poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘blueberries

2020 resolution realized!

with 8 comments

In the early days of 2020 I designed a project for myself … to hunt down and organize my older poems. I set a goal to organize the poems into files and to create (and independently publish) three poetry books from three of the files. I had a good start on these books since I had already completed the poems and the illustrations. Some revision work and formatting was left to be done.

The three books are done! I have a new book of poetry published: blueberries and mink – summers on my grandfather’s farm. To order from Amazon, click here


A brief history and description of the three:



In early September, I published ghosts are lonely here, a book of 45 poems and 14 of my original illustrations about abandoned features of the human landscape. If you are fascinated by abandoned houses, bridges, vehicles, churches and so on, you will love these poems. To order a copy from Amazon,


In early December, I published niche, a book of 65 poems and 16 illustrations about the spaces plants and animals, including humans, occupy. With a foreword by my friend, award-winning poet Roger Moore, these are poems about plants and animals in the places where I have lived: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Alberta. To order a copy from Amazon,


Yesturday, I completed my review of the proof of the third and final book in my 2020 series: blueberries and mink – summers on my grandfather’s farm. This book was begun as an exploration of the various buildings on my grandfather’s Nova Scotia farm and evolved to tell the story of change on the farm. It contains some very personal memories of my visits each summer to the farm and my ramblings in the surrounding countryside. The book has 45 poems and includes 26 illustrations. To order a copy from Amazon,


By the end of January, these three books will be available in Westminster Books in Fredericton, or from me directly.


Three new books on my author’s shelf! Hooray!


All my best!


Written by jane tims

December 30, 2020 at 1:00 pm

berries and pears and plums

with 2 comments

I am a multi-tasker. I find it hard to do just one thing. So when I watch TV in the evenings, I read posts on Facebook, knit, sew or draw. Lately, I am practicing with my watercolours. I love working with the ‘wet on wet’ technique. I just touch the brush to the paper and watch the colour flow. So relaxing!




plums jane Tims


pears jane Tims


All my best,

staying home,


Written by jane tims

April 6, 2020 at 7:00 am

more blueberries!

with 4 comments

Tomorrow, Saturday October 22, 2016, I am giving a reading of my book ‘within easy reach’ and a short talk about eating local foods, especially wild plants. The reading will be for a regional meeting of local chapters of the New Brunswick Women’s Institute. Their theme this year is ‘pulses’ and the nutritional benefits of eating beans, lentils, chickpeas and split peas – foods harvested dry – affordable, protein-packed and delicious!


I will be reading poems from my book, taking the Institute members on a tour of local foods – from the forest floor to the field, to the garden and the farmers market, as well as foods grown inside the home kitchen.


I will also have a door prize for my reading, a painting of wild blueberries. ‘Sweet Hurts’ is 5″ X 7″ with gallery edges, done in acrylics using Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Titanium White, Paynes Grey and Burnt Sienna. The name ‘Sweet Hurts’ comes from an alternative name for the Low Sweet Blueberry.



Looking forward to this reading, my fourth this month!


Copyright Jane Tims 2016

Written by jane tims

October 21, 2016 at 3:58 pm

getting ready for fall – blueberries

with 2 comments

Another painting in my series! I could call the collection paintings to illustrate ‘within easy reach’ since each one was inspired by a poem in my book.


Blueberries are probably my favorite berry to pick. This could be because every summer, when my family visited Nova Scotia, we spent a week at my Grandfather’s blueberry farm. I picked blueberries with cousins, siblings and parents. I was never very good at the task but my idea of picking is one for the bucket, two for the mouth, so I guess you now know why I love picking blueberries!


This little painting was fun to do. I was inspired because I had just finished putting together freezer bags of blueberries from a big box we bought at McKay’s Wild Blueberry Farm Stand in Pennfield, New Brunswick (


The painting is 10″ X 10″, gallery edges, acrylics, painted with Ultramarine blue, Cadmium yellow, Cadmium red, Burnt sienna and Titanium white.



August 20, 2016 ‘pick faster’ Jane Tims


And, to accompany the painting, another sampling from the poems in my book ‘within easy reach’. My book of poems and drawings is available from my publisher



pick faster

for Dad


blue ripens as morning, deft fingers

noisy pails, hail on metal gutters

this bush spent, unsatisfactory

berries over there fatter



I am certain I see, beside mine

my father’s hands, callused

and quick


berries roll between

thumb and fingers

I try to meet

his expectation


pick faster




within easy reach, Chapel Street Editions, 2016

Copyright 2016 Jane Tims

small scale economy – picking berries

with 6 comments


'five blue berries'


small-scale economy


my box of berries spilled

on the footpath,

between leaves

of Kalmia and wintergreen

hawkweed and cow pies


the cousins, their boxes brimming,

stood gawking, dismayed,

I was certain they were thinking

dumb city girl, spilled her berries

box only half full anyway


instead, they gathered around me

sympathy in every hand

scooped most of the berries

into the box

added a few from nearby bushes


seventeen cents he paid me

half the value of a box at full

the cousins had picked a crate or more,

remembered the wasted berries, left on the trail

and wept at the loss



Published as: ‘small scale economy’, Canadian Stories 16 (94), December 2013/ January 2014

Copyright 2014 Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

March 24, 2014 at 7:14 am

competition for space

with 9 comments

One of the discouraging aspects of our lake property is how fast everything grows.  In 2005, we bought 7 1/2 acres of field…

in 2012, we have 7 1/2 acres of alders and young trees…

I actually like the lush vegetation and we intend to always keep the forest of trees down by the lake, to help protect the lake environment.  But we humans need a little room to move!!!  Although we knew we would eventually have more trees than field, we always thought we’d be able to:

  1. keep the road and turning area at the lake end of the property clear of weeds and wide enough for a vehicle
  2. keep the area around the camp clear
  3. have some trails for walking and access to the various parts of the property
  4. keep our blueberries – they have trouble competing with the taller vegetation
  5. begin to groom some specific groves of maple and birch
  6. keep a small area of field so I can watch the grasses blowing in the wind.

The farmer next door was willing, for a price, to continue bush-hogging the area, just as he had done for years.  But there were trees and various herbaceous species we wanted to keep, so we bravely set out to manage things on our own.

For me, that means snipping away with my shears.  I get tired/bored very easily, so I am not much help.  I mostly spend my time discovering new plants to protect and putting wooden stakes up to mark their position!

me with trimmers and marking plants with stakes

My husband has tried to keep back the growth with his bush-saw, and last year he was able to keep the road clear and even cut a new trail to access our blackberries.  But progress is slow and within a few weeks, the alders, saplings and weeds have all grown back!

Finally, we became so discouraged, we began to think of alternatives.  In the last two years, we have tried pulling the alders and I planted beans in the holes left all over the place.   The deer really enjoyed my bean plants!

Now, we have the solution.  We bought a rough mower that pulls behind the ATV.  It is awesome!  My husband has fun and is able to make huge progress.  In just a couple of days, we have our road clear, there is a labyrinth of trails where we can walk, we have trimmed a selection of blueberry patches and we have our turning area restored at the lake end of the property.   Notice the use of the word ‘we’, although my husband does all the work!

our new Agri-Fab Rough Cut Mower, designed for use behind an ATV

You can see the before and after shots of the road trimming in the three photos below.  What you can’t see in the middle photo is the smile on my husband’s face as he mows!  He was able to trim, in a few minutes, the trail it took him days to cut with the bush-saw last year.

Now, my husband can use his bush-saw time to work on his groves of maple and birch.

the first path cut by the new mower, to the right of the road

The only problem so far has been the hawthorns.  We had a very flat tire on the mower after the first day.  The man who fixed it said it looked like a porcupine on the inside, it had been punctured by so many thorns!  Now, we are having each tire filled with foam!

5 cm thorns on the Hawthorn easily punctured the mower tires

©  Jane Tims   2012

Written by jane tims

August 22, 2012 at 7:24 am


with 18 comments

I love blueberries and so I am very happy – our blueberries are blue and ready for the picking at our summer property.

There are two ways to pick blueberries, with your hands…

or with a rake…

My husband bought me my rake years ago, so I use it when there are lots of berries and most are ripe.  There is a bit of a knack to harvesting with a rake.  The ripe blueberries are loosened and captured with the tines of the rake.  The basic technique is to sweep the surface of the bushes, tipping the rake upward as you sweep, since the ripe berries fall into a tine-less part of the pan.  The experience of raking berries is very different from picking.  The process is less calm, although you do get into a rhythm.  Also, the tines of the rake vibrate as you sweep, making a lovely musical sound!

We compared the yields between picking and raking, and we get about five times as many berries per unit effort with the rake (I am sure professional rakers do much better than this).  The rake gets lots of leaves and debris along with the berries, so the time saved in raking instead of picking is lost in the cleaning (in a professional operation, the debris is removed with fans or another sorting method).

Although we have lots of berries on the property, they are getting fewer each year because the growth of other vegetation crowds the blueberry bushes.  But we have a backup plan!

We also travel to the southern part of the province where the berries are in full production this time of year.  Our preferred place to get blueberries by the box or by the pie is in Pennfield, at McKay’s Wild Blueberry Farm Stand.

We eat most of our own blueberries almost immediately.  They also freeze very well.  Our favorite way to use the berries is by making Blueberry Dumplings.


Blueberry Dumplings

two to three cups of fresh blueberries
1/2 cup of water
2 tbsp. of sugar (more if you prefer a sweeter dish)

Bring the berries, sugar and water to a boil.

When the mixture is bubbling, turn down the heat.


1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. of shortening, cut into the flour/baking powder mixture
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup milk

Mix well and add by spoonfuls to the top of the cooking blueberries.

Cover the pan tightly with a lid (otherwise, you will have a blue-spattered stove).

Cook at low for about 12-15 minutes or until dumplings are fluffy and done in the middle.




raking blueberries


the sweep of the rake, the berry

touch, the ring of the tines

vibrato in blue, duet with the wind

in the whispering  pines



©  Jane Tims  2012

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.

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

the ideal property

with 4 comments

A few years ago, my younger brother lived in New Brunswick for a while and we were able to see him and my sister-in-law quite often.  We had some great times, camping one weekend on Grand Manan, watching Survivor together, seeing their terrific Christmas decorations, and just visiting.

One of the weekends I remember well was our drive to see their new property along the St. John River.  Although they eventually sold the property, it remains one of the best plots of land I have ever seen.  My poem will tell you why!



Land For Sale



two acres

one of cleared field

one of woods

silver maple, curly fern, rocky shore

transparent water and wobbling waves

an island over there

(conservation land)

(no buildings to intercept

the view)


plans manifest

the house here

the driveway    a garden    a gate

a path through the maples

to the shore and a dock

two good-natured chairs

turned toward one another

skating in January     bonfires in July

promising neighbours

reasonable price


and the clincher?

the deal maker?

the heart breaker?

a crooked bush

with five fat blueberries

ready to pick


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 2011

Written by jane tims

November 14, 2011 at 6:27 am

an afternoon in the blueberry field

with one comment

blueberries ripening

One of my favourite places to be is a blueberry field.  Nothing is better than lying on your back between islands of blueberry bushes, watching clouds build in the sky and munching on newly picked blueberries.

When I was young, I spent lots of time picking blueberries with my Dad, in the pasture behind my grandfather’s farm.  I can still see his hands deftly stripping berries from each branch, and hear the staccato ripple of berries filling his pail.  My picking was considerably slower and less productive.  In my pail, the berries spoke in single plinks, each separated by several seconds of silence.

Later, when I was a teenager, I went once with my Mom to pick blueberries on our neighbour’s hillside.  My berry picking skills had not improved and I know I ate more than I picked.  But how I wish I could spend, just one more time, that afternoon with my Mom, picking blueberries on a sun-washed hill.

Today, I pick blueberries every summer, in the field near our cottage. Since I am usually the only one picking, I now aim to be efficient.  Sometimes I use my blueberry rake to strip the berries from the branches, quickly and with little waste.  Of course, this means picking through the berries by hand, removing leaves and other debris.  But the ripe berries are still blue and sweet, and plump with the warmth and fragrance of August.

This poem is in remembrance of my Mom and our afternoon of picking blueberries:


Bitter Blue

of all the silvery summer days we spent   none so warm   sun on

granite boulders   round blue berry field  miles across hazy miles

away from hearing anything but bees

and berries

plopping in the pail

beside you   I draped my lazy bones on bushes   crushed berries and

thick red leaves over moss dark animal trails nudged between rocks

baking berries brown   musk rising to meet blue heat

or the still fleet scent

of a waxy berry bell

melting in my mouth   crammed with fruit   sometimes pulled from

laden stems   more often scooped from your pail full ripe blue pulp

and the bitter shock of a hard green berry never ripe

or a shield bug

with frantic legs

and an edge to her shell

Published as: ‘Bitter Blue’, Summer 1993, The Amethyst Review 1 (2)

© Jane Tims

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.

Written by jane tims

July 31, 2011 at 9:36 am

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