Picking Blackberries and Other Berry Picking Stories

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal

It’s Saturday night and I’m bushed. I usually don’t sign on to let you know what’s going on in my life out here on the farm until Sunday, but tomorrow promises to be one of those days when there’s no time for blog reflections. The guys are singing at the Mercer County Fair in Harrodsburg tomorrow night, so I’m hoping to go hear them. And of course I’ll be going to church in the morning and then if it doesn’t look stormy my Sunday School kids are supposed to come home with me to take our once or twice a year walk to Panther Rock. They have a blast playing in the creek and crawling over the rocks. This is our third Sunday to try it. Both the other Sundays the weathermen have predicted storms. Both Sundays it was cloudy till after church and then after we’d postponed the adventure, the sun came out and the afternoons turned out to be great. Probably will rain on us whenever we do get down on the creek. Now that was definitely a glass half empty comment, wasn’t it? I’ll have to go back and read my quotes on optimism again.

The reason I’m so bushed is it’s hot here today. In the nineties, and I decided – in the hottest part of the day – that I’d better pick the beans in the garden before they grew too big. I was just finishing up when my daughter-in-law (not the one expecting twins, the other one) brought the kids out to go blackberry picking. She wanted to get enough berries to make jam. I took them to the easy patches, but I think the deer have been beating us to the berries. They must like the easy patches too. And then the kids wanted to eat all they picked. The littlest one who is two kept saying she wanted to pick out of my bucket. We finally found almost a gallon, but they didn’t have time to go to the patch in the pasture field. So after they left, I decided I was already hot and sweaty and itchy and scratched up so I might as well get more so. I went back. I must have been too hot to think straight.

Any of you ever pick blackberries out in the field where the vines grow over your head and there are mysterious paths tunneling through the bushes? If so, you know that’s where the biggest and best blackberries grow. But you also know there could be snakes under there or even crawling along the top of the briars. The stickers don’t seem to bother them much. I’ve decided I’m a Kamikaze blackberry picker. Show me a big plump berry and I’ll mash down briars, stick my hand through prickly vines, and do whatever it takes to go after that berry. Then when I finally stretch as far as I can and have my fingers on that delicious berry, half the time I drop it. Or it’s too ripe and the June bugs have already beat me to it. All that pain for naught. I haven’t really figured out yet why I do it. I could just stay away from those patches and be oblivious to all those berries going to waste, but I go out hunting them. I must like picking berries. You know, finding my food out in the wild, beating the deer and birds to them, challenging the snakes.

Darrell told me he saw that someone was selling wild blackberries for $8 a quart. That sounds like a lot, but I wouldn’t pick them for $8. Not for anybody else. We have bosenberries in our backyard. The vines aren’t doing good this year, but I’ve picked a lot of bosenberries in years past and those briars are way worse than blackberries. They lay in wait for you and grab you even when you think you’re way out of reach. Don’t ask me how. I think they’re possessed. Anyway I tell people I only pick those berries for people I love. A lot.

Going berry picking to make jam made me think of the book I finished a few weeks ago. Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen. I talked about sitting by the author, Susan Gregg Gilmore at the Blue Grass Book Festival in one of my May blogs and how the title pulled people in. Her books practically hopped up into their hands, and most of them didn’t put it back down. I finally had time to read the copy that hopped up into my hands. The story is just as good as the title. It’s about the daughter of a preacher (Yeah, I know. Just like mine.) and who lives in a small town (again just like mine) and can’t wait to leave the small town and go out into the big world. (Not like Jocie in mine. Jocie loves Hollyhill. It’ll be hard for her when she has to leave.) Susan’s heroine, Catherine Grace, does leave town as soon as she reaches 18, but she finds out that maybe she left behind too much of her heart. But the reason my berry picking brought the story to mind is that in the book, she and her sister pick strawberries and sell strawberry jam to make money for their big escape from their small town. See where berry picking can take you. Check out Susan’s book on her website, www.susangregggilmore.com. This is her first novel but she put in her years learning to write as a newspaper reporter. She learned well. Her book is even on the high school reading list for the old high school she attended. How neat is that! I’d just be happy if all my old high school buddies wanted to read my books. And I’m lucky enough that some of them do.

I’ve gone ahead and scheduled the book launch for The Outsider at Corinth Bookstore in Frankfort, Kentucky for August 1. I just know it’s going to make those twins decide to come early, but we’re taking a chance. I’m looking forward to having my book out and my daughter-in-law is looking forward to having those twins out where somebody else can carry them around for a while. LOL Hope if you’re in the area you’ll come out to my book launch. It’s at 7 p.m. Friday night, August 1. I’ll be talking about my new book, answering questions and signing copies of the book for anyone who wants to take one home. Then the next day I’ll be at Paul Sawyier Library in Frankfort, KY at A Gathering of Authors. I’ll have all my recent books available there. Come by and see me if you’re in the area.

Hope you have a great week. And get out there and pick some blackberries. It’s probably good for the Southern soul. If you put them in a cobbler they taste good for sure.