Prickles Prove Prickly

Sometimes things do too well. All things in moderation, they say, and we generally want things to do better rather than worse, but sometimes things go crazy and require serious cutting back. Yesterday I cut back the blackberries, black raspberries and raspberries. I not only cut them back. I gave them away.

I should have known better than to move them into the garden in the first place. I should have realized that with the better soil in there, with the continual feeding they get from decomposing leaves, they would thrive. Last year already they looked like this. There is a vague way to get between the rows, but it had begun to be tricky even then.

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This year I was too embarrassed by their overgrown tangles to take a front-on photo. They snuck into this image from when I was weeding in July. You can see there is no way in.

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They do produce berries, lovely berries, but you could pick only the ones you could reach from the perimeter of this berry jungle. I did enjoy a few handfuls of reds and blacks. I assume the birds got the rest, though how they navigate in there beats me.

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I am ready to throw in the towel. Maybe it’s the prickers. Do you see what I see among these cut branches?

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Look carefully. One pricker after the next sticks out in random directions every inch or so. They are razor sharp and get through even the super-coated work gloves I have, the kind made for winter work – warm and thick but still movable. They stick through the plastic coating into your fingers without warning and they break off into the same plastic coating to sneak up on you and stick you later as well. Some get past and make it into a warm bed under your skin. This one I pushed out this morning. See how teeny? I think maybe different gloves would have been better.

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When I started this job, I knew there would be pain. There were a lot of branches.

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Perhaps you can’t see them very well behind the bench. Let me help.

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The blue lines give an idea of how tall they were, but not how many. There were way more branches than blue lines. By the time I was done I had three piles.

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It was a gray day and not a fun task. I had just enough energy for this and nothing more, being on the recovering end of a bad cold, but not 100% better yet. I offered the plants to Tracy, who came later to dig them out. She filled the back of her pickup with foot-high starters and will find a perfect place with lots of room between the rows to plant them. Whatever comes up after she has taken all she wants, I’ll put elsewhere, outside the fence, and let them have at it, go to town, reproduce like rabbits if they want. I just don’t want to deal with the prickers anymore.

This morning I went out to check on the chickens, fill their feeder, check for eggs. I moseyed over to the dormant garden to look at those pricker branches once again, perhaps to rejoice over a job done. The garden is a little depressing in winter. The mum that was so spectacular in October is just sad now.

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The lemon grass that had bushed out so far it overgrew its planter box had been hit by frost finally and cut back.

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Not an overly uplifting mosey. Even the bird bath up close had nothing to redeem it.

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Then something green caught my eye. Something green in January.

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On October 24, just over three months ago, I planted some garlic bulbs that Tracy had given me, garlic bulbs called Nootka Rose (who comes up with these names?) that had sent green shoots into the air. Green shoots! January! You know, sometimes it doesn’t take much for our spirits to be lifted. Look at that green!

And the seasons, they go round and round…

Just Keep Going

On Thursdays my mom and I read to a wonderful 100-year-old blind lady named Evelyn. Mom met Evelyn nearly half a year ago, and they started with a biography of Queen Victoria. I love this idea, so I asked if I could too. I read at 2pm and Mom at 3. A few weeks ago I mentioned Coco, the adorable black pug I am taking care of, and Evelyn wanted me to bring her. Today was an especially good day for that because Evelyn got bad news this week. Coco was perfect. She did what she does. She brought joy, comfort, warmth. Oh that fur. For the full hour that we read today, Coco lay wedged between us on the couch and Evelyn’s hands didn’t come off her once.

The tongue seems disproportional to the size of the rest of her, I know.

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Coco put her tongue (mostly) inside her mouth and I picked up where Mom left off last week and kept reading till Mom came and took over. Today’s chapter was rather heart-wrenching. Victoria was in the throes of despair when I handed off the book and took my leave.

Some days are monumental. You accomplish something big, learn something new and very useful, have a great influence on someone’s life, solve a mystery, explore a new and exciting place, have an important meeting, or experience a life-changing event. Or it dawns on you that if you put food in the chicken coop that the chickens don’t want to go into, they might want to go into it! (Thank you, Kim. I know this doesn’t really qualify as brilliant or monumental the way it seemed yesterday, but we are creatures of habit, we are. Never have I had to put food in a coop to entice the chickens to go in it — why should it have occurred to me before? One of these days I will try though. Perhaps I should drape tempting greens on the steps of the chicken ladder. Spaghetti? Maybe that would lure them up and do the trick?)

Today wasn’t a monumental day (nor did I care to entice the chickens – let them sleep on the ground!). Most days aren’t. Today, like most days, I just kept going with this and that. So did Evelyn, as she’s been doing for a hundred years. That’s a long time to just keep going! It struck me today that despite what happens, we keep on eating good food, sleeping as best we can, loving the people we love, figuring out what to do next and most of the time doing it, or trying to do it.

All around me, everyone and everything is doing the same. The lettuce keeps on making more of itself so there can be a salad every night. Oh, a new dressing to try: Mix a bit of yogurt (maybe two spoonsful) with some apple cider vinegar (about ¼ cup) in a jar (same as you would mix olive oil with vinegar). Add a bit of strawberry jam! The batch I made this year came out kind of soupy, so I just pour a tablespoon or so in there. You might need to mush it up a little bit. Shake the jar to mix it all up together. Salt and pepper to taste. Yum! (Those are the carrots right behind the lettuce in this bed, in case you’re wondering.)

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The cabbage keeps getting bigger too, this head bigger than a softball. Somehow I thought the cabbage plants were Brussels sprouts plants instead. I feel slightly disappointed about that. It seems I will have a good deal of cabbage to saute slowly with onions one of these days.

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Speaking of onions, they keep pushing harder to get out of the ground. I planted 300 “sets” (whatever that means) – 100 each of red, white and I don’t remember what the other one was. Yellow maybe. It seemed ridiculous at the time. Now I am thinking this might be a good number. If there are any left at the end of the summer, they will keep well.

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The tomatoes keep getting taller and have started getting red (yay!). I couldn’t find my favorite “sun gold” variety this year, so I don’t have any of those. But these will be excellent anyway and make the sun golds all the more special when I surely find them next year!

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The lemon grass keeps on getting fuller and taller. By the time the fall comes, this plant will occupy the entire raised bed. I am not exactly sure what to do with this other than admire it. The two other times it has grown in my garden, its entire purpose has been to make an incredibly big and ornamental show of itself, which is nice, but there has to be something else to do with it. Another day I will look into this.

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Everything just keeps going.

It was 90 degrees today, but shady where I myself kept going, rock after rock, on my stream bed. This morning I had 23 linear feet. I drove back from Evelyn’s and went very slowly down my road, stopping to pick up a few more set-aside stones from the last outing that were waiting patiently for their own special place in my long puzzle. I gathered some more rocks from around the house and softened the dirt bed before starting to set them in, then kept going to the main curve of the stream, banked those big anchor stones tight against the edge, and decided this was not far enough for one day, so gathered some more rocks and began again, adding 11 feet total today. There’s only 11 to go until I reach the woods and call it done! (I don’t care what happens to the water when it reaches the woods. Let it delta out all it wants.) After all this, I sure hope the water will choose to stay in its pretty channel during the next heavy rain.

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Needless to say, the chickens kept on being ridiculous! It’s hard for me to look at them sometimes and not think they are little aliens. For all I know, this one could have been looking back at me saying You think I’m funny looking?

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