Sunday, 9 October 2011

Fruit for free

I love brambles, just can't resist them, and one of the best things about the rewilding of the croft is how many more brambles there are than in the past. I love the way they fruit over a period of a couple of months, providing new ripe fruit for wandering bears or passing people.

They're pioneers, growing into sunny spaces on the fringes of the woods and scrambling up into the branches of young trees. Then as the trees grow and shade deepens, the brambles move on out into open land, They're a part of the first scrub layer that takes over from the grass and herbs and bracken. Their tangle helps to protect young trees from deer, though they are themselves vulnerable to browsing.

On Tuesday, I'll be doing an A-B-Tree event about bramble, the tenth of 18 events (for more details of which see the A-B-Tree webpage). It'll be at Comrie Croft, near Crieff, Perthshire at 5pm on 11 October, and I shall look forward to sharing tasty morsels of ecology, folklore and practical uses of the plant, as well as munching on some berries.

My favourite bit of folklore about bramble is the story that Jesus carried a bramble switch for riding his donkey and he used it to drive the moneylenders from the temple. Good on him. My opinion of the money-lending trade is pretty much unprintable, and I often find myself wondering how the world would be if usury was illegal and our economies ran on credit, barter and trust, instead of debt. I am puzzled by the inconsistency of the political rhetoric, from both right and left wing parties, bemoaning the fact that we are up to our oxters in debt, whilst at the same time urging banks to lend more in order to 'stimulate growth'. David Cameron's embarrassment to be caught nearly suggesting that everyone should pay off their credit card debts is typical of political double-speak about debt. We live in a society that depends on people spending money they don't have to perpetuate growth that we can't sustain. This debt sustains the richest members of our communities through extortion of interest from the poorest. It's a morally, as well as financially, bankrupt situation.

Meanwhile the brambles, like many of the best things in life, are free.

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