The weather this year has caused the hedgerow bounty to be very different to last year. The brambles were very late up here and are just coming to an end now. The elderberries were not worth worrying about. Crab apples are doing well. Rose hips not as good as last year. But, joy of joy, the sloes have been abundant.
On my first brambling expedition earlier in the year I discovered a stretch of blackthorn hedge. They weren't ready but I kept an eye on it.
On one of our dog walks I found another area down the side of a field. Things were looking good.
And then I hit the jackpot. On another dog walk we spotted blackthorn bushes everywhere, covered in sloes. Now I just had to wait for them to ripen.
The first time I went picking I decided they weren't quite ready, so satisfied myself with a couple of pounds of brambles. I waited a couple of weeks and then tried again last Sunday. Some bushes were ready - indeed were beginning to go over - and others not. I filled a punnet. Back out on Tuesday. I filled another two punnets. Nobody else seems to be picking them, and by now quite a few of the bushes appeared to be past their best - fruit beginning to wrinkle on the bushes. It seemed a pity to go to waste...
Janet had expressed an interest in coming with me. On the Sunday I had stopped at her house but the car was not in the drive so I had continued on without her. Same thing on the Tuesday. Yesterday was her last chance as Paul is away playing bridge for a long weekend, which puts a dampener on my outings. Again, she was out. Paul volunteered to come with me, bringing the dogs. Big mistake.
I had the equivalent of 'Are we there yet?'...
Have we picked enough yet? The dogs are bored... I'm bored... I'm not cut out for this... etc.
We had filled one punnet between us when Paul decided to drive the dogs home and then come back for me. I filled a second punnet. Next stop was for some rather nice large rose hips I had spotted on a previous foray. And yet another blackthorn covered in sloes. Last stop back at my trusty bramble patch for the last harvest of the year - I must have got about five pounds in total from there.
Looking back on last year Jean and I managed to pick about three quarters of a pound of sloes, fighting our way through the gorse to get every last one. This year I have picked eleven pounds, and haven't even touched the first two locations I found. I have bagged up and frozen four pounds which I will use to make sloe gin and sloe vodka. Another pound has been bagged up and presented to Janet on the lunchtime dog walk. I will wash/de-stem and freeze the rest this afternoon - they are earmarked for jellies/jams, along with the brambles and rosehips which are in the jam pan waiting to go.
The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...
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