Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The rewards of rastling with pricker bushes


We are still discovering, or, should I say re-discovering? the many splendorous things about summertime in Vermont.

After what feels like years of  unremarkable blackberry picking on my parents' property, the blackberries I remember from my childhood, plentiful and, some of them, almost as big as our thumbs, are back.

Everything has its year. And for that, we're glad.

We went out one lazy, quiet evening right about supper time. Esther was having a sleepover so it was just me and Isla. Or was it Isla and I? I guess it all depends on what I'm trying to say. Despite years of practice, I'm never too sure. Always second guessing. Overthinking.

The thing about blackberry picking is, you need to be dressed for combat. (I wasn't.) Those bushes are armed and will defend themselves to the bitter end. And they aren't above ambushes from behind. Could this be the origin of the word "ambush?"

While trying to break through to the most enticing stash, set back from the trail protected by a daunting wall of prickers, I felt a bit like all those poor princes in Sleeping Beauty. The ones that didn't make it to the castle.

Needless to say, my legs look like those of an 8-year-old boy just come back from Boy-Scout camp. But I did come back with the prize, half a sand bucket filled with plump berries. And a world of choice when it came to deciding just how we were going to eat them: Straight out of the bucket, in a bowl with cream, or maybe in a blackberry cobbler if mom gets so inspired.

I will now share some photos taken on our expedition despite being hugely annoyed at their quality. (Did I mention my camera drowned in the lake a while back? I've tried everything, including the rice trick, and, it seems... I need a new camera. There's a blurry ghost floating in almost every picture. The more natural, gorgeous light involved, the worse the blur.)












27 comments:

Robin said...

Just keep telling yourself that the camera ghost is imparting a hazy, dreamlike quality to your photos that emphasizes the timelessness of the experiences you're capturing. There. No need for an expensive replacement until you're ready.

I also love Isla's jewelry worn blackberry picking. My daughter, who is between yours in age (turning 7 on Sat.), often accessorizes similarly. My son has been known to wear a mask and cape to Chick-fil-a, so his instincts are a little different, but he still likes to accessorize a bit.

Betsy said...

Robin: Yes. Isla picked a doozy of a berry-picking outfit, complete with accessories. Sort of, blackberry bohemian.

Living Down Under said...

Your pictures make me want to come and live your life... Camera ghosts and all :). With cream would have been my choice after I'd snagged a few straight from the bucket. Yum!

Michelle M said...

I'm not much of a blackberry girl, but I would pick in a cobbler .... doesn't a yummy, buttery crust make all fruit better?

Your post made me think of my own childhood, and my daddy ... He LOVED blackberries, and one of his closest friends had a big blackberry patch on his property. We would visit his friend (just Daddy and I) and they would sit and talk about cars or something equally thrilling to a little girl, then Daddy and I would go picking and take a huge bucket home for my mom to make cobbler with (hence my cobbler choice). He's been gone for just over 11 years, and memories like these still bring a tear to my eye and a smile to my heart.

OK - that was a total tangent, but your writing (and pictures) always evoke such strong feelings, and often memories of my own life ... what a gifted writer you are.

Separately - and I have to say this because it is true ... I believe your girls are two of the most beautiful children I have EVER seen. That last pic of Isla should definitely be in a frame on your wall. :)

Greta said...

Are there no chiggers in Vermont? I'm jealous of your grass rolling.

Betsy said...

Michelle: What a touching comment. I'm glad my post brought up happy memories for you. And, aw thanks about my kids. "Brilliant and gorgeous" that's what every parent thinks of their kids, right?

Betsy said...

Greta: We have ticks, Lyme carrying ones. They were bad in the spring, we got many bites and both kids ended up on antibiotics, but we've gotten lax. We still check ourselves, mostly, each night. I am not sure I know what a chigger is?

Anonymous said...

KiminAZ:

I just have to comment here. You used the word "pricker" in your title. It's been so long since I've heard that and it made me feel like I was home! That and the blackberries! Man, do I miss picking berries. I used to go blueberry picking with my Grandmother on trips to N.H., and we always had wild berries growing all over the place in VT. Here, unless you want to pick prickly pears from cactus plants (yes, they really do exist- no, it's not just in the movie "The Jungle Book"!)and make jam it's a no go. And here they have prickers, but they call them stickers. Let me tell you, YOUCH! When you step on them it hurts for days and they're EVERYWHERE! They're called bull's heads or goat's heads. To me "stickers" were the sticky pictures that I bought as a kid for my sticker album. Who knew?! So enjoy those berries any way that you want to. Eat a handful for all of us that aren't lucky enough to be back east!

By the way, you were right. It's "...so it was just me and Isla."

Just so you know, stubborn New England-er that I am, I STILL go outside barefoot! Dumb, I know, but I have always gone barefoot and I just can't get myself to stop!

Kim

Shampagne Magee said...

Those are the magical moments of magic that Isla will remember forever. Thank you so much for sharing them with us.

Betsy said...

KiminAZ: Who knew, prickers were so laden with culture. If I were to use the appropriate Vermont dialect I might have said, pucker brush, but I'm not sure anyone would have understood. And how about those cow patties? Do people say "don't cut your feet?" out there when they mean to say, Watch out for that pile of cow poop?"

Betsy said...

Shampagne Magee: Great name. And you're welcome.

Anonymous said...

KiminAZ:

MAN, cow patties! My 2nd cousin owns a farm in Williamstown. Now it's just horses, but back then he had cows, chickens... different things at different times, but always cows until after I was grown. When we would go out into the fields to fix fences, pick rocks before tilling, log with the work horses, or whatever, it was inevitable that we would end up having a cow patty toss! You know what I'm talking about. It would always end up with one of us picking up a not-so-dry cow patty and tossing it. You always get that nice wet cow patty noise followed by retaliation and a wet cow patty war!

I haven't had it in me to venture out into the desert to check the cow patties here. I can tell you though, the cows here get a callus on their tongues from eating the cacti! I'd hate to step on one of those cow patties, never mind have a cow patty toss!

Pucker brush! Yes, but only if you say it with that famous "back woods" Vermont accent!

I miss home! Not the ticks, but most everything else. And how about those creemee stands?! They don't even call them that here, and the closest that I've come to a real creemee is a sad, sad second. Pretty much what you get at Dairy Queen. They don't use that good creamy creemee base here. It's more like ice milk. YUK! There are so many great Vermont things to miss. It's like it's own little world up there. A great world full of wonderful people with fabulous accents where you can leave your house unlocked and your keys in your ignition and no one steals anything (well, at least where I lived, anyway..... I don't know about Burlington, or any of the other big towns)! A place where everyone waves at everyone else on the road even when they don't know each other and no one wonders why. Where kids still run free in fields and know how to tend to animals the natural way (Trust me, there's a VERY unnatural way that animals are tended to. They do it down here and it's awful!). A place where the air smells delicious after it rains and the morning dew rests everywhere each morning.... I'll stop. You know about all of the greatness that you have there. Cherish every berry picking, grass rolling, horse riding, dew filled moment. I know that I wish that I had before I knew that there was something to miss!

Kim

Betsy said...

KiminAZ: Yes, we could go on extolling the virtues of VT forever. But, on that note, I couldn't find my purse the other morning and realized that, rather than leave it "safely" in the car, where I often do,and where my car keys always stay, I had left it on the front porch. :)

Anonymous said...

KiminAZ:

"...safely in the car..." That's great! When I moved down here my husband asked "Where are the keys?" I said "They're in the car." He got this horrified look on his face and incredulously asked me "WHY?!" Well, I'll make a long story short by saying that I explained the "why" of it to him. He just shook his head and very seriously said "You can't do that here." Sad but true. We lock our car in our own driveway!

Meowmie said...

Love the expression on Isla's face! Makes me remember how I liked to pick blackberries on my own, dressed in jeans, wellington boots and an old woollen sweater to protect my arms. How the prickles would dig through my fingertips and make piano practice a total pain for the next few days.

Of course, it was one for the bucket, one for me.

Robin said...

Betsy and other East Coast/New England readers: chiggers are these tiny little bugs that, I believe, actually get under your skin and cause itchy welts like mosquito bites, and for some reason they are attracted to the edges of clothing, such as right on your underwear line. They are gotten from sitting right in the grass. I used to get them all summer when I was a kid growing up in Kentucky, but I live in Maryland now and have never seen a bite or heard of someone getting one here. I think they're more of a midwest/southern thing, rather than Eastern seaboard one. Not sure about out west--I'm guessing no, but I have no reason for that assumption.

mooserbeans said...

I loved berry picking when I was a little girl. I don't have that here in the burbs for my girls. I don't have to tell you to enjoy it, it is clear you are. I loved Isla's "berry bohemian" outfit.

Anonymous said...

@Robin:

No chiggers here in the west. They're definitely a Southern, mid-western thing. I think that it has to be hot and moist at the same time for them to survive. I spent almost a year living between Tennessee and Louisiana and they sure have chiggers there!

KiminAZ

Michelle M said...

Robin- you are correct about the chiggers. We call them "Demonic" mosquitos. :)

We don't seem to have them here in Southern Ohio; but yes, they are rampant in Kentucky and are an issue whenever we visit family in the Kentucky hills. They love to hang out in the tall grass, and much like mosquitos, seem to attack worst in the early evening.

Robin said...

@Kim in AZ and Michelle M:
I wonder what those chiggers really are. And Michelle, it's so funny that in So. Ohio you don't have them--apparently they're unable to cross the Ohio! I grew up literally 20 minutes from Cincinnati, but on the KY side, and we always had them. And I agree that they seem to like hot and moist, but here in central MD, we certainly have that, and yet, no chiggers. Wikipedia, here I come! For some reason, I must now research what the actually are and where they live.

Robin said...

OK, here's the scoop on my chigger research: they are tiny, a species of mite, and while they do kind of attach and burrow, by the time one has a bite, the bug itself is probably gone. So if you've ever heard the home remedy of putting nail polish on to "smother" the bug, it really doesn't work. Basically, treat it like a mosquito bite. And its territory is the midwest, south, and southeastern U.S., although I didn't see anything to explain why it wouldn't love the mid-Atlantic, which has the same hot, humid summer conditions as the chigger's favorite places to live. All my info courtesy of good, old Wikipedia.

For those of you in chigger-free zones, rejoice in their absence. Both chiggers and mosquitoes love me, and while I get plenty of mosquito bites (often instantly upon walking out my front door), and they are annoying, I remember the chigger bites of my childhood as being even itchier!

Betsy said...

There should be no such thing as a place with chiggers AND mosquitoes And ticks. God, Mother Earth, whoever is responsible for this has a sick sense of humor.

Anonymous said...

@Robin:

Try lavender oil mixed with almond oil or another oil that you like. For some reason if you spritz lavender oil on yourself the mosquitoes stay away. Maybe it works for chiggers and no-see-ums too.

KiminAZ:

Anonymous said...

Betsy,

No kidding! I know that I make AZ out to be a bit prickly, but I'd rather live here than the south. Heat, humidity, and BUGS! Not to mention poisonous snakes on land AND in the water! Sick sense of humor indeed!

KiminAZ

Jane said...

The last photo is just gorgeous!

Robin said...

@Kim in AZ: thanks for the non-chemical bug repellant tip. They sure do love me. I was outside at a friends house for all of about 45 min. yesterday, and I have 10 or 15 mosquito bites! I've tried other essential oil stuff, mainly lemon eucalyptus, with zero effectiveness, but I'm definitely willing to give lavendar a try! My word verification is "miste," which is how I should apply the bug repellant, I suppose.

Sara said...

I'm sure you checked this, but have you cleaned the lens of your camera? I always end up with a few ghosty pictures after my four year-old gets his sticky little hands on my camera too. Sometimes it takes me a few days to realize that I need to stop fiddling with my camera settings and just clean the lens. sigh