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20 September 2009

SIDE TRIPS: Farm lanes

We live in farm country--beef, lambs, goats, fruit, cheese, milk. All around us are farm lanes, a network of dirt/gravel roads used by the farmers for generations to bring their animals to and from the pastures and their farm equipment home. They’re rough roads, often muddy in Belgium’s damp climate. They offer this city kid some wonderful rambles. They say you can go from here to Germany without ever hitting real pavement.

Today I took a walk down this lane. You can see the light dappling the lane, and the hedgerows on either side and the trees that make a tunnel for me to stroll through. What you can’t do is feel the gentle breeze and smell the new-mown hay. You can’t hear the bees buzzing or the cattle lowing or smell that almost-fall smell. I’m sorry that you can't, because it’s lovely. It’s a popular place to walk. I sometimes see my neighbors out for a constitutional.

As I walk along, I see these guys cooling off in the shade of the big trees. I can hear them gently lowing. I can smell them gently...nevermind.


I grew up in the Southeast US, prime blackberry country. But I never picked them, because in Georgia, where you have blackberries, you have chiggers. These are microscopic parasites whose bites ooze and itch for several weeks. I’m not kidding. I had roommates that didn’t stick around as long as chigger bites. They effectively kept me away from blackberries for many years. Blackberries grew all around me, but I had to BUY them if I wanted them.

So you can understand that when I walk down the farm lanes and see these growing in the hedgerows, I’m very happy. I can walk along and pick blackberries all day long and not have a single chigger bite to show for it! I think I’m in heaven. I think it’s free food. It is, I guess.

But wait a minute. I’ve discovered that the blackberries here are guarded not by chiggers, but by these. Stinging nettles. I’d heard most of my life about stinging nettles, but had never actually encountered one in person. We didn’t have them in Georgia. We had chiggers instead. If these nettles touch you, it burns and itches for about a day and a half. Bah. Nothing compared to chiggers! One day last month as I was picking blackberries, I stepped in a hole and in order to avoid falling into a bed of stinging nettles, I grabbed a big, bare handful of .... stinging nettles. Ouch. My whole hand burned for a couple of days, in spite of frequent applications of baking soda. But you know what? It was NOTHING compared to chiggers. And a small price to pay for wild blackberries. A small price to pay indeed.




Ouch, all the same
.

17 comments:

Kate said...

Cute post...how I would love to be walking down that farm lane now! I have had the chigger experience...I'm with you, it is worth passing up!

eatlivetravelwrite said...

Beautiful - it reminds me of when I used to live outside Brussels and would go for walks in the woods...

La Table De Nana said...

Lovely scenery and my cup of tea.. except the nettles..I have them here..and I have shown Lulu to steer clear.Ouch is right!!!

Hungry Dog said...

Chiggers, yikes. Glad you are free of them now! What do you plan to do with your blackberries? Jam, cake, pie?

Junglefrog said...

Those lanes are indeed gorgeous! I never knew you didn't have stinging nettles in Georgia! We have too many of them here (Netherlands) that's for sure, but they do sound a lot better then your chiggers. I grew up picking wild blackberries and I still think they are the best tasting!

Simply Life said...

Wow, the photos look gorgeous and peaceful!

Kate at Serendipity said...

Kate, you're welcome to have a walk here anytime!

ELTW, it was the perfect welcome home for me. I missed it while we were gone!

Monique, I never had nettles where I grew up, and the first time I went blackberry picking, I couldn't figure out why my hands hurt so much. I thought it was the thorns from the blackberries!

Hungry Dog, I am SOOOO glad not to have chiggers here. My husband grew up in SF, and he's never had them. Huh. Imagine! I made lots of blackberry jam and also 'canned' some blackberry juice to see if I can make blackberry curd. Stay tuned...

Junglefrog, I agree--the small wild ones are the best!

Simply Life, thanks!

Bob said...

That's a great shot of the lane. Heh, we have stinging nettles up here in New England. They aren't fun, but they could be much worse. Mmmm, blackberries.

Cindy said...

I am soooooo jealous!!! Wish I could go on that walk with you, seems so relaxing.

Kathy said...

Kate..thanks for your sweet visit. Enjoyed being here and reading about stinging nettel... I have never seen it! But Chiggers, yes...
we have them...I see you know Nana, ( priceless)...so enjoyed finding you, I shall be back. Even though I'm not a foodie blog...I love you FOODIES!!!! Such fun to try all these interesting recipies...xoxo~Kathy @ Sweet Up-North Mornings...

Jill said...

I had no idea that picking blackberries in different places had more than the thorns to worry about. Here in Oregon, the main precaution you need to take, is to wear long sleeves, long pants and pick as many berries as you can. I just recently found that there is such a thing as thornless blackberries! :) But the wild ones still have thorns, but they are so sweet and juciy, it's worth a few scratches. :)

Lizzy said...

Kate, that little lane looks so sweet to walk down and how cool that you get to pick blackberries on your way! I've never even heard of those, but I imagine you're probably right that they're better than chiggers! Growing up in Texas, I too had a childhood full of those terrible bites in the most uncomfortable places. Fresh blackberries are almost worth it though. Yum!

Divina Pe said...

That's gorgeous Kate. Simple life by going back to the basics. That's an inspiration. Nice photos.

Chow and Chatter said...

oh i love your blog, and Europe its cool you moved there, beautiful

Rebecca

Kate at Serendipity said...

Bob, you're right: YUM!

Cindy, you'd be welcome on the walk.

Kathy, thanks for your sweet comments. I visited your blog, and I'll be back! Gorgeous stuff, and you make lace too??

Jill, thornless blackberries? Pinch me, I must be dreaming!

Lizzy, the nettles really sting and burn, but I'm learning to spot them before they spot me. And now I carry a pair of clippers with me when I go berrying!

Pe, thanks. We really did make a decision to simplify our lives. It was hard, but worth it.

Chow and Chatter, thanks! We love it here. Come visit!

Lizzy said...

Hey Kate,

I just saw this recipe for stinging nettle pesto and immediately thought of this post. Apparently once cooked, they don't sting anymore and taste great. I'm curious if you've ever tried it.

The Gypsy Chef said...

Chiggers Yikes! I grew up with them. It was years before I would sit in the grass.
Stining netteles are no day at the beach either. My sister in law has them in her garden in Essex. We gave some thought to cooking them last time I was there. Maybe next time just for the experience.
I would love a stroll down this lane.
Pam