Berry-picking bonanza after a bit of searching
I’m not a person who likes really hot weather, so the late July drop in temperature was a welcome relief for me. The humidity and heat were gone at least for a little while so one evening I decided to head across the border to the nearby Pennsylvania state game lands to pick some blueberries.
I haven’t visited the area in years, but 40 years ago, when I first moved to New York picking berries was a rite of summer, and the game lands were a favorite destination for blueberry picking. The high berry bushes were numerous and loaded with berries and I remember my neighbor and I returning home with pots full of tart, wild fruit. They were as much a part of summer as the Fourth of July and we used them for pies, cobblers and to top our kids' breakfast cereal. The berries were plentiful and the picking was easy, but that was then and this was now.
Forty years does a lot to change things, and although the berry bushes were still there I soon discovered they were almost devoid of berries. Multiflora rose, autumn olive and other fast-growing wild plants choked out most of the bushes, so rather than finding handfuls of the luscious berries I found almost none.
Discouraged, but not about to concede defeat, I worked my way down the edge of a freshly plowed field past dozens of equally barren berry bushes to an area where I often filled several buckets of berries in almost no time. It was a moist area just inside the field edge and it wasn’t well known to other berry pickers. Reaching the end of the field, I expected to find numerous berry bushes and I did, but like the others, hardly a berry grew on them. Not a single bush produced more than a berry or two it and it was apparent the young maple trees and autumn olive bushes shaded them far too much.
Frustrated, I decided time had taken its toll and my berry picking days were over. I reluctantly headed back to my truck by a different route, fighting my way through a tangle of overgrown brush. After breaking through the thick cover, I discovered I was standing at the edge of a beaver pond that wasn’t there the last time I visited the area. Walking along the perimeter of the pond, I stopped dead in my tracks. There they were! Berry bushes, and lots of them. They were growing in the moist soil just above the water level of the beaver pond and I was elated at my good luck.
One by one I began filling my bucket with the beautiful little berries. Plunk, tink, plunk, tink; it was a sound familiar to every berry picker as each berry hit the bottom of the bucket hanging from my wrist. Once the sound stopped I knew I was making progress. An hour later I had a can full of fresh berries and headed back to my truck. The walk wasn’t easy because of the thick brush surrounding the beaver pond. I was scratched, bleeding and my feet were wet but it didn’t matter. I had found a new berry picking spot and I wasn’t about to share it with anyone.