And they have, with a lot of TLC. First we learned that white-tail deer love blueberries—especially the high-bush varieties because that puts their buffet at eye-level. So I made large 4-foot cages to go around the bushes. But my wife and daughter found them cumbersome to work around. Plus, the blueberry bushes mysteriously stayed 4-feet high for a few years—the exact same height as the cages. Why? Any branch or leaf that dared peak over the top of the fence was chewed off by the deer
So I pounded in metal posts and put up 7-foot plastic deer fencing and a home-made gate. Soon our blueberries stretched to 6 feet tall. But last year some enterprising deer realized they could dart through that flimsy plastic fence and still enjoy a tasty snack. So I patched the fence (repeatedly) and will soon replace it with a black, metal, vinyl-covered 8-foot fence.
Of course, that doesn’t fend off dive-bombing Blue Jays or Grackles that descend like a plague on my berry bushes—leaving the gutted corpses of berries to fool me as I reach to pick them. (Yuck!) I read that hanging aluminum pans in the tops of the bushes would scare these aerial bandits away, but the ones in my neck of the woods must be near-sighted. So next year, I will add bird netting.
But there will still be “Witches’ Broom.” Gnarly clusters of small, spongy shoots, covered in tiny leaves on yellow or red stems that seem to pop up overnight! Who knew that witches’ broom is a rust fungus that spends half its life cycle in blueberry plants and the other half in balsam firs. So you are not supposed to have any fir trees within 500 YARDS of blueberry bushes. I don’t recall the nursery mentioning that. And I don’t think my neighbors will let me go crazy with my chain saw on their property.
So what’s left to do? Experts tell me there’s no cure for witches’ broom. “You just have to remove the bushes and burn them.” Perhaps someday I will. But in the meantime, I will continue to pamper the bushes with a bed of wood chips, sawdust, and wood shavings and watch my infected bushes surge another foot or two in height. And while I am picking another ice-cream pail of berries, I will prune off any witches’ broom as soon as I see it (wearing gloves and then disinfecting the pruner). Then I will burn all the witches’ broom.
This is gardening in a world broken by sin. So sometimes when I pop a blueberry in my mouth, I think, “Adam and Eve, what did you do!” Then as my hand reaches out toward another cluster of berries, I wonder, “What was it like for you both in the garden before the fall? To work there when there was no disease? When all God’s creatures behaved perfectly? What was that like?”
Well, it was paradise. You and I aren’t there yet, but one day by our Father’s grace showered upon us through Jesus—we will be. Please pause and read Revelation 22:1-5 to get a glimpse of it. Then join me in a prayer of thanks to our Heavenly Father for what he will give us in eternity through Jesus!
And thank Him, too, for what he gives us right now, even in places like my blueberry patch—witches’ broom and all. Such beauty. Such serenity. Such a miracle—God’s creation.
Privileged to serve,
Rev. Glenn Schwanke