Blackberry Picking Family Tradition

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal 14 Comments

Have you ever been blackberry picking? Wild blackberry picking? We have some tame thornless blackberries in our garden now. It can be an adventure to pick those since we didn’t keep them trimmed as we should have and some of the vines are ten feet tall. The best berries are always the ones on the tiptop vines and just barely out of reach. Always. And the birds love the berries. A few enterprising birds even built their nests in the vines. No need to fly far for breakfast.

But picking those can’t compare to wild berries. When I grew up, it was simply part of our summer to get our buckets and go hunt up some wild blackberry canes in the fields. My dad had a fairly large farm and we knew where the best berries grew. So come July, we’d put on our long pants and long sleeve shirts, grab some buckets and off to the field we’d go. Then Mom would make blackberry jam and pies.

I carried on the berry picking tradition after I got married. Sometimes the kids would go with me to pick and sometimes I went early in the morning to fill my bucket. Then we planted some boysenberry bushes in our yard and for quite a few years, they produced plenty of berries for me to make pies and jam. So I let the birds and deer have the wild berries. But the boysenberry bushes finally got old and stopped producing very well. My husband got tired of mowing around them because of their nasty thorns. Boysenberry have serious thorns that have a way of reaching out and grabbing you if you get anywhere close to them. I liked them enough that I picked them anyway, but I had plenty of scratches to show for it. I used to have a little Brittany spaniel that would eat them off the bush. I never knew how she did that without major pain from the thorns. Anyway, my husband got rid of our bushes in the yard although we have some volunteer ones around the garden still, thorns and all.

Then my grandkids came along and loved peanut butter and jam sandwiches. So every year my son and his family come blackberry picking. The wild vines, some mixed with boysenberries, grow beside the hay field in the fence rows and are not that hard to pick. Even my young granddaughters get a bucket and get in on the act. One thing for sure, it’s more fun picking blackberry with grandkids than by yourself. And they get to continue the family tradition of braving the chiggers and ticks, the stickers and snakes to help bring home food for the table. Thanks to insect repellents, we keep off most of the pesky bugs and so far this year, I haven’t seen a snake in the berry bushes. So far.

Have you ever gone out in the field to hunt blackberries? Did you pay for those sweet berries by having chigger bites? But did you enjoy a blackberry pie for your trouble?

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Comments 14

  1. Carol B

    I am looking for Angel Sister in Spanish for a friend who only reads Spanish but love the cover of this book so much that she drew it. Is there a way to get the story in Maria’s language? Thank you

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      Author
      Ann H Gabhart

      I wish I could say yes, Carol, but I don’t think Angel Sister has been translated into Spanish. There’s a Dutch translation but that hardly does your friend any good. One of my young adult books was reprinted in Spanish years ago, but that’s the only time one of my books made it into Spanish. There are translations programs on electronic versions, aren’t there? I’m not sure about that.

      But anyway, it’s sweet that your friend loves the cover enough to paint it. It’s my favorite book cover because the little girl model has be perfect look on her face as she looks up at her “angel sister.” I often say that if they could have picked my Lorena up out of the book and brought her to life to model for the cover, they couldn’t have done any better than the child model they hired. She was an absolutely perfect Lorena. I live the smaller picture on the back cover of Lorena and Kate too. Just a great cover. Revell always does a good job on their book covers. They have some talented people there.

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      Ann H Gabhart

      Right, you have to eat those perfect ones when you find them on the vine, Diana. That makes the picking go better but doesn’t fill the bucket as fast.

  2. Lou Anne Panning

    Not blackberries but mushrooms was the family ‘s specialty. My grandfather was famous for his ability to find those tender morsels usually under dead elm or other dying trees. Then my parents continued the hunt. many mornings I would awaken with mushrooms and eggs sizzling in the pan. I can see in my mind still that certain species popping through the soil for easy pickings after long searches and yelling, “over here!” We too were clothed in long pants and sleeves too keep the poison ivy from touching bare skin. And, when we got home, a thorough exam and shower to remove such things. The best part was sharing, as my grandfather did, by secretely leaving part of our good fortune with those no longer able to join the early morning hunt.

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      Ann H Gabhart

      Such good memories, Lou Anne. I wouldn’t trust my mushroom picking. I’d be poisoning somebody. But I know some people really love mushrooms and know how to find the good ones. Fun that your grandfather taught you about mushroom gathering and sweet that he set a generous example for you by sharing his finds.

  3. Janet B.

    We had wild Blackberry bushes growing all over my grandparents 40 acres in Mississippi. Mother would take us each summer, with pails in hand, to pick them. Oh yes, we all suffered red bug bites! I will never forget that! Mother told us to watch out for snakes before we picked. But the end reward was the wonderful cobblers she made from them after they were washed & rinsed several times. We always had Blackberry jam to eat throughout the year with delicious biscuits & butter. I buy my Blackberry jam now from the grocery but it can never compare with the good homemade kind nor the special times we spent with my mother picking the berries!

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      Ann H Gabhart

      Isn’t it wonderful how those memories stay with us, Janet, and we forget the bad parts or at least laugh about those chigger bites and snake sightings? I always go on the assumption that those snakes are more afraid of me than I am of them. At least I hope so. 🙂 With the spray bug deterrent you can buy now, the chiggers aren’t as big a problem. Of course, Off isn’t the most appealing perfume. Guess that’s why it works.

  4. Melissa

    Last evening, as hubby and I enjoyed a long walk in the neighborhood, we passed by a patch of blackberries. Hubby enjoys them more than me. However, we decided not to reach in the wild bushes to get the berries. We just enjoyed viewing the berries. 🙂

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      Ann H Gabhart

      You have more self-control than I do, Melissa. I’d have had to give one berry a taste. In fact, I just took a walk and ate a handful off a bush I passed and wished I’d had something to put more in to carry to the house.

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      Ann H Gabhart

      I can agree with that, Evelyn. Homemade blackberry jam on a hot biscuit – yum. Sounds like a fine breakfast to me.

  5. Paula

    We had wild blackberries when we lived in the woods of Wisconsin. We would eat our fill and have quarts and pints to can. Did you know they are good for upset stomachs?
    Now we have them , maybe 1/2 an acre or more, on the land we bought with our son and his wife (40 acres). They are building out there and were picking a few days ago. So far we have found poison ivy and gooseberries, too! And a few morels . It’s going to be hunting land, too. My husband got a buck last year opening day — opening hour! They have seen turkeys but couldn’t get them to come in, although we’ve seen tracks all the way up by the road. They have seen snakes and coyotes, too! Last time we were there we saw a hawk and 8 Turkey Buzzards. Cardinals, bluebirds and turtles are around, too. Lots and lots of oaks and cedars and even a creek when it rains. And did I mention an abundance of rocks? Definitely not farmland. Thanks for jogging a good memory of berry picking!

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      Ann H Gabhart

      Sounds like a wonderful place to explore a little nature, Paula. We have plenty of some of those things you mentioned too. Like poison ivy and buzzards. We see deer and hawks and I spot a coyote now and again. Of course, we hear those coyotes at certain times of the year. I can close my eyes and imagine being out on the western plains. Coyotes were completely killed out around here at one time, but then so were deer. Very rare to see a deer when I was a kid and now they come up in our yard and feast on my rose bushes and my husband’s tomato plants. Hope you get to enjoy some good eating with those blackberries. And no, I had never heard that blackberries were good for an upset stomach. If so, I shouldn’t have to worry about a queasy stomach for a while with the way I’m sampling the berries as I pick.

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