Our cranberry patch- Fairbanks AK
September 2016; (64°53’40″N 147°47’43″W)
Done from memory since I was busy picking berries at the time
Background: This is the cranberry patch my husband’s parents took him to when he was a kid and we now take our kids up, usually several times each fall. We hit the patch pretty late in the game this year and so didn’t get as much as we usually do, which saddens me. Several new-ish houses have been put up in the area, but most still can’t be seen from the patch. This variety of ‘cranberry’ is known more formally as ‘lingonberry’ and you should ask Wikipedia about it.
Tastes- tart, bright flavor of the fresh berries I keep sneaking nibbles of (note: lingonberries are slightly sweeter than true cranberries); super cold water from the water bottle;
Smells- wet fallen leaves; damp dirt; green smells of trees and brush; the clean rot of a nearby woodpile from when the powerline was put in years and years ago; the less-clean stink of what is most likely my toddler’s fouled diaper; damp in the air;
Feels- damp cold seeping in through the jacket, biting at the tip of my nose and ears, along the ridge of my cheeks; fingers starting to go numb (they’re always the first to go);
Sounds- chitchat between my husband and my older boys; the mumbled commands of my grandfather to my toddler; a very slight breeze rocking the crowns of the aspen overhead; every now and then we can hear a car driving somewhere further down the hill;
Sights- long shadows as the sun sets, woods starting to get dim; the lights are starting to come on in the few houses we can see from the patch; a narrow dirt path between aspen trees and scant patches of wild rose; the aspen are tall and thin, white pocked with black, with a handful of leaves still clinging stubbornly to its branches; the path is ribbed with tree roots and scattered with fresh fallen leaves, brown and yellow and streaked with faint green; the ground on either side is carpeted in the dark green of the cranberry; cranberry plants are very low to the ground, mostly less than a finger’s height, with less-than-pinky-finger sized leaves and clusters of dark red berries; but the berries are few this late in the year, mostly picked over at this point; the plants are speckled with fallen leaves and follow the shape of the ground below them, rising in ridges, dropping in shallow hollows; the patch follows the trail for several yards, and is less than a stone’s throw wide; on one side, the patch drops off in a sharp ridge of just a few feet down to the road; on the other side, it meets a low wooden fence to someone’s property and continues some ways in there as well; my husband and my older boys are off between the trees, bent diligently to the ground, stripping berries and putting them into assorted yogurt bins and Tupperware; my grandfather and my toddler are wandering along the trail, occasionally picking and mostly snacking
Worries- I knelt in a hornet’s nest here a couple years ago while pregnant and was stung five times and lost all my berries. Hoping to avoid a repeat.