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Back 40 berry hike

Lisa Prater 07/12/2013 @ 8:01am

It's an amazing feeling when you find hidden treasures right under your nose, and realize they were there all along.

My husband and I have lived on our little farm for almost 15 years. In that time, we've built fence, fixed fence, rebuilt fence, raised a small herd of cattle, and added three sons to the mix. Jake is now 11, Luke is 9, and Will is 7. How time flies. Our property is mostly pasture ground on rolling hills, with a few creeks and a little timber. It's a beautiful area of south-central Iowa, and looks very much like a Grant Wood painting. We love it here.

A few autumns ago, I went on a walk by myself in the back 40. I noticed tons and tons of what looked like raspberry or blackberry canes. The fruit was long since gone, but I made a mental note to come back when the time was right and pick berries. Last summer, before the drought hit, it was -- ironically -- too wet to get back to the right spot at the right time. We have tons of springs on our property, and it gets really muddy in spots.

Earlier this month, my dad told me their raspberries were starting to get ripe, so I knew it was time to check again. My boys and I packed a picnic lunch and took our new dog, Dave, on a little hike to the wooded area where I had seen the canes. It was a glorious summer day, and Dave had a great time rolling in stinky things and checking everything out.

We sat down for our picnic (Luke brought his pocket hammock and tied it up between two trees), and when I looked over my shoulder, I spied a bush with little green berries all over it. Gooseberries! I had no idea! I got out my phone and did a quick online search to confirm that's what they were, and not something poisonous, and we set to work picking. We could've filled a 5-gallon bucket, but once we had about 4 cups (enough for dessert!), we moved on.

Next, we found several wild raspberry bushes, and picked all of the black berries we could find. Yes, we ate bunches of them right off the vine, but we did manage to bring some home. We also found several blackberry bushes, but those berries weren't quite ready yet. We'll be back for them soon!

We did more than just pick (and eat!) berries on our hike. Luke found a tiny toad, they each took a turn in the hammock, we played with Dave, we were amazed at a paper-plate-sized toadstool we found, Will tromped around in the dry (but still muddy) creek bed, and we picked wildflowers. Good stuff.

On our way back to the house, we looked up and noticed that many of the mulberry trees overhead were just loaded with ripe, dark berries. I grabbed the low branches and pulled them down so the boys could reach them to pick. I had never actually eaten mulberries before, but they are so sweet and delicious! Again, we ate about as many as we saved.

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