Foraging for Huckleberries and Destroying Ant Homes for Science
Here in Montana, huckleberries are a major part of the state identity and economy. They grow just about everywhere and are used to make everything from huckleberry macaroons, to teas, mojitos, dressings, meat sauces, chapsticks, lotions, etc. Every store, shop, gas station and restaurant sells some sort of huckleberry product. Little old ladies wear huckleberry baseball caps and tourists buy oversized white t-shirts with big purple huckleberries on them to wear when they return to wherever they came from.
You can find a drive-thru huckleberry shake stand on just about every corner in Missoula. They are also littered alongside the highway at every tiny old Western town of 30+ residents, which you are likely to drive through on your way to one of Montana’s endless bucket list destinations. These handy drive-throughs usually double as coffee shops, and are most often located in gas station or grocery store parking lots. Since I’m afraid of anything not organic I don’t frequent them, but do like having the option of an on-the-go coffee hut even if I’m likely never to use it. Perhaps one day “We Have Organic Huckleberry Milkshake” signs will replace the “We Have Huckleberry Milkshakes of Unknown Quality” signs, and I look forward to this day.
Until then, we shall forage and make our own non-chemi huckleberry products, pastries, shakes, and other delicious what nots. In the spirit of this resolve, we ventured into the woods for our loot: fresh, delicious, wild berries that grow on nearly every trail in western Montana (eastern Montana is a largely desolate unknown land that no one I know ventures to and which resultantly I know very little about).
A short ways up trail, we settled in a shady spot of short berry bushes. Here, VZ taught Kelvin about the glory of the huckleberry. Upon for the first time discovering the juicy goodness of these forest gems, Kelvin was beyond himself. He soon happily adopted the art of foraging, and in that moment I was a proud mother.
On this trip we also discovered something I had never previously witnessed: delightful white, rice-like ant eggs hiding under what will soon become the contents of our new Moss terrarium. Being that we are white humans of European descent, we excitedly invaded and pillaged their home, while watching them scurry to hide their eggs in fascination. Sorry happy woodland creatures, but we couldn’t resist an episode of nature under attack. How else are we to study ant behavior in the wild?