Blackberries, bread, the joy of science, and other randomata

This post will probably make my friend Phil unhappy again, but I hope he’ll forgive me.

It’s been a busy two days. Yesterday I spent all day going down to Waldport for my writers’ group meeting. That was fun. Tuesday is my day for me. The weather was gorgeous, the beaches lovely, and all in all it left me feeling rested and refreshed. Today was a different matter.

I started bread mid-morning, and things didn’t go right from the start. I know where I fouled it up. I proofed the yeast in water that was just too warm. When I looked at it, I knew that, but I used it anyway. And it worked, sort of, but it’s not up to the standard I’m used to. I’m sitting here waiting for the timer bell to see how dreadful it really is. If it’s too bad, I’ll go bonk moles on the head with it.

But while the bread was rising (or in this case not rising very well) I went out and worked on the area behind the house that’s been so neglected. That’s where the blackberries come in, and the part that will probably upset Phil.

As I may have mentioned, we have three separate and distinct forms of blackberries here: mountain berries, Himalayas, and ground berries. I love the taste of blackberries. I buy blackberry yogurt, blackberry scones, make blackberry pies and cobblers, and so on.

But I think how you feel about blackberry bushes is really dependent on where you live. I live on a hundred acres of subtropical rain forest. We had just an inch shy of 100 inches of rain last year. I have seen blackberry bushes put on as much as 6 feet of new growth on a single runner in a day. Keeping them under control is a major problem. If you don’t keep them under control, they quickly take over and suffocate everything else.

A friend of mine who lives in eastern Oregon (where they get about one-tenth the rain we do) once wrote me proudly that he had trellised the blackberries in his yard. After I picked myself up off the floor from laughing so hard, I wrote him back a sort of smart-aleck note that I suspect insulted him. But the truth of the matter is that here the only way you can really pick berries in quantity is to throw a piece of plywood across the front of the mound of bushes and walk up on it to get to where the really good berries are. The blackberry bushes suffer from this for at least an hour and half. Then they grow another six feet.

But the worst are the ground berries. They crawl along the ground taking root every few inches, or send a runner root snaking out 4-5 feet with a bud every few inches that will grow into a new plant. So I spent most of the afternoon pulling these plants and roots out of the duff in my little garden area behind the house. I killed a lot of blackberries today, or at least I will have if we actually get them hauled away before the root at the edge of the golf course/meadow.

I sat up late last night to hear the last of my “Joy of Science” lectures and discovered another reason that SETI research my not succeed that’s sort of related to the one Brent pointed out. Any intelligent life able to communicate would quickly become bored with radio technology and switch to something more advanced. So there might be a very narrow window in time for all of those radio signals to succeed.

I don’t know if you’ve ever even heard of The Teaching Company, but they’re willing to teach you something on almost any topic you want to know about. These are individual courses offered on CD or DVD or both, depending on the importance of visuals to the course. The courses rang in length from 12 half-hour lectures to 84 half-hour lectures. I’ve done several of their courses, the latest being the 60-lecture “Joy of Science.” I think what I like best is that they help me put a lot of the miscellaneous information I’ve accumulated in a lifetime into a greater context.

Ben just interrupted me to come hear a tape of him playing the guitar and singing a little more than 38 years ago. It was about the time I met him. He’s had these reel-to-reel tapes all this time and no way to play them. But that’s story for another time. Remind me to tell you about music and Guild guitars if I forget.

Now, my dinger just went off and I need to go see how bad the damage really is.


3 Responses to “Blackberries, bread, the joy of science, and other randomata”

  1. Josh Bancroft Says:

    Hope the bread turns out. When I lived in Brazil, I actually baked bread fairly regularly (my wife doesn’t believe me, since I haven’t done it once in the 6 years we’ve been married). I’ve done the “yeast in too hot [milk]” thing before, and the result wasn’t pretty (or fluffy).

    Blackberries grow six feet in a day!? Holy cow! I knew they were rampant, but that’s just nuts. I say nuke ’em from orbit – it’s the only way to be sure. 🙂

  2. Phil Ferris Says:


    My love for the blackberry is great, but not irrational. I can understand entirely the need to thin out, it’s the same with trees that I also have a love for, (though they are not on the whole edible so the blackberry wins through).

    If something has to be done for the greater good then let it be done with love and compassion. As you say the growth is immense and will carry the crop through.

    What drives me mad is the continual urge people have to radically alter the landscape. On my way to work the other day I saw a few hundred yards of hedge that had been ripped out. “What’s so terrible about that?” you may ask. These hedges have been there for over 400 years, by my reckoning. What crucial need caused them to be ripped up? Who knows, the hedge was replaced within weeks by another Cornish hedge, same height and overall design. Aaaaagggghhhhhh!! The is a line of gnarled old trees that line one of the main routes into my village, again it is something that has remained unchanged for hundreds of years. Some new people have moved in to an adjacent property and within months a large length them had been chopped down leaving a bare hedge top, (and before anyone says it, yes – at least they did leave the hedge).

    So you are still in my good books and I am still an enthralled reader, rest assured it will take more than the passing of a few blackberries to come between us.

    It funny how coincidences occur. I too have reel to reel tapes, in our spare room, made by my grandfather in the 1960s. I have yet to locate a local facility to transfer them to the digital format.

  3. mklekacz Says:

    Well, I’m relieved that Phil isn’t mad. . .;^} Phil, I’ll answer your comment in another post.

    Josh, the bread wasn’t totally hopeless. I salvaged some of the worst this morning by turning it into French toast. But next time my yeast doesn’t look right and I know I’ve pushed the temperature envelope by being more hurried than I should be, I’m definintely throwing it out and starting over.

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