Jun. 19th, 2017

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Fear of losing blueberry growers as prices drop, crop soars

It’s blueberry season in much of the eastern U.S. Patrick Whittle of the AP does a great job summarizing the threat to Maine’s “wild” blueberry farmers. After the phenomenal national boom in blueberry consumption this decades, expansion of blueberry production (i.e. these aren’t pet rocks; “production” means farms and farms means real, live farmers), coupled with a ridiculously low Canadian dollar ($0.75 US) has resulted in falling prices. Farmers are hurting, and some will face the cost of pulling out blueberry fields and trying to replace them with something else. 

Maine’s blueberries aren’t like the ones you see in stores. The low bush plants, contemporary and productive cultivars of native wild stock, are in commercial use in Maine and adjacent Canadian areas. I’ve had no luck growing them but may try again. The berries are small and delicious. The ones you see in stores or U-Pick operations are usually larger, grow on “high bush” plants up to six feet in height, and too often are rather bland, at least to my taste. The Maine varieties are marketed almost exclusively as frozen and are very popular for baked goods.

So what caught my interest? 1.) The story went national this week and was covered by ABC, the Washington Post, and as the headline link above shows, Tucson’s Arizona Daily Star. Really. I imagine southern Arizona readers are sitting on the edge of their seats over this one. 2.) The topic began its coverage three months ago in Maine. I’m guessing some editor decided to wait until it was blueberry season in South Carolina and the food sections were full of blueberry recipes. 3.) Blueberries, the highbush variety, are a big thing among specialty crops here in western Washington. Acreage also dramatically expanded in the past 10 to 15 years. I’ve not heard it discussed here yet, but the price drops will in time affect this crop as well.

Note about the image: “Blueberries for Sal,” written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey in the late ‘40s has remained in print for almost 70 years. It remains one of the best read aloud picture books in children’s lit. It features low bush Maine blueberries.
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Ha, and @bachfan reblogged with the tags too– Music has always been such an important part of human society, but since the era of recorded music, its role has changed a lot. And now we listen to it, rather than performing it, and our expectations of what it should sound like and what role it serves are so markedly different. I think about this a lot.

I first began to practice singing as a purely functional thing– our horses were aggressive when they heard the metal feed bin, so I started singing loudly the whole time I was out with them, so that they couldn’t hear the feed bin over me, and I sang the whole time so they wouldn’t associate singing with food either. Now I sing for the various little kids in my life, and the little ones don’t know the difference between technically proficient and sort of not, but once they’re older, they start to notice, and start to critique, and start to be embarrassed. I know I got embarrassed about my mother’s singing around then, and wouldn’t let her.

I studied singing in high school, and then tried to study vocal performance in college but they were really rude to me in my audition and basically told me it would be a waste of time for me to do that, so I never have auditioned for anything again and haven’t performed except for the odd national anthem or little traditional seisun or whatever since then. (Notice a theme? People love to tell me I shouldn’t do creative or artistic things; I went from being a prolific artist and vocal performer to doing neither by the time I was a freshman in college, because so many authority figures were so invested in telling me I shouldn’t. I’m sure I’ve been told not to waste my time writing, and Lord knows I internalized it, but it wasn’t enough to stop the compulsion.) 

But I’ve always wanted to sing, and it’s a thing humans do, and I don’t understand why I must have perfect pitch and good sight-reading and crystal-clear tone and a microphone-ready vocal persona in order to just sing songs. I have phenomenal by-ear learning skills and am really good at transpositions and have a great memory and a huge repertoire of songs I know cold and can perform without any backup or prompting, but none of those are things that Real Singers have or need, so I may as well never open my mouth. ??? It’s very weird, where we are as a society. (And there are almost no contexts where I feel not-awkward singing with other people present; people get weird about it. I only sing when I’m alone, now, or with very small children.)

 If you’re not pro-quality, you shouldn’t bother doing it. Alternately, if you’re not writing your own material, there’s nowhere you’re going to go. I don’t want to make a living at this, i just like to sing sometimes, and there’s so little space left in our society for someone who’s tolerably skilled at something doing it for fun. 

I remember sitting around a fire with a guitar, as an adolescent, and we were trying to have a singalong, and everyone present just wanted to wait for their turn to perform, or wanted to make requests, or whatever– nobody just wanted to participate. Even at SCA things, people just want to perform. And at sessions! People wouldn’t sing along with me, and others got upset if I sang along with them.

I’d join a church choir, but I haven’t found a church I don’t hate, so. 
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replied to your



I have a lot of feels about ‘functional singing’…

Your music feels are my music feels. I’m always taken aback when I find out someone I know has a good voice but never uses it except for the odd karaoke or campfire. People used to be just good at stuff like art and music without it being capitalized on or a demand of it being for others’ enjoyment.

And like, the counterpoint I guess– if you’re good at it, people get all weird when you do it. I sometimes sing purposely badly– not like, obnoxiously so, but like, no support and quietly and throttled back and unobtrusive, not like in a choir but like, just trying not to sound like much– when called upon for things like the birthday song etc., because if you really sing out and you’re good at it, people are like “oh you’re really good and should be professional” and then they treat it like you’re performing and sit and watch you and hush each other and like… that wasn’t… what I was trying… to do either… It even happens to me at singing sessions. I stopped going to the one I liked, because of a couple little incidents where I feel like I made not-very-good singers self-conscious– joining in to sing along with a song I know is not me trying to upstage someone, that’s not how sessions work, right?– and in the end, the woman who wanted to be in charge of the session did some extremely standard I Liked It Better When I Was The Only Girl moves on me, and I just didn’t have the patience to do more than blithely pretend to take her at her word on various things (including whispering to me that I needed to wrap it up after one verse and not take up too much time while I was in the midst of said first verse, and another time, actually flinching at my first note because, as she’d told me, the proper method of performing wasn’t to sing so loud, you see, it’s just not proper, even if you’re in a loud bar and nobody can hear each other– seriously though who fucking flinches) so that was the end of that.

Just. it’s not like. jealousy, usually. It’s just, oh, you can sing, and everyone gets odd about it. 



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