Monday, July 18, 2011

On Picking Blackberries in July

(To be tucked away for December reading.)

Three days of low humidity and relative coolness allowed me to concentrate on picking for wine.  I was able to pick late into the mornings and since the blackberries are at the height of ripeness, I pulled in gallons which are now in ziploc bags in the freezer.  This morning, the humidity and heat are back and we are in typical July weather.

I was drenched with sweat by 8 a.m. and hadn't really accomplished all that much.  By ten thirty the animal chores were done and I'd cut down weeds and picked another gallon of berries.  I was aware of the scent of catnip as I picked around the goose pond fence.  A big old bull frog was sounding the alert:  "Watch out, that berry picking lady is at it again!  She might take a notion to gig for frogs -- so watch out!

I moved to patches up higher where bergamot abounds and its distinctive scent dominated.  There are also places where the honeysuckle is the predominate scent.  The crazy July bugs were hanging all over the brambles.  Occasionally, I picked one along with plump berries and it gave the impression of one of those trick hand buzzers, startling me and making me jump with surprise! 

The dopey July bugs are harmless and I guess after years of observing them, I'd miss them if they didn't show up to announce that the berries are ripe and ready to pick.  It's the gnats and stinging insects that are irritating.  I'm covered with insect/sunblock spray in order to survive.  Even so, I'll have to spray anti-itch stuff on insect bites by early evening.  Bugs fly in my eyes and ears.  Brambles grab at my skin.  Berry picking is not always fun, but worth it anyway.

This is prime time to pick.  Blackberries will be done by mid-August and the window of opportunity will close.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

June Bug Report

Today, I picked a decent amount of blackberries for wine.  However, they are less abundant than in years previous to last year.  The drought last year pretty much decimated the crop.  I'm hoping to get at least one carboy of blackberry wine.  The heat, even early in the morning, made me feel sick.

As I picked, I had to deal with the drunken June (or July) bugs.  They are now bombing the house roof.  At times, it sounds like a steady rain.  They are definitely connected with the ripening of blackberries.  I also saw them milling around the fig tree, which has started producing.

We got an actual heavy storm yesterday.  We got wet in the evening while tucking in the goats.  No complaints there.

Guests did me a favor by picking more purple beans, chard, rhubarb, and shallots -- all of which were volunteer crops.

Friday, July 01, 2011


It will be hot and humid today, although we've had some low humidity days this past week.  I managed to do some outside work, like pulling weeds and checking for berries.

Wineberries are ready and I've picked a bunch.  Unfortunately, we don't have large stands of them.  The blackberries are just starting to ripen, but so far most are bitter.  If it rains some more, we may have some sweet plump ones.  I noticed that, probably due to last year's drought conditions, large stands of blackberry have disappeared or significantly shrunk.

Blooming now:  Rose of Sharon, daylilies, hosta, butterfly bush, larkspur, soapwort. and lavender.  Chard, fennel, beans, and shallots are ready to harvest.  Asparagus are done for the most part.

Biting and stinging insects are active in abundance, but not a single June bug was spotted last month -- just for the record.