As you probably already know, we grow a lot of food in our backyard. I'm often told how lucky I am to have so much good fresh fruit and vegetables for free, and I have to agree with the first part of that statement.
I'm very, very lucky to live in a town where we can afford to have such a large yard; lucky to live in a place where the sun shines almost non-stop and things grow so well; lucky to have fresh, organic fruit and vegetables on my table.
But it isn't free. Not even close!
It's not a large monetary investment; even the trees weren't really that expensive. Seed packets are cheap, and whenever I can, I save seed and plant them the next year. Berries love to reproduce; our initial investment in twelve strawberry plants has multiplied exponentially. And the blackberries come up all over the place; I've gotten to the point where I have to pull up the volunteers and toss them on the compost heap. I just don't have any more room for more plants.
It's an investment in time; I spend hours picking and processing every day. And it takes a lot of energy, too; gardening is hot, and occasionally heavy, work. And sometimes, like today, it requires a big investment in adrenaline.
There have been a lot more rattlesnakes in these parts than usual; not in my neighborhood, thank goodness, but out in the hills that surround our town. My sister, who lives in the hills, has seen quite a few, and two of her dogs have been bit by rattlers. Luckily, both survived; but it's made her - and all of us - a lot more wary when we're out in the garden.
Rattlesnakes don't always follow the rules; they don't always stay where they belong.
My sister has reluctantly decided not to pick most of her blackberries; she's only picking the ones on the outside, and she's wearing boots and chaps while she's doing it. I'm keeping my eyes open while I pick, but, since there haven't been any snakes sighted in our area, I'm picking without leathers. It's hot out there.
Well, today, I had a scare. Usually, when I hear a rustling in the berries, it's a small lizard. I like lizards, and I say hello to them as they scurry off. But today, just as I was reaching for a nice plump berry, I heard a strange whirring sound and felt something strike my hand. After tasting that jolt of adrenaline, I remembered that rattlesnakes rattle, they don't whir, and rattlesnake bites hurt. I wasn't hurt, there wasn't a mark on me, so it must have been something else. All that in the space of a second or two. And then I saw a very large grasshopper fly out of the berries.
I've got a big bowl of blackberries for my breakfast tomorrow, but it wasn't free. Nope, not free at all.