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Plenty to pick from

Homesteader shares varied berry bounty

Posted: Tuesday, September 12, 2006

 

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  Bobbie Jackson of Kasilof offers advice on how to preserve berries while weighing some freshly picked produce. Jackson annually opens her homestead to allow the public to pick a wide assortment of berries for free. Photo by Joseph Robertia

The fruits of a little labor some freshly picked raspberries of the golden variety.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

Several people with a taste for sweet treats put in an hour of work and reaped the fruits of this labor Saturday.

“Mmmmm, these are just so good,” said Deb Hayes of Kasilof after popping a plump red raspberry into her mouth.

Hayes and her husband, Kevin, were among the dozen people foraging in row upon row of berry bushes growing on the Kasilof homestead of Bobbie Jackson.

The pickers were attempting to fill their collection canisters — coffee cans with attached ropes that dangled from their necks — with as many red raspberries, gold raspberries, black currants, red currants, gooseberries and saskatoons as possible.

With popping one berry in their mouths for every two that went into their cans, the collection process wasn’t a speedy one.

Jackson annually opens her 10 acres of land near Mile 103 of the Sterling Highway, allowing people to pick as much fruit as they desire for free. The only catch is people have to give Jackson half of what they pick as reimbursement for the opportunity.

“It’s getting late in the season now,” Jackson said Saturday. “On a big pick a few weeks ago we were getting over 100 pounds in one day.”

 

Bobbie Jackson of Kasilof offers advice on how to preserve berries while weighing some freshly picked produce. Jackson annually opens her homestead to allow the public to pick a wide assortment of berries for free.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

Those in attendance didn’t seem to mind that the season was past its peak, since there were still more than enough berries to go around.

“This is just heavenly,” said Ruth Decker of Soldotna.

Decker said Saturday was her first time picking berries at Jackson’s place, but she quickly determined an efficient way to harvest the gooseberries she was after.

“I figured out that if you shake the bush a little, the ripe berries fall off and you can pick them up off the ground,” she said.

Gena and Scott Stahlecker, of Kasilof, said they recently moved to Alaska, but knowing berry picking is a fall ritual here they figured visiting Jackson’s patch would be a good way to start learning about the land they now call home.

“We wanted to get out and experience what Alaskans do,” Gina Stahlecker said.

Debra Allen, of Sterling, said she and her boyfriend, Rick Lindley, had come for similar reasons.

“Alaska is such a beautiful place, I’d rather be outdoors picking berries on the weekend than stuck inside. I like to live off the land as best I can — moose hunting, fishing, berry picking — that’s how life is supposed to be,” Allen said.

Deb Hayes said she was also thankful Jackson shares her produce, particularly since there were no bears to compete with as can be common when picking wild berries this time of year.

“It’s really nice that this is here and we can come and do some wild gathering. I’d be too afraid to pick them in the wild,” she said.

Like those in attendance Saturday, Jackson said people who come seem to be a blend of residents and tourists.

“Some are people that live here and can’t plant their own because they live in an apartment or something. Others are people from Outside that want to see a real Alaskan garden. Wherever they’re from, they all come looking for the same thing — a fun experience,” Jackson said.

Jackson’s generosity doesn’t stop with the berry picking, either. She also offers advice to anyone interested in ways to preserve the picked possessions, whether it be juicing, jellying or jarring them.

And berries aren’t the only thing growing on Jackson’s land. She has more than 400 perennials on her property and several greenhouses with a myriad of fruits, including apples, apricots, pears, plums, nectaries, grapes, cherries and kiwis.

As with the berries, Jackson is interested in sharing advice on how to grow these other produce items, and twice a month offers a combination of a free tutorial on some aspect of gardening with a garden/greenhouse tour.



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