“This abundance of berries feels like a pure gift from the land …You could call them natural resources or ecosystem services, but the Robins and I know them as gifts.”-Robin Wall Kimmerer
Spring is inching its way toward the Eastern UP. It’s a mild April and puddles replaced snow piles. Birdsongs fill the air, crocus flowers push through mud, and grouse drum.
The small, fall-planted trees—tamaracks and white pines—along the farm’s border have survived. But it’s one tiny tree back at our house that I’m watching closely.
We planted a couple young Saskatoon (Serviceberry) trees last year. In late summer my wife and I enjoyed a harvest of one berry each. It was a damn good berry.
The trees, which can grow a couple dozen feet in height, have become a pet project for me at the farm, starting with 100 Saskatoon saplings this spring.
Their white blossoms are an early sign of spring, and their berries—which look like a blueberry but taste a but nuttier—are delicious. Birds and pollinators agree. In her essay, An Economy of Abundance, Robin Wall Kimmerer describes this “gift relationship”—the berries fill the birds bellies, and they poop out the berry seeds, giving Saskatoons a chance to expand their growth.
“Without gift relationships with bees and birds, Serviceberries would disappear from the planet.”
We want to welcome the birds and the pollinators to Three Dogs Seed Farm not only for the sake of the Saskatoon trees, but for the sake of our farm and our individual health. After staring at a screen all day, sitting amongst the birds and bugs will do wonders for you. “All flourishing is mutual,” as Kimmerer writes.
There’s also an uninhibitedness associated with berries. To pick wild berries is to have scratched hands, crawling near the forest floor; to eat one for every three you throw in the bucket; to meander around trees in summer sun with friends and stained fingers.
It’s a reminder that packaged, processed snack foods can never rival nature’s sweet desserts.
Our farm’s first batch of Saskatoons arrive later this month. In scouting where to plant them I’m thinking about sun, dirt, and moisture.
But I’m also daydreaming about nieces, nephews, parents, grandparents, siblings —and our extended family of waxwings, robins, grosbeaks, bumblebees—all gathered around these gift-giving trees.