I anticipated making mansion out of a pigsty when a WHOLE field of mine gave it up and went full blackberry. People recommended POISON to get rid of them. But they did not know the way these little guys make me smile as I contort to pick the ripest berry as the sun catches on the smooth surfaces of each tiny segment.
So with the plan for the field made, I brushhogged rows only wide enough to be able to pick from both sides and not have to OvER reach to the middle. I kept the rows mowed. Until, if you remember the monsoon season hit and the field was TOO soggy to continue mowing. I know this because I got one tractor stuck and almost the second one getting the first one out. I picked lots of blackberries, for sure, but the rains knocked those ripest plumpest ones off, but the crop was good, the grasses TALL and wet to walk through to pick. For a month it looked like I had voted in every election in countries that require marking a finger with indelible ink, to prevent subjects from voting multiple times on election day. I am a marked woman during blackberry season.
Then the quiet time as anticipation builds as the wild plums take their time to ripen. The little trees were covered. High winds, heavy rain did not do them in, these trees are producing the most amazing beauties ever. Red, ripe ones almost jump into your hand and if they don't they will in a few days. Some make the leap when no one is watching and lay on the ground for me to find like that candy we used to get at the movie theater, those bright red chewy treats in a flat box. While picking these jewels, it is tempting to pop them in your mouth to get an instant delight. But they for the most part are more like bright red marbles than anything else I can compare them to.
Every day for weeks, I go back to my favorite places. My dad and I tried over and over to transplant some to my property because he knew how much I loved them. He would be so happy to know they came on their own, in their own time.
Just as picking blackberries gets a bad rap because of the chiggers, which are known to have a symbiotic relationship with that fruit. It is best to get right out of your picking clothes and into water right away to deter some of them. For the plums, I am finding it most important to do the same practices, but the followup that is necessary is to take a long close look on this skin you are in and inspect for the tiniest of meanness's: the mite.
A young friend of mine declared fond memories of picking wild plums with his mother and seemed excited to be invited to come do some picking with me. We picked on that hottest day we had, both of us sweating. He filled a bucket and I filled containers of varying sizes until almost dark. I have taken a few other young people to pick, but none who showed such signs of pleasure at the quiet effort of picking.
It wasn't that day the mites got me, that happened today. I am sure that the native relations who hunted these plains put a big black X on their winter counts for this place ensuring only visitors, no permanent communities were built as they discovered the weapons of war the land here uses to protect herself: chiggers and mites. The wee ones.
They and the ticks got the last fellow to escape from what we locals call the Vinita Prison. He escaped in the heat of summer, after blackberries and before plums. He was walking up my dirt road when I met him. I was hot riding in my Gator and was out of water.
He asked for water and I responded I wished I had some, too. When he asked to use my cell phone, I asked what number he might want me to dial for him. He replied with his mother's number and when she answered, I told her where he would be waiting for her: a hill about 2 miles from my house. From there he could watch for her. He walked on and I called the sheriff and they were sitting up on the hill waiting for the reunion of the mom and her son, when the escapee gave up and walked out of the bushes. He told them he was thirsty and covered with chiggers and ticks. But you know he had to have those little mites, too, they were the ones that brought him in and should have gotten some kind of reward.
There was another escapee. I would have thought he would give up because of these little varmints, but regretfully when he was found he had committed suicide on the grounds where he had taken shelter from a rainstorm.
Respectfully Plum Crazy ~ Rebecca Jim