It starts with the smell of Bug Spray. Not really a pleasant smell but one that instantly sends flashes of memories, like sunscreen brings beach trips to mind, bug spray says…
hot, summer, humid, sticky, itchy, sweet blackberry picking time.
I’ve been picking blackberries every summer with my Deddy for as long as I can remember and he would make jelly and jam. Now I’m the one making the jelly and jam when I can. Some years back he planted thornless blackberries and they produce enough that he will never have to place his foot into a chigger patch again.
But I sure miss those picking days with him. We’d get up early, get a biscuit at Hardees on the way, spray down with Off, and carry our buckets into the thickest of blackberry patches. He was so brave. Always going for the biggest berry just out of reach, hanging there plump and beautiful. We had an ongoing competition on who found the biggest.
For many years we would have Kevin drop us off at the top of this mountain and we would spend hours and hours walking down the mountain on this country road picking berries all along the way and pick our car up at the bottom. The “best” patch would change from year to year, shifting location along this gravel road. Deddy would always be the first to bleed. I can still picture him the time he returned from his adventurous exploit with a thorn in his nose!
One time we encouraged mom to go. I think I was pregnant with Drew. It had just rained and was the most delightful of days. We would stand under a tree and shake it on each other and the cool raindrops felt so refreshing. Sometimes Kevin would go too. And as the boys came along they tagged along a summer or two. I recall one of them coming back minus one sock. Nature called.
I remember one time we found the dream patch along a steep incline. Deddy turned his full bucket over. I am quite sure the silence was broken with a dirty word. And the next year on the very hill, I heard a snap and then crashing noises as he rolled several times down the hill. Luckily a tree stopped his rolling. We laughed and laughed about the “snap” of the small tree he was pulling himself up the hill with. I still think of this every time I see this hill. The berries long gone here now.
Once we watched a rattlesnake slither by us. I remember my Dad saying, you really handled that well. It changed the peace I was feeling whether I acted like it or not.
I was done for the day.
I recall picking berries in Wisconsin while staying on a sweet farm. I picked them up the hill while the B&B owner prepared our dinner. They were different from ours, hollow in the center.
I walked down the aisle with chigger bites on my ankles from blackberry picking. Those are good memories.
Our land has blackberries so I’ve been picking these by myself for the last 3 or 4 years. Kevin keeps the paths near them mowed for me. The deer beat me last year and cleaned us out. But this year I’ve been checking them regularly.
This week, after dinner a shower had cooled us off and I sprayed down with off and headed out with my bucket. I stepped into the patches and enjoyed the sights of nature close up. The sounds of deer deep in the woods, birds singing out to one another and Kevin’s mower in the distance. I never feel alone while picking. It’s so peaceful. I’m always looking for a turtle or bird’s nest, a neat bug or a mushroom growing. Or even a snake. I know they are there.
A momma bird rustled and tweeted from a nearby tree so I thought I must be close to a nest and sure enough. I looked to see if there was wool from my wool ball and that perhaps it was the titmouse but no.
I love what you notice while picking berries.
I walked along picking here and there. They are not quite in full so I never settled in one spot for long. I ate a few and thought about how Dad and I would nickname the different types of berries we would find. There is such a variety in their design, shape and flavors.
I love to close my eyes after picking and I see berries. Red and black.
The greatest of gifts is that of blackberries and so I find great happiness in picking enough for a cobbler or better yet jam.
I hope you find a patch to pull over and pick from, even if it’s only enough for a small bowl with milk and sugar. The simplest of summer joys.