Monthly Archives: October 2011

let’s catch up, shall we?

Last time I posted, we had been in our new apartment for a month and a half. We’re pushing 8 months now, tucked into a lofted space in Southeast Portland. The cats are thrilled and so are we, though the kitchen has proved to be rather small and prohibitive of cooking teamwork. And our happiness in our new place has not prevented us from looking very seriously at real estate in the area. Touring houses with our realtor friend has been a favorite weekend activity of late.

I changed jobs. I’m working a 12-hour day shift now, with a sizeable commute tacked onto both ends of the workday. I love where I live and I’m loving where I work, so it’s a fair compromise—but it comes with an adjustment period. I’m useless by the time I get home, and the first day off after 2 or 3 workdays in a row is usually a silly blend of oversleeping and doing laundry.

Truly, I have no complaints.

The puppy is growing! We spent a couple weeks this September back at the in-laws’ house caring for the dogs and homestead while they toured Italy. Jobu has grown and shows no indication that he wants to stop anytime soon. We tried to weigh him on the old analog scale—Jesse lifts the puppy and then we subtract out the husband weight—but he was so wiggly we can only report his weight as a range. He’s somewhere between 67 and 82 pounds… and I think 82 is far more realistic. He’s not even a year old yet—8 or 9 months by now, and still growing into his legs. Oh my.

Speaking of livestock, the in-laws have hired a herd of goats to deal with their blackberry problem.

Let’s deconstruct that sentence a little, shall we?

First of all, “blackberry problem.” Here in Portland and in the juicy valleys of the Pacific Northwest, blackberry bushes are considered high nuisance. They’re invasive and I’d say they creep but they move too fast for that to be the appropriate verb. Flower children and hippies and people who would never think of eating processed foods filled with preservatives go bonkers with pesticides and chemical warfare to deal with their blackberries. And yes, these thorny bushes do produce sweet berries, but Portland dwellers are very willing to pay for a carton of cultivated blackberries at the farmer’s market or grocery store, or to pay even for the opportunity to go pick their own at one of the farms on Sauvie Island. The sprawling vines have sharp thorns, and many people (as well as some of the Bouviers) end up with itchy stinging spots when the thorns scratch.

The in-laws have a hillside–at least a good 2,000 square feet–covered in blackberries. To get to our beloved fire pit, one picks one’s way down the hill  careful not to get stuck by an errant blackberry vine winding its way through the retaining fence. We’ve talked about solutions for years–I remember my first visit to the homestead and the recently destroyed brown dead blackberry vines, killed the previous summer by thorough chemical sprays by professionals in haz-mat suits. The next summer, the blackberries were back in force. We’ve played with ideas of replacing the brambles with fruit trees–figs! pears!–but first the blackberries need to be dominated.

Cheryl got feisty and did her research. Teams of humans–likely “illegal” immigrants wielding machetes lead by a white guy in chaps (yikes)–wanted upwards of $2-4,000 for the job. “What we really need is a herd of goats,” I mused one night.

Well, guess what?

You can rent a herd of goats for just this purpose. They’ll eat anything! Patches of poison ivy and nettles? No problem. These brush-clearing critters can’t be stopped. For a fraction of what humans would want for the job, a goat herd and her capricious crew come to your back yard, set up some fencing, and go to town. The goats require little to no supervision–once the fencing’s in place and the water trough is filled, the herder can peace out until they finish the job. And they’ll fertilize your land for no added fee.

And they’re cute.

These guys have made major headway in just a week. The blackberry patch is leveled. The layers of dense vines were feet thick–as high as the top of the fencing you see in this picture. And as you see, now they’re tramped down to ground-level.

It’s nice to see something happening with discrete, measurable progress. And it’s excellent blog fodder, to boot.

It’s time to come back and tell stories. How have you been?