I haven’t been back there in a couple weeks, they looked good then, thick with still-green blackberries in patches where you stand in one spot, pick a bunch, turn sideways one way and the other, pick, move over, pick; moving, turning, picking. I’ll go back today thinking there may be some first ripe berries. For sure, take a bucket or two. Reaching into, over and under the thorny branches for the biggest and blackest berries, pay for it with scratched-up backs of hands and wrists. There’s plenty of bushes that don’t have much for berries but all in all it’ll be worth it again this year. Again every year! Blackberries are hard to beat and wild can’t be beat!
It’s a long trail back to the patch, a good mile and half either direction, a scenic circle to nowhere but blackberries and back. Carry a couple ice cream buckets in and out. Carry out mostly full, I think. Cool! The trail is hilly, winding, heavy with hardwoods and light underbrush on either side, but for the beaver ponds on one side here, the other side there. Walking or four-wheeling up and down, around steep hills, crossing beaver dams, crossing water where a beaver dam would be good. A single grove of birch reflects back across one of the ponds, shadowed by the passive yellow and white lily pad flowers, sitting high on the shimmering pond. Stoic!
The trail winds through an old Norway pine plantation, planted years ago, maybe two generations ago. The trail here has big rocks, some sitting size. This is nice bear-hunting country, next to a blackberry patch. Make a bear-scaring racket coming in just in case? Once through the plantation and across a small creek onto the old farm field says “you’re on it!” On to the blackberries, fingers crossed, to the other side.
The patch sits on the edge of the old farm field against the side of the old Norway pine plantation, on an old farmstead from way back. I imagine the plantation got planted on the field when the farm there was no more. A rectangular depression, stinging nettles around the perimeter and overgrown lilacs say, yes, this was an old farmstead. A house or a barn in the depression, maybe. So I heard an old couple lived there. Maybe they had a silo too, probably not. Maybe a corn crib? They probably put up loose hay, stacked outside under a tripod. Bet they had a hand crank cream separator, made butter, fed skimmed milk to the hogs and goats. No milking machines on this stead, just Ma and Pa pulling teats, leaning in on their three-legged stools, smiling at one another, proud of their lone Guernsey’s cream content and the couple Holsteins’ 14 quart buckets of milk. Probably had a good-sized fenced garden, maybe a cellar under the stone-foundation house. Maybe a six foot deep root cellar outside?
A neighbor who knew some history of the area said it was a small farm from way back, way back in the woods where the folks didn’t have a car, didn’t want a car. Makes sense with the trail getting into the stead and berries, where sometimes a four-wheeler has to give it up; where walking in and out works fine. The neighbor said they probably walked or rode horse or mule out to the main road, maybe on into town. “They weren’t unsociable, just lived way back in the woods. Sort of a self-sufficient couple, had a few cows, probably a work horse or two, some pigs and chickens, a couple goats; a good-sized, tilled garden for the Mrs. and a root cellar!,” said the neighbor. They probably had a wild blackberry patch somewhere too!