Blackberry Picking

July 5, 2012 in Editorials

We are now in the throes of summer, and we are working are fingers to the bone, literally! We have planted hundreds of blueberry plants, several hundred nectarine and peach trees, lavender, tomatoes, peppers, and stevia. That all takes work and sweat, but what is killing my fingers right now is picking the blackberries!

Most of our blackberries have thorns, so picking them is a hazard. But if someone has ever picked blackberries, they will tell you that the biggest and fattest blackberries, the ones you absolutely want the most, are always two steps into the thicket of thorns! I do a contortion act trying to get to those big fat berries without getting caught on the barbed wands swaying in the breeze. Nature somehow knows where the front of the hedge of blackberry plants is and puts the smallest and most dried-out berries there within close reach. And Mother Nature laughs to the point of holding her sides when she watches us all try everything we know to reach those just OUT of reach.

I have tried using a tennis racket and a firefly net. Neither was as good as my own hands, but the net was more efficient. Though they both knocked the berries off, the net was better at bringing them closer; they seemed to roll right off the tennis racket.

I have worn flannel shirts and my thickest jeans to wade through the brambles, to no avail. I still came home with scratches and bleeding cuts. I have worn extra tall thick boots to keep the brambles off my shins and legs, and it was wasted effort.

Last summer I planned to outsmart these blackberry bushes! I took a square of plywood with me, laying it down on the ground and standing in safety on it while squishing the berry plants under it. I would then gingerly work the plywood out from under me and lay it in front me of again, making a flattened path into the blackberries in order to pick those wonderful fat ones.

Picking blackberries doesn’t just mean cuts and thorn-pricks: they ripen at the hottest (it seems!) part of the summer. And for some reason every itch-causing bug or poisonous snake likes to hang out in the blackberry bushes, waiting to ambush any human who enters. You can always expect to leave the blackberry fields with tick and chigger guests on our arms and legs. And rattlesnakes seem to think that the shade of a blackberry bush is sweeter than any regular tree shade. I tend to make lots of noise when wading into a blackberry thicket to scare away the snakes, stomping and moving the bushes noisily, very much like doing the stingray shuffle when one enters the shallow ocean waters during stingray season. So far (knock on wood) I have not come across any snakes in my path.

We have planted thornless blackberry plants this year, so I will be anxious to pick berries from those plants in two years. But I think the rest of the blackberries are mocking me … this is the most prodigious year for blackberries I can remember in the last ten years.

Those of you who see me out and about at the end of blackberry picking season will know what I’ve been up to by the blackberry stains on my hands and the band aids on all my fingers and all over my shins and thighs!

And when I say next year that I’m working my fingers to the bone at the farm, you will know that I really mean to the bone, as some of those blackberry thorns feel like they went in and right down to the bone!

by Maura White, Murfreesboro, Tennessee Copyright © 2011, Maura White. All rights reserved.
Maura is a stained glass artist, seamstress, quilter, cook, jewelry maker, natural soap maker, and avid reader. She loves old cars and drives an old ‘54 Chevy Panel truck around town. She grew up in a sleepy beach town in Southern California, and when she married her husband, a Marine, they moved every two years and have lived the world over. Every place they moved they would look at farms and land, and they now have that farm in Rutherford County. Her husband is an engineer. More Places to Find Maura on the Web: http://whitem4.wordpress.com, http://doublestarbarfarm.com, http://southernstainedglass.com, and Mother Earth News blog: http://www.motherearthnews.com/biographies/maura-white.aspx