I was very excited a couple weeks ago when the black raspberries (aka black caps) began to ripen. They sell frozen black raspberries at Trader Joe’s for filthily cheap, but I generally like picking the local ones and, in any case, the local ones seem to have a slightly different and more complex flavor. So, the day after picking a few on my way to work, I decided to take the long route home, which rolls through prairie, fields and woods. The plants really love those wood edges.

So do the mosquitoes, I discovered. Okay, I already knew that this was true in general, but I hadn’t expected it to be true that particular day, as I hadn’t seen any mosquitoes of consequence yet in the season. At my first berry stop, the mosquitoes were annoying, but I could pick a few and then run up the hill away from the trees to enjoy the raspberries without much bother.

The second stop, I was not so lucky. Those ladies were vicious, nipping at the rate of approximately 40 bites per minute. They were so relentless that I decided I needed to get out of there immediately, without pausing to reattach my bag and bungee net to my bike rack.

This was stupid. As I walked the bike toward the prairie, the bungee snapped down into the rear wheel cassette and got tangled in the derailleur. This meant my bike could no longer move forward. I couldn’t stop to fix it, because the mosquitos were still biting. So I lifted the bike to carry it out of the woods and put it down when I was in open air. (By the way, this was my not-so-light commuter bike, with the added weight of a half attached and pretty full bag hanging on the rear rack.) The mosquitos caught up with me. I lifted the bike again and walked another dozen yards, stopped, and was attacked again. I lifted the bike again. A cyclist going in the opposite direction hollered, “Do you need help?” as he approached, to which I replied, “I’m just trying to get away from the mosquitos,” by which I meant, “I don’t know yet because I can’t pause long enough to look at my bike because of these mosquitos.” He did not understand the meaning behind my response and kept going, probably thinking that I was a little crazy for walking, not biking, away from the mosquitoes.

I repeated the walk-with-bike-on-shoulder-for-a-bit-then-stop process three times, but the swarm had still only decreased half bymy last stop. I decided that was as good as it would get, given that it was a cloudy and humid day, and proceeded to unwind the bungee from the cassette, chain and derailleur with one hand and slap myself (at points of attack) with the other hand.

The mother and daughter who biked by didn’t seem to think my behavior unusual.

After that, I gave up on black caps. Mulberries have been much friendlier. We have an hour lunchbreak at work and not much to do with it, so lately I’ve been using the opportunity to pick mulberries. I’m told it would be more efficient if I put a sheet on the ground, shook the trunk, and let loose berries fall on the sheet, but efficacy is not so much what I’m going for. I just need a good way to kill the time. Anyway, walking into my office after lunch with a big bundled sheet might not get me the best reaction. Currently, I just come back with hands that are stained purple, and my coworkers think I had a misbehaving pen explode in my hands.

This weekend, Dekalb and I picked 10 gallons of sour cherries from a local public tree. It takes a long time to pit that many cherries. Listening to Harry Potter books on tape is a good way to pass the time, while listening to NPR talk shows and Douglas Adams’ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe are acceptable, but less satisfying. We picked the first five gallons on Thursday evening and the second five yesterday. I stopped after two gallons, but Dekalb was unable to stop himself. I hinted that four gallons, which we had together collected, was enough, but he was having too much fun and picked another. He doesn’t even eat them because he’s allergic; he just likes picking them because they’re free and it’s like finding treasure. So he doesn’t do pitting and he didn’t quite understand why I would want to stop before all of our buckets and bags were full.

I’m freezing most of for now and will decide what to do with them later. Keep them frozen for making yogurt and ice cream or adding to oatmeal, or can them for pie filling or jam, or a little of all?

When Companion came over this weekend, I wouldn’t let him look in the refrigerator. There were two bowls of pitted cherries in there, two gallons of unpitted cherries, 2 pounds of shard and four pounds of kale. It makes him panic to see that much food in the fridge, even if you tell him that most of it will be gone in a few days.

The collards and kale did not come from my own garden. There’s a farmer at the Sunday market who sells his greens for ridiculously cheap, I guess because they need a little cleaning. I’ll be steaming and freezing most of it tonight (and pitting the last two pounds of cherries), although I may set aside a pound of the kale for dinner. Sauteed onions and kale is my favorite.

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