ANN BAILEY: Pruning raspberry bushes tops bad job list
This fall I discovered a job that I dislike more than cleaning the leaves out of down spouts. Up until now scooping the leaves, pine needles and twigs that have accumulated in the bottom of the spouts during the late summer and fall was No. 1 on ...
This fall I discovered a job that I dislike more than cleaning the leaves out of down spouts. Up until now scooping the leaves, pine needles and twigs that have accumulated in the bottom of the spouts during the late summer and fall was No. 1 on my "least favorite" jobs list.
My aversion to cleaning out the eave spouts has less to do with climbing a 15-foot ladder than it does with the beating my hands take when I reach in to grab handfuls of the gunk that has collected. I don't wear gloves to do the job because the ones I've tried are either too thick and make it impossible to fit my hand in the spouts or too thin so the twigs poke through them and scratch me.
While cleaning the eves remains high on my bad jobs list, it has been replaced for the primary position by pruning raspberry bushes. Pruning is a job that is supposed to be done each fall on our summer-bearing raspberries, but I have put it off for a few years.
It was easy to procrastinate with the pruning because the raspberries seemed to be producing well without it. That is, until this year. While the black raspberries produced a respectable crop, we harvested few of the big, red berries. In fact, I didn't even have enough red ones to make a batch of my favorite muffins.
Tackling the job
Unable to justify another year without pruning the raspberries, a few weeks ago, I headed to the patch armed with a box of matches and a pair of pruning sheers. It was a chilly day so I wore a heavy sweatshirt over my T-shirt. Although, it would have been easier to light the entire raspberry patch on fire and start over with a new one, I reserved the fire for the old canes.
Each time I dragged out several-year-old canes from underneath the bushes or cut ones that bore or should have borne fruit this year, I carried them over to the fire. About halfway through the job I became overheated from the exertion and the crackling fire and decided to shed my sweatshirt.
The raspberry thorns didn't bother me all that much while I was working. I was conscious of a little pain now and then as they scratched my arms, but what really hurt were the ones that had somehow worked there way into my boots and were stuck to the bottom of my socks. In fact, they bothered me so much that at one point I stopped working and took off my shoes and socks and dug out the offenders. Meanwhile, the gloves that I was wearing were allowing thorns to poke through and get imbedded in my fingers and palms.
But it wasn't until I had finished the job and looked at my arms that I realized how much damage the raspberry thorns had done to them. There were scratches up and down the length of both of them and a couple of places on each one were bleeding.
I headed to the house to wash off my arms so I could prevent further damage from infection, all the while lecturing myself on how foolish I had been to not put on a long-sleeved shirt when I took off the sweatshirt.
When I got inside, my children gave me fairly horrified looks when they saw my arms, probably wondering why their mother didn't practice more what she preached about things like haste making waste and taking the time to do a job safely. Wisely, though they only expressed sympathy. They probably knew that I knew how foolish I had been and that I didn't mean mental anguish added on to my physical pain.
That pain grew greater when I started washing my arms. As anyone who has scratched themselves knows, water on wounds increases the level of pain. I didn't have anyone else to blame but myself, so I gritted my teeth and took it like a woman.
By the next morning, my arms felt slightly better, except when they got wet in the shower, and I almost forgot about how they looked until I caught sight of myself in the mirror. I didn't want to go to work looking like I had either had an encounter with an enraged farm cat or was guilty of major substance abuse, so I decided to change my short-sleeved shirt for a long-sleeved one.
Fortunately, I heal quickly and a week after the raspberry incident, my arms were back to normal. Though I came out second best in the battle with the raspberries, I know it will be worth it next summer when I'm picking plump, juicy berries. You can be sure I'll be wearing a long-sleeved shirt, though. I don't want to get another "caning."