Tuesday, July 2, 2013

It’s Berry Time!

(a blog post rerun)

When it comes to my yard, I'm a naturalist.

Not exactly the kind of naturalist who works to preserve the environment (although I think that's important). I'm a naturalist in the sense that I am lazy--whatever nature wants to do, I'm cool with, as long as I don't have to lift a finger doing yard work. Fertilizer, shmertilizer, I always say.

Calling myself a naturalist somehow makes my lawn neglect more palatable. (My wife calls me a "delusionalist.")

I live on a fairly wooded, one-acre lot. It's tough for grass to grow because of all the shade.  I don't even bother trying. I'll cut whatever grows--mostly crabgrass and other weeds--but only in certain spots so the kids have a place to play catch or kick the soccer ball (and so the neighbors don't complain too much). I let the rest of the property grow wild.

Being lazy about yard work* has certain advantages.

Here's the (too-long) tale of one:

A few years ago, I noticed some blackberry canes growing in one corner of the yard (good thing I didn't cut the "grass" in that corner--I would have mowed the canes down!). I didn't pay much attention to them, and, months later when I went back to see if any blackberries were ripe, they were gone. Birds must have eaten them.

The next year, more canes grew and in June, I saw lots of little red berries popping out, on their way to becoming nice, juicy blackberries. Somehow, a rather large patch of blackberries also appeared in the front yard, intermingled with some azalea bushes (good thing I didn't weed out the azalea bed!).

Because we were leaving on a seven-week cross-country trip, I knew I wouldn't get to harvest these berries, so I alerted the neighbors. I told them they were welcome to pick the berries and gave them a heads-up to be quick, if they wanted to beat the birds to the punch.

Fast forward seven weeks. The neighbors didn't get any blackberries. Somehow, the birds got them before the berries had ripened. Oh well.DSCF1772

The following year, even more canes grew. I now had two huge patches of blackberries, one in the front and one in the back. I watched over them like a mother hen, determined to outsmart the birds and harvest some berries before they got them all. I even put netting over some of the plants. Take that, birdies!

Lots of little red berries appeared, and my mouth watered daily.

I waited and waited for those berries to ripen. And waited.

One day, the father of my son's friend came over. As he picked up his son, he commented, "That's a very impressive patch of wild raspberries."

I smiled and corrected him. "Thanks, but they're blackberries."

"No, I'm pretty sure they are raspberries."

I chuckled. "Well, I go running near here, and I pass a ton of blackberry plants. And I'm pretty sure mine are blackberries. They're just not ripe yet."

The other guy smiled. "Well, I taught plant identification in college, and I'm positive those are raspberries. And, by the way, they're ripe."**

Sometimes my wife calls me "idiot" too.

I don't argue.


*The one hour I spent doing yard work in the past year didn't go too well. See My Last Superpower. That'll teach me to fool with Mother Nature.

**No wonder my "blackberries" never got ripe and turned purple! Good news: it's looking like another bumper crop this year.


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