Dems Da Berries

Within the prison and shelter of Blackberry brambles delicate beauty rises to the call of spring.

Ya dint worsh all yer parts. Yer smellin’ kinda earthy!” I was up on the back forty whacking down a pandemic of blackberry bushes in our overflow parking/storage area. It’s where I keep my little trailer, now aka the SIU: Social Isolation Unit, so I’ve felt an obligation to the strata council to look after the patch I seem to use exclusively. Yep, somebody will probably tender a noise complaint. I’ve taken pictures to prove I was not simply trying to annoy them. In a previous life as a logger I’ve worn out several chain saws so the smell of two-stroke exhaust, oil, fresh-cut wood, brings back many pleasant manly memories of a youth which could perhaps have been better spent. That smell also quickly imbues your clothing and a comment on that inspired the above attempt at humour. I confess that to this day, although an avowed nature lover, I often look at a towering mature tree and catch myself calculating its volume in cunits, board feet or cubic metres as timber and also automatically scheming the best way to fall it. I can’t help myself as I consider the lean of the tree, the lay of the land, the surrounding trees and the force of the wind. I am annoyed when I catch myself doing that but then after thirty-five years of abstinence from chain-smoking, I still reach for a cigarette at times. Now I neither smoke nor kill trees nor have passions for other young man abuses and still I’m getting old.

The SIU. Ready for road testing.
One of the patches overwhelming our back yard. Now I can fix that fence.
The Hoopu Cedar. So how would I cut this one down? It is a common red cedar which through genetic mutation persuaded itself to send out limbs like this. It would be a treasure for boat builders in days past.

I found myself calling that blackberry tangle the Covid Vine this morning. Damn, the things are insidious! If someone claimed this invasive bramble had found its own way several thousand miles across the Pacific from Asia to our Westcoast, I wouldn’t offer much argument. The Himalayan Blackberry is classified as an “Invasive species” along with Holly, Scotch Broom and Gorse. Someone though they were smarter than God and tried to improve nature.

And so it grows. Runner, root, more runner, rhizome…and they’ll grow in any soil.
A Fistful Of Mint… the new western movie. A lovely bed of this plant was growing among the roots of the brambles.

One blackberry contains enough seed to re-populate the planet with new plants even if it were the last fruit. Once they take root all hell breaks loose. You can almost see them growing into a self-macramed thorny tangle that only a fugitive rabbit can love. Wherever the reaching canes touch the ground they send out new roots and then another fistful of aggressive shoots and buds. As you buck into the nasty vines which often leave broken thorns festering in your skin, I swear there are other new shoots popping up out of the ground while you work. They can also send out runners, or rhizomes, underground so that eradicating them requires a scorched earth policy. Clipped-off bits of blackberry stem can actually take root without help and start a whole new life.

Himalayan Blackberries, Brambles, Bugga! Many of us love the fruit and pay a dear price to harvest some. Step right in!
Pick me! The biggest, juiciest ones are always just at the end of your reach. As if the plant can think, the berries ripen sequentially so there is a ripe edible crop  for several weeks into autumn. The uneaten berries will dry and provide nutrition for birds in the winter ahead. It is a clever distribution strategy. Anyone can count the seeds in one berry but only the gods can count the berries in one seed.

A powersaw, or chainsaw, is a vicious tool which does not know the difference between wood, bone or meat and just cuts a wide bite in its subject called a kerf. “Thet yer kerf or ya jest happy to see me?” Filled with dirt, sawdust and oil a powersaw cut is a real challenge for a doctor to repair. Blackberry vines love to throw the saw back against one’s legs and arms so it’s no place for beginners. Yes, I do have all my parts after all these years. I’ve used these saws when quartering up moose, elk and cattle and developed a severe respect for the snarling tool.

The backlit jungle. How eagerly would British Columbia have been explored if it were already covered in black berries? They came later along with rats, starlings, gorse and broom among other things..

When picking the delicious ripe berries, it seems as if the thorny canes are drawing you into themselves like some man-eating plant. There have been folks who managed to get themselves into the middle of a blackberry thicket and needed a fire department to rescue them. I have suggested that during the six-week annual blackberry season, picking the juicy treasures could be a good endeavour for prison work gangs. We have many feral hectares of unharvested berries which just go to seed every year. “Chain-gang Jam and Pie Filling” or “Blackberry Brandy.” Uh-huh! Fascist bastard! With liquor tax added, there’s a whole new source of revenue for our Covid-pressed government.

Blackberry honey. At the peak of summer the vines begin to flower and are abuzz with thousands of bees. Later as the berries become over-ripe wasps will become drunk on the sweet juice and buzz annoyingly but harmlessly in your face.

On a cool but sunny Covid Tuesday, that’s the whole shituation. Who says there’s nothing to blog about?

Boring dad! A Jack yawn at Wolf Creek Bend.
A Wolf Creek moment.
The Shark Stone. Someone talented at picking their rocks and etching clever images into them travels our waterfront parks and woodland trails adding their personal petroglyphs. I think it is brilliant.
‘Seafire’ the foundation of this blog. I miss her dearly, especially in these Covid days. I’ll still miss her once there is another boat in my life. I’ve learned that a boat, if owned for the right reasons, is never “Just stuff.”

Himalayans (blackberries) seize the land, gobbling acres, blanketing banks, consuming abandoned farmhouses and their Studebakers and anything left alone in the rain for five minutes or longer.”
― Robert Michael Pyle, Sky Time in Gray’s River: Living for Keeps in a Forgotten Place

Author: Fred Bailey

Fred is a slightly-past middle age sailor /, writer / photographer with plenty of eclectic hands-on skills and experiences. Some would describe him as the old hippy who doesn't know the war is over. He is certainly reluctant to grow up and readily admits to being the eternal dreamer. He has written several books including two novels, 'The Keeper' and 'Storm Ecstasy,' as well as 'The Water Rushing By', 'Sins Of The Fathers', 'The Magic Stick', as well as an extensive inventory of poetry, essays, short stories, anecdotes and photographs. His first passion is the ocean, sailboats, voyaging and all those people who are similarly drawn to the sea. He lived aboard and extensively cruised the BC Coast on 'Seafire' the boat he refitted to go voyaging, to explore new horizons both inner and outer. This blog was about that journey and the preparations for it. Circumstances prevailed which forced the sale of his beloved vessel. Now on a different tack, the voyage continues. If you follow this blog your interest may provide some of the energy that helps fuel the journey. Namaste Contact me at svpaxboat@gmail.com

3 thoughts on “Dems Da Berries”

  1. We have those berries growing in the park too and the groundhog was once chomping on them right next to my head and I didn’t know it and was leaning into the bush to get a shot at something in the Creek. There are some walkers who pick and eat them right from the bush. “Runner, root, more runner, rhizome…” – many years my neighbors had a basset hound that bayed when they put it out at the crack of dawn – they both worked in factories, got up early to go have breakfast before work and put Sadie out under my bedroom window – I’m talking 3:30 every morning. She’d bark and they didn’t take her in. I asked nicely a few times if they could put her out, and take her in without her barking – they said “no – we need to get ready for work.” So they, being childish, left her out all the longer and I resorted to earplugs. They had half a dozen bird feeders in the yards, especially thistle seed for the finches and multiple finch feeders. I saw them empty the bird feeders of spent seed, which was not all spent seed, but they threw it at the side of my house. Why protest – they would only say or do something stupid. For years I had these humungous thistles and the roots are sideways and nearly impossible to get rid of. I finally gave up – it was at the side of the house where no one went and I threw up my hands in despair.

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