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Picking blueberries at Fred and Patty’s Farm…

Posted by on September 8, 2014

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014.


Florence picked almost three pounds of berries. It’s hard work…stoop labor! 

FRESH, LOCALLY GROWN BERRIES. We took a drive in the country today and had what turned out to be one of the most interesting excursions so far on our Great American Adventure. At the side of the road on the north shore of beautiful Lake Pend Oreille, we saw a makeshift sign: “U Pick Blueberries.” It sounded like a good idea to us, so we turned down a country lane and headed toward a farmhouse in the distance. Soon we arrived at the Shingle Mill Blueberry Farm. Owners Fred and Patty Omodt greeted us and welcomed us to their farm.

SHINGLE MILL BLUEBERRY FARM. I asked Fred, “How does this work?” He responded by handing us each a bucket and said “follow me.” We walked between rows of large blueberry bushes…some 5,000 of them we learned, while Fred gave us a mini-lesson on berry farming. They grow eight varieties of berries in neat and tidy rows which cover about 50 acres of land…a virtual sea of blueberry plants! Fred told us about each variety and we sampled the fruit as we walked through the fields with him.

We learned that the berries ripen from the bottom of the plant upward. We learned how to distinguish ripe berries from those not yet ready for harvest. We learned how to pick ‘em. That’s right…there’s a technique. You softly grab a bunch of ripe berries and gently pull all of them off the plant in one movement. Lots faster than plucking them one at a time! Florence really got into it. She picked a lot! I picked a few. It’s stoop labor…not easy!


Liberty Blueberries from Shingle Mill Farm in Sandpoint.

HERE’S HOW IT WORKS: I thought to myself: This is a sweet deal for the owners. All they do is grow a bunch of berries and then charge folks $3.00 per pound to do all the work picking them. What a racket! Not so fast, Greg. There’s a lot more to it. Years of soil preparation, tedious planting, fertilizing three times each season, extensive annual pruning of five thousand plants and a whole lot more goes into the process. Turns out that $3.00 a pound for huge berries like we picked is a bargain. They cost about ten times that in the grocery store! So it’s a win-win deal. We got a super-good price on tasty fresh berries and Fred and Patty make what appears to be a more than comfortable living farming their land.

WE WERE INVITED TO STAY AT THE FARM! As we finished picking and were having our berries weighed, we told Fred about our Great American Adventure and how much we are enjoying our stay in Sandpoint. We mentioned that we’ve been very impressed with how friendly and accommodating we’ve found the townsfolk to be. We complimented him on his operation and remarked about what a beautiful piece of property he has. He thanked us for visiting and then…without any prompting, he invited us to park our RV on his property for as long as we wished so we could explore the beautiful surrounding countryside before leaving Idaho and heading to Montana. Wow! That’s some real hometown hospitality! These folks are very special. Sandpoint is growing on us more and more. It would be a wonderful place to spend our retirement! And we’d have lots of blueberries to put on our cereal! Thanks for the tour, you guys. We’ll be back to visit you again!


The Cabinet Gorge Dam was constructed in 1952 to help solve the Northwest’s energy shortage at that time.

CABINET GORGE DAM. After leaving the Farm we drove southeast on the Pend Oreille Scenic Byway, which hugs the shoreline and offers breathtaking views at every turn. We crossed the Montana border, marked by the emergence of the Clark-Fort River and the huge Cabinet Gorge Dam. It was constructed in 1952 in order to help solve the Northwest’s energy shortage at that time. River water flows from behind the dam through pipes into the powerhouse where it spins turbines and then returns to the Clark-Fork River. Four generators connected to the turbines can produce enough energy to power about 200,000 homes! Can you imagine?

It was difficult work for people to build a dam in Cabinet Gorge. However, it was completed in only 21 months. It was constructed by 1,700 men and women who worked around the clock to remove 785,000 cubic yards of rock from the gorge and then pour 25,000 truck-loads of concrete to construct the 600 foot long and 208 feet high concrete dam. Water flowing down river was temporarily channeled into two diversion tunnels to allow the workers to construct the dam. Impressive!

bear1FINALLY, I SAW A BEAR! As he sun dropped low in the sky, we began the drive back to our campsite in Sandpoint. But wait…what’s that huge black animal in the field on the lake shore side of the road? Oh, my gosh! Finally I saw a bear. I couldn’t stop…there were cars behind me on the road and no turnout, so I had to travel about a half-mile before I could turn around and head back for my Kodak moment with the bear. Damn! By the time we got back to the place where I’d spotted it, the bear had disappeared. Honestly, this is not a story like the fish that got away. I really did see a bear! How cool is that!

LAKE PEND OREILLE AT DUSK. The drive back was beautiful. What a day: fresh blueberries, some really nice new farmer-friends, a gorgeous drive along the lake, an impressive dam on the powerful Clark-Fork River, a real-live bear and a beautiful sunset over the water. Wow!


The end of the day…


Lone kayak on the beach.


This lake is spectacular!


Setting sun over Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho.

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