1. 1.
    traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods.
    "the peripatetic nature of military life"
    synonyms:nomadic, itinerant, traveling, wandering, roving, roaming, migrant,migratory, unsettled
    "I could never get used to her peripatetic lifestyle"
  2. 2.
  1. 1.
    a person who travels from place to place.
  2. 2.
    an Aristotelian philosopher.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Gleanings from a Blueberry Harvest

I lang hae thought, my youthfu' friend,
A something to have sent you,
Tho' it should serve nae ither end
Than just a kind memento:
But how the subject-theme may gang,
Let time and chance determine:
Perhaps it may turn out a sang;
Perhaps, turn out a sermon...
(from Letter to a Young Friend by Robert Burns, 1759-1796)

More moons ago than I care to count, my dad and I hiked into a German pine forest and emerged hours later with pails of wild blueberries. It was a ritual repeated each summer that we lived overseas and one that continued in a similar vein years later with my own children, though the later harvests came from a commercial operation rather than gleaned from the woods. The time we--my dad and I--spent picking the wild berries was interspersed with tales of hardship and bounty, sorrow and joy. I learned on those woodland walks to make cooing sounds like a dove with my cupped hands, to whistle with my thumb and forefinger as loudly as any boy could, and to cherish a father's childhood stories rarely shared outside of those special times.
...Ye'll try the world fu' soon, my lad;
And, Andrew dear, believe me,
Ye'll find mankind an unco squad,
And muckle they may grieve ye:
For care and trouble set your thought,
Ev'n when your end's attained:
And a' your views may come to nought,
Where every nerve is strained...

Our few bushes at home haven't yet reached the age where we can harvest pails full, so Secret Aging Man and I went a couple of Saturdays ago to Lundy Blueberry Patch north of Milton, Florida. It's one of those commercial operations, but the people who own and run it are generous to a fault with their berries and free advice. Dr. Lundy is a Master Gardener, no less, and encourages the pickers to try as many berries out of hand as they want from the various varieties he cultivates. How else is one to know which of them is the sweetest and most flavorful? We tried Tifblue, Brightwell, and Powderblue. SAM thought the Brightwell was best, while I gorged myself on and picked mostly Powderblue.

 I'll no say, men are villains a':
The real, harden'd wicked,
Wha hae nae check but human law,
Are to a few restricked;
But, och! mankind are unco weak
An' little to be trusted;
If Self the wavering balance shake,
It's rarely right adjusted!

Yet they what fa' in Fortune's strife,
Their fate we should na censure;
For still, th' important end of life
They equally may answer:
A man may hae an honest heart,
Tho' poortith hourly stare him;
A man may tak a neebor's part,
Yet hae nae cash to spare him.

Ay free, aff han', your story tell,
When wi' a bosom cronie;
But still keep something to yoursel
Ye scarcely tell to onie:
Conceal yoursel as weel's ye can
Frae critical dissection:
But keek thro' every other man
Wi' sharpen'd, sly inspection.

The sacred lowe o' weel-plac'd love,
Luxuriantly indulge it;
But never tempt th' illicit rove,
Tho' naething should divulge it:
I waive the quantum o' the sin,
The hazard of concealing;
But, och! it hardens a' within,
And petrifies the feeling!

To catch Dame Fortune's golden smile,
Assiduous wait upon her;
And gather gear by every wile
That's justify'd by honour:
Not for to hide it in a hedge,
Nor for a train-attendant;
But for the glorious privilege
Of being independent...

The bushes at Lundy's farm are well-tended and drip-irrigated when necessary. As this University of Florida article suggests, blueberries are fairly easy to grow and maintain if a few simple guidelines are followed. After waiting for so long to grow my own blueberries--two major hurricane years in 2004 and 2005, wedding planning for Son in 2006, finishing English degree in 2007, moving to Illinois in 2008 and then back again the same year--I was eager to jump right in and get my feet wet. Being a little wet behind the gardening ears, though, I should have done some research when we planted the bushes early last spring. Then I might have picked off the blossoms last year and this spring to let the plants develop vegetatively and to encourage a strong root system. I also would not have planted several of them close to the pool discharge pipe because I would have read that they are sensitive to chlorine. At least I chose a few different varieties--though what their names are, I have no idea--from the farm in Alabama where we dug the suckers that we planted. I have learned something over the years: blueberry pollination is more successful if the pollinators have a choice of bushes to visit.

...The fear o' Hell's a hangman's whip
To haud the wretch in order;
But where ye feel your honour grip,
Let that ay be your border:
Its slightest touches, instant pause--
Debar a' side-pretences;
And resolutely keep its laws,
Uncaring consequences.

The great Creator to revere
Must sure become the creature;
But still the preaching can't forbear
And ev'n the rigid feature:
Yet ne'er with wits profane to range
Be complaisance extended;
An atheist-laugh's a poor exchange
For Deity offended!

When ranting round in Pleasure's ring,
Religion may be blinded;
Or if she gie a random sting,
It may be little minded;
But when on Life we're tempest-driv'n--
A conscience but a canker--
A correspondence fix'd wi' Heav'n
Is sure a noble anchor!... 

It seems that even universities not involved in promoting horticulture are jumping on the gardening bandwagon these days. The latest alumni mag from my alma mater proves that it is no exception. And why not? Gardening offers a rich source of marketing metaphors. Who wouldn't want to "grow success"? It can be a slow, arduous, painful, humbling experience, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Thank you, Dad, for all of those blueberry-picking-time "letters" you wrote.

Adieu, dear, amiable youth!
Your heart can ne'er be wanting!
May prudence, fortitude, and truth,
Erect your brow undaunting!
In ploughman phrase, "God send you speed,"
Still daily to grow wiser;
And may ye better reck the rede,
Than ever did th' adviser!


  1. Very beautifully written, especially the part you narrated the olden days when you were in the care of your dad.

    Also, I happened to remember my English Literature days. I knew Robert Burns had written many pastoral poems, elegies and all,

  2. Although not nearly as exciting as picking blueberries, I got about 8 pints for free at Publix a few weeks ago when they were selling them for $1.50 a pint. The good thing was I had a coupon for $1.50. Yeah!!

  3. Sorry to say we can't grow blueberries here in this alkaline soil. A lot of people try but eventually get frustrated and give up. We do have wild blackberries here and picking them is something I've enjoyed since childhood. Most are eaten right off the bush but some make it back to the house to cover icecream or get baked into a pie:)

  4. What a wonderful post, especially the introduction to your blueberry adventure with S.A.M. and the interweaving of the most perfect verse. You should stand up and take your bow now!! ~karen

  5. Two of my very favorite things, blueberries and poetry in the same post , very nice, thanks, Gina

  6. Your memories sound so nice and sure take me back to my childhood. To coo like a pigeon would be neat. Still do it? Micah needs to know how to for sure. Blueberries-yum!!

  7. Isn't it great to have such wonderful memories with your Dad!!! I was so fortunate a few weeks ago to have my Aunt and Cousin visit and bring us bags full of hand picked blueberries from Lakeland, Florida! I have a bag in the freezer now that daughter and I sare using to make summer smoothies!!! YUM!

  8. My sister and I used to go picking blackberries when we were little, and those were special times indeed. I'm sure it must have been really special picking blueberries with your dad.

    "Growing success" - like that :)

  9. Thanks, Tomz. I never liked Burns' poetry when I was younger, but it's starting to creep into my reading now for some reason.

    TFB, are the berries at Publix from Florida? I guess I wouldn't care if they were free. We paid $2 a pound for them at the U-pick place, which does sound kind of high but not when you could consider how much everything else has risen in price over the years (gasoline, milk, housing, etc.)

    Marnie, it's strange that the soil in northern Illinois is so different from that in the southern end. Not only blueberries thrive there but so do a variety of wine grapes. I love those blackberries too. I planted a start of a thornless variety in my Florida garden, and I'm hoping it likes it there.

    Thanks, Karen. You're making me blush. Needlework is not my forte, but I do love to "sew" with words.

    Well, thank you, Gina, and welcome to the blog. I stopped by for a quick read at yours last night, and I'll be back to leave a comment a little later.

    Tina, that's right. You grew up in blueberry country up there in Maine. I guess I can still coo if asked to. Nobody's asked me in a while. I will try to teach Micah when he gets a little older. He doesn't seem all that interested at this point.

    Julie, those berries disappear too fast, don't they? I've already used up almost all of the fresh ones that we picked and only have a few quarts left in the freezer. We picked almost 20 pounds!

    RGB, it's funny how those "fruitful" experiences of so long ago are still such vivid memories. I'm glad you have some good ones to share with your sister.

  10. How sweet. Wild blueberries are the best. Far better than the insipid tasteless ones in the stores here in Minnesota. Which come from I know not where. Although it must be said one doesn't have to batttle mosquitoes and black bear to get them. :)

  11. Hello there, the zucchini story was funny and had me laughing. I'm wonder what the matter is? Hmmmm doesn't sound possible. Yes he must have said something to really turn her pretty leaves from him. It's almost impossible to grow zuchinni here in this heat, I'm wondering how come Florida gets to grow them,after all your probably warmer than us. I used to grow some beauties in the Midwest too!
    Your plums are beautiful LOL that sounds so funny to say something like that when I hardly know you hahaha
    Love the blueberry pickin stories. I so remember picking blackberries with my gramma and it's truly one of my fondest memories. Also thanks for the information on the blueberries. I would love to grow some here. I'm still waiting on the blackberry bush as a certain puppy decided to go out and prune it for me. It's trying to make a come back though.
    Oh you would love Charleston. Come on up and visit. I would make you do the bird cooing LOL an drive my puppy nuts.
    I think the best time to come would be in October. Taking the ghost walking tours late at night is awesome too and the fall just seems to make it more convincing. Plus it's a LOT cooler than and less humidity but still very nice.

  12. What wonderful memories of great times with your father, W2W. So often it's these simple experiences rather than sharing some exciting event that have the most lasting impression on us. The Burns poem is an excellent choice--I can almost hear him giving this advice to his own son.

    Blueberries don't do well here in our alkaline soil, but I like to pick up freshly picked ones whenever we travel somewhere where they're happier.

  13. I get confused when I read Robert Burns but I still love it. I have an old book that I still look at once in awhile.
    Yeah for your blueberries! Muffins? pancakes? smoothies?

  14. Thanks so much for this informative post! I'll save it for my reference. And I appreciate your advice. I'll buy another seedling of the blueberry. I'm now dreaming of harvesting blueberries!

  15. Another way to describe a gardeners quest to try and grow something and just feel a bit happier that many are trying the same and bring home that sweet lady called success. Loved it. And that verse, is it a famous poem of one of yours. Either the way the post weaves in and out of verse is ineresting.

  16. Every time I see a blogger posting about blueberries I wish I'd planted some last year. Ugh, they look so delicious.

    BTW, the header pic looks really refreshing. Although, I'd probably be too afraid of standing in water that deep it is fun to look at.