Sunday, August 15, 2010

Berry-time ! .. and the Circle of Life

It's been an absolutely wonderful skies, bright sun, slight breeze...all in all, a great weekend to be out and about in the great outdoors. We had already noticed the abundance of green unripened fruit in the blackberry brambles this summer, and with it being a bumper crop in the works, I persuaded DH that this year we needed to pick enough to make a batch of blackberry wine...we need 15 pounds for the 5-gallon, earlier in the week my daughter and I had been out and picked several pounds – I did manage to get 3 pounds in the freezer and left the rest for munching.....she managed to demolish the remaining 1.5 pounds in a day, leaving DH somewhat disappointed as he likes to eat them as well, so he had to go scope out the back field and did bring home another bucket full...Anyway, once the sun was no longer directly overhead yesterday, the three of us went out to pick more fruit – came home with another 6 pounds, and planned to head out early Sunday to pick more before the sun started beating down on us again. It's unbelievably incredible the amount of fruit out start picking on a couple of stalks, and every time you turn elsewhere, or bend down, or move a branch, you find more and more and the time we called it quits for today and headed home, washed off what we brought home (each of us had a bucket to start the morning with), weighed it and packaged up what we needed....and yes, still managed to leave 3 pounds of blackberries in the fridge for eating and to make smoothies with tonight. Total count of fruit harvested this weekend: 18.25 pounds....yes, eighteen plus....and we could have continued to pick if our buckets hadn't all been full .....

Being out in the woods and fields picking fruit is in and of itself a great way to spend the day....add to that the fact we never left our property, we heard/saw evidence of the multitude of wildlife that we know is there (and I am sure with our crisscrossing the berry fields, spooked several of the smaller creatures such as the mice and squirrels, a fact that did not go unnoticed by our newest neighbor, a small hawk). For that matter, this morning at one point I left the field and wandered down an old trail and further back into the woods....told my hubby later on that I had heard something “purring” at one point while I was stopped. Now, given the fact that this is a ways out and in woods where there is known to be numerous assorted sizes of predators, I highly doubt that it was someone's family pet....and we know for a fact that there is a bobcat, or family of, living in the immediate vicinity. Was I worried? purring cat is a contented cat, so since I was not disrupting a hunt or getting into a rock pile that could potentially hide a den, I think the big cat just watched me go about my business and left me to it without showing itself....Because I know we have these in the area (along with fox, weasel/fisher, hawk, eagle, coyote, and occasional bear), I am very conscious of where I go and keep my ears and eyes alert to what is around me as the last thing you want to do is come up unaware on a mother bear with cubs. So, other than my encounter with the unseen cat, the hawk flew over our heads several times to see if we had jumped anything of interest, and we did see a small red fox at the edge of the sandpit...yeah, the hunting for our local predators is fairly decent. There is abundant small rodents, rabbits, grouse and partridge, raccoon, porcupine, beaver, turkeys, deer, and moose.

The circle of life...we find evidence of it every time we head out into the back woods...occasional small skulls after they have been bleached by the sun, antler scrapings on saplings, multitude of hoof prints crossing the old railroad bed near a known wild apple tree that quickly show small and large deer as well as the occasional moose (several sizes of these as well)....we have also chanced to find the partially eaten remains of a deer or moose on occasion near the trail (found usually because of the smell emanating from it) which because of it's size had to have been brought down by something fairly fast or large, which ultimately becomes food for many of the smaller predators once the hunter has had his fill.....Even the plant life shows the pattern of life and death....what once was a great open field is now not quite so wide, the small saplings that used to line the edge have grown tremendously and now form a canopy above the slower-growing plants...DH and I were just talking about that this week while walking down the old railroad bed about how we could 'see' into the woods whereas we had not been able to do so several years ago......the forest is growing up, the undergrowth that had originally clung to life after the forest was originally logged – this has reached up and taken hold of their position as the next generation of future logging, all that remains as undergrowth now is that which thrives in the cool and damp beneath the canopy....the ferns and moss, and the baby trees that need the protection from the weather that now shelter under the parent trees at the edge of the woods as we see and understand it, each plant or animal or bird, all following their own cycle of life that may or may not culminate in their landing on our dinner plate or heating our house ........

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