New Walks with Berries


I headed off to the second upper pasture this morning on the hunt for berries. Everyone was interested in my activity–as usual.

I’m the conductor of my own train.

The first upper pasture is reasonably clear, and the fences were repaired this spring, but it could use a good round with a bush hog attachment (which I don’t have) to give it a clean start.

The second upper pasture is in a much worse state.

By fall, I’m hoping to have the second upper pasture cleaned up. I’d sent Adam and Robbie up on a recon mission a few days ago to see what was needed in the way of fencing repairs. (Besides what’s needed in the way of brush-clearing.) Adam came back and told me there were huge patches of berries and I needed to go up soon with a five-gallon bucket.

Being slightly less optimistic, I cleaned out a three-gallon bucket and went up to see.

It always feels like an adventure into darkest Africa to enter the second upper pasture.

It looks like this, and then it really gets bad.

Oftentimes, if you mention black raspberries, people will tell you that you’ve got wineberries. The disappearance of wild black raspberries is a country myth compounded by confusion as to the difference between the two types of raspberries (one native, one naturalized), resulting in a common assumption anymore that everything is a wineberry. This is not true at all. The ripened berries look very similar, but until a few days before ripening, wineberries remain covered in a papery shell whereas black raspberries ripen entirely out in the open. Wineberries also grow on reddish, very hairy stems while black raspberries grow on green stems with a whitish cast. (And if you’re wondering if you’re picking black raspberries or blackberries, aside from the month–blackberries are later–ripe black raspberries will come off like a cap when you pull them, leaving the stem behind. When you pull blackberries, the stem comes with them. The leaves of the two plants are also different.) Back to black raspberries and wineberries– If you have wineberries, pick ’em! You can do all the same things with wineberries that you can do with raspberries. Wineberries are not native here, so they’re considered invasive and a nuisance by many people, but take some to New York City. They’re a gourmet item. Or cut them down if you don’t like them.

Off to discover my own berries, I waded into the second upper pasture. And yes, tall grass does make me worry about snakes, but I was determined to investigate my berry prospects.

And it was true–there were huge patches of berries in the tall, tall grass–bursting with thorns, imaginary (or not) snakes, and black raspberries. Mostly NOT RIPE.

But black raspberries nonetheless. (Note the lack of red, hairy stems. Easy to tell, once you know.)

TONS of black raspberry patches, nearly everywhere I looked. My jeans got wet all the way up my legs from the morning dew on the overgrown meadow.

I picked the ripe ones–about a cup. But there will be more, much more, and soon. I’ll probably freeze the berries until I decide what to do with them. In a few months, I’ll have pawpaws, too….. Raspberry-pawpaw bread, the new signature recipe of Sassafras Farm?

I was happy to return to civilization and the first upper pasture, where Patriot waited for me by the gate.

Photo of Patriot taken upside down over my head as I walked back.

Even after the donkeys bore with my activities, that horse follows me like a dog,

I’ll be back for the berries in a few days with my bucket. And hip waders.


  1. broncobetsy says:

    Better check yourself for ticks after hiking around in that tall grass! 😉

  2. Flowerpower says:

    Suzanne, you are the “pied piper of Sassafras Farms”! Animals know who brings the groceries around and who loves them. Maybe you can march the snakes away too just like St Patrick! I would be more worried about chiggers and ticks right now. When as a child my father and mother would go blackberry picking and my father always saw a snake and we always got chiggers but the rewards of those blackberries was worth it. :happyflower:

  3. STracer says:

    My weaning goat boys are eating the blackberries. They love me for it too. Other than the looks I get when they want back with their mommas anyway. 😀

  4. lattelady says:

    Once you get to where you are picking a decent amount of berries; take two buckets, tie a rope between, and toss over either Jack or Patriot’s back. Let them haul the loot home.

  5. Miss Judy says:

    I love black raspberries …a very different taste from red or golden raspberries. I’ve never see a wild black raspberry in Missouri but I remember my dad would always pick some where I grew up in Ohio. i think if i knew where a patch of wild black raspberries were I might brave the snakes and ticks… and chiggers…well never mind.

  6. cherylinwv says:

    Make sure you use bug spray when you go back to pick or the chiggers will get you! :devil:

  7. bonita says:

    Well, now you know where they are and how to get ’em. Interesting about Patriot watching/following you. May not be just because Zip and Morgan are elsewhere. Patriot may be settling in and thinking that being a brat may not be in his best interests.

  8. Barbee says:

    Oh, Oh! In that 3rd photo: do I see orange Butterfly Weed/Flower?! I have tried for years to get some going here. If that is what it is, I hope you do not mow it down. It’s a wonderful perennial and the Monarch butterflies need it for baby food (foliage) and adult food (nectar), a very important native plant.

  9. whaledancer says:

    Suzanne, can you explain to this city girl why you need a bush hog to clear a pasture when you’ve got goats and donkeys? I thought goats and donkeys ate browse, so you didn’t need to clear it mechanically?

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      whaledancer, this isn’t a pasture I would turn the sheep or goats into because that would require different fencing. The fencing that is in there, and how I will be repairing it, is for horses/donkeys or cows. (Large animals.) To secure it for smaller animals, I’d need much tighter and more expensive fencing. It’s a big field, maybe 15 acres, so I don’t want to do that and they don’t need it. I could certainly turn the cows or horses/donkeys in there if I had the fences repaired without clearing it first, but there are some plants they won’t eat. Those plants get bigger (because nobody eats them) and choke out the good plants. Even the first upper pasture needs a good cutting though the horses and donkeys have been in there for a few months. If you cut it, then it grows back better. The second upper pasture is so overgrown, there’s a lot of brush that needs cleared out, too. (Brush as in smaller trees growing up, dead trees and tree limbs, and other junky growth that chokes out the good grass.)

  10. Teresa says:

    Take Casper with you when you go berry picking. He will run around and scare away any snakes that might be lurking. I always take my husband’s dog with me when I go berry picking. He can finally find a way to earn his keep:)

    And watch out for the chiggers. I went berry picking on Saturday and my legs are eat up :bugeyed:

  11. gingergoat says:

    I read all your posts every day and really enjoy reading them, but, where are Coco and Chloe/? I miss seeing them.


  12. marymac says:

    Soon you will be able to ride that horse up there and you won’t have to walk thru tall grass and worry much about snakes! Love the raspberries too!

  13. shirley T says:


    Suzanne, I really do worry about you going in the upper fields alone. If a rattle snake bit you~you may not even make it back to the house. Some rubber hip waders might help~ but your arms and hands would be exposed, you just can’t never tell. You do have cousins who might go with you ~with a big stick just to watch for snakes. The talk is even black snakes can’t be trusted anymore because they are mating with more venomous snakes. I heard that from a county sheriff. Please listen to me..I’m old and was born and raised in those WVA mountains~~I know what could happen when you lest expect it. Love ya

  14. Jane L says:

    I love all your land – it is so beautiful and it must feel really good walking it. I saw a ringneck snake (really small) the other day and was SO PLEASED! I like having a little nature around.. better than just the cats, though, now I think of them, the poor thing may not not last long:(
    Anyway, I think snakes will do their utmost to stay out of your way so just make your presence known. A good stomp through the grass should be enough!

  15. whaledancer says:

    It would probably be a good idea to carry a cell phone when you go off tromping alone, but I have to disagree with Shirley about the danger of not making it back to the house if you ever got bitten by a rattlesnake. Most healthy adults survive a rattlesnake bite, and even when someone is killed, it takes 6-8 hours before it gets serious. You’ve got a couple of hours to get the antivenom. The thing is to try not to panic if you get bitten, because you don’t want to increase your heartrate if you can help it. You’d want to walk at a normal pace back to the house (keeping the bite below your heart) and call 911. Only if it was going to be more than 2 hours until you could get antivenom would you want to put a light constriction, like a rubber band, between the bite and your heart.

    The best thing, of course, is to avoid being bitten. The good news is that, given a chance, rattlesnakes will usually move out of your way. When walking through rattlesnake country, let them know you’re coming. Carry a walking stick and thump the ground with it as you go, or stomp your feet. And don’t put your hands anywhere without looking first. If you hear a rattler, just go around it, giving it a wide berth. They’re not aggresive; they won’t chase you.

  16. Rainn says:

    Oh suzanne-i’m certain if u did get hurt-one of those critters would go for help for you?!?! Seriously………! 8)

  17. wvhomecanner says:

    LOVE wild black raspberries! That Black Razzlecherry Jam recipe in Farm Bell was born from the gift of a few precious cups! You are lucky, Suzanne, to have those berry patches!

  18. shirley T says:

    I wouldn’t bet the farm that giving a timber rattler A wide birth would be safe. She might make it home pending nothing else happens, A fall with broken bones maybe~or a heart attack~ These things happen when they are least expected. Well, I wish you safe berry~picking , but not alone. love ya.

  19. chuckles1330 says:

    There is a cemetery near my cousin that gets overgrown with blackberries every summer. When I go out to pick (usually as early in the morning as I can manage, since it is an hour away from me and during the hot GA summer), I wear jeans, long socks, sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeve shirt, and a bandana over my hair. All of which have been thoroughly coated with bug repellant. Ticks are my biggest worry, but chiggers are no fun when you find them.
    I also carry my cell phone and a very sharp machete – helps to hack thru some of the brush if necessary, and also gives me a feeling of protection. (I don’t own a handgun.) While I have had a snake or two cross my path, my bigger fear has been startling a bear or wildcat. We’ve found areas where they have “nested” for a while – easily identifiable by the smell and fresh scat.
    It is worth every bit of trouble to get these berries – they are wonderful and make the best pies and jam (those that don’t just get eaten on the way back to the car). :sun:

  20. kitler says:

    Oof! I live in town in Huntington, and this looks like my back yard! LOL! Really though, I can pick blackberries down along 8th Ave or out at the I-64 exit at Barboursville! They’re everywhere! You just have to know how to spot them at 50 mph.

    My favorite urban picking though, was living in Boston and harvesting cherries from in front of a tony boutique on Newbury St. People looked at me like I was nuts, but I had a nice desert in the evenings!
    Carry on!

  21. ladybird_1959 says:

    Here’s a story for you. Sort of funny, sort of not:

    This past Sunday I had gone for a walk. On the way back my husband approaches on his tractor and I asked where he was going. He was going to look at “blackberries” on a farm above us and asked if I’d like to come. Being within less than 1/2 mile of my walk being completed, I hopped on and went with him. Needless to say, that was a bad idea. I was very nervous out going uphill on the tractor with nothing more to hold onto than a handle over the fenderwell. We made it to the top and were driving around areas that he had previously cleared. Note: Where I was sitting there was some kind of shifter between my legs that I kept knocking out of gear. Anyway, we drove around for a couple of minutes, he picked a couple of berries and handed them to me and made a turn down a little hill. Guess what…I again knocked the tractor out of gear. I stood up and told him I did it again. At that moment he hit the brake and I lunged forward. I grabbed the steering wheel with my right hand, which I had carpal tunnel surgery on the previous Monday, and was trying my darndest to hold on. He tried to grab me, without hurting my hand, while trying to hold the brake with his knee. The tractor was rolling forward and he had to let go of me to get the tractor stopped. I fell in a berry patch! :hissyfit: Thankfully he got the tractor stopped within about two feet of me. He climbed down and tried to pull me up from the front, but because of my surgery, I was unable to tolerate the pain of being pulled. He got behind me and got me to a sitting position and then, with his help, I was able to get up. I had scratches all over my left arm, bleeding badly, my left leg and my back. I didn’t lose my berries, though! I plopped those suckers in my mouth and ate them! We went back that evening in our little mini truck and picked a few berries. No more than we got it wasn’t worth me almost being killed for. I think if we would have had more rain they would have been plentiful, but it’s been way to dry. My saga of berry picking.

  22. Roane_Homesteader says:

    Susan I liked your article in today’s Charleston Daily Mail which lead me to your blog. I’m a big fan of wineberries too. I’ve frozen many gallons this year. I find if I keep the brush out of the wineberries that they are happy. Much easier that growing them in the garden.

    One way to prevent chigger bits is to take a shower as soon as you get back from berry picking – Fels-Naptha soap works best.

    Since the wineberries are red when ripe they are easy to tell from the black raspberries. When the blackraspberries canes mature they have a pretty raspberry color. This is the first year I remember where some of the black raspberries, wineberries, and blackberries are ripe at the same time.

    A piece of trivia wineberries use to be called Japanese Wineberries but World War II emotions made the nurseries drop the Japanese.

    One of my dreams is to make Roane County close to self sufficient for it’s needs fruit. People did it in the old days why not now?

  23. mcbailey22 says:

    For a couple of years now, I’ve been picking what I thought were some sort of wild raspberry! Now, I KNOW, they are wineberries! Thank you so much for the lesson. My mother in laws back yard is covered in them and I usually get about 12 -15 quarts a summer! They make great jam and also great pear-raspberry(wineberry) pie!

    I am so happy to know what they are!!!!

    By the way, I have been picking black raspberries for two weeks now – I have five quarts frozen already!

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