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