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Blackberry summer

Posted Wednesday, July 23, 2008, at 9:58 PM

These blackberries (Well, some are red, but those aren't ripe, of course) are growing in a convenient location along my lane, but the ever-present poison ivy plant still lurks among the leaves, so watch out!!
Well, my tomato blog was so popular that I've decided to continue the fruit theme and post a blog about the riveting topic of blackberries. In this fascinating glimpse into the glittering world of the little globular bits of fruit, we shall discuss the pros and cons of blackberry consumption - not to be confused with the "consumption" referred to in the 1800's, of course. This one is healthy.

Blackberries usually get ripe in the month of July, a normally sweltering time of year in Southeast Missouri, when no person in his/her sane mind would want to cover up in the long pants and long sleeves necessary when tracking the wild blackberry.

That was always my problem and the reason why I had to retire from the sport many years ago. In my great foolishness, I tried to pick blackberries in shorts and sleeveless tops. (Well, actually, the blackberries were not in shorts. I doubt that they even owned a pair...) Because of my idiocy, I had to go to the doctor for shots after every excursion into the blackberry brambles. My husband, who could pull poison ivy up by the roots with no reaction (from either himself or the poison ivy) finally suggested that the blackberries had become too expensive, when factoring in the doctor bills.

Poison ivy is not the only vicious beast lurking in the blackberry patch. There are, in no particular order of significance:

1) Chiggers (very small red bugs, who, for some unknown reason, like to get under your skin, much like a certain blogger we all know and love...) Once firmly burrowed under your hide, these red bugs itch and itch and ITCH, until you paint them with fingernail polish and wait for them to suffocate.

2) Stink bugs (green or brown), who lurk on the berries until some unsuspecting human pops one in his/her mouth, and then voila! What a surprise!

3) Ticks, which crawl up from ground level, searching for a home sweet home, from which to set up housekeeping and grow, and grow, and GROW.

4) Copperheads - those ill-tempered and not at all shy beauties with the lovely orange-and-brown-patterned skin and the big pointy teeth.

5) Rattlesnakes - a noisy but somewhat less ill-tempered slithery creepy-crawly member of snakedom. A stomping, beating, noisy entrance on your part MAY scare these creatures off - unlike the copperhead, who will simply lie in wait for you and bite your leg off...

Doesn't blackberry picking sound like fun??

Ah, but it's all worth it, as this berry is simply packed with antioxidants and the most fiber of any fruit. You can make blackberry cobbler (my own personal favorite use of the berry), wine (my son's own personal favorite use of the berry), jam (seeds still in it), jelly (strained through muslin to remove the seeds and pulp)...And I guess that's about all we ever did with them. I'm sure there are some other uses that I haven't thought of.

So, there you have it, folks. Put on your wide-brimmed Indiana Jones hat, your long-sleeved shirt, long pants and tall boots, spray yourself with a coating of Deep Woods Off, and take the plunge into the blackberry patch!

Happy hunting!

This is your rural blackberry blogger, Madeline, signing off from the green, poison ivy-covered hills of downtown Tillman, Missouri.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Have you had the Blackberry Concrete at Andy's. Best Ever!

-- Posted by Jim Morrison on Wed, Jul 23, 2008, at 10:56 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Every trip to Cape requires a Choco-Rocko concrete for me! I'll try the blackberry concrete next time! Good thing I don't go there more often. I also like the Mocha Mulatti from Dairy Queen and the Java Cooler from Sonic. In Advance we have two only choices for ice cream, and I like the Oreo McFlurry at McDonald's (560 calories, so not a good option) and Sam's Peanut Butter Parfeit (unknown calories, so, of course, it's calorie-free!! -- I wish...)

The risk by far outweighs the return when picking blackberries!

My mom made the best cobbler in the world so I was always ready to volunteer my services at ten years old..... until that one fateful day when I got into the poison ivy. I spent a week in the middle of summer standing naked, holding my arms straight out and legs spread apart covered from head to toe in Calamine lotion! We didn't have the luxury of air conditioning which made it all the more worse. OMG, it was horrible!

After having poison ivy so bad that one time, I have never had it again. I can roll in it and be immune..... However I will never return to the blackberry patch!

-- Posted by greer958 on Thu, Jul 24, 2008, at 10:30 AM

Greer, you are so lucky. After my encounters with poison ivy all I have to do is LOOK at it and I pop out in blisters. Man, I hate that stuff.

I search for a more civilized blackberry. The kind grown in U-Pick farms where between the rows is all nicely mowed and the bushes are occassionally pruned to contain their grabbing, snagging branches. Same wonderful fruit, same thorns, but not nearly so hazardous to one's epidermis. Of course, the civilized blackberry is not free for the picking, but (as dear Madeline's husband pointed out) they're less expensive than the free range variety once you factor in the doctor's visit.

Haven't tried the blackberry concrete at Andy's, but I just finished a peachy concrete. Oh, baby!

There's another blog for you Madeline dear - fresh, ripe, juicy peaches. I have dreams about them during the winter.

-- Posted by Ducky on Thu, Jul 24, 2008, at 12:33 PM

Peaches..... mmmmmmmmmmmmm!

-- Posted by greer958 on Thu, Jul 24, 2008, at 4:08 PM

One time, I was picking black berries and a rattlesnake was sitting there, right by the ones I wanted. I went in anyway, picked the berries and narrowly escaped death. I love those things.

I found my thrill, on blackberry hill.

-- Posted by shannonhoon on Thu, Jul 24, 2008, at 5:43 PM

How sweet. See, you can be civilized, too. It doesn't make you a bad person, you know.

Greer, I had a case of poison ivy like that when I was in my early teens. Ohmygosh, quarter inch blisters that calamine lotion didn't phase. Had to lie on my back in bed with my arms up, couldn't move. No air-conditioning. A nightmare!

But I do love blackberry cobbler!

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Jul 24, 2008, at 5:54 PM

Though I don't know if I believe the part about the rattlesnake...

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Jul 24, 2008, at 5:56 PM

Hoon did the "Rattlesnake Shake...shake shake shake!"

-- Posted by layne staley on Thu, Jul 24, 2008, at 8:44 PM

GOAT.....true story. And Staley....made my body ache and it was all I could take, yeah!!!!!!

-- Posted by shannonhoon on Thu, Jul 24, 2008, at 9:55 PM

The Blueberry Concrete at Andy's is the next best!

Hoon, I stepped on a rattlesnake on the train tracks at Trail of Tears. Dave Williams broke a beer bottle at cut the rattle off. True story...still have the rattle.

-- Posted by Jim Morrison on Thu, Jul 24, 2008, at 11:25 PM

Back in the day my mom had a special method of preparing us for a trip to the blackberry patch. The night before she would spray the clothes we were going to wear with Black Flag bug killer. She would spray the item, roll it up tight, and tie them up in a plastic bag to marinate all night. The next morning we were sprayed head to toe with OFF! insect repellant and then dressed in our Black Flag laced clothes and off to the woods we'd go. My sister and I have laughed about this over the years and teased mom about how it was a wonder that we didn't develop all sorts of weird health problems or have kids with 12 toes or something. Mom's comment was "go ahead and laugh, at least you never got chiggers!"

-- Posted by no tea for me on Fri, Jul 25, 2008, at 5:45 AM

If you've never had chiggers, that story might seem like overkill, but if you've scratched for weeks with an infestation, the Black Flag and Off cocktail would be worth it!

Okay, I have a rattlesnake story, too. Chopped off the head of a rattlesnake with nine rattles and a button. Big! Came up behind him while he was watching my dog. True story.

-- Posted by goat lady on Fri, Jul 25, 2008, at 6:57 AM

How can I believe you GOAT when you don't believe the HOON? I think you are just trying to one-up JimmyM.

Black Flag is awesome.....one of the greatest punk bands of ALL time. I heard too much Black Flag makes you mean.

-- Posted by shannonhoon on Fri, Jul 25, 2008, at 9:22 AM

Where and what is Andy's? This country girl doesn't get to town that much. Back when I was raising a family, we picked blackberries; and I made a lot of blackberry jelly. I can't keep from associating blackberries with chiggers to this day. Back then, you could buy a gallon of wild blackberries for $5.00, always in a glass jar. Does anybody pick them for resale anymore?

-- Posted by gardengirl on Fri, Jul 25, 2008, at 10:02 AM

Sometimes you can find them at road-side stands or farmer's markets in towns. I have been known to pay as much as $15 a gallon, but only out of desperation - and love of blackberry cobbler.

Andy's is Andy's Frozen Custard. The only one I know of in SE Mo is in Cape on King's Highway. Oh the joys of Andy's. So many menu items to choose from, so little time. I don't let myself go very often because it's not exactly low-fat or low-calorie.

-- Posted by Ducky on Fri, Jul 25, 2008, at 12:30 PM

Black Flag...aahhh.

I was so wasted...

I was a hippie I was a burnout I was a dropout I was out of my head

I was a surfer I had a skateboard I was so heavy man, I lived on the strand

I was so wasted

-- Posted by Jim Morrison on Sat, Jul 26, 2008, at 12:24 AM

MD, surely your Kudzu tracking outfit will protect you from the dangers lurking in the shadows while you are blackberry huntin!?

-- Posted by FJGuy on Sat, Jul 26, 2008, at 4:45 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Yes, it would - if I didn't die of heat exhaustion first! My outdoors consultant tells me that the big boots would protect me from rattlesnakes just fine, but a copperhead would be able to bite right through them! Not a comforting thought.

Where are we picking Blackberries and seeing all of these snakes at? I had my Rattlesnake shake run in over near the River in VanBuren. Dam the River I say, and the snakes too.

-- Posted by shannonhoon on Mon, Jul 28, 2008, at 8:37 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
My snakes and my blackberries are right here on my hill in the Tillman Outback.

MD! I was trolling the Internet when I found this gorgeous woman modeling the latest style of blackberry huntin' metal boots. They are guaranteed Copperhead proof and they are gold colored to reflect the summer heat. Looks like just what you need MD! See them at, http://forejustice.org/md/blackberry_hun...

-- Posted by FJGuy on Mon, Jul 28, 2008, at 10:41 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Hahaha! Now, those boots would definitely fend off the copperheads! The woman looks remarkably familiar, too!

Hopefully you cut those things into as many pieces as possible. So, you have Rattlesnakes?

Sister got bit by a copperhead snake in the woods behind the house.

I was a good big bro though.....sucked the poison out.

-- Posted by shannonhoon on Mon, Jul 28, 2008, at 11:32 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
When we first moved onto the farm back in the seventies, I made the mistake of whacking the snakes in what I THOUGHT was a death whack - only to find that they'd crawled off later. From then on, I made sure I had TOTAL SEPARATION of head from body! On the largest rattlesnake I ever killed, I chopped with the shovel until its head was completely GONE! Then I shook for an hour!

I've never sucked the poison out of a snake bite, but if I had to, I'm sure I could do it. Did you still have to take her to the hospital? A neighbor out here got bitten by a rattlesnake, when he reached into his firewood shack. It put him in the hospital in serious condition for several days.

I had a couple of border collies who would double team a snake and make short work of it. Of course, I never saw them do it with rattlesnakes - just black snakes that came up around the house.

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Jul 29, 2008, at 9:53 PM

MD.....those are lyrics from a song.....Summer of Drugs by Soul Asylum. I never sucked snake poison! Good job chopping the creatures up....you violent thing. Probably didn't crawl off but instead were carried off and eaten by something.......

-- Posted by shannonhoon on Fri, Aug 1, 2008, at 10:59 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Oops, hoon, sorry I thought you'd sucked snake venom. I guess the only poison you might have a taste for is the band!

FJGuy! Another classic piece of imaginative wizardry! You crack me up! And, I'm envious - I wish I could do that magic with graphic imagery!

Wow MD! I found another picture of this same gorgeous woman happily trolling through the woods impervious to a vicious Copperhead attack! http://forejustice.org/md/blackberry_hun... These special boots are obviously just the ticket for you to go berry huntin'.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Sat, Aug 2, 2008, at 2:15 PM

Oh, my gosh! There it is - a copperhead about to chomp down on Madeline's copper-lined snake boots! He'll lose a tooth or two over that, I'll bet!

What a hoot!!!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Aug 3, 2008, at 7:17 PM

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Madeline DeJournett
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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