up, picking berries during the day and sleeping either on the hay wagon or under it at night, until Grandma decided that she had canned enough blueberries to last until blueberry season the following year. Dad said that it usually took several days to get enough berries to satisfy Grandma. With nine children in the family, it took a whole lot of berries.

I remember when I was where I could pick blueberries, I always thought that I processed a lot of berries. But for me it was so much easier than for Grandma. Most times I would just clean the blueberries, pack them into freezer bags and pop them into the freezer. I canned some for sauce and made jam from some, but there was no canning berries enough to feed eleven people, using a wood stove sitting on a hay wagon out in the middle of a blueberry bog. Grandma was amazing.

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