Friday, July 4, 2014

holding back, taming, or tending the wild bramble

illustration by Jon Klassen, from House Held Up by Trees, by Ted Kooser

After a long, hot, and dry spell, we have had a series of afternoon thunderstorms bringing much-needed heavy rain.

The yard, which was thirsty and crunchy and in a bit of stasis while water supplies were limited, is again bursting with growth.  And happily -- for this beekeeper -- the white clover seems to be winning the battle with the grass.

It is clear that some plants wish the needed moisture had come a bit less forcefully.  Such as my now flopped over potatoes.

And this heavy rainfall has also caused the river to rise dramatically and turn the color of my morning coffee. 

Between the midday heat and the afternoon thunderstorms, I am trying to take on small projects tending the garden and salvaging the Fedco fruit plants we put in in the early spring.

My impulse purchase of grapevines, for an arbor that did then not exist, has been growing.  Horizontally instead of vertically.

I had been waiting for Jonathan to construct the arbor he planned.  But I took matters into my own hands, since he was busy traveling and doing other things on the list I had created for him.

Left to my own devices, I used the medium I am working in so often these days.  Guache, you ask?  Watercolor?  No.  Wire fencing and wire snips.  And for this project, nails I scavenged from the scary post-insulation basement.

 I was building the trellis on the gate into the garden, just up the bank from the bramble on the riverbank.

Having passed some time scavenging for ticks and bugs in the bramble (the best tick control system we have found after many different attempts), our two hens kept me company while I worked, enjoying the beetles and worms and greens.

Clearly getting a bit confused by this new obstruction to their typical route between garden and bramble.

I even snagged Jonathan and his height for a some high hammering when he returned home to find me swaying on my precariously tippy stepladder, holding onto the wooden frame while flailing with my hammer.

And now, our Fedco grapes have been rescued.  And given a bit more of what they need to thrive.  A bit more vertical to counteract their horizontal.  These plants I would like to grow and climb and cover this "arbor".

I hope, with time, the hens can figure out to step two feet to the right so that they can walk around the fencing, and not act like I have trapped them.  I rushed them back to the coop as the lightening got too close for comfort and headed back inside the house.

The next morning, early, before we jaunted off for the holiday weekend, I headed back outside.  I admired the trellis for a few moments, so pleased was I with my fencing skills.  I was planning to work in the garden a bit, pulling the weeds that were growing as fast at the squash vines and pumpkins.  And I wanted to replant a few rows of the groundhog-nibbled lettuces, kale, and herbs.  But instead the wild bramble, flourishing just as much as the garden plants and the weeds, caught my eye.  And there was a bit of a buzz and movement coming from the thickets, as the heat hit the dew, causing a hazy mist to rise off it.

Clearly, if we all left, not in an apocalypse kind of way, but let's say we headed off for a few years to an iceberg to see the polar bears, or set up shop in a villa in Tuscany, the riverbank's bramble would spread its blackberry, wild rose and all other kinds of plants I can't identify across the yard, up over the house and crowd its way right around our huge tree, Sylvia, who would likely be the only thing that would still be visible above the tangle.  Something much like what Alan Weisman imagines in The World Without Us.  Or what Ted Kooser and Jon Klassen have created.

Our wild bramble would provide plenty of berries for all the wildlife to live off of.

There is also a wild plant down there; it seems astilbe-ish to me.  And it is so happy in the heat and sun.  It also is forage to an insect or bee that is not honeybee.  In fact, this plant is covered with these insects, and I have not seen a single one of my honeybees collecting nectar on it.  Though my honeybees do like the blackberries.  There's something for everyone down there apparently.

With buds.

With insects.

Pollen sacks full.

Giving this plant some space so as not to potentially anger the cloud of foragers upon it, I headed higher up the bank.  And saw this, my new fruit tree patch, which I had cleared just months before to plant fruit trees from Fedco there.  It had been a clear area, with the bramble trimmed back and controlled just a week ago (maybe a bit longer, it has been wicked hot).  And now?  I could not find the trees for the bramble.

There was a bit of reclaiming that needed to be done.  And tending to things we had tried to add to the border of the bramble, pushing back the wild a bit so that these foreigners could breathe and thrive.  I set to work.  First, I needed to find the trees.  So as not to mistakenly lop them off.

I recently purchased this new tool from Maine Hardware, at their wise suggestion, of course.

I love these shears so.

In time, I had located the fruit trees and begun the work of cutting back the wild.  

There is more to do, but the rumbling of thunder again was getting too close.  So I promised the trees I would be back soon.  We are off for the weekend to our family camp.  And then?  I will return to try again to tame the wild.  To tend the planted plants we place, here, ironically to try to live off this land.  We love our blackberries and the bramble that feeds and shelters the wildlife that lives here.  But we need to find a balance so that both can grow.  The bramble is the border between wild and tamed.  And we are left to try to maintain the boundary and find a balance between wild and tended.

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