Harvest Market in Carleton Place

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As the dust settles on my first soft launch year I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who came out to the farm over the past four weeks. Whether you picked your own berries, bought a pint at the end of the driveway, or just had a cup of tea and piece of pie, I have appreciated your support. If you didn’t get a chance to enjoy our fresh-off-the-bush blueberries there is one more chance. This Sunday (September 8th) I have a booth at the Harvest Market in Carleton Place where I will have more blueberries and blueberry products – jam, butter, cobbler mix, and balsamic vinaigrette – for sale.

There have been times over past five years when I wondered if my dream of creating a peaceful and happy place where people could pick fresh, delicious blueberries would ever actually come true. So your affirming feedback has meant more to me than you can imagine. I am truly happy that you enjoyed your experience here and loved the berries. I didn’t know what this year would bring but it has surpassed my expectations. The bushes are (almost) bare but my heart is full – thank you. And maybe I’ll see you in Carleton Place this Sunday.

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Thank you

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We were absolutely overwhelmed by all the love we received from family, friends, and the wider community at the soft opening of Balderson Blueberries last weekend. The positive feedback was tremendous. Words can’t express my gratitude to Max, Sabrina, Gord and Nancy. They each sacrificed their own weekend to work tirelessly at mine. I could not have done it without my team and I am deeply indebted to them. Thank you so much!

PS: By popular demand, we’re opening for another u-pick day both today and tomorrow (Aug. 11 & 12) from 9am to 5pm!

Beautiful Bluebabies!

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After all this time it feels surreal to me that my opening is one week away! It was touch and go whether the berries would be ripe or not on account of the cold, wet spring (which delayed everything) but when summer finally landed, it landed hard. Now my beautiful bluebabies are ripening nicely and hanging off the branches just waiting for you. Sure hope to see you soon!

It’s happening! And you’re Invited

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You are warmly invited to the soft opening of Balderson Blueberries u- pick.

August 3, 4, 9am-7pm.

Drop in and pick up some field fresh blueberries, check out my little Merry Blueberry store and dessert cafe, and the small cut-your-own flower garden.

My season this year is only for family, friends, neighbors, and faithful blog readers, and will last as long as I have blueberries. Unlike strawberries, blueberries do not keep regenerating fruit throughout the season; the number of berries are determined by buds formed the previous fall. Once the berries are picked out, my season will be over. But the blooms on my earliest ripeningy ‘patriot’ variety indicate a good crop.

I’m still working on building the infrastructure for the overhead bird netting. It is proving to be every bit as grueling as expected. I’m sure someone with the right expertise and equipment could do a far better (and faster) job of it but I’m too far into the gargantuan project to change lanes now. I suppose that as long as it eventually gets finished (and works!) without completely unhinging my sanity, I’ll be glad I did it.

In any case, bird netting finished or not, I would love it if you came and shared my soft opening with me. Get a complimentary family portrait taken and enjoy a complimentary glass of my blueberry wine. Directions are on my website at baldersonblueberries.com. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me. Excited to see you soon!

Don’t worry Bee happy

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My fields, while a few weeks behind on account of the late sunshine and warmth, are awash in blueberry blossoms. At this time of year, seeing bees foraging on my plants is deeply soothing. Not only does every berry need to be pollinated, but every seed in every berry needs pollination, and bumblebees are the best bee for the job of fertilizing the bell-shaped blossoms. I order a hive every year.

Imagine my alarm when, after several days with my new colony, all I saw was the odd wild bee. My hive was a dud. I called the company and found out that the self-contained box of bees must have gotten damaged in transit.

“The queen will lay new eggs and the hive will be operational again in a couple of weeks,” I was informed

“I have bloom now,” I said urgently.

“Hmmm, yes,” he responded. “We can send you a new hive on Monday when we ship. It will arrive next Wednesday, or we can credit your account.”

“I don’t want a credit, I want bees and I need them now. Wednesday is too late,” I replied back, the distress evident in my voice. It had taken days to get the right person to call me back and timing is everything. If a fruit set doesn’t get pollinated during bloom, it will bear no fruit. Hence my distress.

“Hmmm, yes. Ok. Let me get back to you”. He knew what was at stake.

My head was swimming. The thought of a consecutive crop loss was inconceivable.

A couple of hours later I received word that a new hive was being shipped immediately and I would receive it the next day. Kudos to the bee guy.

When I saw the Purolator truck roll up my driveway, I was weak with relief. Turns out I wasn’t the only one relieved. As I unloaded my precious hive, the driver, looking pale and shaken, said, “I’m damn glad to get that cargo off my truck.” He shuddered. I just smiled and cradled the buzzing box before rushing it out to the field to set it up.

My fields are now alive with the beautiful buzzing of busy bees. Happy days are here again.

Paddling the Everglades (conclusion)

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Day 8 – Grounded

A fierce electrical storm did indeed blow in. Thunder, lightening, and rain all around us. Even when the rain stopped mid-morning, the high winds continued to churn up the water. I was grounded by my ankle anyways and Gord busied himself drying out our wet sleeping bags, clothes, and gear. It was a good day off.

Day 9 – To pee or not to pee…

When we can’t hold it anymore, we paddle to a mangrove root and hold on. For Gord it’s simple. He unzips and goes. It’s not so easy for me. I wiggle my pants down while still sitting. Without putting any weight on my foot, I spin around to lever my butt over the edge of the canoe (still without putting weight on my bum foot) at exactly the same time as Gord (with eyes closed) leans backs out the opposite side (so the canoe stays balanced). “Don’t come back in without telling me or I’m going over,” he warns me. I assure him that I wont, as I try not to pee in the canoe. No dignity, no grace, just relief (who says I have no game). And to think I used to be embarrassed if a boy could hear me pee.

I must be getting better at navigation as we made it to ‘The Watson Place’ ground site without any detours. But we did have a wild run on one river though. Between a strong wind at our back and being in the right tidal flow, we literally rode the waves in. I just sat there enjoying the ride as Gord used his paddle as a tiller.

“Bloody Ed” Watson was a homesteader who is said to have murdered his labourers rather than pay them. He is also rumoured to have killed the Oklahoma outlaw Belle Starr. He grew vegetables and farmed sugar cane in the 1800’s. Nature has completely reclaimed the site but remnants of his machinery, including a large syrup kettle are still there. The spot is reputed to be haunted, but if ghosts roam the island, they had no problem with us because we slept like the dead.

Day 10 – Swamp people

We were savouring our last night in the tent at Lopez’ ground site when we heard voices hailing us. Gord went out to see three men getting out of a leaky, rickety motor boat. “Mand if we stay heer”, they drawled. They were oily polite and odd looking and set off our spidey senses big time. The Everglades attracts bird watchers, outdoor people, fishermen, and adventure types. These guys weren’t any of the those. It was full on dark at this point. We don’t know what their deal was – they said something about heading inland to wait out another coming storm but it didn’t add up. The glades also attract people who want to dump bodies, and people who want to hide. I was hoping they just wanted to hide.

Day 11 – Out and away

It was a restless night. Gord kept his knife unsheathed and I didn’t sleep at all. We packed up quick and were glad to be away. If the same guys had turned up at ‘Watson’s Place’ it would have been seriously spooky. As it was, it was just a little unsettling. We blasted the last 14 kilometres back to civilization. At the very end, in Chokoloskee bay, the wind gave us one last run for our money before spitting us out the other side.

It’s been a great trip. We paddled over 200 kilometres through a bit of everything. Being in the wild makes me happy and experiencing it in a canoe was a real treat. Seeing incredible birds and marine wildlife was a daily occurrence. Hurting my ankle was a drag but fortunately Gord was able to lever me into the canoe for the last few days (and it’s slowly improving). As always, I have loved sharing the adventure with you. Thank you so much for reading and coming along. Take good care and I’ll see you on the flip side.

Paddling the Everglades (part 2)

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Day 5 – Briny fresh.

We woke up feeling grungy and stinky, but left post haste to catch the high tide. Getting stuck in the mud was funny, but once was enough. We managed to find Broad River but until we finally saw river marker #25, we still weren’t sure we were in the right place. All hail river marker #25!

There are three types of camp spots in the Everglades – beach sites (on the Gulf), ground sites (mostly early American Calusa shell mounds), and chickees (open-sided wooden platforms with a roof that is built over water) and they are generally spaced between 15 and 25 kilometres apart. If you take a wrong turn or miss the spot somehow, tying up to a mangrove root and sleeping in the canoe is the probable outcome. Tonight we made it to our planned ground spot. Yahoo!

We saw a huge alligator gliding down the river this evening. At least we think it was an alligator and not a crocodile. One way to tell the difference is that the fourth tooth of a crocodile overlaps it’s lip (if you are close enough to tell, you might already be in a spot of trouble). We took turns using the pail for a body and clothes wash. Briny fresh never felt so good.

Day 6 – Glass water and Gators

The water was like glass today. We paddled past many more alligators sunning themselves or swimming lazily and showing little to no interest in us. None came closer than 15 feet so there was no need to bonk any heads with the paddle. It was a marvellous ride and we arrived at Rogers River Chickee with energy to spare. We feasted on dry deli salami, blue cheese, jalapeño cheddar, and olives with crackers. I must say, Gord’s canoe camping edibles are far superior to my usual hiking fare.

We have only seen a couple of people so far but tonight we are sharing our chickee with two local fishermen, and if you ask Gord, they arrived in the nick of time. I had just caught the biggest, baddest six inch fish in the water wth a rod that didn’t reel in and I was hell bent that we were going to eat it, but Gord was less than eager. The fisherman guys told us that it was a loggerhead catfish and that catching one was locally considered to be a ‘negative one’ and that its quill was poisonous. At that moment its quill was imbedded in my leather glove. Fortunately, it didn’t reach my skin or they said I’d need medical attention. I threw it back in the water and sadly watched our supper swim away. The fishermen also offered us some of their 100% deet saying that “you glow for a couple of days, but it’s the only thing that works on the mosquitoes in the glades”. They slathered it on and probably thought our muscol was drinkable. To the mosquitoes, our muscol might as well have been lemonade.

Day 7 – Paddling scared

The myriad of twists and turns through the canals, islands, and rivers that we needed to cross today felt beyond my ability as chief navigator. And the technology I downloaded to help with navigation was useless, so I am using only the marine charts, a compass, and the odd river trial marker. In the end, I did ok, but we still ended up doing 27 kilometres instead of 20. At one point, we went clear across the wrong bay because a guy in a boat looked like a trail marker. Only once though, were we getting seriously stressed. I knew we’d taken a wrong turn somewhere and found ourselves on the twistiest, turniest, littlest canal on an untraveled waterway. I kept praying that it would end in big water to our left. We would still be off course, but at least then, I would know where we were (according to the charts). But the canal just wasn’t ending. I was acutely aware at that point that no one knew where we were, there were no rangers, and we could reach no one. Images of our bones being found fifty years from now flashed through my mind. We figured we really might be in a bit of a predicament, when all of a sudden, the canal opened up to big water on the left. I gave a whoop of joy and we both breathed a big sigh of relief. Not today buzzards, not today.

Within minutes of our jubilant release into the big bay, 15 consecutive motor boats blasted past us, their wakes driving us sideways and almost swamping us. Maybe it was the pent up emotion of the last couple of hours, but for ages afterwards, I cursed them and raged against their mindless disregard.

We finally put in at Lostmans Bay ground site. Shortly afterwards, I slipped on a cross board and toasted my ankle. The pain is intense if I put weight on it. In any case, the fishermen told us that a bad electrical storm is blowing in tonight, so we are especially grateful to be safe in this sheltered spot and not sleeping in our aluminum canoe!

Stay tuned for the final segment tomorrow.