My kids on their first walk in the field!
Several months ago my family took the leap and moved to a home in rural Southern Tier of Western New York. To my five children still living at home, this was the adventure of their lives. Driving away from the urban wilds of Buffalo the children spied their first 'real' cows, deer, and more open land than they'd ever seen.
After we were settled in, I took the kids out to explore. We wandered through the field behind the house and down an old trail in the national forest that butts up to our yard. While we explored, I found the tell-tale signs of some of my favorite treats: berries!
The field was chock-full of wild strawberry plants. In thickets around the edges of the forest and field there were raspberry canes and blackberry brambles. As the winter slowly melted away, we kept six sets of hungry eyes on the plants.
A wild strawberry bloom tempting us in May.
One day in late June my seven year old ran into the house, “Mommy, I see a tiny strawberry!” That day turned into the kid's first berry hunt outside of a grocery store. I was filled with pride watching my city kids become country kids, but the berry hunt was the turning point in their plant appreciation. Searching through the tall grass, the kids would pop up with a mouth or hand full of berries. Cries of “Found some!” echoed through the field.
After the filed was mowed for hay, berry hunting became much easier. Even my smallest, 20 months old now, learned to find strawberries. Luckily she held them up first for me to identify, once she came up with a snail!
As June melted into July, the raspberries came on. Every day we would hunt for them. The yields were not spectacular due to the drought, but it was enough for snacks. After the raspberries stopped producing we found something that sent me into the throes of berry ecstasy: blackberries. While the strawberries and raspberries were wonderful, there's just something about blackberries that make my Southern Girl heart flutter. Memories of blackberry cobbler, pie, jam, and syrup bubbling in my great-grandmother's kitchen flash though my mind's eye.
Sweet promises of the deliciousness to come.
The best of these black delights spring up in the forest. So far I've found three different species, my favorite are the dewberries. My children, well, their favorites are whichever berry happens to fill their mouths. We go on berry hunts and delve ever deeper into the forest. On one trip out, the children stayed at home and somehow my best friend and I accidentally climbed a mountain.
We're still not sure how that one happened. It didn't matter, because hidden on top of the mountain was a treasure trove of the biggest, juiciest, most succulent black berries we had ever seen. Suddenly I found myself climbing dead-falls, jumping off of stumps, and crawling through the underbrush just like when I lived on the farm over a decade ago. No brambles or bear would get in my way. The only trouble I ran into? My silly dog eating the berries from the bush. I didn't hold it against her, I had a few handfuls myself.
So far we've done quite a few things since moving from urban to rural life. I've taught my family what I know about gardening, plant identification, and we've sampled some of the tastes nature has for us. It is amazing watching my children become country kids. This summer we're picking berries, next summer, who knows?