Blueberries and Blackberries -- 09/18/03

Jill and I were looking at a Miller Nurseries catalog today -- they are a plant nursery company in upstate New York. (They describe their plants as being "Canandaigua tough" -- that is, if a plant can survive an upstate New York winter, it can survive where you live.)

I had planted several blueberry bushes (from Miller, of course) the year (1980) that Nancy and I bought our house in Binghamton, NY, so by the time Jill was born (1982) those bushes were in full production and she was used to being able to pick blueberries in her own backyard. I added a couple more blueberry bushes and some blackberry and raspberry bushes as well. The blackberries and raspberries tried -- Little Shop of Horrors style -- to conquer the world and I had to hack them away, but finally we came to a truce where they grew in the back corner of our yard (and spread behind the neighbor's garage as well). So she was also used to being able to pick blackberries in the backyard.

She has wanted me to grow blueberries and blackberries -- especially blackberries -- since we moved to this house almost eight years ago (well, it will be eight years this winter). I did get some plants several years ago, but they arrived just before a very busy weekend and I found myself attempting to plant them in the fading light at the end of a cold and windy Sunday. We don't have good soil around here -- there's a reason New England farmers built all of those stone walls -- to get rid of all of the stones the glaciers dumped here at the end of the last ice age. So I did not properly prepare the ground nor dig large enough holes. (Well, I did dig good holes for the lilac bushes I planted that day and they are thriving,, but by the time I got to the berries it was getting almost too dark to see what I was doing and it was cold and damp and I was very tired.) We do have a pair of blueberry bushes by our back deck and they do produce blueberries, but they have never grown as big and productive as the ones we used to have. I had to take out a blackberry bush that threatened to conquer the deck railings with its thorny branches. The grape vines look lovely next to my vegetable garden, but birds eat the grapes before they are ripe enough to pick and then Japanese beetles gobble the leaves. Actually, we have managed to fight the beetles fairly well this year, but that just meant that the birds were able to have more grapes to eat. (Why don't they eat the damned beetles!)

I think I'm going to order a dozen blueberries (2 each of six different varieties) and half a dozen (thorn free) blackberries. Hmmm, what else? I've been thinking about dwarf fruit trees for the past few years, but can never decide what to get or where to put them. The front yard is nice and sunny but the other three sides of our lot are lined with oak trees and the somewhat sunny areas of the backyard have already been claimed by vegetable gardens or Nancy's flowers. They'll ship sometime in late October or early November. The thing I'm going to have to do is prepare the planting area ahead of time, remove rocks, dig good holes, remove rocks, mix in some compost, etc.

Thinking about garden stuff... I've got to get some spring bulbs too.

I worked from home today -- which meant I started around 6:30 am -- tied up the phone line all morning because somebody at work sent me a 76 megabyte file. So in the late afternoon took a cup of coffee outside and looked around at the yard (which is what spurred the thought that it was time to think about placing a plant order) and was picturing my grandson playing in the yard. Wow.

There's a woman in town, lives not too far from where we do, who will be celebrating her birthday in a week and a half from now. She was born here in South Kingstown in 1899. Her mother died when she was just a toddler and she was adopted by an apparently childless local couple (they had been married twenty years at the time of the adoption -- he was the owner of a carriage making business where her birth father worked as a blacksmith). Her early childhood was spent in the horse and buggy era -- she remembers the day she first saw an automobile pass through the village of Wakefield. She graduated from high school in 1916 and then commuted by train to Providence for business school and then she took a job in the Peace Dale library. She got married in 1919 to a boy who had been in her senior class at high school. She had children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. Today she lives with her daughter and she usually rides shotgun during her daughter's weekly meals-on-wheels deliveries. The newspaper quoted her as saying that if she were to be young again she would travel more (although she also noted that she and her late husband spent several winters in Florida and that she has done some traveling, including to Hawaii and Australia). The day after her 104th birthday, my son Adam will celebrate his 35th birthday. (I've already had my birthday for this year and I'm somewhere in between their ages.)

Just got a phone call from my youngest. He has no Thursday classes (which sounds good, but on the other hand he does have Saturday morning classes) and so yesterday he drove up to New Hampshire to visit a friend who is going to college up there. He said he would start back early Friday morning in time to get to his Friday classes. Oh, and by the way (ah, yes, fellow parents, don't you just love those little interjections), this afternoon he got a tattoo. [Note to daughter: please do not get nose or eyebrow pierced, thank you very much.]

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