The battle of the blackberry patch

One of the many pleasures of the growing season is to munch on the wide variety of both garden and wild berries.

One of the many pleasures of the growing season is to munch on the wide variety of both garden and wild berries.

When I first moved up from the Coast about 16 years ago, I noticed there were a few blackberry patches growing around here and there, so I thought it would be a good idea to have some of my own.

Since I was a young kid growing up on the Coast, it was an annual family outing to tackle the patches that were commonly found along the roadside ditches, vacant lots and fields, and I figured I could keep up the family tradition with mine.

This was one of the biggest gardening foo-foos of my life, and I pay for it year after futile year by trying to snip and dig out this ever-growing beastie to keep it under control.

They are here to stay, short of throwing buckets of toxic herbicides on them, (which is out of the question), so I’ll just have to keep fighting the vines until the cows come home.

Many years ago when I was living on the island, I submitted this little story to a number of newspapers as my first attempt at writing for fun. Only one editor actually printed it, but another sent it back with bright red scribbles all over it, circling my spelling mistakes, correcting poor grammar and rewriting some of the sentences – just like a teacher would at school.

My runaway patch is once again reminding me of my little field expedition a few years ago.

My other siblings were otherwise engaged or living elsewhere and my dad had suffered a hand injury, so Mom and I were the only ones that year to navigate through the risky and thorny depths of the blackberry patches.

Here goes:

“Another blackberry picking season has been successfully concluded and my Mom’s freezer is now fully loaded with stiff little captives, detained for future pies, jellies, juice and jams.

“The annual mission was engaged at 1400 hours, Aug. 11, 1990.  My mother and I armed ourselves for the assault: a protective coat, rugged jeans, boots, buckets, several coat hangers and a first-aid kit.

“The attack on the berry patches would be fruitless without these essential security measures. Our stakeout of our target commenced, haunting old war zones, trusting they had not been invaded and composted by the enemy – the bulldozers.

“With a keen, experienced eye, we zeroed in on a patch located in a nearby field, halted, loaded and marched.  We cautiously approached the bushes from all directions, assessing the patch for accessibility and yield.

“After careful investigation for unforeseen obstacles, an affirmative nod from Mom indicated the patch met all crucial specifications. We deployed ourselves into strategic positions and initiated harvesting.

“We were repeatedly assaulted and harassed by the patch’s inhabitants. Bees fought for superior air space, fat-bodied spiders defended occupied territories and the rodents advanced and retreated into hidden bunkers.  Sharp thorns, like barbed wire, threatened to shred clothing and exposed flesh.

“Undaunted, we tenaciously penetrated the depths of its foliage. Both hands worked in stereo as we seized and detached the blackberries.  Coat hangers assisted us in flushing out clusters from unreachable branches, while heavy boots dismantled viny strongholds. These babies were bee-yew-tees! We couldn’t afford to let any escape!

Mom and I spread out, maintaining eye contact and monitoring progress through coded sounds and hand signals. After two hours, 25 minutes, we withdrew and inspected our buckets. All six pails were filled to maximum capacity.

“A hovering rainstorm grumbled above our heads. After quick analysis of the weather, we determined a downpour was imminent.  Not willing to jeopardize our hard-won efforts, we evacuated the area, retreating to the shelter of the car.

“At home base, Dad conducted his routine interrogation. He sampled a select few for size, flavour, calibre and colour. Grunting his satisfaction and approval, he filled a large bowl for immediate consumption before the berries were condemned to the potato masher.

“In brief, it was deemed a victorious mission. We can now retire our scratched and bruised bodies for next year’s war on the berry patch!”

 

– See Gaiagardening.ca for previous columns and more information.