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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: July 28, 2021

Overheard in the Berry Patch

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,



**********

On a recent weekday morning I went to a local â€small farm†blueberry patch. I don't do a lot of preserving but I do love having frozen black raspberries and blueberries on hand for pies and muffins †and I also make a killer black raspberry infused vodka.

The patch was bustling with business and the owner was beaming as I walked up. It is so heartwarming to see a small business having a great season. I had visited once already this season, accompanied by my Oklahoma daughter-in-law and my four year old granddaughter, who loved the easy and abundant picking. It must be said my granddaughter only managed to get about a half-cup in her bucket but I can assure you she ate plenty. I felt like I should offer the farmer extra money just to cover what she consumed, but he laughed and told her he hoped she'd eaten a lot. Rachel and I quickly picked an ice cream pail and a half, which went home to Oklahoma with her. It took so little time to get what we wanted that Brixey barely had time to get bored! And on the way home, she ate all the berries in her bucket. Got to love it.

I returned a few days later for a more serious picking outing with two ice cream pails and my trusty waist strap. The bushes were about four feet high and absolutely laden with prime berries. No bending over †just stretch the branches gently over the pail and give them a shake †it only took me 45 minutes to fill my two pails. I only worked three bushes during that time.

As I picked I could overhear the conversations of people in other rows. Berry picking is a social event for many, with pairs and trios of family members or friends, and there were lots of kids. You can't help but overhear them, and it was highly entertaining to listen.

A tiny baby in an infant seat arrived, wailing. Baby did not feel like visiting a berry patch, and Mom had to retreat to her vehicle quite rapidly. A little boy reported, loudly, that he had been bitten by a â€seal.†I didn't hear any of his party react to the astonishing appearance of this marine mammal in Wisconsin, but the boy was soon off to another adventure, none the worse for this experience as far as I could tell.

Just a row or two over a preschool girl and her toddler sibling were eating berries when the toddler spotted a spider and lost his cool completely. Mom comforted the little one, assuring him that spiders are not venomous and have tiny mouths so they really can't bite. After the toddler recovered his poise the mom went back to picking. Then big sister said to the toddler: â€They aren't venomous (nice use of the word, little girl! My son would be proud of you!) but â€they can bite and they do!†Mom didn't seem to notice this undermining of her â€spider desensitization' program.

A few groups of friends chatted about work, challenges with relatives and upcoming camping trips. Their conversation was lively and accompanied by a lot of laughter, and I thought of women around the globe, and over the centuries, laboring in fields and gardens to feed their families. While the work of those women can be life and death for their children, unlike the gathering of a few berries; they too tend to share joys and sorrows while they work. This interaction helps the work be more tolerable and even fun †and it is a nearly universal characteristic of our highly social species.

Blueberries always remind me of the annual trips to pick wild blueberries my mother and her sweet friend Marilyn Dudka used to make. These picking expeditions were not like my easy task. They often walked far into the woods and fields, braving clouds of bugs, poison ivy and heat to find the tiny, tasty wild berries. Those grow low and close to the ground, and picking a bucket of them can take hours of hard labor. I am spoiled, while they had a berry-picking challenge †but it was also uninterrupted time of conversation and laughs. I seem to recall that once down by Peshtigo Harbor, they got hopelessly lost, and Marilyn's husband had to go out searching for them!

Yes I can buy pre-picked berries. That will not happen, though, until the day I can no longer stand and pick my own. I always tell people when I bake a pie or muffins, or serve them some black raspberry vodka, â€I picked the berries myself!†I am not bragging, I am sharing my joy.

Congratulations to the Milwaukee Bucks and to their fans †for an amazing â€small market†win AND for having a wild, crazy and fun celebration †without significant security exceptions. Class act all the way!

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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