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Tales from the dump: Berry picking is the one true exercise

Picking Lingonberries can be a whole new form of exercise, if you really get into it. Some people think it will be easy, picking a few berries here or there but it can be a lot more difficult than people realize, particularly when you are going for volume.

You can walk around and bend over to pick them but try doing that for a few hours and your back is going to get mighty sore. Or you can sit and pick around you. But once you have picked what you can reach you either have to get up and move over a metre or two or put your hand on the ground, push your butt off the ground and slide over. Sounds simple enough until you have slid yourself around for a couple hundred metres. Believe me, a few hours of picking can be a good work out. It is a combination of yoga, stretching, reaching, tai chi and hand and eye coordination, all rolled into one.

Tales from the Dump

Also, there is always a really good clump of berries, just out of reach, that you reach for anyway. Possibly lying flat on the ground so you can reach a little farther. You become a bit of a contortionist, stretching to the maximum. The berries clump looks so inviting, big and round, you just have to get it. But when you do, and they are in your hand, they really don't like that much different from the other thousands you have picked.

Then you see some other prime berries to pick and so you slide in that direction and spill a bunch of berries out of your bag in the process. Ah, the joys of berry picking. Then when you are done you have to carry all the berries out and they may be small but a bag of them can weigh a fair bit. So, to me, berry picking counts as an extreme form of exercise, in the great out of doors.

Now imagine you are looking for a good berry patch to pick between the outcrop and the forest proper. You find one you like. Oh Boy. Oh Boy. Then while scanning it you notice a big bear poop, right in the middle of it. That will probably get you heart beating a little faster, which is a good workout for your cardiovascular system. What a rush. The normal human instinct will be to stop right where you are and quickly scan the area in panic mode, just in case the bear is still around guarding its pooh spot or what it might consider to be its berry patch.

Some novices may immediately turn around and leave the area saying, "Oh my God, there are bears in the woods." Well of course there are. It's their woods too and even if you do not see bear pooh or sign, you should always assume that there may be a bear or two wandering around. I have heard of some people who stop berry picking entirely for the rest of their lives because they saw a single bear pooh in the berry patch, once upon a time. This seems a little extreme. Even to leave the area because of one pooh is a bit much.

Don't panic. This is where your bush smarts and your powers of observation come into play. Is the bear pooh, still steaming and warm to the touch? If it is, the bear is probably closer than you want. If not, well then, the bear could be anywhere. How old does the pooh look? Usually a bear pooh will last for two or three years before it disintegrates entirely and becomes just another part of the forest floor. So, does this look a few days, weeks or months old? The older it is the less is your worry. You could bag the pooh and take it home as a souvenir or to examine it closer to see what the bear was eating.

You could think of this, as a really good sign. A lucky omen. It was also nice of the bear to help fertilize the berry patch. Now speaking of critter pooh when you are picking, you may come across some rabbit or hare pellets. The pellets are kind of cute. I knew an old timer, who used to put one into each bag of berries he picked. It was sort of his trademark. It was also there so if anyone stole one of his bags, he could track them down and prove it was his. That's a novel idea.

So, while berry picking, look around. You can learn a whole lot about how the forest and the berries grow.