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My mother called them blackcaps. These little wild black raspberries grew in abundance on the home farm. My two brothers and I picked a bunch of them during the hot and sticky days of mid-summer. Wearing long-sleeve shirts to protect us from the inevitable scratches from the berry bushes, and a feeble attempt to keep the mosquitoes at bay, we picked these little black beauties.

Pa found old belts to strap around our waists—we wore bib overalls at the time. He said to run the belt through the handle on the buckets and in that way we could pick with both hands. And so we did. The berries are small, so it took lots of patience to fill a bucket, but fill buckets we did.

Back home, Ma preserved jar after jar of blackcap sauce, many little jars of blackcap jam, and always saved enough to make a berry pie or two.

This year we have an abundance of blackcaps at Roshara. They seem to be everywhere--alongside the woodshed, at the edge of the tractor shed, along the driveway, on either side of the trail to the pond. The warm and wet spring and early summer proved ideal for them. For too many years, a dry spell in early summer meant no berries. But not the summer of 2020.

My daughter-in-law, Natasha takes the prize for the best blackcap picker in the family. She has picked several small buckets of them. And like my mother, made them into jam.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Don’t overlook the bounties of nature. They are often there for the picking.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to www.jerryapps.com 

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