Monday, July 31, 2017

Pickers Cabins, Columbia Falls, Maine

It's nearly picking season in Downeast Maine. The pickers will come and live at the barrens in rustic little camps until the work is done.

 The barrens are a spare but beautiful landscape, upon which little will grow except blueberries, because below a very thin scrim of soil lies solid bedrock, scraped clean by glaciers. The blueberry foliage turns deep red in early August, and stays brilliant until the snow covers it. The town of Cherryfield - right next to Columbia Falls - got its name, oddly enough, from the red foliage of its blueberry barrens. My mother is from Cherryfield, and she worked in Wyman's food processing plant as a teenager, plucking sticks and rocks from a conveyor belt of blueberries. She hates when I tell people this, but she was crowned Maine Blueberry Queen of 1950! 
You probably love wild Maine blueberries - everybody does. They are a superfood, you know! These barrens are, in fact, wild; the blueberries were here before there were companies to cultivate them. They may have been here before there were any people to enjoy them! The pickers cabins in the photo above are the accommodations provided by the Passamaquoddy Wild Blue Berry Company. 

Ready for picking! July 2017

Sunday, July 16, 2017


In the spring I drilled holes in some wood blocks, hoping to attract Mason Bees - native pollinators far more effective than honey bees. I wasn't sure we'd be able to house masons, at least not this year, because I had read they nest early - when the trees bloom.

Turns out there are several kinds of mason bees, and one of them has found our bee condo! She carefully visited several of the holes before settling on this one, and is now in the process of removing the splinters and bits of wood inside the hole, in preparation for her eggs.

I'm excited all out of proportion about this.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Berry Season: Homegrown is Alright with Me

A land baron I am not (or baroness, I guess.) I live on a double city lot. Nevertheless, my husband and I manage to grow quite a lot of food on our small parcel. This busy lady favors easy things to grow - tomatoes, hot peppers, pole beans - but by far the easiest, and my favorite, are raspberries.

They grow like the proverbial weeds - and sometimes they are the quite-literal weeds, as it's easier to grow them than it is to root them out where you don't want them. The don't even need to be weeded or watered. You just need a sunny-ish patch (I put mine on a difficult-to-mow western slope.) and to wait a year after they are planted, for the canes don't produce fruit their first year. I chose a variety that does all its fruiting early in the season, because once the tomatoes & beans start coming I can barely keep up with processing them, so I feared all-season raspberries would be wasted.

The fruit, of course, is amazing, but the leaves also make a nice tea, which is a gentle treatment for menstrual cramps or diarrhea. Less reliably, raspberry is said in lore to strengthen the bonds of marriage and ensure fidelity, and the bushes to protect a homestead against lost spirits. I can attest to this latter property - I have yet to see a ghost here!

Raspberries are delicious all by themselves. They are also yummy additions to cereal or salad; or here is a simple dessert preparation:

2 cups fresh raspberries, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream

In a mixing bowl, bruise the fruit lightly with a potato masher. Sprinkle the sugar on top, mix briefly then let sit for an hour. Add the sour cream, stir thoroughly, and spoon into bowls.  A summer dessert soup!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

What's New Downtown?

This morning I had occasion to walk downtown. One of my favorite things about my city is that I can and do walk to just about everything I need to do here: to the post office, the library, the bank (not to mention the pub.)
Today I was going to ship a package & buy stamps. On the way back, I walked beside the river, in hopes of seeing a sturgeon jump. I did see a few, but nothing like yesterday, when they were popping up like fireworks on Independence Day.) My route took me beside this concrete retaining wall below downtown, and lo! A mural!
That wasn't there the last time I walked by here!

Less noticeable but also fun downtown are edible plantings! I see the city has placed tomato plants among the celosia.

Augusta gets better every day!