My hands and forearms are a painful mess of little cuts – I can see black thorns dotted all under my inflamed skin. We’ve been away for the summer and “the blackberry situation” at our place has gotten away from us. This weekend I’ve been slashing and grubbing out blackberry, we’ll spray the regrowth with organic pine-oil to knock it back, get the cows in to graze the flush after that and then plant out more trees to build a thicker canopy. The cycle will start up again next year and the year after that – I know this will be a “gift” I’ll pass onto my grandkids.
Tearing out another root ball I can’t help thinking that the blackberry is just doing it’s job – covering disturbed ground until trees grow up and shade it out. And in my more reflective moments I have come to admire its tenacity and ingenuity – the way it sends out a cane onto new ground that forms roots to make a new plant. The way it stores energy in its root corm so if I cut it back it just regrows. How its masses of delicious berries get eaten and spread by foxes and birds over neighbouring farms for kilometres around. And then despite my gloves and long shirt sleeves how those demoralising thorns still get through. My fingers throb as I type these words It’s not easy stopping nature from what it wants to do.
Looking at the towering patch left in front of me I feel like I’m being put into ecological perspective. I am a disturber – a member of a species that has a genius for interrupting natural cycles, it defines us and we have thrived because of it. Farming is all about disturbance, think ploughing and hoeing, without it our gardens turn to grassland then forest, But there’s a balance to disturbance – too much and we ruin the productivity of our land. Too little and the “weeds” take over. The most creative farmers use disturbance in the most subtle ways and figure out how to work with the bacteria, fungi, plants, insects or animals to the advantage of all, These are the Joel Salatin’s
, Mansanobo Fukoaka’s
and George Chan’s
of this world. The Zen masters of ecological agriculture.
I just wish I was smart enough to work out how to be at one with my blackberry.
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