I was walking through the grocery store the other day, when I noticed a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. She was standing in the check-out line; I went over and said "hello."
She wasted no time on irrelevant chit-chat (like "hi, how are you?").
"Have you been cranberry picking this year?"
"Yep," says I. "Last weekend."
"And . . . ?"
"And I don’t think we were the first people to hit the berry patch. We only got half a zip-loc."
She pursed her lips, shook her head. "No, no, it’s just like that this year. The berries aren’t where you expect them."
"Well, I thought I saw some evidence others had already been there: broken mushrooms and footprints in the lichen where someone had been walking."
She shook her head again. "No. It’s the berries. They probably weren’t there in the first place."
The conveyor belt whisked her groceries toward the till, and I moved on.
Later in the day, I had an appointment with my massage therapist. After the customary "where does it hurt?" conversation, she got straight to the point.
"Have you been berry picking this year?"
"And . . . ?"
"And when we found berries they were great: clusters of beautiful burgundy fruit, just like little grapes," says I. "But I think I chose a spot too close to town – someone beat us to it."
More of the lip-pursing and head-shaking. "No, no. It’s just like that this year. The berries aren’t where they usually are. We went to our favourite spot and . . . nada."
"Then where are they?"
She waved a hand. "Somewhere else."
So there you have it. Something strange is going on with the cranberries around Yellowknife this year. We all had high hopes. This summer’s weather was perfect for a bumper crop: long hot days, lots of rain at nights. And as noted above, when you find the berries, they’re great. It’s just that they are surprisingly elusive. Is this a permanent shift? Will we all have to find new preferred picking spots? Are the berries going to settle in their new locations for the long-term, or will they be migrating to different locations every year? We await the answers . . .
(Photo above was taken in 2002, a much better year for cranberries.)