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Monday, July 7, 2008

The Plight of the Berries

It appears that one of the best summer rituals may be coming to an end. Picking wild berries has always been a wonderful day to spend entire days of summer. Unfortunately, the berries are disappearing.

Today, Randall and I struck out on an adventure of picking blackberries. He had visions of homemade cobbler dancing around while I just had visions of a shower on the horizon. We've been waiting for the right time to go berry picking. There are tons of bushes near our house where berries are free for the taking, so we just knew that we would be coming home with a bucket full of berries.

Now, when I was a kid, picking (and eating) blackberries was just something that we always did during the summer. We might even manage to bring some of our berries home for my step-mother to use in the kitchen. I know how blackberries are supposed to look and taste when picked from wild bushes that have been left to grow as they please. They are supposed to be plump and juicy, smelling of sweetness that only a wild berry can offer. This is what we wanted to find today on our hike through the woods.

This is NOT what we found. What we came across today was acres of blackberry bushes with pitiful offerings of minuscule berries that were mostly dry and hard from lack of water. The fields were covered in drought ridden fruits that could barely even be considered a berry considering how sad and depleted they were.

We had expected to come home with a bucket full of plump, juicy berries ready to be baked into a luscious cobbler. What we have is about 3 cups of mostly hard and dry berries that have to be soaked in sugar water before we can even consider baking them into a merely adequate cobbler just for the sake of saying there was, indeed, a cobbler.

After our trek into the wilds here, I decided to stop by my mother's house for a few more berries. I was in the area anyways, and there are always nice berries on her bushes because they are shaded from the scorching sun.

Yeah - right! Her bushes were no better than those in our wild woods here. There was barely a hand full of berries to be had, not even a half a cup. Of course, hers were sweeter and a bit juicier, but they were so tiny. Marisa did not seem to mind the size of these berries. Upon seeing them, she readily gobbled them up before I could even consider baking them into that previously mentioned cobbler, not that it matters. There were so few of them that the cobbler really will not notice they are missing.

This day has left me wondering what is to become of the skill of berry picking. Is picking of berries to be relegated to the neat and cultured farms where you arrive with buckets in hand and pay the nice people to let you roam their tailored fields and pick their berries that have been perfectly watered and manicured for optimal appearance? Will the wild berries forever fade away into the memories of a lengthy drought?

I, for one, hope that the berries are not truly disappearing from the wild landscapes of my home town. While picking berries is no longer one of my personal favorites, I do want my children to experience the sheer pleasure of picking those ripe berries and popping a few into their mouths while they think nobody is watching.

I also hope that they get to see just how excited their father gets over a bush full of plump and juicy (or even not so juicy) blackberries. He's a big kid at heart and had so much fun tromping through the briers and brambles to conquer the bushes and take even the most piteous of their treasures. And, yes, I even caught him throwing a few of those berries into his mouth when he thought nobody was watching.


Liss said...

I hope the rain comes so next season your berries are plumper and tastier. It is a lot of fun to pick berries as a child. I hope to get to experience how wondrous it can be. We are in a drought here in Melbourne even in the middle of winter for us. We are under heavy water restrictions we can only water our gardens once a week between the hours of 6am and 8am and we can not wash our cars and our current water storage level in our dams at present is only 29% full. The only things that seem to grow with no water are weeds.

Petula Wright said...

You know I remember this same thing happening when I was a kid/teenager in MD. We used to pick and eat berries then a couple of seasons we went and there weren't any berries. It puzzled me then but I didn't give it much thought. Some of us may take rain for granted, but it's these "little things" that make it quite noticeable.

Maybe you can get a piece of those bushes to plant on your property and keep them watered. That way you guys will have berries. And I'll be over to get some too! :-)