Have you ever seen currants or gooseberries for sale in your local market? I can tell you why; they are tedious to harvest and fragile with too short a shelf life for our big-box markets.
My berry bushes are along a wood fence in my backyard. When I begin picking first thing in the morning the shade of the dogwood tree allows me to carefully pull the best berries and leave the culls for the birds. (The birds realized the berries were ripe this year before I did; we were on vacation and the berries are about two weeks sooner than usual.) As I picked, the quail bickered on the street, with an occasional sentinel topping the fence to see if I still inhabited the space they wanted. The sparrows hovered around the weeping cherry tree, playing tag with each other, to the delight of my feline companions – one beside me in the garden and the other perched in the window overlooking the berry bushes. Amazingly, the red squirrel that normally frequents our property seemed to have found other hunting grounds for the day.
As the sun peaked the dogwood and my protected space became exposed to the warmth of the day, I picked quicker and with less caution. The black feline spent time in the cool soil beneath the bushes, dreaming of successfully bringing down a quail while the gray one in the window chattered at the sparrows. But after a couple of hours it was just too hot for them and I had to let Dragon into the air-conditioned house for a drink of water and put the blind down in the window Oscar had been in to help the A/C out. I resumed my picking, sipping ice water from my water bottle, and rearranging our furnishings in the new house in my mind. At times I would hear the raspy gurgles of the young quail and then the parental answers calling them back to the shade of the front yard where they waited for me to leave. It was after noon when I brought my colanders and buckets into the kitchen to clean and pick through them.
Last year, I harvested and cleaned about ten pounds of red and white currants and gooseberries and froze them. It took all day yesterday to pick and clean seven pounds of berries; they are in the freezer. This is how much fruit I need to make my five gallons of wine. Now I have to wait until we move in a few weeks as the wine making equipment has already been moved.