Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Blueberry Days

On a dazzling August Day, a turkey vulture soared above squadrons of swallows in swooping flight above the blueberry fields on a small mountain in eastern New Hampshire. The commercial farm that had operated here closed down, but the plants still produce. The current owner invites a few people to help use up that harvest. It beats the heck out of a bushel of surplus zucchini.

I got invited into this blueberry club because of the work I'd done, building up a Surly Long Haul Trucker for someone. So even though we didn't ride there, it was bike related.

Lily and I took blueberry rakes, which are more like metal combs on the front of a box-like scoop, and headed down to where she'd been told we might find a good haul. It's getting late in the season. Others had harvested. The berries were small and enmeshed in the foliage of the low bushes. Even so, we gleaned a couple of gallons of them before we knocked off and turned our attention to the small knoll above us. I wanted to check out the view.

Thick clusters of dusky blue sweetness clumped on the tops of the bushes over there. We'd already loaded what we could carry, but we ate our way up and down on our summit dash.

Last night we had the first pie.

This morning we did not have the first blueberry pancakes because we had to hurry out on the Cross-Checks to ride to a Nature Conservancy preserve 15 miles away, where New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg was going to speak. Gregg has been instrumental in securing funding for the Ossipee Pine Barrens Preserve, a critical piece of habitat in the state. It has been described as "globally significant." Lily had been assigned to cover it for the newspaper and I went along to take photos.

Thirty miles by bike meant we saved a gallon of gasoline. We smiled indulgently at the Priuses parked at the entrance.

Arriving slightly early, we had a chance to look around a little. The undergrowth was full of blueberry bushes. I grabbed some. So did the senator, when he arrived. It's a ritual of the season.

Senator Gregg checks out the pine barrens

Sen. Gregg, Daryl Burtnett (Nature Conservancy) and a pie!

Ossipee Lake Road has a designated bike route along part of it. We saw many cyclists. People will ride if they think they've been given a safe place to do it. Of course the wide shoulder ended where the funding ran out, but once people get it in their heads that they're on a bike route they'll keep riding with only two inches to the right of the fog line. Bless their hearts.

Most motorists passed carefully. The traffic volume is fairly high, so inevitably some drivers pushed themselves past us too closely, but others held back so cautiously it was almost embarrassing.

Riding alone I have gotten pretty good at managing overtaking vehicles. With another rider it gets harder because our movements have to be perfectly coordinated to catch and release them at the proper times.

Back at home we still had pie left. And we have lots more berries to use up.

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