Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Some of you have probably noticed that this blog has had fewer posts lately. I have a few good reasons. The largest of which would be that we have had some incredibly hot weather recently. That makes the refrigeration business good. Also, I did some of the refrigeration at Reggae Rising. That, and the Combination of Obama's stimulus money pouring in, has made it very busy around the Branscomb businesses. I have had some free time, but the Blackberries are huge and ripe, and I find wild mountain blackberries to be irresistible. So, I have been picking them in my spare time instead of Blogging.

The berries on the hill across the road from me are growing on a rather steep and challenging hillside. I have taken a long ladder to lay in the berry bushes. The ladder has a tendency to mash the bushes down and make the second picking somewhat smaller, so I really don't like to do that. I justified using the ladder, because the berry bushes were about half poison oak. I figured that because of the fact that I don't get poison oak, I would be the only one that was likely to pick them. That and the steepness. I'm very nimble and negotiate rough terrain and prickly berry bushes very well. (pride goeth before the fall)

As I was positioning the ladder, I noticed a log hidden in the berry bushes. It was covered with berry vines, but it was laying across the hill and angling slightly up. It was a perfect, albeit prickly scaffolding to pick berries from. I have several gallons of berries already in the freezer but the big fat easy picking berries just seem to keep calling me. Those berries are always in the middle of the patch, and usually out of reach to any but the most clever berry picker. Which, with all humility, describes me perfectly.

I started up the log, careful to step on, and hold down, the branches laying across it. Picking the incredibly big fat juicy berries as I went. I had a few close calls where I had to grab onto a berry bush, or a poison oak branch, to keep my balance. I chuckled to myself a few times, thinking how nimble that I was and what a terrible fate it would be to fall off the log and land in the berry bush covered hillside below. I picked the bush fairly clean but my gallon plastic container, that I hang from my neck with a rope, was getting too full.

I turned around and low-and-behold, there were more big fat distracting berries on the return trip saying "Pick me, Pick Me". I ignored all but the fattest and ripest, complimenting myself on my excellent restraint. I carefully worked my way back down the log and outside the berry bush. I was feeling sorry for the lesser clumbsy mortals as I stepped off the log onto the grass below. My sure foot stepped off the log and onto the, less than sure, grass. In fact, the grass is slicker than hell. My foot slid forward in the grass, so I hopped off with my other sure foot that was soundly tangled in vines. Nimble person that I am, I became acutely aware that I was going to fall on my, (Normally I would say "ass", but this is a family rated blog, so I will say) posterior. I was able to get my foot untangled and I landed softly on my posterior. The whole time I had a both-hand death grip on my precious berries. I carefully kept the rim of the container pointed toward the blue sky. The monentum of the fall rocked me onto my back. Wow, nothing hurt and I didn't spill even one berry.

Through the super-sensitive skin on my back noticed that I was sliding down the hillside sideways in the slick grass. Rather than catch myself, I concentrated, again, on my grip on the berries. I repeatedly told myself. "Keep the rim pointed toward the sky". Out of the corner of my eye I noticed some brush coming up. I almost giggled to myself that I was going to slide into the brush and stop, and I still hadn't spilled a berry.

When I got to the bush, I wasn't going that fast, so I was expecting a gentle stop. I was still sliding sideways. Just as got there, my feet caught the brush first as my body slid over the bank that drops down to the road. It was about four more feet to the road, but now I was upside down. Just before I hit, I noticed that I still had not spilled a berry. I landed with a bone crushing THUMP. I didn't notice how bad it hurt, because I was busy watching the sky turn purble with berries flying over my head and landing in the grass beside the road. NOOOOOOOOooooo......Damn! (Normally I wouldn't say that on a family blog, but there are reasonable exceptions.)

So, I dropped my berries. I thought that maybe I had better ascess myself a little bit. I noticed that I was breathing, that was good. I made a mental survey of my body to see if anything hurt. Nope, nothing hurt. I am a "First Responder, Medical" with the fire department, and I know that the pain of an injury can sometimes mask itself, so I laid there a little longer. I thought about my cell phone in my pocket. I figured that I could always dail 911. I finally figured out that My pride was the only thing that had been mortally wounded. MY BERRIES!!! I jumped up and discovered that the berries had neatly sifted into the grass. I tried to pick some of them up and got about a quarter of them. I noticed that my arm had started bleeding. I had about four million minor berry bush scratches on my left arm.

The only time that I get poison oak is when I get it in a berry scratch. So, I humbly picked up my ladder and walked home. I took a long shower and soaped my arm three times. The berries that I salvaged had the grass stickers picked out of them and put in the refrigerator. I checked my arm to see how had it might be scared. Scars just make a man more manly, so I was looking forward to a scar.
"A scar nobly got, or a noble scar, is a good livery of honor; so belike is that." - William Shakespeare
A scar on the face can be incredibly sexy. But a good scar on the arm, with a good story, is always good.
"Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars, And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.' Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, But he'll remember, with advantages, What feats he did that day." Willie S.
But woe is me, the blood all washed off and a week from now the scratches will be gone... Bummer.

I sulked the rest of the evening, I thought about the quail and squirrels frolicking in my spilled berries. The little bastards. Oh, to hell with the family thing!

By then it was time to go to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night, I got up, went into the refrigerator, got myself a large cereal bowl full of berries, I put about a half of a cup full of powdered sugar on them and ate the whole bowl down. I noticed that there was still enough berries to make a pie.
"All is well that ends well" Willie again.
The way I figure, I won! Life is all about winning. The bowl of berries and a berry pie is such a glorious victory! I went back to bed and slept like a baby. And, no, I didn't get any poison oak.

Win, Win, Win!!!


Aunt Janet said...

I have a scar on my face from putting my face in the way of a chicken as she came out of her pen. And yes, I was told it was sexy, even on a woman. Go figure. It was most sexy when it was crusty with scabs. I can't believe we sell blackberries, when there are all those free ones out there. We have thornless ollalaberries on flat ground. Easy pickin's.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Himalaya Blackberries are an invasive species from Europe. They have the five leaf frond. The ones with the three leaf frond are native. The himalayas are much more invasive and will take over anywhere where there is loose soil sunlight and water. They grow in most soils.

My great grandmother Middleton had a mean rooster that used to spur me. He ended up in the dumplings one night and I remember it was the best dumplings that I ever ate.

There is just nothing like chicken and dumplings and blackberry cobbler on a warm summer evening. Maybe with a little fresh cows cream.

omr said...

Any man who makes berry-picking a priority over blogging, and then risks his life and limbs in the act of picking, saves the berries, well..tries nobly to save the berries during a fall.... you sure have your priorities straight Ernie!
I admire that, you certainly erned that bowl of berries, and the pie.

Carol said...

This time of the year, why blog when you can be outside enjoying nature's bounty? The native blackberries have less seeds than the invasive Himalaya blackberries. I made a Santa Rosa plum upside-down cake last night and we ate the whole thing! Tonight it will be butterstick and greenbean penne pasta for dinner. I love summer!

Anonymous said...

Himalaya Blackberries are the herpes of the flora world.

Say, when does wild grape season begin...I'm looking forward to the high pucker factor.


Ernie Branscomb said...

I am particularly fond of some newcomers, the Himalaya Blackberry is one of them. Then of course there is my wife...

We call them "wild Grapes", they are native to California. The newcomers call them "Vitis Californica".
"It climbs on other plants or covers the ground with twisted, woody ropes of vine covered in green leaves. In the fall the leaves turn many shades of orange and yellow, and bunches of small and often sour but edible purple grapes hang from the vines."

It is good that they are native or there would be a major campaign to wipe them out.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Oh... You asked when they were ripe. I don't know, sometime in the fall. We used to pick them to make jelly. They make great jelly. If you pop them out of their skins and suck the seed out, they only slightly stick in your throat.

Ernie Branscomb said...

The California wild grape is used for many root stocks. The wine industry would suck without them. So they are worth saving.

Are newcomers an invasive specie?

ol' purple fingers said...

invasive spacies? u talking bout me again?

i heard a rumor on the streets that there was free blackberry pie at Ernies for all newcomers.. to make peace for all the newcomer "slightings". i guess i should have checked with you first before telling so many people.

Anonymous said...

"Are newcomers an invasive specie?"


Humboldtus Newcomeris

Now, Now, Now....we already have Lupine bashing events, Scotch Broom genecide and Pampas grass eradication, let's not get carried away....besides, there's no known cure for the Newcomer rash. Once they get under your skin, you're afflicted for life.

But then, Oldtimer prunes are the best remedy for cleaning out your colon.



Bunny said...

Last year the blackberries behind the store were delicious and I got enough for a pie or two. In the winter I cut back a lot of the branches hoping to be able to reach more this year. Well, they have turned out to be pretty small and not so good....yet. They are the 5 leaf variety, the interloper. Should I not cut them back this year?

Ernie Branscomb said...

Berries grow on last years wood. If you want berries, you have to leave this years new wood and prune off this years bearing stock. (Last years new wood) Opposite of an apple tree.

kaivalya said...

The only homebrewing I do these days is Blackberry wine! It practically brews itself and comes out flawless everytime.

I could not pick enough berries in one season to fully support my love for blackberry wine.

Yet I will go on cursing those vines 10 months out of the year.

Lynette M said...

Hi Ernie,
Glad to see you realized that you can pick during the daylight hours, and blog at night...
The perfect life, eh?
Hope you enjoyed the "fruits" of your labor :-)

kymk said...

I've been too busy to even post but while eating my breakfast I've been reading a few blogs but not yours. ..

That is because I knew I didn't want to speed read through it. I wanted to savor every word like a sun ripened berry. I'm glad I waited and snuck some time out of my sleep to read your blog.