Thistles and blackberries…and a rooster


This wall mosaic is in the museum at the site of Ancient Corinth in Greece – it was found on the site and restored to what you see here. It’s quite large, about 2 m square.

The picture above is for my friend Petkid…we saw a lot of Roman mosaics a couple of years ago in Greece and Italy, but this was my favourite – because of the rooster, of course!  Don’t you think he could be an ancestor of Rusty?

Blackberries and thistles you ask?  Yes, indeed…

Thistles first.  I got to try out my new machete  today.  Wow.  I did two large patches in one hour – normally those two patches take me 2 days solid with secateurs.  And it was fun – kind of – in a swashbuckling sort of way.  My Mum used to use a machete on thistles too, but I didn’t really know where to shop for one, so had been doing without.  Until a little while ago when I was in buying feed.  I love my little feed store.  First off, it’s family owned and operated.  Second, it’s like the feed stores of my childhood – dusty, dim, stuff stacked to the ceiling, and probably more out of sight than in.  If I want something other than feed, therefore, I’ve learned to just ask – because there is no way I’ll find it by browsing.

So, there I was at the counter, waiting my turn to order feed, and the fellow in front of me probably belongs to the tree service truck I’m parked next to.  He asks for some Felco pruners they had ordered in for him, and then asks if they carry machetes – and sure enough they do – a selection – in a back room.  She brings a few out for him to see, and he tests blades and weights and discusses a little, then decides not to get one.  But having listened and learned, I jump right in and say I’ll buy the 22″ one.  So for the huge sum of almost $10.00, I got done 2 days work in 1 hour.  Burned no gas, maybe a few calories, and the only upkeep will be to sharpen the blade once in a while.  Cool.

Blackberries:  One of the side plans involved in getting the pigs was that they would be helpful digging up blackberry roots.  Which, as it turns out, they are really good at.  If you get rid of the above ground part of the plant for them first, though.  You know how they say potatoes are a “cleaning” crop? And it turns out that it’s not the potatoes that work some kind of natural trick on the weeds, but the fact that you hoe them so often when you’re hilling that the ground gets cleaned of weeds?  Well, pigs cleaning out blackberries is much like that.  If you want pigs to work over a patch for you, you have to enclose it with fence of some sort (electric in my case).  To do that, you have to be able to get to the places you want to place posts, and the grass/plants below the wire have to be low enough not to short the fence.  The pigs cannot do this for you.

So, of course, since I’d saved almost 2 days labour on thistles, I had time on my hands to start prepping for the pigs new “patch”.  The machete is not so good here, so I was in there with my secateurs and gloves, long sleeves, etc.  It was a warm day, and I worked up a good sweat, and caught myself watching the pigs wallowing almost with envy at one point when I paused for a breather.  However, I got it done, ready to put up fence tomorrow.

You might have noticed from all this that I don’t have a weed whacker.  True.  I could use one.  We used to have an electric one left over from our city days, but it doesn’t cut anything thicker than a piece of thread nowadays.  I’ve made do over the years with garden shears, my hands, even the secateurs, but if I’m going to be moving electric fence with any frequency, I’m really going to need a more efficient way of prepping where the fence line is going.   Plus I’d like something that is adaptable, perhaps with the option to switch to a brush cutting blade or something.  Anyone got a favourite brand, model or a recommendation?  Second hand?  New?

12 thoughts on “Thistles and blackberries…and a rooster

  1. Bill says:

    I use one of the big ones from Stihl. I can’t recall the model number, but it’s a lightweight and easy start. I use it a lot to clear under fence lines and along the edges of buildings. They’re not cheap and they’re loud. But we’ve found them to be an important tool on the farm.

    • Thanks for the suggestion. There is a Stihl dealer next door to my feed store, so I might go check out what they have. Easy start is definitely something to consider.

      Love your blog by the way – your house is lovely. Are those happy pigs of yours Tamworths?

  2. I use a siket instead of a machete. Tractor supply calls it a corn knife. It’s a curved blade and does a great job on lower limbs of small trees, thistles or whatever. But you can buy similar things other places too. I also have a fiskars brush cutter but I like the TSC corn knife better. Maybe if the brush axe wasn’t coated and dull…

    • The corn knife does look pretty good. The machete that shows up on that page from TS is the same machete I am using right now. So do you use a weed whacker? What kind or what would you recommend/look for?

      • I have a black and decker electric for the few borders or building edges we bother with. Otherwise I use a shovel to cut my edges each year.

        The electric weed eater is 10 years old and always starts.

  3. PetKid says:

    Thank you so much for mentioning me and showing me the beautiful rooster mosaic.

    We have a Husquvarna bushcutter that cuts through tiny things and up to 8 inches. My dad also likes to sythe. Hope you like the recommendations! :):):)

    • Glad you liked it 🙂
      Husqvarna that will cut up to 8 inches thick – that’s good to know. Especially since my feed store has a Husqvarna dealership attached to it. I’ll have to go check them out. I have a scythe somewhere that was my Dad’s – but I can’t use it very well – I’m left handed, and my Dad was right handed. Every time I’ve tried it’s just too awkward.

  4. df says:

    Well, I can see that PetKid has been here already and given you a bit of a low-down on what we use. Our old orchard and other trees are so overgrown by mostly buckthorn and progress was so slow, that we had to embrace something more modern than my husband’s scythe this year, hence the Husqvarna. It’s amazing and allowing us to make real progress where cutting through lots of thin trees is required. The scythe is still the best tool for us for clearing things like thistle or long grasses/weeds, etc., but I can completely see how as a lefty it would be impossible for you to use your Dad’s! Our older boy is a lefty and he never touches the thing, whereas PetKid loves to have a go with the scythe. It’s a great tool, when it fits. Your $10 machete sounds rather cool and effective!! What a great story, and the results sound really super.

    • I looked at a Husqvarna today that doesn’t require me to mix oil in with the fuel, a feature I hadn’t considered, and an important one, as I learned to my cost with an old lawnmower years ago. I didn’t mention it above, but I have a LOT of hawthorn to cut back on the perimeter fence line before I can put page wire up along there, so the fact that yours can do thin trees is exactly what I need to hear. My Dad loved using his scythe – and he made it look so effortless. Have you seen the youtube clips of Simon Fairlie (author of “Meat: a Benign Extravagence) in scything competitions? Looks like a workout!

      • df says:

        I’m so glad that this might help to solve this issue for you; it really is a great tool. I haven’t seen the Fairlie clips (though I’ll make a point to check them out), but I’ve watched other videos with some tremendous scything displays – it can be quite amazing!

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