Saskatoons are in full bloom, a promise of tasty pies

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, June 9, 2010

Rick Gelowitz checks out the saskatoon blossoms at his Solstice Berry Farm north of Cochrane in anticipation of great pies to come. Photos by Warren Harbeck

This past weekend I had a foretaste of great pies to come. In fact, I can almost smell them baking and savour them hot-out-of-the-oven served with a scoop of ice cream.

First, however, let me share some of the wonderful responses I’ve received over the past two weeks.

About last week’s column on Water Valley woodworker Rob Brandt and his skill in converting deadwood into fine walking sticks, coffee companion Jeanne Hammer, of Calgary, wrote:

“It never ceases to amaze me how we go on walks, step over and on twigs, branches and tree trunks, and never think a thing about it. Then along comes someone who sees the beauty in all this and turns it into a wonderful piece of art.”

To this Helen Hare, of Oakville, Ont., added:

“Rob Brandt is obviously following in the steps of the one Master, fixing the most broken stuff – wonder if he sees himself in that light – and the fact that he creates canes or staffs, emulating the Creator who gives all of us the staff that keeps us upright.”

Sometimes we ourselves are the “broken stuff” that needs fixing, as Calgary reader Annette Stanwick noted in her response to my May 26 column on Vietnam War veteran Bruce Riddle and his photography and poetry.

“I was touched deeply by the beautiful photographs you shared, but then as I read what you wrote about Bruce, I wept. His words are so meaningful, his compassion and connection with animals is deep and trusting. He must be a special person,” Annette said.

“He reminds me so much of my brother Soren Cornforth, who was also a Vietnam U.S. Army veteran. He returned from Vietnam a scarred and emotionally wounded man from the unspeakable things he experienced.

“Soren was tough, yet he also had a deep tenderness and wonderful heart, along with a wonderful way with words. He could write beautiful poetry so easily.

“At times he was misunderstood because he reacted quickly and harshly due to the pain of his past. I've met many veterans who have experienced deep wounds, emotional scars and memories that haunt them, longing for peace.”

Annette concluded with the hope that she can be of some help to such veterans through her book, Forgiveness: the Mystery and Miracle. The book is an account of the murder of Soren, a long-haul truck driver after his war years, and her journey toward forgiving his murderers. (See my column of July 9, 2008.)

Let me return now to this past weekend and the promise of pies – saskatoon berry pies, to be exact.

My wife Mary Anna and I accepted an invitation from Rick and Marsha Gelowitz to visit Solstice Berry Farm, their U-pick operation 20 minutes north of Cochrane near Dogpound. Their saskatoon bushes were in full bloom, Rick told me, and I should bring my camera.

Rick and Marsha have a quarter section planted in this shrub of western North America. At 1,000 bushes per acre, that’s 40,000 bushes, he said.

And come August, that’s a lot of tasty purple berries for making into pies and other treats.

They began planting saskatoons five years ago. Originally growing hay for sale to Japan, they changed crops when the hay price dropped.

“We always loved saskatoons,” Rick said, “so we decided to try growing them.”

The plant’s name, contrary to a common misunderstanding, is not derived from a similarly named town in Saskatchewan, he explained, but from a Cree word for the berry, and therefore is not capitalized.

The self-pollinating bushes are presently a bit more than a metre tall, but in a few years will be more than twice that.

In addition to U-pick, they also do machine harvesting in preparation for freezers and farmers’ markets.

As I surveyed row upon row of the white-blossomed bushes, I determined right then and there that I would be back in two months’ time, pail in hand.

© 2010 Warren Harbeck

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