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McCallum: Summer Blues

08/27/12 7:55AM By Mary McCallum
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(Host) Educator, writer and commentator Mary McCallum is usually a gardener who is happy to reap the bounty of summer. But this growing season she learned that there is often a flip side to the harvest.

(McCallum) Twenty-six years ago I planted a half dozen blueberry bushes at the old farmhouse I shared with my partner. When we decided to split six years later, I declared that if I go, the blueberries go. I waited until late fall and showed up at his dooryard one cold afternoon with a shovel. The gardening literature had advised me that it was possible to successfully transplant established blueberry bushes by waiting until they had gone dormant after a frost.

I carefully dug around each rootball with my spade to sever the roots and prevent early growth in spring. Then I bade them goodbye for the winter and drove off. Come spring, it was a snap to lift them out of the ground and haul them in the back of my rusty car to their new home. With a happy nod to the future, I bought six more bushes to add to them, and hoped for the best.

You must be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. This summer saw the latest in a string of bumper crops that had my now towering bushes bending beneath the weight of thousands of berries. Recent studies point to the protective benefits of antioxidants contained in these tiny powerhouses, and everyone over fifty is gobbling them to stave off memory decline. It's like I have a private pharmaceutical company right in my own backyard with 24-hour access to the antioxidants and polyphenols that will keep my neural pathways firing for years to come. Even my dog has gotten into the act as she follows behind me taking dainty nibbles of low hanging fruit.

But I have to admit that I've lately developed a love-hate relationship with my blueberries and occasionally refer to them as t hose pesky blue orbs . I cannot pick them fast enough. My freezer is fully packed. The jam jars have nearly run out. My dog appears to be turning a pale shade of blue. Perhaps this is some kind of karma coming home to roost as payback for my greed in yanking those early bushes away from their first home.

Recently, I stood in a light morning drizzle and picked what I hoped would be my last haul. Then I stood over a pot of bubbling dark purple jam and poured it like hot satin into waiting containers. Muffins were baked and slathered with soft butter. Two pie shells awaited their filling. Then I said with conviction, "Let the birds have at it," and went outside to peel back the netting that protected the bushes from birds who had been eyeing them from the treetops.

As if on cue, a small brown sparrow flitted from beneath the tomato plants and landed on the highest berry bush. And if I needed further proof that I had done the right thing, as the last large expanse of black plastic netting lifted off, an exhausted dragonfly trapped there for days flew free and arced away.
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