FTLComm - La Ronge - Saturday, September 14, 2002 Images by: Judy Shire

While out for a walk Monday evening Judy Shire notices some people and he lady with her explained that they were picking blueberries.

Having eaten blueberries doesn't make you an expert on them and most of us would assume that like saskatoons they would grow on a bush. But not so, the blueberry thrives in Northern Canada and grows on little plants very close to the ground.

On Wednesday a group were heading out to do some picking and invited Judy to join them and these pictures show you what she saw on this adventure.

This tree is a small spruce tree that was upended by the wind and shows its flat root structure that works just fine in an environment like that in Canada's Precambrian Shield where the ground consists of bedrock covered with an inch or two of humus.

There is a hiking trail from Nutpoint that reaches into the area burned over in the forest fire that threatened La Ronge in 2000. Forest fires are a natural and important part of the way things go in Canada's forests and as you can see from these pictures life indeed does go on and renews itself.

The trees and all other plants much live in the smallest amount of soil as the bedrock outcrops four billion years old form the ground.

Here are the blueberries, unlike the store bought varieties which are big purple berries, blueberries in the wild are small and sparkle with rich flavour.

Their plants are only a few inches off the ground and commercial picker use a device to collect the berries while most people just sit down and sift them off their shoots and drop them into a pail. It is a good thing I wasn't doing the picking because I would not be able to put them in the pail but would introduce these luxurious morsels directly into my mouth.

We had some for desert last night and on our cereal this morning and they are fabulous.

The spindly trees seen here suggest that it was not long ago that this area had been ravaged by fire for they are not very old. In time they will topple over and begin to decompose creating homes for insects and in time contribute to the meager layer of soil.

In the mean time the process of succession is well underway. Various rapid growing deciduous trees are taking over providing cover and shade for young spruce and other

conifers who will grow up to replace the leafy trees above them.

We so often forget that trees are not plants that are immortal but each plant has like ourselves a limited life span and many varieties of confer will not begin to grow from their cones until heated by the intense temperatures of a forest fire.

The huge hybrid poplar tree by the door to our house has a life span of my forty years while even faster growing hybrids now used in commercial forests mature at thirty.

In the picture above we can see the blueberries on their plants and the thin soil beneath them. At the top of the image is a piece of a tree branch charred from the fire two years ago.

This cycle of life has gone on and will continue to go on as trees extract oxygen and breathe it into the atmosphere while absorbing the carbon dioxide. But in minutes a forest fire can suck the oxygen out of the air and

each year forest fires and other natural events put 98% of the green house gases into the atmosphere. What we all need to understand is that though humans account for only 2% of these gases everything is interrelated and those who tell us that climate change is a natural thing and not to worry are quite right but to suggest that our 2% doesn't matter is utter and complete folly. In a complex ecosystem like that on our planet everything matters and at this time in history we understand so little about how it all works that fear and over caution are the only reasonable actions for us to have.

In the mean time there are blueberries, tiny blue tidbits of flavour.


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