Tuesday, July 17, 2012


For the immediate future, we won't need about two-thirds of the south pasture for animals. Our fencing plan will cut off the eastern portion of it, open land to be enclosed later.  It's not only far from the house, it's out of sight, and tucked in to the woods in such a way that the foxes, and sometimes coyotes and bears*, make as much use of it as we do.  When we do get around to using it, it will be for larger animals, and may require a guard animal.

There used to be a good bramble hedge between us and the farmland to the south, but the man who leases the field -- we call him Chemical Ali -- tells me that glyphosate herbicide is "so safe you can drink it -- my son is a biochemist** and he says so."

So I now avoid the surviving blackberries that grow just past their deceased hedge-mates on the edge of the mutant soybean desert.  Where the hedge is thicker, the ones on our side are okay.

I'm managing these acres as a blackberry meadow.

Berries are borne on two-year-old canes -- the thorny shoot forms from the root runners during one growing season, flowers and fruits the following year, then dries out and forms the dead tangle that catches your arms and legs and eyeballs as you try to pick fruit for the ensuing years.  It also allows bigger shrubs and noxious plants such as multiflora and poison ivy to take over, and can hold funk in wet years, contributing to mold and rot that damages plants and ruins berries.

There are ways of getting to the berries high on the bramble headwall. 

So I am mowing 1/3 of the reserve portion of the south pasture every year -- in late fall or winter, when I get to it and no critters are eating it or nesting in it.

This is the first year the practice has borne fruit. And how.

Despite drought conditions, the crop this year is vigorous.  Plenty for us, for the birds, the Pope, our friends.

So we hosted an impromptu Blackberry Day on Sunday.  About sixteen people and six dogs went pasture-picking.

Yes, during berry season, everyone eats berries and poops seeds. (Thanks to Scott Jackson, AMRG teammate, for catching Sophia on his phone.)

Okay, there are some high-maintenance individuals who don't get with the program ...

After a shift out in the blazing sun, adults, kids and dogs were all ready to come in to the shade of the porch and enjoy some of Eric's blackberry crepes.

Followed by a brief, blessed thunderstorm, followed by:


* Either that or the Pope has been dropping by at night.

** I don't think he went to, you know, a good school.

Perfesser Chaos has a PhD in biochemistry from Harvard. His response to the notion of having Ali pay us for the right to kill every green (and otherwise) thing in our hayfield -- just above our water well -- with an environmentally persistent poison, and inject GMO corn and soybeans there, is not printable.


  1. Most excellent. [Note to self: blackberry smoothies.]

  2. Oh, how I miss picking blackberries with my Gunnar dog! The first time we went picking, I couldn't figure out why it was taking me so long to fill my bucket. (I'm a little slow witted sometimes.) He learned to pick his own berries after that.

    Then there was the time a little black bear cub crawled out of the blackberries.... I nearly messed myself because I knew his mama had to be nearby, but I didn't know where. I'm not afraid of bears, but I know better than to get between a sow & one of her cubs. Well, I turned around to grab Gunnar, who was behind me... No Gunnar. Oh crap. Looked at the bear cub again.... Oh. Not a bear cub. Whew! (Dunno how I missed the wide white blaze on his chest!)

  3. Seven years ago, I stopped using cane sugar, which meant no more ice cream. Which was a very, very big sacrifice. VERY.

    A few days ago, I found a vanilla ice cream made with agave nectar -- which I decided was worth a try (agave has very low glycemic index).

    Thus, Sunday night I had freshly picked Brandywine blackberries (unsprayed) with VANILLA ICE CREAM ... ! Klunk!

    Plus Blackberry Day happened to fall on my final day of vacation and it was the perfect activity to end the week. Plus that farm is one of my favorite places.

    Hence I declare the spiders and beetles and most likely snakes were so worth it.

  4. Did you get enough for jam?

  5. Well, I suppose if you're only considering the oral toxicity of glyphosate itself (very low), and ignoring the adjuvants and "other ingredients" (which pesticide companies aren't required to list on the label), then yes, it's "safe to drink".

    I guess compared to other broad-leaf herbicides, say 2,4-D or , it's not QUITE so bad environmentally; It at least will bind very quickly to organic matter in the soil and thus you wont get as much collateral damage (except the earthworms, of course) and not as quick to runoff into streams. It breaks down relatively quickly, and, once bound to soil, is not likely to be taken up by plant roots.

    It's because its on the "lesser of several evils" list that glyphosate is usually the chemical of choice for invasive plant control in situations where physical controls aren't feasible. A great example is Japanese knotweed - you can't chop it up because every little bit of plant that lands on the ground could sprout a new plant. They'll actually inject glyphosate into the stem for very targeted control that kills from root to leaves so you can remove the dead plants later without worrying about missing any.


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