Chapter 39: Berry Picking
Volume 1 — The Temporary Snow Country Life of the Northern Nobleman and the Raptor Wife
70% of this country is covered with forests, that people live silently as a part of nature.
When the world is no longer in the silver shade of winter, the soft breeze gently caresses one’s cheeks and brings forth a warm world of green.
Once it’s summer, the women of the village are busy picking berries. Everyone brings big baskets and goes out to pick those precious berries.
There is an abundance of berries in the forest. It is said that there are dozens of different species of berries.
Today, I roved through the forest with Sieg. We first arrived at a place that had purple berries.
“This is famous, so you know this one, right?”
Of the world-famous berries, three kinds are in our forest.
Blueberry shrubs are a little shorter than where our knees are. They are thriving on the ground. So it’s a little hard trying to pick them while squatting down.
“Now then, let’s start!”
We started picking berries.
We only picked the ripe ones. Unlike other fruits, berries do not ripen even after they are picked. We have to wait for unripe ones to become ripe on the tree. So we have to take care when piking the berries.
It’s possible to tell if a blueberry is ripe or not by checking the stalk. If it’s purple, then it’s ripe. If it’s red, it’s not yet ripe.
Unripe blueberries are acrid, bitter and sour so they’re not fit for eating. People who don’t know when it’s supposed to be harvested sometimes think that blueberries are supposed to taste like that.
The fully ripe ones are really sweet and tasty. How the blueberry easily comes off is also a sign that it’s ripe.
About thirty minutes later, a basket was filled.
When I stood up and stretched, I felt fatigued. There’s still a lot more to do, but I was already like this. I looked at Sieg as I massaged my back, but she looked composed.
“……Berry picker, I should have bought them this year.”
“There are things like that?”
“Ah, you don’t have that over there.”
I picked berries every year, but I remembered that other countries didn’t have this.
The berry picker is a fantastic tool, which is used by raking the plant to pick off the berries. Though it picks off unripe berries too, so it’s not all that good thought.
“Now then, shall we continue on?”
I picked up the good full of berries and walked on.
While walking through the forest, we have to be careful of our surroundings. If we are in the territory of carnivorous animals like bears, lynxes and wolverines, we have to leave immediately. I walked on while checking the scratch marks on tree barks and animal tracks.
“There aren’t many lynxes (ilves) now. I can’t find any of them now.”
“There were poachers overhunting large cats, so in my grandfather’s generation they moved the army and put stricter regulations on.”
Since they’re not extinct, I can sometimes see some tracks of lynxes.
I saw the real thing a few times when I was young. They’re very wary, so they don’t come out when there’s people holding guns. However, because they’re carnivorous animals, I am wary of them. There’s no telling what they might do if they’re hungry.
“Rather than the lynxes, wolverines are most dangerous.”
Wolverines are omnivorous animals of the weasel family. They’re very fierce, so we at the village are very wary of them. They have sharp claws and fangs, in addition to a very strong jaw.
It sometimes even attempts to hunt larger animals when it gets desperate, so they’re dangerous.
While we were talking about those things, we arrived at the place where our next berries grew.
There were semi-transparent red berries on a shrub that reached up to our waist.
“These are redcurrants.”
“The ones that are used for the sauce.”
Redcurrants taste sour. They’re usually used for making sauce on meat. They’re boiled and preserved, or made into jams to please our taste buds.
Again, we picked them in silence.
They were small, so it was tough filling up a basket.
“Ah, right! I have something I want to show you.”
I was feeling tired, but when I thought of that I suddenly felt much better. I grabbed Sieg’s hand and went further into the forest.
At the clearing there were blooming white flowers. Also called ‘star of the forest’, the seven pointy petals are characteristic of this flower.
The flower itself is small, and the leaves are more noticeable, but they’re lovely flowers. I remember mother getting very pleased when I picked those and brought them to her.
Sieg sat down and watched the flower. I too laid down the baskets and lied down on the grass.
“It’s a fragile flower.”
Sieg seemed to like it, nodding to herself.
While keeping my wife in my line of sight, I looked around.
I could see plentiful greenery in the birch trees. It was vastly different from the frozen scenery of winter.
It was also a season where all the plants of nature glistened from the sunlight. Here people called the forest from summer to autumn ‘green gold’. The blessings of nature are a national treasure.
“——So, it is my favourite season.”
Picking berries and mushrooms in the forests, fishing in the river. Preparing the farms for winter, and eating meat. There are only special days.
During the white nights, when the sun does not set, I get very excited. It’s very different compared to the depressing polar nights.
Like this, the relaxing summer days pass smoothly every day.
“Winter’s hectic, what with all the hunting and the polar night.”
“But I like winter too.”
Sieg sat down next to me.
She then talked about the winter.
The ever stretching vast white plains felt otherworldly, and the crisp air felt good.
The morning of the polar night, when everything was shrouded in blue was breathtakingly beautiful.
The blue foxfires (auroras) at night beckoned one to a mystical world.
After saying that, Sieg lied down and looked at my face.
“the blue and white world of winter here”
……Why are you saying that to my face!?
From Sieg’s words, my heart beat so fast yet it was disappointed so quickly, that I felt both heaven and hell.
“When I look at Ritz, I relive that memory very much.”
“We were always together.”
“Ah, maybe that’s why.”
When she was travelling through the endless snowy plains, when she saw the foxfires in the morning, I was always there. It could be that my presence there was swept away by the scenery.
“My favourite colours are white and blue.”
“You asked before, right? My favourite colour.”
I didn’t think that a question that I asked months ago would be answered back now.
I see, so Sieg likes white and blue, huh?
That moment when I learned of Sieg’s preferences, the sky turned strange.
It was perfectly clear just then. I almost want to complain.
“Let’s start going back soon. Looks like it will start raining.”
While carrying the baskets full of berries, we came out of the forest with quick footsteps.
After getting home, I gave some blueberries to Ruruporon and asked her to bake some snacks with those.
Around lunchtime, the raindrops started falling.
While listening to the rain, I sat in the office and did some simple work involving signing documents. Sieg too was doing something of her own.
As we were spending this peaceful afternoon, Ruruporon brought snacks.
“Uwa, looks great!”
She made a special blueberry pie.
Called ‘mustikkapiirakka’ in our language, this confectionary has sour cream, sugar, eggs and blueberries mixed as the filling.
The outside is crispy, and the inside is soft. The sweet flavour of blueberry adds a nice touch to the whole thing.
Though I usually don’t ask for confectionary, this time I specially asked Ruruporon because Sieg was here. But because it was much better than I had expected, I too felt very satisfied.
Such was the story of a satisfying afternoon.
Ritz can be very dense. Sieg said her favourite colour is white and blue while looking at Ritz.
Here’s our berry picking couple: