Walking in September: Of Berries and Bunnies

This morning when we went out the door for our weekly farmers' market walk I wasn't really looking around at first. Thus the moment of absolute startlement and wonder when I realized one of the "yard bunnies" we see occasionally was crouched right there under a bush by the sidewalk. I was about three feet away from it when I realized the bunny was there, frozen in place, keeping its eye on the humans going by.

I stopped to look at it for a moment, to truly pay attention. These bunnies are all a soft brown with the somewhat short ears of a rabbit, not the long ears of the hares so often illustrated in children's books. This one decided I was harmless enough that it could go back to chewing whatever bits of green it had found growing beneath the shrubs we intend to pull out someday to replace that area with a front patio/porch set-up. 

We'll still have bushes and I expect we'll still see the bunnies. Two of them had burrows in our yard with babies last year, although we saw sad evidence that those didn't all make it to adulthood. I know, I know, they reproduce like rabbits, but they're little and soft and not hurting anything when they eat the clover I planted in the lawn.

Over the course of the summer we watch the blackberries blossom and then ripen along our route into downtown. I picked a bunch a while back and put them in the freezer until I was ready to deal with them. Eventually I made seedless blackberry jam (a ton of work to deseed, but worth it) and then bumbleberry jam, again deseeding. 

Those bushes grow more than I could ever pick. Others pick them as well, I imagine, although I've only seen a couple of people out there. The ones left on the vines baked in the high temperatures we had in early September and are now hard black nubs, but more are coming along. On each walk we check the bushes and may pick a handful of the sweetest, ripest ones as a small treat. The bushes don't have enough on them at this point to merit a full-on berry-picking expedition, but this tiny bit of foraging adds a little something to the walk. I know they're an invasive non-native species and the thorns are something wicked but that sweetness is a gift, free for the picking.

Now they're joined by other berries and my thrifty inner forager wants to know if these others are edible. I looked up Oregon grape (mahonia aquifolium) and yes, those blue berries are edible, although apparently somewhat sour. I'm going to be on the lookout for them now; they could go into the bumbleberry jam (which is traditionally a mix of at least three types of berries). One comment on the site I read suggested they'll be sweeter if I wait until after the first frost.

White berries? No. Those are likely snowberries and they're poisonous to humans.

There's now some reddish berry along the way on East Bay Drive, or perhaps I'm seeing wild rosehips. Before we drop down the hill to walk along the water we go past a house where someone's wild rose bushes produced beautiful rosehips last year and again this year. I'm tempted to leave them a note next year asking if I could harvest them to try making rosehip tea or jelly.

Walking the same route time after time, I appreciate this routine that lets me tune into the changes through the seasons. If we walked a different street each time I'd have variety but I wouldn't know those streets the way I know this route. It reminds me a bit of my old bike commuting route in Spokane that I rode year after year, knowing that at a particular point in a particular season I would smell the linden trees in bloom. I know this place because I walk.

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