“Wow, this thicket is just bursting with fruit,” she gushed, “do you do anything special?”
Pails hanging by baling twine off my back, I was intentionally tangling myself into our most prolific of raspberry patches along with one of our stalwart volunteers and friends of the farm. Unbeknownst to us, we had three hours of berry-picking ahead of us before we would make it out the other side.
I described our process of pruning and weeding to her. Work, certainly, but less than that required for an annual garden bed. Which is the very idea we’re going for here at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead: the development of perennial gardens, and an edible forest landscape. This means berries, yes, but also fruits, nuts, herbals, and medicinals. With time, we’ll glean an increasing number of calories from the land (not to mention medicine, wood, micro-climates, and niche ecosystems) with a decreasing quantity of manual input required each year.
Raspberries are just one example of this, but quite the plentiful model for the moment. Raspberries, and now blueberries, currants, and gooseberries as well, are rapidly coloring our various patches, bushes, thickets, corners, beds, and roadsides. Before too long it will be the cherries, chokecherries, and elderberries of the fall.
Deep reds, blushed pinks, dark blues, dusky blacks, and vibrant green leaves; the splendor of sustenance and the colors of abundance are a sort of art in themselves. A farmer’s beauty (perhaps that’s all it is) built right into the sweat and bugs of a day’s work. I take a moment to swat at some rouge flies and tuck a few stray hairs behind my ear. My hands, and now my shoulder and my ear, are stained – not with dirt (for once), but with the juice of overripe raspberries. A few handfuls land so sweet and tart on the tongue, an excellent treat…
…but a couple of hours and four gallons later, there is the decent conundrum of what to do with such surfeit. Even with the farm’s collection of apprentices, visitors, and overnight guests that’s a hefty bunch of raspberries to plow through.
So, we keep some for eating…and freeze the rest to enjoy in less bountiful months. By this point, though, we already have eleven gallons of raspberries stored up, not to mention a few gallons worth of blueberries. There’s only so much freezer-space we can allot for berries (bacon, of course, deserves it’s rightful portion). So the next step is upon us: making preserves. That’ll be another story for another week, surely.
In the meantime, we’re busy filling our pails. It’s an every-other-day-or-so endeavor, and we welcome help! If you want to proffer a hand for some manual labors, please give us a ring. Right now! 603-786-2366.
Yes, you can eat a few as you go along, but no-one will believe that you simply couldn’t find any berries if there’s an empty pail at the end of the day…
as published in North Country News