Blackberry Picking

February 26, 2009 By admin | Filed Under Blackberry picking, nature | Comments Off on Blackberry Picking 

By Cadie

Every year, in August, we go blackberry picking on a kindly neighbor’s property. There’s a long steep hill to walk up, with a great view of the opposite hill as you get higher. When you get high enough, you can see two layers of hills, the more distant one often being a hazy blue. On the nearer hill, you can actually see the road we live on. One time when we were coming down from picking blackberries, we saw Dad coming home from work–like a little toy car on a tiny road on the hill.

We always pick some blackberries on the hill, before moving on to the woods. The kindly neighbor’s goats follow us and eat blackberries, too–pricker stems and all. Evan is always very amused by them, despite the nuisance of them eating what we were trying to pick, and remarks that he wishes he were a goat because they make the prickers sound so tasty. They certainly crunch and munch in a most satisfied way (never enough to make a difference considering the large amount of blackberry brambles that are growing all over, though). They always turn and go back once we have go higher up the hill, where it gets even steeper.

The steep hill levels out as you get closer to the woods, and there is a wide mown path to walk on. At first there seems to be nothing but trees around you and no blackberries; the blackberry brambles are more hidden in the woods. If you keep walking, there are blackberries growing close to the path, but if you want to get a lot you have to wander off the path and look for patches of them.

The very first times we went, we did a lot of exploring and discovered many thickets and patches, some of them as full of berries as they were of thorns, others consisting of densely tangled, thick thorn brambles which we fought our way through (at least I did) to find not very many berries within. It was more of an adventure back then. Nowadays, most of us generally just stick to picking the berries growing close to the path. This is due in part to the fact that some of the patches we used to go to weren’t technically part of the aformentioned kindly neighbor’s property–and that leg of the trail is blocked off, and many of the blackberries mown down. There’s a patch off the path I still go to every year, though. Once you’ve entered the woods and continued on the path for a while, there is a spot where there are blackberry brambles growing right up close to the path on both sides. Everyone else stops and picks here, while I turn off the path into the woods just before that area.

Pretty soon I start seeing little prickers here and there, which on a good blackberry picking year are full of berries. I follow them, like a trail of crumbs, to a patch of blackberries farther in–not really a thicket, but some of the brambles are almost an inch thick (actually, you shouldn’t trust my estimate–I just know they’re thick!), and they’re taller than the little ones you find scattered elsewhere. The blackberries on these brambles are, on a good year, very big and juicy. Even on a bad year, when the littler brambles only have little dry seedy things, I can always rely on getting some decent berries out of that patch. Farther down and over from this patch are a row of more brambles, more bent and more in the shade.

I usually pick every berry I see on all the scattered, small brambles as I pass them, and all I can get out of first patch, and then as I pick like crazy out of the brambles in the shade I start to get nagging feelings that I should be getting back to the main path. But then I see some more berries to this side, which I just have to pick, and some more to that side which I of course want to pick as well, and catch a glimpse of more yonder over there…until Titi calls out, “Cadie?” By that time she and the the others are ready to move on to another spot. I call back and make my way back to the path. Stopping just to pick a few more, of course. “Cadie?” Titi calls again, and I guiltily say “Coming!” and force myself to stop looking at berries and get to the path.

We often talk and joke while picking berries on the hill, and sometimes when in the woods I can hear little snatches of voices of the other members of the blackberry-picking expedition talking, as I am off in my own little world. The younger kids, on the other hand, get bored and tired of blackberry picking sooner, especially when it’s hot and the picking isn’t good. Deirdre we haven’t tried taking yet, except one time when she when she was 3, when we were going with some relatives, and she was mostly carried on the shoulders. The time Caleb got to come, he wound up just sitting on the path in the woods miserably. So we usually don’t take anyone younger than Owen; Caleb and Deirdre enjoy just eating the berries when we get home. (With admonishments to “not eat TOO many!”)

The year before last–2007–was a bad one for picking, though not as bad as some years have been which were really dry. This year (or I should actually say last year), summer 2008, was much better. We were able to go picking several times, and got a substantial amount of berries each time for the amount of time we spent picking. The first time it was Evan, Justin, Owen, and myself. They seemed pleased with how it went, as they seemed to be expecting it to be like last year, and kind of groaned when I was soliciting them to come for that year’s blackberry picking. I tried to tell them I thought it would be better this year, at least, I hoped (after all, we had got more rain than last year, it seemed to me, and the blackberries in our fields were doing good…). They knew better than to take my word for it, and were ready to have a boring time–but came anyway, being good sports. They seemed surprised when there were actually blackberries to pick, all around. And they weren’t seedy! And they didn’t taste terrible! Last year when we tasted them we often said “Ptuluagh!” or some such. This year instead it was: “Mm! That was really good!” in a rather surprised voice.

There’s a world of difference between the way they taste in good years and bad years. On the bad years–when there wasn’t enough rain or sun (blackberries like lots of both)–the berries seem to have a variety of weird tastes. Sometimes they’re just seedy, or really squishy and tasteless, sometimes they have a faint metallic taste, sometimes they have a STRONG metallic taste, and sometimes they have some other weird bad taste. But the berries are not rotten, and they taste fine in pies. On the good years, the berries are positively scrumptious, and it’s hard not to keep snitching them out of the pail as you walk down, and as you ride home. One time, when he was about 7 or 8, Owen’s pail was empty by the time we got home. It’s to be admitted, though, that he only had a thin covering on his pail to begin with. Nowadays he picks a good half or three-quarters of a bucket and probably gobbles less out of it than I do my own bucket.

As we were walking back from picking, someone said, “Hey look! There’s the tree Evan climbed last year!” Evan had shinnied (Justin and I attempted but our attempts were feeble and unsuccessful) up a very skinny tree (sapling?) last year, being bored, and it snapped on him. There it was by the path, snapped in the middle. It’s too bad about the tree, but it was probably the highlight of the blackberry picking for them that year. If I can get around to posting the photos from blackberry picking that year, I have pictures of him up in the tree–and some blurry ones taken moments after he fell. 😛 He didn’t get hurt.

Anyway, besides me coming with Evan, Justin, and Owen, we also went with Teman a second time and with Titi a third time. These pictures are from the first two times. I must admit a lot are pictures of the clouds. (Well hey, when I’m picking, I can’t take too many pictures! But when you’re walking down the hill, you can take plenty.) Some pictures are a little out of order i.e a few photos from the second time mixed in with the first time.

August 14 and 17, 2008:

Evan and Justin getting ready to move on, smallerTeman and others coming up the hillblackberry pickingblackberries low down on the hillJustin picking blackberriesscenicgoat munching leavesEvan and justin walking down to the house ahead of usOwen, Justin, Evan walking along pickingEvan and Justin walking up the hillEvan and Justin on the hillEvan, Justin, Owen walking up the hill looking backLooking down at hill with South St on itI forgetpuffy clouds and distant hillneat cloudsEvan Justin Owen walking up the hill resizedevan and justin walking side by sidewalking along grassy pathwalking along grassy path2Walking along grassy path before woodsEvan walking along pathblackberriesblackberries close upblackberries close up2blackberries close up 3clouds framed by leavesview of hill as we walk downripening blackberriesabout to pick a blackberryabout to pick a blackberry2evan and owen picking blackberries along the pathevan and owen picking blackberries along the path2Justin picking blackberries in the woodsJustin picking blackberries verticalEvan picking blackberries