Towards Redemption…

The forest across the road.

The forest across the road.

I’ve not posted in awhile. Partly I’m working on two other major writing projects and there’s only so much time I can tolerate in front of a screen. I get antsy, longing to get outside, and am inevitably torn away.chicks

Sometimes I walk the forest path, and a couple times recently I’ve gone by way of the bee hives so as to put my ear against the hive and listen for the humming of thousands of bees keeping their home warm. Today I stopped in to visit the five-week old chicks–recently moved into their Newly Cleaned hen house (windows washed and scrubbed, roosts scraped, cobwebs shop-vac’d). We do this thorough cleaning once a year, wanting the chicks to start with as fresh a home as we can give them. They came out from their warm little corner to check me out, and to practice flying.

But mostly, of late, I’ve been inspired to be outside so I can engage the Himalayan Blackberries that want to take over Fern Creek. These invasive vines have no natural predators and so choke out ferns, elderberry and Oregon grape bushes. I can’t think of a metaphor besides fighting that works to describe what I’m doing. I am tending Fern Creek, but that word calls up an affectionate gentleness that doesn’t capture the effort required. Thorny scratches and pokes all over my body bear witness to my tussle with these vines, some thicker than my thumb, and 20 feet long.

Blackberries before.

Blackberries before.

The slope redeemed. Next we'll plant it in ferns and native grasses.

The slope reclaimed. We’ll plant it in ferns and native grasses.



The hillside across the road is the inspiration that keeps me fighting on behalf of Fern Creek, no matter how overwhelming or impossible the task appears. Trees forest that hillside, with enough space between them to allow a smattering of sunlight which feeds a forest floor full of ferns and a few Oregon grape bushes.

There’s not a blackberry bush in sight.

That hillside makes me believe redemption is possible, that Fern Creek can be reclaimed for the ferns for which it is named.  Pulling vines is a satisfying form of Good Work, after all. Ed and Liz (our basement residents and farm apprentices) are helping me clear a big patch between the gazebo and the road. A bit of yanking and clipping, it turns out, can produce a big pile of vines in an hour or so. I gave three or four hours to the cause today, and figure three to five years of persistence and Fern Creek might be blackberry free. Redeemed, as it were.

I realize it will take a life-time of attention to keep it so.

That’s the thing about blackberries: one needs to stay vigilant. Our neighbors, with the peacefully pristine forest have moved away. Mr. and Mrs. H. aged out, I suppose, no longer able to tend the place adequately. It’s for sale and I’m hoping whomever buys it realizes what a gem of a forest they have inherited to tend. The baton is being passed forward, without any certainty the new caretakers will pick it up.  I imagine Mr. and Mrs. H. hope, and maybe pray, that the beauty of the place will inspire the new owners, so that they find themselves in love with it enough to tend it well.

As squishy as it may sound, it is affection for this bit of land that gets me outside pulling blackberries. I’m counting on an affection that runs deeper than blackberry roots. Isn’t that the way of it? Redemption requires love and persistence, fighting what threatens to undo a place. Or a person. Persistent love.


Dear Mrs. Pollifax keeps me company whatever I'm doing outside. Even when I yanking and tossing vines his direction.

Dear Mrs. Pollifax keeps me company whatever I’m doing outside–even when yanking and tossing vines his direction.




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