One of the first things I noticed when I moved to New England is that summer weather doesn’t really hit until July. Paul enjoys the saying that in Maine we have two seasons – winter and the Fourth of July. While this often seems like only a slight exaggeration, it certainly hasn’t been the case this year.
This summer has been one of abundance in Downeast, Maine. It’s one of the nicest summers in recent memory. We’ve had moderate temperatures, warm days and cool nights with lots of sun. Although I got off to a late start with my gardening we’re enjoying an abundance of vegetables from the garden. I’m running out zucchini recipes. I’ve made zucchini muffins, zucchini bread, a variety of zucchini casseroles, fried zucchini, baked zucchini and stuffed zucchini. I even put zucchini in my meatballs. I’m open to suggestions for the rest of this lot!
This year is also an unusually good season for wild blackberries. The woods surrounding our house are always encroaching into our outdoor living space. It’s as if the woods and vines creep forward while your back is turned. Sometimes I think if I stopped cutting the brush around the perimeter, the blackberry bushes would overrun our home.
For the past two weeks I’ve been picking blackberries. They completely line the back and side of the yard (and I use the term yard loosely as it’s still pretty much gravel) a wall of wild thorny bushes between us and the woods. Each day I make my way around and pick the bushes clean of ripe berries. The next day the bushes are once again lush with berries ready for picking. At this point I’ve picked about 8 quarts of berries and today I finished my second batch of blackberry jam.
Picking blueberries was back breaking work. Picking blackberries is dangerous work – competing with the bees for the fruit, dodging thorns and swatting at mosquitoes. I’ve learned to carry a big stick to push the thorny branches aside so I can get to the berries without too much personal injury. I also thought that it might come in handy if I run into a bear who also wants the berries. Paul told me I may as well be carrying a toothpick.
I could double my take of berries if I could get around to the back side of the bushes – but that takes just a little too much effort to be called fun.
And it is fun. Rewarding, too. It’s empowering to be able to harvest your own food – and even more so when you’re harvesting off the land with Mother Nature’s blessing. Not that I can live on blackberries alone. I guess it’s back to reading up on building a green house and getting serious about a chicken coop!