I’ve always thought of myself as a blackberry kind of guy. When I was growing up, blackberries were all around us, growing wild, just waiting for us to come out in the baking hot summertime and wade through their sharp thorny branches, eating as many berries as we put in the buckets. Blackberry cobbler and blackberry ice cream and blackberry… berries – man, that’s summer and always will be.
Fast forward fifty years later and I’m at Autumn House, Georgia, standing on a heavy, stable ladder plucking blueberries. Gentler, kinder blueberries that grow on slender-branched bushes that do not play host to thorns. Blueberries aren’t as immediately sweet as blackberries but then, they don’t bite back when you pick their fruit.
Because I frankly didn’t know what the hell I was doing this past winter, I didn’t trim the bushes back as much as I should have/ could have/ would have. As a result I have to use a ladder to get the ones on the top branches. I also have to carefully balance the ladder since the bushes are on an incline and the ground is soft from all the rain we’ve had. As a result I plan to cut the things back to chest height next time so when they leaf out next spring they ought to be at optimum height for picking. I will also see what I can do to level out the ground around the bushes so I won’t faceplant into the nice moist ground again, if a ladder is needed after all.
I did get to meet a nice little tortoise who was rummaging around looking for fallen fruit and inadvertently aided him by dropping ripe fruit on the ground where he’ll be able to feast on it for days. I must be honest, I didn’t do it out with the desire to make a grand gesture of compassion for a fellow living creature. I mean that sounds really noble and all but the fact is, my fingers do not work nearly as well as they used to, and they can’t close around little things like blueberries without spilling some.
Hey, you’re welcome, Mr. Tortoise! Good luck in your upcoming race with Mr. Hare! Here, have another blueberry. No, no – it’s okay. My treat.
During my harvest, I discovered another of nature’s creatures called Mosquitoes, which must be French for “noisy painful little bastards.” No matter how much Skin So Soft I slathered on, the Flying Hypodermics of Irritation divebombed me with all the determination of Baron Von Richthofen over the skies of Verdun. It’s summer in Georgia and at nine in the morning it’s already warm enough to bake biscuits, kinda sorta (I have a license for literary exaggeration and will use that bad boy for all it’s worth) so it was all I could do to stand a long-sleeved tee shirt and scrub pants. That’s like hanging a sign in Mosquito language that says “Fresh Meat.” First they went for my ears, then my hands, then my cheeks because the Skin So Soft was mixing with my sweat to form some mysterious sort of ambrosia for blood-sucking demons with wings that sound like Cuisinart engines. When they started attacking my legs and arms and torso RIGHT THROUGH THE FABRIC, I decided it was high time to get back inside. I had my half-gallon of blueberries for the day, no need to be greedy. Tomorrow is another day, as the saying goes. I can go out again later this week and unwillingly donate another pint of blood to the Mosquito Hunger Relief fund. I’ll wear heavier clothes and curl some citronella around my head or… or something.
I brought the morning’s hard-won blueberries in and washed them in the netting, which once held oranges from the Kroger’s. Orange netting is excellent for handling blueberries; Lady Anne suggested this to me and it has been very useful. After they dry in the bag placed in the dish drain, I will add them to the gallon of berries picked earlier this week and put them in containers or freeze them or use them or WHAT THE HELL DO YOU DO WITH ALL THESE BERRIES?
Then I sat down in front of the television with a bowl of fresh blueberries in the cool of the living room, ready to relax a bit. David Gregory was pretending his head wasn’t shoved squarely up his butt on Meet the Press (God rest Tim Russert) and Keanu Reeves was choosing the Red Pill or Blue Pill in The Matrix. I chose the more believable scenario, and enjoyed my blueberries as Keanu and Laurence Fishburne fought the Guy Who Played Elrond’s evil futuristic society.
Out on the back deck the tomato plants look tired and yellow, despite my best efforts to baby them along. They puke out little tomatoes though, as if it’s taking all their energy to do so. The bell peppers looked great, growing plump and green on their way to eventually turning orange – while on the other side, they were turning ugly. In the garden, the deer and rabbits took a toll on the flowers so we haven’t had a whole lot of cucumbers or squash so far, and there are hardly any tomatoes in the garden plot, and no bell peppers whatsoever. The plants are there, just not the fruit. I don’t know why; is my last name Rodale?
There are volunteer cantaloupes in the garden that just popped up from seeds I just tossed in with the other kitchen cuttings and trimmings last winter. It sort of makes sense, really; the plants I’m carefully tending aren’t doing so hot, but the willy-nilly blueberry bushes and the free-wheeling cantaloupes are going great guns. Left to their own devices they’re doing what comes naturally. It’s a beautiful thing. By extension the mosquitoes are doing what comes naturally too, but that’s not so beautiful.
Maybe I’m being too introspective and philosophical and stuff. I’ll put a dollop of Cool Whip on those berries, that’ll fix it. Philosophy – hell, everything – sounds better when accompanied by fresh fruit and cream.