To me, one of the greatest things about living in the country is being able to just walk outside to the fields or the woods and gather herbs, berries or flowers for my family. It's amazing to think that our ancestors were doing the same thing many years ago, and used what grew wild as a source of feeding their family.
This time of year, our farm has a great amount of wild blackberries. Every year I watch as the leaves start to pop out, then the bushes grow, and finally the white blossoms appear that mean a berry will soon follow. Then I start checking on them every few days. I watch as the berries form, and turn from white, to light green, to pink, to red, and finally darken into beautiful, juicy blackberries. Well, at least that's what I think should happen. But what about those years when there isn't much rain? Or those years when I get busy and can't pay attention as much as I should and the deer or the birds eat all the berries? Or what if the ants get to them before I do? Those are things that I sure can't plan or anticipate, but they do happen in our blackberry patch. And isn't that just like life? We think that we know exactly what to expect each and every time, that we can just plan it all out and make it happen the way we think it should. But that sure isn't the way it always goes.
The other day I was out there in those blackberry bushes and started thinking about how picking blackberries is just like life. I have been doing this picking for years, so I feel like I know exactly what to expect, and how to plan for it. So, despite the heat, I put on my long jeans, a mid sleeve length t-shirt, socks and boots. I made sure to wear my leather gloves, and I even wrapped a bandanna around my head to help catch the "glow" as it dripped in the South Carolina humidity. I grabbed my vegetable basket and made my way to the far end of the field where the blackberries grow the best, and was proud of myself for remembering to take the gate key so I could get out.
But as I ventured into those bushes, I found out that despite my planning, my picking experience wasn't going to be exactly as I had envisioned. I realized that my basket had small holes in the bottom, but big enough that the blackberries could fall through. I found out that even though I had jeans on, the prickly bushes could still grab on and scratch my legs through the material. There are a lot of fire ants around blackberries, and one soon found it's way up my boot and onto my leg, despite my planning. The bandanna around my head, that seemed like such a great idea, soon became an insulator for heat and moisture. I was sure glad that the leather gloves were keeping my hands from getting really scratched up, but I also found that I dropped a lot of berries with those thick fingered gloves, and that I could really only pick one at a time. I tried really hard to balance my basket under a branch and pull a bunch of berries at one time, but they either fell to the ground, or became blackberry juice. I even tried picking double handed, until I got tangled in the branches and scratched up my arms. It seemed that even though I thought I knew what to do and how to prepare, I couldn't possibly anticipate everything that was going to happen. And that morning in the blackberry patch got me thinking.
The way I prepared for picking those blackberries is just like in life. We think we can plan our future, we think we can plan what will happen tomorrow, but God's plan is really the only one that will happen. Sure, we can do things to prepare for lifes events but, just like with picking blackberries, we must take it one day (or berry) at a time, and trust that we will be protected. Even when we put on our best gear, make our best plans and believe we have all our ducks in a row, life doesn't always go the way we think it should. Whenever we try to hurry things along or try to control a situation, we tend to make a mess of things and get all scratched up. We are going to be challenged with things we don't think we can get through, but there will be a great reward at the end.
So my morning in the blackberry patch was a great reminder that God is in control. I cannot alter His path for me, yet I know that He will always provide and protect me, no matter what I am going through. I must remember to lean on my faith and be thankful for one berry (day) at a time!
And by the way- once I started picking one berry at at time, I was blessed with enough to make several bottles of Wild Blackberry Syrup for my family. Here is my recipe-
Wild Blackberry Syrup from One Ash Farm Recipes
6 lbs. fresh,wild Blackberries
1 1/2 cup water
3 1/2 cups sugar (this makes a thin syrup- use up to 6 cups of sugar for a thicker, sweeter syrup)
- Wash the blackberries and put them in a heavy pot with the water.
- Bring the berries/water to a boil, and allow them to boil at a low temperature for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. During this cooking time, as the berries soften, use a potato masher to smash them and get all the juice out.
- Cool and then put the contents of the pot into a cheesecloth lined strainer, over another pot to catch the juice. Let the juice drain out until you have only the seeds and remaining pulp from the blackberries.
- Put the juice only back into the heavy pot and bring it back to a boil. Slowly stir in the sugar and once it's dissolved, boil for another 2 minutes.
- Carefully ladle the hot syrup into hot pint jars, cover with rings and lids, and hot water bath them for 10 minutes.
- Store in a cool pantry and enjoy all year long!
"A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps." Proverbs 16:9