Blackberries are considered an invasive species in United States, because they are not native. They were only introduced to the US in the 1880s. It’s difficult to find much information on exactly who brought them over, probably because, as my brush remover guy said, “I’d like to dig him up and kill him again.”
I love eating blackberries, but when we moved to our new property, I was not pleased to see most of the slopes surrounding the main yard were covered in them. I prefer to procure my blackberries from other people’s neglected yards. We hired the brush cutter suggested by the previous owner, who did not maintain the majority of the shrubs. They really needed to be removed before they invaded us like an old B-movie monster.
I was thrilled there was someone close by who could help us and as he delivered his machinery onto our land, I felt we were knocking this land ownership thing out of the park. I felt good when he started in on the bank below our little barn. I was okay by the time he made it across the area. I became a bit concerned when he began a third humongous pile we’d have to burn. I soon discovered land looks much smaller when it’s covered by blackberries. I couldn’t watch.
By the time he made it to the bottom of the first slope, I was indoors taking care of household tasks. My husband came in and said, “You should go look and make sure it’s what you wanted.” I hired the guy to do a job; I didn’t feel I needed to check up on him. But I dutifully put on my boots and tromped out there. I not only observed he’d made it to the bottom of the hill, but he was in a large corner I didn’t even know was ours. I panicked. I knew we owned everything to the fence, I just didn’t fathom how vast it was until all the blackberries were gone.
I rushed in and told my husband he had to make him stop. The reality of how many piles we’d have to burn, how much property there actually was, and the amount of maintenance we’d have to do to keep it that way pushed my previous “I-am-landowner-hear-me-roar” assuredness into a vortex of despair. My hubby headed down the hill as I frantically searched for the brush guy from the top. By that time he had moved to the front area.
The brush cutter stopped as my husband approached. After conferring, he dismounted and headed up the hill towards me. I was attempting not to freak out when he said, “Talk to me.” I burst into tears and rushed into the house, leaving my husband to try and explain my behavior.
It had been an emotional week with the death of our friend, and my husband used that to cover for me, but seriously it was one of those moments when I realized we probably bit off more than we could chew. I pulled myself together enough to go back and explain that I panicked over the extent of the work we would need to do just to finish the job, not to mention the task of keeping the blackberries at bay. I gave him my blessing to resume his work.
Later, once I was back to my normal level of insanity, I thought of the possibilities of having a little forest park. Perhaps it’s an overzealous dream, but at least it grounded me for the time being. And if nothing else, I can grow blackberries down there.
Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in a neighborhood near you. You can read more of her writing on her website livingwithgleigh.com; to see pictures illustrating her columns, follow her on Facebook at “Living with Gleigh by Gretchen Leigh. Her column is always available at maplevalleyreporter.com under the Life section.