by Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz –
It’s been a wonderfully long and cool spring, but the temps have been climbing steadily into the more June-like 90’s. With the heat has come the ripening of the wild black raspberries followed quickly by wild blackberries and giant boysenberries. My husband Dean has already been out gathering the earliest of the sweet-tart fruits. Historically, I have left the berry pickin’ to Dean. But this year, I have set myself to pick with him every single time and I know it’ll be an adventure.
After coffee we pull on long pants, tucking them firmly into our socks before heading out to the berry patch with our buckets. Even though it is barely 8 AM, it’s already unbearably hot and sticky and the gnats are out in full force, flying up our noses and into our eyes and ears. Every now and then a light breeze brushes past, relieving us of the torture.
I quickly find out why the Japanese beetles that everyone else seems plagued with never bother any of the plants in my garden – they’re all in the blackberry patch slurping up the rich, sugary juices of overripe blackberries. Every now and again we wind up grabbing a Japanese beetle along with our blackberry, an event that never fails to startle me.
Despite all the discomforts of picking blackberries, Dean has always insisted that he enjoys doing it. And not because of the berries, which of course are the real prize, but because being out in the berry patch is a sort of meditation. It takes patience and perseverance and the Zen-like attention of a turtle to pick the best fruits. And now that I have begun picking with him, I understand what he means. When the heat and humidity are horrible and the pesky gnats are darting at my eyes, I find a rhythm in the repetitive picking motion and the drone of crickets and suddenly the rest of the world just seems to disappear.
The concentration needed to avoid thorns, eye-poking brambles, poison ivy and large, red wasps also sharpens my sense of my surroundings. This somehow allows me to see things that I am not actually looking at, like the wasp on a nearby leaf, the black-eyed Susan’s in the meadow and the yellow breasted chat in the branch above. Indeed, berry picking is the master of all meditations wherein thoughts sift quietly past the consciousness of now and slip easily into the void. I lose all sense of time. Before we know it, we have been picking for two hours and have several gallons of blackberries.
Every other day for the next three or four weeks, we will pick one of several vast blackberry patches up our ridge until the freezer is full. And though our fingers be stained purple and our bodies riddled with chigger bites, we will venture out for one last pick with which we will brew a little homemade blackberry wine. Stop in next week to find out how we do it!
Until then, happy pickin’!
Filled to the brim with colorful stories, wild walks, botanical musings, and a just a pinch of “hillbilly” humor. A personal and inspiring tale of homesteading in the Ozark backwoods. Look inside!
© 2014 Jill Henderson Feel free to share with a link back to the original article.
Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz . Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, The Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore. Jill is a contributing author for Acres USA and Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac and her work has appeared in The Permaculture Activist and The Essential Herbal.