Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Blackberry Picking with Baby

Blackberry picking is one of our little family unit's summer highlights. Every August here in the Pacific Northwest, like it or not, these purple jewels take over the landscape. To some, they are noxious weeds to be obliterated, to others it is foraging at its finest. Every year Ryan and I brave their thorny defenses to pick several pounds of delicious blackberries. To eat, to freeze, to make our one year supply of jam, to fold into crepes, pies and crisps, to toss into breakfast cereal, to whizz into assorted beverages, and to do whatever else we like with them. One year, I discovered that if I made a sort of syrup out of them, I had the makings for a wonderfully summery (but completely unconventional) Blackberry Vodka Martini. So.much.flavor.

This year, with a nine-month-old in tow, it gets trickier. Since Johann was born we've continued doing the things we enjoy, and venturing out into the brush for berry picking is no different. (So far this year we've already foraged and enjoyed several different berries including salmonberries, red huckleberries, and thimbleberries.) With Ryan's help, it's relatively easy. One of us back-carries him in the Ergo, and aims for the easiest picking, while the other one dons long pants and boldly goes forth into the brush. Easy. So, I thought, why not try going on my own and just head for the easy picking?

So last week, I front-carried Johann (I cannot yet strap him onto my back without help) and we ventured out alone. We got in thirty minutes of picking before before nap time hit. Isn't this the sweetest grumpy face, you've ever seen?

We made it out alive, relatively unscathed, armed with two pounds of ripe blackberries. Not bad for a short time and a few extra challenges.    

I've learned now that blackberry picking with a baby strapped to your chest presents several challenges.

One: you have to go where the blackberries are, which usually means off the trails and into full sun where the best berries (and the thorniest brambles, unfortunately) reside.

Two: you have to pass up several obvious precious clusters of ripe fruit, they're now out of reach because of the much more precious baby strapped to your chest.

Three: not only do you have to try a little harder to keep your balance, and stay away from the thorns, you also have to keep your baby from reaching out and grabbing thorny leaves and branches! Oye. There were tears.

Bottom line. It takes time and effort, and maybe some pain if you get stuck by thorns, but there is good fruit out there for the picking, it is free, all natural, and we take advantage.

And, at the end of the day, with the baby unit, blackberry picking is so much easier with the help of another. So we plan to carry on this family foraging tradition, and raise Johann to find joy in free and delicious fruit. But next time, I'll bring the dad unit!

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