Blackberry Fever


I was just going to go out behind the barn and check the blackberry bushes. For a minute. I felt silly even bothering to bring a bucket. There didn’t seem to be that many berries left. I thought I’d wander around a bit. Then. Wow. There were more than I thought. It was almost worth bringing the bucket, after all. I started picking. Might as well at least get the easy ones.

Then there are always those berries that are just out of reach. The ones you’d never go get because it would mean too many scratches. But…. Next thing you know, I’m climbing inside a blackberry bush. And I can’t stop. I think about snakes, but I’m fearless in the face of ripe berries. I can’t stop. And it’s getting dark. Who cares? I can’t stop. If I let night fall without getting these berries, some ANIMAL will get them and I can’t let that happen. I MUST HAVE THEM. My hair, my wild hair, caught and tangled in briars and I don’t care. I can’t stop. I’m just ripping it out of my scalp climbing through bushes. Who needs hair? There are berries to be had!!

And I lose my shoe. In the middle of a blackberry bush I was climbing through to get around to the other side of the bush–because, of course, I could just barely in the dark see more berries over there. And you know they were the best ones ever–the hardest ones to get always are. Must. Have. Them. Who needs shoes?

And then it starts raining.

I found my shoe, in the middle of the briars, and went running.

And what did all this blackberry fever get me? One and one-third cups of blackberries.

Okay, I’m gonna have to try again tomorrow so I can have enough by this weekend to bake something. I could see there were more ready to ripen up soon. I’ll just go look. For a minute….. After I pick off this tick.

Our Farm


Happy Sweet Sixteen to my baby! And how did we celebrate? Cake, candles, go dig some holes!

Two big, strong teenage boys + one load of posts + two posthole diggers = fence!

Don’t worry, boys, it’s only 40 acres…..and 1,379,215 holes….

But hey, there’s always the unexpected silver lining……..

Seriously, who would believe it, I’m out there in the boonies on a country road with two teenage boys digging postholes and what wanders by but two teenage girls wearing next-to-nothing swimsuits.

One of them was carrying a parasol. I thought that was a nice touch. I felt like I’d dropped into an Impressionist painting.

They were on their way to the river. So they strolled nearly-nakedly on their way there, then back, giggling and all nearly-naked.

I’m sure the boys would have been more distracted except I am paying by the posthole and they wanted to beat each other to the money.

Me, I was chilling in a chair with a cold drink, enjoying the meadow and the spring wildflowers and the oh-so-sweet scent of new land ownership.

And not just any old land, either……

This farm, only a couple miles away from the old farmhouse we live in now, is right across the river from what was my great-grandfather’s farm. My family goes back 200 years in this area, and my father grew up just down the road.

My grandmother once lived in a house on this farm when she was a girl and her father worked at what was once a gasoline plant when “Stringtown” was a real town with a church, a school, a post office, a hotel, and even a brothel.

(Hey, you gotta keep those gasoline plant workers happy….)

Now, hardly anyone lives in what was once “Stringtown” and it’s no longer a postal address by that name since the post office is gone. It’s real boonies territory, rock/dirt roads and a few scattered farmhouses. This 40-acre farm of meadows and hills and memories needs a new farmhouse, don’t you think? The hills come complete with old logging trails to make a perfect driveway….

… a secluded homesite in the woods.

It’s neat to think of living here, in the land of my forefathers. I feel fortunate to have been able to take back a piece of my family’s history. I hope it will mean something to my children someday.

I know my 486 cats will like it!

There’s an old oil derrick on the hill, a reminder of the time when “Stringtown” was an oil and gas boom town.

My great-grandfather owned hundreds of acres out here and had so many wells, he didn’t have to dig any postholes, that’s for sure. He had hired hands to work his farm, and there was always a “hired girl” for the house to cook and clean for my great-grandmother.

Where is MY hired girl, hmmm??? Okay, so my great-grandmother had nine children, but still! I bet they did work! And I bet they didn’t have to pay them five dollars a post hole….

Stone steps lead to what was once a church that doubled as a one-room schoolhouse.

My father went to church there throughout his childhood, and went to school there up to first grade when a new one-room schoolhouse was built across the river where my grandmother taught.

The church burned down years ago, and only the steps remain.

A pretty creek with wildflower-dotted banks winds through the property down to the river.

These are the creeks and woods my father played in as a child, hunting squirrels and playing cowboys and Indians with his brothers. Now, my children can play there.

This is the road my father trod (uphill both ways–and that isn’t a figure of speech!) every day. The one-room schoolhouse went to 8th grade. They went to high school in town. When it snowed, my father stayed at Great-Aunt Ruby’s, closer to town–in the old farmhouse where we live now, waiting until we build our “new” farmhouse.

I see chickens in the road……. Mine!

Across the country road is a hilltop family cemetery where my grandfather and great-grandparents are buried. My great-grandfather, John Morgan Dye, was the subject of the geneology project my daughter did that made honorable mention a few weeks ago at the state social studies fair.

My dad was four years old in 1929 when his father died. He’s buried in the cemetery across the road. My father wore a blue serge suit with a crisp white shirt and short pants to the funeral. He had to be held up to see into the casket. When it was done, his grandfather got down on one knee to look him in the eye and told him, “I’ll be your daddy now.”

And so we are back where we began.

It doesn’t look like digging post holes has gotten any easier since my great-grandfather’s time. Whew, I’ll just sit back here in the shade…….imagining where I’ll put my garden and the barn for the horse and that house that needs to go up there on the hill. What kind of fruit trees, and how many chickens. Don’t you think I need some sheep?

May 8, 2007 - Home Sweet Home

One thing leads to another….. Spring cleaning leads to spring redecorating. The farmhouse I live in is 100 years old and no family has lived in the house for over a decade. It’s been a long haul fixing it up, but it’s been a labor of love since it’s an old family home and was...
Read More

March 7, 2007 - Playing Hooky!

We took a day off school–and writing–to play in the snow one last time. We don’t have snow here anymore, but they have snow here–where they make snow–about an hour and a half away. Living near ski resorts is a new thing for us. We still think snow is exciting. Mostly. When our pipes aren’t...
Read More

November 13, 2006 - Dolly Sods

The high plains of the Dolly Sods Wilderness, Monongahela National Forest, WV. Dolly Sods is an area of high elevation wind-swept plains on the Allegheny Plateau. At elevations of 2,600 to over 4,000 feet, the area has extensive flat rocky plains, upland bogs, beaver ponds, and sweeping vistas. The plant life and climate on this...
Read More

October 30, 2006 - I Hate To Brag

…BUT! I know. I am always talking about how gorgeous WV is. You just can’t take a photo here without it looking like a painting, it’s so pretty. Take this fast-flowing, boulder-strewn trout stream. There’s a sign that says–Kayak At Your Own Risk. Uh, yeah. This is Glade Creek Grist Mill, a restored water mill...
Read More

June 21, 2006 - Dizzy

Final council circle at 4-H camp! They all held candles at the end and sang songs. They said how-how a lot the rest of the time. I’m not sure what that was about…… Camp is weird. :mrgreen: Okay, for a PAX mug, what two things did I really do while they were at camp? 1....
Read More

May 30, 2006 - Daytripping

New River Bridge, second highest bridge in the United States at 876 feet! Isn’t it beautiful? It’s one of West Virginia’s best-known road wonders and it’s only a couple hours away from here….. It stretches 3,030 feet in length with an arch of 1700 feet, making it the longest steel single arch span in the...
Read More