07 July 2008

Javla eeediot

On my way home from work, I noticed two women standing on my street's sidewalk in a heavily overgrown area. What were they doing? Picking wild blackberries.

That reminded me that there's a lovely strand of blackberries in the heavily overgrown area of MY back yard.

Last summer, I noticed them while sitting on my back patio, drinking wine with a neighbor. I took the empty wine glass and filled it with the wild berries, and we ate them while finishing the bottle. They were yummy.

At my grandparent's house when I was a little girl, there were lots of wild blackberries, and I remember picking them with a cousin, putting them in bowls and dumping milk and sugar over them, eating them with a spoon.

So I thought I'd have a look-see, check out if there were ripe blackberries in my little patch. Sure enough, there were. I told DH that after dinner, I'd don long pants and sleeves (in the miserable heat, fun, yeah, sure) and pick the ripe ones. Should there be enough, I'd make a cobbler.

The reason for the long sleeves and pants? There are also bits of poison oak and sumac back there. DH is one of those folks that are highly, highly allergic to the poison plants, and he shuddered in revulsion when I announced my intentions, even with the promise of blackberry cobbler, or potential blackberry cobbler.

I reminded him that I'd picked them last year in work clothes (skirt, heels, short sleeves) with no problem. He smirked, then shuddered again. He suggested that I divest myself of my long sleeves and pants immediately upon re-entering the house, and turn on the washing machine forthwith, to destroy any possibility of him picking up the dreaded poison ivy. He is so allergic to the stuff that contact with clothing that has been worn in the vicinity of the poison plants will give him the rash.

Fair enough.

I even found shoes, real shoes, not my usual cute summer sandals to wear while in the blackberry patch.

I was quickly reminded of one of the problems of blackberry-ing: the thorns. Yow. I got stabbed once or twice, but no blood drawn, so no real problem. I kept watch for poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, but saw no evidence of it.

Then, quite suddenly, I felt a burning, piercing sensation on the inside of my left wrist, as I reached over and under to grab a few more precious berries. Reaching had pushed the sleeve of my long-sleeved shirt up near my elbow. Ooops. I yanked my hand back, inspecting for rouge spiders, mosquitoes, bees. Nothing. Not a bug in sight. But a red welt, the size of an eraser on the top of a #2 pencil, was already forming. We're talking instant. Unsure of what it was, but certain it wasn't poison ivy, I kept on picking berries, even as the spot swelled and burned and burned some more. I got similar sensations across the fingers of my right hand, jabs, but no welts there.

It wasn't until I got a third shot, again on my left wrist, that I realized what the heck was happening. When and where had I felt this before? On a walk in the woods when I was about 11. What was it? Stinging nettles.

I'd had tunnel vision for the ripe berries, and had forgotten that yes, there are plants other than the poisons that can kinda ruin your day. When I looked around, I recognized the evil plant in question, taller than I am, and reaching its painful protection over some really lovely ripe blackberries.

I had wondered why the deer that are the bane of my garden hadn't eaten the berries, why the raccoons hadn't stripped the bushes bare. That would be because they're smarter than me, and know what they should stay away from.

When I was stung as a kid, the remedy was to rub the juice from a touch-me-not plant into the sting, thereby soothing it. Touch-me-nots are also called jewelweed. They produce very pretty yellow and orange flowers, and the seed pods that form after the flowers bloom are explosive, showering seeds in all directions when you brush up against the plant. They often grow in tandem with nettles. There were plenty of touch-me-nots with the blackberries, but rubbing the juice from the hastily ripped off branch did not provide the cool relief I remember as a child.

Instead, the welts continued to swell and burn like hell, and I backed out of the blackberry patch as quickly as I could, heading for the house at a run.

I called out to DH as I came in the house; what did he remember from his Scouting days about nettles? What did he remember? That they sting. Thanks.

I turned on the kitchen faucet, and allowed cold water to run over the painful spots, which had expanded from two welts on my left arm to four, and two fingers of my right hand. The water soothed, but did not remove the sting. I stood with my hands submerged until they were nearly numb.

When I showed the welts to DH, he recoiled in horror, moving as far away from my arms as the couch would allow. I explained that nettle stings aren't contagious like the ivy, but he wasn't buying it.

Both of my sisters are more outdoors-y than me, so I called the one in New York to ask her how we'd cured it as kids. Her answer? Touch-me-nots, or wait it out. Google said the same thing, with the additional caveat that sometimes the stings fade in minutes, but sometimes they take as long as 24 hours. Great. Some species that grow in Great Brittan require the treatment of a doctor. FanTAStic. And ouch.

Not enough berries for a cobbler, either, even if I hadn't been stopped by the nettles. Ow. Seriously.


MotherMe said...

Maybe you need some bypass pruners and body armor next time...!

Lucy Arin said...

Gloves, that go all the way to the elbow.

At a minimum.

A big pair of pruning shears to cut the #&@$ nettles off at the knees.

Oh, and a few tablespoons of boiling water; apparently, nettles are good eats, and not harmful after steaming. So the best revenge just might be to eat the suckers.