A Place Worth Staying

 

A record-breaking early snow dusted the blackberries on October 14, 2018

I have seen these bushes in searing heat, in driving rain, and a thousand times as I drive past and walk to and fro. This morning I stopped and looked at the rye grass and radishes carpeting the ground, and at the tresses of berries dusted with snow, and I just stared.

We as Americans, and I am very much an American, have a burning, driving, pushing desire to go, to get there, to complete and move to the next. I think it is tied to the encounter our ancestors had with a land so big that it defied calculation, we got excited, I think we are still a little bit excited. Its why we could build the highway system, and I appreciate that I can drive 75MPH across our nation, but I am mostly thankful that I can go fast so that I get somewhere and get out of the car. 

One of the great challenges for us as Americans is to stop going and assume that the places we live are where we will be for most if not all our lives. The world we create should be one of interest, one of joy, one of peace, one of excitement, and one that stops us even after a thousand times seeing it and causes us to just stare at the simple beauty of it all and remember that we need to do a lot of going in our lives, but we may never leave where we are, so tend and dress the land, create spaces and products that are lovely, enduring, and noble, and stop long enough to soak it all in.

George Elder

Peril and Joy

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The Longfield Bramble

A gambler who plays for fun understands only the brief thrill of mindless chance. A gambler who enters in with knowledge and can acutely calculate the odds and weigh the chance to his favor is a professional. He strives to understand his peril and he continues to risk, resting on his calculation that the odds are within a knowable universe, and that those odds well calculated can be turned to advantage. Growers are gamblers of a sort and this is the season when we are weighing our odds and taking our chances.

Our new bramble looks orderly and sedate. If you walk around it all the plants are bare, and the ground is all garbed in winter’s brown. But, a bramble in winter is the scene of drama and excitement. Out at the end of Row 17 you can find the remnants of a struggle between a grower and a rabbit who took up blackberry plants as part of his diet. I am afraid that rabbit won’t write home to tell about his newfound diet and I better not catch his relatives in there either.

 

Cane sections labeled for bud dissection
Cane sections labeled for bud dissection

The main show these days is inside these plants. When we look at dormant plants all we see is their unassuming outside, a bare skin studded with tiny buds, all in dull shades of red, brown, and gray. But underneath life is moving towards reproduction, or death is slowly settling into the tissue. Buds once undecided between floral or deciduous growth are making their choice. Buds damaged in one of our cold snaps have already sung their dirge and are slowly drifting into complete non-existence, but buds that are still alive are preparing for their gaudy display when they can unfurl the white petals and produce a blackberry.

Armed with a razor blade, an LED light and a dissection scope, I spend an hour or so every two weeks counting death and life, always hoping, but always aware that even when you know the odds, you have to risk to play the game.

 

 

So far, 2016 is looking like a great year, but many days of peril lie before us before winter and spring give way to the season when these plants will finally come into their own.

-George Elder