We hear a lot about berries around here but have never come across any. I think we were expecting it to be like Oregon Marionberries. They are suddenly everywhere you walk and everyone knows they are there. It seems that Alaskan berries might require more scavenging.
We were given a tip about a blueberry patch behind the Consortium building on the tundra and went out yesterday to look for the patch. I always feel like I am destroying a habitat when I step in the tundra. You sink about a half a foot into the soil and have to work hard not to sink way, way down into water.
So we squashed and stumbled around the tundra a bit aiming for the bushes we assumed had berries. They did not. Luckily, we had an Alaska expert with us. Rosalind had been berry picking twice through her camps and immediately started picking blueberries off the scrubby stalks along the ground. She also talked a lot about tundra tea, which turns out to be an herbal tea people make here with a rhododendron found in the tundra. So we started hunting along the ground and harvested some wild tundra blueberries.
It was fun, but not easy, work. I am starting to understand how people can demand over $300 per gallon of salmonberries. It must take a long time to get so many. I also think people guard their hunting/gathering secrets pretty closely. Many people live a subsistence lifestyle here and it’s important they get all they need before people like us go in for a fun Saturday morning. These blueberries might be all we are ever given directions to as they don’t seem as dear as all the other types of berries.
Eliot had a blast running free on the tundra. He had no qualms about running all through the marshy water and bounced all along the super soft ground. There is no real wildlife to be aware of around here. I saw one dragonfly that I think was actually dead and a lot of birds. When we first got here and walked along the tundra boardwalk I upset a nest of fat tundra mice and they scattered out from under the boardwalk squeaking up a storm. Shudder. That’s as wild as it’s gotten. Eliot is perfectly safe, is the point.
It takes a long time gathering berries this way, so our haul was not huge before Rosalind wanted to switch to a nearby playground.
It was enough for us to make a lovely blueberry syrup and have it over ice cream. This is one of the first ways we’ve ever gotten berries into our child. I know it’s a terribly warped version of berries, but I’m still proud.
So pretty! And so very tasty.
On the way home we also started harvesting fireweed blossoms to try and make jelly. It’s going to take a little time to gather eight cups worth. We could easily do it if we went into the cemetery, but we feel just a little strange about trying that.
After all of that we were supposed to go to a little public barbecue thing. On our way Rosalind decided to walk straight into a mud puddle. She does this a lot and obviously expected solid mud. Instead she slipped fast and landed as much in wet, mucky, oozy mud as a person possibly could. It covered her legs, her skirt , her arms, and somehow her face. She cried and we laughed. That was pretty much the end of our day out.