The Mast-Head: Native Rituals

“Be gone. These are mine.”

   In the end, the catbird won the battle of the blueberries.
   For whatever unknown-to-me confluence of meteorological circumstances, 2012 has shaped up to be a great year for the native high-bush blueberry bushes that grow at the edge of the swamps near our house. I noticed the pale-green young ber­ries late last month, and watched closely as they neared ripeness.
    So too did a catbird or two, which I could hear unseen in the brush issuing warning cries when I lingered near the patch. The calls seemed to say, “Be gone. These are mine.”
    Time being what it is in the busy season at The Star, and with three children at home, there was little chance I would get to the berries. Yet one morning before the day got too hot, I put on long sleeves and boots and picked about half a pint’s worth. I put my precious haul on the kitchen counter, a mistake, because I had to shoo off Lisa as she reached for a handful.
    Regular readers may remember that it is about this time of the year that I begin to write about making jams, jellies, or preserves. Long ago, as I have said before, I gave up on making large batches of any one variety. Instead, I try to put up a jar or three of what comes into season as it comes into season.
    So far, the shelf reserved for such things has a couple of jars of strawberry jam on it and a couple of sweet-pickled summer squash. Later will come beach plum jelly, wild grape jelly, black raspberry preserves, and, later still, canned tomatoes.
    The blueberries, though I managed to cook them into jam on Saturday morning before shuttling off our eldest child to camp, will not take their place on the shelf. The few ounces of goodness they produced when boiled up with an equal weight of sugar are destined for immediate consumption.There will be none to follow.
    By the time I made it back to the patch to pick anew, the catbird had stripped the branches bare.