Welcome to my world and beyond...

A collection of snippets of the books I write and, occasionally, my life and the things that inspire my writing...

Friday, July 5, 2013

Don't Trample the Raspberry Brambles

Many a summer afternoon and evening I spent tramping over hillside and field, looking for that magical place between settled, and recently disturbed ground. At the places where passing time and changing hands have relegated century old pastures to recovering woodland, and at fence-rows and hedgerows and the edges of woods where brambles freely roam.

For the first thirty-plus years of my life, I pursued the sometimes abundant, sometimes sparse and elusive wild black raspberry,  with a gusto that ignored understanding my quarry.   I was focused. My mantra? "Get the berry in the pail." Tempting morsel of delight...a bite of ripe sunshine, the raspberries filled pies and halfpint Mason jelly jars when my children were growing up.

And the kids came along on the berry picking adventures.There was usually a small herd of us occupying pastures where herds of milk cows used to graze. That herd included the dogs, Gus and Pokey.

Somewhere in my mid thirties, on one of our forays, we discovered a round patch of brambles. There was no way in other than to stomp brambles down, creating a path. The berries were huge, plump, and filled our buckets faster then you can say, "I'll take a slice of that pie."We meandered home with heavy pails, and lips and tongues (and some cheeks) stained the darkest of dark purples.

We continued to visit the patch over the next couple of weeks, picking the berries as they ripened. And we found ourselves reaching farther and farther out on the brambles to reach the best berries of the day.  That in turn caused us to trample more and more brambles, especially those worthless ones that didn't have any berries on them.

The following summer when the raspberries ripened, we hurried to the round patch, and delight turned to  dismay. Where had our patch gone? There were some berry-less shoots and a lot of dead brambles. ~sigh~

I set to work to discover why our patch had died. and the answer, in a nutshell is this: raspberries have perennial roots and biennial shoots.

Don't trample the raspberry brambles. :-)

Translation: The roots live on and on. The shoots sent up by the roots live for two years. The first year, they send up a stem and leaves. The second years flowers (thus, berries).

This is a first year shoot--an example of the "worthless ones" I used to trample to get to the good ones:  Ha! Tender, pale-green skin, thin, needle-like thorns.

This is a second year shoot, what that first year shoot will look like if left to stand:
The stalk of the second year shoot changes color from a mint green to a deep red/burgundy. The thorns thicken and develop a toughness mean to puncture Kevlar. After the berries are mature, the shoot will have done it's sole purpose--procreated by producing seeds. Fait accompli. It dies, it's skeleton remaining to imbed thorns deeply into the hide of any berry-hound foolish enough to tempt fate by proximity.

Botanists might wish to add a note about the procreation part--since black raspberries do make new plants another way, as do red raspberries, albeit slightly differently. But that's a tale for another day. :-)

Don't trample the brambles...


  1. Interesting, I did not know that about those dang thorny brambles. My cousin was just asking about going berry picking since she just moved back from Vegas last year after 30 odd years. Is it berry picking time yet? Love your stories my dear!

    1. Life is so full of things we don't yet know. One thing I'm becoming certain of: one lifetime is not enough. ;-) Yes, it is raspberry season. :-) Blackberries will come in about two to three weeks. :-)

  2. Blackberries were a favorite of my son and my mother. They formed quite a bond picking black raspberries. When we first moved to the farm, the creek which ran through it, had rolling small hills, covered with blackberries. But then the county went through, leveled the banks, killing the blackberries, letting the farmers with their chemicals farm right up to the edge of the creek. It destroyed part of what I loved about the farm for after I had finished my chores, I would sit under a tree along the babbling creek, reading a book with my dog beside me. My father killed "the bitch" (no spaying in those days) and the county killed the creek. The best part of my childhood was gone.

    1. Oh, Carol, so sad. They did things differently in those days. I could tell you a story, but I'm not sure I'm ready to share it. It probably would be cathartic for me, but I'm not yet there. Suffice to say, I understand your pain... It's horrible, the memories that can haunt lonely winter evenings. A big hug to you...

  3. Isn't it funny how the good things always have thorns?

    1. Haha! Makes us so appreciate the thorn-less side of them, huh? ;-) Thanks for visiting, Jen! :-) Glad you're back :-)