Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Disappointments and Desserts

Helloooo, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I'm bummed. Totally and completely floored.
the bulbustercafe
Our usual trips to the blueberry farm will not be happening this year. There was a late spring storm that took out most of the early varieties and then a heat wave that ruined the rest. I'm CRUSHED. We usually pick about 150lbs a year, freeze and share, and it doesn't even make it until January. Forget about how awesomely healthy blueberries are, how low in calories, and how you can use them 39 different ways.
I was thinking about this. These moments. Little boys with buckets. Toddlers picking perfect berries with perfect, chubby fingers. Older sisters squealing at spiders. Bigger boys pointing out frogs.

I thought of 'helpful' hands washing the berries and eating a whole lot. (The berries are unsprayed, all organic because the farm is part of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the animals are considered 'owners' of the land and they prefer their berries natural, thank you very much.)
I was thinking of those pie-making moments, the 'flour all over the floor and we're okay with it' moments. Those 'I got a really sour berry' moments.
I thought of those lattice-crust pies that were made by very small people and tasted better than mine.
I thought of the time we picked in an afternoon thunderstorm. Every time the thunder rumbled, the wild turkeys over the hedge answered with loud gobbles. We laughed so hard we could hardly pick.
I thought of the blueberry pies we made with crazy crusts because a two year old loved stars and wanted them on everything he ate.
I thought of the perfect summer night desserts, made with Greek yoghurt, graham crackers and a little wild honey.
I thought bowl after bowl of giant, sweet Toros that we shared with neighbors and visitors and family and friends. Toros don't freeze well. You pick them to enjoy, within hours.
 I must have made the same phone call twenty times: Come on over, we just went picking.
Or: Did you eat dessert yet? We're coming over and bringing fresh blueberries.
Sometimes we made ice cream and added home made blueberry syrup. Sweet, potent, addicting.
I've never actually taken a picture of the road. But if I ever did, it would look like this.
 It's not the blueberries, it's the memories. And I thought this year would be just the same. I never considered how it would be if we didn't get to mark our summer with a sweltering trip to the blueberry farm. The kids always fought over who got to hold the buckets on the way home. The girls passed, knowing something with too many legs could crawl out at any moment. The boys fought for the rights to eat handfuls and handfuls while Mama was too busy driving the windy dirt road back to town.

  So, we wallowed for a while in our disappointment. Then I took a deep breath and tried to look at all the wonderful things that are happening.
My new book is being a total over-achiever. It sold 600 copies on the 14th alone, only 8 days after it went up for sale. It's not quite a bucket of fresh blueberries, but it's okay.
The blackberries are ripe. We picked and picked and picked, hoping to make a pie. But we'll have to go back because once we got them home and all washed... this was what was left after all the 'sampling'.
 The pie will wait. A summer's walk along the river as the sun sets, kids racing to fill their little buckets... It's not a blueberry farm, but it's okay.
A new writer friend sent me a gift out of the blue. Actual, honest-to-goodness Jane Austen stamps! I swooned. It's not a freezer full of Chandler blueberries, but it's pretty darn okay.

So, I've made peace with our summer-of-no-blueberries. I bought a little bag of frozen ones at the grocery store and made a dessert.
Cook and serve vanilla pudding.
 Store-bought oatmeal cookies. The crunchy kind.
 Broken up pieces of cookies in the bottom of the ramekin...
 Store bought frozen blueberries...
 Onto the cookies and sprinkle with cinnamon...
 Pour in hot pudding before it sets...
Chill two hours. Add more cookies to the top. It's not a blueberry farm, but it will do.

It will be a summer of memories no matter what.

And for that, I am grateful.


  1. Aww, I can so feel your disappointment over the blueberries. And to think, I had never heard of blueberries (or cranberries, for that matter) until I came to the US, at the ripe old age of 23 and half. I don't buy them too often 'cause I'm the only one who likes them around here.
    Congrats on LL being such a success! So well deserved!
    And I'm so glad the JA stamps have brought you some consolation. ;)

  2. Cindy, thank you again! Those stamps were the highlight of the whole month! Yee-haw!!

    We don't really buy the store blueberries because they're so flavorless. But right off the bush, they're amazingly full of sweet flavor!
    The kids were very disappointed, but we're moving on. :) I guess sometimes we have to lose something before we really appreciate it.
    And next summer, I'll be extra, extra, EXTRA glad for blueberry season!

    1. I can't even imagine how good those must be, if I already find the store ones so delicious.
      My favorite way to eat them is in a berry salad- fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, with a little sprinkled sugar and lemon juice. So good!

    2. Oh, TASTY!!! The lemon and sugar is just the right touch! It's like an uncooked pie with no crust... Ok, it's not like a pie at all. But it's delicious!

  3. There are a lot of problems with all kind of fruit this year. I haven't had a good melon yet. :(

    But as you say, other good thing happen. Congrats on your success with Leaving Liberty.

    1. Our watermelons are really late over here! Usually, by the Fourth, we've got Hermiston melons ready to go... But this year we had to survive on California imports! :D

      Thank you! Not sure what happened on the 14th, I think it was picked up by some 'book of the day' site but I never did find out where!

  4. I hate the years when the weather and fruit don't mix...the frost takes the blossoms...or the rains come at the wrong time, or not at all...or the heat saps all the energy out of the plants....

    What I hate worse is living in a place where fruit isn't grown :) The only downside of living in the semi-arid Black Hills. I'm working on the back yard fruit production our mini-yard.

    But don't you love it when other fruits come to the rescue? Yay for black raspberries! It's hard to discourage them :)

    And yay for your sale numbers for Leaving Liberty!

    1. Well, not to be too indiscreet... but eating a pound of blackberries isn't that same for small people because in about half a day there are *ahem* intestinal issues!
      Blueberries are a little gentler on the system. :D

      We're lucky to live in a wonderful valley, right in the middle of the desert, but yes, some years the weather and the fruit just can't work together. And it's a heart-breaker.

    2. P.S. Thank you! It strikes me that putting up sales numbers might not mean anything to most people! Since even most writers can't see their sales.

      Loling at myself. :D

      Oh, well, it means something to ME!

  5. I'm weeping blueberry tears for you, Virginia! It's not quite blueberry season up here. But soon. I'll think of you when I make my first blueberry pie. :-)

    Loved all the pics and the nostalgia, though!

    1. Ohhhhh, I'm not a blueberry pie girl, but I'll be cheering you on from over here in Oregon!!

  6. I hate crop failures. We're apple country. Last year's warmth, then sudden freeze snap killed the apple blossoms, so the apples were pricey, kind of scarce and cider was never so expensive... So I hear you.

    But I love the pics and I think the pudding, cookie, blueberry mix sounds delightful! It's like a trifle on the farm.

    Just lovely!!!

    1. I don't know what we'd do if we lost our apple crop. I shudder to think of it.

      Most of my friends are either apple or wheat or alfalfa farmers. Not much can kill alfalfa, unless something goes wrong at the harvest. Wheat is iffy, but still pretty hardy. It grows so fast that if one crop is gone you'll still have the winter wheat to fall back on because it's a late producer.

    2. Our area's main harvest is beef. Last year was bad for the ranchers - drought, so very little grass. Hay had to be brought in, and buying hay is expensive. A lot of the ranchers had to sell of a portion of their herd, which brought beef prices down. Blow upon blow.

      But this year, even though we're still low on rainfall, the grass is getting enough to grow. We're still mostly green, and everything is usually brown by now.

    3. Our hay this year is magnificent. Third cutting already because we're so wet... so much rain, the grass crops are singing! But a lot of corn lots under water... A lot of things rotted in a month of rain every day, low temps and no sun.

      Each year is different and I always laugh when people talk about the average year for farmers, because the norm is usually extremes at one end or the other... with a few normals thrown in to tease you!

  7. Here in Texas, we're mourning a poor peach crop. Like Ruthy's apples, it was a late freeze that killed the peach blossoms. :( Can you just imagine how the pioneers felt, when they had to live off of the land and could never count on anything from one year to the next? Of course, they weren't as spoiled as we are, so they learned to adapt. Which is why we have so many wonderful recipes today!

    Virginia, I can remember picking wild blueberries with my grandparents when I was a kid. We'd simply pull off the side of the road, go into the woods, and pick 'til our hearts content. Or we ran out of buckets:-) Sigh. Such fond memories. Memories your children will always carry in their hearts. And who knows, maybe next year will be a bumper crop and you'll have 300 lbs!

    1. Mindy, wouldn't that be great?? But we always say we'll pick more but we can never seem to get past that point. Usually by 150 lbs, the season is over or we're all picked out.

      My husband could probably get there in no time, but I refuse to take him.

      I took him to the blueberry farm once, and he started picking... and wouldn't stop. I had to remind him we WERE PAYING FOR THESE and not being paid, hahahaha!

      The kids and I ended up sitting under a tree and waiting for him to realize we were hungry and tired and wanted dinner. It was several hours...

    2. Oh, my husband and yours would get along famously. Dave's farming family picked for local growers all the time. Fruits, vegetables, haying, pulling cabbage and cauliflower sprouts to replant on the 4th of July....

      And he and his mother tell stories of their prowess. It's not a normal family experience to them, it's a I MUST DO ALL I CAN DO BECAUSE I CAN...

      Kind of thing.

      I used to envy my friends who would just go and have a family outing.

      So my kids didn't get all of their competitive spirit from me! Dave's as guilty.

      But I cook better.

    3. HAHAHAHA! I know, I'm thinking as I pick, of all the things I can cook with the berries.

      He just gets IN THE ZONE and it's like he's been body-snatched by the fruit picker aliens.

      Somewhere in his head, he's not going to stop until the close the gates... and they usually do that about 5 hours after we get their in the afternoons!!

  8. I don't think most people know how blackberries grow wildly in abandon in Washington State. We stayed on Whidbey Island twice with friends and I was a picking monster. They are huge and wonderful and in abundance. And here I pay 5 bucks for a teeny little container.

    1. They grow mostly by the river, about 1/4 mile from our house. If I'm really feeling like being a picking monster, I bring a sheet of cardboard and lay it over the bush, so I can crawl to the biggest, sweetest berries on top!!

      I don't buy the ones in the store. They're sour and tiny and taste like soap.

  9. Every September when I was a kid we went to my grandmas to pick grapes. Their farm grew them and sold them to Welchs.

    1. We have seedless grapes that are about the size of dimes, and come in bunches as long as your forearms. So, so sweet, especially later in the season when they turn golden instead of just yellow.

      I grew up with dark purple seeded grapes and the smell of ripe grapes on the vine must be one of the best in the WORLD.