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Be Healthy, Be happy, And Eat Cobbler

As we continue to adjust to the new normal of living with the corona virus, we're all finding new ways to get done the things we need to get done. But when you have nothing to do, go berry picking. That’s what WUWF commentator Carl Wernicke recommends in this week’s essay to keep you healthy, happy and eating cobbler.

The coronavirus has, without question, disrupted the patterns of our lives. But that doesn’t mean we have to surrender to it.

One of the rituals my wife and I have upheld over time is that wherever we have moved, we have looked for a berry patch. Wild dewberries and blackberries picked ripe from the vine are one of spring’s delights, and the tenacious vines thrive in the arboreal clutter of untended spaces. All they need is a little room along an untended fence line, a neglected area behind a building that lets nature do its landscaping, or an undeveloped lot not mowed too closely along its borders.

In places like Garcon Point, berry patches are everywhere. And in untended woods across Northwest Florida, you can add wild blueberries to the take.

But with a little time and attention, you can find dewberries and blackberries in some of the most urban settings.

Such as downtown Pensacola.

On a recent berry survey walk across the west side of downtown we located several prime picking spots and even came home with our first crop, destined to be sprinkled across our low-carb ice cream after dinner.

Patti Wernicke with freshly picked berries.

Now, I can’t really say what I value most: the berries themselves, or the hunt.

Certainly being able to have delicious, healthful berries free for the picking is a treat. But there is also the thrill of the hunt, setting out with nothing but the determination to find something, and finding it.

We are experienced berry patch hunters and know what to look for. From a distance you can’t actually see the vines or the berries, but there is a certain look to a berry patch, and it’s amazing how often you can spot where you think a patch should be, and there it is.

Plus, having been convinced as I age of the value of exercise, especially walking, going in search of a berry patch makes a useful and enjoyable walk even more useful, and more enjoyable.

The presence of these berry patches also tells me that despite the sometimes fanatical human desire to replace the natural landscape with an overly manicured, and biologically inferior, substitute, nature remains persistent. In a world in which we have so thoroughly overwhelmed the landscape that even insects are becoming threatened species, nature’s stubborn hold on our neglected spaces still provides sustenance for insects and animals, as well as regeneration of the soil.

Blackberries can self-pollinate, but the fattest berries demand help from bees or other pollinators. Every time I pick a fat, juicy berry off a wild vine in downtown Pensacola I can take some comfort in how it got there.

With all this at home time on your hands, you might want to go look for a berry patch of your own. I’m certainly not telling you where mine are.

Carl Wernicke is a native of Pensacola. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1975 with a degree in journalism. After 33 years as a reporter and editor, he retired from the Pensacola News Journal in April 2012; he spent the last 15 years at the PNJ as editor of the editorial page. He joined the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in 2012 as Senior Writer and Communications Manager, and retired from IHMC in 2015.His hobbies include reading, traveling, gardening, hiking, enjoying nature around his home in Downtown Pensacola, as well as watching baseball and college football, especially the Florida Gators and New York Yankees. His wife, Patti, retired as a senior vice president at Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union and is a Master Gardener. Carl is a regular contributor to WUWF. His commentaries focus on life in and around the Pensacola area and range in subject matter from birding to downtown redevelopment and from preserving our natural heritage to life in local neighborhoods.