Thursday, July 16, 2009

Of Bagworms and Blackberries

Don't confuse the title of this post with my sonnet "Of Bollards and Berms" (which garnered a bit of critique and discussion at AW-password is citrus. No, this is about my war against the bagworms and my quest for blackberries--the edible kind.

My first experience with blackberry picking was in Snug Harbor, Rhode Island, on a vacant lot, or couple of lots, right behind the stony beach we went swimming at when we didn't drive over to East Matunuk. They grew right next to a cleared field, so getting them was easy. As kids we probably ate as many as we brought home. The fun was in the picking, not in the having. Years later, on a return to Rhode Island, the blackberry patch was gone, torn out to make room for waterside houses. Alas.

Now I pick blackberries both for enjoyment and for food. I love the taste, and they taste even better because they are free. The cost for a half-gallon: an hour and a half on a Saturday morning, a few scratches, two chigger bites, and maybe a pound of water sweated away. I'm having some right now, as I write this, with lunch. Now, a quart of blackberries won't stretch the budget a whole lot, but it will help. Especially if we get another quart this Saturday, when the temperatures are supposed to be fifteen degrees cooler than last Saturday.

Now, as far as bagworms go, I am at war with them. Not at home, but at church. There we have four evergreen bushes of some type, a cedar relative, kept neatly trimmed but not otherwise maintained--except by me. Every May the first bagworms appear. I pick them off and squish them under foot. But I never take time to go through the bushes thoroughly. So they are back in June and abundant in July. No one seems to see them or care about them except me.

I'm enough of a HEED-onist (only URI grads will know the background of that) to not want to spray some kind of chemical on the plant to kill them. So I pick the bags off the bush. I used to do that at our property in Bentonville, and never lost a bush. Did that back in Kansas City too, if I remember correctly. It's more work than spraying, but it has to be environmentally friendly.

So I pick, and pick. Yesterday I got to church 30 minutes early to have 20 to pick bag worms. I came with a doubled plastic sack (that's a bag to your Rhode Islanders) and had it about 1/3 full when my time was up. I picked one bush clean; it only had a few. I moved to the next one which was fully infested, and could stand in one spot and pick forever, moving branches to get the ones that were hiding. All the time I'm picking, I'm stewing, wondering why no one else cares enough about the poor evergreen bush to rid it of these parasites. People pass me by, heading into church, and ask what I'm doing. No one stops to help, except Jeremy, the grandson of my best friend in these parts. He sees it as a child's game. But, like most child's games, I'm on my own again in ten minutes.

But I've decided this is one of my ministries. It fits my personality. It's solitary. It's mindless, allowing for mental multi-tasking. It is limited in time duration: by the mid-August I'll either have saves the bush or it will be dead. It's a service no one will even know I did, except for those few who saw me--and Jeremy, of course. It doesn't involve any interpersonal relationships--except Jeremy, of course. What better ministry could there be?

Well, my blackberries are fully consumed. They were good, but somehow not as good as they were when eaten straight from the vine on a hot summer day. And, they seemed just as enjoyable as they did when they were a child's game during a Rhode Island summer. The joy is still in the picking, but eating them is nice, real nice.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Something about the coastal environment makes those blackberries better than those growing elsewhere.