I think there is no better smell than the strawberry patch in the sunshine. And a billy of raspberries never smells better than when it’s warm from the afternoon sun. These are grand statements I know. Feel free to offer me your contradictions. But I stand by my judgement; those smells are truly sensational.
I have been taking a sabbatical with my grandparents in northern Tasmania. Tasmania is a great place for growing berries. For many years my Pop had a wonderful patch of raspberries. A few years ago they came ill and he pulled most of them out and replaced them with strawberries. This year the strawberries have been in full flight, producing at the rate of rabbits. It’s been wonderful! I’ve not been very well the past few years, and can’t manage to look after myself and a garden. But I’ve been thoroughly enjoying babysitting Pop’s berry patch. Now that I’ve settled in here, I’m feeling better. It gives me just enough exercise, going down to the patch every other day to pick the berries. It’s good for my balance and core strength. I feel it up my legs too. When I get too unsteady on my feet I might call ‘time’ before I’m through the whole patch, but I’ve been doing better and better. It’s nice to be able to help Nan and Pop, because it’s a big effort for them to bend over and pick them too. They’re not as young as they used to be.
I’ve laid more than half a bale of straw down underneath the strawberries: gently lifting up the leaves and berries to bring the straw right underneath each plant. It took me over a week to do the whole patch, in bits and bobs as I felt fit. It’s lifted the berries off the ground, helping them ripen more evenly. The straw keeps the water in the ground too, and I think it will be protecting the roots from the little mammals I’m sure have been digging them up. I’m pretty sure Nan and Pop have at least one bandicoot that comes visiting you see. I’ve seen it once before, not on this trip; but Pop tells me he saw one a few days ago. As I walk along the rows of strawberries I gently lift the leaves of each bush, looking for the sweet smelling strawberries. I turn those over that are not quite ripe, so the green and pink sides can see the sun and ripen in its radiance. I clip off any dead berries, or those the birds have got to, and pull out weeds as best I can. Sometimes Abby, the pug joins me. She likes to sit in the warm dry straw beneath the rows. She’s a greedy little dog, but luckily she hasn’t taken a liking to the taste of strawberries.
The raspberries are coming back with vengeance. There are even some young canes growing up through the strawberry patch now. I have great childhood memories of parting the raspberry canes in search of their fruit. All my grandparents have grown them, including my great grandfather whose wonderful garden I remember fondly. Picking raspberries was always a great treat when visiting the ‘oldies’ in the summertime, I like it best when you part the canes like curtains and find the little gems hiding in the middle of the patch. The blackbirds have been having a great time with Pop’s because we don’t have them covered with nets. But I still get the same joy as when I was young, reaping the rewards of my attention, reaching for the ruby raspberries and bringing them safely to my billy. They truly smell better when the content of the billy are warm from the sun.
Berries seem so much more enjoyable when you’ve cared for them and then picked as sweet as they can, while the birds sing… especially when you know you bet them to the treat! Have you had your berry fix during the summer?