Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Great Blackberry Project.

I'm warning you now, that you are probably going to find this post kind of boring.  At some point last Fall, I decided I was going to tackle the blackberries, which have been growing and spreading for years.  We do cut them back, and Larry tries to mow along them at times, but we never get rid of them, and they are just spreading along more and more fence lines.   I would justify their existence by saying that they give us some income with the fresh berries and the jam made from the those berries that I sell.  But we have waaaaaaay more blackberries than I would ever want to pick.  (Larry has mostly retired from blackberry picking).  

People say how wonderful it is to have our own blackberries.  I joke back that if we left them untouched for 5 years, we'd have 10 acres of nothing but blackberries.  They are very invasive.  Every year they send up new canes.  The canes from the previous year bear fruit and then die.  The three year old canes are dead but still there, and form a support for the new canes.  Those canes can grow to 30' long and more, with side branches nearly as long.  Then when the tip of that cane arches down and touches the ground, it starts to grow roots, and forms a whole new plant up to 10' out from the original root.  Every year when we are picking the fruit on the canes from the previous year, we have to cut back the new canes that are overhanging and covering up the fruit.  But still somehow those rows get wider and wider.

Larry mowed along the face of this row with the tractor.  See that scraggly naked tree (Hawthorn) on the very right.

Here we are looking down the row from the end,  with that Hawthorn at the front.  The weight of all the canes have pulled the tree over.  The row is about 10' wide here, and about as high. 


I've already cut back the first 20'. Note the closest fence post.

I was lucky that when David was visiting at Christmas, he took an interest and cleared about 40' for me.

Nice to be able to hand the work over to someone younger for a while.  You can see that same Hawthorn tree in all the pictures.

Larry came and raked some of the cuttings away from the fence for a while.

That section is all done.  Looking from the west end

And looking west from the east end.  That poor Hawthorn is going to stay.  I'll be glad of the bit of shade that it will throw when I'm working in that garden.

Some of those canes are monsters.  And those thorns..... I had a cane swing down from over head.  It barely hit me, but one of those thorns poked into the vein on my right temple, and I ended up with a black eye.

Tucker, David's dog, had a good time hunting for voles.

Do you think he knows how dirty he is?

Time for a rinse off!

The tools of my trade.  Loppers,  as well as some lovely light Fiskars hedge trimmers gifted to us when two of our customers moved, and some heavy duty leather mitts of Larry's.  At first I was using some of my gardening gloves, but was constantly having to dig the tips of thorns out of my hands.  The mitts are large and clumsy,  but perfect for grabbing those thorny canes and not feeling a thing.  I also added a pair of protective goggles.

This photo below is about 18 years old.  David on his bike (where the heck was his helmet?)  Our riding ring is in the background.  I think by this time I had stopped showing horses, and had started into the dog agility, so I used to have some of that equipment set up in it.  Oh, but Meredith was in horse 4H, so I guess she used it for riding occasionally.  Anyway, that ring is 150' x 70'. It used to be 200' long, and came to the fence post at the bottom/front of the picture.  The hogfuel (chunks of cedar bark) that was the footing in the riding ring had all rotted, so we cleared it out, made the ring smaller, and added sand for the footing.  David is riding on the pile of rotted hogfuel, which eventually became some of the base for the garden there, and is pretty well in the spot where the scaffolding tomato support is now.   And that fence post is the one that I asked you to take note of earlier😉 The Hawthorn tree is out of the picture to the left down that fence line.

The wood rail fence in the old photo is the west end of the ring, which is a big rectangle with a gate at each end.  Notice that all the wood rail fences are clear of blackberries.  When I started the blackberry project, 380' of the wood fence was covered in blackberries, with only 30' and the two gateways being clear.

Here I've cleared that west fence line

And uncovered the old hay rake that was buried in the corner.
Lawn ornament anyone?

A look down that west fence from the north end.  You can just see the corner of the tomato support on the right.

And here is a look at the north fence line of the riding ring, from the field side.  Larry can try mow some of it back with the tractor, but I'm not tackling that.

   I've worked on this job in all sorts of weather, but this sunny day was stunning with the big dramatic clouds in the sky.  

Here's another boring picture when I finished the inside of the south riding ring fence.

And this is where I'm at now.  The south riding ring fence is all clear,  the hayfield fence on the right is cleared on the outside, and just a little bit to remove from the inside of this fence line.  Of course in the background going off to the right, the east fence of the hayfield is a mass of blackberries, as well as the back hayfield in the distance.  This laneway below was a solid mass of blackberries, you could not see anything of the back field.  The cattle didn't even push through it last summer.  It's nice to be able to see a little bit of the back field again from the house.  My goal is to finish off the fence line on the right, and then to clear off the far end of the riding ring in front of the shed.  That will be it for now.  I've made more work though, as now there are fences that need repairing.  Blackberries make good fences, but they just keep getting bigger and wider and messier.

To bring it into perspective, here's a map of our property.  Approx 330 ft wide by 1320 long.  The green squiggles are the fence lines I (and David) have cleared.  Doesn't look like much does it?  The red is blackberries basically untouched.  The aim would be to bring them all under control, and push them back closer to the property line. We shall see.  This year the plan is to keep mowing off the new shoots that will come up where I cut them back.  That's Larry's job.  
It may involve some nagging.😏

People ask my what I'm going to do with all my spare time now that I'm semi retiring.
I just laugh😆