Goatview Farm - The Saint Report

July 1
Blueberries and Bear Bells

About 15 years ago, fearing my life was becoming dull, I took my income tax refund and headed north to Petersburg, Alaska. The money went further than I had ever dreamed since there was no housing available and I had to live on an old troller in an old marina, but the cost of food was still a major dietary determinant. In fact, the only food cheaper up there than down here was halibut, black cod, and blueberries. The fish was reasonable and very fresh; the blueberries were free and even fresher. You just had to go out and pick them.

Every summer day, rain or shine (the year I spent saw 112" of rainfall), found me out on the muskeg, a can tied around my neck to free both hands for picking and a bear bell jingling impotently on my slicker. A bear bell, in case you are wondering, is a bell worn by berry pickers to ward off any similarly occupied bears that may be in the vicinity. The belief is that a hungry (else why would it be out eating berries?) three-hundred pound bear will hear the feeble dingy-dingy of the bear bell, leap up in alarm and run like hell in the opposite direction. Alaskans really believe this. Of course, many Alaskans also believe that hummingbirds migrate on the backs of Canada geese. I wore the bell anyway, a false sense of security being better than no security at all.

So I picked all day, day after day, and night after night I cooked blueberry syrup and blueberry waffles and blueberry pancakes until my teeth were blue, my lips were blue, my tongue was blue, and my fingernails were unspeakable. Of course, this mattered little in Alaska, where dressing up meant changing your socks.

Finally I tired of my own recipes for blueberry everything, I went to the library in search of more. There I found The Alaska Berry Cookbook. Filled with anticipation (and cobbler), I turned to the blueberry section. It began badly, something like this:

"The fastidious cook first soaks the berries in salt water to remove the worms."

What? What was that? Worms? What worms? The berries I had been eating didn't have any worms.

I should have just left it at that, but you know how it is. I dropped a berry into a bowl of brine.

Out of a hole so small I had never noticed it, a tiny white worm squirmed fitfully. I looked at another berry and then another. Every single berry had a teeny little hole. I poured a cup of them into the water.

Tiny worms wiggled out of every berry, forming a worm raft on the surface. Some worms expired on their way out of their berries, hanging from the holes like movie Texans in the gunports of the Alamo.

What to DO, oh, WHAT to DO? Was I going to let an almost instinctive reluctance to knowingly eat worms ruin the balance of the berry season? Was I capable of believing that soaking the berries really removed ALL the worms? Shoot, I had already devoured about a billion of them.

My only hope was that word "fastidious." The book said that "fastidious" cooks soaked the berries. That must mean less fastidious cooks ate the worms, or even better, fed the worms to their friends and family members. I wasn't fastidious. I was the type of woman who let dogs kiss her on the lips and who believed you could blow the germs off food that fell on the floor (pneumatic sterilization). I wasn't fastidious--I could still eat the berries!

It was a close call. I returned the berry book to the library and easily resisted an impulse to check one out on recipes for halibut.


Saints celebrating feast days July 1 include Julius, Aaron, Oliver Plunkett and Serf.


Birthdays today include Olivia DeHavilland (1916, Tokyo!), Jamie Farr (1936, Toledo), and Jean Marsh (1934). George Sand was born on this day in 1804.


July is Anti Boredom Month
Cultivate Your Character Month
National Baked Bean Month

National Bison Month
National Hotdog Month
National Ice Cream Month
National July Belongs to Blueberries Month
National Purposeful Parenting Month
National Recreation and Parks Month
Tahiti and Her Islands Awareness Month

July 1 is Canada Day
Ghana Republic Day
National Freedom from Cancer Day
International Joke Day
National Financial Freedom Day
National Frozen Yogurt Day
National Postal Worker Day
Rwandese Republic Independence Day
Zambia Unity Day

July 1-7 is National Frozen Yogurt Week
National Canned Luncheon Meat Week

Onward to July 2
Back to June 30
Back to the Farm

Marilyn Jones 2000-2008