Sunday, June 18, 2006

Ring Around the Mulberry Bush

It's man-versus-mulberry season in downtown JC.

These pesky squishy berries fall out of trees at a rate of about one purple mini-bomb per three seconds.

The first year I was here, there was a guy upstairs who fought the good fight against the berries. He also landscaped the backyard. I teased him, thought he was being ridiculous.

"They're just berries. Make a pie from them. Berries happen."

He bought a net and strung it up across the yard. I soon learned (as did all my neighbors) the error of my ways in mocking him. These berries were relentless and if you trod on one, you soon tracked purple into your apartment, not to mention our new deck would get stained. The net was the only solution.

The guy is gone now, having taken profits from the insane escalation in JC real estate values. I missed the boat by wallowing in Namibia and numbly licking my wounds instead of coming home and selling, and am now left sitting on an unattainable theoretical profit of more than $200k, except that since condo sales are as stagnant as the foul pile of berries by the fence, I ain't got squat. A purple-stained white elephant.

"At least it's not a purple hippo," I tell myself.

The guy's replacement tried hard, trimming the tree and stringing up the net as best he could.

Unfortunately, the net has to hang from the second story condo window to do the job properly. And the new woman who moved in there went to see her boyfriend in Bavaria (my upstairs neighbor has a Bavarian BF--what are the odds?) so we can't get into her place. The net is half-useful, and I've spent my mornings wearing dollar-store gloves, patiently picking up purple berries off the deck.

Here's a before and after look at our backyard, pre and post landscaping. You can see why I don't want it to turn purple.

10 comments:

Don Hudson said...

That is an excellent Landscaping job. But can you really eat the berries?

Marie said...

Well, sure, in theory you can eat the berries. Once I went so far as acquiring a mulberry pie recipe from comic book artist John Lucas (his mother's recipe).

But then I got paranoid. Jersey City used to be so industrial, full of factories, the canal, and railroads. Parts of it are contaminated with chromium. Now, my neighborhood is more than 200 years old and never had any factories, but I reckon that stuff travels underground. So I have been throwing the berries in the trash. Which is kind of goofy because they are biodegradable. But I don't have anywhere else to put them. Don't think the street cleaners would appreciate a half-ton of berries in the gutters.

Sky said...

... can you compost them in your yard someplace? Or does Jersey City have any sort of yard-waste disposal program where you can get them to take the berries away and put them into a giant community compost heap or something? Just seems like a shame to throw them in the garbage -- especially since they're only biodegradeable when they're not encased in a plastic bag that will never rot. :(

Marie said...

I know, I know! I feel terribly guilty every time I think about it. Isn't there some kind of bag that will rot with time? Jersey City was one of, if not THE, first municipalites to institute mandatory curbside recycling, but we don't have community composting. Though I was thinking of starting a little bin on my window sill, but I don't think I'd ever have enough worms for that many berries... maybe if I piled the berries all in the corner with worms and put a piece of cloth over it until they rotted... argh, but then we have a pile of purple goo... what to do..?

Marie said...

Well, whaddaya know...

http://www.biobagusa.com/

Ed Ward said...

I was also thinking: paper bags decompose. But then...who uses paper bags any more?

Marie said...

I thought paper too... then thought: 1) Where will I get them? 2) How will I stop the purple from leaking all over the curb while waiting for the trash pickup? (I know, I'll keep them in the house... and they'll leak all over the house... no, in the backyard, but will the trash men take leaking purple bags? I know, I'll put the paper in plastic... waitaminute... uh...

Maybe I'd be better off running from hippos than fighting mulberries. This sub-semi-urban lifestyle is tricky business.

Pville Peg said...

Your uncle, my ex, used to make things from the mulberries at Black Rock -- basically, anything you can make from blackberries can also be made from mulberries. One does have to be prepared to eat a lot of stems, however, and the mulberries don't have that much flavor. What worked best was mixing them with other fruit, such as the sour cherries which ripen at about the same time (plus, lots of sweetener for the sour cherries). He made pies and berry crisp, and, easiest of all, a compote (mixed with honey and/or maple syrup and heated) poured over his perfect whole grain pancakes.
Mmm.... pancakes....
The pancakes were great, but, in all honesty, I did have a problem with eating all those stems....

Linja said...

I have some small Biobags that I bought at Petco. They are a lot more expensive than reusing plastic bags from the grocery store though.

Surely a place that builds islands from plastic bottles can figure out a way to handle unwanted berries!

Harrisonburg (VA) now requires that yard waste (especially leaves) be bagged in large paper bags or they won't pick it up. Consequently you can buy huge paper bags at that town's hardware stores.

scarfalonius said...

Marie, your new career is staring you in the face!

Silk! Silkworms eat mulberry leaves and fuck-all else! You could take over New Jersey with silk! Sheets, underwear, socks, bathrobes....

But then you'd probabaly have to set up caravanserais and so forth, truck stops for the silk merchants, rugs on the floor and dancing girls. Quite an investment. Not sure if Jersey city has ordinances on that sort of thing.