Tag Archives: blackberries

Blackberries

I love the taste of blackberries, but I hate picking them. This plant defends itself rather aggressively. The thorns are vicious and you either get your arms and legs scratched up or your clothing torn.  Add to that, the wasps that claim the ripe berries and resent you reaching in to steal them, and spiders that hide behind the leaves and scurry over your fingers as you touch their webs. Shudders! I let the Captain do the picking if he’s home, or his 96-year-old mother (pictured below, picking last year’s berries), if he’s not. They both love picking blackberries. Go figure!

But I think I have found a solution. Take a close look at the vines on these  blackberries below. What do you see? More importantly, what do you NOT see? Thorns! Also, the blackberries are growing on my garden fence so the tangles and spider hiding places are not as many.

Yes, thornless blackberries. Domestic, of course, but I like the idea of no thorns. The berries have a slightly different flavour, but they’re pretty good, and I don’t have to get stung or touch spiders, or tear up my arms and legs to get a few berries. Whoever developed this thornless variety deserves a medal.

These berries are not quite ready, but they seem to be fairly early this year. It won’t be long now before they’re ready to pick.

Harvest Time

It seems that fall is sneaking up on us. The nights are fresh and there’s a hint of dew on the ground in the mornings. The mountain ash berries are ripening, ready for desperate robins who come back down from berry-filled hills after the harvest, looking for anything left to eat. 004

Walnuts tell us it’s fall, as they near full size. They’ll leave an awful mess of walnut stain when the outer shell breaks open to reveal the brown nut inside. Wear gloves when you pick them or you’ll have stained fingers worse than the heaviest smoker ever had.

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This apple must be the one Eve offered to Adam. It’s the sweetest and juiciest of apples, the Gravenstein.008

Smaller than the Italian prune plum are the damsons. They’re sweet and tarty, perfect for eating or making jam.

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Then there are the yellow plums (which actually still look quite greenish when they’re ripe). They are really juicy, they don’t keep long, and are best eaten right away or made into jam.  017

The red Anjou pear is delicious and looks great with the peel still on when sliced onto a dessert.016

The Wilmuta apple is a cross between Jonagold and Gravenstein. It ripens in October and keeps well. Sweet and juicy, it’s a perfect late season apple.

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And what is this weird-looking thing? Mini squashes on a shrub? It’s quince. The shrub has beautiful red-orange blooms in the spring and then bears this fruit about the size of crab apples. When they’re yellow the quinces are ripe. I don’t recommend trying to eat them but they make a good jam of the marmalade style.

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Let’s hear it for the old standby – MacIntosh apples. What’s not to like?
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The hazelnuts are nearly ripe too. I’ve learned not to get too excited about the first ones that fall off the tree when those fall winds start to blow. Usually they are the duds, so don’t waste you time husking and drying them. Later, there will still be plenty of good ones. If you’re not too impatient and don’t mind risking losing them to steller’s jays and raccoons, you can pick the nuts up without the husks which come off more easily as the nuts dry. 021

And of course there’s nature adding to my planted efforts, providing blackberries for free. It’s a huge crop this year. 023 I really would like some help with all this harvesting and so far I’ve had one volunteer. Ruby is doing her best to brave the prickles. Tells you how good these blackberries are!026

Broom Busters

It’s that time of year when the first colours brighten up the neighbourhood. To me, colour means spring, even if it is only from that prolific weed, Scotch broom. Locally, broom has fallen into disfavour because, like the introduced rabbits of Australia, it is trying to take over, crowding out the indigenous plants such as the Garry oak. There is a case to be made about what is indigenous. How far back do we go? Do we call it an introduced species if “man” brought it from somewhere else? What about the seeds that are spread by sticking to a dog’s fur, or a wild animal’s fur, for that matter? Are those plants then called introduced species?

002However you may want to rationalize it, the broom was not here on Vancouver Island until Captain Walter Grant brought it to his garden in 1850. “Bad move, Walter,” say the Broom Busters who are now almost as annoying as the invasive plant they are trying to eradicate.

I don’t mind if the Broom Busters want to cut down broom that is growing rampantly in open fields, but most people take care of their own yards and the broom doesn’t go crazy there. I happen to live in a rural area just outside of town, and this is where the birds come. They find the broom a good place to hide and many a young quail has found protection under the thick broom growth that borders my property on two sides.

I like the fact that the thick bushes give me a bit more privacy from the hordes that walk past here, usually lagging behind dogs that have been let loose to do their business on the properties that have grass that is longer than one inch. I like that extra hedge beyond my own cedar hedge.

One evening I heard the snipping of pruners  just in front of my hedge. A  woman had chosen to show me how my yard frontage should look. She snipped off the blooming broom and left the ugly stalks  looking like empty tenement housing. I told her I would look after my own yard, thank you. She was convinced that she was doing a good deed and I should want to be rid of this ugly plant. It was invasive. And so are you, I thought.

I wondered if she would also cut down the big blackberry patch that is growing next to the broom. Blackberry is officially considered an invasive plant, yet everyone loves to come to pick the berries.

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I agree that broom is invasive and I do keep it under control on my own property. But broom is not shade tolerant so since much of our natural land is fir forest, I don’t believe the broom is that much of a threat there. This hedge of broom in the photo above is only growing at the sunny edge of the trees.

Meanwhile, I happen to like it in small amounts.

Watch out, people. The Broom Busters don’t like broom and will cut it down whether you like it or not. I shudder to think what my vegetable garden would look like if some of the Broom Busters decided that they didn’t like broccoli.

The Old Gray Mare

After staring at the monitor for too long, I wanted to have a nap, but I’m not a nap person (takes me an hour to unwind and once I’m asleep I don’t want to get up again), so I went outside to get some fresh air and revive my dulling brain. We’ll see at the end of this post whether that dull brain revived at all.

I planted grass seed in a couple of bare dirt spots in the yard. Then I came inside and put the bread dough in the barely warm oven to rise. I tried to do some writing. Not inspired enough to do anything worthwhile. Turned on the oven to bake the bread and went downstairs to sew, knowing I would hear the buzzer when it was done.

I finished the quilt I’d been working on. In the meantime the Captain came home from the boat and was going up to the back of our property to cut out the broom that was growing into the cedar hedge. He had asked earlier in the day if I would help him. So I felt guilty about him starting to work without me and went up to help him.

We did the whole length of the hedge, about 150 feet of it, throwing the brush on the back of the truck. Then the Captain said we should load on the blackberry vines I had cut out of the front hedge yesterday (and left lying there).

He did that while I hacked at some more broom in the little island of trees beside the garage. You can see that we were in “work party” mode.

Tired at last, I said I’d put the tools away and go in. As soon as I opened the door, I ran up the stairs taking them two or three at a time. MY BREAD!!!! How long ago had I put it in the oven? Well, it’s a bit dark, but if we cut the crust off we can eat it.

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The Captain had two comments: “The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be….” and, “By the way, why was the back door open wide?”

“Oh, that would have been when the smell of overbaked bread hit me.”