Our best picking happens when we head out early. The sun is still low on the horizon; the berries glisten with dew; and the birds seem oblivious to us. We make our way over the dam and head down the trail. Sometimes we pick along the edges but most often we head into the meadow where the grasses and wildflowers are taller than our heads.
It's quiet work. Ed and I go into the field together, but soon separate -- each of us seeking out a patch that tempts us with an overload of plump berries. I've learned to wear a glove on my left hand, allowing me to move the thorny stems out of the way and then pick with the right ungloved one.
It's not exactly mindless work. My eyes are always darting to the next bunch of ripe orbs. I keep picking, moving slowly around the patch. Too many big, beautiful berries to pick all from the same spot.
It's not exactly bucolic bliss. There are thorns, chiggers, ticks and Japanese beetles to battle. I think garter snakes like to rest up in the brambles, but I've not seen any this season. My hands and wrists are punctured and scraped. My nails are purpley-black. The sun can be broiling and the humidity unmerciful. Oh!, did I just discourage you from joining me?
But it is satisfying work. One by one I drop the sweet berries into my wooden bucket or plomp them into my mouth. The minutes go by, the bucket fills up. One of us calls out to the other to see how we are doing and if we are ready to head in with our heaps of sweetnesses. An hour into the outing, we make our way back out to the path and head toward home.
We could pick a lot longer but then I'd have to figure out what to do with all the berries. I'd rather leave some for another time or another creature.
Once back in my kitchen, I spread the berries on baking sheets and pop them into the basement freezer for an hour or two. Once frozen, I pack gallon Baggies full of the berries, press out any excess air, and seal them up for use in the winter months to make blackberry crisp, muffins, or smoothies. The ones I don't freeze, I turn into jam, put atop my granola, or eat fresh by the handful.
I'm headed to Louisville tomorrow and will pack up cartons of berries to share with friends...because, there's enough to share.