From my observations in the wilderness fencerows and open areas, this could be a bonanza year.
It seems that all of the dynamics have come together for a bumper crop of wild raspberry and blackberry.
The winter was warm so few dormant second year canes were frozen. And because it was warm, there was enough other types of winter browse for the whitetail deer that they left the lightly prickled berries alone.
Then there was ample spring rain and cool but frost free blackberry winter. That’s the time when blackberries are blooming but there could be a sudden drop in temperature; thus a blackberry winter.
But it didn’t get so cold that it prevented the flying insects—bees, flies and pollinators— from visiting the white petaled berry blossoms.
Then after the berries began to set fruit, there has been some timely rain to help fill the wilderness dessert crop with juiciness.
Now with some warm daytime temperatures, I’m beginning to see those hard green raspberries blushing red. By the time you are reading this, the center most berry in the cluster will turn a black ripe followed by its cousins on the cane.
Blackberries come along a little later but should be ripening sometime next month.
Then it will be time for bug spray to ward off chiggers, ticks and deer flies, old jeans, a nearly worn out long sleeve shirt, and knee high muck boots with jeans tucked inside them. I’ll have to dig out my re-purposed coffee can with a 12-2 copper wire bail that slips through my old (and another year snugger) belt. Maybe I have room for one more nail hole so my berry picking garb will fit around my expanding and drooping middle.
Putting a berry bucket on my belt frees up both hands for seeking, and doing a index finger and thumb roll to fill my palm with black juicy Hoosier fruit. Soon, I develop a cadence, not unlike milking a cow, I suppose, and my belted berry bucket is promptly filled. Then dump the berries in a bigger kettle and refill the belt bucket.
In my youth I would pick blackberries for my grandma so she could make blackberry jelly. These days I pick enough for a fresh cobbler and some for the freezer for a winter baked dessert.
The rest pf the crop will get pressed into juice for wine.
Blackberry picking is wet work. I get out early in the morning before the bitey bugs are so bad and before the temperature is too uncomfortable. But that means the dew is heavy and my britches and shirt quickly are drenched. As the sun warms the fencerow, my clothes cling tightly. Later the dew is replaced by my own sweat so the clinging continues.
Back at the house, it is simpler to just strip off on the front porch (my closest neighbor is a half-mile and three ridges away so their modesty is intact), then into the shower to take care of any ticks or chiggers which evaded the spray.
I don’t know if my coming berry harvest will be as good as those turn of the 20th century berry pickers you see in our bicentennial reflection photo on page 3 this week, but it gives me a goal.