Sunday, July 3, 2011

Picking Berries

Last Thursday after work my mom and I took the kids to the woods just south of us to pick black raspberries.  These are the woods with the old log cabin in them.  I called the property's owner first to double check that it was still okay for us to pick berries there and he said sure (as long we leave the cherries on the front cherry tree untouched - they're for his wife's pies).  Although I'd been through the woods several times, the draw every other visit was the log cabin.  This time it was the hope of a raspberry pie. 

The fields surrounding our house have been tended by the same farmer since the 1940's.  Now in his eighties, he loves to chat with Charles and I, sharing stories of our house and the people who lived here before us.  He has also shared stories about the old cabin next door.  According to our farmer, the last person to live in the cabin was an older bachelor whose hobby was gardening.  He is said to have kept a large garden behind the house where he grew all kinds of fruits and vegetables.  When the bachelor died the garden was left to grow wild.  The vegetables eventually died off, but the raspberry bushes thrived, spreading through the woods around the cabin.  Our farmer will smile as he remembers breaks taken from the field to pick a few berries ("as big around as my thumb" he says holding his hand out in front of him).

The berries are not quite that big anymore, but there are so many of them that it really doesn't matter.  Any semblance of an organized garden is long gone, but I find it telling that even today the raspberries are all found in the front half of the woods surrounding the old cabin and barn foundation.  Once you pass the cabin the raspberries bushes become fewer and fewer and the last third of the woods has almost no berries.

Cecilia quickly tired of picking berries (too 'pokey' and too many daddy longleg spiders), but Neil was a tireless berry picker. We picked the first berries to ripen this season, so I plan to take Neil back in a few days and there should be even more raspberries ready to pick.

While there I also took some pictures of the old barn foundation:

According to our farmer, the barn was burned down by a hired hand who felt he had been underpaid for his labor.  When the fire was discovered neighbors from throughout the area came to help, but the barn was a complete loss.  And with everyone's attention focused on the barn, it was only after the fire that anyone noticed a ladder leaning against the back side of the house.  The window at the top of the ladder opened into the land owner's bedroom, where a large sum of money was missing from a bedside dresser.  Only with this discovery did all of the gathered neighbors realize that the hired farm hand had been conspicuously absent during the chaos of the fire.   He remained conspicuously absent afterward as well.

And, since I'm still completely fascinated by it, here are more pictures of the abandoned log cabin:
(I think you should be able to click on any of these for a larger view)

 In the 1896 atlas this whole area is shown as cleared land.  I suspect that whenever the house was abandoned the entire property was abandoned (apparently sometime before height of the Great Depression because REA electricity never reached the cabin).  Nearly all of the trees in the woods surrounding the cabin today have trunks that are less than a foot in diameter.  The only exception was the old tree pictured at right which stands about 20 feet from the southwest corner of the cabin.

Yesterday after working outside in the heat most of the afternoon, the kids and I washed our black raspberries from Thursday's expedition and just before bed we all enjoyed still warm from the oven black raspberry pie with vanilla ice cream melting against it.  It makes me smile to think that raspberry bushes planted and tended by an (apparently stingy) old bachelor a hundred years ago or more are still bringing pleasure today.  : )


  1. Awesome post,in so many ways...
    : ) love, Aunt Barb

  2. Dad loved the piece of pie I brought home today. I loved all the memories of Bradley it brought back. I look forward to when Brad & Ahna are back in our area and I can bake pies for them again.
    Love, Mom

  3. If we just look and pay attention the land and buildings will talk to us with clues and relics. I live on a Hoosier Homestead Farm and we are always finding evidence of my husbands ancestors lives.

    Black raspberries are a favorite in our house. We make pies, cobbler and jam. The jam is the absolute best! Loved this post!

  4. Ooooooo - Milah, you're giving me ideas!

    ...homemade black raspberry jam...