Berry Good Memories

After posting up the recipe for Blackberry Dumplings, I went back to the berry patch to pick more wild berries.  Returning to the same patch, I was determined to pick only the blackest, plumpest, ripest berries.  At the first picking, I had been so excited to find ripe berries, that I picked berries a little prematurely.  However, since that first picking, we’ve had hard rains, coupled with days of sunshine in between, and now the berries have had time to fully ripen.   While picking this time, I learned that if my shadow falls across the berries, they appear darker than they really are.  So I made a conscious effort to pick them in the glaring sunlight.

When I picked berries as a child, I wasn’t really worried about snakes and other vermin, and I never wore protective clothing.  When I pick berries now, I wear socks, tennis shoes (or boots), long pants, long sleeves, and carry an ice cream bucket.  Two weeks ago when I first stopped to inspect the patch and snag a few for snacking, a friend drove past, rolled down her window, and shouted, “Don’t go getting snake bit picking berries!!”  Well, thanks.  I hadn’t intended to go and get snake bit.  With her warning in mind, I remembered to bring my shovel after that.

On this particular morning, using the shovel to shoo away any unwanted company, I eased my way into the berry patch, picking from the edges first.  The darkest, sweetest berries ripen in the shade of the vines or very near the grass.  They are also the hardest to reach, and I have the thorns in my fingers, thumb, and hands to prove it.  The back of my hands always get scratched up, and I have just learned to endure it.  I don’t wear gloves, because I like to feel the berries as I pick them.

Determined to pick a bucketful of only the blackest and ripest berries, I plucked off those that offered no resistance whatsoever.  If the berry didn’t pop right off, I left it for the next person, the next picking.  As I squatted and picked the fat fruits, I thought back about picking berries as a child and realized I now do it because it has become part of my culture.  And in carrying on the culture, I add another link to the chain connecting the generations.

The size and all the varying shades of color set forth by the berries this morning inspired me to set forth in words what I was experiencing.  As I looked at the thick carpet of vines lying in front of me, I tried to mentally form the right words.  I reflected on famous women writers of the past who wrote so eloquently, like Elizabeth Barrett Browning and wonderful story tellers like Marjorie Kinnan-Rawlings and realized I am neither an EBB nor an MKR.  I am just a WWB, and as such, I concluded that there are just no fancy words that would enhance this experience beyond the reality it is.

A common wild berry patch exudes an uncommon beauty, from the light green of the tiniest baby berry, to the deep, dark purplish-black of the ready-to-eat, with drupelets chockfull of flavor. The berries, their stages, and their colors represent spring, life, freedom, and sustenance, not only to humans but to wildlife as well.  Although I’ve not seen anyone else picking berries here, there are trails, well worn and readily noticeable—trails I followed appreciatively.  As I pondered these things, pushing forward with my shovel, something rustled under a pile of vines.  I knew what I hoped it wasn’t.

Aloud I said, “There are enough berries here for us to share.  I’m not here to hurt you.  I’m only here to fill this little bucket, and I’ll be on my way.”  My thoughts about famous writers continued when I noticed a huge bumble bee and a dragonfly sharing the patch with me.  Who knew they liked berries, too?  As I turned back to the path, a little rabbit scurried from her hiding place under the vines, across the path in front of me and under another thicket.  I breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn’t a you-know-what and verbally reminded the bunny I meant her no harm.

I resumed picking and could hear myriad noises of the goings on coming from the homes nearby.  There were boats being launched and boats being taken out of the water.  Sounds of children laughing—snippets of adult conversation floated over my head.   Spicy aromas of family boils hung heavy in the air, and I imagined their pots full of blue crabs fresh from the water or crawfish purchased from the seafood market up the road, delivered early that morning from the flooded rice fields west of here.  Families were making the best of the beautiful weather this Holy weekend, and so would we.

My bucket almost full and the patch barely touched, it sort of saddened me to think that most of these abundantly free fruits would go to waste on the vine—that most folks are too busy to be bothered with picking berries.  While being thankful that berry picking is part of my culture,   I was reminded of an Old Testament story read to me as a child about the wheat harvesters leaving wheat behind for the poor women to glean.  I only picked one bucket, hoping someone would come behind me tomorrow and glean the berries that ripen overnight.  As I put my  last plump berry on the purple pile, I turned and gazed across this magnificent gift of Nature, thanking her for the bounty, hoping one day my family will remember with fondness picking berries as children, the cobblers and preserves we enjoyed, and continue to keep the tradition alive long after WWB, famous writer or not, is gone.

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Now, it’s your turn to tell us your berry-picking, berry-eating, or berry-cooking stories. Take as much room as you like, because I have a feeling some of you have some doozies to share!

Please remember that most of my photos are for sale and very easy to obtain.  If you ever see one you would like to frame and possibly give as a gift, just let me know via the Contact Box at the bottom of any page.  Typically,  8 x 10’s suitable for framing are $25.00.  You can tell the recipient, “This is an original from the Bayou Woman Collection”!  Doesn’t that sound grand?

Happy berry picking!

BW

(Blackberry Woman)

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Comments

Berry Good Memories — 23 Comments

  1. dewberries? Remember the giant one we found….turned out to be a turtle! Kids had a laugh and a good time with a tolerant turtle before we set it loose again in a dewberry patch. Fun times!

  2. What a wonderful post! I just found dewberries in the wild last weekend – I wasn’t in a position to do the kind of picking you did. No bucket, no shovel, not the right kind of clothes. And, the patch wasn’t that big. But I had my handful, and enjoyed them tremendously. And I even got a photo similar to yours, of the ripe berry snuggled next to the ripening one.

    I found them on Nash prairie, one of the few pieces of unbroken, virgin prairie left of the millions of acres that stretched from Lafayette to Corpus. I’ve already written the story – you can find it here.

    Today’s chore is dealing with the huge pile of strawberries picked this morning at Froberg Farm in Alvin. The experience of a pick-your-own farm isn’t quite as sweet as patch-picking, but the berries are just as good!

    • Oh! I just finally finished reading your post, which I began back on the 10th!! And I just left you a comment! The Nash Prairie is a wonderful find, Linda. I would love to see it, and I imagine it would take me several hours to drive there–spare time is at a premium these days, like gasoline! I’m so happy you got to go and preserve this wonder forever in writing and photos! Now, let’s talk about the leaves on those dewberry vines. I’m starting to think that there must be more then one dewberry strain, like there are so many blackberry strains. The leaves don’t look exactly the same in our two photos! Anyway, your post was divine, and very, very well done, as usual!! Lil Sis came down for a couple of days and we picked berries two days running. We froze some, made preserves, jam, and will attempt cordial for our first time!!!
      Have fun with those strawberries! I’m not going to mess with any this year!

  3. I have many memories of picking berries – from childhood picking wild strawberries, raspberries and blueberries in MN to an adult picking dewberries and blackberries in LA. I never seem to get large quantities of them because I would eat them as I picked them. In my adult years I would go along the edges of my horse pasture with my dogs and my miniature horse following me. Two of my dogs would actually pick the blackberries along with me and eat them off the vine. Then my miniature horse learned that he could do the same thing. How they all picked them without getting stuck on the stickers, I don’t know!

  4. Love the post. Here is my bery story, hope you all enjoy.
    It is so sad that many of my best berry patches were by the RR tracks and they were sprayed down earlier this spring (for the 3rd yr in a row). Now I must go much farther for my berries. I look forward to this every spring and mark out in my mind the biggest most blossom filled patches and try to get my berries before they are all gone- so close to Lafayette and so many patches gone to development up this way, I find my self further out each year. I did find a bunch tho; and you are right about the biggest, sweetest ones being in the middle of the patch in the shade, often surrounded by poison ivy(ugh), and jasmine with attendant bees . Even nature tells us “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. Tho the berries cost no cash I paid in scratched hands and ant bites. All well worth it. I saw not one snake but some beautiful dragon flies and butterflies, a few squirrels, and many birds of different kinds. Too bad I can’t pick and carry my camera, I’d have had some
    great pics of critters. I went early morning and the spider webs were alight like silken geometric rainbows in the sun from the dew -this alone was worth wet pant legs. I love berry picking- as a kid in S. FL It was huckleberries in the saw palmetto patches and here its dewberries and blackberries. Getting them home and making cobbler and dumplings is great and fills my house with the sweet scent of cooking fruit. I always pick enough that I can cook off extra to freeze so that I can have a taste of sunny spring on those cold dreary winter days.

  5. Kim’s story about her horse reminded me of picking berries as a kid. I had completely forgotten about how the neighborhood kids would go out behind our houses to pick a fenceline. There was a horse pasture on our side of the street and we would have to compete with the horses for our share of berries. We were only allowed to stay on our side of the fence to pick, but those horses wouldn’t follow our parents rules. I think they waited till we were reaching for a plump berry and would quickly show us those big teeth as they reached over that 4′ fence. Did I mention having a horse bite you is NOT fun? Thanks Kim for jogging my memory. We did have some good times as kids.

    • Another great story! I had no idea that horses loved these wild things as much as we do! We DID have some good times as kids. I think it’s time I tell my kids some of the stories of how we could ride our bikes miles from home and Mom never worried about us. In the summertime, we might be gone for hours, and I recall some of my friends having to be home when the street lines came on, but that’s when we would play hide-and-seek. We never wore shoes so by the time summer was over, the bottoms of our feet were so stained it was weeks before they looked clean again! There was just no amount of scrubbing to get the dirt out! And it was many years before we began locking our house or car doors. I can’t even imagine anyone even sleeping with their windows open at night these days, can you? Seems like we’ve sort of devolved as a species, becoming prisoners in our homes. No wonder there are so many children with chronic illness these days. Oh well . . . . the good ol’ days. According to my dad, his good ol’ days were even better than ours as children. Thanks for the memories!

  6. A very very long time ago we had a 3 acre blackberry patch. Evil weedcutter hogged paths and ripened from 4th of July till Labor Day…
    Box turtles loved them. Me not so much…

    More recently we had raspberries at brothers farm that his dog just loved would eat them till pooped red…

    Somewhere is a cute pix of me on pony hat and boots then the critter bit me just above the elbow… I’ll take whatever Pilot is selling thank you.

    Woke up on another birthday.

  7. We went to my grandsons jazz concert yesterday and there are dewberries ripening all along the fence lines between our town and theirs. I did see a gorgeous palomino with its head over the fence munching on what I thought was berry vines. When I mentioned it to hubby, he said I was nuts, horses don’t eat berries. Guess I was right after all. We used to go to the berry patch at my grandmothers and pick berries. She canned all of hers or made jelly/jam from them since they didn’t have a refrigerator. (No electricity or running water). She would threaten us with a “whooping” if we didn’t quit eating all those berries. Then she would load us up with pepto later because we would have a stomach ache. There was always something getting ripe within walking distance of her house. Watermelons across the road, peanuts a bit further down, cantalopes, plums, apples, pears, choke berries and in the fall persimmons down the fence line. Those were the carefree days.
    Oh, my neighbors still sleep with their windows open. But, not me!!

  8. This is a message to Foamheart: We have missed you here at BW, and I know you have a berry story! How are you? An email I sent you came back undeliverable, so please stop by and let us know how things are going, Goldie! BW

  9. I went and picked some more berries yesterday but these were fo a neighbor lady friend who can’t get around so good. You’d have thought I gave her a million bucks instead of a bucket of berries. She said she had missed them since she had become lame. I had no Idea that no one got her any-we all kinda share with her- stuff like figs, fish, crab and anything else we get.
    I checked out my favorite wild mulberry trees too. There are purple ones and one white. I would love to get enough whit to make a bastch of white mulberry jelly- it would look neat.

    • Taking care of the widows is very rewarding! I know it was like a pot of gold for her!!! I’ve never heard of white mulberry. I’ll have to look it up. That would look neat!

      • I might be interested in picking up a widow or two.
        White mulberries are horrible. No flavor and birds won’t eat them so they pile on the ground and mold or ferment. I love sitting out by a mulberry tree with the german pellet guns and wacking blackbirds

  10. Another great read Wendy! A great story! I too picked berries when I was 11-14 yrs old and sold them to people in half gallon cardboard milk containers. We would pick them the entire season and boy were my hands and fingers sore! My fingers would be stained purple for the entire berry season. On weekends we set up a berry stand and the cars would line up to buy them in our Bayou Cane neighborhood, we could not pick enough as we would always sell out every day withthin a few hours. I think we would ask 1.50 per carton. I used the money to buy fishing lures and pellets for our air guns. Sometimes we would enjoy a Clint Eastwood or Elvis movie at the Bijou or Park theatre. Ah the good ole days for sure! Mom used to make blackberry jelly which was the best jelly in the world! Cobblers and dumplings too but the jelly was my favorite. I’m 56 years old and I find it very hard to not pick berries when I find them staring up at me from the vine. It’s in my blood I guess and I just may try and get my mom to make a few jars of that great tasting jelly ….. And you know Wendy it’s all your fault!! Lol

    • Oh, Bill, what a great story! So, I guess you WILL BE picking berries off the bayou bank during the cleanup this Saturday! I sure hope your mom can make you some jelly, because I’m not often patient enough to strain out the juice from the seeds to make the jelly. Hm. I might have to do that with my last batch of berries. I better get to picking, though, because the patch was almost played out a week ago. Thanks for leaving a comment, Bill, and I hope we get to fish tomorrow!

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