When we lived in Washington, the blackberries were plentiful. I mean they were everywhere. They were considered a nuisance for property owners and like the piled up tumbleweeds of the southwest, they were the hallmark of a neglected parcel of land. On road sides and on empty lots, we wrangled our way through the thorny brush to pluck the seedy wild berries so Isaac could snack on them, and I could can them. We even had them in ice cream.
Alaska has its own wild berry abundance, we’ve discovered. My good friend Jena found a great spot about 30 minutes outside of Fairbanks where she and her family have collected about 6 gallons of blueberries to date. Jena is a self-proclaimed berry-picking addict. After she and her family have their fill of blueberry crumbles, she plans to freeze her bounty for smoothies and treats throughout the year.
We didn’t collect nearly as many blueberries as the Smiths, probably because I had a difficult time navigating the boggy terrain with a larger than normal body, leaky rain boots, or some other pregnancy-related excuse.
Margot was content to ride in her backcountry carrier, but preferred to hang out in the boggy terrain with her main squeeze Gavyn. They’re the most sickeningly adorable toddler duo in town, Jena and I are convinced. They sat and munched on berries while the adults harvested. And we were all diligent in scanning the landscape for the grizzly who allegedly lives in the valley on the other side of the hill. No sightings, fortunately.
The land we were on had endured wildfires some time ago, leaving the dry, spindly trees to slowly rot. Some had already begun their slow descent to the lush ground cover below.
Recent rainfall had pooled in the lower lying areas, making the entire area an ankle-deep pond, with the exception of a few dry, grassy knolls. Mosquitos were of course everywhere, biting any flesh exposed to the open air. My hands have already swollen enough to exclude me from wearing my wedding ring. Swelling is the only way my body handles mosquito bites these days.
Poor Margot has two bites just below her left eye that have her looking like she was in a boxing match, with a few red rash-like bites around her neckline. She hasn’t had any issues with bites this summer so far, but Fairbanks seems to have a cloud of mosquitos over it at all times; we’re all sitting ducks when we head outdoors and it’s inevitable that the mosquitos will bite.
I’ll likely cook my blueberry bounty into a syrup and can the surplus so we can have blueberry syrup swirled into ice cream, onto pancakes, or baked into bread as a sweet reminder of the summer bounty.