Since I lost my job in March, I have been compelled to work in our yard, beginning with digging out the blackberry bulbs that I missed last summer. It seemed like a positive way to deal with the mixed emotions I was feeling. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know I need to move forward, starting with completing several projects around the house. If I trust my head, I don’t know much of anything, but in my gut, it felt like an opportune time to get my house in order.
Another factor in my impulse to start digging, aside from the metaphorical emotional cleansing, is that it has been raining almost daily since October, leaving the soil soft and malleable. We just broke last year’s record for most rainfall during the months of October to April- 44.67″ total. I don’t think I am alone in saying that the grey, albeit with a few sun breaks, is getting on people’s nerves. After living here for 17 years, I’ve become a believer in the sun affecting a person’s psychology.
On the plus side, last summer the soil was tough to penetrate. This spring, digging was a breeze. Some roots practically came out by themselves.
Here is a picture of some of the larger blackberry bulbs I pulled out. I took pleasure in my work, but it wasn’t always easy. Some of the roots extended deep into the ground and I just cut where I reached a “good enough” place. Growing up in apartments, I never experienced blackberry bushes before. These things are persistent. I counted 30 when I gathered them together for this picture.
Some of them look like specimens from another planet. This one looks like a heart. Or maybe a liver? A tumor?
Before we moved into our house, I agonized over maiming a plant, much less killing it. The first time I cut a vine, I felt guilty and asked the plant for forgiveness. In my attempt to be more communal with nature, I worked with my bare hands and tried to keep the integrity of the vine, which sometimes spanned 12 feet, by not cutting its midsection.
After my hands got scratched up a few too many times, I bought rubber gloves. (In hindsight, invest in the pricier leather ones if you want to avoid pricks.) Still, clipping and untangling each one was taking a long time. I began appreciating the use for a machete. Instead, my husband took out a chainsaw. The vines were down in 15 minutes. All I had to do was carry them to the compost pile. In a few weeks, I had gone from being remorseful about cutting each vine to being glad they were gone.
I pulled out as many bulbs as I could before the winter rainy weather set in. I didn’t get to all of them. There were new shoots this spring, some 4 feet long.
If there was a nuclear holocaust, I wouldn’t be surprised if some blackberries survived underground and eventually took over the world. Glancing periodically at the pile on the deck motivated me to keep jamming my shovel into the dirt.
I also finished digging the ditch for the pipe that connects to the sump pump in the crawl space.
The other part of the house that has been an eyesore and a drain on my energy is the backyard deck. I’ve fallen through it twice. My husband replaced some of boards and covered up others. This past Saturday at 5 pm, after Polina woke from her nap, he took out the chainsaw again, something we had never owned before buying this house, but becoming a staple in our neck of suburbia.
Our deck before-
Polina played in my mulch pile, including sliding down the board.
And generally entertained herself and was very happy.
It didn’t take long to take apart the deck. By 9 pm, everyone was showered and eating take out.
There are hardly any pictures of me working because I am the documenter in the family. Lest Polina forget I did anything, I asked Pete to take a picture of me.
I am the person that took the debris to the woodpile.
And cleaned up the deck so now it looks like this-
I have to say I feel better with the deck gone. Now comes the tougher part- paying for lumber. This will happen. We pay for everything or we don’t do it. But why, with all of the tall trees in the Pacific Northwest, does a part of one have to cost $1300? Fortunately, our tax refund makes a difference, and May has almost 5 pay periods, another advantage. Why do we even do this? Well, we’d like to have guests at some point. It would be nice to have a stable deck to walk on. Although our house has appreciated almost 90% since we bought it almost 3 years ago, fixing it up has also been a drain. We are still ahead, but I long for the day when we are finished with the major projects.
And I can convince my husband to buy new blinds.