Today we will consider the Maine blueberry and the coastal climate that ensures its survival.

It is fitting that we do so. For the past month, the sun has been setting a little later, another bitter cold winter is well on its way, and big signs advertising blueberries have cropped on every major highway.

Even if you don’t like blueberries, you might have heard that people who ate blueberries three times a week had a lower risk of heart attack than folks who didn’t eat them at all.

This is probably because anyone who can afford to pay $4 for a quart of blueberries is in a comfortable socioeconomic group, and people with money to burn habitually outlive everyone else anyway.

I started raking blueberries way back when. Truman was president when a few of us were bused from St. George up to mountainous West Rockport, where wild blueberries still grow.

After only two hours, I dropped my rake in the basket and walked home. To employ the vernacular of the time, “That was all she wrote.” At only 12 years of age, I discovered that I could not bend my back and work in the sun like your kid can today.

Nowadays, the only problem in raking my own blueberries is getting across the road – without getting run down by a summercater who got held up at Red’s Eats, but is still hoping to make the 10:30 boat to Monhegan.

One morning, two young guests from California wanted to see me rake the fabled Maine blueberry. She, an intellectual-property lawyer, and he, a hand surgeon who was perfecting his skills in Boston, knew nothing of lobsters, blueberries or ticks. They followed me across the road.

For the first time, I felt secure raking berries only 20 feet from a high-speed road. I knew that should I be run down, I had two friends who could bind my wounds and then sue.

If you’ve ever raised blueberries, you know that they must be picked quickly. There is only a small window in which to get them before the crows and turkeys do. And even without birds, blueberries quickly wizzle up or are taken out by frost. Some say that the only difference between August and November on the Maine coast is the number of tourists who sign up for the Puffin Cruise.

Last year, Maine humorist Gary Crocker gave me a hand-held blueberry winnower. He said he found it tucked away in an ancient barn that had belonged to one of his wife’s ancestors. Because it works, I don’t really care where he got it.

The hand-held blueberry winnower, which I had never even heard of, is a wooden frame 9 inches wide and 32 inches long with a piece of screen nailed on the bottom.

After using it for two seasons, I accidentally discovered that by rolling the rake from side to side, only berries would roll out of the fork, pre-winnowing them before they hit the winnowing screen.

Occasional leaves or white berries can be flipped off the winnower as soon as they appear, with an adroit maneuver of the left wrist.

Gary has saved us hours of picking over blueberries on the dining room table.

My brother, who lives nearby, has a huge antique blueberry winnowing machine. For a while, it was on exhibition in the Finnish museum in South Thomaston, so I got out of the habit of using it. And now I’m no longer strong enough to drag it out of his barn.

An old Maine man knows better than to dilly-dally around – whether it’s getting in his blueberries or pumpkins – because winter never really comes to the coast of Maine; it’s as if it’s always here.

Maine has a climate all its own, so what plays in Peoria does not play here.

For example, the newspapers are full of stories about dogs that perished in an unattended car in August.

I would be the last person to leave my pet in an unattended car. Most of them unusually dress out at over 900 pounds.

Leaving a pet in the car on an afternoon in August can happen to the best of us, however. Suppose that a lobster catcher, who goes into Linda Bean’s Port Clyde General Store to pick up a case of beer and some Rolaids, has a medical emergency and is carted off to the hospital. Because he isn’t talking, no one knows that his faithful dog, little “Spydee Deah,” is quietly sleeping on the back seat of his car right next to the Monhegan boat dock.

The dog would have probably survived in or out of the car. But his ordeal was certainly mitigated by the fact that his owner left the car’s heater running.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at his website:

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