Friday, August 14, 2009
The Art of Blackberry -One of August's Many Fruits
Little thorns tore at my flesh. Briars reached out and gouged at my legs. My feet were harassed. I dressed all wrong. My top, although it was long sleeved, was a favorite for the hooks and barbs. I felt like I had done the tango with a barbwire fence. I knew better than to wear my whites, so I put on some black athletic shorts. Shorts. What was I thinking? I should have worn sturdy jeans. My shoes, my faithful summer companions, were my blue Chaco sandals....perfect for the blackberry bushes to get in and attack.
Blackberries are sweet, the picking....not so much.
I've been picking for roughly three decades now. I haven't changed my method. I stand carefully and cautiously as close as I can to the bushes. I step on various branches, stamping them down so I can get even closer. I maneuver my arm through the maze to get to the plumpest of berries. My fingers are purple and black. My lips too.
I never attempt to get enough to do jam. I just want a few bowls for a crisp or to smother over a nice bowl of vanilla ice cream. I don't have the mental stamina for more picking.
I got my two bowls filled late this morning. My picking was constantly being interrupted, but so is everything I attempt for I am an outnumbered mother. I asked the boys if they wanted to join me. They did not. I knew they'd change their minds; they always do.
Once they saw me out there they wanted to be where I was. My oldest is capable of putting on his own shoes and had no trouble getting out the backdoor, across the yard and through the cut, dry grass field. My middle son does not have these skills. He stood at the edge of the yard crying. I'm glad he stopped and waited. I have ventured across the dry, yellow fields of August and it hurts. The hollow straw cuts right through bare feet.
So, I left my bowls at the picking site, and I went to get him. He wanted his shoes. We had trouble finding them. We checked multiple locations in the house. We tried the van. We finally found his shoes on the kitchen counter. Then he didn't want them. He didn't want to pick. He wanted to eat graham crackers inside.
I headed back to my task of gathering berries. My oldest was no longer there. He was in imagination world: the sandbox.
Soon my middle son was crying again at the edge of the field. This time he wanted me to carry him. No shoes. He crawled onto my back. We headed out. As soon as I set him down he was sorry. His feet hurt. Not only was the straw causing his terrible morning to be even worse, he didn't like the blackberry bushes either. He ate a few and was done. Things were hurting him, out to get him.
I carried him back.
I started picking again. This was taking too long. Surely there was a better way. I am a genius, so it only took me three decades to come up with a better picking approach. (Plus, I had only maybe 30 more mins. until my baby woke from his nap and this task would be forced to a halt.) I walked back to the yard and located my garden gloves and pruning sheers. I cut off branches with ample clusters of blackberries. I cut three to four of these goldmines at a time. I sat, squatted, and plucked the berries into my blue bowls.
They filled quickly. I was done. I call this the Snip n' Pick Method.
I might actually make two blackberry crisps this year. It was just that good.
Next time, I will wear appropriate clothing and do it when my sons are all asleep. I will wear my spelunking headlamp, I guess.
Notes: Since writing this I was able to produce one large crisp and one batch of jam, yum! I am so jazzed that I plan on heading down to the river to get more August goodness.)