6 Sept 2010

Hestia warns...bramble picking is not for wooses

The spell of warm and dry weather is just about to break, so I decided to take a freezer bag with me on my jog to Loch Fad this morning - with a view to running very hard and very fast to the Loch itself and then having a gentle amble back up the farm tracks whilst filling my freezer bag with brambles.

For a start, there was no 'very hard or very fast' running.  My legs felt like lead for some reason.  I'm going to put it down to hormones rather than a weekend of cakes and strong coffee.

Plus, the wind was blowing into my face. I'm not a dog.  I don't enjoy that.

Anyhoo found myself at Loch Fad eventually and started on the brambling.

They may be the garden weed from HELL, but it's an excellent year for brambles by the looks of things.  Great thorny arcs towered over me, tantalising me with their glossy black berries.  I decided to do things systematically and start from the dark jewels hiding in the long grass and work up to the berries on the wild whippy stems on high.

Of course, I realise that when you're brambling you need to be ready for lots of unpleasantness: the odd spider running across your hand as you terrify the living daylights out of it, an occasional thorny jab and what not, but today has to be the most war-torn brambling experience I've had.

Not only did I get the spider thing happening - and I'll admit, even though I was mentally prepared for it, there is something ancient and primal inside me that makes me shout 'FUCK!' very loudly along with other useless profanities and some very girly squealing whilst shaking my hand wildly to dislodge the poor confused arachnid.

My jogging trews are now a mass of pulled threads and my legs are scraped to ribbons as the aforementioned thorny whips took advantage of the bloody wind and avenged the pillage of their fruit by giving every inch of my naked flesh a good flailing.

There was BLOOD.

What is it about brambles that they like to grow next to stinging nettles and all manner of incredibly thorny plants?  My right forearm is a testament to the efficacy of stinging nettles as a barrier to picking fruit. And it's still sore...yes, yes, I rubbed a docken leaf on it, so then I'm covered in pink nettle weals AND green leaf smear.  Nice. 

My systematic approach to de-fruiting didn't work too well either.  My gaze began to dance over the heavy fruits that lay ahead and soon I was darting about all over the place snapping up the plumpest, blackest berries.  Some of the very best ones were right at the back of the bushes and I figured that if I stamped down the most dangerous branches, I could reach....yes....just a little higher.....st-r-e-t-c-h just a liiiiiiiiitle moooooore  and Noooooo! I lurched into the drainage cuts behind the bushes, up to my ankles in freezing cold water.

My mood was darkening faster than the sky above me.

I will not be beaten by a FRUIT BUSH, I muttered through gritted teeth.  I ploughed on - scraped, stung, poked (watch out for long grass it's DAMNED sore if it gets you in the eye) and the final ignominy - shat on by a bird.

Down the side of my face.

A mile from home.

And then the rain came on.....

This bramble jam better be fecking well worth it.


  1. You really need Tertarus to do the brambling - in his biking leathers :)
    Alternatively, task Sonshine with it - children heal quicker ;)
    I have brambles in my front and back garden (despite best, albeit intermittent, attempts to get rid and we've had some lovely fruit off them though it's been scoffed by the children long before I could make jam.

  2. You have to take blackberrying more seriously - wear gardening gloves or at least rubber gloves and at least non-click clothes, long legged trousers and full sleeves! A hat for the bird poo, and maybe goggles for any thorns, then carry antihistamine cream for the nettles, and you will be sorted. I did an impromptu pick this week and I now have a black halo around my nails - very unattracive - but it does come off when you roll out the pastry if you make blackberry pie instead of jam - joke! Is it really going to rain? On my way out now x

  3. Up in Northumberland where I'm from, we used to get a half term vacation called Blackberry week. As a result, if you found a ripe berry, before the hoards of pickers arrived, it was a good day. Over here, they hang off every hedgerow like stars in the sky. Pies, jams, Jellies, sorbet, you name it, it gets made during the frenetic foraging months now upon us. A trickle of blood or two comes with the territory. Lovely post.

  4. Ahhh! Ali, I'd have given up after that! I hope the jam is a success xx


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