Raspberries I Have Loved

It’s probably something to do with the unusual heat, but all my berries are coming ready about two weeks earlier than usual this year.

Our fridge is already full of saskatoon berries (some of which are destined for a fate of pie later this morning) and over the last couple days I’ve spent nearly an hour in the thorny brambles of my raspberry bushes plucking the tasty red berries from their hiding spots.

Weeks, literally weeks, after we moved into our house over sixteen years ago, I dug a small hole into the newly graded soil of our backyard and planted a root-ball of a raspberry cultivar.

All those years later, after ups and downs, good seasons and bad, incidents with wafting herbicides, a sad pruning mistake by my wife many years ago, and many attempts to train and constrain the patch, I have a plot of land that’s roughly, consistently, five square meters in size and densely packed with raspberry plants.

We pick and eat them fresh. We pluck pail-fulls that become pies or other pastry deserts. We drop them into cereal or on ice cream. We share them with th neighbours. We live for a short month on the bounty of garden raspberries that for a brief moment seems endless and plentiful.

Until it’s suddenly gone.

Gone, and we are stuck buying expensive little plastic clamshells of never-quite-the-same farm berries usually imported from California or Mexico, achingly dulled by their long trek to the Canadian prairies.

That trip from the backyard is so much shorter, so much fresher. And always a summer treat, even if it is a couple weeks ahead of schedule this year.

Haskap

Four large lush bushes occupy various spots in my backyard. I planted these shrubs about eight to ten years ago as worked to fill my garden beds with as many fruit-bearing plants as could reasonably live adapted to this crazy northern climate zone.

Lonicera caerulea is also known in some parts of the world as honeysuckle or honeyberry, but in Canada we tend to refer to this bush and it’s fruit as a haskap.

My haskap bushes started to bear ripe fruit this past week and I’ve been eagerly plucking as many as I can before the robins eat more than their fair share. I don’t mind, but I do like to have a few of the tart-sweet berries before they all become bird food.

I don’t know much about the haskap itself. For a few years a nearby university known for their horticultural work breeding plants that were slightly more adapted to surviving the long winters seemed to be mentioned frequently around greenhouses as I and my fellow local gardeners bought and planted each a few of the adapted shrubs. The work of that same university is responsible for the breed of my backyard apple tree which is now at least fourteen seasons growing in it’s current spot and has easily produced tens of thousands of apples. This is not a climate where anything that hasn’t been winter hardened will grow much past September, and only the best adapted of trees and shrubs survive our minus forty winters. The haskap, on the other hand, seems to thrive in these parts.

The haskap is a little more subtle than my apple tree though.

My metre-wide bushes usually produce only a cup or two of the elongated blue-purple treats, right around this time of the year, and by the time we graze our fill there is rarely anything left behind but scraps for the most persistent of the local avian population.

I have a few varieties of berries in my backyard, yet these haskap are the ones that draw the most curiosity from visitors… but only those lucky enough to stop by during the short couple weeks when their colourful, oblong orbs dangle ready to be tasted.

May Long Weekend

Just like the saying goes not to wear white after labour day, locally there seems to be a start line for the summer season: May long weekend.

As of posting this I’ve wrapped up my work week and I am planning how to spend the first official three day weekend of the vague, loosely-defined stretch of relative seasonal warmth that begins… um… now.

Planting the Garden

As evidenced by the mid-week snow storm we experienced on Tuesday night I was right to put off planting my seeds until, as my grandmother advised me, the May long weekend. Now I’ve got a small collection of packets containing seeds for lettuce, carrots, beets, radishes, beans, peas, and other eclectic veggies that caught my eye… and they are going in the ground before I go back to work.

Priming the Yard

While I’ve casually poked away at this for the last month because the weather has been cooperative, it’s time to get serious and get up to my elbows in soil and grass clippings. Everything needs either a trim, rake, edging, turning, tossing, or pruning, and this weekend is prime time to tackle that chore before the real growth season kicks in and I can’t keep up. That new lawnmower is going to get broken in by the end of the three-day break.

Summer Training

The trails are bare and the weather is perfect. While I may not be tuning up for any particular races, for the last dozen years spring and the May long weekend has always meant that it was time to get serious about summer running training. I would like to run a half marathon this summer, even if it is just a quiet, lonely run tracked by nothing other than my watch. That said, my whole crew is vaccinated and the restrictions start to lift next week so something more social is probably on the agenda somewhere.

Family Campfire

I’ve already been excitedly posting about my early dabbling with the backyard campfire, and have posted a couple learned lessons from the action-so-far. That said, the summer plan was to crank up the heat (literally) on my outdoor culinary efforts and May long weekend is looking to be a beautiful, sunshiny opportunity to spark up some coals, break out the cast iron and roast up some meals outside.

Local Adventure

And finally, while we still can’t go too far I plan on taking the dog and the family for a good local hike to explore some river valley trails or the winding paths through the local creek ravine. The news was already warning folks to heed crowds in popular parks and recreational areas around town and outside the city, but my years on the trails have earned me some secret knowledge about interesting places to check out that will likely be less crowded.

Backyard: Saturday (or, a list of rejected backyard blog topics)

In recognition of yet-another-local-lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic, I'm doing a week of feature blog posts about living in the backyard. From May 10th through 16th, my posts will be themed around life outdoors but as close to home as possible, a few steps out the back door.

After nearly a week of deeper restrictions that have left me (and most law-abiding residents of the city) without many places to go, I’ve turned that into an opportunity to enjoy my own backyard. Think of it less like a lockdown, and more like permission to do nothing but enjoy my own grass, trees, garden, and relaxing spaces.

If you’ve been following along for the week, I’ve posted a short list of reflective blog posts that haven’t done much for my Google search ranking, but certainly have helped me get a few things pried loose from my own brain.

Given another couple weeks, maybe I’d have stooped to writing about even more trivial topics, like these rejected titles and not-so-interesting daily blog ideas:

Backyard: Naps

Wherein I chronicled the joy of falling asleep on my new, hand-built patio couch under the shade of the pergola sail fluttering in the wind. It’s tough to see how I would have turned that into more than about a hundred words without a serious thesaurus.

Backyard: Chores

Having spent my Saturday morning tilling the garden, planting the potatoes, and dealing with even more weeds (gah!) this rejected blog post risked turning into a long list of all the things I need to get done, y’know, instead of writing blog posts.

Backyard: Chronology

As it turns out this idea was really only of interest to me as I sorted through fifteen years of photos of my own backyard and marvelled at how much my trees had grown since I’d planted them. Breaking news: trees grow!

Backyard: Music

As at least one of my neighbours always seems to be playing music, the distant and indistinct muffled tones of random streaming playlists wafts through the air. My music knowledge is average though, so guessing what songs were playing could have been an amusing blog game.

Backyard: Garbage

Imagine my slow-motion, hand-typed embarassment in reading a blog post listing all the weird objects my eight-month-old puppy has found in my I-thought-I-had-a-clean-yard backyard. A scandalous post idea, and obviously rejected. Photos redacted.

Backyard: Terrible Ideas

A tongue-in-cheek list of some deliberately bad blog ideas, loosely acknowledging the author’s commentary on how difficult it is to make writing about his own backyard interesting and how easy it would have been to veer that metaphorical wheelbarrow into a fence post …oh, wait.