Last summer, I struggled. The garden I planted never got watered. My tomatoes overgrew their stakes, my birdbath went unfilled, my pumpkins withered, one vine at a time. I was not inspired enough by the summer’s bounty to do any preserving at all. I pulled some of the tomatoes off my insufficiently cared-for tomatoes to make fresh sauce, but I didn’t roast any to make sauce for the winter. I knew that not wanting to homestead meant there were problems afoot. I didn’t try very hard to extract myself from them, though. I just kind of let myself get pulled along in the year, unkept garden to unfilled mason jars to uncarved pumpkins to unfinished fall projects to unbaked Christmas cookies. This spring, there was anxiety like I’ve never known before. I didn’t prepare the garden well. I didn’t prepare the garden at all, really. The only thing I did was clear out some weeds (which have since grown back with gusto), and trim the raspberry canes. But that’s all.
No tomatoes, no zucchini, no kale. No pumpkins or beans. No peppers or onions. No sunflowers or marigolds or zinnias. But there are raspberries.
I didn’t plant the raspberries; the neighbour over the fence did. And those raspberry canes laughed in the face of the landscaping cloth that we put down under the raised beds. They had plans for me. First it was a few little frilly shoots. And now, a few years later, I have fully embraced and encouraged a full 8×3 foot garden bed full of them. All raspberries. We have a T-frame to contain the canes so that they’re not arching gracefully into the path of the lawnmower or the foot soldier on Poop Patrol.
I can see the raspberries from the driveway when I park my car. The leaves are vibrant as they’ve been for months now.
There was a thick sprinkle of flowers a while back. I did nothing to help. The flowers turned to white pebbles of unripe fruit. I did nothing. And now, there are beautiful clusters of red and black drupals. I still did nothing to help. But the raspberries carried on with their business, encouraging me to come out to the garden.
This week, I went out there, a few plastic pint baskets in hand, and picked the fragrant berries until the mosquitoes chased me indoors. The first day, I picked from less than a quarter of the canes, and easily filled a pint. There are so many that this year I can make raspberry jam with my own berries. And I can sit with my favourite preserving cookbooks to see what other raspberry delights I should I put into the jars on my canning shelves. I put the first pint in the freezer, and I’ve been working at clearing the berries from the rest. When they’re overripe and I squish them pulling the berry off the vine, I eat them right away. It’s a good system.
The raspberries don’t need my help, but apparently I need theirs. They’re encouraging me to be out in the garden, which hopefully will make me want to be out there more. They’re encouraging me to put’em up, which has me also thinking about buying my bushel of tomatoes to make the passata, and the sauce, and the salsa.
In very tangible ways, the raspberry thicket is warding off my demons, and encouraging me to re-engage with the things I used to like to do. And that’s a pretty great gift.