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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Over the River and Through the Woods

Birch Trees in the Forest

Berry picking is a national pastime during the summer in Russia. This is done not for recreation as much as survival food for the coming winter. Russian people go to the local forests and gather wild strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and other assorted fruit. While we were in Vacha we were asked if we would like to go the forest and gather strawberries. Of course we said yes, and off we went. First there was a 10 minute bus ride towards the forest, then we walked through a small village and down a long gravel road which led off into the countryside. On either side of us we could see rolling hills covered with oats, planted by the collective farm. Behind us, in the distance the village and the tower of the local Orthodox Church building were visible.

We walked about a mile and then cut through an oat field into the forest. Once in the forest you could hear the wind rustling through the tall birch trees as they swayed in the breeze. The forest floor was covered in small wild strawberry plants and everywhere you looked there were glints of red through the undergrowth.

We quickly settled into the rhythm of gathering. Bend, pick, drop into the basket, over and over again. While this might sound idyllic and romantic we soon realized that we were being served for lunch to the local mosquitoes and flies. The biting wasn’t so bad, but the constant buzz was certainly irritating and annoying.

We gathered berries for about four hours. By the time we were finished our backs and hips ached from all the stretching and bending, but we were blessed to be able to bless others with winter supply.
Karen Gathering Berries

Oxana, Karen and Marina

The Fruit of our Labor

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