One the great dangers of unemployment (aside from lack of income, imminent foreclosure, over-dosing on Youtube, etc.) is that you’re available for special projects around the house. And that includes the two most dreaded words in the English language– “yard-work”.
I hate yard-work. Now, all of my ancestors were farmers (except for a few cowboys and indentured servants), so you might therefore think that I would have an affinity for the soil and growing things. Nah-ah. I hate having to grub out weeds, mow the lawn, or prune bushes. Soil, you know, is where bugs live. Every minute tending the lawn is a minute when I am not writing, reading, or playing World of Tanks. In other words, time lost forever.
So, when my wife told me we needed to cut back the blackberry bramble overrunning the bottom of the yard, I contemplated flight, perhaps to Afghanistan or King George Island. In the end, though, I knew it was no good. There’s no place in this universe I can hide where she can’t find me. I resigned myself to my fate and trooped down to the back corner of our lot.
If you have never done battle with a Northwest blackberry bramble, know that they are meaner than a Triffid and a good deal smarter. They appear to be making a bid to become the dominant species in this part of the world, so suppressing them might be seen as a duty to the human race. Having never been terribly enamored of the human race, I would have preferred to live and let live, but my wife is implacable, so I girded up my loins….
As weapons I had an electric hedge trimmer, a hand hedge clipper, a hoe and a pruning saw– and I can tell you, brothers and sisters, it wasn’t enough. Properly I needed a flame-thrower and, perhaps, a tactical nuke. There is something profoundly sinister about the density of a blackberry bramble– you half-expect to find a pulsing alien pod at its core. And the thorns– did I mention the thorns? All wickedly sharp, and some so long that they laugh even heavy gloves to scorn. Even in death the bramble exacts its vengeance.
You might think that the blackberries themselves would be some compensation for this misery, and usually there are few things I like better than some good blackberries straight off the vine. Unfortunately, this summer has been unholy hot and dry in Seattle, which left most of the berries small and sour, and not worth the picking. Otherwise, I might have found an excuse to more merciful. Instead, it was war to the knife-hilt.
For more than two hours my wife and I fought with the bramble, and there were times when it wasn’t at all clear who was going to win. We faced a vicious and cunning foe. I mean, really, there is something more than elastic recoil going on when you cut through a vine and the other end comes loose from the fence and wraps itself around your neck. Forget Triffids– try The Thing.
Oh, and one piece of advice– never, ever, cut back a bramble while wearing shorts. Like I did. The price of hydrogen peroxide in the Western US is going to spike over the next few days. Sorry.
In the end, scratched and bleeding, covered in sweat, berry juice and plant sap, we succeeded. The bramble was cut back, and we filled two large yard-waste barrels with the sliced-up remains of our enemy. We had the satisfaction being able to see our back fence once more.
Our sense of triumph, however, was restrained. Because there’s another truth about blackberry brambles–
They always come back.
King George Island is looking better and better….