Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Local flavors

Last year saw 4 Black Chokeberry bushes (Aronia melanocarpa) planted around the outside of the dog run. By early August last year, they had berries that looked like this:

August 2013 chokeberries
August 2013 chokeberries
Photo by J. Harrington

A few minutes ago I went and looked at the bushes and saw no signs of berries. Although I wasn't paying lots of attention at the time, I don't really recall much in the way of flowers this past, wet, Spring. Online references say that the plants aren't drought tolerant but that shouldn't be an issue this year. They also not that more fruit is produced in full sun, we have them in partial shade, and that fruit is found on new growth. There isn't a lot of new growth noticeable. Maybe the same weather that kept us from getting droughty (the St. Croix still has about 2 + feet of water over the islands north of Stillwater) didn't give the bushes enough sunshine to produce new growth and fruit. We'll know more in a few weeks, but my hopes aren't very high. No apples, no chokeberries, we may have to focus on foraging and gleaning this year but then, according to the local paper, bears are more of a nuisance this year because of poor berry crops. So whatever ails the June berry, choke cherry and pin cherry trees and bushes may be affecting our chokeberries.

I assume it wasn't nuisance bears that drew the attention of Streets.mn to our area, but I'm not sure what caused their July 14 posting about Lindstrom, Chisago City and Center City. Usually, these folks are paying attention to "The Cities" (Minneapolis and St. Paul) and not to what's happening here in exurbia (from a metro perspective) or greater Minnesota from a local perspective. They did a nice job of noting the ethnic background. Thanks, folks! We hope you enjoyed your visit and that it was just "the berries," but not as Karin Gottshall portrays them.

The Raspberry Room

By Karin Gottshall 
It was solid hedge, loops of bramble and thorny
as it had to be with its berries thick as bumblebees.   
It drew blood just to get there, but I was queen   
of that place, at ten, though the berries shook like fists   
in the wind, daring anyone to come in.  I was trying   
so hard to love this world—real rooms too big and full   
of worry to comfortably inhabit—but believing I was born
to live in that cloistered green bower: the raspberry patch   
in the back acre of my grandparents’ orchard.  I was cross-   
stitched and beaded by its fat, dollmaker’s needles.  The effort   
of sliding under the heavy, spiked tangles that tore   
my clothes and smeared me with juice was rewarded   
with space, wholly mine, a kind of room out of   
the crush of the bushes with a canopy of raspberry   
dagger-leaves and a syrup of sun and birdsong.   
Hours would pass in the loud buzz of it, blood   
made it mine—the adventure of that red sting singing   
down my calves, the place the scratches brought me to:   
just space enough for a girl to lie down.


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