Labour Day. What better way to celebrate being unemployed than by getting out to harvest something to put up for the winter. In Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley there’s a lot of talk of how prolific this summer has been for the crops. And despite the threat of Hurricane Earl, which thankfully did not cause the chaos anticipated, farmers are likely to be reaping the benefits. I am also reaping the benefits of their hard work and good weather at the U-Picks just outside of Wolfville. Bright and early, and within 15 minutes of my front door, I found myself at Blueberry Acres, surrounded by rows of highbush blueberries. I was the first picker there, and got myself set up with a box and a pail on a string, set out and within an hour I had harvested 17lbs of delicious, juicy, enormous berries.
Highbush blueberries grow about 5-6 feet tall. Unlike wild blueberries, there is no crouching necessary, no bending over or squatting down. This is the most civilized berry picking a girl could ask for. Just reach out in front and pick. The blue orbs are plentiful and easy to detect, yet just when you think you’ve cleaned off a bush, look down, below the branches at eye level, and you’ve found another mother-load. In amongst the serenity and meditative qualities of berry picking, are disturbing sounds, however. As a measure of pest prevention for birds mostly, gunfire shots, squawking calls of birds of prey, and a lovely sculpture of a bald eagle are ever-present in the fields.
I would caution anyone going there who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, if the sound of gunfire is rattling, because the recording is amplified across the property inconsistently and often, bearing no resemblance of pattern. I got used to it pretty quickly, though, but was adequately disturbed.
Along with the flavour of late summer bursting from my freezer, I am looking forward to the antioxidant powerhouses gracing smoothies and baked goods all year-long.
The lovely ladies at Blueberry Acres also informed me that there was a raspberry U-Pick just down the way. Making two lefts and a right, I came up to miles of hoop houses, or tunnels filled to the rafters with raspberries, red and gold, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and strawberries. Victor, originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, was charmed by my six words of Spanish that I could string together, and told me that he supervised 72 Mexican farm labourers in the tunnels. He lives in town, but the rest of them live in trailers at the back of the property. They’re paid by the hour, but he said that many Mexican ladies go to be paid piece work a the blueberry farm and make upwards of $200.00 a day. Pretty good, but far from home. Victor only spends three out of 12 months in Mexico. Tomorrow I am going to go pick at the blueberry fields again, this time as a commercial picker and will be paid to spend a beautiful day outdoors.