The other day, I was taking a walk around the mountain with my husband and he pointed out some blackberry (or raspberry) bushes, with little buds of fruit just emerging. I was thrilled.
I said, “Lets steal them.”
He looked at me aghast and said, “We’ll do no such thing.”
I pointed out that the bushes were not on anyone’s land. They are growing wild on the outskirts of the road by a cliff drop off, so they are not, nor will they ever be, on a lot or near anyone’s cabin. As such, they are just random wild bushes, free for the taking. I’ve been lusting for blackberry bushes for months. In fact, I’ve been so obnoxious about it that my sister in law gave me a blackberry bush for my birthday, and finding just the right place to plant it was a paramount, all consuming decision for an entire week.
I suggested we bring the truck over and fill it with the wild berry bushes to transfer to our land. It would make me VERY HAPPY I pointed out, as if that implies some sort of bonus for him. He didn’t fall for it though.
Mark said, “I’m not going to fill my truck with these plants. You can just pick berries when you take a walk. Besides which, I’m sure that if you look, we have plenty of wild berry bushes on our own land.”
I mumbled that if he was going to be uncooperative, I would just get Denver to help me, and we would pull off this nature heist when he wasn’t home. I might be able to pick berries this summer when I talk walks, but next summer I’ll be on the land, and it’ll be unlikely I’ll drive to this mountain for berry picking. Nevertheless, I really, really, want fresh blackberries and raspberries for cooking. (I’ve been collecting recipe’s ya see, along with my bazillion blueberry recipes.)
Then Mark said, “Just be aware that if you remove the bushes now when the fruit is demanding the plant’s energy, they may not survive the transplant. It would be best to get them later, in the fall, after they are done bearing fruit.”
Drat, he knows I’m not about to do something that would destroy something so lovely. But waiting is a problem, because I won’t be able to distinguish these plants from others without the berries. Unfortunately, they do not stand out from the other wild bushes in appearance. I could tag them now, I guess, but now the entire caper is getting complicated.
Mark assured me that I’ll have all the berries I want if I’m patient. He would find them on our land, because they are everywhere in Georgia. If not, he would plant some AFTER we are done building the house. I must have faith. And PATIENCE. “Rome (and our new life) can’t be built in a day,” he often reminds me.
That night, don’t ya know I saw a hundred blackberry bushes along the backcountry road where I run. There is a fence around a pasture entirely covered by them – millions of tiny berry buds weighing the branches down. It seems as if nature was teasing me now. Everyone has wild berries BUT me. While I can pick to my hearts delight at these places where the plants are left unattended and unharvested, I still feel deprived. I want my very own berry plants that I can nurture and visit. I want to experiment with making all kinds of berry things – jams and syrups , pies and pancakes – and that takes gobs of berries, more than you’d want to buy.
That night, I went horseback riding alone. I steered Peppy down all the side roads of our land keeping my eye out for blackberries. All of a sudden, I saw a bush. Voila!!!! I got off the horse to inspect the plant. Sure enough, I had a few little berry buds waiting to turn. I went a bit further and saw another. Then another and another and another. I found about four dozen bushes along our roads. I hadn’t known they were there, because the plants start blooming in June and peek in July and we didn’t begin spending time on the land last season until August, after the berry explosion was over. I haven’t recognized the plants as berry bushes without fruit. But now that I have become berry-aware, I’m discovering berry bushes everywhere!
Each day, I find more and more berry bushes tucked away in the foliage of our land, laden with unripe fruit. Soon, they will be ready for pick’ in. (My blueberry bush has zillions of green berries soon to turn. In fact, a few turned plump blue, but they are still sour. (Had to sample them) In three weeks, it will be like hitting the blueberry lottery.)
Mark has warned me that the deer and birds might get the blackberries and raspberries before I have a chance to. I guess he wants to prepare me in case my berry aspirations are crushed. Deers think they can eat all my fruit? We’ll see about that. My mind is already circling methods to protect my bushes. Can I construct wire cages around them? Shall I pace the grounds daily like an army sentry to shoo away hungry pests?
I have to admit, Mark was right. Blackberry bushes are hiding everywhere in the wilderness in this area of the country. The birds must eat them and fly elsewhere and their droppings lead to more plants. Now that I have found them on our land, I am planning to fertilize and care for them, hoping to build strong, healthy berry bushes that will grow as big as my car (like my blueberry bush). I will spend July picking and hopefully fill my freezer with dozens of containers so we have them all year long. I want to cook a magnificent dessert this Thanksgiving and Christmas out of berries off our land. I am funny that way – for me, even food is better if it has intimate meaning and good memories associated to it. For the holidays, I want to make desserts that are special for more reasons than taste.
So, I’ve been celebrating because have a berry resource right under my nose. Yippee. We also have a dozen black walnut trees and some old apple trees that no longer produce anything worthy to eat. Next spring, we will be bulldozing them out and replacing them with peach and apple trees. I’m told that in three years, I’ll be able to harvest my own fruit from my own small orchard too. How cool is that?
You may be thinking, “When is she going to start a veggie garden?” Well, of course, I’m thinking along those lines. Got space. What I don’t got – water. We have a creek, but no pumps or wells yet. Can’t have a garden without a source to water it, as Mark has explained each time I point out someone else’s garden with envy. He says next spring will be another matter. I can have a garden if I’m willing to do the work to tend it.
My husband listens to me squeal with excitement when I see tomato plants for sale or a big pumpkin patch on the side of the road, laughing, because he knows growing veggies is hard work and I might not like it as much as I think. And yet, he is a gardener, so he understands the appeal of being out in the sun, watching your plants grow and flourish a bit more each day. He loves freshly grown fruit and vegetables and looks forward to the dishes I can and will prepare with them, so he says that if I really want to try my hand at gardening, he will help. After all, he has the tractor to make my dreams a reality. Gotta love a guy with a tractor.
Now, you may think I am turning into Miss Farmer Brown. Not true. But I do love to cook, and I’m planning to take this interest to another level. The older I get, the more I am drawn to less physically demanding activities, I guess – lazy me. Or maybe it’s because now, we have time to entertain friends and I want to make the most of it. I am forever making this foolish list of people to invite over when the house is done. Mark laughs and says I have us theoretically booked until the year 2008. Maybe so, but I am looking forward to evenings with good friends, good food, and a rousing game of Sequence. (I love that game.) I want to cook more for just us too. There is something so intimate about feeding your family– taking time to nourish them with special dishes. I want to go to the trouble to make meals eventful. I am old fashion, I guess, with romantic notions of building family intimacy around a happy, generous dinner table.
Anyway, cooking appeals to me. I have plans to take a few gourmet-cooking classes at a nearby fine wine and gourmet food store and have been looking for other ways to push the envelope. I like the idea of working with the seasons offerings – meeting the challenge of using what is readily available. And I love being self-sufficient at home, avoiding processed and overly packaged commercial foods. I like the concept of growing my own food for social and environmental reasons. And add to this the fact that I love being outdoors. The way I see it, it’s a win-win situation. This food is free, wholesome and healthy, and harvesting it is a lovely, peaceful thing to do. It’s not like I’m collecting it for market, laboring in the fields like a work hand to support the family. I am just collecting food in a natural way, the way humans were meant to- (we are hunters and gathers by instinct). And I get a special thrill of setting something homemade on the table knowing I put it together, literally, from start to finish.
I am on a tangent. What is my point? Oh yea. I am excited about my new berry discovery. Perhaps, I will inundate you with recipes this July after I do some tests. I may be walking around with a blue tongue from all the taste tests, but if that is the price of discovery, I am willing to accept it.
Oh yea, you might be wondering about my dog. He was bit by a snake the other day. He had two puncture wounds in his cheek and his mouth and neck swelled up to three times the normal size within minutes. Panicked us. We called the vet and they said it sounded like a copperhead. But they were closed and they said that unless we are alarmist, we should wait. There was a 90% chance he would survive. He would be sick all night as the poison takes hold but they could treat him in the morning. (Like we could sleep while we waited?) Actually, we are not alarmist, and so, even though we felt badly for him, we decided to do what they advised. So at 6:00 the next morning, I went to check on him with no small degree of anxiety. Teddy seemed so much better – the swelling had gone down considerably and there was no sign of him having been sick. Mostly, he was perky and excited because he saw my running shoes. Despite a small degree of swelling,, I allowed him to join me, and he ran the three miles with far more energy and enthusiasm than I could muster. Made me happy, because that is not the sign of a sick dog. In the end, we skipped the vet, and by 3:00, he was perfectly normal. Don’t know what bit him, but it passed. I’m just glad whatever it was bit the dog and not Neva. But then, Neva doesn’t bark and chase snakes in an obnoxious way. At least, not to my knowledge.
All is well in Ginny’s Arc. Can’t help but love (and be grateful for) hearty pets.