The summer I was fifteen years old I babysat for a family at the end of our road from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. five days a week. Every afternoon when I got home, I would grab the little galvanized metal bucket stored in the garage and head up to our back hill to pick a quart of wild blueberries before dinner. Most of those berries ended up in our freezer. During the 1970’s my parents grew or raised most of the food our family ate on the 86 acre farm we lived on. Berries were my contribution.
But the last week of the summer, any berries I picked were mine to sell. Every year my father would drive my brother and me to the small city of Binghamton, New York, and set us up with a little farm stand on a card table on a busy city corner. The money we made that day paid for school clothes for us and our two younger brothers. As the only girl, I was much more interested in clothes, so my berry money bought what my parent’s budget couldn’t afford.
I still love to pick berries. There is something so calming and satisfying about sitting on the ground filling up a bucket one tiny berry at a time. There are plenty of wild blueberries on Cape Cod, including quite a few small wild bushes in my yard. The berries are so small that there are never enough to actually do anything with, so we save them for our granddaughter, Skylar. She has lived in a city for the past three years and loves to pick berries (and just about anything else) in her Nani and Papi’s yard.
Watching her joy at finding treasures to eat and her patience in picking makes me believe that some people are just born berry pickers – and other’s are not. We still laugh at how traumatized our son was when forced to pick berries a few years ago in Maine. To him, this was hard labor in the hot sun, even though it sounded fun when we set out.
I had found a reference to a place called Blueberry Hill in the Belgrade Lakes region. Blueberry Hill! Just like the berry picking spot in “Blueberries for Sal,” one of my favorite children’s books. The Kitchen Genius, Tommy and I set off in search of it. It was not a well marked place and I only had a sketchy idea of where it was. We finally stopped at a small country store to ask directions.
The clerk knew right where Blueberry Hill was and sent us on our way with some homemade Whoopee Pies for lunch and a bottle of blueberry wine for later. How could we resist blueberry wine after a day picking blueberries?
Blueberry Hill was simply gorgeous. The whole mountainside really was covered with small bush blueberries and it had a view of two lakes in the valley that was just stunning.
We started picking and Tommy was done after about 15 minutes. The Kitchen Genius was ready to leave after about a half an hour. But I could have stayed there all day long. Instead, I insisted on staying until we had at least a quart of blueberries. Even Tommy admitted the blueberry lemon cake I made that day was worth the work.
I didn’t have time to pick blueberries this week, so I bought some locally grown ones at Satucket Farm Stand.
For nostalgia’s sake I made a bowl of blueberry buckle, which is just the kind of dessert my mother used to make. It’s delicious served warm with homemade whipped cream or some vanilla ice cream, although the kids think it’s a pretty awesome breakfast too.