Blackberry Picking

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When I was younger, I looooooved picking summer fruit. We had a small peach tree in our backyard, and I remember a certain feeling of triumph when I was the one asked to go pluck a few of the fuzzy fruits fresh from the tree for dinner.

My grandparents, who lived a block over from us, had an apricot tree in their backyard that produced a veritable plethora of fruit more years than not, so much so that when I mowed their lawn, my shins would be splattered with yellow juice from the fruits that had gotten sucked up in the mower. For years, we collected huge bucketfuls of apricots so that my mom could make apricot nectar, a process that required a machine you had to hand-crank and that always seemed to make our kitchen steamy hot.

Up several streets lived a neighbor with a cherry tree, and even though we must not have gone up every year, I do have some distinct memories of climbing carefully up into the fruit-heavy branches and dropping the red fruits one by one by one into the empty ice cream bucket nestled in a crook of the tree at my feet.

And that’s not all.
We had a neighbor a few houses down whose apple tree produced the most delicious variety of apples I’d ever tasted, and I remember clearly that I honestly felt like weeping when I rode my bike home one day to find–with some shock–that the tree had been cut down.
I felt like I’d lost an essential taste of my childhood that day.

All of this is to say that it should come as no surprise, then, that I have harbored a desire for many years to have a little “orchard” of my own—to have a couple rows of apples for cider, a peach tree, some apricots for when I get that unfailing hankering for the fruit sometime around early August.

As it sits currently, we’re not in too bad of a position to make my dreams of constant homegrown fruit somewhat of a (reasonable) reality in the not-too-distant future.

We have a raspberry patch that’s overgrown but thriving, and we have a blackberry bush that the previous owner told us would produce a huge bowl full of fruit every day in late summer.

He wasn’t wrong.

We also have two apple trees in desperate need of pruning and pest control, but I’m hoping to attack those early next spring (since we won’t be getting much–if any–apples from them this year), and at the same time next year, we’ll probably start looking into those peach and apricot trees.

And now, it seems that my life has come full circle, as I now watch the delight in my daughter’s eyes as she plunks each blackberry into the bowl (or into her mouth), as she takes all the berries that Daddy had given to her to eat and runs straight to me, saying, “This for you, Mama.”

Over and over and over, selfless as they come.

We show off our blackberry tongues and our fuchsia-stained fingertips, and we laugh at how it looks like we’re all wearing a lipstick stain.

These are the memories I hope she takes with her…

Memories of picking berries and making jam and blackberry crumble and pruning apple trees in the spring and smelling homemade applesauce in the slow cooker.

I harbor another dream, too, though this one would be much bigger.

I dream of creating a neighborhood/city-wide co-op where everyone with fruit trees and berry bushes who has extras can post the availability of their fruit on the co-op’s site and where no fruit lies on the ground, rotten and unused.

I dream of this co-op helping to stock local food pantries and helping older people enjoy the fruits of their fields themselves, even if they can no longer pick it themselves.

I hope to someday put this project into action, to both integrate my family into this community and to knit our small town even closer together.

So maybe next year, you’ll find me putting up fliers or sending out Facebook invitations or whatever it might take in order to get the word out.

Because everyone should have the chance to pick and enjoy fresh fruit in the summer, if they so wish.

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