It is blueberry picking time again at our friends’ place in Richmond, and apart from the great crop of berries they’ve had this year, they also are hosting some unusual visitors. A pair of Sandhill Cranes have been nesting in the neighbourhood around Harold and Doris Lougheed’s little farm at Nelson and River Road.
You can’t miss these magnificent birds, even if you wanted to. Their in-air calls are almost like claxon alarms and a few times when I’ve been deep in thought in the apiary next door I’ve had the bejeezus scared out of me as they come in to land. Throughout the spring as we cared for our hives we’d know when these magnificent birds were coming in because the entire neighbourhood would be in an uproar from the loud calls. Here’s more about the cranes.
It seems that the pair aren’t afraid of anything. They’ve taken up residence in the Lougheeds’ field, where they will sleep on the tightly-manicured grass. Occasionally I’ve caught a pair of Canada Geese resting with them. Doris has managed to get quite close to them, as you can tell from the picture.
They allow us to get quite close, and seem unafraid. But they always stay far enough away to remind us they are wild, not tame.
This year the blueberry pickings are particularly heavy. Up the valley the Dukes and Elliotts ripened early, but it seems that the bushes in the Lougheed’s yard at 19000 River Road – and in the Henningers next door – are in their full state now.
I always enjoy the fact our bees pollinate these two yards, right from where they are. The Lougheeds, whom I’ve written about before, operate a small but highly-sought U-pick; they are fastidious about not putting chemicals down on their crops and they have for years cultivated their bushes so lovingly that their yields are these sweet, uniform berries.
Across the street Roger Henninger and Annette Hansen recently planted a few hundred bushes, mostly Dukes, which are just starting to fruit. The bushes, which have not yet been trained, are so heavy they’re bowing to the ground. In a few years I think Harold and Doris will have competition from the Henningers, but even then there won’t be any problem.
Last year Amanda and I created a few recipe cards highlighting some of our favourites. Here’s one you can use for making a Blueberry Balsamic Vinegar Reduction for a salad. Personally, I like the reduction spread on top of vanilla ice cream!
Our lives have been complicated this summer because of a research contract that has kept Amanda on the road, by heavy pollination contract demands and the acquisition of equipment and expansion of our little company, along with a heavy schedule of farmers’ markets. That may all sound good, but it has interrupted one of our favourite pastimes, wandering across the road to pick our summer supply of berries.
This year it is particularly unfortunate, since there appears to be a bumper crop out there.
If you’re looking for something leisurely to do on a summer day, head out to the blueberry fields. The Lougheeds offer some of the best local U-Pick berries, and their prices can’t be beat.
They’re also stocking some of our honey, including some blueberry that has turned into a lovely creamed butter. They’ve also got some of our summer time Berry Blossom, which came out of raspberry fields we pollinated in Abbotsford.