To look at the picture above is to stimulate the taste buds for many of us. Naturally sweet, wild “California Blackberry” can be found throughout California–along creeksides, riverbeds and, yes, even in backyards in riparian woodland…here, where the Bylsmas live! Michaela and I have gone on horseback on our “berry tasting tour” every August for the past few years, delighting human and horse tastebuds alike. (You should see Breezy scrape the berries off the top of the prickly branches! It is quite humorous!)

Five years ago, when we moved here, there were no blackberry bushes within sight of our house. Definitely *not* in the area outside that became our dog yard. Our dog yard is enclosed by a 100 foot fence along each side. It is a hillside, marked by a number of oaks and Douglas Fir trees and makes a great playland for our two dogs, Jordan and Daisy.

Two years ago, my daughter and I saw the first sign of a little wild blackberry plant spring up in our backyard. Enamoured with the idea of having sweet, fresh blackberries right outside our door, rather than having to go hiking or on a horseback ride to find them (we have done both), we allowed the “cute little plant” to live–even during May when it is time to be sure we weed whack everything living that could contribute to the threat of fire (like lots of weeds in the backyard). We live in California fire country…

The first year, the “little” blackberry bush grew quite a bit–but modestly nevertheless. So last year, when it was time to do our “fire safe” work on the place, it was CLEAR we had to cut some of it back. While it hadn’t provided fruit in its first year, we were just sure it would in its second year. We cut it back quite a bit, being oh-so-careful to leave some of it. We eagerly waited for the end of summer, when all the blackberry bushes that we have ever seen have marvelous fruit exploding from their branches.

August of 2007 came and went with NO blackberries. Not only that, but the bush branches themselves went nuts. The cutting back we did previously was just what the bush(es?) needed to receive permission to grow exponentially. Quail made their home what could easily be known as “Bylsma Bre’er.” The dogs certainly weren’t impressed by the way the brambles were taking over their domain. They love chasing the quail, but the stickers that find the dogs’ paws when they venture too close to the briars is another story entirely. The dogs have learned quickly to keep their distance.

This spring, it was clear that the California Blackberry had about taken over the dog yard. NOT a good thing. The NASTY thorns dominated much of the yard! The quail have had their babies and have moved on. And for the record? Last year, the bush didn’t produce fruit either. In fact, not even flowers (yes, I know the two are related..LOL!).

This morning dawned and the deadline for being “fire safe compliant” is upon us (nothing can be more than 4 inches tall and these bushes have been taking up about 50×20 feet in the backyard…they were growing as tall as 4 feet high in places!). At 7am, I took my weed whacker out there, equipped with a metal slicing blade, ready to make mincemeat of the blackberry…once and for all! I would WIN this war if it KILLED ME!

Hitting a rock a couple of times, seeing sparks fly into the dry weeds about made my heart stop and I rethought my strategy. One thing led to another…I abandoned the metal blade, bought a machete, tried it, abandoned that, equipped my weed whacker with beveled thin string, had a fight with my daughter :-(, found myself energized (funny how that is)…and went out there and attacked the blackberries with a vengance!

There is now carnage everywhere. I definitely won that assault round.

As He often does, God used the experience to bring home some truths to me. I will write about those tomorrow…I give all of this account as background. But I wanted to share some things that I read *after* I assaulted the blackberry bushes today…after I proudly boasted to my family of my triumph!

I read the following…AFTER I had gone my rounds with the plant vermin, at this website (UC Davis, an agricultural resource in our area):

“Wild blackberries are able to regenerate from the crown or rhizomes following mowing, burning, or herbicide treatment. This makes them difficult to control, and control measures often require follow-up treatment. Land managers often rely on a combination of mechanical and chemical control methods followed by a prescribed burn to dispose of vegetative material.

“Because of the extensive underground root system, digging out the plants in a home landscape is a difficult undertaking. Home gardeners generally must rely on foliage-applied herbicide treatments to control an infestation of wild blackberries.

“Bulldozing can also cause resprouting and can spread the weed by means of root and stem fragmentation.
“Mowing is not an effective means of controlling wild blackberries. In many cases it stimulates the formation of suckers from lateral roots and induces branching. Despite the lack of long-term control, however, mowing or chopping can provide short-term canopy reduction that will encourage the growth of grasses and broadleaf plants.

“Burning, like mowing, is not an effective long-term strategy because wild blackberry plants vigorously resprout from rhizomes. However, like mowing, it also provides short-term canopy reduction.”

Did you catch all of that? This stuff is TOUGH to get rid of. I have once again just done what this “little” plant needs to become BIGGER and MORE PROLIFIC than ever! Our little flirtation with the notion of letting “sweet blackberries” exist right “out our back door” has resulted in a major INFESTATION that we may NEVER get on top of! Short of mowing, removing the stalks (stickers not withstanding), spraying with HERBICIDE (gasp!), and burning whatever is left and being ready to repeatedly rototill the remains…I am not sure we WILL win this war. We have merely prolonged the inevitable. In fact, my best effort to win this have, as in the past, resulted in PROMOTING MORE OF THE BRAMBLES to take over!!!!

Tomorrow’s blog entry I want to share the things God whispered to my heart while I was out there in my self-righteous frenzy, hacking violently away at the blackberries.