I woke scratching. I’d managed to get through the whole night without waking up with my arms feeling afire with the maddening itch of my latest battle with poison ivy, but that didn’t stop me from waking up with my alarm only to begin attacking the rash. I silently cursed climate change and the overabundant crop of poison ivy that came with it and made my way to the loo and as I blearily went about my business I noticed new spots on my fingers. And forearms. And elbows? What was this curse that had descended upon me?!
Taking up the bar of poison ivy soap, I began scrubbing at the itchy, welted patches and examined the new spots that appeared overnight. And then it hit me: I was sporting the Mark of the Berry. Black Raspberries.
The afternoon before, in one of my pull-up-my-saggy-jeans-and-get-to-work (they only get saggy like that when I’m working for some reason) moods, I spotted the raspberries looking ragged, as old canes were shriveled up and spiky while the new canes, like wicked, toothy tentacles of an octopus, sprawled every which way. The hedge needed cleaning up: the dead canes needed removing and the new canes needed wrangling. Unwisely, I chose not to change out the thin, knit work gloves for my more substantial pigskin pair.
Playing a botanical game of Jenga, I gingerly worked a section of cane out here, another there. Unraveling the weave of this year’s berry patch, I was attacked by the thorny tentacles that seemed to reached for me at every turn. They grabbed my work shirt, bit through my jeans and nipped my fingers. Each cane that I picked up and gently eased into place between the guide wires didn’t go gently, but I fought the good fight and my hedge of berries was soon looking well-kept and tidy.
The pile of spent canes, exhausted from producing a bumper crop and at the end of their natural lifespan, they were piled high. I squinted my eyes in anticipation of getting my fingers poked as I reached down to tentatively pluck pieces and move them to the campfire. I felt prickles sink into my fingertips. Another left a large scratch on my elbow. The fronts of my fingers looked like I’d taken part in a teeny-tiny knife-fight, scratched and bleeding. Only for a brief moment did I ponder if this much pain was worth the effort for the berries – and it was. The sixteen feet of black raspberries turned into two and a half gallons of wine in the secondary fermentors and a lot of bowls of berries with whipped cream. It was our best crop so far and we enjoyed all we got, the local birds took the rest.
There is a pleasure that one gets when doing something for themselves, a satisfaction far superior to what is felt when a project is completed when working for someone else. I hear time and again from people how much they’d like to have a garden or orchard but how they are plagued with little time with which they can attend to the plantings. They tell me they admire how I make jams and jellies, and now wine, wishing they had the time and knowledge to do those things, too. I continually tell people that the time is available, it’s just a matter of prioritizing what they want to do. As for learning how to preserve the harvest – I’ve offered to teach people and not a single one has taken me up on the offer.
A little pain now equals gain later. Hopefully by next spring we’ll be enjoying the raspberry wine in anticipation of spring and another season of showing off the mark of the berry.
I feel your pain . . . but, yeah, despite the crazy, wasn’t the sense of “I did it” worth it?
Speaking of raspberry wine, I’ve decided to put in grape vines . . . within two years, I hope to have Batzer’s vintage. That should be cool. Or something. We’ll see 🙂
I actually had a pretty bad rash over the weekend, I believe, from my pumpkin patch — that’s the only thing I really tended to, and, despite the mild conditions this summer, poison ivy has been at bay in my neck of the woods.
Yes, I love that feeling. And having just come back from picking tomatoes, beans and golden raspberries in the garden after a long Sunday of canning/preserving. I’m looking forward to the next list of things to make. (My stack of magazines and books on canning/preserving are waiting for me as I type.)
Now, for you – HUZZAH on the grapes! We’re lucky to have so many wild grape vines growing around and near the property, though we do have a domestic Concord and Niagara as well. Unfortunately we planted them in a less-than-ideal location, but, this fall a rather large oak tree that was lost to Oak Wilt will come down and a new grape arbor will be put up in it’s place. More grapes = more wine!
As for your rash – pumpkin, squash and cucumber vines always give me a good rash that lasts for a couple days. Interestingly, stinging nettles don’t bother me more than perhaps 15 minutes, but the poison ivy…. WEEKS!
Sorry for your itchies! and yeah about the wine. Our grape crop was turned into jam this year and we picked some of the pumpkins, plunking about a dozen on the picnic table near the road. Had to quit with 12 as any more would likely collapse the table – we hauled them out 2 and 3 at a time with the trailer behind the lawn mower – grunting as they were rolled from the trailer to the table. Bigguns for sure. While plucking them from the vines, we discovered that there were acorn squash growing with them, alongside of the summer squash which we WERE aware of. The bounty of self seeding vines!!!!
Hooray for pumpkins and acorn squash! I just bought an acorn and spaghetti squash and Mr. Muse gave them the stink-eye, I’m sure he’s suspicious that I’m going to try and sneak them onto his plate in some form…. (maybe….)