September 27th, 2016
Autumn has finally arrived. The black flies have more or less departed. Hurrah! The season is marked by collecting the bounty grown through the summer. The last crop of spinach, Swiss chard and rhubarb has been picked and processed. I have been occupied with making two types of borsht – vegetable and beef. A couple of weeks ago, the family focused on gathering blueberries. We recently enjoyed homemade waffles smothered in wild blueberry sauce. It was a delicious brunch and well-worth having to put up with the black flies. Now, the partridge berries have come into season. These berries belong to the cranberry family. They are smaller than domestically farmed cranberries but, still have a zing to them. I use them to make the sauce to go with the turkey cooked at Thanksgiving. The remainder are put into muffins and cakes throughout the winter. The local lore is that one needs to wait until after the first frost before picking these berries. Apparently, a worm lives inside the berry until the frost comes when it will then exit. It is hard to believe a worm would want to leave the comfort of the berry. I am willing to wait. After all, I was never one of those people who dared to swallow the worm in the tequila bottle.
Unlike blueberry picking, Bailey did not accompany me in climbing the hillside for partridge berries. She recognized the berry pack being packed and I could tell Bailey was expecting to go. Her tail was wagging as she lumbered quickly down the stairs leading into the garage. At which point, I said, “Kennel”. The tail stopped wagging. It repositioned in a downward hanging stance. Bailey slowly progressed in a very passive aggressive way towards her kennel. I think she was hoping that I would change my mind. It was painful to watch. I really wanted her to come but, it was for her own protection. The local police detachment recently issued a warning about a wolf attack on a German Sheppard and possibly a second attack on another pet. The dog did not survive and I can only imagine how devastated the owners must feel. Still, I exited the garage feeling very guilty about leaving Bailey behind. My friend and I arrived at the usual berry spot to discover more human traffic making their way up the hillside. We were like bears staking out our areas – congenial to one another but, protective of our spots. Bailey would have been delighted to see so many people. I was thankful that she would not be attempting to visit with everyone there. Trying to keep a sociable Newfoundland puppy from greeting the other pickers would be an impossible task. The sun was shining brightly today which meant our hands were not stinging from the cold. We made our way slowly up the hill as we moved from one patch of partridge berries to another. They were not easy to spot. The berries had ripened to a burgundy colour which blended in with the dark green leaves of the plant. Upon closer examination, I was surprised to find clusters of partridge berries in areas that appeared barren. I noticed blueberries were still around and they had benefited from a longer growing season. Since I was not picking them for winter storage, I experienced no guilt in sampling the blueberries that I came across.
Having not taken Bailey, I felt compelled to take her on a nature trail excursion. The two of us left after dinner and headed up to our favourite lookout point. The sun was still shining as it set behind the distant hill overlooking Jean Lake. I could not resist taking a couple of snaps of Bailey sitting patiently in front of such a beautiful backdrop. Living in the north, I have come to realize that autumn is not as long as indicated by the calendar. Already Mother Nature has sent an early warning that winter is coming – fortunately, the snowflakes did not stay. Autumn days such as this one are to be savoured with your best fur friend.