poetry and prose about place

from the pages of an old diary – blueberries and other local foods

with 13 comments

My new writing project, ‘growing and gathering’, focuses on local foods and finding food close to home.

A source of information and inspiration for me is the set of my great-aunt’s diaries, written from 1943 to 1972.  From her diaries, I have a very good idea of how they obtained their food, and how they used local foods to supplement their needs.

Most of their food was obtained from the grocery store – in 1957, there was at least one grocery store in the community, and by 1967, they had an IGA.  There is no doubt some goods came from ‘away’.   For example, my great-aunt wrote about making coconut and pineapple squares for a Women’s Missionary Society meeting (Sept. 30, 1957).

Local goods, however. were used whenever possible.  For example, my great-aunt bought eggs from her sister, and chickens from her brother.  She also obtained vegetables and raspberries from her brother’s farm, apples from friends and relatives, deer meat from friends and relatives, and lobsters from Wallace, a near-by community.   By 1967, my great-aunt and great-uncle also kept a garden at her brother’s farm, a few miles away.

Obtaining local foods included picking local berries.  In July and August of 1957, my great-aunt went four times for wild blueberries.  Her gratitude and pleasure at getting these berries comes through in her words:  ‘ got quite a few’ (July 31, 1957) and ‘got a nice lot.’ (Aug. 21, 1957).  She also wrote about picking grapes and currants.

Some of the berries were eaten right away – for example, my great-aunt made a blueberry pie on August 1, 1957.  The rest was preserved for the winter.  On August 16, 1957 my great-aunt put up 5 quarts of blueberries, to supplement the applesauce, pears, peaches, sweet cucumber pickles, and tomato chow she mentions preparing on other days.  Others in the family also made preserves and shared them with her – in 1967, her nephew (my uncle) brought her three bottles of peach, apple and choke cherry jelly he had made.



an offering of berries


she stands on the stoop

offers a box

a brimming pint

of berries


I take her hand, we ripple

through the pasture, strew

blue ribbons over bushes, stir

a blueberry jelly sky, dance

with dragonflies


she waits on the stoop

her brow a riddle, please

take this gift, blueberries

in a simple






1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

©  Jane Tims  2012

13 Responses

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  1. In the small town I grew up in, an IGA was the only local grocery store. Interesting how our lives have changed over the decades!


    Watching Seasons

    April 26, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    • Hi Tracy. I think we have had huge changes in our lifetime. It makes you wonder what the next generation will experience. Jane


      jane tims

      April 27, 2012 at 6:30 am

  2. “…a blueberry jelly sky…” Love that, Jane. ♥

    Blueberries are my favorite fruit. My first job, many years ago when I was 9 years old, was picking blueberries in the fields. I think I ate more than I picked at times. Eating them was one of the perks of the job. 😀



    April 23, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    • I also love blueberries. I expect to have about fifty poems about blueberries in my ‘growing and gathering’ collection. Jane


      jane tims

      April 24, 2012 at 6:58 am

  3. Thanks for reminding me of how wonderful the wild gathered foods were when I was young–wild blueberries, black raspberries, blackberries, wild cherries, wild asparagus , . ,



    April 19, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    • Hi Sheryl. One of the wild foods my Mom used to gather was ‘dandelion greens’. I am going to try some this weekend. I have never seen wild asparagus. Jane


      jane tims

      April 20, 2012 at 7:20 am

      • My family also gathered dandelion greens–and in recent years my husband and I have begun to gather them again. When I was a child I really disliked them–now I relish them.



        April 20, 2012 at 8:11 am

  4. Summer is a coming in! Great stuff Jane.



    April 19, 2012 at 10:55 am

  5. ‘stir a blueberry jelly sky..’ How luscious and beautiful! Kathleen


  6. Yummmm… Nothing quite like “a brimming pint of berries” in the summer! So many local treats to enjoy…


    Barbara Rodgers

    April 18, 2012 at 10:53 am

    • Hi. Makes me want summer to come even more. The season unfolds quickly, so I have lots of work and berry picking to do! Jane


      jane tims

      April 18, 2012 at 5:14 pm

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