Much of our property is in a semi-wild state. Once upon a time it was regularly mowed, but not recently, and small trees and briars have grown taller than I am across most of the land. Earlier this spring the hill side was awash in white blossoms. Now, those blossoms have transformed into wild blackberries.
When I was walking the land before I bought it, I let it know that I wanted to be its new caretaker, but it would be a financially tight proposition. I told it that it would have to pay at least some of its own way, and so far it’s done a good job. I couldn’t say how many blackberries are growing — 500 gallons perhaps — but with people willing to pay $4 per half pint at the farmers’ market, it doesn’t take many to add up to a nice payday.
We sold a few last week, but this week is when the berries are really ripening. Yesterday evening, I took a big bowl and set out for the brambles. There’s a few things I noticed that blackberry bushes are good at. First, they like to grow very thickly so that one can see many more berries than one can actually reach. Also, the thorns on them are very sharp and grab hold tight to clothing, skin, or anything else they contact with. They hold so tightly that you’d think they feed on the bodies of passing animals, eternally tangled in the thicket. Also, they love to grow among stands of locust trees, which happen to have four inch razor-sharp thorns of their own.
So to reach the maximum amount of fruit, I had to call upon the gymnastic skills taught to me 25 years ago at the Y. An arabesque here to extend my reach another foot, a pirouette there to twirl out of overhanging branches. The local wildlife watched my berry ballet. A group of frogs sounding exactly like a gang of chihuahuas barked as I went by. One of our cats along for the walk flushed out rabbits larger than he was. And finally a tiny fawn, barely old enough to walk, watched from a safe distance.
He was the smallest fawn I’d ever seen. If he were a pet, he’d have been a lap deer (not to be confused with Lapp deer). His mother left him right in the middle of a group of small briars. He watched me warily as I approached his bed. I tried to give him some of the fruit I’d picked, but he wouldn’t get close enough. Instead he circled me and followed me how about an hour, never going more than 15 feet away.
Eventually the sun had set enough that it was getting hard to see where the thorns were. I turned for home and the fawn stayed behind. The cat had long gotten bored and was waiting for me back at the house. I left far more berries on the vines than I picked, so it looks like I’ll get to pick some every day this week. Lucky, lucky me!