Saturday, October 25, 2014

Brambles and Briars.

I’m off on book tour for Sons of Sparta. Just left Scottsdale, Arizona (where I had a terrific time doing a joint event with Tim Hallinan at the Poisoned Pen) for Houston, Texas and Murder by the Book. But this isn’t about either place. It’s about the farm I left behind in New Jersey. I’ve been away from it for six months, and though I’ve good friends looking after it, there’s a lot of work to be done to keep the woods and pond from being overrun by invasive species.

The culprits massed along the waters edge.

I love doing that sort of work, but this year my schedule made it impossible to do so in what is generally the best time, the Fall. So, I asked a friend, a former New Jersey state forest fire fighter to help me out. To understand Bob, think Smokey the Bear, in physical vision as well as in dedication.  Nor does he wear much more than Smokey even in the harshest of winters.

Smokey prepared to do battle.

I’ve always known Bob to have a quick wit, but not until this week did I realize what a natural writer he is.  I just received this (unsolicited) report from him on what he’s been doing at the farm and it had me laughing out loud.

It also got me to thinking about how two other friends who do work on my property also possess uncanny facility with the written word.  One, who mows my fields in summer and plows the driveway in winter, contributes to a national landscape magazine, and the other, currently working on restoring my barn, is a renaissance man possessing an uncanny grasp of local history.

The road less plowed.
The barn not fallen.

Perhaps it’s something in the water?  Maybe I should change the name of the place from “Tsoris Springs Christmas Tree Farm and Bagelry” to “Literary Springs?”

But for now I think I’ll just share Bob’s quick note to me he titled, “Brambles and Briars”…and in the process give you some idea of the sort of fun I’m missing out on to trod along the writers’ trail.  Here goes:

The enemy's armaments.

Hi from Northwest New Jersey.  Just wanted to let you know I started the eradication project on your farm.  You have a plethora of things with thorns growing there.

I am still licking my wounds after two days.  Not only is the autumn/Russian olive thorny—maybe you have both—but the multiflora, floribunda rose, and barberry are challenging too.

I got rained out today, but I worked Monday 10:30-18:30, eight hours, after riding my bike four miles to the farm after dropping off my car in town for repairs, and Tuesday I rode my bike three miles from home to town to pick up my car, worked 10:00-13:30, three and a half hours, and then picked up my son from school.  

The bow saw may not be effective for cutting larger dead wood, but for this project it is invaluable, so are the lopping shears.  My neighbor gave me a handsaw with large teeth that also works well.  The only expense so far has been for a disposable camera to document the project for your forester and the tax assessor.

Your forester is going to wonder where the 3-5' Norway spruces came from.  They were struggling to survive under all that brush.  Two large piles have accumulated in the field so far.

The good news is no problems so far with bears, bees or ticks, although I did lose my shoe down a groundhog hole on Monday.  

The only strange thing is now when I travel around town I see the fields, on the edge of streams, everywhere...autumn olive.  It mocks me, growing faster than I can cut it, gobbling up more and more otherwise productive ground. Help me!   Bye for now.

I agree, “Bye for now.”



  1. Glad you're having fun on your book tour! (You are, right?) Thorns can hurt, but at least Smoky can lick those wounds. He's fortunate he's not fighting poison oak or poison ivy...

  2. Yep, I am EvKa, and poisoned oak an ivy are a given. They're everywhere...but usually end up on my forearms in that little space just above my gloves where the shirt sleeve rises up when caught on a thorn. It's as if the flora works together against we fauna.