Reflecting on Memories of Blackberries

It's a lovely warm Saturday morning down here in Melbourne and we welcome two new subscribers to the AnArt4Life blog. To KY in Penshurst, New South Wales and RL in Florence, Italy - I hope you like berries because today is all about our reflections on the place berries have in our lives.

Making Blackberry Pie by Edith Hayllar (1)

Several people reported to me that last week's Reflection on Blackberries made their mouths water at the thought of a blackberry pie. I think British artist Edith Hayllar (1860-1948) might have had the same thought when she produced the delightful painting shown above.

And speaking of having a love of berries our very own AnArt4Life blog writer Jane sent in this memory from August 2019:

I had juicy blueberries on my yogurt this morning. I was in Finland – and berry season! In Finland's forests everyone can freely pick wild berries and mushrooms thanks to liberal laws of access to the land, known as Everyman’s Right.

We also tried cloudberries - similar to a blackberry but a glossy golden colour - in a crepe with cream and ice cream - they were mouth-watering - I could see why they are called the Gold of Finland.

Photo of Finnish blueberry bushes and Jane enjoying that crepe! Insert - golden cloudberries

M of Wheelers Hill sent in her memory of picking blackberries for jam - of a slightly different flavour.

Growing up on a farm at Harcourt in Central Victoria meant that blackberries had a significant place in our lives. My father hated them, as growing in the wild the bushes cause endless problems to the farmers. We of course loved to eat them - fresh from the bushes or in the delicious jam my mother made. Reading Anne's Reflection on Blackberries brought back the memory of one year when I was about 12 and my sister about 10 and Dad had his usual problem of trying to get rid of the bushes. In those days you had to get special permission from one of the agricultural departments in order to poison the bushes.

The department was notoriously slow in acting so my mother decided to make blackberry jam. We were sent to gather the delicious berries. I remember climbing the hill up past the windmill with each of us carrying a basket for our berries. We had so much fun picking them, eating every second one and no doubt our hands were covered in the purple juice that ooses out.

On the way home we decided to run down the hill. My sister sped in front of me and suddenly to my horrow she tripped and went hurtling forward onto her knees with the basket of berries scattering everywhere. Not to be daunted, we gathered all the berries up - scooping them from the dusty ground where they lay.

When we got home we gave Mum our baskets of berries and like all children forgot to mention that many of them had been rolling around in the farm dirt. For whatever reason, probably because country folk back then didn't wash fruit picked fresh from the wild, the berries became jam without being washed. And that year our blackberry jam was rather gritty and tasted a little different.

And all I can think is that as the berries had rolled around in farm dirt they are very lucky that the jam only tasted a little gritty!

And only our Caroline would have actually been inside a blackberry thickett!

Caroline writes:
My story relates to when I used to volunteer at The Animal Welfare League at Hoxton Park in NSW. My friend Geoff, who was the manager there at the time, said one day: "OK we need to go and feed a dog that has made a den in the blackberry bushes… she has a pup with her and she is very protective!"

We put the food in the entry of the den, stepped back quite a bit and watched as the dog gingerly came forward to get the food and then scurry deep within the den.

The dog had been reported about a week previously and all attempts to capture her and the pup had failed. I said to Geoff: "I reckon I can give it a go to catch her".

I went and got my overalls, leather gloves and the pruning shears. Geoff went home to pick up his wife Karen (who worked at the League) and also picked up the dog catching pole and some cages.

We thought that if we could get the mother, who was the size of a small Kelpie, the pup would follow.

Donning my overalls and gloves, I wriggled on my stomach through the entry to the den slowly cutting the blackberry bushes to make a little more room. I soon disappeared from sight. Karen and Geoff nervously paced alongside the bushes as none of us were too sure what the dog might do if cornered.

I peered through the dim light inside the tangled jungle of blackberry branches whose tentacles had attached themselves to various contact points on my overalls. I could see the dog at the rear of the den. She seemed timid, very watchful and very protective of her pup. The blackberry thicket at that point was formed like a cave behind her so there was only one way and out.

The solution lay in using a catching pole so I slithered back toward the entry of the thickets and asked for the pole plus some tasty meaty treats to tempt the dog. I slowly wriggled back in and threw the tasty treats in her direction and then waited. After forever she came forward to get the meat. I held my breath, catching pole at the ready, and then - bang I was I able to somehow get the looped end around her neck.

I was slowly able to winch her out and Geoff and Karen were able to pop her in a cage.

Thankfully the pup followed and was easy to catch..

What a joyous moment, one very skinny Kelpie sized pale coated dog and her pup now safe in our care: it was a delightful moment. I was treated like an absolute hero on that day!

We had the mother and pup vet checked and apart from being malnourished… all was ok. Over time that little dog gained condition; it was timid but beautifully natured so we no trouble in rehoming them.

Apart from a few scratches I was fine. I did forget the pruner so that would have been enveloped in the blackberries over time! It was a very successful animal rescue adventure, one of the best I have been involved in over my 30 year friendship with Geoff and Karen.

And from the beautiful suburb of Sandringham we have Mrs. Graycat who has just baked a fresh blackberry pie. It has to cool for awhile before it will be ready for her kittens to enjoy!

Blackberry Pie

Not surprisingly, several subscribers including John Pickup (in Queensland) and John Wylie (in South Australia) remarked on mouth watering memories of eating blackberry pies! So for all of you, this is the best we can do at the moment, as no-one will deliver ANYTHING AT ALL from Victoria!

Piece of Pie
Photo by Erol Ahmed / Unsplash

Sorry that we took a bite or two!!