...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)

10.18.2015

the blueberry patch

Normally, I would not be thinking (or blogging) about blueberries in mid-October.
And certainly not this weekend, after some really chilly temperatures and hail / light snow.

Typically I'd be thinking about...

snuggling up,
a warm fire,
or having a hot bowl or mug of something...

like soup or chili or
 
or using one of Hollenbeck's hot, fresh donuts 
as an edible handwarmer.

Mmmmn!

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So why in the world am I thinking and blogging about blueberries? 

Well, besides the fact that I enjoy mentally living in a state of perpetual summer whenever possible,
the real reason is that we just finished weeding and mulching our blueberry patch.
It had gotten very overgrown.
And it was a very big task.
We knew we had to do it.  Like in July we knew we had to do it.
And we just kept doing other things.
But we finally did it.

So we're standing back and looking at the fruits (or potential fruits) of our labor.

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It's exciting to imagine what will happen next year 
and the next
and the next
and on and on after that.

Going into the fall and winter, it feels really amazing
to know that we should have berries
just waiting for us 
when we tilt back towards the sun.

Blue Crop berries, early summer 2015.
I have dreamed of having a blueberry patch for quite awhile now.
Probably since we started picking blueberries out in Richford,
and since I got more interested in homesteading and sustainability.

I love blueberries.
I really do.

Did you know that if you plant an assortment of different varieties 
that bloom throughout the season,
you can actually be flush with berries
from June until mid-September?!  

Right on!!!

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In the spring of 2014, we planted 4 blueberry plants.
They were three-year-old plants, to give us a head start.
 
 And then I went a little crazy this spring...
And we planted 16 more plants (one-year-olds).
And then we planted 2 more (2-year-olds)
because I found two that I couldn't resist at a local sale.
Typical me.

And now we're done.
:)
We're feeling mighty happy with our 22 little bushes,
and all the promise that they hold.

It's a fantastic feeling to look at a patch of land
and know that it will potentially help feed you for most of the rest of your life!
(blueberry plants can live 40-50 years!) 

This year was the first year we got some berries.
We ate everything while out in the field,
except these two slightly heart-shaped berries
which I brought inside to show my sweetie. 



Altogether, maybe we got a quart out of our older plants.
Not much, but still exciting!

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In my blueberry daydreams,
I imagine going down to our patch 
to pick fresh bloobs for breakfast...

I would either just pop them straight into my mouth
or take a bowl of yogurt or cottage cheese with a spoon down to the field,
add some blueberries to the top,
sit in one of our rickety old Adirondack chairs,
and enjoy it all.

The taste...
The view...
And the satisfaction of this little gentlewoman's farm.


In my imagination, sometimes I carry a fresh picked quart
back up to the house to share,
and just add a handful to the side of my breakfast plate
alongside fresh eggs from our girls...

Talk about satisfaction.

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Besides just eating them fresh,
there are muffins and pancakes
and all sorts of other delectables...

The desserts!
From pies and cobblers and strudels and streusels
 to fools and slumps and grunts.
(Yes, those last three are all real dessert names.)
Here's a great recipe from Saveur for blueberry slump.
You make it right in a cast iron skillet!

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Planting blueberries isn't that hard, but it does involve a little more site preparation.
Blueberries produce best in well-draining acid soil,
which we did not have.  

We initially followed soil-less planting instructions at Backyard Berry Plants.
It worked great, no complaints.

But then we discovered that a great local soil producer makes a "blueberry mix" soil blend.
Check them out:  Green Tree Garden Supply
So far, so good with their blueberry mix, too.
 
One of the benefits of their blueberry mix is that it does not use peat moss.
Here's a link to What's Wrong With Peat?

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We got some of our plants locally, from Twisted Tree Farm.
Twisted Tree is a really special permaculture nursery out in Spencer, NY.

I also got some plants from Baker's Acres in Lansing, NY.  

The original four plants we got of 3-year old bushes were from True Vine Ranch.
They're an organic blueberry nursery in Kansas.

And I got a bunch from Stark Brothers
Not organic, but we'll grow them using only organic methods,
and I feel fine about that. 



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We're growing these varieties:
                           
Blue Crop
Blue Gold 
Blue Ray
Chandler
Darrow
Duke
Earliblue
Elliott
Herbert
Jersey
Jubilee
Liberty
Misty
North Blue
North Country
O'Neal
Patriot
Sweetheart

Most of these are high-chill / high-bush types that are supposed to thrive in the Northeast,
but a few of them are low-chill types that are generally better in warmer places,
but are *supposed* to be hardy to zone 5/6.  
If they do well, they would ripen on the early side, 
which would extend our harvest season even more.
We'll see how they do!

If you want to plan the longest harvest window possible for your growing zone,
here's a helpful visual ripening chart of many of the most popular varieties from Fall Creek nursery.

We probably won't get up into a full swing production for a few more years yet,
but we should do well with so many different varieties and cross-pollination
thanks to our honeybee friends who live right next to our blueberry patch.

At their peak, most of these varieties produce anywhere from 10-20 pounds per bush,
and some in the 5-10 pound range...  

Plenty to share with the songbirds.
And the chickens.
And our family and friends.
And strangers on the street.

Random acts of blueberries.

Blueberries are so good for you.
They're a plant of oh-so-many-virtues,
which maybe I'll go into another time.   

Back from the perpetual summer of my mind,
to the present reality of mid-October: 
This time of year we're really appreciating 
the beautiful foliage of the blueberry plants.
They put on a stunning display!



Every day, the blushing of colors is just a little bit different...
The red seems to slowly creep in from the outside,
spreading to the center and last, the stem.
 

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