Friday, July 23, 2010

The Trashing of the Triffids

Subtitle: My Tax Dollars At Work

When I was a child, back lanes were used for accessing the carport or garage, for enabling kids to visit other kids without running on the road, and as a way for the trash collector to access garbage cans without residents having to drag cans to the curb.

There are back lanes in my little village. There is one right behind my house. It is used only rarely, mostly in summer when a few residents drag their tent trailers and motorhomes out of the back yard as they head off on vacation. It is not used by trash collectors, and most of the properties don't even have a gate in their back fence to enable them to access the lane.

It has, in fact, become overrun with....Triffids! Okay, most people would call them blackberries, but when I complained to Janice of Hearts on Noses that blackberry brambles were invading my property over and under the fence, snaking their way around and into my shed, entrapping my tools, and generally holding me captive, and that I fully expect someone to find me pinned down to the ground by blackberry vines in my backyard one day, she emailed back one horrifying word:


According to Wikipedia, "The triffid is a highly venomous fictional plant species, the titular antagonist from John Wyndham's 1951 novel The Day of the Triffids and Simon Clark's 2001 sequel The Night of the Triffids. Triffids were also featured in the 1957 BBC radio dramatization of Wyndham's book, a considerably altered film adaptation which was produced in 1962, a more faithful 1981 television serial produced by the BBC, and in a 2009 two-part TV series also produced by the BBC. Since 1951, when The Day of the Triffids was first published, the word "triffid" has become a popular British English term used to describe large or menacing looking plants."

Large and menacing indeed. They were showing up all over my yard. They were impossible to cut down, and any attempts to do so resulted in gigantic thorny jaws grabbing hold of my tender skin and chomping huge chunks out of it. Shaking off the tentacles was useless - I'd vigorously whip my arm to get it off, and it would hurtle itself at my leg. Shake the leg and it would creep up the back and grab my shirt with its relentless, grasping fingers. Aaarrghhhh!

And so I did what any sensible taxpayer would do. I phoned the municipality and asked them to clean up the lane. And the municipality did what any municipal worker trying to placate the taxpayers would do: they sent out a worker to trim back all of three inches from the bottom part of the bushes - just enough so it was no longer intruding on the ruts in the lane. Wonderful. We're looking at 10 feet of triffids, blackberries .....snaking over my seven foot fence, and they send out a kindergarten kid with some safety scissors.

I waited a couple of weeks, hoping the municipality would return, to finish the job, but nothing happened. So I called out the big guns. A neighbour. A male neighbour. Who was equally fed up with the condition of the lane, as he is one of the few people who tries to use it to access a garage. So he phoned them. And the very next day, the municipality sent out


Just after 7 AM I hear a roar behind the house. ROAR. ROAR. ROAR. and then I see this :

and this

and this

and this!

The fence shook and the dust flew and the little birds nesting in the birdhouse flapped around in alarm.

And before I can say "Death to all Triffids!", the triffids - er blackberry vines - are gone. The Triffid Tamer ate them all up and spit them into a big dump truck which hauled them away. Then it scraped the ground some more, and the workers told the neighbour they'd be back with gravel to fill in the ruts, and off they went. Never to be seen again.

I feel a bit sad, as I love blackberries. And they were just beginning to ripen. And they were big and plump and beautiful.

But there are tons of blackberries growing elsewhere in our area, in places where they won't be continually knocking at my door and grabbing my arms and legs and causing me grief. My tax dollars were well spent.

But as a footnote: the day they sent the Triffid Tamer, my other neighbour received a letter in the mail from the municipality ordering him to remove his seventeen birdhouses, or modify them so the entrance hole is smaller. Apparently he is encouraging Eurasian sparrows (commonly called house sparrows) which are an invasive species. According to some environmental bylaw, the public is required to destroy any nests or eggs we find to stop these "nuisance birds" from multiplying.

Does the municipality worry about the guy across the lane who is building a huge addition without a permit? Nooooo. Do they do anything about the people lighting campfires at the RV park despite a campfire ban? Nooooooo. Do they nail the person down the street who turns on the garden sprinkler every single night and lets it run and run and run, in violation of water restrictions? Nooooo. Do they even do anything about the idiots who don't clean up their dog poop? Uh uh. They nail a guy who looks after a few birds.

I didn't receive a letter about my one bird house. You know the one - under the roof of my shed. The one where I shot this photo a month or so ago:

The one where just this afternoon, another hatch of baby house sparrows was born.

Please don't report me to the municipality. They might bring back the triffids.


Caroline said...

JD and I were talking about the Triffids just yesterday after we saw the Giant Hog weed story on TV.
I'd rather have blackberries instead of Giant Hog weed!

Anonymous said...

Another vine that cam come under the name Triffids is Virginia Creeper. That stuff can grow 3 feet a week. Pretty to look at in the fall but not kept under control it can swallow your house in a few years.
the highways dept. planted it along the Nanaimo Parkway to cover the cement fencing dividing the houses from the highway. 3 years later it did cover the fence but it had also run down the 50ft slope and was crossing the highway. Someones bright idea wasn't so bright, and they got rid of that Triffid in a hurry,LOL but I bet the home owners on the other side of the fence are still battling it as it also loves to root where the tentacles touch the ground.
Your yard looks much better without the blackberries Jean, and there are certainly lots around here.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jean,

I always enjoy the way you write about any subject. Your "Triffids"
story was most amusing, and I loved the photos.

Lou, Abbotsford

JRM said...

I NEED a triffid tamer! Blackberries don't grow well in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, but we do get raspberries. Lots and lots of rogue raspberries. I love raspberries, but not in the middle of my flower garden or next to the kids' playhouse.

Anonymous said...

My top triffid: Swedish ivy -- an innocent looking basket stuffer that runs completely amok once set free. I battle with it relentlessly on an ongoing basis. I'm sure it will eventually win.

As for the sparrow police, who'd have thought such a thing even existed? I can see shades of George Orwell: birdhouses will become contraband, bird seed will be a regulated substance, and those harbouring sparrows will be subject to investigation and possible charges. It is indeed a strange world.

Deb S.