My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #71: "The Great Blackberry Fiasco"

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 08-13-2010 01:55 PM 4000 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 70: Thanks For The Great Responses Yesterday Part 71 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 72: The Two Choices are 'Scratch' or 'Sleep' »

I’m going to start out this story with telling you that it doesn’t have to do with woodworking. Besides the bit of painting the wooden figurines in the evening, I just haven’t gotten very far in the wood department this week. It isn’t because I haven’t tried. My intentions were good and I was on quite a roll when I was going and it just seems that since I took that small break after finishing the candle trays and ornaments, I need to get back into a good working rhythm again.

It isn’t that I haven’t accomplished things. I did get all my receipts and taxes and book work up to date which in itself is a great thing. I haven’t been this on the ball in years with keeping my records and everything and perhaps I am expecting too much to see my productivity in designing stay the same level when I am adding more tasks on top of it.

There is also the health and exercise issue of retraining myself to put some time into that. I think part of why I feel like a duck out of water is because I am changing gears in that department and need to fit in a good amount of time that will be beneficial to me.

Yesterday after writing here and getting the house in shape and doing the usual things, I headed out with my little two liter bucket in hand to take my walk and pick up some of those blackberries I mentioned the other day. It was beautiful out and I could tell it was going to be warm. I did the whole ‘over the river and through the woods’ thing and arrived at the place where I had seen the berries the day before. I spent a half hour or so picking and filling the bucket about half way. It seemed that only approximately 20 per cent of the berries were ripe and I was really happy with that because it meant that I could go back later and get more.

There were times when I was wondering if I were taking food from some of the animals that lived there, as there were a variety of tracks around, but after swatting a few mosquitos I figured I was doing my part in feeling them too so it was give and take. I realized that there was not really as many ripe berries as I had originally thought and was a little disappointed when I had only half a bucket full and was running out of places to pick ripe berries. The bushes went pretty far back, but they are thorny and I didn’t want to crawl too far into them. It looked though that I had at least the four cups of berries for the tart or pie that I wanted to make. So I moved on.

I was heading down the road and I figured since I was already out there, I would do the entire two kilometer loop around the river and get my walk under my belt early in the day. I kept walking and when I came to a clearing, there was a long stretch of approximately 50 feet where there were again blackberry bushes loaded with ripe berries. I was thrilled and continued to pick for a little while until my bucket was now brimming. I finished my walk home thinking of all the wonderful things I could do with the berries.

When I arrived home, I was quite warm and sticky. Even though I am only a couple of kilometers from the ocean, it is amazing how much different the temperature is here. It was now quite warm out and I thought another shower would be in order just to rinse off and cool off. So I headed in and when I was drying off, I noticed a large number of bites on my arms and legs. I am not talking 3 or 4 here. It was more like 25-30 all over and they were beginning to welt up.

I had never had that problem before, but since I moved out here near the woods and the river, there must be a kind of bug that doesn’t agree with me. If I get a bite, not only does it welt up a lot, but also the lymph nodes in the back of my neck swell from some type of allergic reaction. It sounds stupid, but I had totally forgotten that that was one of the reasons we curtailed our walks in the woods. I hate to put chemicals on and they don’t seem to work well anyway.

So here I was with a bunch of itchy welts all over my arms and legs. I have a stick of Benedryl that I use topically for the occasional bite, but I would have had to take a bath in this stuff there were so many. I decided to take a Benedryl tablet and see if that would work. After an hour or so, most of the bites were actually gone, but I had that groggy, lethargic feeling that Benedryl brings on. Not what I wanted. By 2pm or so, I couldn’t concentrate enough to draw and I needed to go take a nap. It was kind of a sad waste of the afternoon as far as I was concerned.

When I awoke, my head felt much better, but I saw that the bumps returned and were again swollen and itchy. I used the stick and tried to treat them with that, but it was not a comfortable night. I tried to keep busy and went back to my drawing and I decided to make a blackberry pie to keep my mind off of things.

Now I want to start off with saying that I am a decent cook. I can make just about anything and have it come out good. I mostly cook from scratch and because I grew up in Chicago I was exposed to many wonderful types of ethnic foods that I make to this day. But one thing that always gave me trouble was pie. No matter how I tried, it just didn’t come out good.

I found this recipe in the internet for “fool proof” pie crust and that sounded like the ticket. I made the crust and very carefully followed the instructions to the letter. It was all in the pie pan and chilling in the refrigerator like it was supposed to and I thought this would be a breakthrough day. I then looked up a recipe for the berry filling. These berries weren’t really very sweet (probably because they were just ripe) and I found a recipe for berry pie filling. It called for 4.5 cups of berries and 1.25 cups of sugar, along with some flour and corn starch and a pinch of salt. Common sense told me that that was a LOT of sugar, but as I said, the berries weren’t really sweet and hey, they knew what they were doing, right? So I went ahead and mixed the stuff and put it in the shell and popped it into the oven.

I set the timer on my microwave and went about my business cleaning up the kitchen and stuff and I neglected to look at what time it actually was. The nap really threw me off too, so I really had no idea what time I put the pie in. I thought about it later, but I figured the timer would go off anyway so I would be fine. Later on, I noticed the real time was back on the microwave (which is my clock in the kitchen) Hummm . . . I looked in on the pie and it looked great. All brown and crusty (I had made a crumbled top for it). So I figured that the timer went off and I didn’t hear it and I had better get it out of there before I ruin it. I took it out and let it cool for about an hour before trying it.

I was excited about having my fresh picked berry pie and couldn’t wait for that first slice. The thought of it made all the bites worth while. I would wear them like battle scars to show how I forged for these berries to make this wonderful pie. But when I cut into it, it was all soupy and not done enough. The edge of the crust was done, but the bottom and sides were all doughy and icky. I was so sad! I screwed up another one! The berries were still in a milky white juice from the flour not cooking enough I guess and I gave it a taste and it was sickeningly sweet.

I am not one to throw out food, but this was not salvageable. I guess I could have tried to fire up the oven again and finish cooking it, but it seems that the bottom of the crust dissolved into the filling and it was so sweet it was really bad. So in the garbage it went with all the dignity I could muster. :(

I did have half a bucket of blackberries left and I cooked them as I do all my berry fillings – with a sprinkle of sugar and a little water and it will make a very nice sauce for my yogurt or cereal. I guess pie isn’t in the cards for me. I do make a great Kolocky dough that my grandmother taught me how to make (it is a Bohemian filled cookie) and I use that dough to make a wonderful coffee cake. So I should stick to what I know best.

As for today, the welts are back and I look like a leper. I am out of Benedryl and need to go to the pharmacy to see what I can get to help this. I am hoping that I will find something that won’t make me sleepy and put me in a coma and I will still be able to accomplish something today. I should have the first pictures of the skate figures up by tomorrow, if nothing else. I am nearly done with my first figure from that set and will show them one by one here instead of in the gallery I decided. (at least until they are all done). I also want to work on that last set of ornaments I have been working on. Hopefully things will go as planned.

As I tell you this story, I am kind of laughing at myself. I realize that allergies are nothing to laugh about, but this isn’t as severe as it is stupid on my part. I feel like a cartoon character that should be shipped off to an island where “others who itch” reside. I guess you can take the girl out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the girl. We never had beasts like this where I came from!

Yesterday will go down in my mind as “The Great Blackberry Fiasco”

I guess that is why they charge $5.50 for a half a pint of blackberries.

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

4 comments so far

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3014 days

#1 posted 08-13-2010 03:49 PM

I have to admit I laughed as I read this, because I feel your pain. I got really sunburned this weekend – my shoulders are still peeling. I know better, but I still did it. Ooops!

I’ve never tried making pie crust. It scares me. :) The closest I’ve ever done is graham cracker crust. Which is kind of cheating.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 4114 days

#2 posted 08-13-2010 04:05 PM

Oh Sheila, I’m shaking my head! Sorry you had such a rough day of it. On our west coast here, blackberry bushes are famous for ‘midges’ that bite. I can’t imagine what the fur coat of a bear is full of. Boots, long pants and long sleeves are a necessity when berry picking!
All that nice fruit does not come easy. I hope you enjoy the rest of your berries, at least. And maybe you’d better go buy a big ol’ berry pie for yourself! ;-)


View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3065 days

#3 posted 08-13-2010 06:49 PM

Barbs is right there, even though midges are less of a problem in England (they are in Scotland) I still go out berrying with my jeans tucked in my wellies (Wellington Boots). It may sound strange but as its likely to rain here at any time doesn’t look that out of place. At least you enjoyed some of them.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2948 days

#4 posted 08-14-2010 02:01 PM

I guess the best way to learn is to experience, right? I certainly did learn my lesson the hard way. I feel quite foolish about the bug bites, but I really didn’t even feel them until I got home. It was hot out and I had shorts and a tank top on and I should have known better.

As for the pie – I concede. The sooner I give up on that the better. I have an amazing scone recipe that I made last year with fresh blueberries that I think I will try with the blackberries. You actually freeze the butter and then grate it like shredded cheese and add it to the dough quickly. You then layer the berries on a flat piece of dough and fold it over so they don’t get damaged while mixing. The result is a great, buttery, flaky scone that is absolutely yummy. I am sure the blackberries will work with that.

So on to a better day! :)

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

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