Our house is on the west-facing slope of a ridge, with the Redwood National and State Parks beginning at the top of the ridge behind us, and the Pacific Ocean in front of us (less than a mile away as the crow flies). Our elevation is about 50 feet, so if global warming does raise the oceans 20 feet, we will eventually have beachfront property. For now we are on a shale/clay slope, with numerous springs popping up throughout the neighborhood. We get the wind off the ocean (sometimes a LOT), and when it’s not overcast/foggy/raining our property gets sunshine all the way through until sunset (no big trees to the south or west).
Apparently this combination makes blackberry bushes very happy. We have LOTS of blackberry bushes, growing all on their own without any encouragement from us. In another month there will be lots of blackberries to eat. I don’t can or freeze them, but while they are there we eat them on a daily basis, usually from bush to hand to mouth — they never make it into the house. The bushes are HUGE (ten feet high in some areas of the yard), currently covered with white blossoms that the hummingbirds love. In one area of the yard the thicket of berry bushes is so dense, am pretty sure various small birds have safely made their nests there. The bushes also make a great privacy shield, keeping fence climbing boys out and keeping various neighbors from being able to stare into our backyard through their chainlink fences (and vice versa).
Berry bushes are very difficult to get rid of. If this area were ground zero for a nuclear blast (highly unlikely), am sure berry bushes would be the first sign of life afterward. Wouldn’t be surprised if they mutated and tried to take over the continent, like Godzilla, or the ants in “Them.” I’ve been told you can safely use the herbicide “Roundup” to kill them, but even then you have to use it undiluted, and sometimes they still come back. (I try to be organic, so that option doesn’t appeal, anyway.) I once tried to get rid of the berry bushes along our driveway, cutting them back, then digging out the roots. I spent a year digging out roots, letting the ground lie fallow, and then digging out any bushes that began from the roots that remained. The bushes are ten feet high along there again.
Then there is the question of what to do with the brush you cut back. Composting is out of the question — every tiny bit is apt to spout again. Burning messes with the air quality, and I don’t like the smoke and ash that spreads over the neighborhood. So I cut the canes and branches into small sections, and fill one trash can a week with brush. We have a section along our garage that we’ve decided to clear out this Summer, so I may be filling dumpsters with brush soon.
The thing is — I LIKE cutting back the berry bushes. It means I get outdoors, connect with nature, and get some exercise. If I’m unhappy about something, or depressed, or just need to think (or conversely, not to think), I go out and cut berry bushes. Nature always makes me feel better anyway. And I get to feel I’m doing something useful. My son suggested it’s a spiritual exercise for me — like those people who create mandalas, and when one is done they get rid of it and begin another one. There will ALWAYS be berry bushes. I think he may have a point there. Some people sweep floors, or wash dishes, or knit, or weave, or whatever. It’s a “time-out” where you get lost in the flow, and though nothing has really changed, when you are done you feel better.
I cut berry bushes — what do you do?