Monday, 31 December 2007


Some people make you feel good when you are with them and Kathy from my gardening group and her husband Ken are just such a couple. The last Wednesday before Christmas they invited me to go blueberry picking with them down past Mt Compass. On the way I learned a bit about blueberries from Kathy who grew up in Canada, in an area famous for its blueberries (and hence her love for the fruit and the annual trip to pick them here). They love wet feet - very wet, in fact a bog is best. Ken loves the hunter-gatherer thing and is in his element picking food and his eyes shone with anticipation the closer we got to the blueberry farm.

A little way along the Nangkita road we stopped near a house, unremarkable but for the greenest lawn I had seen for years. We gathered our baskets and buckets and Kathy and I headed off towards the gate to the farm while Ken went to find the owner and get instructions on which rows we were to pick. It was at this moment that I thought maybe here was a serious contender for my NZ fantasy, but I realised I hadn't brought the camera.(Kathy had hers but I didn't know at this stage) A gigantic weeping willow, with pale green, lush foliage hung its glorious tendrils down to the ground in a huge arc, gently waving in the breeze and cooling the humid air of that hot morning. Kathy and I stood under it for a moment and wished that we too had been smart enough to buy this boggy land - useless the locals said - and start a blueberry farm. There was more garden with large, luxuriant flowers and shrubs flourishing between paths of green lawn - hydrangeas, fuschias and all those things we struggle to keep alive in the current dry conditions.

Ken appeared with a young lad who led us off towards a netted area of several acres and got us started on picking a variety of blueberries just at that perfectly ripe stage. The bushes were laden with large, juicy berries and Ken showed me how to 'tickle' them off the stems, sifting out the earwigs through your fingers. Yes, there are earwigs even in paradise ! The grass between the rows could almost be seen to grow as we walked and often there were sections of bog we had to straddle to reach the berries. Ken's excitement was catching as he and Kathy told me that these were the largest and densest bunches they had ever seen in all the years they had been going there and, because we were the first to be allowed in to pick (it was openning to the public on the weekend), the bushes were laden to the ground in places. In one hour we had picked one full row and collected 30kg ! What a beautiful morning's work. Now I have about 9 of those kg in the freezer in yoghurt containers and I have made blueberry sauce for pancakes with some and eaten some with muesli for breakfast.

For me though it is the memories that I have stored in the freezer, of spending time with lovely people who make you feel so happy, with their enthusiasm for life.

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