With the help of our trusty Lab, Spencer, and cat, Mittens, we’re working through our badly neglected berry patch. Yesterday, Will began pulling the photo-degraded plastic tarps off the spaces between the rows, then we used the weed burner to get rid of all those small, unsightly pieces left over, as well as some baby thistles and debris along the fence line. Then Will set out to start pruning the brambles. What a job. Removing all of the dead canes, pulling out wild raspberry bushes and wild roses, pruning the rows, and cutting out the excess canes all ended up in plenty of stickers in his fingers. Today he used gloves! I hate using them, too. But you just can’t get raspberry pickers out of your fingers! I’ve got to haul off all those dead canes to burn, then I’ll start in on cleaning up the fence rows along the berry patch from where all those wild berries come from, sneaking in through underground runners. Our strawberries are hopeless; we let them get too full of grass the year we fell off the barn roof. So we’ll let ’em fruit this year, then we’ll dig the plants, carefully pull their roots free of grass and weeds, and totally re-do that patch.

You know Mittens, the cat that thinks he’s a dog? Well, we got him after the woman said he was a boy. So we always called him “he.” But then he came into heat! Boy, did we feel stupid when we checked. Yep, our boy is a girl! Spencer doesn’t care — they’re still best friends, following us everywhere on the homestead. Mittens has developed into quite a hunter after we gradually let her go outside a little at a time, under supervision. First it was a vole, then the day before yesterday, she brought three garter snakes up onto the porch. I was able to rescue two of them, but she’d killed the third and we felt bad about that. I wish she’d confine her hunting to rodents!

We have an appointment next week to have Mittens spayed. Even though we have no stray cats here, you just never know. And we don’t want to add to the overpopulation of cats, even by accident.


  1. Jackie,
    May I pass on something to your readers. We have adopted 4 Hungarian
    Kuvasz. The last one was a female that we had to get fixed.Well the Kuvasz is like the Great Pyrenees.Big and nothing cheap about them.And
    the requirement for me getting the dog free was to get her fixed. Well the
    local vet was going to charge almost $100. A few days later our UPS
    lady dropped by and she told me to call the dog pound. Here in Montana
    we have 2 vets that go around the state in a mobile van. And they stop at
    the local pounds.One does dogs and the other does cats, almost like a mash unit. It ended up costing me only $35 plus another $10 for all shots,
    including rabies. Rabies alone the last time that I check alone time ago was
    $15 in this state. By any way I don’t know if other states have something
    similar or not. It may be worth checking into.

  2. I can sure sympathize with the berry patch cleanup efforts! We also need to get to that. Thanks for the update Jackie. Always enjoy seeing what you and Will are up to!

  3. Zelda,

    I’ve used the cardboard and carpet before, but didn’t like it when used in a large area. It finally degrades and it is a bear to clean up. We had used poly/fabric (Tyvek) lumber tarps, which we get free at our lumberyard. Free is the key. We just don’t have the extra cash to buy the best mulch and we already had the lumber tarps. We use what we can and hope for the best. Our berry patch is half an acre so it takes a lot of fabric! Some day, I hope. Meanwhile, all of you keep buying my books and we’ll eventually get ‘er done. Meanwhile, it looks much better.


  4. Michelle,

    Well, we really didn’t spend any time looking at Mittens’ back end!!! LOL!


  5. Because plastic does photo-degrade (even if supposedly UV stabilized) you might be more satisfied with used or new carpet scraps (no foam backing), layers of cardboard or a commercial needle punched non-woven weed block fabric (available from FarmTek) (woven weed block tends to come apart on the edges and weeds grow through it) covered with straw between and alongside your rows. The needle punched commercial weight weed block fabric does cost a bit but once done will last for many, many years and you can drive on it without tearing it, so what you spend for materials you save in future maintenance and weeding time and cleaning up brittle shredded plastic. Even if you’ve been carefully guiding your runners, every three years or so it can be a good practice to dig up a strawberry patch and re-do it (some people toss all the plants and buy new because of disease concerns, but I save the runners and toss only the older plants), adding compost and other soil amendments. I totally re-did my raspberries and strawberries this year, digging up and re-planting everything – awful job. (But I wear leather gloves for the raspberries.) Will has my sympathy.

  6. will and spencer and mittens seem to enjoy “working together”. we lost our strawberry patch with circumstances beyond our control at the time. so next year we intend to plant another patch. this year i will make do with strawberry fig jam. it’s almost as good.

  7. I totally sympathize. On our new farm, we inherited many (wild?) blackberry canes in more than one place. I have spent days cleaning out the undergrowth so that we can get in to the patch. The next project is to find a way to prop up the 9 foot canes so we can actually get to the fruit without crawling through their drooping cane tunnel. I hope they are as good as regular raspberries because, at this point, we have none of those. This year we prepare beds for raspberries, currants, blueberries, and strawberries while we heed your warning about the grass.

  8. What’s a weed burner?!?

    When we bought our last house, we inherited a patch of raspberries like that. After much, much work, we got that tangled mess into rows and under control. They gave the BEST berries. When we moved, the new homeowner tore them all out. Sad… sad… sad…

Comments are closed.