Last Sunday I was invited to go cranberry picking at a local bog. I had never been to a bog before and it knocked my sox off! All I knew was that I should bring a basket and my rubber boots. So, I loaded up my Costa Rican jungle boots and an old basket that once held clothes pins and headed out to meet some new friends. I didn't even remember my bog biology or maybe I never learned any. Part of this trail is boardwalk and THEN.....we stepped onto the cushion of the floating matt of bog vegetation and it was like a waterbed. A 1980's waterbed. I could almost hear Janet Jackson singing "Control."
Bogs aren't all that common in the Finger Lakes region. This particular bog is a kettle bog. Kettle bogs are closed systems, meaning that their water source is rainwater. Kettle ponds and bogs are glacial remnants. Chunks of the glacier broke off from the main glacier and were then covered by sand and gravel. These depressions left by their parent glacial chunks are quite good at holding water.
The sun was setting and we joined a few other friends to forage for cranberries. You have to get low to see them and once we had the search image down, we couldn't stop. I eventually just sat on my knees in the damp sponge-like Sphagnum moss (which can hold 16-26 times as much water as their dry weight) and chatted with lots of folks about finding work post-PhD, the trials of women in science and field work studying Australian birds. Flocks of birds flew over, Red-bellied woodpeckers called out, friends jumped in unison to make bog waves, Anouk (the dog) leapt around, and we talked about what we might do with our cranberry haul. It feels nice to pick beautiful fruit that will grace the tables of many a Friendsgivings and Thanksgivings in the next week straight from the bog to the basket. A holiday that celebrates foraging, friendship and gratitude should include a bit of those things in preparation.